Tag Archive | "Headlines"

3 Simple Questions that Help You Craft Better Headlines

Writers are communicators. If you’re proud of your ideas, you want to be able to communicate them clearly and precisely….

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How to Craft Question Headlines that Don’t Flop

During last week’s Editorial call here at Copyblogger, we had a lively discussion about ham. But that’s not the H-word I’m going to talk about today. More commonly, we analyze headlines. There’s nothing more disappointing than a unique, thoughtful, and helpful piece of content that has a headline that doesn’t do it justice. Great content
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Writing Headlines that Serve SEO, Social Media, and Website Visitors All Together – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Have your headlines been doing some heavy lifting? If you’ve been using one headline to serve multiple audiences, you’re missing out on some key optimization opportunities. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand gives you a process for writing headlines for SEO, for social media, and for your website visitors — each custom-tailored to its audience and optimized to meet different goals.

Writing headlines that serve SEO, Social Media, and Website Visitors

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about writing headlines. One of the big problems that headlines have is that they need to serve multiple audiences. So it’s not just ranking and search engines. Even if it was, the issue is that we need to do well on social media. We need to serve our website visitors well in order to rank in the search engines. So this gets very challenging.

I’ve tried to illustrate this with a Venn diagram here. So you can see, basically…

SEO

In the SEO world of headline writing, what I’m trying to do is rank well, earn high click-through rate, because I want a lot of those visitors to the search results to choose my result, not somebody else’s. I want low pogo-sticking. I don’t want anyone clicking the back button and choosing someone else’s result because I didn’t fulfill their needs. I need to earn links, and I’ve got to have engagement.

Social media

On the social media side, it’s pretty different actually. I’m trying to earn amplification, which can often mean the headline tells as much of the story as possible. Even if you don’t read the piece, you amplify it, you retweet it, and you re-share it. I’m looking for clicks, and I’m looking for comments and engagement on the post. I’m not necessarily too worried about that back button and the selection of another item. In fact, time on site might not even be a concern at all.

Website visitors

For website visitors, both of these are channels that drive traffic. But for the site itself, I’m trying to drive right visitors, the ones who are going to be loyal, who are going to come back, hopefully who are going to convert. I want to not confuse anyone. I want to deliver on my promise so that I don’t create a bad brand reputation and detract from people wanting to click on me in the future. For those of you have visited a site like Forbes or maybe even a BuzzFeed and you have an association of, “Oh, man, this is going to be that clickbait stuff. I don’t want to click on their stuff. I’m going to choose somebody else in the results instead of this brand that I remember having a bad experience with.”

Notable conflicts

There are some notable direct conflicts in here.

  1. Keywords for SEO can be really boring on social media sites. When you try and keyword stuff especially or be keyword-heavy, your social performance tends to go terribly.
  2. Creating mystery on social, so essentially not saying what the piece is truly about, but just creating an inkling of what it might be about harms the clarity that you need for search in order to rank well and in order to drive those clicks from a search engine. It also hurts your ability generally to do keyword targeting.
  3. The need for engagement and brand reputation that you’ve got for your website visitors is really going to hurt you if you’re trying to develop those clickbait-style pieces that do so well on social.
  4. In search, ranking for low-relevance keywords is going to drive very unhappy visitors, people who don’t care that just because you happen to rank for this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should, because you didn’t serve the visitor intent with the actual content.

Getting to resolution

So how do we resolve this? Well, it’s not actually a terribly hard process. In 2017 and beyond, what’s nice is that search engines and social and visitors all have enough shared stuff that, most of the time, we can get to a good, happy resolution.

Step one: Determine who your primary audience is, your primary goals, and some prioritization of those channels.

You might say, “Hey, this piece is really targeted at search. If it does well on social, that’s fine, but this is going to be our primary traffic driver.” Or you might say, “This is really for internal website visitors who are browsing around our site. If it happens to drive some traffic from search or social, well that’s fine, but that’s not our intent.”

Step two: For non-conflict elements, optimize for the most demanding channel.

For those non-conflicting elements, so this could be the page title that you use for SEO, it doesn’t always have to perfectly match the headline. If it’s a not-even-close match, that’s a real problem, but an imperfect match can still be okay.

