What draws people to your content?
One of the simplest ways to boost your conversion rate is by tweaking your headline copy.
In the past, I’ve explained how to write introductions that make the rest of your post irresistible. But before readers can even have a chance to read your intros, they’ll need to click on your headline.
Headlines go way beyond just blog posts. This is something you need to focus on for every piece of content you produce.
Whether it’s a new video on your website or a breaking news story you’re sharing via social media, it all starts with a captivating headline.
Obviously, you want people to consume the content you’re producing. But the reality is they probably won’t. According to research from HubSpot, 43% of readers just skim through posts.
But if your goal is to get clicks and drive traffic to a landing page, all you need to do is focus on the title.
That’s because 80% of people will read a headline. So there’s a good chance your headlines will be seen by most of your audience. Now, it’s just up to you to make sure it’s appealing enough to get clicks.
So, how can you boost your conversion rate through headlines? Well, there are 16 simple strategies you can test:
1. Solution selling
People are looking for your product or service because you are offering a solution to their problem. If you can clearly identify what their problem is and represent the solution as well as the benefit in the headline, you are likely to increase your conversion rate.
MarketingProfs did a headline test in which they tried solution selling. As a result, they were able to boost their conversion rate by 28%.
Solution selling only works if you know phrases and key words that resonate most closely with your customers. The easiest way to figure out what words your customers like is to survey them. Here are a few questions you can ask them:
- What’s the biggest problem we can help you solve?
- What are you looking for in your ideal solution?
2. Use the word “free”
Who doesn’t like free stuff? For that reason, you should consider using the word “free” in your headlines, assuming you are offering something for free such as a “free trial”.
Highrise did a test in which they added the phrase “free trial” to their headline and boosted their conversion rate by 30%.
If your product or service doesn’t offer a free trial, you can also use pricing phrases within your headline. For example, on Crazy Egg, we found that having the phrase “without the high costs” in our headline converts better than using the phrase “free trial”.
People don’t want to commit to anything they aren’t too familiar with. By reducing their commitment through free trials, reduced prices or even money back guarantees, you can increase your conversion rates. Consider using any one of these three tactics within your headline copy.
3. Create a comparison
We used this tactic with KISSmetrics to boost our conversion rate by 40%. We related our product to Google Analytics, a product with which all of our potential customers are very familiar.
By comparing ourselves to a product our potential customers use, we helped them figure out what we do within seconds. This is the main reason our conversion rate increased.
We also tested a few other headline variations, but the “Google Analytics tells you what happened, KISSmetrics tells you who did it” variation won by 40%.
When you are creating your headline copy, consider testing a version that compares your company against others in your market place.
4. Does your headline match your advertising?
If you create a deceiving headline in hopes to boost your conversion rate, it can potentially hurt.
Your headline shouldn’t just match your body copy, but it should also match your advertising. If the majority of your traffic comes from paid advertising, test unique headlines that are related to specific adverts.
California Closets did a test with their headline, in which they decided to create a variation that was more related to their advertisements.
Can you guess what the end result was? A 115% increase in conversions! That’s huge.
In an ideal world, each of your advertisements should be pointing to a landing page that has a specific headline tailored to your ad.
5. Make your headline a testimonial
This may sound a bit unconventional, but turning your headline into a testimonial could boost your conversion rate.
LKR Social Media did an A/B test in which they turned their headline into a testimonial. This resulted in a 24.31% increase in their conversion rate.
Here is what the original headline looked liked:
And here is the testimonial version:
By changing the headline to “Yours is the only newsletter I actually read”, the company made people feel like they were missing out if they didn’t subscribe to the LKR newsletter.
If you are going to test this approach, make sure you don’t use a really long testimonial as your headline. A headline is supposed to gain someone’s attention and make him or her want to learn more… you can’t do this by having a headline that is a paragraph long.
6. Tell them what they get
Sometimes the straightforward approach is the best one. CityCliq decided to take this approach versus the solution selling approach.
They tested multiple headlines such as:
- Businesses grow faster online!
- Create a webpage for your business.
- Get found faster!
- Online advertising that works!
They found that the straightforward headline of “create a webpage for your business” works better than the solution of “get found faster”. The end result was an 89% increase in signups.
You don’t always have to come up with a creative headline to boost your conversion rate. All you have to do is to tell people what you do in a straightforward and simple fashion.
7. Sequence your headlines
It’s very rare that your conversion funnel only consists of one page. Typically you’ll have a few pages… For example, Crazy Egg has a homepage, pricing page, signup page, and a thank-you page.
