Tips for the length and punctuation of an article's title, with data from a new TrackMaven report.

Crafting an article headline is a make-or-break process. You can forget about measuring bounce rates, time on site or conversions if your post’s title doesn’t entice someone to click in the first place.

Click-bait’s time in the spotlight has come and gone, and people are savvy enough to steer clear of “You’ll never guess what happened next” or “This will shock you…” headlines. In fact, last year, Facebook created a spam-fighting algorithm with the goal of eliminating posts that make it difficult for users to decide whether or not to read without clicking first.

With more content to choose from than ever before, people want a clear description of what they’re about to read. It’s a marketer’s challenge to present something straightforward without being boring. TrackMaven’s Colossal Content Marketing Report offers insight into what headlines get the most clicks – from word capitalization to punctuation preferences.

Tip #1: Why don’t writers include question marks in titles?

That’s a question we’d like an answer for, because TrackMaven reports blog titles that include a single question mark have 46.30 percent more social shares than titles without question marks.

Not all punctuation is created equal, though. Posts with exclamation points actually decrease social shares. This might go back to the clickbait theory of users not being interested in sensationalized stories.

Tip #2: 40-60 characters is your title sweet spot

Most people are crafting headlines that are about 40 characters. To put things in perspective, “40 characters is your title sweet spot” is 39 characters. But this might be cutting it a little short.

When it comes to social media, the study indicates posts with closer to 60 character headlines get more shares. Social shares sharply decrease, however, when posts are more than 60 characters. Don’t be too wordy, but you need to make sure your headline has enough intrigue to compel someone to click.

TrackMaven Headline Study

Tip #3: Hey you – Address your readers

In a study of the top 20 words appearing in blog headlines, “you and your” can be found in 38 percent of titles. When you address your readers specifically, you’re opening the door for engagement.

Also among the top words were “new,” “best” and “Obama.” The only number among the words was “5”, indicating that its the most popular number for list articles.


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Molly Buccini is Brafton's community manager. She joined the team with a background in digital journalism and social media. She's a theatre nerd, pop culture junkie and lover of summertime.