Write, Format, Test and Measure Headlines To Get More Customers


Headlines are critical to all small business websites online

They grab your visitors’ attention. Did I get you with mine? Headlines are also extremely important for search engine optimization. Headlines are the first thing that visitors read when they visit a page on your website. Therefore, headlines have a profound ability to draw visitors in to read more, or they do the opposite… drive them away. (Yikes) No small business marketer wants that to happen. Especially after you take so much time to think about and write great pages of content on your website.

Think about this; On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of the text on a page. This is the secret to the power of the headline, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of your entire website.

You want your visitors to be intrigued by your headlines. If they are interested in a headline, chances are they’re going to read the rest of the page to figure out what all the fuss is about. Headlines can be used in a variety of ways. In fact, check out this article from copywriting guru Brian Clarke, CEO of Copyblogger where he details all of the different headline variations that work. You make the decision of which one you want to use based on the feeling you want to invoke and the result you want to achieve. That can be a reader (casual or return), lead, and/or customer.

In this article I will show you how to write, format, test and measure headlines to get more new customers from your website for your small business.

How to Write Effective Headlines

First of all, you need to spend some time thinking about the headline. Don’t just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. That’s never a good idea. ? I’m not saying you have to spend more than a day thinking about it, but consider the 50/50 Rule of Headlines: you should spend half of the entire time it takes to write a piece of persuasive content on the headline.

Jot down a couple variations on paper or in a Notepad doc. Think about what you’re trying to tell your readers. What do they want to hear about? What’s trending in your industry right now? How can you lure them in to read the rest of your content and get them to perform your desired action? The key is providing the reader with a reward for reading your body copy. Don’t just sell, sell, sell. You’re talking to people, not machines and monkeys.

The copywriting trainers teach The Four U’s approach to writing headlines:

Headlines, subheads, and bullets should:

  1. Be USEFUL to the reader,
  2. Provide him with a sense of URGENCY,
  3. Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow UNIQUE; and
  4. Do all of the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way.

How to Format Your Headlines

Your headline should include keywords relevant to the body content so be sure to include those. Let’s look at a few examples of headlines. Let's say I’m a craft beer store owner and I’m writing an article about a new, exclusive beer I have on tap, Rare Beer #5. My goal is to get people to register for an event where they can come and try it by filling out a simple registration form. My headlines might look something like this:

  1. Direct Headline – “Rare Beer #5 Tasting Event – Register Now”
  2. Indirect Headline – “You’ve Been Waiting All Year For This”
  3. News Headline – “Introducing Rare Beer #5 Tasting Event”
  4. Question Headline – “Are You Ready To Experience The Wonders of Rare Beer #5?”
  5. Command Headline – “Register Today to Try Rare Beer #5”
  6. Reason Why Headline – “10 Reasons Why You Need To Taste Rare Beer #5”
  7. Testimonial Headline (if you can get one) – “You Need To Taste Rare Beer #5″ says, Alton Brown”

Obviously, what you don’t want to do is regurgitate a headline that is off-topic or doesn’t interest/intrigue the reader. I’m sure you would agree that this headline would NOT be good for this particular article: “Common Beer #2”

As you can see in my examples above, I’ve included action verbs, keywords, and questions to follow the 4 U’s. These headline variations will pique the interest of my readers and urge them to read more.

How to Test Your Headlines

Now that you have multiple headline variations, you now have a decision to make. Do you simply choose one headline, blindly post it, and call it a day? NO!!

You need to test each of these headlines and see which one(s) are most effective at driving your end goal, in this case, event registrants via form submissions. Small business marketers should love testing as it reveals new insights, and in marketing, the more you know, the better you can meet the needs of your audience and turn more of them into new customers for your business.

With BoostSuite’s new Headline Opportunities feature, we give you everything you need to write, format, and test your headlines directly within our application. BoostSuite tells you which pages on your website should be tested and it measures the results for you… all based on your actual visitor and conversion data.

Two other headline testing tools on the market today are Optimizely and Unbounce. These tools are great for testing content but only if you already know which pages you should test. BoostSuite is a better solution for small business marketers because of BoostSuite Headline Opportunities:

  1. Identifies the most important pages on your website for testing (pages that represent the highest opportunities for increasing conversions)
  2. Lets you instantly write several different versions of a headline and launch it on your website to your real website visitors
  3. Automatically tracks the performance of each headline version and once enough data is collected only the most effective headline is displayed to all website visitors

If you’re not currently testing your website headlines, you’re leaving thousands of dollars of revenue on the table! Trust me, no matter how smart you are, you can’t guess which headline will perform best with your real website visitors.

You have to run a test to know for sure.

How to Measure Headline Effectiveness

As I mentioned earlier, the purpose of writing, formatting, and testing headlines is to achieve a specific end goal. As a marketer, think to yourself when you go to write your next article, “What is the end goal of this piece of content?”

Do you want people to read, comment, and share it via social media? Do you want them to register for an event like in my example? Do you want them to sign up for your newsletter? Do you want them to fill out a lead form? Do you want them to purchase something from your e-commerce store?

All of these are good, quantifiable goals that can be attached to each of your headlines through conversion points. The issue is that you have to connect the dots to measure everything correctly. Optimizely and Unbounce show you which headlines resulted in the most form submissions/conversions, but they are just two more tools to add to the already cumbrous and unwieldy small business marketing tool belt.

If that’s your situation, try BoostSuite. Our Headline Opportunity suggestions will help you write, format, test, and measure the results of all your website headlines. Everything you need is within our application. Before you know it, you’ll address your conversion funnel bottlenecks and convert a higher percentage of your website visitors into customers!

The headline optimization process takes work and focus, but I can assure you the effort will make you a more profitable small business marketer.

Do you have any other tips you’d like to share regarding writing, formatting, testing and measuring headlines? Leave them in the comments section below. Or you can just be mean and do nothing.

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