I have experience as a copywriter, I take great pride in my headlines. But, now working at an optimization company, I see that all of my copywriting, and that means even my headlines, can be optimized.
But how? How do you write an effective headline to begin with? And how do you continue to improve those headlines?
Well, MECLABS CEO Flint McGlaughlin will be sharing some of our headline optimization discoveries at 4 p.m. EDT in today’s Web clinic – Headline Optimization: How testing 10 headlines revealed a 3-letter word that improved conversion more than major changes – with plenty of time spent on audience submissions as well.
But first we asked your peers for a few of their optimization tips. Here is some of our favorite advice (and if you have any ideas for a better title for this blog post, please let me know in the comments section)…
A formula for an effective headline
From our experience, what makes an effective headline is the combination of three elements:
- Valuable Offer/Proposition
- Keywords of your target market (i.e. what are their concerns and/or aspirations)
- Incentive; ideally with some urgency
Being the science folks, I know you’ll like the formula we use:
Great Headline = Valuable Offer/Proposition + Keyword(s) + Urgency Incentive
As an example of this formula, “Free eBook – Tells You 12 Secrets of Better Email List Hygiene”
Keywords = Email List Hygiene
Valuable Offer = 12 Secrets
Incentive = Free eBook
As mentioned in the MarketingSherpa Landing Page Handbook (plug for you), the key is to keep your headline 15 words or less as that is what someone can read in 2 to 8 seconds – the time they will give you.
I fully expect the gurus at MECLabs will be testing our formula…:o)
Wash, rinse, repeat
Even though the concept may seem simple and straightforward, in order to get the best results I recommend you do all of the following:
- Do your keyword research. All of your online activities should include a focus on the keywords that will bring in the best conversions (sales or leads). We first use Google’s External Keyword Tool, then run all of these through Market Samurai. Pick the keywords that have:
a. the most relevance to your business
b. the lowest competition
c. the highest SEO Value
d. the most traffic
- Test the headline with multiple tools available like PPC ads (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Adwords, etc.), landing page split-tests or email. Start with several headlines and the same
- If testing landing pages, set up a split-test using any of the available online tools. We use the free Google Analytics Split-Test tool.
- When you test, do it with headlines as the only variable. Test several that are completely different. You’ll get results that typically follow the Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule. That means that you’ll see great results in roughly 20% of the headlines, and marginal results in the others.
- Take the 20% that do well, dump the others. Create variations of that 20% and re-test.
In other words – wash, rinse, repeat. Be patient and you’ll get great results. That directly translates into more leads and sales.
Three keys to powerful blog post titles
Here is a Venn Diagram that we share with clients to help them build a mental framework for coming up with blog post titles and headlines:
Internally, we often use the ellipses to close out a strong headline that starts a compelling thought. We are wired to want to finish a thought process and the use of ellipses helps pull readers through the headline into the first couple of sentences.
We have tested this on emails and seen a statistically significant increase in open rates on subject line testing.
– Herb Jones, Gainesville Marketing