Do question headlines work?
This one worked well enough to make you read on …
Of course, you’re a sample size of one. That doesn’t make for a particularly convincing argument. But as I was working on the slides for today’s Web clinic – “Quick Win Clinic (Part 1): The 5 easiest changes to make to your landing pages right now” – I noticed that several of the experiments we are using to illustrate the “5 easiest changes,” include question headlines …
And all of them were examples of what NOT to do.
Let me show you what I mean …
Question Headline Experiment #1:
Question Headline Experiment #2:
Question Headline Experiment #3:
Seeing the question headlines in these tests is exactly what made me wonder whether there was something inherently wrong with question headlines. But before I go any further, I need to establish two caveats:
- The headline was not the only contributing factor in any of the three tests
- Just because question headlines didn’t work in these tests doesn’t mean they NEVER work
With that said, I thought it was more than a coincidence that three pages improved in performance when headlines were changed from questions to statements.
When I thought about it, I realized that it may not be the “question” nature of the headline that is contributing to their underperformance, but rather the company-centric focus.
These headlines are simply a micro version of the same problem writ large through the entire experience of the page—a lack of customer focus.
In each question headline, there is an intrinsic focus on the company itself rather than the customer:
- Why trade Forex with ForexTrading.com?
- Why do 10,000 Event Planners Choose RegOnline?
- Why Try Britannica Online?
In contrast, each winning headline focuses instead on the value the customer stands to receive:
- Get your free, no risk, no obligation $100,000 Forex Trading Demo Account
- Let your events manage themselves
- Get Unlimited Access to all 32 Volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica during your FREE TRIAL…
In the mind of the customer, it is not a matter of a question headline or a statement headline, but rather how quickly they can see the value of the offer on the page.
So do question headlines work or not?
Yes and no. There seems to be a correlation between question headlines and ineffective headlines, but I’m not so sure about causation.
I’d say question headlines are dangerous. When you set out to write a question headline, you risk delaying a promise of value that would engage the customer and give the customer a reason to read on.
But if you can write a question headline that is provocative and hints that there is something in the following material that the reader will want, then by all means, don’t rule out testing the question headline.
A quick note about today’s Web clinic …
The examples above are taken from the deck for today’s 4:00 PM EDT Web clinic: “Quick Win Clinic (Part 1): The 5 easiest changes to make to your landing pages right now.” If you would like to attend the clinic and learn more about simple changes you can make to your landing pages, simply register at that link.