So what’s nice in social is you have things like Twitter cards and the Facebook markup, graph markup. That Open Graph markup means that you can have slightly different content there than what you might be using for your snippet, your meta description in search engines. So you can separate those out or choose to keep those distinct, and that can help you as well.

Step three: Author the straightforward headline first.

I’m going to ask you author the most straightforward version of the headline first.

Step four: Now write the social-friendly/click-likely version without other considerations.

Is to write the opposite of that, the most social-friendly or click-likely/click-worthy version. It doesn’t necessarily have to worry about keywords. It doesn’t have to worry about accuracy or telling the whole story without any of these other considerations.

Step five: Merge 3 & 4, and add in critical keywords.

We’re going to take three and four and just merge them into something that will work for both, that compromises in the right way, compromises based on your primary audience, your primary goals, and then add in the critical keywords that you’re going to need.

Examples:

I’ve tried to illustrate this a bit with an example. Nest, which Google bought them years ago and then they became part of the Alphabet Corporation that Google evolved into. So Nest is separately owned by Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Nest came out with this new alarm system. In fact, the day we’re filming this Whiteboard Friday, they came out with a new alarm system. So they’re no longer just a provider of thermostats inside of houses. They now have something else.

Step one: So if I’m a tech news site and I’m writing about this, I know that I’m trying to target gadget and news readers. My primary channel is going to be social first, but secondarily search engines. The goal that I’m trying to reach, that’s engagement followed by visits and then hopefully some newsletter sign-ups to my tech site.

Step two: My title and headline in this case probably need to match very closely. So the social callouts, the social cards and the Open Graph, that can be unique from the meta description if need be or from the search snippet if need be.

Step three: I’m going to do step three, author the straightforward headline. That for me is going to be “Nest Has a New Alarm System, Video Doorbell, and Outdoor Camera.” A little boring, probably not going to tremendously well on social, but it probably would do decently well in search.

Step four: My social click-likely version is going to be something more like “Nest is No Longer Just a Thermostat. Their New Security System Will Blow You Away.” That’s not the best headline in the universe, but I’m not a great headline writer. However, you get the idea. This is the click-likely social version, the one that you see the headline and you go, “Ooh, they have a new security system. I wonder what’s involved in that.” You create some mystery. You don’t know that it includes a video doorbell, an outdoor camera, and an alarm. You just hear, “They’ve got a new security system. Well, I better look at it.”

Step five: Then I can try and compromise and say, “Hey, I know that I need to have video doorbell, camera, alarm, and Nest.” Those are my keywords. Those are the important ones. That’s what people are going to be searching for around this announcement, so I’ve got to have them in there. I want to have them close to the front. So “Nest’s New Alarm, Video Doorbell and Camera Are About to Be on Every Home’s Must-Have List.” All right, resolved in there.

So this process of writing headlines to serve these multiple different, sometimes competing priorities is totally possible with nearly everything you’re going to do in SEO and social and for your website visitors. This resolution process is something hopefully you can leverage to get better results.

All right, everyone, we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Ask Yourself These 3 Simple Questions to Craft Better Headlines

answer these questions to write better headlines

Last week, when I wrote about how to become a writer, I forgot to mention something about why you’d want to be a writer.

Writers are communicators. If you’re proud of your ideas, you want to be able to communicate them clearly and precisely.

Headlines are your first opportunity to present your message to the audience you want to reach. The language you use should appeal to those people and make them want to find out more.

To review the next headline you write from the perspective of an editor who is focused on audience engagement, here are three simple questions you can ask yourself.

A guide to finding the right words

Once you’ve written a draft of your headline and article (or you’ve recorded a podcast episode or video), use the questions below to ensure your headline is the most effective it can be:

  1. Who will benefit from this content?
  2. How do I help them?
  3. What makes this content special?

The answers to these questions most likely won’t produce the exact headline you’ll use. Rather, they’ll help mold your headline draft into a persuasive message that reaches and connects with the people you want to attract to your content.

To keep the process of infusing your headline with meaning and fascination simple, I recommend answering each question in one to two sentences.

If you need to write more, recognize your opportunity to fine-tune your goal for the content before revisiting these headline questions.

