Like alot of B2B marketers, I used to write headlines with numbers in them whenever possible — thinking they work the best. Here's what made me change my mind.
Last month LinkedIn executive editor Daniel Roth rewrote the headline of a popular post.
- Headline before: The 7 Secrets to Writing Killer Content on LinkedIn
- Headline now: Here's What I Tell People When They Ask How to Crush it as a LinkedIn Writer
And here's the note he stuck in the piece when he changed it:
[Note: If one headline isn't working, test others. This post, for example, used to be called the 7 Secrets to Writing Great Content on LinkedIn, but we find that listicles are bad for engagement — though fine for raw clicks — so I changed it.]
Why does Daniel Roth's comment matter?
Before becoming LinkedIn's top editor, Roth led at Fortune and Wired. Business Insider calls him the "most powerful business journalist on the Internet". Still, he's intent on improving.
Marketers have been recommending list articles with number headlines for years, on the premise that they're more engaging than any other kind. It works for Buzzfeed, for example. And some also cite Nathan Safran's report to Moz followers in 5 Data Insights into the Headlines Readers Click that "'number' headlines resonated most by far — a full 15% more than the second place."
Seems like a slam dunk. But if you read further, Safran emphasizes: "we don't think the data suggests a directive to publishers to write every headline in 'number format." (What he thinks the data does suggest is interesting.)
In February I fiddled with my own long-form posts on LinkedIn. I added tags, spiffed up images, and shrank headlines from 10-20 words each to 2-4 words so they fit in LinkedIn's left menus.* In the process, I changed the headline How I'm a B2B Marketing Consultant and Sleep at Night: 8 Principles I Live By to A Marketer's Daily Affirmations. The rewrite wasn't based on empirical data or advice from a brilliant editor, though. It was based on a whispered warning from my gut: listicles seem a bit trashy nowadays. Reflecting on Roth's example, maybe I managed to do the right thing (experiment with headlines, axe a listicle) for a feeble reason (bunches of hunches).
About the Author
In addition to kids and dogs, Rebekah Donaldson has a blog monster. She writes to feed it, and has found articles with angst are the most filling. So she writes about her fails (besides her first marriage), life-rocking discoveries (beyond The Oatmeal), and prayers du jour (other than the one involving Daniel Roth). She lives in Davis, California — 2,741.9 blessed miles from her roots near Dupont Circle in Washington D.C.
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