With over 2 million blog posts published each day, we all know how much a good headline matters.

There’s not enough reading power in this world to work through every article published. Whether people click on the link to your article depends on the allure of your headline.

A magnetic headline is concise, fascinating, and has a touch of magic✨  to it.

But there’s also a quantifiable side to writing irresistible headlines: the length, the right wording, etc.

We gathered all the data analyzing the anatomy of a perfect headline and topped it with original research. Up next, you’ll find six visualizations that help you understand and compile headlines people want to see.

1. Start with a number

Turns out that the type of headline you use plays a significant role in your article’s success.

Research by Conductor shows that people prefer headlines that contain numbers. Their second choice is the headline directly addressing them.

Top headline types

List posts nail the competition 🎯

Just to be clear, here are some examples:

  • Headline starting with a number: 22 Ways to Write The Perfect Headline
  • Headline addressing the person: 22 Ways You Can Write Perfect Headlines
  • “How to” headline: How to Write a Perfect Headline
  • Regular Headline: Guide to Writing a Perfect Headline
  • Headline Including a Question: Did You Know About These Headline Writing Hacks?
Key takeaway: Test headlines that start with a number, but make the number impressive, not 5 or 8. Aim fo 65, 101, or 36 (this also keeps your content quality high)

2. Use the right words

People’s reaction to different words and adjectives varies heavily, depending on their mood and background.

When analyzing 23,858 tweets by 145 Twitter profiles (we’ll publish the entire analysis soon), we discovered that the Top 5% best-performing tweets started with the following words:

most used words in top tweets

The thing is, also the Top 5% worst-performing tweets contained similar words. So we extracted the words that were present in the Top 5% but less popular in the rest of tweets.

  • Words to use in your tweets and headlines (words that were frequent in top 5% but not so widely used in other tweets): Thanks, Our, Check, In, Don’t, Top
  • Words to avoid (words that were frequent in the 25% lowest engagement tweets but unpopular in the top 5%): 6, See, Get, 4, Are, Do

We explored the matter a little further ad discovered that there some words had a statistically significant higher possibility to get your tweets noticed and engaged with.

We discovered that the words “Thanks”, “Top”, “We”, “Congratulations”, “Learn”, and “Great” at the beginning of your tweets could help to reach higher engagement.

Best words to use in tweets

Key takeaway: Test the words “Thanks”, “Top”, “We”, “Congratulations”, “Learn”, and “Great” at in your headlines (and tweets) to reach higher engagement.

3. Don’t be that lazy

A web traffic chart published by NewsWhip revealed that Upworthy generated about 75,000 Facebook likes for each article.

What about the rest of the best-performing sites? They each generated fewer than 10,000 likes on average.

The reason why top publishers’ articles get thousands of Facebook shares often lies in the science of perfect headlines. Upworthy is said to write 25 headlines for each of their articles.

how many headlines to brainstorm

For this article, we tested 8 headlines.

Why should you write 25 headlines?

The formula is pretty simple: Out of 25 headlines you’ve managed to brainstorm as fast as possible, 20 are crap, and the remaining 5 have an opportunity to be great.

writing a good headline

We came up with 3 headlines worthy of publishing

Key takeaway: Don’t settle with the first headline that comes to mind. Brainstorm at least 10 different ideas and the choose the best.

4. Use odd numbers

Outbrain collected data from 150,000 article headlines and discovered that headlines with odd numbers have a 20% higher clickthrough rate than headlines with even numbers.

use odd numbers in headlines
Instead of creating a list of 12 tips, make it a list of 11 tips. One of the reasons odd numbers work better is that they’re more uncommon. Bet you’ve seen more “10 tips” articles than “9 tips” posts.

Key takeaway: Test using odd numbers in your headlines.

5. Find the perfect headline length

Another study by Outbrain found that headlines with 60-100 characters earn the highest click-through rates

To confirm these results, we looked at the headlines of popular business magazines’ most shared articles in January 2017.

Forbes headlines that gathered the most Twitter shares:

  • 10 Ways To Push Your Business Further In 2017 (28,000+ Twitter shares) – 45 characters
  • Seek These 7 Character Traits To Avoid The Risk Of Bad Hires (21,000+ Twitter shares) – 60 characters
  • Resilience: The Skill Above All Others That Helps Entrepreneurs To Excel (19,000+ Twitter shares) – 72 characters
  • 10 Influential American Business Leaders Today (8,000+ Twitter shares) – 46 characters
  • Seven Habits Of Extra Interesting People (4,000+ Twitter shares) – 40 characters

As you can see, none of these articles really included over 75 characters. So maybe Outbrain’s research isn’t the best to follow. Having 60+ words in your headline doesn’t work out so well for SEO either.

We decided to check the headline character count of 20 top shared articles by Fast Company, Inc., Forbes, and Entrepreneur.

best number of characters for headline

60 characters seems to be the golden choice 🏆

60 characters seems to be the most-used headline length. (It’s also a good choice SEO-wise)

Key takeaway: Keep your headline length around 60 characters.

Quick recap

Before you move on to the next article, review everything you just learned.

  • Start headlines with numbers
  • Use the right wording
  • Brainstorm more than 1 headline per article
  • Use odd numbers more often
  • Keep your headline length around 60 characters

Now that you’ve mastered some new copywriting skills, go ahead and check out these 25 Facebook ad design hacks to also improve your ads’ visual identity.