Let’s look at the important information each question will help you cultivate and how the answers will transform your headline.

1. Who will benefit from this content?

As Brian wrote yesterday:

“The point is to bond strongly with someone rather than boring everyone.”

When you define your audience, you can review your headline to make sure you use language that intrigues those individuals.

For example, your target audience may be marine biologists who have a tendency to procrastinate.

If your headline only says, “10 Tips to Beat Procrastination,” you can look for ways to add words that will attract marine biologists. And you don’t have to explicitly announce, “Hey marine biologists who have a tendency to procrastinate, this content is for you!”

You could try:

10 Tips to Beat Procrastination Faster than a Black Marlin

(A black marlin is one of the fastest fish.)

2. How do I help them?

People don’t necessarily wake up in the morning excited to read content.

The promises that certain pieces of content make to expand people’s understanding or knowledge of a topic persuade them to read content throughout the day. The content may even change their lives.

Your tips might help marine biologists accomplish tasks faster, and if they can accomplish tasks faster, they’re less likely to put them off.

Here, you can add another benefit to the headline:

10 Time-saving Tips to Beat Procrastination Faster than a Black Marlin

3. What makes this content special?

You may now realize that while a lot of other articles focus on “beating procrastination,” your content is special because it shows how to simplify and organize your daily marine biology to-do list so that each task is manageable.

Now you’ll want to revise a few words from your original headline:

10 Time-saving Tips to Zip Through Your Work Day Faster than a Black Marlin

Custom-tailored headlines for your content

We started this exercise with the headline:

10 Tips to Beat Procrastination

The final result is:

10 Time-saving Tips to Zip Through Your Work Day Faster than a Black Marlin

If you’re a marine biologist with a tendency to procrastinate, which headline would you click on?

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5 Blissful Lessons These Nightmare Headlines Can Teach You

headline fail? tips and tools for better headlines

Let me ask you a strange question, dear web writer: do you ever lose sleep over your headlines — particularly the night before your content publishes?

I do.

At some point in the night, I’ll wake up and think:

“Oh my gosh, ‘rankle’ needs to come after ‘sunshine!’”

Or:

“Should Allen Ginsberg be in the headline? Will that turn people off?”

Here’s the funny thing: I’ve been at this for more than 15 years, and even though I’ve built up enough experience and knowledge to form a decent hunch about the effectiveness of my headlines, it’s still a guessing game.

An educated guessing game, of course. But there is a way to stack the headline odds in your favor.

How to stack the headline odds in your favor

Fortunately, we’ve got some great headline guidelines to work with. We can also look to our favorite media sites for inspiration. Here are a few of mine:

And don’t forget there are headline analysis tools available on the web that judge the emotional appeal of your headline. Here are two I’ve used:

All of these resources help us write better headlines, but how many of us go back and evaluate our headlines after they are published? Particularly the disappointing ones? What content marketing lessons could we learn?

That’s exactly what this post is all about. I did a postmortem on headlines that didn’t perform how I expected, including running them through the two headline analyzers above (which I didn’t do the first time around).

This was an interesting exercise. One I recommend you try yourself.

Some old truths were confirmed, but I also learned some new truths, too — lessons that will help you and me write better headlines … and even, possibly, sleep better at night.

Let’s take a peek.

1. Avoid words that people think are icky

Headline: The Worst Advice I’ve Ever Heard about Hustle

I was sitting on this idea about hustle for quite some time, specifically my frustrations with hearing the word every time I turned around.

And I was wondering if people were as annoyed as I was. Could I tap into that collective angst?

For those who don’t know, “I hustle” is just another way of saying, “I work hard.” Sometimes people say, “This is my side hustle,” meaning it’s work they do on the side.

But it can also mean to deceive: “I got hustled by that kindergartner.”

At the same time, I was toying around with a popular headline generator — one where you enter in three words and then it spits out a handful of ideas based upon a limited number of formulas.

After generating a number of unworkable ideas, I decided on the “worst ever” angle.

So, did it work? The answer is no, it didn’t. In terms of social shares, it’s easily my lowest-performing headline.

But how did it perform on the headline analyzers?

It didn’t even register on the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer. It gave the headline a score of 0.00 percent.

