Why Headlines Matter

By Marc Reifenrath on January 6, 2014 in Digital Marketing

News reporting and content creation on the web has been evolving at an ever increasing rate. With the advent of social networks and ubiquitous social sharing buttons, business models have emerged that value pageviews over anything else. Much of the success of these sites lies in what seems a little thing… the headline. Headlines like “23 Animals Who Are Tired Of This Snow Day Already” are driving a large amount of traffic to sites like Buzzfeed.com and Upworthy.com.

With the proliferation of data and algorithms, sites are now testing multiple versions of their headlines with a focus on their ability to drive traffic and social shares. Some sites have their writers create 25 versions of the headline, the editors will choose the best 5 and then an algorithm will test those on various visitors until a winner emerges.

Now many of us aren’t running a huge news site and have a staff of writers on hand. These tactics can still be brought down to our scale. Utilizing Google Analytics, answer this question, “What were the most popular articles that people came to through Facebook and Twitter?” Answering this question can give insight into what headlines are performing.

Another way to check the performance of headlines and content is to research if users read a subsequent blog post after the first one. Find your most viewed article of the week and then filter the data to see which page was next most visited. There are a number of different factors that could play into this scenario but the basic concept is to find patterns. Are users finding value in your content? Are they reading one post and leaving? What is the time on page for your most read articles?

There are a lot of questions you can ask to help understand the plethora of data at your finger tips. To gain focus, try to concentrate on a few unique ideas every month. Don’t try and solve them all at once, otherwise you will never be able to measure if the changes had the correct affect. Headlines seem like a little thing but they control whether content is read or not.

Let us know what questions you are asking of your website. It's the perfect time of year to make a few small changes and see huge results.

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