Headlines so enticing you can’t resist the click. Upworthy’s secrets revealed.

Writing headlinesHow to write headlines that get clicks.

If you’re reading this, we can both assume the headline of this article worked: It made you click. Perhaps you’ve read similar headlines in your travels about the internet. I’ve borrowed a headline-writing technique employed by an online publisher named “Upworthy.” Upworthy is an online news and human-interest site that knows how to get your click. They spend a great deal of time on their headlines. In fact, they reportedly create about 25 headlines for every news article before they choose the best one (I only went through a few drafts of mine–for shame!). Upworthy has turned writing irresistible headlines into an art form that has made them one of the “fastest growing media sites of all time” according to Fast Company.

Join their 4.2 million followers on Facebook if you don’t believe me. See if you can resist the click (and get some headline ideas while you’re at it).

David Holmes wrote an interesting article about Upworthy’s recipe for click-able headlines (and a Twitter account that parodies them) over at Pandodaily.com. In it, he points out how simple Upworthy’s ingenious technique is.

Here’s Upworthy’s secret formula for click-able headlines:

Outrage + Uplift + Mystery = Clicks

Whether you see Upworthy’s headlines as manipulative parlor tricks or clever journalism is up to you, but writing engaging headlines and social posts is incredibly useful to anyone trying to promote themselves online. Why not use Upworthy’s headline formula to better engage your fanbase?  After all, we all want clicks too, right? We want our fans to like and share our posts and open our emails and click on our links. How can we use this magic formula to increase our fan engagement?

Well, let’s try to think of some examples of how we can use Upworthy’s technique to promote our own content, products, and events.

Let’s say I’m about to send out a newsletter about an upcoming concert. Normally, I might use a headline like “Don’t forget: We’re playing at the Red Room on Monday.” It’s not a horrible headline. It’s honest and direct, right? But wouldn’t it be better if I could write something that would undoubtedly get some more engagement, increase email opens, and ultimately increase my concert attendance? I guess I’d need to add some outrage, uplift, and mystery.

A few examples:
Our drummer’s evil plans this Friday may leave you in stitches. You’ll never guess why.
You won’t believe the insanity we have planned. All will be revealed this Friday.
A band forced to do unspeakable acts in the name of entertainment. Find out why.

Well, these headlines are certainly more engaging. As you can see I applied Upworthy’s formula:

Our drummer’s evil plans [outrage] leave you in stitches [uplift]. And you’ll never guess why. [mystery]

You could do the same thing with a Facebook or Twitter post. Let’s say you want your followers to click on a link and listen to a new track you just released.

You could say:

“Check out my new track, ‘Waterfall.'”

Or instead you can say . . .

“I was devastated when she left me. [outrage] This song is what saved me. [uplift] You’ll see why when you listen.[mystery]”

Why does this formula work? It’s actually simply relying on some of the most basic elements of storytelling. Stories are firmly rooted in conflict and resolution. The more outrageous the conflict and resolution are, the more curious we become. The ‘story’ is what happens in between the conflict and resolution. Upworthy tantalizes us, but offers only mystery when it comes to a plot. That’s why we click. There’s no solid details on how to connect point A and point B.  We must find out! It’s a diabolical formula.

Now before you start using this formula for every blog post, tweet, and email . . . Remember, your content has to be good. Getting clicks is not the end goal–getting fans is. If you trick people into clicking on links that lead to boring content, then you’re going to get disgruntled fans and followers. I would save this technique for your best content. Use it sparingly and you will be rewarded.

Are you going to try Upworthy’s formula to engage with your fans? Please share your headlines and experiences in the comments below.

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2 comments to Headlines so enticing you can’t resist the click. Upworthy’s secrets revealed.

  • Stani Steinbock

    I was disgusted by the limitations of this instrument, but it’s sound just fascinated me! And who could guess what happened then?

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