Thursday, April 17, 2014

These Sites Tell Which Of Your Accounts Have Been Hacked by Adam Tanner

Heartbleed, the massive flaw in web encryption recently made public, is just one of the unending stream of vulnerabilities that enables hackers to steal personal details and passwords from companies with which you do business.

Of recent, a number of websites have opened up shop to alert users when such attacks happen.
For example, allows you to enter in an email address to see if hackers have compromised it. For example, a check of one email address I use only with companies showed that it had been breached in October – along with 153 million others — when Adobe’s accounts were hacked.

A check of an email address I use just for (and one I knew had an issue earlier this year) also showed it had been breached, with a useful explanation below. “In February 2014, the Forbes website succumbed to an attack that leaked over 1 million user accounts,” the site said. “The attack was attributed to the Syrian Electronic Army, allegedly as retribution for a perceived ‘Hate of Syria.’

Another site, PwnedList, found those where both email addresses had been hacked and gave a date of the hack, but did not say where the issues occurred. offers a similar service. All are free and offer to notify users in the future if an email address is compromised.
Screens shot of Pwned List.
Screens shot of PwnedList.

These sites may see more traffic in coming weeks if the Heartbleed security flaw leads to a whole new series of hacked sites, as many experts forecast.

“If this issue isn’t fixed immediately at all companies (which it won’t be), then we can expect to see a large number of breaches and leaks enabled by this vulnerability,” said Steve Thomas, the co-founder of PwnedList. “We are preparing our database for a rapid increase in the number of compromised credentials, which Heartbleed will certainly contribute to.”

It catches wind of new breaches by hanging around Internet hacker sites. “Once we join those we get access to everything that is getting passed around,” says Thomas. “Primary hackers will say ‘I just broke into XYZ company, here is their user list.’” Sometimes hackers broadcast their accomplishments on Twitter, but some boasts have not actually occurred.

He estimates that PwnedList learns of about a dozen different data leaks every day, with 100,000 to 500,000 compromised credentials.
Alen Puzic (seated) and Steve Thomas, co-founders of PwnedList (Photo courtesy of PwnedList)
Alen Puzic (seated) and Steve Thomas, co-founders of PwnedList (Photo courtesy of PwnedList)

The site, set up late in 2013, is the pet project of Troy Hunt, an Australian who works as an architect at a large company by day.  He concentrates on the larger data breaches, and adds one to two different data sets a week to his site. “It is a bit of a laborious process,” he said. “It doesn’t make any money. I guess it is a hobby and public service.”

Hunt would like to see companies whose systems are breached be more responsive in reaching out to their affected customers. Often, he said, there is a long lag time before they own up to what has happened.

“One thing we have got to be cautious about is there is a lot of people go out and beat the drums and say we’ve just compromised the NSA, for example, here’s all their passwords, and it’s just fraudulent.”

After processing so many breaches through his site, Hunt has strengthened his own personal security drill and recommends the same for others: he uses only strong, unmemorable passwords for each account, and turns to a secure password manager to keep track of all that information.

Courtesy of Forbes

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Report: Google+ Brand Posts Get Twice the Engagement of Tweets by Todd Wasserman


We've all heard the claims that Google+ is a ghost town and that the network's population is artificially inflated, but a Forrester Research analyst says marketers are crazy to ignore it.
The analyst, Nate Elliott, based his assertion on a study of 60,000 online adults in the United States. The report found that 22% of those adults had visited Google+ within the last month.

"That’s the same number who told us they use Twitter, and more than told us they use LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram," Elliott wrote. "That means you can build a real follower base on Google Plus: On average, top brands have collected 90% as many fans on Plus as on Twitter. (In fact, the brands we studied have more followers on Google Plus than on YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram combined.)"

Forrester also studied more than 3 million user interactions with more than 2,500 brand posts, and found the Google+ posts scored almost as high as those on Facebook and received almost twice as much engagement per follower as tweets from those brands:
Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 9.43.09 AM

"The bottom line? If you’re not actively marketing on Google Plus, it’s time to start," Elliott writes.

