|Site Headlines Tested|
|Thursday, 25 May 2006|
Topic: Site Headlines Tested — How optimizing your headlines can improve your website's conversion rate by 73% or more.
We recently released the audio recording of our clinic on this topic. You can listen to a recording of this clinic here:
In the world of direct mail it is well known that a minor change in a headline can have a significant impact on response rates.
But what about the web?
To find answers to these questions we ran a number of tests with different research partners and have discovered some surprising insights.
Case #1: Testing Headlines in a Multivariate Environment
Our first test measured the effectiveness of six headlines in a multivariate campaign for an online dental site.
Here were the actual headlines used:
Although other page elements were also optimized, the following table shows the isolated impact of the six headlines. Note that this is an ongoing test, and these are preliminary numbers:
What You Need To UNDERSTAND: Headline 2 increased the conversion rate of the page by 72.76%. The other headlines were markedly less successful.
This was the most effective headline:
"Dental Plans for $8.33 a month. Acceptance Guaranteed."
For this site, the low price of the service proved to be an extremely effective selling point. By placing that information in the headline, conversion jumped more than 70%.
The "guarantee" perhaps also contributed to the increase in conversion, but headlines 3 and 4, which also mentioned a guarantee, did not perform as well.
It is worth noting that the two top-performing lines, 2 and 3, both included specific figures. Clearly the price figure carried more weight than the figure relating to the number of providers available. But in both cases, the specificity of quoting a figure lifted response rates above the other lines.
KEY POINT: Selling points such as low price, large selection, money-back guarantees, and so on can be quite effective when highlighted in the headline of a page. This is the first text a visitor will see, so it has much potential for a large impact.
Case #2: Focusing on the Headline
Our next three tests focused exclusively on the headlines for another online company, which wishes to remain anonymous.
In our first round of testing, we tested three headlines on a single landing page.
The headlines were:
The body copy for all three test pages remained constant while the headlines rotated in an A/B/C split-run. Traffic was generated using a Google AdWords campaign and we measured click-throughs and leads generated for each headline:
What You Need To UNDERSTAND: In terms of the conversion rate of leads generated, Headline 1 performed 42% better than the next best headline and 259% better than the worst headline.
Based on an average cost per click (CPC) of $0.28, Headline 1 generated leads for $46.04 each, Headline 2 for $163.94, and Headline 3 for 64.90.
Based on these test results, Headline 1 is the clear winner.
This headline emphasized power and control, and did significantly better than Headline 2, which emphasized "cost savings," and Headline 3, which played on "competitive advantages."
In our second round of testing, we used a separate set of three headlines focusing on a different segment of the company's core market:
Again, the body copy for all three test pages remained constant while only the headlines changed. We measured the number of unique visits (from a Google AdWords campaign) and the number of leads generated by each offer page:
What You Need To UNDERSTAND: Headline 5 out-pulled the next best headline by 28%. Headline 6 was a dismal failure, generating no leads whatsoever.
Based on an average cost per click (CPC) of $0.31, Headline 4 generated leads for $41.70 each and Headline 5 generated leads for $32.65 each. Headline 6 generated no leads.
The winning headline emphasized the benefits of the software solution. It focused clearly on how the software will satisfy the needs of the client.
It is worth noting that the difference between the best and worst headlines was the addition of just two words at the end: "And smile."
These two words transformed a winning headline into one that failed completely. This underscores the value of testing. Using one's intuition alone, it would be hard to anticipate that those two words would have such a dramatic and negative effect.
Finally, we tested the best headline from each of the last two tests (Headline 1 vs. Headline 5) to both audiences combined. Now, in addition to changing the headline on each page, we also drove traffic to the pages using a different Google AdWords ad focusing on bringing in targeted traffic to each. Which would be the most effective headline for this site overall?
We measured the number of unique visits, leads generated, and cost per lead for each headline:
What You Need To UNDERSTAND: The conversion rate for each landing page was quite close (0.71% vs. 0.70%), but Headline 5 had a much lower cost per lead.
Although the conversion rates were nearly identical, Headline 1 generates leads at a cost nearly three times that of Headline 5. Thus, Headline 5 was a clear winner.
The PPC ad copy for Headline 5 also had a much higher click-through rate, which resulted in Google giving that ad more weight and generating more impressions.
The following points will help you get the most from headline testing:
By identifying effective phrases via PPC ad copy testing, you will then be much better equipped to write headlines that convert well. See our recent report for more information:
Once you have found your winning headline, you will have found the best approach or hook.
However, you may not be expressing that approach in the best way. So start testing a variety of small changes and variations to that one line. In this way you will find the best expression of your winning approach.
The first round of testing gives you the best approach. The second round finds its most effective expression.
Test font sizes and colors. Try adding some more white or blank space around the headline. Trying moving graphics closer to or further away from the headline.
On the web, the design of a page is an essential element in improving the readability of all your text.
RELATED MEC REPORTS:
As part of our research, we have prepared a review of the best Internet resources on this topic.
These sites were rated for usefulness and clarity, but alas, the rating is purely subjective.
* = Decent | ** = Good | *** = Excellent | **** = Indispensable
Editor — Flint McGlaughlin
Writers — Brian Alt
Contributors — Eric Stockton
HTML Designer — Cliff Rainer