I ran it through three times because I thought there might be a mistake.

No mistake. It said:

Your headline either has no words that invoke emotional impact with people or the percentage of such words is so low as to be unlikely to make any emotional impact

Headlines with little or no emotional words rarely do as well as headlines with stronger emotional content. You can attempt to shorten your headline or use different words and analyze the new headline.

But I was confused. “Hustle” and “worst advice ever” seemed like emotional words.

Unfortunately, they don’t appear on this list of 50 trigger words.

And none of the words in the headline are on this list of the 5 most persuasive words in the English language. Perhaps I should have replaced “I” with “you?”

So, how did the headline perform on the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer? That was a different story.

I’m guessing one of the reasons it did well on the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer (68 out of 100) is because it’s short. It scored a B+ on word balance, which evaluates the percentage of words that are common, uncommon, emotional, and powerful.

The article got a lot of comments (43), so in some sense the content inspired those who took the time to read it. But I think I could have done better.

I took another crack at a headline and then tested it:

  • 6 Hard-to-Learn Lessons on the Art of the Hustle (22.22 percent and a score of 75).

The big lesson here is that the word “hustle” probably has some baggage. Most people don’t want to be considered a “hustler,” so they cut a wide path around this article.

What do you think? Do you have a better headline idea? Test it and let me know how it performs.

2. Go short

Headline: Why a Legendary Album and a Viral Hoax Should Inspire You to Create Content That’s Worth a Damn

This was one of those posts where I had a lot to say and was really excited about the concept. The problem was I had two completely different ideas running through my mind that I needed to join.

How were they going to come together?

Eventually they did, but as you can see, the headline is a masterpiece in long-windedness.

There are a few things going for this headline, though. It’s positive (“Inspire You to Create Content”) with a little spicy qualifier (“That’s Worth a Damn”).

It’s also one of those “Why” posts, which is supposed to trigger people’s curiosity. But we were simply asking readers to process too much information with “a Legendary Album and a Viral Hoax.” The headline is 19 words and 95 characters!

It scored a 56 on the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer and 22.27 percent on the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer, probably because it’s too long and too wordy.

So, what if I shortened it a bit?

  • Why a Legendary Album Should Inspire You to Create Content That’s Worth a Damn (35.71 percent and a score of 56)
  • Why a Viral Hoax Should Inspire You to Create Content That’s Worth a Damn (28.57 percent and a score of 67)

Both options are still too long.

In this case, I should have gone in a totally different direction, something like:

  • The Dos and Don’ts of Creating Powerful Viral Content (22.22 percent and a score of 68).
  • How to Become a Genius of Viral Content (37.50 percent and a score of 74).

Those two headline options are an improvement, but the big lesson here is to go short.

Do you have any ideas?

3. Polarize at your own risk

Headline: 5 Ways to Rankle an Old-School Journalist

I love this headline, personally, because I got to use the uncommon word “rankle” instead of “piss off” (which doesn’t sit well with some people). But it also has some other things going for it. It’s short and a list headline.

So, why didn’t it provoke more interaction?

Probably because Copyblogger’s audience doesn’t include a lot of journalists. If it were published on a site dedicated to journalism, perhaps it would have provoked more of a response.

I should point out that this article was published the week we closed comments on Copyblogger and there was a string of discussion on Google+.

How did it perform in the headline analyzers?

The Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer didn’t like it as much as CoSchedule did:

What would I change? I would probably take a different approach.

  • 5 Reasons Journalists Do Not Need to Be Afraid of Native Advertising (50.00 percent and a score of 72)
  • 5 Reasons Journalists Do Not Need to Fear Native Advertising (50.00 percent and a score of 70)

The original headline is negative. Almost a smear, with a sensational edge to it.

The big lesson I learned from this one is that it’s an article that draws a line in the sand. People take sides. I didn’t actually want to make journalists angry, though — I just wanted the article to stand out.

What do you think?

4. Increase uncommon, power, and emotional words

Headline: Finally … Site Analytics for Plain Folks

This was an announcement for one of our master classes in Authority.

It’s a short headline and it promises to offer a solution to a common problem: we all know we need to monitor and evaluate our website analytics, but doing it well is tricky.

