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FutureNow Article
Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2007

Top 10 Ideas for Testing Your Headlines

By Josh Hay
February 13th, 2007

Icon___Headline.jpgWebsites have tons of elements you can test. Some elements will have very little impact on your ability to persuade and convert your site visitors. Others will have a dramatic impact. Of course you’d like to know which elements rank among the most influential when it comes to your bottom line.

We’ve spent the month of January working on Quick Start Guides that can help you understand which elements have the biggest effect on your conversion rates and how to test them using a simple A/B (or split) test: we now have a guide for retailers and one for lead generation. And we’ve also been working closely with Google to create a 10 Minute guide for their Website Optimizer.

When we created our example test for Google’s nifty (and free) online testing tool, we chose a headline. When it comes to the persuasive copy you create for your website, headlines should rank as one of your highest priorities.

Why are headlines so important? They are among the very first elements of your persuasive process with which visitors actively engage. Readers of your pages use headlines and sub headlines (headers and subheaders) to understand the content on a page and decide if they want to read more of your copy. Headlines aid in the visual task of scanning and skimming, which helps your visitors organize the information you present. Worded appropriately, they encourage your visitors to go deeper into your persuasive copy.

How do you go about creating highly persuasive headlines? What sorts of things about headlines can you test? These are the same questions the Google folks asked us. So, for our documentation, I created a list of ways you can test your headlines. Below is an excerpt of the top ten, with examples.

1. Test fractions or percentages to prove your claim

Nine out of ten children in Sub-Saharan Africa have HIV

90% of the children in Sub-Saharan Africa have HIV

9/10 of the children in Sub-Saharan Africa have HIV

2. Test asking questions in the headline (make sure you directly answer the question after the headline)

Make a difference in the life of a child

Do you want to make a difference in the life of a child?

Can you make a difference in the life of a child?

Will you make a difference in the life of a child?

3. Test using emotional-laden words

Bring comfort and solace to the life of a poverty-stricken child

4. Test different types of formatting: bolding, fonts, colors, capitalizations, sizes

Make a Difference in the Life of a Child

Make a difference in the life of a child

Make a difference in the life of a child

MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIFE OF A CHILD

MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIFE OF A CHILD

5. Test the number of words used in the headline

Make a difference in the life of a child

Make a difference in a child’s life

6. Test using exclamation points

Make a difference in the life of a child

Make a difference in the life of a child!

7. Test using text to convey the benefits versus the features of your products or services

Your donations help us make a difference

Your donations bring medicine to the needy and support research

Your donations go directly to the front lines in the global war against AIDS

8. Test self-focused (we/I) versus customer-focused text (you)

We help make a difference in the life of a child

You can help make a difference in the life of a child

9. Test using quotations in the headline (consider the length of the headline)

President Bush has committed to make a difference

President Bush has committed “to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations”

10. Test the reading level of the headline

Few receive pediatric antiretroviral treatment (Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level = 12)

Few get appropriate medical help (Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level = 9.9)

Few get the medicine they need (Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level = 2.4)

Writing good headlines is an art. It takes time, practice, patience. It also takes knowing what works best for your audience (which is not always what you think will work best for them). When you test your headlines, you’ll be able to add knowledge of your audience to your copywriting equation. And that’s when your headlines will be at their persuasive best!

Good luck and let me know how your testing goes.

Add Your Comments

Comments (36)

  1. [...]Top 10 Ideas for Testing Your Headlines[...]

  2. SearchCap: The Day In Search, Feb. 15, 2007…

    Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web:……

  3. [...] Top 10 Ideas for Testing Your Headlines Good headlines will make or break content. A so so post with a hot headline and introduction might carry you through. (tags: blogging) [...]

  4. This is helpful in terms of crafting a compelling headline, but where’s the info on how to test it? Is that in the ebooks?

  5. Rich,

    We do go into more detail in the testing framework in our ebook. However, we also give quite a bit of detail on how to set up a test using Google Website Optimizer which we reference in the post. You can get it at http://www.grokdotcom.com/pdfs/10minutesGWO.pdf

  6. [...] Get examples and more details on testing your headlines [...]

  7. [...] Lesen Sie mehr… (Originalquelle) [...]

  8. Why don’t I just give Google the login and password for my website, so they can run my business for me?

    They’ll know everything else about my business, so why not?

    Hopefully they’ll throw me some scraps?

    Or, I could use Google’s systems and then try and run it on my own, wondering all the while just why my advertising rates go up and up..?

