5 Reasons Why Using Numbers in Your Headlines Works

5 reasons to use numbers in headlinesThanks to guest blogger, Mike Hamers

Numbers are a time-honored trigger to get your readers to pay attention to your content.

When you use a number in a headline, whether in a blog post, an e-mail subject line, an advertisement, etc., you immediately hook the reader’s interest.

Numbers reach directly into our unconscious and say, “this message is important”. And according to the experts, numbers as figures/digits (i.e. “5”) work better on the Web than numbers that are spelled-out as words (i.e. “five”).

Example: If you’re going to write about how to be a better sous chef, headline it with “7 Ways to be a Better Sous Chef;” because you’ll get from 12-25% more traffic than saying “How to be a Better Sous Chef”.

Studies prove that readers, especially on the Web, don’t read all the words. They scan the text for:

  • Headlines
  • Highlighted words
  • Bulleted lists
  • Links

Scanning is even more prevalent for readers of e-mail newsletters.

CREDIBILITY AND USABILITY GAINED!
Here are 5 reasons why using numbers in your headlines generates more traffic:

1. SUBSTANCE: The promise of something specific.
I’m constantly disappointed in blogs and newsletters I read where I see a title I like, click on it, skim the first paragraph, only to find that the title has nothing to do with the content.Or the content lacked enough substance or structure to be any good.

One way to get better search results is to select titles where you’re guaranteed at least some measure of structure and substance. Choosing a headline with a number in it gives some assurance that even if the author is crazy, you’ll get to see “7 Ways to Be a Better Sous Chef”. There should be at least one or two steps worth reading even if the others miss the mark.
Hamers-Forbesheadline

2. STRUCTURE: Make reading easier.
Organizing content into a numbered list guarantees your readers the post they’re reading will have structure. Even if you tend to wander when you read, there should be an easy enough path to follow from the beginning to end.

3. CLEAR ORGANIZATION: Essential for speed reading.
I am busy and I read a number of blog posts daily, mostly as I’m doing other things, like eating breakfast, listening to music, on hold with tech support, etc. Reading a blog with numbers allows me to skim the first line of every numbered entry to check for relevance without having to read all the way through. Although we can only read a few hundred words per minute without sacrificing memory, a numbered article entry lets the reader get right to what they’re looking for.

4. STICK TO THE SCRIPT.
Many blogs start as one thing and turn into something else by the end. When researching marketing for example, a post on why marketing is important is totally different than what kind of marketing is important. Numbers force you to stick to one of those topics in your post.

5. NUMBERS ARE “BRAIN CANDY.”
Our brains are attracted to numbers because they automatically organize information into a logical order. In marketing and advertising, your headline is an advertisement for your content. A single, small odd-numbered digit, like 7 for example, is like candy for your organizational mind.

Digits enhance the scanability of web content. It’s just that simple:

  • A number is better that a word.
  • Small numbers are more digestible than large ones.
  • Odd numbers are seen as more authentic than even numbers.

In a world of vague promises where words and names are diluted beyond any value, a small number holds the promise of meaning, integrity and accessibility.

Are you using numbers in your headlines? Share your latest headline with us here. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks!

About guest blogger, Mike Hamers: Mike is the owner and found of Lightspeed Commercial Arts – a technology-focused design company. He has been delivering graphic design, branding and web solutions to small and medium-sized businesses since 1989.

Mike’s priority is to develop the most effective, efficient and successful marketing and design solutions that suits your needs and accomplishes your company’s goals – on time and within your budget.

Comments

  1. Ive always noticed list-type post get more attention then others, especially if they are pinnable!
    stephanie l recently posted…Basil Coconut Curry ChickenMy Profile

  2. Love that the headline for this post supports the post! Nice job–I also learned a couple of things here, like how using the numeral is more effective than spelling the number out. Thanks for sharing.
    Mary Anne Hahn recently posted…Heartfelt MarketingMy Profile

    • Yes Mary Anne, it was intentional to have the headline match the content of the post. Glad you learned a few new things here and hope you’ll put them to use next time you’re writing a headline.
      Stephanie, as the blog suggests, readers enjoy knowing that they’ll be getting a finite set of tips, strategies, etc. so offering them “5 secrets,” “3 techniques,” etc. is a great way to draw them in. Thanks for stopping by!
      ~Debra

  3. 3 Reasons Why I Love This Blog Post

    1) I love it when someone can show you exactly what they mean immediately and this did that.

    2) It really worked. The number 5 in the title grabbed me.

    3) Your points are accurate.

    I think I may be adding numbers in headlines a bit more often and highlighting more important points to make them stand out.

    Thanks,

    Kathy

    Visiting from UBC
    Kathy Hadley recently posted…Are You Addicted To Drama And Lower Emotions?My Profile

    • So cool Kathy! Thanks for sharing the 3 reasons why you loved this post! Love your creativity in responding as well. I’ll look forward to seeing your future headlines.
      Thanks again. Here’s to your sweet success.
      ~Debra

  4. I have yet to use them as blog titles. I try to get both types of lists within log posts though, both numbered and bulleted. Since I am usually looking for specifics and giving specifics the lists helps me a lot with writing as well as the reader in telling them what I am looking for from them.

    • Marilyn, as the blog suggests, many readers will scan your blog first. They’ll look at the title and if it catches their attention they’ll scan bullet points and subheads (if there are any).
      Using bullet points makes the content easy on the readers’ eyes, which is always a good thing. You want to invite them to read what you’re sharing with them. Thanks! ~Debra

  5. This is a helpful perspective and I was not aware of these stats about the use of numbers. And I’ve learned that the digit is more powerful than the word. I will remember that tip for upcoming posts. Have resisted numbers in the past, but will make friends of them in the future.

