5 Reasons why Readers are Obsessed with Numbered Headlines

Have you compared two articles, one whose title includes a number and the other which doesn’t include a number? Have you noticed the difference in the amount of comments or traffic these type of article get?

Articles that have numbered titles like 75 Beautiful Free Social Bookmarking Icon Sets have something that attracts more eyeballs. From my experience, I have seen readers liking these type of articles more than the usual type of articles. Also, if i use seventy five instead of 75, the total advantage of having a numbered headline will be nullified.

As a reader, I love numbered titles. I don’t know, but there is something in numbered titles that makes it irresistible and you are forced to read the article. Even if the quality of content is not up to mark, but numbered titles are still able to do their job by bringing a lot of traffic.

The real question each blogger wants to be answered is: What is in numbers that attract huge attention? Because, if we get the right answer to it, we can utilize it in other areas and attract a even bigger audience.

I don’t think there is a sure shot answer to this question, but I would like to give some theories that supports the fact that people are attracted to numbered titles:

1. Readers love collections

Usually articles with numbered titles are collection of ideas in the form of list posts, or they are collection of articles in the form of roundups.

Roundups and list articles can be thought of a collection of many small articles in a bundled form. People love information which is precise and is available at a single place (i.e. they don’t have to search for more information).

Take an example of a person searching for a certain piece of information available in files. There are two ways to collect all the information.

First method: The person can scan through 20 different files and note down the relevant points from each file. These files may have overlapping data and therefore, the person may be wasting time in reading the same information repeatedly. Once all the points noted down, he has to remove the redundant information and note the most relevant points.

Second Method: The person can scan through a single file and get all the information in one go.

Which method will you choose? Obviously, the second one, because it saves you time and effort.

Similarly, articles with numbered headlines are treated as well rounded tutorials which can be thought as good resources. That is why readers prefer reading these type of articles rather than reading many articles as it saves them time. After all, all readers want to sit back and relax and have some free time to have more fun, right?

2. It’s a Brain Problem

I think the reason why we are attracted to the numbers may be because our brain may be sensitive to the numbers. There may be a centre of the brain that grasps numbers easily. As numbers take less space than words, they are easy to assimilate by the brain.

A particularly interesting thing to note with numbered headlines is that rounded figures usually have an upper hand. Using 1000 instead of 999 is preferable. 999 is considered as a number in the 900s in our brain whereas 1000 is considered in 1000s although the difference between them is just 1. Hence, a round figure has a higher appeal and therefore, it is used very often in headlines.

3. Structured Articles

Many bloggers forget the importance of articles that can be scanned and skimmed with ease. Bloggers ruin their blogs by making these common mistakes of improper formatting and structuring articles into logical boxes.

Structured Articles are easier to read and understand. Some bloggers fail to put their point forward as they are not able to structure their ideas.

Articles with headlines are already divided into numbered blocks and hence, it is given that the articles will be available in structured form and they will be easier to interpret.

4. More the Merrier

The numbers in headlines are important. People always want more money and land. People are always wanting for more. An article without a numbered headline may seem as an article covering a single topic. On the other hand, articles having numbered headlines are perceived as articles covering more than one idea and hence, they have more information to offer.

The higher the value of the number, more is the appeal attached to it. An article with number 100 will be considered better than the article having a number 50 or 25.

5. Lucky Number

Some people might associate some numbers as their lucky numbers. These numbers, if found in articles are usually read by people who believe in lucky numbers. (7 is the classic example. It is considered by most.)

This is a just theory not a fact. You can have your own little theory about it.

What do you think is the actual reason behind this number obsession? Are you attracted to articles having numbered headlines?

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  • Yes I agree, numbered articles are more attractive.

    I think the reason is that it makes it easier to read. The structure becomes natural, and the article can be understood fully and easily.

    Also, numbered articles can have a goal list effect for the reader.

    A reader can relate to the numbers and act upon them and understand the topic one by one.


    • One and one techniques work for web design and coding tutorials

  • Pavel

    I agree about ease of reading. My strategy is often to read only headings and reasoning only if I don’t understand/agree with heading, that is how I can read 2 pages post in one minute and start thinking about including it in my strategy.

    In my opinion readability is the key thing here.

    • Readability: Yes, structured articles improve readability and so you are correct about this,

      Articles with Numbered headlines are more readable than others

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  • I’ve noticed that on my own blog, posts with numbers in the title seem to have an increase in hits over other posts, maybe we should start adding numbers in our posts a bit more often 😉
    .-= Karen @ Blazing Minds´s last blog ..Do You Share The Blog Posts That You Read? =-.

    • Yep, that is a good idea. But i would suggest you to have high numbers because they are even bigger attractions

  • Interesting I never even noticed anything like this. I will have to start paying more attention.

