Paul Cheney

Can You Write Viral Copy like The Huffington Post?: 6 reasons why you might not be stacking up

December 22nd, 2014

If you’ve ever opened a web browser, chances are you’ve visited The Huffington Post. That might be related to the fact that they (by a landslide) publish the largest number of viral stories on the web, according to NewsWhip.

One of my favorite things to do when I find out someone is the best at something is analyze their method … and steal the hell out of it.

So I ran a query through one of my favorite sites, BuzzSumo, a content analysis search engine (my description, not theirs), and pulled up HuffPo’s most shared content over the past year.

Because you’re all marketers, and most of the world’s marketing is full of junk, I decided to let you look over my shoulder at my little swipe-file of sorts.

After studying the top 100 headlines The Huffington Post has written in the past year, I found a few reasons why most marketers (myself included) are failing to connect with their audiences compared to The Huffington Post, who is obviously pretty good at it.

Here are the top six reasons I found for why your viral copy isn’t as good as The Huffington Post’s (I’ve included the headlines I found so you can steal them with me.)

WARNING: Some of the headlines you see below may be offensive to some people. Please understand that at MarketingExperiments, we do not take any official positions on politics, religion or personal beliefs. We are only interested in studying what works in marketing. The headlines below are simply a dataset to be studied and learned from, not an official statement on a particular position MarketingExperiments takes.


Reason #1: You’re not writing copy that helps your audience discover something new about themselves

Sample Headlines:

Headline Total Shares
Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy 1255809
5 Minutes In A Mom’s Head 1039541
10 Ways Introverts Interact Differently With The World 624656
18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently 705417
The Achiever, the Peacemaker and the Life of the Party: How Birth Order Affects Personality 364977


Apparently, most Huffington Post readers are highly creative, introverted, yuppie moms with siblings. If that’s your audience, then start writing content like the articles you see above.

If it’s not your audience, then think about what you know about your audience that they may not know about themselves and incorporate it into your copy.

Helping someone understand his or her self is probably one of the best things you can do for a person. Also, it’s a big business — just ask your psychiatrist or look at your next bill.


Reason #2: You’re not writing copy that helps your audience win an argument with someone else

Sample Headlines:

Headline Total Shares
5 Reasons You Should Have Sex With Your Husband Every Night 1165130
5 Reasons Modern-Day Parenting Is in Crisis, According to a British Nanny 1114892
Moms, Put On That Swimsuit 863569
15 Things All Dads Of Daughters Should Know 752715
The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying 689654


Wrong or right, winning a heated argument is one of the most satisfying things a person can do. Write copy that your audience can use to win an argument they are passionate about, and they’ll almost always share it with their opponent.

As a parent, I know for a fact that a favorite activity of Huffington Post’s highly creative, introverted, yuppie moms with siblings is critiquing other parents on their parenting.

Also, as a husband, I was very tempted to share article No. 1 with my wife, but, as a smart husband, I realized it would probably backfire on me. Still, the temptation to win that argument almost got that author another share.


Reason #3: You’re not writing copy that teases an interesting personal story

Sample Headlines:

Headline Total Shares
The Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up’ 1255809
 My ‘Naked’ Truth 754736
I’m Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical 746014
To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store 635764
 WATCH: Incredible Story Of Transgender Son Will Have You Ugly Crying… And Then Cheering 501180


I found this pattern to be pretty interesting. For some reason, I wouldn’t have thought a personal story would be all that shareable. That may be because I surround myself with boring people, or, more likely because I’m not a HuffPo yuppie mom. (Yes, I realize that’s one too many references to the same joke.)

It may also be that it’s not as much the personal aspect of the story but rather the fact that it’s an incredibly interesting topic. Whatever the case, the stories above are performing incredibly well. It’s worth testing out an interesting personal story in your copy.


Reason #4: You’re not writing copy that blows the whistle on a potential hypocrite (Bonus points if your audience hates them already)

Sample Headlines:

Headline Total Shares
The Insidiousness of Facebook Messenger’s Android Mobile App Permissions (Updated) 814422
 Shocking Photos: PETA’s Secret Slaughter of Kittens, Puppies 699946
Gluten-Free People Actually Have No Idea What Gluten Is 491743
Hobby Lobby Still Covers Vasectomies And Viagra 391341
Vibram, ‘Barefoot Running Shoe’ Company, Settles Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit 342375


This ties back into the satisfaction we feel with winning an argument. Except this time, it’s because our opponent is revealed to be a hypocrite.

Go ahead and take a risk. Blow the whistle on someone in your industry who you know for a fact is a hypocrite. Or better yet, blow the whistle on yourself before someone else does.

Also, here’s what gluten is in case you ever need to blow that whistle.