So, the headline offered to teach readers how. But it was a wet noodle. It scored 16.67 percent on the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer and a score of 52 on the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer.

I may have needed to change that scary phrase “site analytics” and talk about benefits. Possibly.

The CoSchedule Headline Analyzer said I should increase the uncommon, power, and emotional words — my headline wasn’t balanced. Here are two stronger possibilities:

  • What to Do If Site Analytics Scare You (37.50 percent and a score of 66)
  • 12 Things to Do If Site Analytics Scare You (33.37 percent and a score of 68)

These scored well even when I kept “site analytics” in the headline. So, the big lesson? Give the headline more personal appeal by dishing out uncommon, power, and emotional words.

Could you do better? Drop me some ideas in the comments.

5. Offer a downloadable asset for an added bonus

Headline: Against Attention: The Pre-Thanksgiving Manifesto

You should have seen me the day this published. I was stoked. I knew people were going to pound the share button for their favorite social media site with this one.

Almost a year and a half later …

I guess they couldn’t find the share button.

What would have made me happy? I don’t know, something along the lines of the 13,000+ shares I got for the 10 Rules for Writing First Drafts.

But no, this article didn’t even break 1,000 shares. Let’s see if we can figure out why.

For starters, I wrote this “manifesto” because our obsession with getting attention frustrated me.

I also had a hunch there were thousands of people out there who were also frustrated. Now, I didn’t have any particular bitterness toward a single person when I wrote this one, but I’d seen a number of successful “Against [Blank]” headlines and wanted to try one.

Besides being Seth-Godin short and tapping into what I thought was a collective nerve, the other thing I thought this headline had going for it was the word “manifesto.” People like manifestos — brief, inspiring, anthem-like commitments to make the world a better place.

Finally, I was rooting for the underdog. The little guy! I was being sentimental!

And what better day to be against attention — that thing we could never get enough of and always wanted more of and kept us cranky when we didn’t have it — than the day before Thanksgiving, the day of gratitude?

The Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer gave it a 0.00 percent rating. The CoSchedule Headline Analyzer gave it a tepid 55.

The big lesson here? Perhaps shorten the headline to “Against Attention: a Manifesto.” More importantly, however, I’d offer a downloadable poster as well (which is probably one of the top reasons why “10 Rules for Writing First Drafts” was so popular).

And, of course, lower my expectations. Do you have any headline ideas for this one?

Use these 5 headline writing tips

So, let’s summarize the lessons we learned in this article.

  1. Avoid words that people think are icky (like “hustle”).
  2. Go short (19 words is entirely too long).
  3. Polarize at your own risk.
  4. Increase uncommon, power, and emotional words.
  5. Offer a downloadable asset for an added bonus.

In case you’re wondering, I did run this article’s headline through the headline analyzers. Here are the results:

So, do you have anything to add to this review? Any headline analysis tools you’d like to share? Any other lessons I should have learned? And do you lose sleep over your headlines?

Let us know in the comments!

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Free Report: “How to Write Near-Perfect Headlines In Minutes!” (Part 1)

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5 Data Insights into the Headlines Readers Click

Posted by Nathan_Safran

A Conductor study finds that the more explicit a headline is as to the reader takeaway, the more the headline resonates.

The new digital economy has created a wealth of new opportunity for modern marketers across search, social networks, and digital channels. Digital marketing has brought with it the opportunity to create leads, drive engagement, and drive sales at costs far less than traditional offline channels.

In some ways, though, online marketing has been victimized by its own success. Viral media site Upworthy’s co-founder Peter Koechley describes it this way:

“When we look at the media landscape, we see there being more of a demand problem than a supply problem — how do you get people to care about important stuff amidst the avalanche of content we all face each day?”

With the growth of online marketing, both the channels and volumes of content competing for our readers’ attention has exploded, making it increasingly challenging to stand out. Consider the following statistics:

  • Explosion in content competing for readers’ attention: A Day in the Internet shows that 2 million blog posts, 294 billion emails, and 864 thousand hours of video are created daily. Each day also brings 400 million tweets.
  • 80% of readers never make it past the headline: According to some sources, on average, eight out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only two out of 10 will read the rest.
  • Traffic can vary by as much as 500% based on the headline: According to Koechley, tests show that traffic to content at Upworthy can vary by as much as 500% simply because of the headline. “The headline is our one chance to reach people who have a million other things that they’re thinking about, and who didn’t wake up in the morning wanting to care about feminism or climate change, or the policy details of the election,” he said.

