How Optimizely Shattered Mossy Headlines Formulas

Creating an engaging title is always a kind of challenge for any blogger. Of course quality content is utterly important, but the bitter truth is that it might stay invisible for the user if the author didn’t manage to pick the proper words for the title. MonsterPost faced such kind of snags many times, so we decided to share our own experience of deriving the formula of a good title.

This article is a kind of author’s research busting the common myths about "how to create a good title" practices as they didn’t work out for MonsterPost. It's said that a wise person learns from his mistakes. A wiser one learns from others' mistakes. But the wisest person of all learns from others' successes. So, we are ready to let you into our blog’s heart, read it like an open book and make your own conclusions on what makes sense for you.

First of all, let’s showcase conventional tips and formulas of how to write a headline and try to sort out why they are not universal, that is, don’t fit everybody.

  1. Questions: “How Many Cups of Coffee Do You Drink a Day?” – Doesn’t work if the reader can’t recognize him/herself in the question. Busted!
  2. How-To’s: “How to Stay Yourself in the Changing Environment” – I don’t want anybody to teach me be myself. I know quite well how to be myself. Busted!
  3. Newsy: “Just Released: Latest Research on Improving UX” – With today’s technologies, Internet and social networks news travel with a lightning speed, so the user might have already heard about the research. Why should he/she read your interpretation of it? – Busted!
  4. Guarantees: “Following These Tips Will Increase Your Conversion by 50%” – Giving guarantees means being on a very slippery ground. If, for some reason, the conversion doesn’t raise by the declared number, you will ruin credit to your company. – Busted!
  5. Ways/Tips/Tricks: “5 Ways/Tips/Tricks for Increasing Your Conversion” – Sounds tedious and trivial. There are plenty of Ways/Tips/Tricks posts on the Internet. What differentiates yours from the crowd? – Busted!
  6. Benefits: “Get Your Work Done Faster and Start Making More Money Today” – Bla… Bla… Bla… Promises… Today the users are not so gullible, they don’t believe each and every word spread over the Internet. Busted!
  7. Listsicles: “Top 10 Ways to Increase Your Conversion” – 10, 15, 25 ways… The numbers don’t work anymore, in any event, this happens on MonsterPost and we will vividly demonstrate that this myth is also busted herein under.

How to make a catchy title - tips that are worth to consider

  • Don’t muse over your article title too much until it’s finished. As my personal practice shows, the best titles flash my mind after the post is already written. I guess the matter is that the article contents changes many times while you are working on it. You find new interesting info, nice imagery, and statistical data to include into it. Or you (your boss) may read the draft you have written yesterday and find out that you (he / she) don’t feel excited about it anymore. And you start to edit or even completely rewrite it. However, that doesn’t mean that the draft of your article should stay untitled until you put down the last word of conclusion. On the contrary, it’s quite helpful to come up with some basic title before you even start to write. You will change it later on, but it will perform the function of the lighthouse that will give you right direction and focus while you are writing. Otherwise, the vessel of your imagination and writing talent may carry you far away from the point of destination and you’ll find yourself somewhere on the deserted island at the center of the Pacific ocean.
  • Avoid long obscure titles. I believe that all copywriting industry professionals will agree that the ideal length of a headline is nearly 6 words. Sometimes it’s impossible to cram your idea into such a limited space. Then, place the most important words at the beginning. Here is an infographic from Kissmetrics proving this theory.
  • Optimize your titles for SEO and clickthroughs, but don’t overdo it. We always optimize our blog posts to rank for specific keywords or phrases. It’s a good practice to do the same for your titles. When people search for information on the Internet, they are more likely to click on search results that are closely related to their search term. Here comes the conclusion: using keywords in titles is important for getting people click on your posts in SERP’s. But beware of the “keyword trap”! You write your headlines not for search engines, but for people. Titles written just for search engines are often boring. They don’t stir the desire to click on them. That’s why I try to include the element of intrigue to get readers actually want to click through.

If you want to know my personal opinion on everything said above, I think that it’s really difficult to predict which title will get more clickthroughs, so it’s always a kind of experiment. But using powerful, catchy words is rather helpful even if you should sacrifice your keyword phrase for their sake. In other words, your title should differentiate from the great mass of other titles to capture reader’s attention. But you will never create something outstanding if you are guided and restricted by the universal formulas. I am not a stranger to upheaval when it comes to writing and creativity; I like to break the rules and what about you?

Our know how

Here I would like to tell you about MonsterPost experiment with the titles and its results. Actually, there is nothing new in A/B (split, multivariate) testing of your titles. I am sure that many bloggers can share similar experience at the comment section so that we could compare our outcomes.

We used Optimizely for the purpose. By the way, what tool do you use?

Now we started to write up to 6 variations of titles instead of 1 and insert them into the relevant fields of MonsterPost admin panel. They change each other, so different groups of users see different titles of one and the same article. This way we can track which title is the most popular/clickable and analyze why readers choose it.