Long-Term SEO: Sustainable Tactics, Strategies & Solutions by Shari Thurow

Last month, I attended the Long-Term SEO: How To Win For Years, Not Days session at SMX West. I have worked in the search industry since 1995. I have seen search engine optimization (SEO) trends and tactics come and go… and I’ve also seen fundamental, universal concepts get stronger and stronger over time.

So what I wanted to learn was: what are flavor-of-the-month strategies, and what strategies are going to stand the test of time? Would I hear anything about information scent and the aboutness of digital documents? Should you invest in link development, a sustainable SEO strategy, or has it been relegated to SEO history?

And, as search engine guru Danny Sullivan so aptly put it, “Am I constantly trying to make the algorithm happy?”

What follows are the panelists’ perspective on sustainable SEO.
Sustainable SEO
Sustainable SEO consists of search engine optimization concepts, strategies, tactics, and implementation that stand the test of time.

Rhea Drysdale, CEO of Outspoken Media, opened with, “It is up to you to manage the site from beginning to end. The strategies that you choose and tactics… all of that ultimately falls onto you.”
Drysdale said that website owners should focus on the big picture rather than short-term “vanity goals” (I like that phrase) or choosing shortcuts without weighing the risks. “Do no harm to the brand and let people know the risks,” she said.

She also pointed out that “human behavior forces algorithm updates.” The example she gave to support her statement was The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO in Matt Cutts’ blog.
I could not help but be reminded of my warning about PageRank sculpting years ago. Many overzealous SEO professionals and website owners will go to great lengths to achieve search engine visibility. In the long run? These short-term tactics can actually do more harm than good.

Mark Munroe, Director of SEO at Trulia, takes a more holistic approach to long-term SEO: focus embedded SEO intelligence throughout your organization and build your brand’s reputation. “Links might go away,” he said, “but your reputation never will.”

Some ways of building reputation to your brand (past and present) include:
  • Link swapping and link networks
  • Web and niche directories
  • Link buying
  • Press releases
  • Article directories
  • Infographics
  • Social
  • Content marketing
Even though some of these tactics seem outdated, when implemented properly, they are a legitimate and trustworthy way of getting search engine traffic and credibility. For example, link exchanges might seem to be an ancient SEO tactic — one that can get your site penalized or banned for search engine spam. But what if the domestic violence shelters from each state in the United States linked to each other? If that happened, maybe victims of domestic violence could more easily find the closest shelter online.

Additionally, both Drysdale and Munroe do not believe that press releases are a dead form of PR (public relations). Press releases are a means of distribution that can support your optimization’s goals. The point is to keep all of these alleged SEO shortcuts in the right perspective.

“The best links are not asked for,” Munroe said. “Create a reason to be linked to.”  That does not mean that SEO professionals should not ask for links. If you have great content that you believe is link worthy, reach out to the right people and ask for the  link. “Maintain your outreach initiatives,” he said, ” and leave the anchor text up to the person/site linking to your site.”

Next up to speak was Eric Enge, CEO of Stone Temple Consulting. “Of course, building your reputation with your target audience means understanding that audience, their needs, how they think, and how they might engage with your site,” he said.
“As Amit Singhal noted during his keynote here at SMX West, Google is very focused on the user, and publishers need to be, too. It is hard to predict how the changes will unfold during the next few years, but we know they are coming. For that reason, publishers must also focus on the users because ‘those are the signals that we (Google) want to find and value the most anyway.’ Now that’s a rock solid approach to SEO.”
Here is a list of Eric’s one-liner takeaways about long-term SEO:
  1. Be an expert or go home. You can’t build trust with random writers.
  2. Authenticity is hard to fake.
  3. Pursue extreme differentiation. The same old content isn’t going to cut it.
  4. Realize that links are the result, not the goal.
  5. Focus on reputation and brand (as your top priorities). You can’t vote for yourself.
  6. True value of press releases: generate interest from the media.
  7. Don’t look natural, BE natural.
  8. Strong social media presences are like a built-in PR channel.
  9. Influencers are the accelerant.
  10. Solving problems for others is engagement that is memorable.
  11. If you have to argue that it’s a good link, it’s not.
  12. The company you keep defines you.
Eric had a great diagram that illustrated how all of these long-term strategies should work together (see slide #30 in the SlideShare presentation below).

