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How Your Favorite Sites Spin Stories into Headlines

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From HuffPost to Business Insider to Bleacher Report, media outlets everywhere optimize their headlines for sharing, for search engines, and for traffic. Find out why they're so important and take a quiz to test your headline acumen. (Created by Jay Acunzo, head of content at HubSpot. Twitter.com/jay_zo)

Published in: Technology, News & Politics
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How Your Favorite Sites Spin Stories into Headlines

  1. 1. 17 Cats Sent by Obama to Learn from Steve Jobs and Revolutionize How Your Favorite Media Sites Spin Stories into Headlines A look at the headline-happy web and how one story gets used and abused to drive more site traffic Jay Acunzo | @jay_zo | jayacunzo.com
  2. 2. Good News, Everyone!
  3. 3. Okay, okay... that’s not a real headline. ________
  4. 4. Okay, okay... that’s not a real headline. ________ (Sorry, folks.)
  5. 5. But imagine this story actually breaks.
  6. 6. And something reaallllyyy interesting would happen online
  7. 7. And something reaallllyyy interesting would happen online Aw yeah.
  8. 8. Sites everywhere would newsjack & spin their own Totally “Unique” Headline
  9. 9. Sites everywhere would newsjack & spin their own Totally “Unique” Headline by ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE Published: At the Exact Same Time
  10. 10. Just look what happened this summer when acebook announced verified pages
  11. 11. Disclosure: This one was ours at HubSpot
  12. 12. THE RUSH FOR YOUR ATTENTION WAS ON
  13. 13. THE RUSH FOR YOUR ATTENTION WAS ON Read it here!
  14. 14. THE RUSH FOR YOUR ATTENTION WAS ON Read it here! No, here!
  15. 15. GUT CHECK!
  16. 16. GUT CHECK! Which would you really click?
  17. 17. THIS? How Companies Learn Your Secrets
  18. 18. OR THIS? How Target How Companies Figured Out a Learn Your Secrets Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did
  19. 19. (LOTS OF US PICKED THIS) How Target Figured Out a Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did
  20. 20. (LOTS OF US PICKED THIS) How Target Figured Out a Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did BUT GUESS WHAT?
  21. 21. IT’S THE SAME STORY!
  22. 22. The headlines were the main difference.
  23. 23. The headlines were the main difference. For real! Forbes just block quoted a ton of the Times piece.
  24. 24. The headlines were the main difference. For real! Forbes just block quoted a ton of the Times piece. And got more traffic.
  25. 25. The headlines were the main difference. For real! Forbes just block quoted a ton of the Times piece. And got more traffic. And sparked some debate. (JimRomenesko.com)
  26. 26. The headlines were the main difference. For real! Forbes just block quoted a ton of the Times piece. And got more traffic. And sparked some debate. (JimRomenesko.com) (It was rad.)
  27. 27. But... Are headlines worth all this stress?
  28. 28. YES!
  29. 29. Def. YES! No diggity, no doubt
  30. 30. HEADLINES DRIVE SITE TRAFFIC
  31. 31. HEADLINES HELP SEARCH RANK
  32. 32. HEADLINES ARE EASY TO SHARE
  33. 33. HEADLINES CONVEY MEANING
  34. 34. HEADLINES SET EXPECTATIONS
  35. 35. HEADLINES MAKE YOU UNIQUE
  36. 36. HEADLINES MAKE YOU UNIQUE (And lots more.)
  37. 37. JUST CHECK OUT THE GREAT LENGTHS MAJOR MEDIA SITES GO TO FOR THEIR HEADLINES
  38. 38. • A/B tests headlines
  39. 39. • A/B tests headlines • Built its own testing tech
  40. 40. • A/B tests headlines • Built its own testing tech • Solicits headlines from Twitter followers
  41. 41. • A/B tests headlines • Built its own testing tech • Solicits headlines from Twitter followers • Uses provocative, bold, succinct language
  42. 42. • A/B tests headlines • Built its own testing tech • Solicits headlines from Twitter followers • Uses provocative, bold, succinct language • 79M Unique Visitors* *Source: Quantcast
  43. 43. • Staffs SEO and analytics experts for each section
  44. 44. • Staffs SEO and analytics experts for each section • Posts based on trending keywords for headlines
  45. 45. • Staffs SEO and analytics experts for each section • Posts based on trending keywords for headlines • Uses hyperbolic, overstated language* *e.g. Tom Brady Is the Most Overrated QB in NFL History
