“On balance, solutions headlines yield more clicks than non-solutions headlines—but the difference is modest and many other factors also affect the number of clicks received by each headline. [In our tests…] the solutions headline garnered more page views 56% of the time, the non-solutions headline attracted more clicks 40% of the time, and the two tied 4% of the time.”
That quote comes from researchers Natalie Jomini Stroud, Ph.D., and Alex Curry in a new report from the Solutions Journalism Network and The Huffington Post. The goal was to test what kind of headlines gain more traction: those with, or without, a solution tease.
Here are other conclusions from the 50 Huffington Post tests:
1. Including a “mysterious” unnamed location or group in a headline can increase the clickthrough rate (e.g. “This City Has a Solution to Poverty”). Ambiguity can tempt a reader to click on a headline to discover an identity—of a place, a person, a method, a solution.
2. Adding the word “simple” can affect headline clicks, but does not do so consistently (e.g. “A Simple Way to Address Climate Change”). Six of the solutions headlines from The Huffington Post tests included the word “simple.” Within the data, every time a solutions headline used the word “simple,” it outperformed the non-solutions version. This one is interesting because simplicity was one of the themes at the SIPA 2016 Conference last week. With everyone so busy these days, anything clear and simple seems to resonate well—if the content matters.
3. Tacking solutions-oriented information or an action item onto a headline can help the click-through rate (e.g. “This is a Problem. Here’s How to Help”). The headline, “Refugees Are Running Low on Resources. Here's How You Can Help” garnered 83% of the clicks compared to this headline: “Refugees Are Running Low on Resources, and They Need Help.”
4. Adding the word “you” does not significantly influence the click-through rate (e.g. “Here’s How You Can Help Save the Rainforests”). Speaking to the reader by including “you” didn’t necessarily prompt clicks. But a Direct Marketing Association study did show that “You’re invited” is a good phrase to use. Overall, however, personalization is probably a better way to go. That study also found that "segmented and targeted emails generated 58% of all revenue for the marketers surveyed, and 36% of revenues were driven by emails sent to specific target selections."
Here are five more subject line/headline tips:
5. Align your subject line copy and email copy. When readers don't get what they're actually promised in the subject line, click-through rates plummet.
6. Establish relevancy. Just like the email subject line should strive to establish relevancy through personalization, so should the copy in the message of the email.
7. Use actionable language. “Don’t miss…” “Join us...," or "Don't forget..." can work well as openings for a subject line. Makes me feel special and that I need to act.
8. Prioritize clarity and only then think about "catchiness." Simplicity, clarity, less is more all are faring well in these busy, complicated times. There is a time and place for catchiness, but read over a couple times before using.
9. Be obvious. Just clicked on these—“Win free tickets to District Merchants at Folger.” “Ready. Set. Festival.” “Join us for $5 margaritas.” “We need your feedback - take our survey and win £100.”
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…