“SEO has changed dramatically in the past several years, and with increasing emphasis by Google in search quality, the Knowledge Graph and improving search quality, these changes are only likely to accelerate,” said Enge. “What it means for publishers is that they need to focus their SEO strategies on where Google is going, not on ‘what works now.’ The best way to do that is to build your reputation online with your target audience.”

Along those lines, Eric has a great interview with Matt Cutts on What Makes a Quality Site. In the interview, Matt said:
By doing things that help build your own reputation, you are focusing on the right types of activity. Those are the signals we want to find and value the most anyway.
Mark Munroe, I think, summarized it best when he said, “The objective is to embed SEO intelligence… become an SEO team. Get teams to communicate with each other. Get executive buy in. Look for synergies among groups: user experience (UX), information architecture (IA), content optimization, technical, and so forth.”
“We need a world where everything is working together – SEO is coordinating and benefitting from all of this,” Enge concluded.

So, if you want long-term SEO traffic? We all must work together to attain the same goals so that everyone benefits: your company, your brand, your users… and the search engines.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Monday, April 7, 2014

LinkedIn Launches New Tool to Measure Content Effectiveness by Jose Capelo

From now on, companies can measure the effectiveness and reach of their content strategy on LinkedIn. The social network has unveiled its Content Marketing Score, directed exclusively to businesses with the aim to help brands become better publishers.

Marketers need to assess the impact of their actions on social media. To do this, any tool or application metric is welcome. To facilitate the task, LinkedIn has introduced its own measurement tool available to businesses only. This tool is not limited solely to paying stocks, but also lets you know what unique users have interacted in their company pages, groups, updates or employees posts by influencers. Thus, the brand may know the percentage of people that somehow interacted with your content, recommended the content through word of mouth marketing, began to follow the business, or shared recommendations.

Furthermore, based on these results a ranking, in which results of the competition will be included, will be formed in order to help business asses the real impact of their strategy. Yes, all privately and anonymously, but using this data, companies can assess the effectiveness of their content strategy on this platform, find out what kind of publications were recorded, and overall offering a greater range to optimize their long-term strategy.

Similar to Google’s search algorithm that ranks organic content in results from search engine queries, LinkedIn will calculate metrics from the content’s performance to determine the score. Activity on a brand’s page, sponsoring a piece of content or paying to have a piece reach a target audience, employee posts in aggregate, group activity, and posts from any of the 500 people in the site’s influencer program all contribute to the score.

In addition to this classification and valuation of companies engagement generated by each organization, LinkedIn also let you know what the current issues related to the target audience of the company are. Definitely useful in guiding, and planning publications with related information.

LinkedIn is the meeting point for professionals in the online medium. This is ideal for networking and generating business opportunities, especially in the case of the B2B scenario. A platform with over 225 million users and which meets 81% of Inc. 500 companies. A broadcasting platform for generating content with indicated confidence, attract the target audience and loyal customers. Those advantages make LinkedIn to position itself over Facebook even in the case of small and medium enterprises (83 % vs. 80%).

LinkedIn has positioned itself as a leader platform in business, and works to provide more features and benefits that encourage the use of its services, and its importance as a social network.

How to Craft the Perfect Email Subject Line by Dmitri Leonov

According to some estimates, more than 144 billion emails are sent every day—and, sometimes, it seems like every one of them lands in your inbox.

Even those of us who are tasked with creating email marketing campaigns aren't immune to information overload: We all know what it's like to be bombarded with email messages—all competing for a share of our attention during a busy day.

If it's your job to come up with a subject line that is compelling enough to cut through all that clutter, it's a good idea to apply your experience as an email recipient to help you craft the perfect subject line. What gets your attention? How do you decide which emails to trash unopened and which to read?

Scores of scientific studies can tell you which words appear with the most frequency in successful email campaigns. And that is useful information. But in creating a compelling subject line, sometimes a simple strategy works best.

Here are some tips that can help you improve open rates.

