A Good Headline Alone Can Drive Serious Traffic, Even if the Content Sucks

Brian Clark said it so many times. The headline can do everything.

Today, as I checked out what’s hot in Digg, I found a disturbing entry on the top 10 in Technology: 10 Most Misspelled Words in Blogs. The writer says that there are ten misused words “in blogs” that cannot be picked up by spellchecking. These ten words are:

  1. Your/You’reSeated Writer
  2. Then/Than
  3. Its/it’s
  4. To/two/too
  5. Were/where/we’re
  6. There/their/they’re
  7. A/an/and
  8. Off/of
  9. Here/Hear
  10. Lose/Loose

Hello, is anybody home? Is this an issue specific to the blogosphere? Absolutely not! Seriously, these are 10 most commonly misused words in writing (period). Perhaps, if we wanted to get picky, these are the ten most misspelled words in informal writing (since second-person is not used in formal writing), though there really is no statistical evidence to even support the author’s claims.

So why did this blog get Dugg? Personally, I don’t think the post itself adds any value for me. But obviously, the writer did something right. In the most specific case, the writer used a list post. The “attention-grabbing power” of this particular headline worked because, as Brian says, “Any headline that lists a number of reasons, secrets, types, or ways will work because, once again, it makes a very specific promise of what’s in store for the reader.” Second, adding “in Blogs” to apply these misspellings to something that’s popular today helped attract user’s attention. Apparently, writing about blogs does pretty well in social media.

This goes back to my rant about Digg: the service is evolving to where people immediately promote a story without considering the content of a post. Earlier, I called these individuals “Diggnorants.” They still are Diggnorants. In Digg, it’s about gaming the system. I found a much better-promoted Digg story which did deserve its ranking and discusses how you can get your content promoted. The first two tips say everything about this particular site’s promotion: it’s all about the headline and description, people.

Perhaps, if someone was really aiming to create a quality social news website (a Digg-clone, perhaps), it may be useful to implement certain Diggnorant-abuse prevention measures. If you’re going to Digg a story, a text box should pop up allowing you to submit reasons why that story has your endorsement. If you’re going to bury a story, you should have to fill out the same text box with a real reason why the story should be buried. The reasons right now (“OK, this is lame,” “Spam,” “Inaccurate,” “Duplicate story,” and “Wrong Topic”) really don’t address all the issues that can arise. Furthermore, the system really can be so easily abused that anyone who is click-happy can promote or bury a story without really thinking about it. And I want a smart system that gives people the ability to think.

Since such a quality Digg clone does not yet exist, I suppose it’s going to continue as-is where people click on random buttons for the hell of it. This is not the social network that I really care for. I must be in a very small minority.

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4 replies on “A Good Headline Alone Can Drive Serious Traffic, Even if the Content Sucks”
  1. I hear you. Digg users are mainly there to get some sorts of entertainment and I’d much rather see a community promoting articles that provide more value than that one does. I wouldn’t say the content ‘sucks’ per say. It follows a simple formula of what, why and how in a compact form – and it does help those who want it or could use it. There’s no point in looking down on that. Digg readers in general want the outline of a written piece quickly and if the message doesn’t build controversy or a desire to prove oneself right, then they move on. It can also be a trigger for emotional expression, since obviously some people really feel for reading texts that contain those errors!

    Then there’s the question of the topic. Does the end justify the means when it’s slightly misleading? I’d say so since the majority of the comments were positive and added even more words than was listed in the article. The question is, does it make more sense to point these things out in a frustrated manner or would it be better to appreciate the fact that you don’t have any problems in writing flawlessly yourself? What kind of an impact would you rather instil into your environment and your own mind-set?

  2. Hey Johan, by no means was I saying that your content sucked — but see where I was going there? It’s a catchy headline. 🙂

    A lot of things were definitely added in the comments, but you can tell by other comments that those who posted comments were not even reading the post — they referred to “commonly misspelled words” rather than “commonly misused words.”

    Still, you raise a good point. I don’t undervalue people’s clever ways of gaming the system, but I think that there is an inherent flaw with the way the current voting system works. This isn’t a particular attack on your blog — you did a good job. However, don’t you think it’s interesting how the way you write the headline and description can score your blog major traffic?

  3. Hehe, yeah you beat at my own game. And yes, I do find it interesting.

    What’s left to see now is how much of that traffic leaves for good and how much of it stays to read the material I usually write. There’s a bit of the experimental side of me found in that article wanting to see what people are into and in what ways you can attract traffic. I appreciate your opinion on this.


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