You Won’t Believe How Effective This Annoying Headline Trick Is

By Ryan Majeau | Posted in my blog for

You Won’t Believe How Effective This Annoying Headline Trick Is

At 0:23 I’m already bored. By 0:35 I start to get annoyed. At 0:45 I skip ahead to 0:60, then again to 1:30. Longest intro ever? At 2:42 I hear a fact, and check to see if my mind has in fact blown. Nope, it’s still there. Maybe I missed something? Whatever, my life is supposed to change at 4:31, I skip there. Wait for it…wait……um…that’s it? Really?!

It’s not the first time an over sensationalized headline has led to a dud. With the insane amount of content posted to the web daily, there’s a lot of crap out there. Thanks to SEO, many headlines are carbon copies of one another, all chock full of boring keywords to help raise the page’s ranks on search engines. This dooms a lot of content to never be seen in the abyss of the web.

Then along came Upworthy. A curator of online content about “things that matter,” Upworthy stumbled upon a secret formula to drive traffic to often overlooked content. What’s the secret? You won’t believe it. Your mind will be blown! It’s innate human curiosity.

Tell us we won’t believe what happened? We’ll believe it when we see it. Tease us that our minds will be blown? Give us your best shot! Then what? We click. One little click couldn’t hurt? Hook, line and sinker.

Once on the page there’s a run-down of the key points in the clip—with timestamps! (since you know, we’re all busy these days) Enough info is still held back that we have to watch now, to see for ourselves. Mission accomplished.

Reactions to the clips vary. They’re either inflated (the headline said we’d be really shocked) or deflated (the clip didn’t live up to the hype!). Wherever you fall on the scale, one thing’s for sure, you’ll be likely to share it.

While this all sounds simple and hokey, it’s this formula that’s skyrocketed Upworthy to the 3rd most shared publisher on the web in just 2 years. The problem now is saturation. Everyone’s jumping on the click-bait bandwagon. It’s getting overused. It’s less about the content now and more about the quippy headline. The not-so-secret-anymore formula is backfiring.

There’s some good content out there, I admit. Interesting facts, heartwarming stories, things that matter—but the headlines that once piqued my curiosity are now turning my stomach, and thus me, away. Find a new shtick, reboot an old tactic, do something to shake things up again‑or what happens next really will blow your mind.