  46. 46. • Staffs SEO and analytics experts for each section • Posts based on trending keywords for headlines • Uses hyperbolic, overstated language* • 23M Uniques** (& sold to Turner for $175M) *e.g. Tom Brady Is the Most Overrated QB in NFL History **Source: Quantcast
  47. 47. • 25 headlines per post
  48. 48. • 25 headlines per post • A/B tests top 4 ideas
  49. 49. • 25 headlines per post • A/B tests top 4 ideas • Uses sensationalized, emotional language (backs it up with quality content, not just cats)
  50. 50. • 25 headlines per post • A/B tests top 4 ideas • Uses sensationalized, emotional language (backs it up with quality content, not just cats) • 12M Uniques* *Source: Quantcast
  51. 51. These guys clearly know the value of headlines:
  52. 52. These guys clearly know the value of headlines: d i s t r i b u t e content.
  53. 53. These guys clearly know the value of headlines: d i s t r i b u t e content. GROW audience.
  54. 54. Headlines are... “naked little creatures that have to go out into the world to stand and fight on their own.” Gabriel Snyder Editor, The Atlantic Wire
  55. 55. Back to Our Story
  56. 56. Can you guess which of these famous publishers would spit out each headline?
  57. 57. Let’s start with an easy one. Who’s headline is next? Remember, we started with this:
  58. 58. Glass Crown for the King? LeBron Tries Google’s New Gadget
  59. 59. Glass Crown for the King? LeBron Tries Google’s New Gadget
  60. 60. Glass Crown for the King? LeBron Tries Google’s New Gadget
  61. 61. Okay – you’re ready to fly!
  62. 62. Okay – you’re ready to fly! (They grow up so fast...)
  63. 63. 17 Cats Who Couldn’t Be More Excited about Google Glass
  64. 64. 17 Cats Who Couldn’t Be More Excited about Google Glass
  65. 65. 17 Cats Who Couldn’t Be More Excited about Google Glass Was there any doubt? BuzzFeed has so mastered headline writing and viral content that their valuation hit $200M in 2013, with some saying a billion is in their future. (“BuzzFeed Valued at a Billion” would be founder Jonah Peretti’s favorite headline ever, no?)
  66. 66. These 5 Stats Will Make You Think Twice about Buying Google Glass (and about Your Privacy)
  67. 67. These 5 Stats Will Make You Think Twice about Buying Google Glass (and about Your Privacy)
  68. 68. These 5 Stats Will Make You Think Twice about Buying Google Glass (and about Your Privacy) BI has a flair for writing dramatic, maybe even sensationalized headlines. Editor and CEO Henry Blodget can now boast 23M monthly uniques six years after launching with a simple but bold mission: “Different medium, different journalism.”
  69. 69. Kim Kardashian Backs that Glass Up (and Probably Divorces Someone in the Process)
  70. 70. Kim Kardashian Backs that Glass Up (and Probably Divorces Someone in the Process)
  71. 71. Kim Kardashian Backs that Glass Up (and Probably Divorces Someone in the Process) Perez Hilton receives plenty of negative attention for its attitude but probably deserves equal credit for its SEO. In a highly competitive market, the site claims first page real estate on Google for hugely trafficked keywords like “Kim Kardashian,” “Jennifer Lawrence,” and “Justin Bieber.”
  72. 72. 7 Ways Google Glass Makes Marketing More Inbound
  73. 73. 7 Ways Google Glass Makes Marketing More Inbound
  74. 74. 7 Ways Google Glass Makes Marketing More Inbound Yep – even we’re guilty and have our own, fairly common headline style. Most of our audience looks for tangible, tactical ways to execute on their jobs and make sense of the digital world. And hey, we’re not doing too bad (1.4M readers).
  75. 75. 7 Ways Google Glass Makes Marketing More Inbound Yep – even we’re guilty and have our own, fairly common headline style. Most of our audience looks for tangible, tactical ways to execute on their jobs and make sense of the digital world. And hey, we’re not doing too bad (1.4M readers). Still, it’s important to remember...
  76. 76. Headlines are just one piece of the puzzle that is creating content.
  77. 77. ____________________
  78. 78. SO REMEMBER: Great headlines win their
  79. 79. SO REMEMBER: Great headlines win their Great content wins their
  80. 80. Thank You. Jay Acunzo Twitter.com/Jay_Zo JayAcunzo.com

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