10 Tricks to Creating a Smash-Hit Article Title (for Social Media)

Updated on January 27, 2018
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Susan has written four internet marketing books, and also does SEO for both global and small companies.

Social Media: Why It Matters

Whilst Google is the big boy for getting traffic to your content; social media is really beginning to take hold as a potential source of traffic for us content creators. People are constantly sharing new discoveries which they found interesting, on social media so its no wonder we should begin learning to create a social media friendly title.

Most of you may be basing your titles on keywords and on search engine optimization. This is the best way to craft a title which will serve you well in the months to come. There are, however, some very easy tweaks you can make to your title so that you can hit two birds with the one stone.

This guide takes a look at some steps you can take to creating a smash hit title which will not only appeal to readers on social media but cause them to re-share it. It's all backed up by data, with experiments run by Buffer and HubSpot.

You don't need to include all of these steps; obviously, there are just too many. Even just including one or two in your titles will drastically optimize your title for social media.

1. Numbers

People love numbers; it’s just the way it is. The first thing I do when optimizing for social media is adding a number to the beginning of my title. If you are writing anything in the form of a list, make sure to add a number. The larger the number, the more clicks you will get. As a reader of many blog posts myself, I analyze why they do so well and almost 50% of them have a number and are in a list.

It is just one of those things that you cannot afford to isolate yourself from, just check any article from a major website with a lot of know-how (Buffer or HubSpot), and you will find that nearly always, they start with a number.

Note to include the number as a numeral, rather than a word. You’d be surprised at how many people make this fatal mistake and lose out as a result.

As an example, I typed “how to make a good blog title” into Google for a demonstration of my own human instinct. The results came up and guess which one I clicked on.

The title with the number. Nothing new here. That’s how predictable I am, just like everyone else. Why did I click on that? I did so, because the number eleven signaled that I was getting an easy to read list and 11 good tips on creating a fantastic blog title. Not 5, but 11. Bigger is always better.

Which Number?

We know that numbers always pack a punch but which number delivers the best? According to many marketers tales, 7 is supposed to deliver the most amount of readers. This may be due to the "Magical Seven" psychological paper.

Great Examples of Numbers In Use

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The highlighted parts show HubSpot taking advantage of numbers. This was a random sample on their "Latest Blog Posts" list, and as you can see, there are a lot. A search for "marketing tips" on Google gave me some of these results, and most of them have numbers. Looks like these marketers know what they are doing!
The highlighted parts show HubSpot taking advantage of numbers. This was a random sample on their "Latest Blog Posts" list, and as you can see, there are a lot.
The highlighted parts show HubSpot taking advantage of numbers. This was a random sample on their "Latest Blog Posts" list, and as you can see, there are a lot.
A search for "marketing tips" on Google gave me some of these results, and most of them have numbers. Looks like these marketers know what they are doing!
A search for "marketing tips" on Google gave me some of these results, and most of them have numbers. Looks like these marketers know what they are doing!

2. Flash Words

I call these flash words because incorporating them into a title will add some social media genius to your title. These words have been included in viral headlines. People take a liking to certain words, research by Start Up Moon shows that the following words will make your title more appealing and will cause a lot of people to read it. They were found in the most viral headlines. Do what you can with these! Here they are:

  • Smart,
  • History
  • Hacks
  • Surprising
  • Critical
  • Science
  • Huge/big

3. Add Curiosity

We all are curious people. So much so, that we love to read anything which sparks an interest within us. Doing so is not difficult.

1) Titles with a question or a question mark adds a lot of mystery about the subject and can result in more readers. This is especially good for tutorials, where ranking on Google is more difficult for that phrase, so you decide to take the social media route instead. Questions tend to rank well on Google however, so you can optimize for both social media and Google. The best words to use at the beginning of a question title are, “How do I?” “Which?” “What?” “How?”

Eg: “How do I Start A Kick-Ass Stamp Collection?”

Which Country Has The Most Good-Looking People?”

What Happens When You Eat Leather?”

Why Your Blog May Be Losing Out On Potential Readers”

2) Adding an unexpected twist at the end – something strange, wacky or just downright crazy is a fantastic way to engage interest and you could be on the road to virality. Just check these titles out:

“How I Got The Attention of one of the Top SEO Bloggers With Diet Coke

Isn’t that just a great title because of the “diet coke” at the end? I would definitely read that, because it sparked my curiosity. As a side note, that got 77 thumbs up.