Here’s how it looks in our admin panel.

And here are the results of A/B testing of blog posts recently published on MonsterPost. Let’s reason together why this or that title got more clicks than the others.

The title “MonsterAdmin: The Template to Wrapup Your Backend” has the highest rating. First of all it’s short. Secondly, it imparts absolutely unique news and its possible benefit for the users. Please note that each word is weighty and straight-to-the point.

I guess that the title “How to Grow Email List?” wins over with its absolute simplicity and straightforwardness. And it is very short again!

“Shop Safe With TemplateMonster. Get Your 35% Discount” – the word “safe” is nice and pleasant to hear, especially in combination with accurate amount of the discount. Please note that the shortest “sweet” title takes the second position.

“Trigger Based Email Marketing Essentials” – is the shortest title on the list with powerful uncommon words used.

“Dig Deeper – 65 Web Design Trends of 2016” – is perfect from the point of SEO, however, the author made it a bit mot spicy to avoid commonplace.

It’s a rare case when not the shortest title becomes the most popular. However, this can be explained. The most important information is placed at the first sentence, including the magic word “free”. Besides, the author clearly states what the user can get for free – a Premium WordPress theme.

Are you surprised with MotoCMS lovers’ preferences? The title that got the highest percentage of clickthroughs is a real jawbreaker. However a direct first part of the title “Top 15 MotoCMS3 Website Templates” and the word “Love” catch the eye.

And again the shortest title with the most interesting word play takes the leading position.

As you see, the title that has a 29% rating is SEO optimized, accurate, but not boring thanks to its second part, which is fun and informative at the same time.

Everything is simple with Modicate HTML5 template – the shortest title wins.

A SEO optimized, explicit title has the highest 25% rating. Please note that the author doesn’t ask us to look, view, read or see the first MotoCMS 3 eCommerce template, but to take a sneak-peek at it, which stirs our interest and creates an intrigue.

Wrap up

Now, when we have viewed visual representation of analytical data as to the most clickable titles (one more hat tip to Optimizely), we can work out main principles and title formulas that work for MonsterPost.

  1. Consider who your audience is and what your content is.
  2. Try to keep your title as short as possible. According to our practice users are not likely to read wordy titles and click on them.
  3. Go simple, use understandable words. Nobody will delve into your philosophical ideas.
  4. Don’t be afraid to experiment and break the common patterns. Eventually, you can create your own formulas that fit your particular blogging niche and your audience.
  5. Get rid of the trite words and phrases. Your goal is to make difference.
    These are the examples of words that make the users slightly sick:
    Obviously, absolutely, issue, iconic, transparent, actually, diverse, diversity, inclusive, fusion, artisan, so, literally, awesome, cool, basically, apparently, hate, love and so on.
  6. Choose powerful words.
    For instance:
    You, results, health, guarantee, discover, proven, safety, save, new, bomb, crazy, embarrass, feeble, frantic, hack, suck, vulnerable, trap, targeted, smash, scream, risky, pitfall, etc.
  7. Avoid negative phrases.
    Cannot, damage, do not, error, fail, impossible, little value, loss, mistake, not, problem, refuse, stop, unable to, unfortunately, not certain, not clearly, not possible, did not accept, did not allow, did not consider, the list goes on.
  8. Optimize your titles for search engines, but don’t try too hard.
  9. Try A/B testing, experiment and analyze the results to know your audience and their tastes better.
  10. Remember that the title of your blog post should give the users a notion of what kind of info is waiting for them, but not to reveal all your secrets at once. Hint, do relevant word play, intrigue.
  11. You must not declare a lie and let the users down.
  12. You have the information in the article that a specific audience wants. It’s extremely helpful to put yourself in the position of your audience and think what would cause you to click and find out this information. Do you want to be duped into it or do you want a straight shooter? Do you want something that sounds just like a dry, run of the mill, sure-to-be-written-by-a-computer list - or do you want something that peaks your interest?
  13. Highlight the specific outcome your audience might be interested in.
  14. Highlight the specific pain most of your audience might want to avoid.
  15. Stir people’s natural curiosity.
  16. Sometimes (giveaways, sales, special offers) it’s appropriate to add some urgency.
  17. Writing out a list of alternatives and narrowing down the best one never hurts.

Cutting a long story short, I would like to stress that the above points are MonsterPost formulas that have been derived with the help of experiments. Main takeaway of this article is that each case is unique, which means that there can’t be one-size-fits all tips of titles writing. Learn from other’s success, but don’t pin all your hopes on the way/tips/formulas they got there. Want to get a really killing title? Carry out your own tests. You can endlessly talk the talk, but it’s much better to walk the walk.

Speak Up!

Have anything to say about this case study? What tools do you use to make your titles more efficient? What is the most awe-inspiring title in your writing practice?

Thanks for every like and share of this article! Cheers!

Helga Moreno

Experienced writer passionate about highlighting all the topics related to web, design, marketing, SEO, and more. Follow Helga on Quora.

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