In other words, the Crazy Egg funnel consists of four steps, which means there are at least four headlines on that site… one headline per page. By making sure your headlines flow with each other, you are more likely to increase your conversion rates.
The Obama Administration tested sequential headlines during their campaign in which the headline in the second step of their funnel was highly relevant to the headline in step one.
The end result was a 21% increase in conversions. What you should learn from this is that the headlines on each step of your funnel should flow together.
8. Don’t forget sub-headings
Jumpbox did a test with their ads to see if having an ad with a headline converted better or worse than an ad with a headline and sub-heading.
Here is the original version of the ad:
And here is the variation:
Can you guess which version converted better? The version with the sub-heading boosted click-through rates by 88%.
When you are A/B testing, don’t forget to test having a sub-heading versus not having one. In addition to that, test multiple variations of a sub-heading because some may work better than others.
9. Curiosity sells
I used to use a free trial based headline that converted well. The headline was: “Learn how to double your traffic in 30 days for free”, and I couldn’t come up with a variation that would beat it.
My buddy suggested I try this headline instead: “When Amazon, Viacom and NBC need more traffic to their website this is who they call”. Can you guess what the result was?
31.7% increase in conversions. I was shocked considering my original headline made a promise and stated it was “free”. But it didn’t convert as well as the headline that evoked curiosity.
Just because something is working well for you doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement.
10. Time-based headlines
People don’t want to go through a lengthy signup process. And they don’t want to use a product or service that’s complicated and time-consuming.
Within your headlines, you can convey that your signup process is short and that your product it easy to use.
With Crazy Egg, we tested a time based sub-heading that told you our product is easy to use and the signup process is short.
The sub-heading “View your heatmap & get started in less than 60 seconds” boosted our signup conversion rate by 16.2% compared to the sub-heading “You’re just 1 step away from viewing your heatmap”.
11. Include a number
Numbers are a great way to draw attention to your post and increase clicks. That’s because readers know what to expect when they see a number in the title.
I use them when I’m writing my blog posts all the time. Here’s a recent headline I used for an article about how to monitor your competition.
When someone stumbles upon this headline, they know exactly what the post will entail. Basically, it’s going to be a list of 10 different tools.
As I mentioned, readers like to skim through content. Lists are appealing because they make it easy to bounce from one point to another.
The reader doesn’t have to read every single word to scan through this list. As a result, they are more likely to click on it.
But what numbers should you use? According to research-based 2017 Facebook engagement data, these are the top ten performing numbers:
Numbers that are increments of five make up four of the top five results on this list.
But that doesn’t mean you should include numbers like 50 or 100. As you can see, none of the top ten results include numbers higher than 20.
That’s because people don’t want to spend all day reading your content. They know it will take only a few minutes or so to skim through a list of 10. But anything upward of 20 is much less appealing and won’t produce as many clicks.
12. Don’t overlook the length
Don’t ramble. Your headline shouldn’t be as long as an introduction. But it shouldn’t be only a few words either.
One sentence or fragment of a sentence should put you in a good spot to get clicks. That’s because it provides your audience with enough information to grab their attention.
Research shows that headlines between 16 and 18 words produce the most engagement:
Analyze your current headlines.
If they are fewer than ten words, it could be the main reason why you’re getting an unsatisfactory number of clicks. On the flip side, if your headlines have a word count that’s pushing 30, it’s still not optimized for the highest engagement.
Don’t get carried away here. Your headline needs to make sense and read well.
Adding or removing a couple of words just to fit within the 16 to 18 range isn’t going to help you if the title doesn’t make any sense.
In addition to your word count, you should also consider the number of characters in your headline.
Take a look at the data analysis in this article from Contently:
As you can see from the graph, headlines with the highest click-through rates have between 90 and 99 characters.
Interestingly enough, the title of this post is,
According to a study, There’s a Good Chance You’ll Click This Headline Because It’s 97 Characters.
The character count falls within the recommendations of the research.
Have you noticed anything else about this title? I’m sure you’re not in the habit of counting words. Truthfully, I’m not either. But for the sake of this post, I’ve been paying more attention to this.
The article from Contently has 16 words in the title. This aligns with the research on word count and its relationship to engagement I talked about earlier.
It hits the mark for both categories.
Basically, if you can write headlines that are between 16 to 18 words and have 90 to 99 characters, you’ll be putting yourself in the best position to get the most possible clicks.
13. Shock your audience
Come up with a headline that is too intriguing for readers to pass up on.
Make your audience ask themselves “huh?” or “is this even possible?”
Shocking headlines are sometimes referred to as click-bait. It’s okay to do it as long as you are not letting your readers down with your content.