    Thanks, Hollee

    • Hollee, it’s a good idea to make numbers your friends. Think about what attracts your attention when you’re reading either a magazine article, blog post, or e-mail. I’m guessing if the title offers “3 ways to do something,” you’ll be more drawn to it as you’ll know, when you read it, that you’ll walk away with some concrete and helpful tips.

      Sara, so pleased to have inspired you today. Here’s to your sweet success.
      ~Debra

  6. This is so true. It’s inspired me to make it a focus of today’s post. Cheers!!
    Sara recently posted…Hodge PodgeMy Profile

  7. I love using numbered list for post ideas. It’s a great way to organize your content for readers – it also makes it easier to write. Thanks for the great practical advice.
    Tai Goodwin recently posted…How Aiming for the Masses Can Keep You Blinded from Your MissionMy Profile

  8. This is a great idea. I am always looking for content ideas and good blog posting ideas. Thanks for the great information.

    • You’re welcome Karen. I look forward to seeing how you implement it in the future. Bet there are several posts around security where you can offer “5 tips,” “3 secrets,” etc.
      ~Debra

  9. This is so true! When I’m in a rush I only glance at titles and the ones with numbers do catch my attention the most!!! It’s great because I can also skim through the rest of the post and just get the highlights! I’ll be doing more of this on my blog! Thanks!
    Minling recently posted…How to do more with less time part 2My Profile

  10. I use numbers a lot in my business on blog articles, I also use them when I am speaking and it’s a really great strategy to use. It also allows you to craft a clear beginning middle and an end. Wendy
    Wendy Kier ( recently posted…The 3C’s of Successful Twitter MarketingMy Profile

  11. So cool! I’ve always heard that numbered titles are more popular, but never knew why until now. Thanks to you, I’ll make sure that my posts hit the marks you suggested for offering higher value to readers. Thanks!
    Jessica recently posted…This is not the post you’re supposed to read.My Profile

  12. This is a really great tip! I had never knew that numbers were so eye-catching to the reader. Titles are something i usually struggle with in anything and any help improving them is greatly appreciated!
    Belinda Rose recently posted…A Message of Love From the Other SideMy Profile

    • Numbers indicate that you’ll get a definite amount of information that you can grasp. Think about what you appeals to you Belinda. I’m guessing if a headline says “3 secrets to finding the love of your life,” you’re more likely to be drawn to it than one that reads “Find the Love of Your Life.”

      Thanks for stopping by.
      ~Debra

  13. Debra – I’m a big “numbers” person given my own work, so I’m an instant fan of this approach! Thanks so much for this practical advice that is easy to tuck away and implement. Do you have any advice for “good” numbers to use? Do certain numbers hit a threshold that are too big? Are readers seeking simplicity? I’d love to hear more details!
    Trina Willard recently posted…“Baby Steps” Towards a Strong Evaluation CultureMy Profile

    • Trina, I haven’t done any research on which numbers may be considered “too big.” Think about your topic and what seems realistic and “doable” for your peeps so that, when they read your headline, they feel encouraged (vs. discouraged).
      I’d say readers are seeking simplicity. However, if your writing speaks to and resonates with them, your readers will read what you have to say whether it’s long or short.
      Thanks.
      ~Debra

  14. The last headline I used with numbers- it’s more of a title-

    The 5 Steps To Creating A Life You Love.

    I’ve more of a rambling style and don’t use numbered points in my posts that often, but I’m not afraid to use them when applicable.

    In general, I feel like creating headlines and titles can get stressful when I try to follow all the rules for good headlines. LOL! I pick something appealing to me and run with it.
    Leah Shapiro recently posted…The Power of Personal ResponsibilityMy Profile

    • Hi Leah, just a suggestion to create some engagement, next time you might try something “Do you know the 5 steps to creating a life you love.?”
      If your target audience’s profile is similar to your own, then picking a headline that appeals to you is a fine idea. If your audience has a different profile, then think about what would catch their attention.
      Have a great day.
      Thanks.
      ~Debra

  15. What great information! I have used numbers in my headlines on occasion, but never realized the impact of doing so. Well organized and helpful article!

  16. How cool Debra… I never thought about numbers but it’s so true… I DO pay attention to numbers! I’m going to consider using them in the future. Appreciate your take on this, thanks for sharing.

  17. Debra – Great guest post. We recently did an audit of our posts since 2007 and found that our posts that have titles with numbers got over 70% more comments too!
    Stephanie LH Calahan ( recently posted…Seriously, What Are You Waiting For?My Profile

    • That’s awesome Stephanie, but I’m not surprised.
      The combination of a good headline backed up with great content works wonders!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. Much appreciated.
      ~Debra

  18. I find the numbers in headlines annoying as they are the majority headline type. I look forward to when they are out of style (from being over-used).

    • Sorry you feel that way Gregg. Research shows that most people respond well to numbers in headlines.
      When they see a number, they know they’re getting a finite set of tips, pointers, guidelines, etc.
      Thanks for sharing your point of view.
      🙂
      ~Debra

  19. Great post! I was in the middle of writing a blog post and creating a title and decided to do some quick research on adding numbers to the title – this led to your blog post 🙂 What caught my eye was that you used a number in your title about adding numbers to a blog title lol. Great tips and will definitely be applying them. Have a great day!

  20. Debra, thank you for the great article. The statistics you have provided really help in crafting a title that will attract a reader’s attention. There is nothing more frustrating than spending hours writing a post that no one will read.

  21. Neil, thanks for the shout out in your blog post about writing headlines.
    🙂
    ~Debra
    Debra Jason recently posted…Authors: 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Crowdfund…Yet!My Profile

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