Reason #5: You’re not writing copy that sheds light on an important social issue your audience cares about

Sample Headlines:

Headline Total Shares
10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12 1577398
What Richard Sherman Taught Us About America 848860
If You Shop on Thanksgiving, You Are Part of the Problem 840184
Powerful Ad Shows What A Little Girl Hears When You Tell Her She’s Pretty 822799
Are We Raising a Generation of Helpless Kids? 603236


What’s interesting about these headlines is that most of them deal with parenting or the results of parenting. That’s not really a hot-button social issue for mainstream America, but it’s nevertheless very important to the audience of The Huffington Post.

Are there small-scale social issues that are happening in your industry no one is talking about? Leverage them in your copy.


Reason #6: You’re not writing copy that promises a remix of something your audience already likes

Headline Total Shares
Florida State University AcaBelles Rock Lorde’s ‘Royals’ A Cappella (VIDEO) 1174219
Pentatonix Performs The A Cappella Version Of ‘Little Drummer Boy’ You’ve Been Waiting For 918676
‘Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark’ Movie Will Make Your Childhood Nightmares Come To Life 850040
The Piano Guys Will Blow You Away With ‘Angels We Have Heard On High’ (VIDEO) 773558
Jimmy Fallon And Adam Levine’s Random Musical Impressions Will Blow Your Mind 582891


Building on the success of something that is already successful is how 99.9% of the world gets their good ideas. Don’t let the musical covers in these headlines distract you from the more important point: Your audience has products and services they already love.

Find out what they are and remix it in your copy.

Hopefully if you haven’t improved your viral copywriting skills reading this post, you can at least steal some ideas from The Huffington Post.

Also, if you’d like to get the list of headlines yourself, you can go to BuzzSumo and search for “” or any other site you’re interested in studying.


You might also like

Optimizing Copy: The 7 most common copywriting mistakes we see marketers make

Copywriting on Tight Deadlines: How ordinary marketers are achieving 103% gains with a step-by-step framework

How to Persuade People to Join Your Email List: 7 Copywriting Samples You Should Steal Ideas From

Copywriting Research Chart: What do customers want from your copy?

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John Tackett

Landing Page Optimization: What a 4% drop in conversion can reveal about offering discounts

December 18th, 2014

Discounts can be tempting to use as a tool to increase your sales volume.

There are plenty of cases where incentives have been successful; however, one caveat to consider is they also come with their own set of consequences.

When the dust settles and the results are in, every marketing team has to determine one thing:

Are discounted product offers always the optimal choice for a price point strategy?

That’s a question one large media company recently posed in their testing efforts that I wanted to share in today’s post to help you learn more about the potential impact of discounts on the bottom line.

Before we dive in any further, let’s look at the background on this experiment:

Background: A large media company offering various subscription products.

Goal: To determine the optimal pricing point after the introductory rate.

Research Question: Which price point will generate the greatest return?

Test Design: A/B split test



In the control, customers are presented with an offer of “50% off Home Delivery for 12 Weeks with free digital access.”




In the treatment, a triggered lightbox was added and designed to pop-up, offering an incentive for an additional four week discount of 50% if the order was not completed within a certain time frame.

Read more…

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Jessica Lorenz

Website Optimization: Not testing can cost you money

December 15th, 2014

I’ve had some pretty terrible online shopping experiences. I’ve dealt with impossible product pages, awkwardly laid-out shopping carts and some sketchy checkout processes.

It seemed as if companies were simply allowing customers to shop online, not encouraging it — especially smaller, specialized stores.

Then came the rise of sites like Amazon and Zappos.

Today, there is no excuse not to optimizing and improvng the customer experience.

At IRCE 2014, MarketingSherpa Reporter, Allison Banko, sat down with Lisa Foreman, Marketing Conversion Manager, Nations Photo Lab, to discuss the necessity of testing.

“If your website is not user friendly, then you’re just not going to convert the customers,” Lisa said. “And it’s easy.”

Lisa explained that the testing technology available rules out any excuse that marketers may have had before when it came to not testing.

“As a marketer without technical experience, I can set up tests on my own without the help from my developer … and I can declare statistical significance as soon as they are ready and get them rolled out,” she said.

The barrier to beginning a testing program without knowing how to code is deteriorating, Lisa added, which is great news for marketers in a world where customers demand instant, seamless experiences across devices and pages.

Developing savvy-looking sites might get your internal marketing department excited, but Lisa warned her peers, “You should be testing it first.”

She suggested that money spent on the development of a new template or designing new pages and experiences are wasted if these changes don’t actually improve the customer’s experience.

