Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you to death with math. We’ll save that for another time. 🙂
By now, you’re all posting on your blog at least once a week, right? Regardless, when you do post, a major consideration should be the post’s title. This will be the first – and usually largest – bit of text your reader sees and will play a huge role in whether he or she decides to read the article. Needless to say, it’s kind of important.
What makes a successful title?
There are many factors at play in terms of the effectiveness of a title. “Effectiveness” can mean expectations of your reader, the mood it creates, or other things, but for the most part, we’re talking about whether they’re enticed to read the article at all. An effective title would have the person saying, “Hmm, this sounds interesting. I’m going to see what it’s about.” as opposed to “Meh.” These factors include: length of title (how many words), case (sentence case, title case, upper case, lower case), use of superlatives (e.g., “The Best”), and others. But, as you’ve probably guessed from the title of this article, we’re going to focus on the use of numbers in the title. Common examples would be: “10 Natural Cold Remedies,” or “7 Ways to Spruce Up Your Kitchen.” We’ve all seen such headings. But do they really work? In a word, yes.
Several independent studies have shown that titles incorporating numbers get better results than those without numbers. That is, they get better “open” rates. I’m sure that applies to magazines and tabloids, but for our purposes, we’re focusing on clicks from search engine results pages (SERPs) or other web pages (your own site or an external one). People, especially on the web, have very short attention spans and using a number in your title grabs that attention better than not using one.
One reason why numeric titles probably succeed is that people generally like lists. Knowing that the information they’re about to take in is in a certain number of chunks makes it more digestible to them, especially if each chunk has a number and sub-heading. That makes for a quick and easy read – or scan.
What number to use
Further research has been done into which numbers have the best results. The number 7 seems to be a favourite, for various reasons: it’s relatively small; as with telephone numbers (before we had to use the area code), it’s been shown to be the maximum number that people can memorize; and it’s an odd number.
For some reason, odd numbers tend to have better success than even numbers. A good reason for that is the trust factor, particularly around the number 10. While your natural inclination may be to use the number 10 – and that’s very common – many people feel that number in a title may have been fudged. And that may, indeed, be the case. Often to get 10 “things” in a list the writer might need to “pad” the list, either by adding one or two semi-relevant points or re-stating a couple items. So, really, what’s only 8 or 9 items gets stretched to 10. In the reader’s mind, they’d prefer an “honest” list of 9 – it sounds more plausible to them. While you may want to challenge yourself to come up with 10 or 100 ways on a list, it might actually be more useful to your audience to just come up with as many (preferably useful) items as you can and let that be your magic number.
Strength in numbers: Give it a try
Now, I’m not advocating that every blog post or other article you write has a number in its title. There’s such a thing as overkill. But you may want to use it as an occasional tactic and take note of how successful it is for you.