How to Create Best Selling Titles — Learning from Amazon BestSellers
Is the title of your blog post smiling? Top-selling books on Amazon are, and in more ways than one. Of course, they smile because they’re flying off the shelves, but they also smile when you measure and plot the distance of uniqueness between each word. Whether you are writing a title for a book, blog or video, the same principle of word selection applies.
A successful title has a particular rhythm.
The Smiling Title Skew
In the options trading industry, there is a technical indicator called the “Volatility Smile”. This shows that in-the-money and out-the-money options values are more expensive than at-the-money options. When plotted, the skew forms a smile. When I averaged the word distances from successful titles and plotted them, I was struck by the similar shape. I am using 8-word titles here as it is a common word count for high-ranked Amazon books (I discuss the theory behind this concept in a previous Medium post: Titles That Sell Versus Those That Don’t, a Quantitative Analysis).
We all know that a title is critical to quickly convey a book’s content and convince a reader to engage further. A successful title has a particular rhythm. If we analyze enough top Amazon sales ranked books, we notice the following pattern, they start with distant words and end with distant words but are tied together by closer ones. Putting it another way, a good title starts and ends with the least synonymous words while the middle is more synonymous.
This can be seen on the chart above where the y-axis measures the word distance (the smaller the number, the more synonymous one word is to the next, the bigger, the least synonymous). The x-axis shows the words in the title (more precisely, one point between two words). This smiling pattern is visible in the start and end of a title when plotted using the word-embedded-vector distances between each word (I discuss the theory behind this concept in a previous Medium post: Titles That Sell Versus Those That Don’t, a Quantitative Analysis). In simple terms, this means that the words used in the beginning and end of a title are further away from each other than those in the middle.
Here are six, top Amazon Sales Ranked book titles. The patterns aren’t as clean and simple as the averaged one above, but the overall shapes remain (and I did cherry-pick them — don’t judge me).
In the above chart, “Happy Hippo, Angry Duck: A Book of Moods”, we see that the distance between “Hippo” and “Angry” is very large, so is the distance between “of” and “Moods”, and they sit at the extremities of the title.
I won’t say I fully understand why this is important, but when looking at enough successful titles in aggregate, the pattern is there. Whether it is about tying at least two themes in a title, packing as much meaning as possible, or the tonal rhythm it creates, the one thing I know for sure, is we all like smiles… Make sure yours is smiling too.
And if you want to see how your own titles and content stack up against the pros, test it out on the experimental Multi-Point Writing Analyzer on ViralML.com. For an in-depth look at title writing for visibility and ranking, see How to Write The Perfect Title.
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Author of Monetizing Machine Learning and Grow Your Web Brand, Visibility & Traffic Organically. Curator of amunategui.github.io and ViralML