How To Create Headlines That Grab Attention And Convert

Michael Brenner on Dec 7, 2015 in Content Marketing

Your headline is often the first, and sometimes the only, chance to get your target customer’s attention. No matter how great your content may be, if your headline isn’t compelling enough for your prospects and customers to want to click through, it won’t get read or shared.

So what makes a killer title? The most important headline rule is that it should clearly communicate the value your readers will get by reading your content, and deliver on that promise. You have to make sure the content is what your readers expected and isn’t just an eye-catching clickbait. You want to leave readers with a positive experience that encourages them to explore your content more.

What else can you do to grab a reader’s attention? HubSpot and Outbrain analyzed more than 3 million paid link headlines from Outbrain’s network of 100,000+ publisher sites to find out what kinds of headlines can increase CTR, reader engagement and conversions, and this is what they found:

Headlines That Compel People To Click

Headlines with the word “who” generated a 22% higher CTR than those without it, whereas “why” titles saw a 37% drop. When it comes to getting people’s attention, focus on who and not why when writing your headlines.

People respond to visuals, so it’s probably not surprising that titles with the word “photo(s)” also performed 37% better than those without this word.

Titles with bracketed clarifications, which describe the type of content the headline represents, performed 38% better than those without one. An example would look like this: The Secret to Killer Content Marketing [Webinar].

Headlines That Make People Not Click

The study found that headlines with the phrase “how to” performed 49% worse than titles without it. Titles with the word “tip” also saw a drop in CTR by 59%. Similarly, headlines that used the words “trick,” “simple,” “secret,” “best,” “magic” and “amazing” also saw a decreased CTR.

As well, titles that spoke directly to the readers using words like “you,” “your” and “you’re” performed 36% worse than headlines without these words. Headlines that conveyed a sense of urgency, such as words like “need” or “now,” also saw a decreased CTR.

Wondering why these words are such a turn-off for readers? Their overuse by clickbaiters and publishers may explain why these once-popular keywords are ineffective – most readers no longer trust these words when used in headlines.

Headlines That Drive Reader Engagement

Once you have a reader’s attention and click, you want them to stick around and read more content on your blog or site. So what types of headlines can help you do that?

The word “amazing” was a click turn-off for most readers, but surprisingly the study found that using the word scored higher post-click engagement levels for those who do click through. While “amazing” may only be able to attract a smaller audience, they are likely going to be readers who are more engaged.

As with CTR, headlines with the word “photo(s)” also performed 59% better than those without it. As well, titles with bracketed descriptions performed 14% better than those without one. This goes to show that people will click and engage more if your headline is able to provide a clear picture of the value they’ll get out of your content.

Headlines That Dis-Engage Readers

Headlines that use positive or negative superlatives such as “worst,” or words like “need,” “tip,” “trick,” “simple,” “easy” and “secret” have a negative impact on engagement. For example, the words “worst” or “never” decreased page views per session by 59%.

Headlines That Convert

The ultimate goal of content marketing is to get your readers to take some action beyond their initial click, to engage with your content and ultimately convert into a customer. So what headlines can generate more conversions without being overly promotional?

While the word “need” hurts CTR and engagement performance, it actually drives conversion rates up. While it may feel pushy for many, it is what seals the deal for those who do convert.

Bracketed descriptions are also another headline winner, generating 112% higher conversion rates than titles without a description.

Optimal Headline Length That Works

The study also suggests that, if you’re trying to increase social shares, you want to keep your headlines shorter than 140 characters so they’re tweetable.

If you’re looking to rank in search, you want to use less than 65 characters so your headlines don’t get shortened in search results. You’ll also want to include the most important information early on in our title so readers feel compelled to click through and read.

As with everything else, what works well for one sector or industry may not work for another. You should always be prepared to test, iterate and see what works best for your content.

Looking for additional blogging tips? Here are 7 steps to writing the perfect headline and blog post.

Are you interested in engaging and converting new customer for your business? Contact me here and let’s talk about how we can help.

Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.
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