    Personally I don’t tend to visit article with numbers in the title but again now that I think about it perhaps I do.

    I will have to start paying more attention to this.
    .-= bbrian017´s last blog ..Twitter Discussions Continued: to follow or not to follow =-.

    • I think brian, this article might have shown you something unique, the numbers are a great attraction and if you haven’t used them, then try and you will see the benefits

  • Ya that’s the perfect 5 reasons. I like numbered article very much as u say. More the Merrier heading looks nice.
    .-= Mukundan Srinivasan´s last blog ..WordPress Theme Building Tutorials =-.

    • Same is the case, more the merrier is the key to attraction. I love long roundups and love more tips encapsulated in one article

  • Yes, you are right! Personally, i prefer to read the numbered headline article. It makes me to have the urge to read it. Thus, i tend to write the numbered headline article too.
    Thanks for your sharing Gautam! 🙂
    .-= KS Chen´s last blog ..Monday Blogging Amoeba – 14/6/2010 =-.

    • KS Chen,
      It’s good that you use numbered headlines your blog very often. Let me know what results you get with it

  • Yeah,
    numbers easily attracts users. Especially these ‘Top ten’ titles are great to suck traffic. Personally, I also prefer these type of articles since we can easily get what we want from there since it is listed separately. We can get a clear idea of the content just by taking a quick look at it.

    • Roshan,
      What do you think about odd numbers like 39, 7. Do they attract your attraction.

      Top ten titles are very popular, but nowadays it has become so common that sometimes people don’t even try to take a look at the article

  • It’s definitely due in part that when you see something like ’75 something something’ you can immediately detest that THIS is a definitive article and you don’t have to search for the individual ones.

    They’re the perfect posts to bookmark.

    However, the only problem with them is that few people actually go through and utilize all the resources of the post, ya know?

    • Murlu, you have nailed the point I was going to cover. The problem with these articles is that most people don’t see all the articles. Only the ones at the top get the maximum attention.
      Others are usually neglected.

  • lol, just to continue the trend, i’ll comment because i “Love” numbers. I like your 5 🙂

    • I do too! yes, I see a flurry of comments and I think people actually love talking about numbers too

  • Hi Gautam 🙂

    You made some astute observations here. Thanks for sharing.

    I always noticed that my number blog posts do better than others but never thought why this is the case. I agree with all points but #4 resonates with me. My higher number articles have topped google – 39 Reasons Why You….. – while my top 5 or 10 posts have never come close.

    Great stuff!


    • I have also got some of higher numbered articles into search engines. I think that is because of keywords and also lot of people linking back to your article.

      I think higher numbered articles sell like hotcakes

  • Visitors DO like numbers, but I think we should be really careful not to overdo it. It’s really easy to put up a 3 Ways To… post that is shallow and doesn’t add anything.

    You’re particularly good at it. 🙂 Not everyone is.

    • Christa,
      You shopuld not overdo with numbers and I believe that you should wait until you get a concrete article which has something really good to offer.

  • I think one reason why readers are attracted to numbers is because they are a bit random, kind of the opposite to the “1000 and 999” example. I think this is because of lucky numbers. Prime numbers, even if they aren’t “lucky”, just seem appealing to me. I’d probably be more attracted to 17 tips than 18, even if it’s on a very subconscious level.

    • ok, Karan, That is a different opinion.

      According to you, people are attracted to prime numbers. This can be a theory which attracts a lot of people towards prime numbers

  • CJ

    it’s so true man. Throwing a number in the title is a sure way to increase the amount of people who read the post.


    • Welcome CJ,

      Yed people commenting do believe in numbers and result is shown in the number of comments this article got

  • Great blog post Gautam,

    I agree with you, I’ve been playing with numbers a lot and they worked well for me, and yes odds numbers works best. Even for sales. For some reason. Must be like what you said “a brain thing” LoL!
    Keep up the great work guys

    • Good to know!

      Aaron, Numbers really work for twitter. Your articles are centered around twitter and I think numbers and especially odd numbers will work like a charm for your blog

  • Agree with your points, Gautam. But we can see to many numbered posts these days. In fact many are awesome collection and some use this trick for spamming 🙂

    • Binoy, you have hit the bull’s eye. Numbered post are spamming people

  • 100% I agree with you Gautam! I easily get hooked up with lucky numbers. Yep, it’s the Seven a’ight! 🙂

  • I think one of the reasons why we love numbered posts so much is because there is a definitive understanding of how much content we are choosing to observe. We also know it’s usually bite sized this way.

    • Seth,
      Good points. They do have a fixed number of ideas and hence. they set a certain expectation. Readers are certain that the content will be byte sized and will have at least the number of points mentioned in the title

  • rndtechnologies786

    Good view.