Measuring which headlines resonate with readers

Given how significant a headline can be to click-through rate in both search and social online channels, here at Conductor we decided to test different headline types to determine those that resonate most with readers. Although it would be interesting to measure this by analyzing actual click traffic (and we know that there can be a difference between how respondents say they will click and how they actually do), it can be difficult to precisely test by getting multiple headlines for the same article in front of readers. Taking the survey approach also gave us the ability to gather demographic data about respondents to determine if headline preferences differed across specific groups.

To start, we analyzed a large sample set of headlines across multiple online publications and social networks to determine if there are general ways in which headlines are written. We determined there to be five high-level headline types:

  • Normal (Ways to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful)
  • Question (What are Ways to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful?)
  • How to (How to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful)
  • Number (30 Ways To Make Drinking Tea More Delightful)
  • Reader-Addressing (Ways You Need to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful)

Using actual headlines from multiple content sources including BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and the Conductor blog as starting points, we showed respondents headlines written in each style for three different articles and asked them to select the headline that resonated most.

BuzzFeed is onto something with its headline choices

Before we dig into the findings, I want to draw your attention to content aggregator BuzzFeed and its quirky CEO, Jonah Peretti. A recent New York Magazine profile of Peretti describes how he began a study of what makes content resonate after accidentally creating a viral sensation as a graduate student at MIT (and later as part of the team that created the Huffington Post). “I’ve spent over a decade thinking about how ideas spread,” he says.

Close analysis of the front page of buzzfeed.com shows a number of things. First, what in the world is a boozy milkshake, and how could there be 26 different ways to make one? Second, and more to the point, they use ‘number’ headlines a lot. In fact, at the time of this writing, every other headline on the front page is in number format:

Turning now to our findings: As you have probably guessed by now, “number” headlines resonated most by far — a full 15% more than the second place “reader-addressing.” (More on what we think this means in a bit.)

Looking at headline preferences across gender groups, we can see that females were even more predisposed to “number” headlines than males. Interestingly, across all the questions we asked, this was the only one in which we saw any significant difference among demographic groups:

Superlatives: Either hit me with it or understate it

Next, we tested respondent tolerance for superlatives in a headline. We showed them several different headlines that had between 0 and 4 superlatives in the headline and asked them to pick their favorite:

  • The 27 Ways to Train a Dog (0 superlatives)
  • The 27 Best Ways to Train a Dog (1 superlatives)
  • The 27 Best Ways Ever to Train a Dog (2 superlatives)
  • The 27 Best Ways Ever to Train a Perfect Dog (3 superlatives)
  • The 27 Best and Smartest Ways Ever to Train a Perfect Dog (4 superlatives)

The data shows more than half of respondents (51%) like the understated approach, preferring to click headlines with 0-1 superlatives. Interestingly, tolerance for superlatives tailed off until the headline packed with 4 superlatives, which had a full quarter of respondents stating they preferred it. These findings suggest readers prefer an understated approach or that the author shoot for the stars and tell the reader in strong terms why their content is worth reading, but the middle ground is to be avoided.

One out of five respondents don’t seem to mind if you YELL AT THEM

Next we surveyed respondents about their headline capitalization preferences. Several headlines with distinct capitalization styles were shown to respondents and they were asked to select the one that resonated the most with them:

  • The 5 steps to prepare for the impending zombie apocalypse (lower case)
  • THE 5 STEPS TO PREPARE FOR THE IMPENDING ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (capitals)
  • The 5 Steps to Prepare for the Impending Zombie Apocalypse (sentence case)
  • No preference

The data showed that respondents strongly preferred sentence case, but, surprisingly, 1 out of 5 respondents preferred the more authoritative capital letters. As described above, there was little difference in responses across demographic groups. While we don’t recommend that content creators suddenly start writing their headlines in all capitals, it was interesting to see that a significant segment preferred that style. Otherwise, the group overwhelmingly preferred traditional sentence case.

