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Headline Swapping: Why You Should Write 3 Different Headlines To Maximize Reach

Today, you’re going to learn why some of the top media companies are using headline swapping to drive maximum reach and traffic to their content.

What’s headline swapping?

That’s the question I set out to answer after hearing about some media companies writing multiple headlines for a single piece of content. After coming across this trend, I decided that I was going to dive deeper and see what it was all about.

In this blog post, you’re going to learn how a simple approach such as headline swapping can have a direct impact on content engagement, SEO rankings and your ability to create content that gets spread on social media.

Let’s get to it…

How Uses The Headline Swapping Technique To Drive Millions Of Visits & Thousands Of Shares


Slate Headlines

The Social Title

The goal of a social title is to inspire people scrolling through Twitter or Facebook to click on a link. Some of the most viral and effective social media titles leverage a concept called the curiosity gap. It’s the content we’ve all seen on Facebook. It’s the content made famous by the BuzzFeed, Upworthy, Viralnova, World Star & eventually embraced by everything from to the Wall Street Journal.

As Joanne Weibe of Copyhackers described the Curiousity Gap:

It’s the space between what we know and what we want or even need to know.

In the Social Title being used by Slate, what we know is that Lady Gaga & her infamous Meat Dress. What we want to know is who the woman is behind it… And that’s what causes us to click.

On-Site Title

The goal of an on-site title is to do one thing:

Keep you on-site.

In 2009, Jakob Neilsen pointed to the editors at BBC News as being the best at creating these titles. He described these headlines as being:

  • Short (The average headline consumed a mere 5 words and 34 characters.)
  • Rich in information scent (Clearly summarize what happens)
  • Front loaded (The most important keywords are used)
  • Understandable out of context
  • Predictable (Users know whether they’ll like the article before they click)

Wait… What…

I know.

It’s completely opposite from what we’ve seen spread around the web.

But what makes it work is that this is the title once you’re on-site. Once you’ve already been lured to read the content from social media. It’s at this point where the author shouldn’t be striving to lure you in but instead be striving to keep you engaged.

In the example from Slate, the on-site title is short, rich, front loaded, understandable and predictable. It gives you enough to glance over it and begin digesting the primary content immediately.

SEO Driven Title

This is where things get really interesting.

The actual SEO title, the one that shows in Google search, seems completely different from the social and on-site title.


Because it understands a simple principle around why people use search engines.

They’re going to a search engine to find answers.

Most people in the world aren’t searching for answers about who was behind the meat dress but a large portion of Lady Gaga’s fan base and music fans will be looking for a review of her latest album. Especially the week of launch, take a look:

This surge of interest and this title ensures that Slate can drive traffic from search.

That’s the goal of an SEO title.

Social Media Titles vs. SEO Titles


The Case For Creating Multiple Headlines


When you think about the difference between the social title above and the SEO title, think about the audience.

Who would find the social content clickable?

Who would find the SEO title clickable?

The social content is more likely to be clicked by anyone who has heard of Lady Gaga and her meat dress. It could be a Lady Gaga fan. It could be someone who is bored and just looking to procrastinate. It’s someone whose attention you were able to capture when they had an initial goal of simply scrolling through Facebook or Twitter.

On the flipside, the person who finds the title crafted for SEO is in a different state of mind. The keywords are focused around a Lady Gaga album review… The person who finds this content isn’t someone who just happened to stumble upon it mid scroll. The person who finds this content is someone who wanted to find a review of the album Joanne by Lady Gaga.

People use google to find solutions.

Sometimes it’s to find out how to tie a tie.

Sometimes it’s to learn who won Survivor.

Sometimes it’s to find out what other people think of Lady Gaga’s new album.

People using Google want solutions and an SEO title delivers that.

Crafting three titles gives you the best of both worlds. You have the ability to lure a reader in on social media and solve a problem when someone relies on search. Most blogging platforms have plugins that allow you to optimize your headlines for both social, SEO and on-site.

Take advantage of these tools and capitalize on these two benefits:

1) Search Traffic Can Drive Long Term Results

An article created with an SEO driven headline gives you the ability to rank in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPS) and drive long term organic traffic. The biggest benefit of showing up here is that organic traffic is usually the highest quality and unlike social media you don’t have always to pay to play.

2) Social Media Can Offer Immediate Traffic Through Shares

A quality blog post and a catchy headline on social media can drive thousands (maybe millions) of visits to your site within a short period of time. The life span of the average Facebook post is about 3 or 4 days and on Twitter that could be 3 or 4 hours. It’s not easy to create content on social that is sure to generate thousands of shares but a compelling headline is one of the most important factors.

Wrapping Up

Ready to use Headline Swapping for your own content marketing efforts?


Now show me in the comments that you’ve truly learned something from this. I want you to comment with an example of an SEO title, Social Title and On-Site title for a blog post that you’re thinking about writing.

