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How to Write Headlines That Convert: Key discoveries from a meta-analysis of 15 years of behavioral research

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The headline is an element that it so simple — you don't need any special coding skills to change headlines on your websites. Yet, headlines require serious attention. In this Web clinic, we shared a headline change that resulted in an 816% increase in conversion, just from understanding the cognitive psychology of the customer.

The headline is so crucial to marketing campaigns that we have three writers performing a meta-analysis of our lab’s more than 15 years of behavioral research measuring real customer reactions to websites and campaigns from B2B, B2C and nonprofit brands.

This Web clinic revealed key discoveries from this meta-analysis to help any marketer — no matter how much or how little copywriting experience they have — create more effective headlines.

You’ll learn actionable principles for creating headlines that work to improve the results of all your marketing campaigns, emails and websites.

Published in: Marketing
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How to Write Headlines That Convert: Key discoveries from a meta-analysis of 15 years of behavioral research

  1. 1. How to Write Headlines That Convert: Key discoveries from a meta-analysis of 15 years of behavioral research
  2. 2. We’re sharing on Twitter! #WebClinic
  3. 3. #WebClinic Today’s speakers Austin McCraw Senior Director, Content Production MECLABS Institute Ben Filip Vice President of Partner Development, MECLABS Institute
  4. 4. #WebClinic What makes a headline effective??
  5. 5. #WebClinic 15 years of research 54%Conversion 330%Conversion 58%Conversion 109%Conversion 31%Conversion 124%Conversion 201%Conversion 29%Conversion 15%Conversion 100%Conversion 21%Conversion137%Conversion 63%Conversion 816%Conversion 91%Conversion 24%Conversion
  6. 6. Background: A survey company offering to pay its members to take surveys. Goal: To increase the amount of home delivery subscriptions. Research Question: Which panelist registration page will have a higher conversion rate? Test Design: Which page/process will generate the most subscriptions? Experiment ID: TP1111 Record Location: MECLABS Research Library Research Partner: (Protected) Experiment: Background
  7. 7. The experiment The original page had no headline. Due to high site traffic, the team was able to test 10 different headlines. Control Treatment
  8. 8. The Experiment: Headlines tested Which headlines do you think generated the most response? The least?? ID# Headline Tested HL1 Set Up Your FREE Account Today and Start Earning Money! HL2 Get Paid to Take Free Surveys HL3 Take Online Surveys From Home and Win Cash & Prizes! HL4 Get Paid to Fill out Online Surveys HL5 Surveys – Quick, Easy and FREE HL6 Join the [Company Name] Community and Have Your Opinions Count HL7 Win Cash & Prizes for Online Surveys HL8 Get Rewarded for Your Opinion HL9 You’re Invited to Join the [Company Name] Community and Earn Rewards For Your Opinions HL10 Here’s Your First Survey, and an Invitation to Join Our Research Community
  9. 9. Ranking ID# Headline Tested CTR % Rel. Change 1 HL2 Get Paid to Take Free Surveys 28.76% 10.44% 2 HL10 Here’s Your First Survey, and an Invitation to Join Our Research Community 28.35% 8.87% 3 HL4 Get Paid to Fill out Online Surveys 27.98% 7.46% 4 HL8 Get Rewarded for Your Opinion 27.92% 7.23% 5 HL5 Surveys – Quick, Easy and FREE 27.52% 5.67% 6 HL7 Win Cash & Prizes for Online Surveys 27.37% 5.12% 7 HL1 Set Up Your FREE Account Today and Start Earning Money! 27.35% 5.03% 8 HL9 You’re Invited to Join the [Company Name] Community and Earn Rewards For Your Opinions 27.14% 4.24% 9 HL6 Join the [Company Name] Community and Have Your Opinions Count 26.92% 3.36% 10 HL3 Take Online Surveys From Home and Win Cash & Prizes! 26.81% 2.95% Experiment: Results WHY?
  10. 10. In today’s clinic, we will review five essential discoveries about what makes a headline effective. Today’s focus
  11. 11. Headlines that convert Key Discoveries 1. Principle #1: Effective headlines focus first on what the customer “gets.”
  12. 12. ID# Headline Tested CTR % Rel. Change HL2 Get Paid to Take Free Surveys 28.76% 10.44% HL10 Here’s Your First Survey, and an Invitation to Join Our Research Community 28.35% 8.87% HL4 Get Paid to Fill out Online Surveys 27.98% 7.46% HL8 Get Rewarded for Your Opinion 27.92% 7.23% HL5 Surveys – Quick, Easy and FREE 27.52% 5.67% HL7 Win Cash & Prizes for Online Surveys 27.37% 5.12% HL1 Set Up Your FREE Account Today and Start Earning Money! 27.35% 5.03% HL9 You’re Invited to Join the [Company Name] Community and Earn Rewards For Your Opinions 27.14% 4.24% HL6 Join the [Company Name] Community and Have Your Opinions Count 26.92% 3.36% HL3 Take Online Surveys From Home and Win Cash & Prizes! 26.81% 2.95% Focus first on what the customer “gets” Top performing headlines focus on the “get”
