How to Use Curiosity Marketing To Get More Clicks

Heard of Curiosity Marketing? Are you wondering how to create curiosity in your online content?

Today I received an email with the subject line… “6 Useful Things You Never Knew You Needed.” 

Yup, I clicked on it.

Do you know why?


If you can build curiosity into your headlines and subject lines, you’ll get more clicks and more reads. 

But how do you create curiosity?

That’s what I wanted to know, so started Googling and found myself reading about something Carnegie Mellon psychologist George Loewenstein calls the “Curiosity Gap.” 

Essentially the curiosity gap is when you discover that you’re missing some valuable knowledge.

For example, you read a subject line, blog post title, headline or call to action and you realise you don’t know what’s on the other side. This creates a sort of pain, and to relieve the pain you’ve got to click through and discover what you’re missing.

A follow up study from Caltech shows that curiosity increases to a point as knowledge increases, but then drops off.

It’s the lack of information that creates curiosity, and when a sufficient amount of information is received, curiosity decreases.

Let’s Make a Deal

Ages ago there was a television show called, “Let’s Make a Deal.” People would dress up in weird costumes and sit in the audience, hoping the host would notice them and ask them to play the game. 

When a contestant played, among other silly things they were asked to choose box a, b or c, or maybe doors 1, 2 or 3. There could be awesome stuff in those boxes or behind those doors, or it could be total junk. 

It was this curiosity gap that kept people watching, because they, too, had to know what was hiding behind the doors and whether or not the contestant chose correctly.

And those doors and boxes kept coming, too, so that it created a continuous rollercoaster of needing to know, finding out and then needing to know all over again. 

The show was silly, stupid and yet HIGHLY addictive.

Here’s everything you need to create curiosity on demand:

  1. To make someone curious, create a gap between what they know and what they want to know.
  2. To maintain that curiosity, drip out the information a bit at a time without giving away too much too fast.

Okay, that might be a slight oversimplification, but let’s look as some examples of how you might do this:

You can begin telling a story, pause at a climactic moment and delay the conclusion of the story until later – sometimes MUCH later. 

“As I hung in the air, my sweaty hands slipping off the concrete ledge, all I could think of was the sound my body would make when it slammed into the sidewalk 10 stories below. 

“But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s talk about…” 

You might connect two things that don’t make sense or provide an unexpected outcome. 

“How to double your sales page conversion rate using apple cider vinegar and a camera.”

You can withhold information for a period of time. 

“I’m going to reveal the exact 3 words that will make any man fall in love with you. But before I do, I need to tell you a story…”

And you might introduce something new that the reader’s existing knowledge or previous experiences cannot explain. 

“Instead of paying for traffic, get paid up front to drive traffic to your own website and your own offers.” 

Okay, seriously, I know I just made this last one up, but I need someone right now to figure out how this works because somehow it sounds like it could and I am SUPER curious about it, too. Aren’t you?

Curiosity Marketing
Curiosity Marketing

A Few Tips for Creating Curiosity

Keep a curiosity swipe file. Anytime a headline or first sentence provokes your own curiosity, copy and paste it into the file.

Make your information personally relevant. “The Secret Ingredient to Killer Brownies” is interesting, but “You will make the best brownies of your life with this secret ingredient” is more personal. 

Offer the promise of something worthwhile to the reader.

Use visuals to create mystery and curiosity. 

Be different – don’t use material easily found elsewhere.

Make the information tease interesting, enticing, eye-opening. If you can get them to ask, “What’s this??” and click, you’ve done your job.

Why is Curiosity Important to Your Marketing?

  • It increases clicks in your emails.
  • It gets people reading and consuming your stuff.
  • It increases engagement on social media.
  • It increases share on social media.
  • It gets people reading and consuming your stuff (Yes, I repeated that one. Can you guess why?)

Oh yes, and one more thing…

Curiosity BUILT Apple.

Steve Jobs was a MASTER at exploiting curiosity. He would hint about a new product, leak a product prototype and then embargo all official information between the demo and the product release.

People would go crazy with their own interpretations and speculations. They would discuss the new product on social media and create so much buzz, Apple had millions of people ready to buy before the product was even released.

