You’ve been reading about Upworthy. I know…
Their skyrocketing growth, their profits, that they’re the fastest growing media site of all time… And while everyone else is focused on creating content Upworthy is making millions by stealing other people’s stuff and reframing it in a new, better way. Their secret ingredient?
If you’re an affiliate, you might be thinking it’s a good idea to steal some Upworthy headlines and apply them to your own campaigns. Today I’m going to tell you:
- Why crazy Upworthy headlines won’t work
- What you should do instead (It’s easy)
- The results of my experiment testing the theory
But first, a little background information.
Who Is Upworthy?
Upworthy.com is a viral content website started in March 2012 by Eli Pariser, and Peter Koechley. Upworthy takes existing content, mainly videos and reframes it using eyeball-grabbing headlines that are impossible not to click.
They’re calling Upworthy today’s greatest viral growth hackers, saying their “the fastest growing media site of all time” Fast Company.
Upworthy, which MoveOn founder Eli Pariser started in March 2012, clocked 8.7 million monthly unique visitors within its first six months and now garners more than 10 million uniques a month.
The Rip Off
Now, the entire internet is in a race to steal their headline concept and try to duplicate their success. This is a great idea for some (viralnova) and a horrible idea for others (you).
Why? Because Upworthy headlines make huge promises and then don’t payoff.
- Good idea: If you run a website that sells ads based on impressions (CPM), you make money without having to make sales. All you need are clicks to get paid. Upworthy headlines are probably a great idea for you and will dramatically increase your profits.
- Bad idea: If you’re an affiliate marketer who relies on getting clicks and conversions, writing sensational headlines could leave you with sky-high CTR, thousands of dollars in clicks and pennies in the bank.
But it’s not all bad news.
You can steal Upworthy’s headlines and create conversions. But to do it, we’ll have to talk about David Ogilvy.
Meet David Ogilvy, The Original Mad Man
David Ogilvy, considered by most to be “The Father of Advertising” was a British advertising executive and founder of the New York ad agency Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, one of the world’s largest advertising firms.
Ogilvy was a genius at advertising. But more specifically – he was a genius at creating advertising and headlines that sell.
“If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” – David Ogilvy
Ogilvy’s thoughts on headlines:
“The headline is the ‘ticket on the meat.’ Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising.” – David Ogilvy
Ogilvy recommends using the headline to call out your target demographic, which is exactly what you need to do to pull clicks that convert. But you can’t take that advice too literally either.
You can’t write:
“Women’s Yellow Tennis Shoes On Sale Here, Please Don’t Click Unless You’re A Woman Who is Going to Buy Yellow Tennis Shoes Today!”
What you can do is mix Upworthy and Ogilvy together – and make a crazy-high CTR ad that also calls out the customers that convert.
My Experiment Using Upworthy + Ogilvy Headlines
Before writing this article I set up an experiment on a new campaign to see how well an Upworthy + Ogilvy style headline works in practice. The theory made sense to me – but theories don’t pay the bills. You will never know for sure unless you test the idea live.
Here are the results, replacing the product name with XYZ (obviously).
- CTR = click through rate
- EPC = Earnings per click
Control headline: (the style being used by the lazy affiliate collective)
“1 Odd Trick to Save Huge on XYZ’s”
CTR: 1.56% EPC: $0.28
“His XYZ Caught On Fire Right Next to The Church… But You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!”
CTR: 11.43% EPC: $0.04
“If You Have an XYZ and Think You’re Getting Ripped Off, You Better See This…”
CTR: 3.45% EPC: $0.61
The Upworthy headline got 10x the clicks but made almost no money. It didn’t work because obviously people were just clicking the ad to see if the church burned down. If I was getting paid for impressions that ad would have dominated. But I need conversions to get paid.
The Upworthy + Ogilvy headline doubled CTR and doubled conversion rate. It worked because it was a big tease that forced users to click to find out what the hell was going on – but it only teased a specific segment (People with an XYZ that think they’re paying too much) giving me a much higher chance of making a sale.
How You Can Start Today
Here’s how you can get started today. I’m assuming you have a campaign up and running here. If you don’t well – you need to get on that.
- Go to your campaign and look at your best performing ad
- Go to Upworthy.com and pick an irresistible headline (or write your own)
- Now, rewrite the ad, adding a specific callout to your target demo
- Split test and try to destroy your best ad
Invest Time in Writing
Upworthy has said in interviews that they write 25 headlines for each ad. I have tried this practice myself and can tell you that it works.
- Open up your text editor of choice (I use Byword) and start writing
- Write every headline that comes to mind
- Write some that are wildly different than the others
You’ll be shocked by how much better your 18th or 19th draft will be than your first headline.
- Pick the top 4 headlines
- Test them against each other
- If you find an overwhelming winner, congrats
- If not, keep the best one and add 3-4 more from your list
It takes about 30 minutes and is worth every second. If 25 headlines is too much for you, try to do at least (10) ten.
Have fun doing this stuff. For me this is one of the most fascinating parts of the job. Seeing how differently people react to small changes has always been my favorite part.
And remember. If you enjoy your job, you can make a lot of money, without ever working a day in your life.
Thank you for being here,
Challenge: Using “iPad Mini” as the product, write your best Upworthy-like headline in the comments. I’ll pick a winner.
Example: “His iPad Mini Was His Best Friend… You’ll Be Shocked When You See Why!”