Do Your Headlines Grab Your Readers?

If not, you may be losing more traffic than you think.
A recent study found that the more explicit a headline is in terms of reader takeaway, the more likely the reader is to click on it and actually read the content.

Every Piece Counts

Search engine optimization is far more than simply adding keywords or placing PPC ads on websites. Today’s websites must be responsive; this means that it must drive engagement by responding to the needs of the reader.

Internet marketing began well. Suddenly, businesses could send their brands and messages across the globe instantly. Internet marketing was a fast and inexpensive way to reach millions of potential customers.

Unfortunately, that ease of use has led to some lazy behavior on the part of advertisers. It is no longer enough to simply throw something out on the internet and reel in customers. Today’s shoppers and browsers are more advanced than those of a few years ago. They have so many websites to choose from that they must make instant decisions about where to search for information. Search engine optimization helps by putting your business at the top of the search engine page. However, once you are there, you are still competing with other “first pagers” and your headlines are often what tip the scales in your favor when someone decides to click on your link.

How Much Do Headlines Count?

Many SEO experts and content writers are aware that headlines are important, but they may not be aware just how important they are. According to recent studies and analyses by several groups, the importance of attention-grabbing headlines can probably not be overstressed.

  • Every day, 2 million blog posts, 294 billion emails, 864,000 hours of video and 400 million tweets are created.
  • 80 percent of readers will read headlines but not content.
  • Varying headlines has been shown to increase internet traffic by as much as 500 percent.

How Do Different Types of Headlines Measure Up?

BuzzFeed, a content aggregator, has found that certain types of headlines generate far more traffic. According to a recent study, headlines scored as follows when measured against each other:

  • 36 percent of readers preferred “number” headlines: 10 Ways to Sell Your Home; The 25 Most Famous Divas; 15 Great Ab Exercises
  • 21 percent of readers preferred “reader addressing” headlines: You Can Sell Your Home; Find Out About Famous Divas; Give Your Abs a Real Workout
  • 17 percent of readers preferred “how to” headlines: How To Sell Your Home; How To Identify a Diva; How to Get Great Abs
  • 15 percent of readers preferred “normal” headlines: Ways to Sell Your Home; History of Divas; Getting Great Abs
  • 11 percent of readers preferred “question” headlines: What Are The Best Ways To Sell Your Home?; Who Were The Most Famous Divas? How Can I Get Great Abs?

Another interesting find was the preference of readers for the use of superlatives. Readers either preferred an understated approach: “10 Ways To Sell Your Home”; or an over-the-top approach: “The 10 Best Ways Ever To Sell A Less-Than-Perfect Home.”

Most respondents also prefer sentence case, but will tolerate all caps better than lower case: “5 Ways To Train A Dog” or “5 WAYS TO TRAIN A DOG” but not “5 ways to train a dog.”

The bottom line: Pay attention to headlines. Make them memorable and clear. Leave no doubt in the reader’s mind as to what the content will reveal and you will more easily gain your reader’s loyalty and following.

Source:, “5 Data Insights Into the Headlines Readers Click,” July 17, 2013.