Curiosity and the Stripper

If all you remember about creating curiosity is this, it will be enough to vastly improve your marketing skills:

Imagine two strippers. I leave it to you to fill in the blanks here.

Can you see the two strippers in your mind? Okay, have one stripper immediately remove all of his/her clothing. Ta-da! No build up, no curiosity, it’s all there for you to see. Realize this person isn’t a stripper, they’re an exhibitionist. ~yawn~

Now imagine the second stripper taking 20 minutes to remove his or her clothing. 20 minutes of teasing. 20 minutes of anticipation. 20 minutes of wondering which article of clothing is coming off next and what – if anything – is beneath it.

You already know what I’m going to ask… which one of these strippers did you essentially ignore, and which one did you pay attention to for 20 minutes? 

In marketing don’t be an exhibitionist, be a stripper. 

You might write that down and post it where you can see it. 

Then again, if you have a spouse, you might want to explain it before they find it. 😊

Subject Lines That Inspire Curiosity

No where else is it more important to inspire curiosity than in your subject lines. If people aren’t curious, they won’t open the email, read your message and click your link. It all begins with creating curiosity in those very few words they see in their inbox.

Here are a few subject line formulas to get you started. 

Simply replace the words in brackets with your own words.

For example, 

  • Kindly don’t [open this mail]

Could become…

  • Kindly don’t go to bed tonight, do this instead
  • Kindly don’t join unless you have what it takes
  • Kindly don’t run naked through the streets (I’d open that one!)

Here are the subject line formulas: 

[80] likes to [4358] likes – SAY WHAT?

[Black Friday shoppers] are the worst [customers]

[Everything you wanted to know about [sex] but were too afraid to ask

2 hours before [launch] and we are still scrambling

3 disgusting facts about [Christmas]

7 most popular [homes]

8 bizarre [money] habits that make millennials [richer]

A [dumb tip] and [knuckle headed spoof]

A faster way to [get more dates]

A surprise [gift] for you! 

A surprise [gift] inside

A very ~controversial~ [opinion]

Age old [dating] advice on [ramping up attraction]

Are you eating [poison?]

Are you making this [landing page mistake?]

Can you deal with [these situations?]

Check out my new [pics]

Did you hear [this story?]

Everyone’s gonna ask you about [these]

Exciting [announcement] (and special [invitation])

GREAT [news] here’s why

Happy birthday, [name of the person] Surprise inside

Hologram [underwear?]

Holy crap… [467,528?!?!]

How [name of the person] became a [digital marketer]

How to [Sleep]. [Sleep] for [Success]. Why [Eight Hours a Night] Isn’t Enough”

I was [right] – and that’s not good for you

I’m pulling the [plug…]

Important message (about [tomorrow’s big announcement])

Is this [you?]

Is this the hottest [career in human resources?]

Just wait till you see these [skirts]

Last chance to see [what’s inside Maxine’s shirt]

Last day to see [what this email is all about]

Last Day To See What [This Mystery Email] Is All About

Life gets crazy. So I [saved this for you]

Midnight deadline for [the witch’s heart]

New [customers] increased by [99 percent] in just [6 months]

Not Cool, [Guys]

Only Open If You Use [Toilet Paper]

Our most riveting [book] this month

Please don’t make this mistake in your [business]

POLL: Can you [answer this?]

Question about [your bathroom]

Research says that you will [live for 100 years]

Seriously, Who [DOES] This?

Shhh… Don’t tell [my wife]

SO excited — had to share! [Oprah] related 

Surprise! When [brushing your teeth] is Bad Advice

The [$1,000 hair trend] with a [dirty little secret]

The curious case of [Mary Typhoid]

The truth about [moving expenses]

The Two Possible Futures of [Virtual Reality]

This is how much [working from home] saves you

This is what your [neighbor] is doing this weekend

This REALLY [ticks me off]

This. Is. [It.]

We don’t normally [do this.]

We have got a [challenge] for you

We’ve been waiting for MONTHS to [announce this …]

Weekly alert: [wrongs] that prove you [right]

What [tasty treat] do they eat [in prison?]

What a [cat] can teach you?

