1. Write 25 titles for every article because Upworthy says so
It’s actually a really fun exercise to try and write 25 titles for an article. Around number 19 your brain starts hurting and you really have to press yourself to find a new way to say whatever it is you’re trying to say.
That said, I titled this section a bit sarcastically as the point isn’t to write 25 headlines for each article.
The idea is to dedicate a solid amount of time to developing a title because it isprobably the most important element on the page. The title is the first thing people see in search results, Facebook, and when they land on the page, so having a well optimized title can make a big difference.
As an example, we changed the title of an article from “10 Stereotypes About Richmond That Are True” to “10 Richmond Stereotypes That Are Completely Accurate” and saw a 5x increase in CTR.
So I guess Upworthy does know what it’s talking about.
2. Don’t forget to optimize your title’s annoying little brother, the Meta Description
I am strong believer in the value of a well optimized meta description. And I’m not even talking about the SEO value of a higher CTR from SERPs; I’m talking about its ability to help encourage people to continue to read the article.
When creating a quality meta description, you want to try and invoke elements of what you will find in the story without giving away the beans. Some might call it creating a “curiosity gap”:
Too vague, and nobody cares. Too specific, and nobody needs to click.
At Movoto, we post all of our meta descriptions as the article’s subhead. In this way, we have to pay attention to what it says as it appears directly below the title of the article.
That’s about as much spotlight as you can give a meta element 🙂
3. And of course you need to optimize your title’s hot older sister, Images
Much like with titles, we’ve seen substantial improvements in Facebook CTRs simply by testing various featured images. Can you guess which image above had a 6x higher CTR?
What’s particularly great about the different learnings you acquire from image optimization is that you can apply them to all images in a post and not just the featured image. Some of the basics include:
- Make sure the image actually relates to the title, or section
- Keep the the image quality as high as possible without making the file size huge
- Make sure the aspect ratio works on Facebook
You can see that I tried throughout this article to make sure all the pictures did a good job of augmenting the header they were associated with.
Oh, and the winner was A.
4. What has two thumbs and optimizes every h2? This guy.
There’s some stat out there that says people don’t read articles; they just skim them. Well, if you’re reading this this line of text, then I’m impressed and that stat was blatantly wrong.
Because of the way people read on the internet, the H2s have to accomplish three important tasks to me:
- Get the reader to read what’s below them
- Convey the gist of the article by themselves
- Actually flow together into a story
- BuzzFeed does this like a pro. In fact…
5. Three Articles That Clearly Demonstrate Why You Need To Read BuzzFeed
6. I knew nothing about web formatting. Then I started reading (seo)Moz.
We require every editor at Movoto to read this (seo)Moz post on web formatting on their first day. It basically has everything you ever need to know about how and why to spend time optimizing page layout. I think it could only be better if all the images were left aligned for readability.
As an aside, sorry Moz, but you’ll always affectionately be known as SEOmoz to me. My boss introduced me to SEO with the Web Developers Cheat Sheet to SEO v1.0 and the Beginner’s Guide to SEO way, way back in 2010. And by introduced me, I mean he literally gave me a printed version of them. So that’s why I refuse to call you Moz in my head.
7. Why floating social bars work
We implemented floating social bars on the left hand side of articles because we thought it looked cool (That’s how we roll!). But when we did it, we noticed a solid uptick in the share rate of the our articles. I think we saw the uptick because of the phenomena depicted in the graph above.
People get the urge to share articles at random points while reading, so having the share buttons be omnipresent increases the likelihood readers share.
8. To go viral you need a big audience with a shared interest, sorry
You can create the most absolutely excellent content ever made, ever.
You can promote the crap out of it.
And it will still not go viral if only two people in the world care about it and they live 3,000 miles apart.
An article we did on Naruto demonstrates the lack of audience problem. When we wrote it, I didn’t even know what it was (He’s an anime hero). Looking at the feedback we got on Reddit, and several anime sites, people really, really liked it.
But it had no chance of going viral because 99.832% of America has never heard of it. So even if every fan of Naruto shared it on Facebook, it’s not going to spread because their friends won’t know what the heck it is.
I won’t pretend to know what working at a B2B site is like, but in my head I imagine everything is like the Naruto piece; only two people care. And yes, I am trying to insult B2B businesses because a best practice is to…
9. Try to piss someone off about something stupid
I worked damn hard to bring to the forefront the most beautiful aspects of New Jersey and the most upvoted comment of the article? “It’s pork roll not Taylor Ham!!!!” I usually try to piss South Jersey people off with that one, but they got offended without me even trying. And mostly grandmas shared that article… so yea. That’s Jersey.
Back on point, it has to be “silly” or “something stupid”; if you get people sad or really upset, they just leave and never look back.
I think people love to comment on silly stuff because it helps them to get their anger out. Which reminds me…
10. For maximum share-ability, Rant like your life depends on it
If there’s something that bugs you about the industry you work in, the place you live, or the thing you do, then odds are it bugs everyone that experiences it. You can take advantage of the shared similar feeling by voicing the complaint in a personable manner, i.e. a rant.
My favorite way to rant is to tell a story about something that annoyed me. Like every time I read a case study on SEO, the author will indubitably show their organic traffic increasing without ever showing a vertical axis. ZOMG, it means nothing to me without a left axis!!!
PS – I just used indubitably in context!
11. Have you noticed how I’ve been talking to you the whole time…
This article wouldn’t exist if I followed my high school history teacher’s instructions. I didn’t back then, so why should I now?
Writing in the first person makes a world of a difference when it comes to having your readers be able to relate with you.
You can see how using the first person helped me in basically every point of this article. I can tell stories, share my thoughts, and rant with it all seeming completely natural.
12. Long Form Listicles for the win! (Patent Pending)*
As you have probably noticed by now, I am not a good writer. On top of that, I hate writing. I’m an econ nerd that uses whatever words happen to come out of my mouth in the hope that people understand me.
The only way I can bring myself to write nowadays is to write in listicle format. I think it’s a really good way for non-writers to write because:
- It gives you an outline for the story baked right in
- You can write down your thoughts without worrying too much about transitions
- People friggin love reading listicles, so they are easily consumed and shared
- They allow you to make a fair amount of points on a subject without being dry and boring
- I know people say that you can never sum up everything that needs to be said in a listice, but long form listicles do convey a decent amount of information and let you walk away having learned something
*Not really patent pending.
13. Use the conclusion as a way to wrap up and connect to the reader with a callback
From the earlier graph, the highest share rate occurs after someone finishes reading a post. For that reason, you need to end on a strong note.
I find that making callbacks to earlier, relatable parts of the story help to give the piece a well-rounded feel. It lets the reader really connect with you and feel like they are part of the ‘in crowd’.
And that’s what you really want; to connect with your readers. So go out and start optimizing headlines, learn how to rant, and write in the first person — and you too can win the internet! Just make sure to end with a callback 😉