Nearly everything that is shared from UpWorthy.com is just an embedded Youtube video… but there is one major and very important difference.

The writers use headlines that get more clicks than the normal Youtube video would have received. Studying these headlines could change your entire perspective on copywriting. Here’s a quote from Upworthy’s co-founder that proves my point:

Most headlines are revised 25 times before publication, a fine-tuning strategy inspired by Koechley’s Onion days. “The headline is our little newsboy crying out in a crowded Facebook feed,” he says.

Most of the ones that you see shared on Facebook have already been proven to get thousands (or possibly millions) of clicks and thousands of shares. By copying the headline, and then by changing two words, you could have a huge CTR text ad for your own campaigns.

Not only do they test the headline, they also split test images to get more engagement. With the headline, This Kid Just Died. What He Left Behind Is Wondtacular, Upworthy split-tested these images according to BusinessWeek.

If you’re convinced how this can help you, let’s look at some of the top UpWorthy headlines from 2012:

Gossip

Upworthy Headline 1. Bully Calls News Anchor Fat, News Anchor Destroys Him On Live TV
Upworthy Headline 2. Bullies Called Him Pork Chop. He Took That Pain With Him And Then Cooked It Into This.

1 and 2 use gossip and story. How can your headline use gossip or story to connect to your ad? This one is the most difficult to use because you’d have to change much more than one word to adapt it, but the next items are very easy to use.

Specific audience appeal

Upworthy Headline 3. Mitt Romney Accidentally Confronts A Gay Veteran; Awesomeness Ensues
Upworthy Headline 4. A Tea Partier Decided To Pick A Fight With A Foreign President. It Didn’t Go So Well.
Upworthy Headline 7. BOOM, ROASTED: Here’s Why You Don’t Ask A Feminist To Hawk Your Sexist Product
Upworthy Headline 9. Elizabeth Warren Asks The Most Obvious Question Ever And Stumps A Bunch Of Bank Regulators

3 and 4 probably only appeal to half of Americans, but that didn’t stop them from getting very popular. You don’t need to be political, but if you sound controversial (without offending most of your target customers), you’ll do well.

Let’s look at #9 as a template:
[CEO, famous person, or you] Asks The Most Obvious Question Ever And Stumps A Bunch Of [Target Consumers’ Enemy]
Your target customers probably have some greedy, selfish group of people, that he/she blames for many problems. Here’s a simple example, let’s say you’re writing an ad for E-Trade:

  • CEO of E-Trade Asks The Most Obvious Question Ever And Stumps A Bunch Of Professional Investors

For example, this could be the question and lead in on the landing page: Why don’t you guys allow your consumers to use E-Trade themselves? It’s proven, that they could trade directly without your extra fees — that on average cost them $100-300 a year…

New product or service

Upworthy Headline 5. Move Over, Barbie — You’re Obsolete
Move Over, [Famous, competing product] — You’re Obsolete

This is easiest one to adapt:

  • Introduce a new diet or a laptop mount for treadmills: Move Over Boring Treadmill — You’re Obsolete

The “Fact” or “Thing” that you must know

Upworthy Headline 6. 9 Out Of 10 Americans Are Completely Wrong About This Mind-Blowing Fact

This is so vague that this may not work unless it was shared by a friend that you respect. It could be adapted to not be too vague:
9 Out Of 10 [Target audience attribute] Are Completely Wrong About This Mind-Blowing Fact

  • If you were trying to get people to try a new rewards credit card: 9 Out Of 10 Travel Credit Card Holders Are Completely Wrong About This Mind-Blowing Fact

Your target audience will so curious that they will want to know what they’re missing out on, or they could be afraid of a mistake that they’re making.

Upworthy Headline 8. Some Strange Things Are Happening To Astronauts Returning To Earth
Some Strange Things Are Happening To [Target audience] Using [Product/service]

Write about product faults or lack of benefits in competitors’ products and how yours is better.

  • If you’re selling anti adware or parental controls: Some Dangerous Things Are Happening To Windows Users That Only Rely On Typical Anti Virus Software

Conclusion

Most of these headlines are easy to convert to your own campaign. Here’s some really easy split-testing ideas.

If you’re interested in learning more about calling out your Target Audience in headlines, read this article: Are You Forgetting This Most Important Step in Writing a Headline?

Update: I just noticed how UpWorthy is tracking headline split tests. They’re currently testing college names:

  1. If 3 Little Girls Did This To My House, I’d Do Everything I Could To Get Them Full Rides To Harvard
    http://www.upworthy.com/if-3-little-girls-did-this-to-my-house-id-do-everything-i-could-to-get-them-full-rides-to-harvard-am2-8a (am2-8a is the tracking code for this headline)
  2. If 3 Little Girls Did This To My House, I’d Do Everything I Could To Get Them Full Rides To Stanford

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