What can you [afford?]

What if [you are wrong?]


Why will [this] change your life?

Why You Should Keep Your [Clothes] in the [Freezer.]

Yep, [that] just [happened…]

You NEED to see this [new eye treatment]

You’ll like [this one]

You’ll think I’m [crazy…]

You’re [Invited]

You’ve [Changed]

You’ve never seen a [suit] this color…

Your [fingerprints] are all over the place

Don’t Open [This Email]* 

*Note about this last one: I know it’s a popular one to use because it works. But for whatever reason, I NEVER open an email that says not to open it. 

I guess it’s because I know what the writer is doing, and I refuse to fall for it. However, if the email writer said something like, “Don’t Open Your Sock Drawer,” then I would totally open that email to see why not. 

Okay, that got you started with curiosity subject lines. Now let’s work on headline formulas for inspiring curiosity and getting your content read. Please be sure to test to see what work best for you.

The Best Headline Formulas to Evoke Curiosity

The X Best Ways to Get _______ Without _______

The 10 Best Ways to Get Ripped Without a Gym Membership

The 5 Best Ways to Increase Conversions Without Testing

You’re Running Out of _______! Here’s How to Fix It

You’re Running Out of Time! Here’s How to Avoid Missing Out

You’re Running Out of Energy! Here’s How to Feel Better Fast

We Need to Talk About _______. It’s a _______.

We Need to Talk About AI. It’s a Game Changer.

We Need to Talk About Your Business. It’s about to Double.

X of the _______ _______ You’ll Find Today

10 of the Weirdest Marketing Posts You’ll Read Today

X of the Most Dangerous Foods You’ll Find in Your Cupboard Today

What Never to _______

What Never to Eat on an Airplane

What Never to Say to an Angry Girlfriend

Try _______ And Get _______

Try This Technique and Get Lucky Tonight

Try Pole Dancing for Seniors and Look 30 Again (Ha! I crack myself up)

_______ Vs _______: Which Is _______?

Running Versus Cross-Training: Which Is Better?

Dog Versus Cat: Which Is the Best Pet?

Are You Still Doing _______? You Might Regret It

Are You Still Driving a 10-Year-Old Car? You Might Regret It

Are You Still in an Unhappy Marriage? You Will Regret It

Here’s What You Don’t Know About _______ That Could _______

Here’s What You Don’t Know About Electric Cars That Could Bust Your Budget

Here’s What You Don’t Know About SEO That Could Harm Your Business

I think you’ve got the idea, so for the rest of these I won’t use examples: 

How To [Accomplish Something] In [Short Amount of Time]

How To [Receive Benefit] Without [Undesired Expenditure]

How To [Accomplish/Benefit] In [Short Time Period] Without [Expenditure]

The Unbelievably Easy Way To [Accomplish Something]

The Guaranteed Method For Avoiding [Common Mistake]

10 Things [Something Interesting] Says About You

10 Little-Known Ways To [Accomplish Something]

How To [Accomplish Something] Like [Famous Example]

The Scientifically Proven Formula For [Accomplishing Something]

Is [Something Most People Do] Causing [Something Bad]?

What (Group or Celebrity) Can Teach You About (Industry)

9 Out of 10 (Group Members) Can’t/Don’t (achieve a certain goal). Are You One of Them?

Make Your First ($) Sale in Just (X) Hours (Watch Below to See How!)

Are You Still Wasting Money on (Relevant Noun) Without Anything to Show for It?

People Regularly Pay Me ($) for This Information – But You Can Have it FREE:

How to Make ($) With Your Computer, Step-by-Step.

How to Permanently Stop Your (undesired action), Even if You’ve Tried Everything!

Is (Subject) a Scam? Find Out If You’re Putting Your (asset) at Risk

How Your (trusted institution or professional) is Ripping You Off – And What to Do About It Right Now.

Recently Downsized/Fired (Profession) Reveals the Dirty Little Secrets to (getting result).

