100 Million Headlines Don’t Lie

The headline is the most important part of your content. People decide what to read based on the headline. Shared content often includes little more than the headline with the link.

Buzzsumo recently analyzed 100 million article headlines to get insight into what is most effective. The research looked at the most shared headlines on Facebook and Twitter from March to May 20.

Headlines that Work on Facebook

  • The most powerful three-word phrase was “Will make you”
  • Two-word phrases that gained a high level of average engagements included “goes viral” and “most beautiful”
  • Emotional phrases such as “tears of joy” and “shocked to see”were consistently effective on Facebook
  • Headline phrases that provoke curiosity and a sense of voyeurism also gained a high level of engagement on Facebook, such as “What happened next” and “are freaking out”
  • Many of the most engaging phrases contain numbers, and the number 10 is the best performing number to use

Headlines that Work on Twitter

  • The headline phrases that gained the most engagement on Twitter were different from those that gained high engagement on Facebook except for “will make you”
  • Top Twitter phrases have a focus on newness such as “this is what,” “for the first time,” and “things to know”
  • Emotional phrases do not resonate on Twitter

Word Count Matters Too

Buzzsumo also analyzed the number of words in article headlines and plotted this number against the average number of Facebook engagements for all headlines in our sample.

  • Posts with 2-18 words in the headline receive the highest number of Facebook engagements on average
  • As headlines get longer or shorter, Facebook engagements decline
  • 80 to 95 characters is optimal

Add Your Intel

The research also demonstrated that a headline may perform poorly on Facebook but work very well a different social network. While this research provides some great guidance, knowledge of your target customer should be used to refine your efforts.