Is There a Formula for Headlines That Convert?
The answer is “Yes,” but that headline was actually a trick question. There are many formulas for headlines that improve conversion rates for specific audiences. We’ll look at seven formulas that tend to be effective overall.
Before we get there, though, you should be aware that conversion shouldn’t be your only goal. Here are the three main goals of content and when to consider other metrics over conversion.
The 3 Goals of Content
Content should strive for improvements to conversion, traffic and/or engagement. Many content marketers treat conversion as the ultimate goal. Some use traffic only to increase the prospect pool and engagement to keep the reader on the site longer. These approaches can limit your effectiveness in several ways. Let’s start with conversion.
Conversion is really all about motivating your readers to take an action. It could end with a purchase at your e-commerce site, but more often it means the reader becomes a subscriber, registers for a webinar, schedules a demo, etc. These are all preferable to a purchase alone because they establish a relationship with the reader. Metrics you should monitor include cost per acquisition (CPA), total leads vs. sales ready and subscriber churn rates. Convert, but don’t make that your end goal.
Traffic and Engagement
Prioritizing traffic is particularly valuable if you run affiliate programs. More traffic means more readers to click on the links on your website and the bigger your check at the end of the month. Important metrics for success in driving traffic include total pageviews and unique visitors. As a bonus, you gain wider awareness and total brand lift. In addition, traffic improves your relevancy in the market, which improves your SEO ranking.
In the world of content, engagement is measured by how long the readers stay on the page, how many other pages they click on in a single session and how often they come back. Social mentions is also an important measure of engagement. The purpose of engagement is to build brand loyalty and referrals, foster brand advocates and reach a more diverse audience.
The 7 Formulas for Conversion Driving Headlines
Kissmetrics recently gathered conversion statistics from across the web and came up with 19 factors that characterized top conversion practices. Here are seven headline formulas that convert, based on the latest research.
1. X Steps to a More Effective Y
Explanation: People don’t really want more information. They are drowning in it. What they want is to apply information that will simplify their lives. Statistics tend to get social shares because they are eye-catching, but it’s not a strong conversion tactic. If you want to motivate the reader to take an action, help them get control over their lives first.
2. Have X in Less Than Y Days
Explanation: Give the reader hope that they can achieve a desired result by a specific date. Practical solutions rescue readers from the whirl of distractions around them. Quicksprout demonstrated that a time restriction boosted conversion by 16 percent.
3. Is There a Simple Answer for X?
Explanation: Yes, you probably already know that this blog arose from an application of this formula. Framing it as a question gives you more room to explore assumptions about the topic. Modern life is so complex that anything you can do to simplify it for your readers will be amply rewarded.
4. X Professionals Say That Y
Explanation: People look for advice from other people. That basic human trait drives the conversion power of recommendations, reviews, celebrity endorsements and customer testimonials. Hubspot found that social proof and credibility indicators imparted a 144 percent boost to conversions on landing pages.
5. Get X When You Try Y
Explanation: Value propositions should be stated clearly without exaggeration. Readers are now well aware of the kind of breathless promises that fill their spam filters. Simply addressing a pain point for the reader can increase conversions by 31 percent, according to Kissmetrics.
6. Star Keywords
Explanation: In the case of this blog, the keywords that started it all were “headlines” and “convert.” When you start with keywords, you can be sure your headline attracts your preferred audience. Kissmetrics found that readers tend to pay most attention to the beginning or end of the title, so that’s where the keywords belong.
7. Length = 8 words
Explanation: A study in The Guardian reported that headlines with eight words (like the headline of this blog) performed 21 percent better than average. The number eight is not as important as conveying a complete idea in around 55 characters. Google will shorten headlines longer than that. If you go much shorter than eight words, you won’t be able to include essential keywords or information the reader needs to know.
The Missing Formulas
After looking over these formulas for headlines that can improve your conversion rates, you may be left wondering if there are comparable formulas for traffic and engagement. You are on the right track. Coming up with the right questions is the single most important tool in finding the right answers. Formulas for headlines that boost traffic and engagement deserves their own blogs, but you can start finding answers right now. Pull up the metrics on your own site and examine the headlines of the blogs that drove the most traffic or triggered the strongest engagement. These insights into what matters most for your readers will very likely become your most valuable takeaway of the day.
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