The BuzzFeed Guide to Writing Blog Headlines

Who can resist clicking on BuzzFeed headlines? Learn these tricks of the trade to amp up your blog's clickability quotient.
Columnist, American Express OPEN
March 26, 2014

There’s a reason you can’t log in to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn without seeing your newsfeed overflowing with links to something on BuzzFeed. From quirky quizzes to what-is-that-I-can’t-click-oh-my-I-just-clicked-that stories, everyone loves BuzzFeed.

 

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And they make it so easy to click.

Some might call it linkbait. But as someone who appreciates the fine art of an irresistible headline, I’ll just call it smart.

So what can your brand’s blog writers learn about clickable headlines from the folks who know more about cute animals and meaningless quizzes than you or I ever will? Here are a few tips for amping up your blog headlines by emulating some of BuzzFeed’s always-get-the-click techniques.

Find a Sense of Humor

No matter what industry you’re in, people in your line of work laugh—they’re human, after all. BuzzFeed is a total pro at helping people find the humor in every aspect of daily life. And while it can be hard to tap into the funny side of things when someone told you that your business blog had to be 100 percent buttoned-up business, know this: It doesn’t.

You can be all business even while taking a lighter approach. BuzzFeed headlines get the clicks because people know they’re guaranteed a bit of relief on the other side of that click. And if you’re the one to give your audience that kind of relief, you just might see your clicks and return visits rise.

Don’t believe me? Just head on over to BuzzFeed’s Business section, and peruse the headlines.

How to do it: Whip out your keyboard, and make a list of 10 funny things about your business or industry. If you can’t think of 10, phone a friend. Heck, create a Facebook status update on your business page and ask folks for their biggest pet peeves about working in your industry. Oh, will you look at that? You now have a blog post about the 10 pet peeves of people in X industry (which also makes a very BuzzFeed-style headline). Now how about rounding out that post with some solutions so you’re not just a Ranty McRanterson? You can wash, rinse and repeat this process to find more funnybone-tickling headlines.

Relate to Pop Culture

BuzzFeed always has one quiz or another that will tell you everything from what Disney ride you are to how your startup fairy tale will end. The answers are complete bollocks, but people love quizzes because they’re an escape. While I’m not suggesting you should create a quiz to boost your blog readership, I am saying you might want to pay more attention to pop culture. BuzzFeed is always ready with a well-timed headline, relating a current event to something from pop culture. We even do it here at OPEN Forum with "8 Business Strategy Tips From House of Cards" and "The Downton Abbey Guide to Business Manners."

When you’re able to relate the burning topic you want to talk about to something that’s also burning up the airwaves—like a hot TV show, movie or political controversy—you can tap into a bit of the public's built-in curiosity. And while we all hate to admit it, sometimes we click those pop culture links. How cool would it be if you gave your audience tangible takeaways and smart strategy on the other end of a snappy headline?

How to do it: Make a list of your favorite TV shows and current or classic movies in one column. In the other column, write a sentence or two showing how you could relate a lesson or challenge in your industry to the principles of your cultural favorite. Now you not only have a snappy blog headline, but you also have the outline for a cool blog post that won’t let readers down on the other side of the click. And who knows? You just might attract a few new eyes to your blog by framing your thoughts in a fresher-than-the-average way.

Invite the Audience to Learn

I don’t know about you, but I’m always up for learning a thing or two I didn’t know when I woke up this morning. If someone can frame that learning in an entertaining way that doesn’t make me feel like I’m back in an interminable college-level math class, all the better.

BuzzFeed knows how to make people learn by taking a twisted approach to answering three common questions: who, what and why. Try visiting BuzzFeed’s Tech section and scrolling through the headlines. Tell me how many you see that lead with who, what and why. Those headlines draw readers in with the promise of delivering a bit of information they didn’t have before they read the article. Every time I click on one of them, although I secretly hate myself a little bit for actually making the click, I emerge with at least an iota of knowledge I didn’t have pre-click.

How to do it: Make a list of the questions you’re asked most frequently by your customers, prospects and people who are interested in learning more about what you do. FAQs are a fantastic place to begin a list of who, what and why blog posts. Focus on a specific, niche topic, and offer your audience a list of the whos, whats and whys that will make something about their business better. Maybe it’s a list of the 10 youngest CEOs in your industry and a quote from each about why they love the business they're in. It could be 23 little-known facts about an issue everyone in your industry deals with daily. People love lists (because they establish expectations), and they love feeling a bit smarter. You can help them with both.

While sites like BuzzFeed are experts at getting the clicks, some of you still might see snazzy headlines as circus-style shenanigans. If that’s your thought process, I’ll leave you with this: People can Google information. If all your blog is putting out is information and pure data, people don’t need your blog for that.

Instead, think about giving your audience something they crave (relief from the rigors of the day) along with the expertise you have to share. With an irresistible blog headline (and the smart content to back it up), you just might discover that more folks are sharing what you labor to create—and you didn’t even have to add any cute hedgehog pictures.

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Photos: Thinkstock, BuzzFeed