The example titles above also have unexpected twists at the end, such as “good looking people” and “leather”. For the second title you would expect, the best health care system or the highest IQ but good looking people? That's a first.

4. Benefits of Your Content

What are the benefits of your content? As a changing civilization, we yearn to learn more about our world through links on social media. When we want to learn to get more traffic on Google, seeing a link which says “20 Ways To Increase Your Traffic from Google: A Beginners Guide”, we inevitably click on it. This is because the greatness of your article is being reflected onto the title when you say “20” and “a beginners guide”.

I know you are a great writer, so raise their expectations as much as possible by stating early on (in your title) what they will achieve by clicking that link and reading.

Here are some words you can use to do just that:

  • How To – They will learn something new and you will teach them just that, in an easy to follow manner.
  • A Beginner’s Guide to – We are all beginners at something, so a simpler guide will be needed by a lot.
  • 10 Ways to… - Numbers! The bigger, the better.
  • Find out how – Reader will learn something exclusive, not seen before, an insiders account etc.
  • Introducing – Implies something “new”, “latest”, “fresh”
  • A Simple Formula to - This implies a "quick fix" to a problem or an easy step by step formula to achieving the desired result.

5. Emote, Exaggerate and Excite

Emote, Exaggerate and Excite:

To get that definitive click, you need to do one last thing and excite the reader. Sound hard? Twitter reported that tweets or blog titles with adverbs got more re-tweets than those without. That’s because people read on emotion, you need to appeal to their heart and soul. This can be done with adverbs, all caps, an unexpected twist, asterisks, exclamation points and flash words. Exaggerating and being bold works too.

  • Adverbs – Add in some emotive language with adjectives and adverbs. Consult a thesaurus for original ones, but a good bloggers list includes: viral, epic, free, amazingly, life-changing, unexpected, irresistibly, mind-blowing, mistakenly.
  • Being bold – Use some exaggerating language (but only if your blog post is deserving of this title!). For example, “Kick-Ass”, “Change Your Life”, “Extinction”, “Kill”, “War”. Tabloid newspaper language uses a lot of these words; and I now know why they have such a following.

For example: “Microsoft Kill the Windows XP: Why this Shocking Decision?”

“How to create mind-blowing PowerPoint Presentations”

  • Punctuation: Exclamation points, asterisks, arrows and all caps work wonders but use sparingly!

6. Shorter is Better

Shorter is Better

The shorter you can make your title whilst still delivering the contents of the post to your reader, the more readers you will get. But most people can completely take this idea to the extreme, don’t cut it down to 4 words. People need to know what it is about in an informative way. If you have a working title, there may be ways to make it a little shorter. For example:

  • “That Will” – “That’ll” or “You Will” – “You’ll”
  • “These 20” – “20”
  • Cut out any extraneous words, eg: “How To Make Delicious, Mouth-watering yet Simple Cupcakes That Everyone Will Enjoy Eating”

That title is way too long, let’s cut it down. “How to Make Deliciously Simple Cupcakes That They’ll Love”.

What Length?

Try keeping your title less than 70 characters so it will be included fully on Google search results and is the optimum length for social media.

7. You - Self Interest

When you read a title, chances are, you are probably looking for more information or tips on how to do something better. In other words, the writer has to apply their information to you not them.

By including the reader with "you" or "your", they can apply the title to their own circumstances and think,”Gee. I need to learn how to do this. This is worth checking out.” And then, you get a nice “click” and just maybe, another loyal reader.

People yearn to belong or apply a certain scenario to their own circumstances. We are all hoping to lean more, and become better at our work or hobby.

Examples: Why Your Content May Not Be Getting The Traffic It Deserves

8. Go Negative

Research suggests that people click on headlines which have a negative element a lot more, such as 'without' or 'not'. This is still a relatively new idea, which owes to the fact that not many titles have gone negative. However, when reporting on an event, you can make it more shocking or dramatic by adding a negative element.

For example: Instead of "Why Social Media Is Recommended For Bloggers", you could say "Why SEO is not Recommended for Bloggers". Sure, it sounds a little unfair to do so, but a little drama can heighten your views!

9. Staying Relevant with Seasonal Content

This one doesn't really belong on the list because it is not related to evergreen content. I think that evergreen content is going to be your main source of traffic, always, and forever. People will always want to know how to clear their browser's cache or make key lime pie - no matter what month it is.