  13. 13. [Newspaper Title] Focus first on what the customer “gets” To this From this The original headline is salesy and jumps immediately to the offer. The new headline eases customers into the offer by prominently featuring a 50% off trial. 24% Conversion [Newspaper] Home Delivery [Newspaper] Home Delivery [Newspaper Title]
  14. 14. Focus first on what the customer “gets” To this From this The original headline reads like the title of an academic article and fails to focus the reader’s attention on the “get.” The new headline immediately lets prospects know what they will “get” for proceeding down the page. 331% Conversion
  15. 15. To this From this The original headline asks customers to complete a difficult form without first orienting them or giving them a compelling reason to do so. The new headline better emphasizes what customers “get” for signing up 816% Conversion Focus first on what the customer “gets”
  16. 16. Headlines that convert Key Discoveries 1. Principle #1: Effective headlines focus first on what the customer “gets.” 2. Principle #2: Effective headlines align with the customer’s current motivations.
  17. 17. ID# Headline Tested CTR % Rel. Change HL2 Get Paid to Take Free Surveys 28.76% 10.44% HL10 Here’s Your First Survey, and an Invitation to Join Our Research Community 28.35% 8.87% HL4 Get Paid to Fill out Online Surveys 27.98% 7.46% HL8 Get Rewarded for Your Opinion 27.92% 7.23% HL5 Surveys – Quick, Easy and FREE 27.52% 5.67% HL7 Win Cash & Prizes for Online Surveys 27.37% 5.12% HL1 Set Up Your FREE Account Today and Start Earning Money! 27.35% 5.03% HL9 You’re Invited to Join the [Company Name] Community and Earn Rewards For Your Opinions 27.14% 4.24% HL6 Join the [Company Name] Community and Have Your Opinions Count 26.92% 3.36% HL3 Take Online Surveys From Home and Win Cash & Prizes! 26.81% 2.95% Low performing headlines ask too much, too soon Align headline with customer motivation
  18. 18. Align headline with customer motivation To this From this 91%In Guide Downloads The original headline assumes that the customer is immediately ready to start the buying process. The new headline understands that the customer is beginning a longer process of research and comparison shopping. An [insurance advisor can help you find the right plan for your family
  19. 19. Align headline with customer motivation The original headline promotes access to over seven million SEC filings, of which there are over a hundred types. This new headline focuses specifically on annual reports, the type of SEC filing that customers are most motivated to download. From this To this 26% Leads
  20. 20. Headlines that convert Key Discoveries 1. Principle #1: Effective headlines focus first on what the customer “gets.” 2. Principle #2: Effective headlines align with the customer’s current motivations. 3. Principle #3: Effective headlines make the strongest point first.
  21. 21. ID# Headline Tested CTR % Rel. Change HL2 Get Paid to Take Free Surveys 28.76% 10.44% HL10 Here’s Your First Survey, and an Invitation to Join Our Research Community 28.35% 8.87% HL4 Get Paid to Fill out Online Surveys 27.98% 7.46% HL8 Get Rewarded for Your Opinion 27.92% 7.23% HL5 Surveys – Quick, Easy and FREE 27.52% 5.67% HL7 Win Cash & Prizes for Online Surveys 27.37% 5.12% HL1 Set Up Your FREE Account Today and Start Earning Money! 27.35% 5.03% HL9 You’re Invited to Join the [Company Name] Community and Earn Rewards For Your Opinions 27.14% 4.24% HL6 Join the [Company Name] Community and Have Your Opinions Count 26.92% 3.36% HL3 Take Online Surveys From Home and Win Cash & Prizes! 26.81% 2.95% Make the strongest point first Point-first headlines
  22. 22. ID# Headline Tested CTR % Rel. Change HL2 Get Paid to Take Free Surveys 28.76% 10.44% HL10 Here’s Your First Survey, and an Invitation to Join Our Research Community 28.35% 8.87% HL4 Get Paid to Fill out Online Surveys 27.98% 7.46% HL8 Get Rewarded for Your Opinion 27.92% 7.23% HL5 Surveys – Quick, Easy and FREE 27.52% 5.67% HL7 Win Cash & Prizes for Online Surveys 27.37% 5.12% HL1 Set Up Your FREE Account Today and Start Earning Money! 27.35% 5.03% HL9 You’re Invited to Join the [Company Name] Community and Earn Rewards For Your Opinions 27.14% 4.24% HL6 Join the [Company Name] Community and Have Your Opinions Count 26.92% 3.36% HL3 Take Online Surveys From Home and Win Cash & Prizes! 26.81% 2.95% Point-last headlines Make the strongest point first
  23. 23. Make the strongest point first To this From this The original headline places the point, “lower your payment,” in the middle of the headline. This new headline leads with the point of value. 88% Conversion
  24. 24. Headlines that convert Key Discoveries 1. Principle #1: Effective headlines focus first on what the customer “gets.” 2. Principle #2: Effective headlines align with the customer’s current motivations. 3. Principle #3: Effective headlines make the strongest point first. 4. Principle #4: Effective headlines seek to be clear, not clever.
