How To Craft A Better Blog Title Using Research & Psychology

Posted by Ross Simmonds 10 July, 2017 No comments
NY Times - Articles

People who write great blog posts do two things very well:

First, they write about blog post topics that are more likely to go viral than others. This comes from their ability to understand human psychology and what makes people click share.

Second, they know how to drive more traffic to their blog posts by understanding the power of content distribution and what makes something click friendly.

You’re probably wondering:

“How can I craft great blog posts?”

It all starts with psychology.

Really good blog posts engage readers right from the get-go.

I’m talking about the perfectly-clever, somewhat intriguing, yet oh-so-relevant titles that make us click and indulge in content that stimulates our senses.

Really great blog posts are carefully crafted; part science, part art.

The building blocks of an effective blog posts begins with a deep understanding of your audience, an appreciation for how they think and feel, and what motivates them to act.

But get this:

No matter what kind of blog you have or what business you’re in, headlines are the most important piece of the content you create.

The best hacks for creating titles worth clicking begin with psychology.

In order to better understand why people click on certain titles, we must first know what drives people to act.

So let’s take a closer look at five psychology theories that can be directly applied to creating click-worthy headlines:

1. USE THE HUMAN CURIOSITY GAP TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

Curiosity is what motivates us to learn new things and acquire new knowledge. It’s what has led to many of the best discoveries in science and technology. But how do we create curiosity in our readers?

In 1994, George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, suggested an answer to this question in his famous paper, “The Psychology of Curiosity.”

Loewenstein’s information gap theory of curiosity states that curiosity comes when we experience a gap “between what we know and what we want to know.” In his paper, Loewenstein wrote that curiosity arises when “attention becomes focused on a gap in one’s knowledge. Such information gaps produce the feeling of deprivation labeled curiosity.”

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When one feels this sense of deprivation they become motivated to acquire what’s missing.

Curiosity, according to Loewenstein’s theory, is not only a mental state but also an emotion powerful enough to drive a person forward until the gap in our knowledge is closed, or at least lessened.

2. DISRUPT AND REFRAME YOUR AUDIENCE WITH STRUCTURE

Studies show us that by disrupting your audience’s thought process or understanding of an event, we can facilitate a new representation of that event by reframing it during the disruption.

For example: Researchers tested the Disrupt then Reframe (DTR) technique by selling note cards for a local charity. The used two sales scripts, presenting the same offer two very different ways:

Offer 1: $3 for 8 cards
Offer 2: 300 pennies for 8 cards – which is a bargain!

In case you didn’t already guess it, the second offer was most popular. The first offer had a 40% success rate. When the second script was used, the result was 80% of the people made a purchase.

DTR essentially defuses critical thinking in your audience and makes readers more susceptible to your messaging.

It’s simple. By disrupting your visitor’s routine thought process you can easily reframe your content while your audience processes the disruption. Your audience is more compliant to your call to action and your messages because their brain is occupied by the initial disruption.

3. LEVERAGE CONFORMITY TO DRIVE MORE CLICKS

Rules - Broken

People are social beings. We all want to fit in and be liked by others. Psychologists call this conformity.

In a famous 1951 experiment, Solomon Asch showed that group pressure can influence people to make the wrong decision even if the right decision is obvious. In Asch’s Conformity Experiment, college students participated in a “perceptual” task along with a group of other “students”, who were in fact hired actors.

The participants were shown a card with a line on it.

Then they were shown a card with three lines on it, labeled A, B, or C. The college students were asked to say aloud which of the three lines matched the length of the first line that had been shown.

In each experiment, the actors were instructed to give the wrong answer.

The result?

A large percentage of participants followed the majority and chose the wrong answer. Only when one person acted as a “dissenter” and gave the right answer did the power of the majority influence weaken.

This headline works because the Oregon Ducks were the 2nd ranked school in NCAA Division 1 football and were about to play in the CFP National Championship. They are a high-performing team made up of highly-skilled athletes. If they have the secret to motivation that drives success, I want to know. This is conformity in action. Your audience wants to be successful and they want to conform (with your help) to achieve real results in their own life, similar to the success the Oregon Ducks experienced (before losing that game).

4. CAPITALIZE ON THE NEED FOR SUPPLY VIA SCARCITY

Regret is possibly one of the most uncomfortable feelings we experience. The Scarcity Principle states that we are driven by the anticipation of the regret we might feel if we miss out on something because we did not act on when we had the chance.

Essentially, when things are in short supply, we want them even more.

In an experiment, Stephen Worchel, author and Professor of Psychology at the University of Hawaii, Hilo offered subjects cookies in a jar. One jar had ten cookies in it and the other jar had only two. Even though both jars contained the exact same cookies, subjects preferred the cookies from the jar with only two in it.

We see the power of the scarcity principle most frequently in sales, where advertisements and sale promotions often read “only while supplies last”, or “for one day only”. But, when this tactic is applied to your headlines, it can have a dramatic impact on the consumption of your content and the resulting CTA you’re measuring.

5. USE NEGATIVE SUPERLATIVES TO DRIVE 63% MORE CLICKS

It’s a common belief that superlatives – words like “biggest”, “greatest”, “best”, and “always” are powerful and effective words to use when developing marketing content.

But, in a study of 65,000 titles comparing positive superlative headlines, negative superlatives headlines, and no superlative headlines, the opposite proved to be true.

Compared with headlines that contained neither positive nor negative superlatives, headlines with positive superlatives performed 29% worse and headlines with negative superlatives performed 30% better. Even more, the average click-through rate on headlines with negative superlatives was a staggering 63% higher than headlines containing positive superlatives.

So, why are we so attracted to the negative headline?

Negative words and praises tap into our insecurities.

Using words like, “stop”, “no”, “don’t” drive more engagement. As human beings, we are consumed with a desire to constantly improve and so headlines that contain negative superlatives suggest there is something we need to stop doing or something we may be doing wrong and need correct. It’s powerful stuff. Few examples:

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According to Copyblogger, eight out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only two out of 10 will read the rest of your content. With these five hacks now in hand, you have the tools you need to move the needle and get more eyeballs on your copy.

Which of these theories are you familiar with, either in the titles you’ve created or in the titles you click on? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments!

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