Unfortunately, social media is a lot to do with news, "omg" stories and controversies. Any lucky writer who covered a headline story has a chance in going viral or at least be one of the most read writers of the week.

It isn't recommended, but writing the occasional news article can dramatically increase your readership and be shared on social media. People share on the spur of the moment, when a new story is being talked about all over the world.

You need not write on a new story, but rather a seasonal article which will span over a period of one month to three months. For example, you could write an article on how to stay safe in the sun. This is very seasonal - and is needed by millions of people all over the world during Summer and will be shared thousands of times.

Relevancy is one of the most important ideas that writers need when it comes to social media readership. By staying on cue with what is going on in the world - and what people need, you will be a widely read writer.

Seasonal content always gives you a boost in readers, whether it is the World Cup, Christmas or Summertime.
Seasonal content always gives you a boost in readers, whether it is the World Cup, Christmas or Summertime.

10. Rationale - Reasons, Tips, Tricks

Rationale (tips, reasons, tricks, principles) always work wonders when writing a list-format article. These words will tell the reader what kind of content you have on offer and the rationale you use will determine what your content is about.

We always want to know tricks, tips, whether they are to improve your cooking or to get you more traffic. For example:

"10 Reasons Why Computer Science Should Be Compulsory In High School"

"12 Tips for Creating A Killer Blog Post"

"The Main SEO Principles Which You Need To Know"

Deliver In Your Content

You've got the reader to click on your headline - so deliver, on your content! You want people to be satisfied that the content made justice to the headline. A fantastic, eye-popping headline is good but content that really delivers is phenomenal.

There are many articles online which explain how to create the perfect article and what the stats are. I am not going to regurgitate the same things again, but remember to have 1200+ words, 3 pictures and/or a video, poll and table. Articles with a word count of 1500 words are shared the most frequently, and receive 300% more traffic from Google. Articles on Quick Sprout that have a word count of 1,500+ receive 68% more tweets and 22 percent more Facebook likes than those without.

By creating an in-depth piece of content, it will be shared a lot more on social media than a shallow one. You must answer the question they had or give detailed instructions on a 'how to' topic. If it does this, you have completed your task.

Take Your Spin On This Headline!

Now that you have some valuable pointers on creating a great title, try altering one of these titles for maximum results.

Tips For Blogging

How To Be A Great .... (eg: Writer, Artist, Occupation)

You can come up with others if you wish. Give me your answers in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!


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    • maxravi profile image

      Ravi Singh 16 months ago from India

      Such a well-constructed hub with relevant pics. Not sure why video is not playing. I like the idea of adding numbers to the post headlines. I am going to use it.

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 2 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Amelia - Thanks for awesome comments and for following me too. I'm really glad that you found use of this hub, after all, once you can clinch the reader with your title, you're pretty much sorted! Writing great titles is more of a science than an art these days, but with experience, it will become natural.

    • easylearningweb profile image

      Amelia Griggs 2 years ago

      Susi10, What a wonderful and informative hub, thanks for sharing all these tips!

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 2 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      SheGetsCreative - Thanks so much for your great comments! It's definitely worth learning a few tricks for your titles, that'll earn you money in the years to come!

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 2 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Great points to keep in mind for engaging an audience. Thumbs up

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 2 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Kristen - Wow, thanks so much for reading this and for your awesome comments! Hopefully, you'll get some nice headline ideas from this for your future hubs! :-)

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Fantastic hub, Susi. This is super helpful and useful. Voted up!

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 3 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Annanee - Thanks for your great comments! I'm really glad you found this article useful. I agree, the whole "go negative" idea is a great way to get more readers engaged and interested. These tips should really boost your social media shares and traffic from social media. Good luck!

    • annanee profile image

      annanee 3 years ago from USA

      As a mass user of social media, this article comes very handy to me. I especially like the "go negative" idea, I have clues that it may be true. I will test it out more. Thank you!

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 3 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Peg - Thanks for the great comments, I'm really glad that you enjoyed this hub! Creating click worthy comes down to a science, proven by data and it is very handy to use this data and create titles! Good luck, and looking forward to some great titles!

      Mister Hollywood - Thank you for dropping by and for the fantastic comments. Always appreciated! Yes, agreed. It is very good for SEO purposes too especially when your hub is lying there in search results. A great headline always encourages searchers to click, leading to more traffic.