I’ll let you know if it’s a good combo and if there’s anything you can do to improve it.

I look forward to hearing from you! 

(This article was inspired by this post on

Three Headline Ideas That Are Sure To Work, Work, Work, Work, Work…


Success as a blogger like most things in life, comes down to understanding the basics.

Headlines are the most important piece of content you can write. After all, most readers determine whether or not your content is worth giving their attention to based on your headline. Your headline is what will be shared as the text in a tweet:

Instagram Feed

It’s the primary visual that is shown when shared on Facebook or LinkedIn:


And it’s what people find in their Google search results.

Fortunately, the number of formulas that you can use when writing a blog post headline are plentiful. People like Kevan from Buffer and Sarah from SumoMe have developed great resources to act as inspiration for your content.

Here are a few:

  • How To XYZ…
  • XX Reasons/Ways/Mistakes/etc…
  • Why XYZ Is/Are/Will/etc…
  • The Best/Easiest/Fastest/Smartest Way To XYZ…
  • Do You Know How To XYZ…?

When I was thinking about the headline for this article, I tried to mix up a few different ideas and formulas. Here are a couple that I came up with:

  • How To Come Up With Headline Ideas That Stick
  • Five Headline Ideas That Can Change Your Blog Forever
  • Genius Headline Ideas For The Best Content Marketers
  • The Best Headline Ideas That Will Change The Game
  • Do You Know How To Create Amazing Headlines? This Will Help.
  • Five Headline Ideas That Work: You Won’t Believe How Easy They Are
  • Five Ideas That Most People Overlook When Writing Great Headlines
  • Everything You Need To Know Before Crafting A Great Headline

The folks at UpWorthy suggest that you always write more than 25 headlines:


This recommendation is based on the fact that it takes time and tests to find a great headline.

In this post, I’m going to share with you a few ideas that you can use to create headlines that drive shares, clicks, and engagement. Take these ideas and remix them for your own content:

1) Leverage Popular Culture In Your Headline


Culture can be leveraged to increase your chances of going viral and creating content worth clicking.

Whether it’s a news story, trending song or lyric – there’s plenty of opportunities out there for you to leverage when crafting your headline. I like to call this tactic reactive storytelling. The act of reacting to something that is happening in popular culture and combining it with a brand relevant message.

Some call it Newsjacking which is described as the creation of high-quality content and mixing it with a trending story or topic.

The idea of leveraging popular culture in your headline is similar to newsjacking if you do it quickly.

First, you want to identify something that people are talking about. You can find these topics by watching closely the trending topics on Twitter or what’s trending on Facebook:

Once you’ve identified a topic, you can start writing titles that play off the news. Here are a few examples of content that play off of popular culture or trending topics:

Trending Topics

If the topic is trending on Facebook, you create a blog post that references that topic and you share it, the content will actually get additional love from the Facebook newsfeed algorithm.

Here’s an example of what that would look like:

Trending Article


I’ve used this tactic many times over the last few years and it’s helped me land in Forbes and generate thousands of shares.

2) Challenge Common Expectations & Beliefs

Curiosity is one of the most critical motives that influences our behavior as humans.

In the famous study that coined the phrase Curiosity Gap, they defined the curiosity gap as the gap that exists between what we know and what we want to know.

A curiosity driven headline is one that catches your reader’s attention by making a claim that is unusual, remarkable or thought provoking.

People love these articles because they give us the opportunity to learn something we didn’t know before. As found in the study from George Loewenstein, filling this curiosity gap gives us pleasure and satisfaction.

These two articles are examples of headlines that try to capture your curiosity:

Headline Curiosity

While this is a tactic that can work wonders, you need to ensure you’re delivering on the other end. Don’t write a headline that peaks your readers curiosity but doesn’t deliver on the inside. That’s the definition of click-bait.

3) Tell Them How Much Value You’re Delivering

Darren Rowse of ProBlogger talked about the value of long form content back in 2013. The posts that the ProBlogger team has written with more than 2,000 words performed well above average compared with other posts.

In the chart below from, you will see that the longer the content, the more shares it generates:

People want detailed and high quality content.

If your headline communicates that the content they’re about to consume is PACKED with insights, the likelihood of them clicking through increases.

When you see a blog post with a headline like these:

You’re thirsty to click and see what they’re about.

You’re thirsty to see the value behind the text.

Convey the value you’re going to deliver your readers and then ensure you do exactly that once they’re in.


Headline Ideas - BlogCreating powerful headlines is just one piece of the puzzle.

If you want to take your content marketing efforts to the next level, you’re going to want to invest time in ensuring that the content you create is high quality and delivers what the readers expected. You need to ensure that on the other side of a click, the content you deliver is valuable.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this blog post and what tactics you’ve used when crafting your own headlines. Leave us a comment below and don’t forget to check out Crate, a content curation tool that will make it easier to manage your time.