Have I Discovered That Questions In Headlines Work Best?
The best headlines capture the reader’s attention, are appropriate for the content in the article or blog post, and set clear expectations for the readers. In other words, if the content doesn’t answer a question don’t make the headline a question. If it doesn’t reveal something super secret and valuable don’t imply that in the headline.
An analysis performed on Buzzfeed posts at the start of the year found that just over a quarter were articles made of lists (listicles). See http://minimaxir.com/2015/01/linkbait. However, they found the most used three word phrase used in headlines that lead to most Facebook shares was ‘character are you’, which clearly is part of a question. More importantly, it’s a question that involves the reader.
So an effective question headline should involve the reader. Psychology Today found that one of their headlines that produced most engagement was ‘Do you close the bathroom door even when you’re the only one at home?’ Again a question addressed directly at the reader.
However they also found that some questions have been overused. One in particular that is overused in direct mail and online is ‘Who else wants to …’ Especially the one that ends ‘get rich online?’
Other headline types are also effective. The ‘How to’ headline is effective if it implies a clear benefit and addresses a question or challenge that resonates with your audience. Headlines that appeal to the emotions also work well, again especially if your audience feels the frustration, anger, hope, or anticipation that the headline implies.
So have I found that questions work best in headlines? No. No, I haven’t. But they are worth throwing into the mix now and again.