How to Write Viral Headlines: New BuzzSumo Research
Source: Written By Steve Rayson on
Is there a formula to viral headlines? Are there words or phrases in headlines that particularly cause articles to be shared? For the past month I have been researching the headlines of the most shared posts in our BuzzSumo database. In this post I set out my findings, including:
- The common elements of viral headlines
- The top headline trigrams (three word phrases) shared on Facebook and Twitter
- The most powerful words used in headlines and how these vary across networks
- Eight ways to create your own viral headline
Common elements of viral headlines
The first aspect I reviewed was the common structural elements of headlines. In a previous review of the most viral posts of 2015, I identified a number of common elements to viral posts. These are outlined in the table below.
When I started reviewing the headlines of viral posts I found these elements occur frequently in the headline. I found it is common for a viral headline to include three, four and often all five of these elements. These headlines will be familiar to anyone who has browsed the most shared articles on BuzzSumo.
Here is an example headline from BuzzFeed which received over 650,000 shares and 2.6m views.
I could have chosen hundreds of similar headlines but this is typical and instantly recognisable. It may seem like a simple Listicle at first glance and we all know that list posts perform well. However, if we break down this headline in detail we can see that it contains all five elements common to viral posts.