This is an excerpt from my book, Destiny: A Love Story About a Video Game, Marketing & Storytelling, modified to suit the context of this blog post.
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Have you ever wondered what makes people click on certain articles and not click on others? If so, you aren’t alone.
Many bloggers, writers, marketers and business people measure the success of their produced material by how many clicks they get (or likes, views, shares, etc.) and they spend time (and dollars!) to increase their engagement. If you’re in the business of writing headlines, you’ll want to pay close attention to headline psychology.
In an article on KISSmetrics blog, Andrew Smith listed eight different tricks to use when writing headlines that will attract user attention. According to Smith, those eight tricks are:
5. How To
7. Audience Reference
There are descriptions for each in Smith’s article, along with great real-life examples, so check out his post when you get a moment. For the purpose of this post, we’re going to focus solely on curiosity.
The Curiosity Gap
According to a study produced by George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, curiosity has been:
Consistently recognized as a critical motive that influences human behaviour in both positive and negative ways at all stages of the life cycle.
One of the theories presented by Loewenstein was something called, “tickling the information gap.” In this theory, he believes that curiosity happens in two basic steps:
1. A situation reveals a painful gap in our knowledge and;
2. We feel an urge to fill this gap and ease that pain
When these two circumstances exist, we are naturally compelled to dig deeper into the material as we have a psychological need to fill what is “missing.”
Love Them or Hate Them, Upworthy’s Headlines Work
A great example of a company that uses the concept of tickling the “information gap” well is Upworthy.com.
Upworthy is rather infamous for its headlines that they use to title their blog posts and their headlines execute this piece of Loewenstein’s theory perfectly. Love them or hate them, they work.
Here is a recent example of a headline from Upworthy:
The headline is the reveal of the painful gap in our knowledge and the click to the article is us fulfilling the urge to fill the gap and ease our pain. Curiosity results in higher page views.
Here’s another great example, taken from Smith’s blog post:
This headline points out the gap in our knowledge (we don’t know which countries they are referencing) and it also offers an additional element of desire and intrigue as there are very few people who wouldn’t want to know how to become a self-made billionaire.
Disrupting your target audience with curiosity, and inviting them to fill the gap in their knowledge, is a perfect way to create an emotional response and get them clicking.
What are some of the headline tricks that you’ve seen recently? What tends to get you clicking and what turns you off from clicking? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!