There are a lot of expensive, time-consuming ways to increase marketing performance – buy more media, redesign the website, buy and implement a new technology, etc.
The quickest and cheapest way to improve your marketing can take just moments – write better headlines.
To give you ideas for improving your headlines, we bring you the following before and after headline writing examples.
Read on for examples from SaaS/software companies, a legal service, and a press release service.
This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.
A press release service engaged MECLABS Institute to improve conversion on its website by better understanding its customers. The MECLABS team conducted an A/B test to discover which headline would work best.
The control (original) headline read “Drive More Traffic to Your Blog.”
The treatment (new) headline read “Get More Readers as Early as Tomorrow.”
The treatment headline helped produce a 321% increase in relative conversion.
You can learn more about this experiment, and see other headline experiments, in The Zen of Headline Writing: Learn the easiest way for any marketer to drive a conversion increase from MarketingExperiments (MarketingSherpa’s sister publication).
The article “DIY Laptop Teleprompter” has been on the Wistia blog for a few years. It performed relatively well from an organic search perspective and was on the first page for relevant queries.
For a recent revamp, the team wanted to capture more interest via organic search and make the piece more enticing for social media. So, they updated the headline to be more actionable and deliver the value right away: “DIY Laptop Teleprompter—Get Set up in Under Five Minutes.”
“The revised version conveys how easy it is to use your laptop as a teleprompter and eliminates any perceived barrier about how difficult or confusing it might be,” said Meisha Bochicchio, Content Marketing Manager, Wistia.
Since the team added the new headline, the article has bumped up to a higher position in search engines, from #4-7 to #2-4 for several related keywords like DIY teleprompter and laptop teleprompter.
This increase has naturally brought in more organic traffic – 30% more month over month. The visits via organic went from 2,929 to 3,795.
“The piece also gets more engagement and drives more traffic via social channels as we are enticing more folks to click,” Bochicchio said.
“To be fully transparent, we also did update more than just the headline for this post. While we do feel confident that the more descriptive headline is more enticing on SERPs and newsfeeds and therefore drives more engagement, I didn't want to overlook the fact that other changes were made that could have impacted page performance,” he said.
The team at Curacubby published a whitepaper on technology integration in the classroom about a year ago. The original title was “In Pursuit of Disruptive Technology Integration in the Classroom.”
“Our thought with this headline was it was aspirational – we wanted to speak to a goal of the readers,” said Anna McVeigh-Murphy, Marketing Manager, Curacubby.
The SaaS company would embed CTAs (calls to action) to the whitepaper in articles. They had a low clickthrough rate.
So the team updated the title to “The Tech Coach’s Guide to Technology Integration in the Classroom.”
“To come to this title, we combed through our subscriber information and pulled out the most relevant and recurring job title. The shift made the title much more specific to what the reader would get and also caught the eye of our target audience of tech coaches and tech coordinators,” McVeigh-Murphy said.
Within two weeks, the conversion rate grew by 100%.
The team at Mirabel Technologies published a blog post with the headline “A Beginner's Guide to Instagram” on October 6, 2019 but it didn't begin gaining real traction until March 2020. “This was likely pandemic-related as many brands that previously never used Instagram or had the bare minimum presence shifted marketing efforts to digital,” said Rachel Rockwell, Digital Marketing Specialist, Mirabel Technologies.
Traffic steadily fluctuated for a few months, but even on the lower days, the post was getting more visitors than before March.
On October 8, 2020, the team updated the blog's headline to “How to Use Instagram - A Beginner's Guide to Instagram” (along with the post’s content). In just under a month the number of impressions, clicks, sessions, and new users tripled and the average search results position increased from 20 to 8.6.
“The strategy we employed here was a new one for us, but I plan to continue using it and recommend others do as well: focus on user intent and high-volume search queries related to your blog,” Rockwell said. “This can be used when creating new topics and headlines, but it is also very helpful for updating existing content.”
Some of the top queries that drove traffic to the blog post with its initial headline included “Instagram for dummies,” “how to Instagram,” and “Instagram for beginners 2020.” The team determined that “How to use Instagram” was one of the most commonly searched queries that directly related to the blog post and added it to the headline while still mentioning the beginner’s guide portion to communicate the style and format of the post. They quickly saw the top queries shift to “how to use Instagram,” “how do you use Instagram,” and “Instagram how to use.”
“[This shift] showed us that we were directly meeting users’ search intents,” Rockwell said.
DocPro – a legal service tech platform with free legal documents – had a blog post titled “What are the Elements of a Contract?”
The team changed the title to “6 Essential Elements of a Valid Contract (with Examples).” After about six months, the post now gets 1,500 page views per week.
The previous headline was done before the conduct of keyword research. It was generating little to no traffic for two months. The headline was changed after extensive keyword research – picking less difficult keywords with higher traffic.
“If your site is not well known, find longer-tailed keywords that are easier to rank with minimum traffic of 1,000. Use the exact keywords in your headline,” said Kim Chan, Founder and CEO, DocPro.
Campaigner ran an A/B split test to determine which subject line would be most effective.
Variant A received an 8% open rate and 12% of readers visited the blog post after clicking on a link within the email.
Variant B – which had a more specific promise of the value to readers – received a 22% open rate and 46.5% of readers visited the blog post after clicking on a link within the email.
“Always be testing! We market to humans, and what resonates with an audience changes over time. Implementing A/B testing into your marketing strategy will provide you with data that will not only allow you to learn more about your customers, it will also provide you with the opportunity to display targeted content to your readers,” said Bodhi Debnath, Senior Vice President of Marketing, J2 Global (parent company of Campaigner).
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