Case Study: How a Headline Made the Difference Between 100 and 5000 Visits

Want to attract thousands of visitors? If you are a blogger struggling to succeed on the social sites, this post is a must read.

Up until three days ago I hadn’t been able to get much traffic from any of the social sites (Digg, Reddit, StumbleUp, etc.). I’d been frequently submitting to all of them but nothing stuck. I wasn’t sure why. I knew my content was good, but for some reason people weren’t going for it. I finally made a break through, and I’ll tell you exactly how it happened.

The Stats

On Friday, January 26, I wrote a post titled “The Two Types of Cognition”. I posted it to Reddit, StumbleUpon, and and attracted a grand total of 100 visitors in the next two days.

The average time spend on the post (6:11) was great, so I knew the people who read it liked it. The problem was people weren’t seeing it.

On Saturday, my friend Greg came by and told me he liked the post and that I should try to promote it. This planted the seed of curiosity. On Sunday I decided to make an effort to promote the article.

I realized that my original headline sucked. I’m new to copywriting, so I normally want to use headlines as labels. ‘The Two Types of Cognition’ is a perfect description of the post and it includes the main keyword, but it doesn’t give the reader any incentive.

My breakthrough was galvanized by the discovery of Steve Olson‘s post, “How This Blog Attracted 100,000 Visitors in the First 30 Days“. Through Steve’s post I discovered “5 of Your Headlines Remixed” by Brian Clark. If you want traffic READ THIS POST.

After reading Brian’s article and some of the other links from Steve’s post I resolved to concoct a new headline and resubmit to the social sites.

I came up with “Learn to Understand Your Own Intelligence“. A bit more provocative isn’t it? I submitted to all the same sites, made it up to the second page of Reddit and got a few tags and stumbles. Reddit brought in some good traffic, but it really took off with StumbleUpon.

As of this moment that article has attracted 4,930 unique views. Not bad for a site that normally averages a couple hundred visitors a day. As a bonus, people started stumbling one of my other pages, leading to even more traffic.

Here is a chart depicting how rewriting a single headline has affected this site’s traffic.

I didn’t write this post to brag. Many other people attract many more visitors over the social sites everyday. I wanted to point out that content is not always the biggest issue. The EXACT SAME ARTICLE had drastically different results all because of a headline. And it isn’t even that tough. Read the posts I linked to earlier, take the lessons to heart, and start putting a lot more effort into your headlines and opening paragraphs.

Don’t let your great content go to waste.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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