headline copy strategies

You can test numerous website elements. Some will have very little impact on your ability to persuade and convert your site visitors. Others will have a dramatic impact. A headline has a dramatic impact and they are an extremely important element in your conversion process. It is said that headlines should rank as one of your highest testing priorities.

But why is this the case? Well they are one of the first elements that your visitor will see. Either because they see it in a Google search result, or when they visit the page it is at the top of the page.

Readers will use your headline and sub-headlines to understand the content on your page. Headlines help your site visitors decide whether they want to read more of your copy. Relevant headlines not only improve conversion rates, but they also improve organic search rankings.

Readers skim headlines and an engaging statement encourages your reader to engage more deeply with your content [Notice I said engaging headline. Not click-bait headline which is another topic altogether].

So what sort of headlines can you test?

Here are a few example headlines:

Test fractions or percentages to prove your claim:
  • One out of 50 children in America will be homeless each year
  • 2% of all children in America will be homeless each year
  • 1/50 children in America will be homeless each year
Test asking questions in the headline:

You must make sure you directly answer the question after the headline

  • How can you make a difference in your community?
  • Do you want to make a difference in your community?
  • Can you make a difference in your community?
  • Will you make a difference in your community?
Test using emotion-laden words:
  • Bring care and comfort to the terminally ill
Test different types of formatting:

Such as bold/italics, fonts, colors, capitalizations, sizes

  • Make a Difference In Your Community
  • Make a difference in your community
  • Make a difference in your community
Test the number of words used in the headline:
  • Make a difference in your community
  • Make a big difference in your local community
Test using exclamation points:
  • Make a difference in your community
  • Make a difference in your community!
Test using text to convey the benefits vs. features:
  • Your donations help us make a difference
  • Your donations provide food and clothing for the homeless
  • Your donations go directly to the homeless
Test self-focused vs. customer-focused text:

“we/I” is self-focused, whereas “you” is customer-focused

  • We help make a difference in our community
  • You can help make a difference in your community
Test using quotation marks in the headline:

But do make sure that you consider the length of the headline

  • We are committed to make a difference
  • We are committed “to provide food and shelter for the homeless”
Test the reading level of the headline:

Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: A higher score indicates easier readability; scores usually range between 0 and 100. You can test your text using this website.

  • In a recent approximation, an estimated 1.6 million unduplicated persons use transitional housing or emergency shelters
    • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 4
  • In a recent survey, an estimated 1.6 million people were using transitional housing or emergency shelters
    • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 34
  • A recent survey showed that about 1.6 million people use homeless shelters
    • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 70

Writing a good headline isn’t easy and the purpose of testing is to give you the knowledge of what works or at least what doesn’t work. But like all good things in life it takes time, practice and patience to get it right.

your goal is persuasion

Every element on your website has a persuasion role to fill. Otherwise what is the point? If the purpose of your site isn’t to persuade your visitors to do something, then you need to rethink what the purpose of your website is. Even if it is just to read the next article that you have written.

The Business Dictionary defines persuasion as:

a process aimed at changing a person’s (or a group’s) attitude or behavior toward some event, idea, object, or other person(s), by using written or spoken words to convey information, feelings, or reasoning, or a combination of them.

A process of changing behaviour by using written words to convey information.

Internet users have short attention spans and make quick decisions based on what they see and what they read. If your website doesn’t persuade your visitors to stay on your website then their current behaviour will kick in – and that is to leave. And then they are gone forever.

move your visitors further

You must move your visitors further into your conversion process of closing in on the purpose of your site.

If you write articles then you probably want them to leave their details so that you can let them know when you publish your next post.  If you sell items then you want them to add items to their cart and then checkout.

But … even a simple add-to-cart button can undermine this forward momentum. And the key is that you won’t know whether that button is a culprit unless you test. Your goal is to create a system that meets the needs of your customers. And when you better serve your customers, you better serve your business. Testing allows you to hear what they have to say.

testing persuasion

In 1923 Claude Hopkins wrote:

Almost any question can be answered cheaply, quickly and finally, by a test campaign. And that’s the way to answer them – not by arguments around a table. Go to the court of last resort – buyers of your products.

So once you have identified the reason that you have a website, the next step is to identify all those areas where you can persuade your visitors to move the process forward. A next or previous button. Add to cart. Checkout. Subscribe. Read. Share. Recommend etc. All those items that convey information to change behavior.

And then you need to test, test and do more testing to see why your visitors are, or are not doing what you want them to do.

Good luck … but before you go can I persuade you to subscribe to my newsletter? 🙂