Keep it brief. When prospects are scanning their inboxes, a short, snappy subject is more likely to catch their eye than a lengthier line. If possible, it's best to keep the subject line short enough to appear as one line on a smaller device screen, such as a smartphone or tablet. Keep it short and sweet to improve your open and rates.

Don't waste valuable real estate. A subject line doesn't provide much space, so make every word count. Don't waste space with words (such as "hello") that don't add much value to your message. When crafting your subject line, evaluate each word and make sure it adds value—from the standpoint of providing information or encouraging readers to open the email.

Be specific. When readers are scanning new messages in their inbox, they're generally in a hurry to respond to urgent messages or tackle the next task in their busy day. In such a state of mind, they won't have much patience for mystery. Cut to the chase by using the subject line to tell them what the message is about.

Make it searchable. There's a good chance your reader won't have time to focus on your message when they first see it, so it's wise to give them an easy way to return to the message when they have more time. If you make the subject line searchable so readers can easily find it later, there's a better chance that they'll revisit your email, even if they don't have time at first.

Include a call to action. Make sure your subject line tells the reader what he or she can do to benefit from the message—whether that's to visit a site, make a call, or just read the message. A brief line that summarizes the value can be highly effective, so think about what's in it for the reader and try to convey that in the subject line.

Don't create anxiety. Although you want your readers to take action, it's important to balance a call to action with a signal that you respect their time. Subject lines that include phrases such as "immediate response required" can come across as arrogant. Adding "FYI" or "no need to reply" can take the pressure off while still signaling that the message contains valuable information.

Include your company name. Readers will be more likely to open an email if they know who it's from and if they perceive value from the sending organization. Including a company name is especially important if you already have a positive relationship with the reader.

Knowledge workers spend about 28% of their workday managing email, a McKinsey Global Institute report has found. We all complain about email volume, and unless you manage your inbox wisely, it can seriously decrease productivity by forcing you to weed through unimportant, unwanted messages to find the emails that are worth your focus.

That said, email is how we communicate in business. The issue isn't email itself, but inbox overload and finding a way to separate the mundane and annoying from the truly important. There are proven ways to tame overflowing inboxes, and every professional needs a sound strategy. Your challenge as an email marketer is to ensure that your message makes the cut.

Since you're an email consumer as well as email campaign developer, take a step back and think about what motivates you as a reader. Chances are, you respond better to messages that are brief and to the point. You want to know why you should open that message—what's in it for you. You want to know who it's from and how it can help you.

So write a subject line that you would open... and you'll likely get a great response.

Courtesy of

5 Ways to Attract More Readers to Your Blog by Rachel Sprung

Is it easy for people to find your blog content?

Do you want to promote your blog content to more readers?

When you blog to promote your business or industry, it’s important to make sure your content gets seen.
In this article I’ll share five ways you can attract readers to your blog content.

#1: Get Found in Search by Optimizing Your Content for SEO

If you’re going to get new visitors to your website, you want to make sure they’ll be able to find you. And one way they’ll find you is by searching for you on their search engine of choice. That’s why it’s important to optimize your content for SEO.

Let’s take Social Media Examiner as an example.

If you search for “social media” and scroll through the different post titles that come up, they all reference social media, whether it’s a specific social media channel or the term “social media.” Throughout the posts, you’ll see the same content; everything relates to social media.
Now let’s look what happens when we search for “social media blogs”.
google search
Google search for “social media blogs.”

In both cases, the first search result for “social media blogs” is Social Media Examiner. They’ve done SEO right by optimizing their posts so people who are looking for social media content can find them.
bing search
Bing search for “social media blogs.”
Before you publish a blog post, take the extra time to make sure it is optimized for SEO.
  • Create a meta description.
  • Check your content for keywords.
  • Add alt text for your images.
  • Link from your blog post to other parts of your website.

#2: Post Your Content on Social Media

The most efficient way to get more people to your blog is to post your content on social media. That way your current followers will start reading your blog and they may also share your content with their own personal networks. Social media content can spread like wildfire, so it’s important to post your blog content on different social media networks.

Let’s take IMPACT Branding & Design, for example.
impact branding tweet
IMPACT Branding & Design tweets.

