How to Increase Blog Traffic by A/B Testing Blog Titles

In content marketing, the refrain of “test everything” rings true. While you’re probably a pro at A/B testing email subject lines, you might not be taking the same approach with blog titles. But why? Are you ignoring the value of A/B testing blog titles? Or is it a process, logistics or technology issue?

The right blog title can significantly impact the overall performance of a post. If you want to increase traffic to your blog, A/B testing headlines is an excellent course of action.

Do Blog Titles Really Matter?

Did you know that only about 20 percent of those who read your title will click through to the article? That’s a small percentage, so you have to hook them in just a few seconds.

If you have a compelling title, it can increase traffic by up to 500 percent. The blog title substantially affects whether the viewer clicks, but it also sets the tone of the article and can impact what the reader takes from it.

So, yes, the blog title does matter, and by A/B testing, you’ll learn which titles interest your audience the most.

What Makes a Blog Title Great?

This may be a subjective question. It certainly depends greatly on your industry, topic, and audience. However, there are some universal truths when it comes to developing a great headline.

As with any aspect of content marketing, it should be customer-centric. It needs to compel your buyers to want to read more. Here are some fundamentals for impactful blog titles:

  • Use the keyword: This is textbook SEO strategy, but it’s also essential for reader engagement. With the keyword in the headline, the viewer knows the topic from the start.
  • Address challenges: Blog titles can immediately inform readers that the content will focus on a challenge that matters to them. Many of these formats look like “How To,” “Why Does,” or be a listicle like “X Tips.”
  • Lead with numbers: If you’re basing your article off a data point, and it’s meaningful, using it as part of the headline could pique audience interest.
  • Stand out with character: Interjecting humor, drama, or personality into your blog titles can help with traction, but do so strategically and make sure it’s appropriate for your audience and brand.
  • Make it personal: If your blog articles have individual authors, and the content is from their perspective, you can use “I” in the title. Doing so may add a layer of authenticity, which could appeal to users.
  • Avoid clickbait: Don’t be misleading with your title just to get clicks. It can damage your brand’s credibility.
  • Appeal to emotions: The reasons behind clicking and sharing content, ties to emotions. If you can capture this sentiment in the title, you’re likely to drive more traffic.
  • Be specific: A blog title is no place to be vague! Let readers know what to expect.
  • Keep it short: Attention spans are short, so you have to make a statement fast. HubSpot found that headlines between eight and 12 words resulted in more shares.

Is There a Perfect Formula for Headlines?

When you think about writing headlines, the word “formula” seems a bit foreign. It’s supposed to be a creative exercise, not a math problem. But many aspects of your content strategy are formulaic, in that you use templates and repeatable processes. There are several formulas for headlines with data and psychology to back their effectiveness. They include:

  • Surprise headlines that capture attention and hold interest.
  • Questions because people want to know the answer.
  • Curiosity that hints at something but doesn’t give it away.
  • Negative superlatives like worst, far outperform positive ones, because they tap into insecurities and intrigue.
  • “How to” works when the subject is challenging to the audience.
  • Numbers because we, as humans, respond to predictability well.
  • Including your audience, as it seems personal and self-interest drives many decisions.
  • Specificity with facts and numbers imply data-driven content.

Do You Know What Blog Titles Are Performing Well?

With any enterprise, you’re publishing a large amount of content every month. Behind every published post is data. Looking at your content analytics can provide you insights on blog titles that perform well.

Until you actually A/B test blog titles, you want no specifics, but you can look at content performance metrics to make some determinations.

What metrics to review:

  • Most shared content: Examine the blogs with the most shares on social media. Do they have similarities in their titles?
  • Highest ranking posts: In looking at the content with the highest organic ranking on Google, do you see any patterns?
  • Most views: Do articles with the most views have titles that follow a formula?
  • Length of time on page: The longer someone stays on your article, the more they read. This may not directly relate to the title, but it does show that the title was an accurate preview of what the user expected. Otherwise, they’d bounce right off the page.

How to Test A/B Blog Titles

For A/B blog title testing, the title must be the only component that’s different. If you have multiple variables, you won’t know which one was a difference-maker. To initiate your test, you’ll need to define the title as the variant and use an A/B testing tool. There are several different levels of tools available on the market today and your technology stack (CMS) may dictate what you can use. If you’re a WordPress user, there are several headline optimization plugins available that can be implemented in seconds with minimal cost (ex: Thrive Headline Optimizer).

If you’re working in the enterprise world, you’ll probably need to look at something like Optimizely or Google Optimize.

With all that said, these tools mostly do the same thing. They will allow you to implement an experiment with multiple blog headlines, send a percentage of the page’s traffic to each variant, and then leverage a variety of engagement metrics to determine the winner. Metrics they look at typically include click-through-rates, number of views, time on page, bounce rate, and conversions.

Lastly, some of these tools will even reroute traffic to the winning headline automatically as the data comes in and there is a clear winner.

How Different Should Your Test Titles Be?

That depends on several things and what type of formula you’re using. If you’re using a specific type of formula, you may want only to make a few word tweaks. Alternatively, you could test things like the “best” and “worst” to see if people really do respond better to the negative. You could also try two completely different formulas. What will stay the same is the use of the keyword.

Get Testing to Drive More Traffic

More traffic to your website usually leads to more conversions and customers. A/B blog title testing is just one more way you can optimize content for your audience. As you receive more data, you can continue to hone your blog title formulas, which can be valuable to large content teams.

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