Skip to content

For what we love the most hated type of online title (plus 4 ideas to enrich the scheme)

10 ways, 5 reasons, 12 movies. Predictable and ubiquitous counters, surprisingly, the most commonly available and clicked online titles. What is it about them that we click on them, even though we have enough of them? How to formulate a title-counting to sound authentic, not schematic?

Why the counting titles are clicking well

Regardless of how the title is formulated, it clicks well because of the expectations it arouses. So the theme of “10 romantic movies that make you love Paris” sounds promising not so much because of any of the words in it. Words are of course important, but someone who clicks will do it because:

  • knows what to expect: content divided into related themes,
  • counts on the fact that the article will be exhaustive (because it describes 10 films), so the reader will save time that he would have to spend on wandering on many sides,
  • quick article scanning proves to be effective, because individual elements of the list will be easy to extract and then select the most interesting ones (the exception are articles in which each element of the calculation is on a separate subpage, they can not be scrolled),
  • quick article scanning proves to be effective, because individual elements of the list will be easy to extract and then select the most interesting ones (the exception are articles in which each element of the calculation is on a separate subpage, they can not be scrolled),
  • he wants to see which of the ten films he already knows and which are worth watching in the evenings,
  • he will be able to “unhit” further points on the list, which will give him a sense of satisfaction.

Probably you could still enumerate, but here I will stop, because too many bullets are not eye-friendly. Articles in the form of a list (films, inspirations, tips) are a response to the human inclination to categorize. They allow us to divide the stream of information reaching us into absorbing particles. Satisfying this need becomes even more pressing when the search engine presents thousands of results in response to our inquiry.

Articles in the form of a list promise the reader already filtered content. And although such selection has fatal consequences (which later), and the counting on the Internet can make nausea, research has invariably shown that articles of this type are gaining the most access, and readers are happy to link to them. Especially the large number of shares, even ten times higher for counties than titles starting with “how”, indicates that, in the opinion of readers, these contents will present them in a good light.

So, we love rhymes or hate them?

Daniel Lugowski, author of the book Think like Mr Gold, claims that the brain loves titling-counting titles because they provide a balance between uncertainty and predictability. First, they draw attention with numbers that stand out against the background of words, and then they tempt with the hope that we will find something significant or fascinating in them. On the other hand, we know what type of content is waiting for us after clicking, which gives us a sense of security.

As it has been proven, the more information we have to choose, the worse we feel. The sooner we decide what to read, the more satisfied we are. The predictability of the counting is accelerated by making a decision. We are able to estimate how long it will take us to read and accept that we will be able to complete the task. Positive experience means that it is more likely to click the title again, even if we are really fed up with it.

And the arguments against? An article divided into the only related subject does not allow to follow the author’s long-term thought. Deepens the tendency to scan and careless reading. It gives you the illusory hope of gaining knowledge in a nutshell.

Such conclusions, though effective, lead to dangerous simplification, thinking in the past-today categories. We used to read carefully, not today. We used to look for depth, today we are content with exterior.

“Nostalgia is just a reversed amnesia,” wrote the poet Daniel Lugowski. There is no need for historical evidence to guess that readers in the past also readily used for texts, shredding knowledge into easy to digest bites. The enthusiasm for counting the numbers was not born along with the internet, although the Internet has certainly made them visible.

The popularity of articles in the form of a list does not necessarily result from the laziness of the reader, but from greed. In order to get as much information as possible in the shortest possible time, the reader chooses a shortcut. For this reason, the counts stand out in the search engine rankings. By placing the counting in the title of SEO, we announce that our text will be more extensive than the others.

What number of elements in the list will satisfy the reader’s greed? The team examined one hundred million Internet titles in the context of sharing on Facebook. It turned out that excessive volume on Facebook is not an asset. Titles with the number 10 in the title gained the greatest engagement, just behind them were 5.15 and 7. The largest number, 30, ranked only in 20th place.

How to enrich the scheme of the title-counting

Is it possible to creatively form the title-counting? The previous considerations show that readers value the mix of uncertainty and predictability. However, do not treat the counting as a schematic. When creating such a title, think about what prompted you to write a text, what emotions or discoveries you would like to share with the reader. Let your proposal sound authentically despite the schematic form.

Look at the schematic title, which I will further transform:

4 TED presentations about happiness

Already at this stage the title has a chance to interest the audience, because of the words that attract attention: happiness and TED. In addition, its abbreviation may be an advantage, if in the graphical convention of the page long titles do not look good. I would also leave it in this form in the newsletter topic. Short titles stand out in the mail list in the mailbox. However, if the layout of the site allows it, and the title is not the subject of the newsletter, it is worth expanding it to increase the chance of clicking.

And what can push the reader to action? Emotions. Because our brain is trying to limit energy-consuming conscious thinking, it processes most signals unconsciously. In a second, we absorb all the senses of 11 million bits of information unintentionally, consciously – only 50. Researchers have long ago rejected the thesis that emotionality would be the opposite of rationality. Not only that heart and reason cooperate in making decisions, the emotional reaction is stronger. It triggers an impulse to action, in this case – clicks, before the mind can react. For this reason, words and phrases describing emotions (mainly adjectives) appear so often in blurbach and trailers, eg strong, bold, moving, chilling story.

I will add such an adjective to our title:

4 touching TED presentations about happiness

Time for a story or promise. I will start with the first one. Is it possible to include a story in such a short form as the title? Possible. Think about why you would like to share with the reader reflections on the happiness lecture? Why did you choose these presentations? The article-counting, after all, reflects your choice and taste. Maybe so:

4 touching TED presentations that changed my thinking about happiness

“My thinking about happiness” suggests that on the other side of the link the reader will find a personal story. However, if you do not intend to share your impressions, you can make a promise by asking the reader “you”.

4 touching TED presentations that will change your thinking about happiness

In terms of language, a story or promise usually falls into a subordinate clause that begins with “which“. The words “you” and “your” excel in the rankings of the most popular words in social media, but not every reader likes to be told what will change his thinking. So let’s think about whether such directness will encourage or rather deter readers you know best.

We have spoken to the heart, time for reason. Sometimes, when we enter a query to the search engine, we are accompanied by a specific idea about the type of content, e.g. pdf, chart, infographics, video. When the results fail, we modify the query by adding your expectations. To anticipate these doubts and reduce the number of failed “Back” clicks, it is worth to include the content type in the title.

4 touching TED presentations that changed my thinking about happiness

Remember to not promise too much in internet titles (eg the 4 best TED presentations that will lead you to tears). Facebook can treat such an exaggeration as a click bait and punish a reduction in coverage and visibility.

Counting – for or against

The danger of articles-counts appears when the reader is limited mainly to this type of reading, he lacks distance to them. Then, the reader is threatened with the consequences of which Daniel Lugowski writes, the creator of the mind mapping method and the staunch opponent of the letter. Lugowski claims that the letters break away thoughts, creating a false impression of completeness. They encourage our mind not to go beyond the boundaries of the list and thus hinder the course of associations.

The counting can be useful only if we consider it as a preliminary filter, a starting point to look for more comprehensive and insightful content. And above all, if we treat the list not as a closed whole, but as an open form, ready to be supplemented with new associations at any time.

Published inCopywritingParahraseParaphrasingParaphrasing ToolRephraseSEOSpecialWebwritingWriting tips