Whenever they publish a blog post, they put it on their social media channels. They also don’t just repeat the title of their blog post; they share a related thought that brings people in and makes them want to learn more.
impact branding facebook
IMPACT Branding & Design Facebook post.

After you create your blog content, prep your posts to go out on social media. Think about how you can frame your post so that it’ll attract readers to your site. Pose a question or ask readers to consider a particular situation that will encourage them to click on your link.

#3: Create Interest With Engaging and Exciting Titles

We’re all human. We judge books by their covers and we judge blog posts by their titles. Knowing that, it’s important to spend some time crafting your title.

When you start writing your blog post, a working title is fine. Get the general topic of the blog post down and write your content. But before you publish it, come back to the title and think about how you can take it up a notch to make it more engaging and truly pull your reader in.

Yoh has done a good job of creating great titles.
yoh blog
Yoh blog post titles.

After scanning down the list of blog titles, what do you find? They use a variety of techniques. There are some blog posts with numbers such as “5 Relationship Building Tips for All Your Relationships.” Then there are others with funny and catchy titles like “Ice, Ice, Baby! How Snow Days and Talent Are Linked.” But their titles are bound to get you to click on the full blog post.
Here are a few elements that can help you create engaging blog titles.
  • Incorporate a number into your blog post. By that, I mean something like “5 Ways to do X” or “7 Steps to X”. Titles with quantitative elements attract readers.
  • If there’s data in your blog post, mention data it in your blog title.
  • Is this a breaking story? Is this new research you’re releasing? Tell your readers they’re about to read something they won’t find somewhere else.
  • Make your title catchy or quirky so the reader laughs without even reading the post. Everyone wants more humor.

#4: Introduce Fresh Perspectives With Content From Guest Bloggers

Having a variety of topics is important for any blog. Having a variety of blog authors who approach a business or industry from different perspectives is also beneficial for a blog. Not only can you get content creators for free, but you also get promotion from someone else to his or her audience. If bloggers are going to take the time to write content for you, they are most likely going to promote it to their network, at least through social media.

Scan Entrepreneur’s blog, for example, and you’ll see an array of different names in the last few published posts. Many of these are guest bloggers like Luke Summerfield.
luke author bio
Luke Summerfield’s Entrepreneur author profile.

When Luke contributes, not only does Entrepreneur get brand-new content from a fresh source, Luke gets an author profile on Entrepreneur that also appears in Google’s search results.
search results
Search results for Luke’s article.

Luke, in turn, promotes Entrepreneur to his network by posting links to his article. The benefits go both ways.
If your content is getting stale, invite guest bloggers to share an outside perspective. The newer articles can really improve the quality of your blog content and the new writers will introduce your blog to their readers, who will come back for more.

#5: Make It Easy to Share Your Content

If you make a task easy, odds are someone will do it. The same applies for your blog content. If you want someone to share your content with their network, make it easy for them to do that through social sharing buttons or prewritten emails that your readers can send to their network.

Charity: water‘s blog posts always end with social sharing buttons. That way, when a person reads their content, the next step will be to share it.
charity water sharing buttons
Sharing buttons at the end of charity: water’s blog post.

These buttons allow readers to share the blog content with literally the click of a button. Adding buttons like this for social media and/or email can increase the traffic of your blog.

Wrapping It Up
When you invest time and resources into creating content for your blog, you should also spend some time making sure it reaches as many people as possible.

Follow the tips in this article to optimize, publish and share your content in ways that are certain to attract more readers by making it more visible.

What do you think? Are there other ways you can attract more readers to your blog content?

Courtesy of Social Media Examiner

How To Grow Twitter Followers In Literally, One Day by Kelly Kranz

How To Grow Followers In Literally, One Day image Grow twitter followers
So…is it possible to grow your followers in one day? Depends on how you define growth really. 1 new follower can be seen as growth or maybe it’s 50. Let me clear that up real quick. This is a story about how I  more than doubled my twitter followers in literally (what felt like) one day.

