The most important question in business used to be “What price will make customers buy?” But pricing decisions are quickly becoming a dynamic function of big data analytics that takes place way up in the cloud. Today, the big question in business is “What headline will make people click?”

When I first started blogging for CNET way back in 2007, I never imagined how important content — or a clickable headline — would become. But as a marketer, I instinctively knew it was time to experiment, so that’s what I did. It didn’t take long to figure out what worked and what didn’t.

An editor at CBS, which acquired CNET Networks for $1.8 billion in 2008, once said I had a gift for clickable headlines, but there’s really no trick to it. It’s simply trial and error. Here’s what I’ve learned that makes people click, along with examples — some of my very first posts from back in the day when all this was new:

Questions. Like when you were a kid opening up a box of crackerjacks or cereal to find the prize at the bottom; as long as it’s a question they want to know the answer to, people will click.

Are you creating your own workplace stress?

Is there a smart home in your future? 

Trending names. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk … people and companies trending at the time.

Can Jerry Yang fix Yahoo?

How Jobs dodged the stock option backdating bullet

Numbers. Don’t ask me why, people click on numbers. Still.

Ten qualities executives seek in up-and-comers

Top 10 technology flops

Hacks. They didn’t call them ‘hacks’ back then, but stuff lazy people can do to get ahead.

Snooze your way to a better career

Thinking of quitting your job? Try getting fired instead

Entrepreneurship. Who knew?

Why start-ups fail

Whinefests. Everyone loves to commiserate about bossholes, work, relationships, etc.

Climbing the corporate ladder sucks

Do you have a dysfunctional workplace?

Train wrecks. Make us feel better about our own miserable existences.

Post-IPO disasters

What motivates rich, powerful CEOs to commit corporate fraud?

Over-the-top statements. Wait, what?

Work can kill you

Bluetooth implants: Why not?

Controversy. Trending topics help, of course.

Is political correctness screwing up the workplace?

Make green tech, not green legislation

Tech. Always.

Are we addicted to gadgets?

Why the iPhone scares the crap out of me

Humor. Sort of hit or miss, but sometimes you get lucky.

Gift ideas for your dysfunctional boss

Hope you enjoyed the little history lesson. Remember, no clickbait: the content must always deliver on the headline’s promise. More on that another time … maybe next week.

Image credit tinker tailer Flickr