Here’s what I mean by this. If you are going to use a shocking headline, the content had better deliver as promised.
Take a look at this old blog post I wrote about how I made $1 million with a Ferrari:
What a throwback picture! I almost don’t recognize myself with all that hair.
But this is the type of article that generates clicks because the headline is so shocking. It draws the attention of readers for several reasons.
First of all, a Ferrari is a well-known sports car recognized internationally. They are expensive and turn heads whenever they are seen on the road.
Second, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be interested in how to make a million bucks. And there’s a way to make money with a sports car? The title is too intriguing to ignore.
It makes the user question if that’s actually possible.
You can come up with headlines like this as well. Think of something exciting you’ve accomplished. Put it into your headline.
14. Set a benchmark
Another way to get people to click on your headlines is to use a benchmark.
Show them how they can achieve something by clicking on your post and reading more information. For example, let’s say your company sells dietary supplements.
A benchmark headline could say,
How you can lose 30 pounds in the next 30 days.
This strategy combines the benchmark method with the previous tactic of using a shock factor. Losing 30 pounds is extreme on its own. But doing it in 30 days? That’s something that even people who aren’t trying to lose weight would be interested in reading.
Just make sure your headlines are realistic. You want to set a benchmark that’s attainable.
Check out this example
The benchmark here is 10,000.
It’s a high number, but it’s still realistic. If the title said, “How to get 10 million Twitter followers,” it would be much less believable.
For most people, reaching 10 million followers on social media is unrealistic. I know my blog audience. I’m speaking to entrepreneurs and business owners, not celebrities.
I set this benchmark at a number I think they can reach.
15. Discuss relevant topics
Your headlines need to be relevant to a few different things.
First of all, they need to be appropriate for your brand and voice. If your business is in the music industry, you shouldn’t be writing headlines about how to survive an earthquake.
Yes, that example may be a bit drastic, but I’m sure you understand what I’m talking about.
Second, your headlines must be relevant in terms of their timing. If you’re reporting a news story that happened two weeks ago, you’re too late. That headline is meaningless now.
Here’s a great example of a relevant headline from Harper’s BAZAAR:
As a magazine that specializes in fashion trends, pop culture, and beauty advice, it uses a headline on topic for the brand. It hits the mark for our first component of relevance.
This article discusses fashion trends for the spring and summer of 2018.
But notice when it was published. The article was released on February 22, 2018. So the timing is perfect as well.
If it came out in the spring or summer, it would be too late. Readers aren’t going to click on something that’s old news. The time to buy their spring and summer clothing is before the season starts.
16. Teach your readers “how to” do something
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m a big fan of creating informative guides teaching you how to do certain things.
If you are an expert in a particular field or industry, use your extensive knowledge to your advantage. Create step-by-step guides for your readers.
In addition to being informative, such posts are also a great way to get lots of clicks.
Here’s something else you need to take into consideration. Sure, you’ll be sharing your content on all your distribution channels. But that’s not the only way your content will be seen.
You’ll also need to write headlines based on organic traffic. Your organic traffic comes from unpaid search engine results.
If someone needs help accomplishing something, what do you think they’ll type into Google? There’s a good chance they’ll type the words “how to,” so it’s in your best interest to include these words in your headlines for SEO purposes.
Take a look at this article from BuildFire:
First of all, the content of this article is relevant to the brand—a topic I discussed above.
But based on this headline, it’s clear the post will show people how to do something.
BuildFire specializes in everything related to mobile applications. More specifically, they handle custom app development.
So they recognized the search terms someone would put into Google. Here’s a look at what I’m referring to:
Aside from a paid advertisement, this post from BuildFire is the top search result based on its headline.
If you can master your SEO skills, you’ll get plenty of clicks just by occupying the top position on Google. In fact, in 2017 the top position received 20.5% of all Google clicks.
Those click-through rates drop down to 13% for the second and third positions, which is still good but a significant drop from the top spot’s rate.
If you want people to read your content, you need to entice them to click on your headline before you can do anything else.
Some of the headline ideas I showed you above may boost your conversion rate, while others may not. Don’t just assume that what works for one site will work for you even if that site is in the same space.
Writing a headline shouldn’t be taken lightly. There is science behind it.
You need to continually A/B- test your headlines, and you need to do it in a logical way. The last thing you want to do is to pull headline ideas out of your butt and test them. If you do, you’ll just end up with a lot of losing tests. Instead, you need to survey your visitors, get an understanding of what they want to see and then show it to them.
If you follow this guide and start testing, you’ll see a significant surge in your click-through rates based on your new and improved headlines.