Write headlines that leave no ambiguity

Although a follow-up study that thoroughly examines why certain headline types resonate over others would add greater insight for marketers and content creators, we can offer a hypothesis about what the research findings say about how to craft headlines.

As we started out saying, there has never been more content vying for reader attention — more channels, more content, more publishers all competing for our time and mind share. This means the modern internet user is forced to be more discerning about the headlines they click on, and is hyper-cognizant of where they are investing their time.

The commonality among the top three resonating headline types vs. the bottom two is that the more the headline type resonated, the more explicit the headline was as to what the reader was going to get out of reading the article.

Put another way, humans don’t like uncertainty. A headline like “30 Ways to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful” removes any ambiguity about what the article is going to do for me. It tells me exactly what I will and will not get from it: It is going to give me a specific number of ways to make drinking tea more enjoyable. This may be a reason why BuzzFeed has found such success with readers using these headline types.

Likewise, the second most popular headline type, reader-addressing, is also very explicit and direct about what I will get out of the article (Ways You Need to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful).

Contrast that with the least popular headline type, the question (What are Ways to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful?), which, perhaps given the phrasing, leaves in place a certain amount of ambiguity for the reader.

Conclusion: three essential tips when crafting your headlines

While we are not saying it makes sense for every publisher to try and become the next BuzzFeed, and we don’t think the data suggests a directive to publishers to write every headline in “number format,” we do think it serves as a reminder to publishers of the following guidelines:

  1. Don’t forget the headline!
    Too many content creators invest a great deal of time and energy creating awesome content, but then tack a “meh” headline on as an afterthought. Remember — 80% of readers never make it past the headline, so spend the extra bit of time to create a great one that grabs the reader’s attention.
  2. Be as explicit as possible about what your content will and will not do
    There are a bazillion pieces of content clamoring for your audience’s attention. Our data suggests that the clearer you can make your headline as to what the content will and will not do, the more that headline will resonate with your audience.
  3. Don’t forget to craft “headlines” in search, too
    The search results are no less of a “headline click decision” for your audience than other online channels. Make sure you are putting your best foot forward when enticing readers to click on your website in the search results by following rich snippet best practices, and by leveraging schema.org to include visual markup (shown to increase CTR in many cases). (This is a great resource for more information on implementing schema.org markup.)

At the end of the day — if nothing else — this research should remind us that headlines are at least as important as the content itself in capturing reader attention in both search and social. Content creators, be sure to give headlines proper attention before publishing content.

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7 Ways to Write Super Catchy Headlines

This is a guest post by Marissa Lowman.

Headlines are the lifeblood of web and landing pages. Ever since the <h1> tag was invented, they’ve been the most important copy on a page…making or breaking the story or idea being communicated. If there is one consistent finding in landing page testing, it’s that headlines play one of the most crucial parts in conversion. A good headline pulls readers in to learn more while a bad headline fails to resonate and loses readers instantly.

But writing great headlines is easier said than done. Unless you’re a professional copywriter, writing headlines is hard. It can be difficult to say exactly what you want while staying interesting at the same time.

writing

To help make writing your next web page headline easier, we’ve rounded up a bunch of powerful headlines and categorized them  for you so that you can start to see the inherent patterns in them. Sometimes all it takes is to find out which pattern works for you, and then writing becomes (ever so slightly) easier. Think of these headline categories in terms of personalities.

7 Types of Headlines

 

1. The Know-it-All – These headlines offer practical advice or tips.

2. The Teacher – These headlines teach you something you didn’t already know.

3. The Gossip – These types of headlines stir up controversy, pique your interest, and often have you asking “and then what happened?”

4. The Instigator – These headlines make bold statements, which may or may not be true, but they make you want to click to find out.

5. The Nay-Sayer – These headlines convince you that what you don’t know will hurt you.

6. The Campaigner – These headlines provoke people who have similar problems or issues to click on the articles and connect with other like-minded people.

7. The Connector – These articles show the connection between two seemingly unrelated things.

Have you come across any effective headlines lately? What category were they in? Why did you click on them?

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