Read more…

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Erin Hogg

Web Optimization: 3 strategies to improve testing operations at your company

December 11th, 2014

In a previous blog post, we detailed how Felix + Iris, a newly launched eyewear ecommerce site, made simple tweaks to its hero unit to improve home try-on conversion 72%.

In this blog post, read about how the Felix + Iris marketing team has embraced testing, and how the team shares results throughout the company. Read on to hear more from Jon Corwin, User Experience Lead, One Click Ventures (parent company of Felix + Iris), and how his strategies achieved testing and optimization success.


Step #1. Integrate testing into company culture

At One Click Ventures, the testing function exists in the marketing department.

“There is very much an iterative approach or kind of a lean methodology that One Click has taken,” Jon said.

Jon explained, as far as buy-in goes, testing is not something the team has had to convince others outside of Marketing of its value.

“It’s more of a conversation of what we should test – not whether,” he said.

Marketing team members seek approval from the content team on copy changes, or the design team for anything creative, typography or image-related. Jon also explained the team’s director of marketing will, from a strategic standpoint, help make those decisions.

However, Jon explained the testing function for marketing is autonomous.

“Our testing started off as a skunkworks operation. It was almost like scratching our own itch, and launching small tests and sharing the wins after the fact,” he said.

From there, he explained it has grown and the team has embraced it as another feedback tool to help keep the company a lean operation.

With the newly launched Felix + Iris brand, the team realized testing can be used as a tool to help manage risk.

Instead of buying into a new feature on one of the One Click Venture sites, the team can build a small prototype, launch it and validate that the feature is helpful, or not, with A/B testing.

Once the team has that knowledge, Marketing can send that feature to the tech team and have similar features built out, or use lessons learned from tests to better inform how they should craft future campaigns.

“Right now, it is very much a small operation, but one that has been key in helping make some of these decisions, be it design, messaging, new feature build-out, so on, so forth,” he said.


Step #2. Share results constantly

Jon explained there are many different ways the marketing team shares testing results within the organization.

Once tests are completed and the results have been analyzed, Jon will email those results to the stakeholders for that specific test. In addition, weekly conversion meetings, held by Jon, are used to discuss lessons learned from tests.

Jon and the team keep a master ledger of all testing efforts, called the Test Tracker, which is in the form of an easy-to-read spreadsheet.

“That’s where we’ll document all of the testing activity and final test results, with the goal being that that’s our testing bible filled with Felix + Iris best practices based on testing we’ve done in the past,” Jon explained.

Read more…

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Erin Hogg

Hero Unit Testing: 72% lift from simple changes you can implement today

December 8th, 2014

Selling a product online that customers would most likely prefer trying on in a brick-and-mortar store is a challenge.

Felix + Iris, an online prescription eyewear retailer, provides a free home try-on option for its products with its Fit Kit.

However, getting customers to take the plunge to try on glasses at home was a challenge, especially because the brand is new having launched in September 2014.

Right from the get go, Jon Corwin, User Experience Lead, One Click Ventures (parent company of Felix + Iris), implemented A/B testing and optimization into every aspect of the Felix + Iris’ online presence.

The company falls under the umbrella of One Click Ventures, which owns two other online ecommerce eyewear brands, and testing is a large part of One Click Venture’s business strategy.

“We really embraced using A/B testing as another quick and easy feedback cycle to validate whether our messaging is in line with our customers’ needs,” Jon said.

In this blog post, we’ll detail one of Felix + Iris’ tests on the homepage of the site, centering around the hero image and copy for starting the free home try-on process.





“The control’s hero unit’s design was certainly in line with our audience. It definitely spoke to our audience. It was aligned with our brand,” Jon said.

But, as Jon discovered, as a new brand, there are some disparities with no having brand equity to help carry Felix + Iris’ message.

Another issue that Jon identified was ambiguity within the call-to-action to “Get Started.”

“Essentially, the top funnel conversion point we were testing is for them to start the Fit Profile quiz. But we realized with the control, there was some ambiguity around what steps were required, what the value of the Fit Profile is for the customer, and what they get out of it,” Jon explained.

Jon developed his hypothesis: Will replacing the hero image with an actual image of the home try-on kit as well as adding the steps in the process help to portray the tangible results of trying Felix + Iris?

  Read more…

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Jessica Lorenz

Web Optimization: How to help customers help themselves

December 4th, 2014

“The innovation of how the buying process works really has helped us. Not only to help our existing customers, but really gain those new customers through that process and innovation,” explained Matt Ruggle, Ecommerce Manager, Great Northern Corporation, at IRCE 2014.

Linda Taddonio, Co-founder and Ecommerce Strategy Officer, Insite Software, and Matt sat down with MarketingSherpa Reporter Allison Banko to discuss a new phase of site optimization: click tracking.

  Read more…

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