  25. 25. ID# Headline Tested CTR % Rel. Change HL2 Get Paid to Take Free Surveys 28.76% 10.44% HL10 Here’s Your First Survey, and an Invitation to Join Our Research Community 28.35% 8.87% HL4 Get Paid to Fill out Online Surveys 27.98% 7.46% HL8 Get Rewarded for Your Opinion 27.92% 7.23% HL5 Surveys – Quick, Easy and FREE 27.52% 5.67% HL7 Win Cash & Prizes for Online Surveys 27.37% 5.12% HL1 Set Up Your FREE Account Today and Start Earning Money! 27.35% 5.03% HL9 You’re Invited to Join the [Company Name] Community and Earn Rewards For Your Opinions 27.14% 4.24% HL6 Join the [Company Name] Community and Have Your Opinions Count 26.92% 3.36% HL3 Take Online Surveys From Home and Win Cash & Prizes! 26.81% 2.95% Experiment: Results Clear Clear Vague
  26. 26. ID# Headline Tested HL1 Set Up Your FREE Account Today and Start Earning Money! HL9 You’re Invited to Join the [Company Name] Community and Earn Rewards For Your Opinions HL6 Join the [Company Name] Community and Have Your Opinions Count Experiment: Results What kind of account is this? What do I have to do to earn the money? What kind of community is this? What does it mean to earn rewards for my opinions? How will my opinions count? Opinions about what? Vague, Poorly Performing Headlines
  27. 27. Be clear, not clever From this The original headline utilizes a creative ask, but lacks specificity about the actual product. This revised headline clearly describes exactly what is being offered. To this 330% Conversion
  28. 28. Be clear, not clever The original headline asks an empty, open-ended question. The new headline clearly emphasizes specific points of value, encouraging the reader to continue down the page. From this To this 103% Conversion
  29. 29. Be clear, not clever The original headline presents the ask in the form of a vague question, creating ambiguity as to what specifically is being offered. The new headline clearly states the purpose of the offer, leaving no doubt as to what service is being offered. Does a sexual offender live your neighborhood? Identify Registered Sex Offenders Living Near You 34% Headline #1 Headline #2 From this To this conversion
  30. 30. Headlines that convert Key Discoveries 1. Principle #1: Effective headlines focus first on what the customer “gets.” 2. Principle #2: Effective headlines align with the customer’s current motivations. 3. Principle #3: Effective headlines make the strongest point first. 4. Principle #4: Effective headlines seek to be clear, not clever. 5. Principle #5: Effective headlines are given graphical weight.
  31. 31. Give your headlines weight Though the term “Dedicated Servers” was used several times in the existing headlines, none of the instances employed any distinct font treatment or attention-getting design. This new headline utilizes more prominent typography, clearly establishing the credibility of the company. From this To this 188% Conversion
  32. 32. Give your headlines weight The original headline is hard to read, and the description is in small font that is difficult to read with the background color. This new headline possesses visual weight, and is easily readable on the page. From this To this 58% Conversion
  33. 33. Summary of discoveries Key Discoveries 1. Principle #1: Effective headlines focus first on what the customer “gets.” 2. Principle #2: Effective headlines align with the customer’s current motivations. 3. Principle #3: Effective headlines make the strongest point first. 4. Principle #4: Effective headlines seek to be clear, not clever. 5. Principle #5: Effective headlines are given graphical weight.
  34. 34. Live Optimization
  35. 35. #WebClinic MECLABS Live Optimization Webinar Register and submit your page at www.meclabs.com/live-opt Tune in on September 24 at 4 p.m. EDT In this interactive webinar, you will: • See how principles and takeaways from MECLABS behavioral research (with over 20,000 path experiments) can be applied to real websites and emails • Offer interactive feedback on material submitted by fellow attendees • Gain valuable advice for your own campaigns (if selected)
  36. 36. #WebClinic Live Optimization: TremendousMaid.com Primary Audience: B2B/B2C Page Purpose: Direct bookings, lead generation
  37. 37. #WebClinic Live Optimization: CubSnacks.com Primary Audience: Parents Page Purpose: To sell individual or subscription healthy snack boxes
  38. 38. #WebClinic Live Optimization: Culligan Orlando Primary Audience: B2C Page Purpose: Lead gen
  39. 39. #WebClinic Online Certification x Learn more by navigating to www.meclabs.com/education and selecting “Online Learning” Select Online Certification Courses to learn how you or your organization can receive online training from the MECLABS Institute.
  40. 40. #WebClinic On-site Training Opportunities x For more information: Contact us directly at info@MECLABS.com or by calling 1-877-635-0565 Select On-site Training to learn how your organization can receive personal, on-site training from the MECLABS Institute.
  41. 41. #WebClinic See how you can conduct research with us Select Research Partnership Opportunities on the post-webinar survey to learn more about how you may be a fit for a MECLABS Research Partnership. Our research has been funded by: Work with MECLABS research analysts to increase your company's revenue. x For more information: Contact us directly at info@MECLABS.com or by calling 1-877-635-0565

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