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Is there more to using numbers in headlines?

Using numbers in headlines is an attention-grabbing trick I was taught over 30 years ago, and with ‘clickbait’ becoming such an art – and science – in the last decade, it’s a trick that everyone in marketing now knows. And let’s face it, we need every trick at our disposal, because we all have to write headlines every day, from press releases to email subject lines.

But is there more to using numbers than just lobbing one in at random? You won’t be surprised to learn that the answer is yes.

However, don’t forget that including numbers is not an alternative or substitute for including your key search terms and the benefits you’re offering the reader. These are more important. Numbers are a nice addition if you can use them.

But which numbers? Naturally, the ones to choose are those which make a point, and these will usually be large or small ones. If your headline is trying to draw attention to a list, be careful not to make it sound like hard work. There’s a permanently popular article on this blog called 74 Activities of a Marketing Department: a List, which ticks a lot of boxes – clearly the large number is an attraction. It wouldn’t be so clever however if I wrote an article called ’63 Steps you’ll need to wade through to becoming a Marketing Expert’.

Time is another area where we need to be careful. For some people, ’28 days’ can seem shorter than ‘4 weeks’ but longer than ‘1 month’. You may have to make a judgement call on that. If the time period is used in conjunction with another number, your decision may be clearer: ‘Save 20% in just 28 days’ doesn’t seem to me to be as appealing as ‘Save 20% in just 1 month’. And if you’re using the year (which can be very effective), just be careful that it’s relevant.