Here at Outbrain, we’re obsessed with testing, iterating, and finding the headline(s) that will make campaigns successful.
Moreover, with PPC services – unlike impression-based ones – there is rarely a downside to testing multiple creatives for a single piece of content.
That means it’s in your best interest to test, test, and test some more until you find the headline that accomplishes two things:
- Achieves a high CTR
- Draws in the right audience (more on that in my first post)
We sit on plenty of content consumption data and have published research with best practices for what kind of headlines work best in our system. But our data is not the only data, and we understand that Outbrain is just one part of the marketing mix.
Content marketers, in addition to wanting to know which types of headline will work well on paid platforms, also want to know which types of headlines will work well for their blogs, for SEO, and for social.
To further our research on headlines and to develop some best practices around the art of writing them, we turned to CoSchedule, a full-service content marketing, and social platform that enables solo bloggers and large companies to easily plan and publish content, create editorial calendars and optimize social media scheduling.
Headline Writing as a Competitive Sport
One of our favorite things about CoSchedule is their popular “Headline Analyzer,” which rates headlines on a scale from 1 to 100, and helps differentiate perfect headline for blog posts, social shares, SEO, and engagement.
While writing this post, I began to think about what the title would be.
My first effort, “It’s Near-Impossible to Write the Perfect Blog Post Headline, But Here’s How to Get Close,” while likely to intrigue readers, was way too long.
I needed to cut down on length and get more creative.
So I did.
My favorite headline was also one that I thought would score better: “Writing the Perfect Blog Post Headline: Get Creative or Die Tryin.”
And yet, my homage to 50 Cent and his best album failed to even crack a 60:
Like a good content marketer, I kept on testing, producing my best effort (and the title of this blog post): “How to Write an Outstanding Blog Post Headline,” which scored a 74 with the Headline Analyzer.
Here were some of my other attempts:
So what factors actually won the title of this post a 74?
It is an ideal length (CoSchedule recommends under 55 characters and six words) and incorporates a good mixture of common, emotional, and power words.
It is also a “How to” headline, which, along with list and question headlines, tend to perform extremely well.
On the downside, my headline lacked uncommon words, which brought the score down:
If you think you can beat my score of 74, give the extremely addicting Headline Analyzer a shot and comment in this post with your result.
According to CoSchedule an ideal mix looks like this:
Common words: 20–30% of your headline
Uncommon words: 10–20% of your headline
Emotional words: 10–15%
Power words: at least one
Takeaways for Marketers
Keep Testing or Die Tryin’
All right, that didn’t work as a headline, but how about as a sub-headline? No? Fine.
But here’s the thing: PPC networks generally allow you to test as many creative variations as you have the time to submit. It is in your best interest to continue to test until you find the creative that drives the highest CTR or conversion rate.
To effectively capture your audience’s attention, be efficient
How succinctly can you capture the message you want to deliver?
When it comes to headlines (and most other things), “less is more.”
Try headline variations as you would normally write them, and then go through the exercise of eliminating two to three superfluous words. It’s not easy, but you will likely find shorter permutations to be more effective.
Aim for 100, settle for 70+
Here’s a secret: In a follow-up post, which will feature my interview with Nathan Ellering, Content Marketing Lead of CoSchedule, you’ll learn that achieving a 100 is near-impossible and that anything higher than a 70 meets the criteria for a great headline.
Use the Headline Analyzer as a guide, but don’t get bogged down by it, and consider a strong mix of common, uncommon, emotional, and power words — keep them relatively short, rinse, and repeat.
Have you ever used CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer? What was your experience like? Can you beat my score of a 74? If so, share you results in the comments.