    Perhaps I’m paranoid in thinking they’ll ensure just enough left over as profit, while squeezing the maximum possible? And they’ll know EXACTLY how hard they can squeeze.

    I’ve already found that advertising with Adwords is not only not cost effective but once you stop advertising with them your organic search results vanish off the radar. I now get more, much more, visits from Yahoo and MSN than Google. Last month, total visitors from Google – 3. Yep, three, and they were image searches.

    Yahoo – 159
    MSN – 97
    Google – 3

    And don’t give me any rubbish about “relevancy” – I was plenty relevant whilst paying them, with good click-thrus and a “reasonable” CPC of around 50 cents. But for a $30 product that would mean a conversion rate of 1.66% just to cover Google costs, while my actual conversation is closer to 1.5%

    So thought I would pause Google while working on conversions – but found, somewhat obvious I guess, that once you’ve told them you’re a commercial site and willing to pay for traffic, you soon stop receiving organic traffic.

    Needless to say I won’t be advertising with Yahoo or MSN – I can’t afford to lose ALL my organic traffic!

    I’ll never trust Google again and sure as heck won’t give them such detailed information about my site and business.

  9. PS know of any software that does the same thing but on MY server, not Google’s or the suppliers?

  10. [...] 8. Top 10 Ways to test your Headlines [...]

  11. Thanks for the ideas Josh!

  12. [...] Yesterday I stumbled across a well written article on the subject by Josh Hay – Top 10 Ideas for Testing your headlines. [...]

  13. [...] #1) A Sticky Headline — If you can't write a strong headline, you might as well not bother. It's your only hope for getting anyone to ever see what you're selling. (Don't forget to test your headlines.) [...]

  14. [...] by the way, is why it's so important to test your headlines; it's usually the one thing virtually everyone sees on your page. Make it [...]

  15. [...] Top 10 Ideas for Testing Your Headlines — GrokDotCom [...]

  16. Did that headline suck you right in… or what?

    As promised — here’s a link to a tool that may be of help when constructing your headline. I can’t vouch for it’s efficacy. Use with a grain of salt.

    http://www.aminstitute.com/headline/

    Hank

  17. [...] Top 10 Ideas for Testing Your Headlines (Josh Hay, Future Now) [...]

  18. [...] is critical! This article will give you 10 things you can test to find that winning headline… http://www.grokdotcom.com addthis_url = [...]

  19. [...] Make scanning easier. “Headlines aid in the visual task of scanning and skimming, which helps your visitors organize the information you present. Worded appropriately, they encourage your visitors to go deeper into your persuasive copy.” [grokdotcom] [...]

  20. [...] Ideas for Headline Testing [...]

  21. [...] with all these choices, you’ll want to test and optimize, and the Grok’s own post on Top 10 Ideas for Testing Your Headlines is a great place to start, or you can watch the webinar on testing headlines and calls to [...]

  22. I think great article to apply immediately to your website.

  23. Good ideas although it’s a 2 year old article.

  24. I agree with article idea. Testing is only one the sure way to discover, what is work and how. There are many possibilities and we have to select the best one.

  25. [...] #1) A Sticky Headline — If you can’t write a strong headline, you might as well not bother. It’s your only hope for getting anyone to ever see what you’re selling. (Don’t forget to test your headlines.) [...]

  26. [...] on eBay A Sticky Headline — If you can’t get write a strong headline, you might as well not bother. It’s your only hope for getting anyone to ever see what you’re selling. (Don’t forget to test your headlines.) [...]

  27. [...] Top 10 Ideas for Testing Your Headlines (Josh Hay, Future Now) [...]

  28. It’s good ideas.

    Thank you very much.

  29. It would be a good idea to enter requests for action on the elements of headings and subheadings (heading titles) to increase conversions?
    Excellent article, congratulations.

  30. I appreciate your insights and the good information you have shared here. All points are significantly important for me and your article have helped me a great deal.
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  31. Thanks for the tips, especially the examples. Examples seem to help me tremendously.

  32. [...] If you can’t write a strong headline, you might as well not bother. It’s your only hope for getting anyone to ever see what you’re selling. (Don’t forget to test your headlines.) [...]

  33. This is a very extensive overview. Have you considered the ideal amount of characters to use in a headline?

  34. [...] headlines and their effectiveness is something you should take a look at, and this post here on testing your headlines will be [...]

  35. [...] 10 Ideas for Testing Your Headlines by Josh Hay [...]

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