Here’s a little backstory about me and my distant relationship with Twitter. I created my account back in ‘08 and never used it. I didn’t understand it. How we currently use the  “@” and “#” was all new to me back then. It felt like learning a foreign language and I just didn’t have the time. Lucky for me I scored my name as my handle @kellykranz. Of Course I had no idea if that was good or not.

As of 2010 I started working in the field of internet marketing.  The field is vast and educational materials are everywhere. I must have consumed at least 500 ebooks my first year. And while I learned a lot about Twitter I only used it for business accounts and not my personal account.

Fast forward to 2014. My Twitter account still has the same 50 followers I had when I started. Not only is this embarrassing to me but … no it is just EXTREMELY embarrassing. How can I sit here and write about best inbound marketing and social media practices when my own Twitter account has zero reflection of what I preach. I decided to fix this and fix it fast.

Time. Time is something I am very short on and to find the time to pop over to Twitter to tweet was not something I was used to. So I started out with what I could fit into my schedule, and that is bulk scheduling with tools like Hootsuite or HubSpot’s social inbox. First I sat myself down and had a little self chat. I decided that realistically I could dedicate myself to twitter for 2 weeks, after the 2 weeks I would see if what I did worked and adjust what I was doing if need be.

Like I mentioned, I started to schedule my tweets in bulk. I scheduled about 10 tweets each day. I did my scheduling the day of, this was to keep my tweets relevant with news and articles that published recently. I didn’t want to  schedule my tweets 2 weeks in advance and be sharing stale content 5 days in- thats no good for anyone.

My scheduled tweets were dedicated to sharing content. 70% of the tweets shared articles I found relevant and the other 30% shared articles published on our agency blog. Self promotion is tasteless if overdone but I think I found a nice balance.

Aside from the 10 scheduled tweets a day. I was active on Twitter during my lunch hour and after dinner. I made an effort to follow about 10 people each day, retweet others and tweet organically about what I was doing- you know the typical “what I had for dinner” tweet. I tried to do this everyday for 2 weeks.

What did I see from my efforts? I saw success, I grew followers.  My Twitter was living and breathing! It would help you to know that I started out with 50 followers and I was following about 40 people. At the end of my little Twitter program I had 200+ followers and I was following about 130 people. And while this goal may seem low for some, it was more than I was hoping to achieve with the moderate effort I was able to put forth.

My Bottom Line

Twitter is able to be tamed. Its a great platform for engagement and industry knowledge sharing. All you have to do is jump head first. 

Why Being on the First Page of Google Is Meaningless by Jody Biagini

Google Search Results

We hear it every day. ‘I want to be number one on Google.’ Of course you do. Because when your boss does a few searches and doesn’t find you there, you hear about it, right? You probably see that messaging filling your inboxes from inquiring ‘SEO’ companies that promise to ‘make it happen’. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but being on the first page of Google is pointless. This alone gets you nothing.

We need to begin thinking like marketers that want to build a successful business. Because ultimately, being on the first page of Google doesn’t bring home the bacon.

Every decision you make should be centered around your customers. What do they want from you, how can you serve them better, how do you cultivate advocacy?  You need to think about these questions and ensure that you are making every step of your customers’ experiences the best that they can be. Whether it be in your stores, your customer service, through your communication plans, or on your website.

Listen to them. Learn from them. Become a better business for them and because of them. You do this and they will repay you. They will recommend you to their friends and family. They will leave online reviews on your behalf. They will become lifetime, loyal customers.

Provide great, shareable and easily digestible content. Showcase your expertise and prove to them that they can turn to you for answers. Connect with your customers the way they want to and give them the content that they want to consume. Become their trusted source and they will repay you. They will follow you on your social channels, engage with you, share your messages with others seeking answers, and inspire you to create more content.

And guess what? If you change the way you look at success, and accomplish these things, then you are on your way to getting on the first page of Google. Didn’t see that coming, now did you?

SEO has changed. It’s no longer just about getting all of your meta data aligned and your site content optimized, but also about getting your customers involved in the conversation. Their online reviews and interactivity with your brand is essential to getting rankings. It’s also no longer about building meaningless links across hundreds of sites, but creating great content and connecting that content to relevant sources. If you don’t have that content, how do you expect to build links?

