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Running a headline test? Use these tools to perfect your headline

Takeaways

  • Headline tests use multiple headline variations to determine the best performing option
  • There are many tools you can use to analyze and test your headline
  • Writing at least 50 headlines will give you a better chance of coming up with a brilliant headline that is also data-driven

What is a headline test?

A headline test compares different headline versions against each other.

"Ah, a duel. How very delightful!" gif. Headline duel
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A/B testing is one way of testing different headlines to determine the effectiveness of each in the eyes of your readers.

In an A/B test, the headlines are shown to different segments of your audience to see which headline generates the most conversions (clicks, sign-ups, sales).

It does require a program/code to set up and run the test.

And A/B testing is best when you have a steady volume of visitors going to your website.

But even if you don’t have many visitors, you can still use headline analysis tools to help you determine which headline will likely be a better fit for your core audience.

According to Joanna Wiebe, a powerful headline will meet these five criteria:

  • Matches visitor expectations
  • Grabs the visitor’s attention (in a non-scuzzy way)
  • Is clearly communicated with easy-to-understand language
  • Gets to the point
  • Highlights something beneficial or valuable for you visitor

Now you know what your headline should consist of. But you may be wondering…

Why should you test your headlines?

Even if you think you’ve written your website’s most compelling headline, it still might flop.

By regularly performing headline tests on your homepage, you’ll have data showing which headline will likely work best.

Then you can optimize the headline to ensure you get the perfect one to engage your visitors.

Rebel Wilson from Pitch Perfect, saying "Crushed it."
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With an effective headline, you’re more likely to:

  • Generate qualified leads
  • Get a higher click-through rate to your site
  • Boost social media engagement
  • Increase conversions

According to Psychology Today, readers will spend less than 15 seconds assessing whether or not they want to continue reading or stay on your website.

Your headline is the first indication readers have about what type of copy will follow.

First impressions count.

Thankfully, there are tools you can use to help you test your headline and create headlines that will work.

Tools you can use to analyze your headline

Using a tool to test your headlines is a smart way to save you time and money.

A headline analyzing tool is more efficient for your business because it could take months to rack up enough traffic on your website to run an A/B test that’ll get you reliable results.

The analyzing tool keeps more money in your pocket because you’re not losing out on sales due to a boring and unclear headline.

It’s important to note that just because the testing tool you’re using gives your headline top marks doesn’t always mean it will be the winner.

John Krasinski waving his arms and saying "Wait, what?"
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Each will give you slightly different results.

Ultimately, these tools are here to help you better understand headline best practices.

But these don’t always coincide with your users.

Again – this is why testing your headlines is important!

So let’s test a headline.

The headline analysis tools

I’ve tested each tool below using the title from a blog post I wrote here for Copyhackers.

The final headline of the post was: “What is direct response copywriting? Lessons we still use today.”

I liked this headline, but let’s see what the headline tools say about it.

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer

This is a free tool that gives you a score out of 100. The higher your score, the better your headline will perform. (according to this tool)

It analyzes your headline’s:

  • Word count
  • Character count
  • Headline type
  • Reading grade level
  • Sentiment
  • Clarity
  • Skimmability
This headline test result shows a score of 74 and ideal character (63) and word counts (10).
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I was pretty happy with this result: an overall score of 74/100, and most icons were green (which is good!).

What I liked about this tool is the section on the words you’ve used in your headline.

For each word category (they use Common, Uncommon, Emotional and Power), the tool gives you a word bank to find suggestions you can input into your headline.

It saves you from having to Google each word type and gives you everything you need.

The best part is that CoSchedule tells you how to fix flagged areas of your headline.

Helping you solve the problem makes this tool super user-friendly.

Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer

This testing tool was created by the Advanced Marketing Institute. It’s a free service designed to figure out the emotions in your headline.

It analyzes your words and determines a percentage of how much your headline leans toward one emotion.

This is handy for seeing how your headline will come across to readers and which emotions you’ll appeal to.

A headline test to determine the emotional direction of your headline. This test reveals my headline is 60% intellectual.
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The result from this headline analysis tells me my headline is 60% intellectually focused.

Their definition of “Intellectual” is:

“Words which are especially effective when offering products and services that require reasoning or careful evaluation.”

The other two emotions are Spiritual and Empathetic.

I liked that the tool thoroughly explained why they considered my headline more intellectual and what it means for my audience.

Sharethrough Headline Analyzer

This tool is free to use and gives you an overall score out of 100.

It tests your headline using natural language processing and Behaviour Model theory.

You’ll get results on your headline’s:

  • Positive or negative sentiment
  • Use of context words
  • Use of passive language
  • Headline length
  • Brand awareness
This headline test shows a score of 73 for my headline.
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My headline got a score of 73/100 from Sharethrough.

The more interesting part of this tool is the separation of an Engagement Score and an Impression Score.

Engagement looks at word choice to humanize your headline, and Impression looks at how your headline grabs attention and boosts trust.

These two categories are weighed together to give your final score.

Answer the Public

This tool lets you enter your keyword into the search bar to see what other questions people are asking using that same keyword.

This tool can be particularly helpful when trying to come up with multiple variations of your headline.

You can see what people are looking for online and then tweak your headline to reach more of your audience.

Answer the public's search results will give you some great ideas to use during your headline test.
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This tool runs on keywords. It points out that 1-2 words get the best result.

I used “direct response,” which gave me an entire list showing other questions people ask about direct response and other keywords to try and target.

I love that this tool gives you so many other word choices to try in your headline.

UsabilityHub

I didn’t try this tool for my blog post headline as UsabilityHub is more suited for website and email headlines.

But I wanted to include it because it is a great tool, and you can see Carolyn Beaudoin’s test here.

UsabilityHub is a five-second testing tool.

This is the perfect test to run when you want to test a short piece of copy, namely your headline or value prop.

You can choose how many users view your site and what questions they’ll answer afterward.

This tool is paid if you want to use the testers UsabilityHub has recruited, run longer tests and have access to more reports.

It’s free if you want to choose your own respondents and run tests up to 2 minutes long.

Because of the speed of this test, you can perform headline tests on a few different options and choose the best-performing one.

In this blog post, Carolyn explains how to set up and run your five-second test. (I’m talking step-by-step)

She also goes through the types of five-second tests you can conduct, as seen in the image below.

Five second tests are great for headlines. The four types are: Memory dump test, Target identification test, Attitudinal test, and Mixed test.
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How to write a strong headline

Practice is key when it comes to writing a catchy and high-performing headline.

Joanna recommends writing at least 50 headlines before settling on one.

Although this sounds like a lot, it won’t take you any time at all once you get rolling.

Follow these steps for writing your next awesome headline:

  1. Include a time limit. Phrases like instantly, this week, and 24 hours can increase urgency.
  2. Make it an open-ended or curiosity-piquing question. Phrases like what if or imagine if.
  3. Replace lifeless words with interesting words. Try words that might seem out of place in your industry.
  4. Replace empty words with word pictures. Create a visual and try analogies or similies.
  5. Use formulas.

Watch this Tutorial Tuesday, where Joanna shows you exactly how to rewrite a headline using each of these steps.

Try a headline test on your next blog post or website rewrite

Looking at the above examples, you can see that my headline got similar but slightly different results from each headline testing tool.

So use them to test your headline options and solidify your headline choice.

To increase conversions (likes, shares, sales), your headline needs to make the reader feel like there’s something worthwhile to read if they continue down the page.

And accordingly, your copy after the headline needs to match what you promised in the headline.

The best headlines often come after you’ve written the copy.

So don’t rush the process.

Here are a few resources to help you write your next headline:



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