3 Little Known Factors That Could Affect Your (something important to reader).

7 Lies About (Product or Service): Believe Them At Your Own Risk

(Well Known Expert or Celebrity) Her Shocking Struggle With (Problem)

More Tips for Creating Curiosity in Your Marketing

  • Become a storyteller. Stories connect with people, and the best stories arouse curiosity in the listener.
  • Remember that people want to connect the dots and when they can’t, their curiosity is powerful enough to motivate them to take the next step, whether that’s opening an email, going to a link or reading further. 
  • When building curiosity, use your own words and be authentic. People trust others who seem real and are more likely to read your entire article or watch your entire video because you are authentic.
  • Spend time on Upworthy and Buzzfeed to see curiosity marketing in action.
  • People remember unfinished tasks better than finished tasks. For example, once you take out the garbage you forget about it. But until you do take it out, it’s nagging at you to get it done. Start your content with something that builds curiosity, but don’t finish it until later so that your reader remembers it.
  • Don’t confuse curiosity marketing with clickbait. Curiosity delivers on promises made, while clickbait doesn’t. Curiosity is satisfying to the reader or viewer because their curiosity is eventually satisfied, whereas clickbait is bait and switch – a promise of something fascinating is made but never fulfilled. Curiosity marketing uses truth, clickbait uses lies.
  • Curiosity leads to more page views and traffic, regardless of whether you use it on landing pages, blog posts, product pages or anyplace else. You simply must use curiosity if you want to be successful in your content marketing. 
  • Content is more likely to be shared and even go viral if it incorporates curiosity. The use of curiosity in marketing is no longer optional if you want to compete.
  • Combine curiosity with one of these six emotions and it will be remembered even after the reader closes the content:
    • Joy 
    • Anger
    • Fear
    • Disgust
    • Shock
    • Sadness
  • Using curiosity in your marketing will increase brand awareness and credibility.
  • While curiosity in ads increases clicks, you’ve got to be sure you’re still precisely targeting your ideal customer and not people in general or you might get lots of traffic and few sales. 

The 3 steps to stimulating curiosity are:

1: Violate the expectations of your target audience. 

Curiosity is stimulated when common beliefs are challenged. 

For example, “Improve Your Conversions with a Good Landing Page” doesn’t challenge anything the audience doesn’t already know. 

Compare that headline with, “This Diabolically Simple Landing Page Tweak Increased Profits by 50% in 15 Minutes.” This headline contains information your readers do not expect, and thus provokes curiosity.

2: Entice them with the knowledge gap

Because curiosity is inconsistent from one person to another, you’ve also got to convince your readers that their knowledge doesn’t include what you have to offer. People think they know more than they do. 

Thus, if your headline is, “5 Social Media Tips You Should Know,” a portion of your audience won’t feel a need to click the link because they’re confident they already have this knowledge.

But if your headline is, “5 Upside Down Backwards Social Media Tips from a Cranky Social Media Billionaire,” you’ll open up a knowledge gap. Upside Down? Cranky Social Media Billionaire? I’ve got to read this.

3: Know when to conclude

A reader’s or viewer’s curiosity doesn’t last forever. Have you ever been watching a sales video that promised some great secret you were dying to know, but 15 minutes later they still hadn’t told you what it was or given you an ounce of usable information? Odds are you closed out the video. 

I know I closed it, and I wasn’t too pleased with the product seller, either.

You can let your reader know the answer they seek is coming, ‘but first you need to cover some other, related ground.’ 

As long as you keep it interesting and informative with each sentence enticing them to read the next, they’ll stick with you for a time. Just don’t wait forever to close the curiosity gap.

And as you get better at working with curiosity, you’ll learn to open a new curiosity gap the moment you close the previous one. Fiction authors use this tactic all the time to hold readers spellbound through hundreds of pages of storytelling.


Curiosity is an incredibly powerful motivator, and it can be leveraged in your digital marketing strategy to increase engagement and website traffic. By understanding how curiosity works and using the right tactics, you can create a sense of intrigue that will have people coming back for more.

Curiosity is a powerful emotion that can be used to drive online traffic and conversions. By understanding how to create curiosity in your digital marketing, you can tap into one of the most basic human emotions. If you’re struggling with ways to increase web traffic or want help creating curiosity-driven ads and content, get in touch. I would be happy to share my expertises and help you take your business to the next level.

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