Google knows all. They understand what users want when they type in inquiries. As marketers, it is our job to show Google that we are the best company to put in front of their relevant searchers. Prove yourself by doing right by your customers’ experiences, and you will find yourself on that coveted page one of Google.

How to Write The Perfect Headline: The Top Words Used in Viral Headlines by Kevan Lee

There is no one way to create viral content.

So many different variables go into a viral post—timing, emotion, engagement, and so many others that you cannot control. There is no viral blueprint. The greatest chance we have to understand viral content is to study the posts and places that do it best, figure out what worked for them, and try it for ourselves.
Thanks to some incredible work by the team at Ripenn, we have access to headline analysis from four of the top viral sites on the web—who happen to be really good at headline writing. Based on this information—plus a little extra from our own Buffer favorites—we can get a glimpse into the science of how to write a great headline and what words to choose.

The top words used in viral headlines

The headline data from Ripenn came from four of the most click-worthy sites on the web—BuzzFeed, ViralNova, UpWorthy and Wimp. Each of these sites receives more than 4,000,000 monthly unique visits, and headlines are a big reason why.

To give some variety to the list, I added the top headlines from 20 different tech, social media and productivity sites that we find ourselves reading and sharing often here at Buffer—sites like Seth Godin, 99u, Social Media Explorer and more (the full list is available in spreadsheet form)—for an additional 400 headlines to be analyzed.

In total, I examined 3,016 headlines from 24 top content sites. Here are the most popular words found in their headlines.

(The table at left shows common words—articles, prepositions, pronouns, etc.—and the table at right shows less common, more specific words—nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.)
Top words used in viral headlines  Most popular uncommon words in viral headlines
Click here to see a more complete list of top words beyond the 50 mentioned above.
Let’s dig in, shall we?

Analyzing top headlines: Which words stand out?

There’s a lot to glean from here, and everyone has a unique way of implementing data like this on their site. Although you can interpret this data any number of different ways, here are my top observations.

You and Your
Content’s No. 1 goal is to help other people. This is evident in the viral headlines examined here. “You” was the No. 5 most popular word, and we find “your” in the Top 20 as well. Combined, these two pronouns appeared in 16 percent of all the headlines in this study.

What does this say about viral headlines? They seek to add value for you, the reader. Make content about the reader, not about the writer.

You and Your examples from the study include:
  • What Would You Buy With an Extra $12,000?
  • A Chart About Silence That Will Leave You Speechless
  • 6 Things You Need to Know Today
Academic research supports this concept. A Norwegian business school experimented with different headline structures, including referential headlines, rhetorical headlines, and declarative headlines. They found that question headlines referencing the reader were the most effective.

The power of “this” is in its specificity. When you use “this” in a headline, the reader’s mind switches to a concrete view of whatever you’re talking about, as if the object in question were imminent and attainable. There is an immediacy to the word.

See these three examples of headlines from the study:
  • This Guy Sticks Household Objects in His Beard and It’s Weirdly Mesmerizing
  • This Woman’s Massive Instagram Following Helped Her Launch a Business
  • Is This the Airport of the Future?
What, Which, and When
What do all these words have in common? (OK, I kind of gave away the answer.) They are all about questions.

Here are some examples of question headlines from the study:
  • Which Countries Pay Its Teachers What They’re Worth?
  • Which Old-School Pro Wrestling Legend Are You?
  • What Happens When a Dump Truck Going 50mph Hits a Military-Grade Concrete Barrier?
Copyblogger’s Jerod Morris has preached the value of question headlines before, and his conclusions are definitely supported in this study. What are the advantages of headlines as questions?
It turns out that phrasing headlines in the form of a question … does indeed increase click-through rates. In fact it more than doubles them, on average.
This one, too, could be about questions, but digging deeper into the individual instances of “why” in viral headlines revealed that there’s more here: “Why” promises an explanation. Here are some examples:
  • Why Your Brand Shouldn’t Fear Assigning Authorship
  • Why So Many Creatives Love Working on Trains
  • Why the Best Social Media Education Might Be Right Under Your Nose
Finding out “why” is satisfying to us because of a phenomenon called the curiosity gap. Carnegie Melon University professor George Loewenstein coined this term to describe the gap between what we know and what we want to know. This gap creates something like an itch in your brain, and it can only be “scratched” by learning more (and thus, clicking on the post).

