By Danny Goodwin


If sharing is caring, but pretty much nobody cares enough to read what you’re sharing, then has your social media marketing failed? Or are we just truly living in a headline culture now, where nobody reads beyond a story headline?

If you’ve ever shared an article or some other type of content without reading it, you aren’t alone. The click-through rate on Twitter is ridiculously low – the most recent figure I could find claims the average CTR is 1.64%. Basically, that means that 99 out of the 100 people who see your tweet won’t click on your link.

So is it time to write Twitter off? Hardly.

Twitter may not drive a ton of traffic to your website, but it still has a lot of value, whether it’s to build brand awareness, inspire your audience, share news, provide customer service, or engage in one-on-one conversations.

Here’s a look at a recent study that details the state of Twitter link clicks, what it means for your content strategy, and how to entice more people to actually click on your headlines.

Twitter: Sharing vs. Reading

Fifty-nine percent of the content shared on Twitter never got a single click, according to a recent study by researchers at Microsoft, Columbia University, and the French National Institute. Their study concluded that there is a poor correlation between social shares and views.

The researchers discovered that 2.8 million links shared on Twitter from five popular news publications (BBC News, Huffington Post, CNN, The New York Times, and Fox News) generated 9.6 million visits to 59,000 pages.

The researchers also found that just 9% of the links shared on Twitter generated 90% of all clicks. They referred to this as “blockbuster content”.

So what’s the solution?

Create Blockbuster Content!

With 193 movies out so far this year, “Captain America: Civil War” has been the biggest, making more than $1 billion as of this writing. This one Marvel movie has made more money than at least the bottom two-thirds of all movies released this year combined.

This is also probably true for most publishers. You’ll find that your top 10% of content will drive the most traffic (or generate the most leads/sales).

Consumers are distracted and have tons of options. Your blockbuster content needs to stand above the rest (here are seven tips to get you started). Your piece of content needs to be the best answer or resource, whether it inspires, informs, educates, entertains, or sells.

But it’s more than just content. You need a headline that’s optimized for clicks and shares.

5 Important Elements To Help You Write Viral Headlines

BuzzSumo, a tool that tracks the popularity of content across social platforms, did some research to see what makes a viral headline. Let’s walk through those five incredibly important elements, using the basic sub-headline I just used.

  1. Format (“5”): Whether your content comes in the form of a list, a quiz, a study/research, or an e-book, your headline should make this obvious. Not every piece of content will appeal to every person. You need to figure out which types of content perform best with your target audience and are helping you achieve your goals.
  1. Emotion (“Important”): Generic headlines get generic responses (or none). That’s why you need to include a strong emotional hook – words like shocking, inspiring, funny, and controversial get more shares and clicks.
  1. Content Type (“Elements”): This element ties into the structure of your piece, whether it’s strategies, tips, reasons, questions, images, charts, quotes, or videos. If your headline promises 10 quotes, you better deliver 10 quotes!
  1. Promise (“To Help You”): Think of this as the reader benefit. How will it help the reader? Make it clear here, whether it will teach them how to do or improve something, save them money, or make them smarter or healthier.
  1. Topic (“Write Viral Headlines”): This is your keyword—which queries you want to be found for by consumers. If you’re a marketing agency, your keyword would be marketing-focused; if you’re a news site, this is your hot news topic; or if you sell baby toys, you’d use your baby keywords.

Putting it all together:


Ideally, your headlines should include all five of these elements. And your headline should accurately reflect your content.

Don’t write clickbait-style headlines just for the sake of clicks. Write headlines that reward consumers for their click! Most clickbait feels like punishment.

Is it possible to include these five viral elements with every piece of content you create? Honestly, no. No amount of viral headline magic will turn the most boring piece of content into a blockbuster that tons of people will want to share and read.

However, if you include these elements in your headline, and create content that your audience wants to share and read, you will maximize your efforts. Most importantly, this will help you use your audience to reach and be discovered by an audience you want to reach.

Danny GoodwinDanny Goodwin has been a professional editor, writer, and ghostwriter in the marketing industry for 10 years, creating content for SMBs to global brands, spanning all things search and digital. He currently writes for Search Engine Journal, and formerly was managing editor for Momentology and editor for Search Engine Watch.

Twitter: @DannyNMIGoodwin
LinkedIn: Danny Goodwin