      Violette - Thanks for the positive comments! Hopefully this hub will give you some extra insights into what goes into a great title.

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 3 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Catherine - Thanks so much for the comments! I guess you are right in a sense since it is Summer all year. However, US searchers usually make up fifty percent of Google's searches. Thus, the time when you get the most Summer traffic is when it is Summer in the US. Glad to see you, and thanks for the vote up!

    • VioletteRose profile image

      VioletteRose 3 years ago from Chicago

      Very informative and helpful, thanks so much for sharing!

    • misterhollywood profile image

      John Hollywood 3 years ago from Hollywood, CA

      Very informative hub - also good info for SEO purposes. Vote up!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      These are great pointers for creating an audience grabbing title to an article. I found several of your tips particularly useful, like keeping it under a certain length of characters and using you instead of I. Thank you.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      How to stay safe in the sun is not necessarily seasonal. It is always summer someplace. A really good and helpful article. Voted up.

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 3 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Chinaimport - Thanks for the fantastic comments, I really appreciate them! SEO is always focused on, and it always brings a reliable source of traffic but for internet viral campaigns, a title is always good. These titles should encourage people to click on your titles a lot more.

      Angela -Thanks for the comments, follow and bookmark. I am really glad you found this useful and that you will come back - That is always a nice thing to hear! Titles are on of the most neglected elements of a blog post or web content, so this should demystify all the confusion on what makes social media tick in terms of titles.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 3 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Great info! Bookmarking so I can come back and make the most of it :)

    • Chinaimport profile image

      Kamal Mohta 3 years ago from Guangzhou

      Wow! A very useful hub for those trying to get social media traffic. Currently, people are so focused on SEO (which is very dry and mechanical IMHO) that they forget about an alternate source of traffic like social media. I would remember your tips while writing a new article.

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 3 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      KnowWhatIMean - Thanks for the great comments, I appreciate you reading this. It can be hard to think of clever titles, but there are two things to keep in mind: SEO (keywords) and social media. Good luck.

    • KnowWhatImean profile image

      KnowWhatImean 3 years ago

      Thanks for the information! I am always having a hard time thinking of clever titles for my posts, but maybe it isn't able clever at all. Thanks again

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 3 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Thanks for your fantastic comments everyone and I am truly sorry for not responding to you individually. I appreciate your shares, votes and wonderful feedback. :-)

    • Pico Triano profile image

      John 3 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

      Thank you! This rates a bookmark. I've always thought I cooked up decent titles for my work but this will help take me to another level.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Lots of good advice that I can put to use immediately.

    • Abhinv profile image

      Abhinv Bhagwat 3 years ago from India

      Wow! These tips actually make a lot of sense. Thank You mate :)

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      I thank you for this most useful information - some of your points I'd never thought about. I will be guided by this for future pieces. Thank you.

    • SpaceShanty profile image

      SpaceShanty 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      This truly is a fantastic article! Some great new ideas for getting more people to read your work and some old ones adapted for social media which have made me think "oh yeah, of course, why am I NOT doing that?"

      I will use these tips in future work and to revamp some Hubs which are lagging.

      Shared and voted up!

    • Torrs13 profile image

      Tori Canonge 3 years ago from California

      Bravo!!! These tips are easy to apply and they make complete sense. I also tend to click more on articles that have a number in the title... I guess I should start including more of those in my titles in the future! Thanks for sharing this knowledge!

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 3 years ago from Midwest

      Excellent hub - I've used several of these strategies and they are quite effective. Voted, shared etc. :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Susan, you kicked butt with these 10 tips. I loved reading this. You promised then delivered.

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 3 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Roberta - Thank you for the great comments and for doing the challenge, much appreciated! :-)

      You really created some smash-hit titles, if it were an assignment, I would give you an A+

      I like the question, number and rationale that you put into the first one, they go together beautifully and would be a must-read! I love the second one, the adjective 'standout' really works well with the title and 'relish' was a nice touch. I really enjoyed looking at those. Well done!

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 3 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Bill - I am glad you found these tips useful, they can come very handy when you want to get more readership from social media. Thank you for reading and for the comments!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

      A neat look at creating smash hit titles--thanks! :)

      So here's a go at the exercise:

      7 Master Tips for Strengthening Your Blog Readership: Are You Ready To Dominate?

      How to be a Standout Artist and Relish Every Step!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great tips! Very useful.