Upworthy cofounder Peter Koechley says the site uses the curiosity gap to create headlines that tells the reader enough to pique curiosity but not enough to give the whole story away.
And these headlines play a huge role in the virality of Upworthy content.
Viral content formula
As the number one uncommon word in the headline study, “people” came up a lot and very often in a similar fashion:
  • The most successful people
  • The happiest people
  • The most interesting people
The superlatives in these headlines make promises that the reader finds intriguing. We want to know what the most successful people are doing, how the happiest people live, and what makes the most interesting people interesting. Similar to some of the single words listed above like “why” and “this,” readers enjoy discovering, learning, and challenging the details behind blanket assertions like this.

You likely know the value of video in content marketing, but in headlines specifically? Turns out that being up front that your post contains video is a good tactic to use when writing your headline. Many places find a way to stick the word “video” into the headline naturally, but when a natural fit can’t happen, there was no hesitation to place the word at the end surrounded by parentheses or brackets. Some examples:
  • Why You Should Listen First, Market Later (Video)
  • Superstars of Psychology: 10 Best Short Talks (Video)
  • Everything You Need to Know About Facebook Buttons [Video]

The most common viral headline phrases

To take things one step further, I also looked at the top phrases that appeared in these popular headlines. The numbers were smaller here compared to instances of single words, but some patterns did develop. Let’s start with the two-word phrases.

Two-word phrases in viral headlines

Top 2-word phrases in viral headlines
The Most
Like the phrase “this is,” there is a certain level of authority when you say “the most.” It also taps into a reader’s argumentative side, giving them an opportunity to challenge you as to whether or not your superlative really rings true.

Previous headline studies—like this one at Startup Moon—show that other words that indicate a comprehensive or superlative resource can lead to success.
The most viral posts also tend to include the following in their titles: Smart, surprising, science, history, hacks (hacking, hackers, etc), huge/ big, critical.
How To
You’ve probably seen and used this one many times over, and for good reason: “How to” is popular because it’s effective. These how-to posts promise a certain level of education, and provided the subject matter has value to the reader, you can expect lots of clicks.

Startup Moon also noticed positive results for posts titled with “beginner’s guide,” “introductory,” and “in 5 minutes,” showing that the blog reading audience loves to learn how to as quickly as possible.

Three-word phrases in viral headlines

Top 3-word phrases in viral headlines
The notable ones for me from this list were “what happens when” and “this is what.” Both are explanatory and promise a certain level of discovery.

(And for an even deeper level of phrases, here is a chart of the top four-word phrases.)

Even more viral headline stats

I went ahead and pulled some additional numbers of elements that intrigued me. Ripenn was nice enough to open the data up to a creative commons license for anyone to use with attribution. Dig in. It’s neat to be able to see what kind of insights you can draw from such a deep well of viral data. For instance …

The average length of a viral headline is 62 characters.
To give you an idea of what that might look like, here’s a headline that is 60 characters: The Best Time to Write and Get Ideas, According to Science.

The percentage of headlines with a number was 19%.
This shows both the draw of the listicle and the ability of other headlines to still pull big numbers.


After looking at the initial data, Ripenn found seven key commonalities. I’ve reworded them here into some helpful headline tips:
  1. Make the most of current events: Tie your headline to news and newsmakers
  2. Break some “rules” of headline writing, like length
  3. Seek to pique the reader’s curiosity
  4. Never underestimate the emotional factor of a headline
  5. Call the reader to action with direct action words
  6. Make bold claims
  7. Sound like a human, not a robot
Play around with some of the most popular headline words mentioned above to test some new, unique combinations in your own content.

What words stood out to you in this headline study? How do you plan to integrate this with your next headline? Shoot me some links of what you come up with. I’d love to see what you come up with!
P.S. If you liked this post, you might also like 5 Key Elements for Your Content to Go Viral and A Scientific Guide to Writing Great Headlines.

Courtesy of Buffer