Why We Ask so Many Questions on Our Blog
When Nicole Elizabeth DeMeré mentioned the Radius Blog in 8 Great Marketing Blogs You Probably Don’t Follow (But Should), we were thrilled. However, it also made us reflect on a comment she included that many of our blog titles begin with “Why.” This strategy was actually intentional, and we’d love to explain why.
Crafting a credible, useful headline is often the most challenging aspect of any writer’s job. According to Copyblogger, on average, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. How can marketers write copy that delights and converts without resorting to clickbait? At Radius, we’ve run some experiments surrounding content marketing and headline optimization, and have pulled together the results for you.
Last summer, we made some pretty dramatic changes to our marketing product. With this came new messaging, new target keywords, and a new audience. In an attempt to understand our market, we spent the majority of fall focused on growing blog traffic and ramping up our social presence.
We began by conducting an experiment to quantify our content marketing efforts. We wanted to see which headlines resonated most with our new audience. From October 2014 to January 2015, we exclusively wrote blog titles beginning with “How to”, “Why”, or a Number. We then ran monthly traffic reports and looked at which posts drove the most traffic within 30 days of their publishing date. We added social shares into the mix to calculate the best recipe for headlines and channels, and discovered that monthly doses of data are integral to our content marketing efforts.
In 2013, we ran monthly traffic reports on all blog post pages and looked at which articles drove the most traffic. The how to articles proved to be clear leaders in page views. This got us thinking: would how to articles increase traffic again? To better understand which titles resonated with our new audience, we did some headline research and realized that articles beginning with a how to, why, and number tended to perform the best in terms of increasing click-throughs and social shares. We wanted to see if we could map a specific metric — time on page, site conversion, bounce rate, and page views — to a specific article format.
How to articles provide general advice that is applicable to a wider audience than long-form pieces of content that focus on theoretical concepts.
“When your audience searches for information, it could be because they want to know how to do something better. That’s where you can step in and provide helpful content to position your business as a source of relevant and useful information.” – Nathan Ellering
Copyblogger’s magnetic headlines ebook argues that starting your blog post title with “why” is an easy way to focus on the benefit of reading your article.
“People smartly employ aggressive attention filters when scanning headlines, and you’ll get through the filters of a lot more people if you spell out the benefits rather than relying on implication.” – Brian Clark
According to data from BuzzSumo, list posts are the second most-shared form of content, after infographics.
List posts make a very specific promise to a reader and arm them with a set of expectations.
We took these popular headline formulas and incorporated them into our editorial calendar to see if they would increase page views, social shares, and ultimately conversions.
We began by mapping blog topics to their respective buyer personas. For us at Radius, these range from CMO to Marketing Manager. We then designated each topic and persona with a headline that started with a how to, why, or number.
We quickly realized that while a list article could potentially increase our social shares, it may not resonate with some of our buyer personas — the CMO or the VP of Marketing — who are more inclined to deeper, thought leader pieces that explore a specific topic. When writing for these personas, we were careful to choose headlines beginning with how to or why to ensure that our content was better aligned with their business goals.
We then ran an All Pages report in Google Analytics to analyze each article’s page views, bounce rate, and average time on page.
Page views indicate how well a certain topic performs as well as the strength and reach of your social media machine. Page views were integral to our experiment because they told us which headlines attracted a wider audience.
A low bounce rate is a good indication of content’s relevance. By measuring bounce rate, we were able to see if our titles delivered on their promises.
Average time on page
When your average time on page increases, it indicates that your content is relevant to your readers’ interests. Average time on page helped us better understand what type of content and headlines our audience was looking for.
Social shares help build an online audience, which drives more traffic to your blog. By measuring social shares we were able to see which headlines performed the best on social media.
After running monthly traffic reports, we analyzed the data and were surprised by the results:
- List posts generated the most page views and social shares
- How to posts were second in line for page views but had higher time on page and lower bounce rates than list posts
- Why posts had the lowest bounce rates and a longer average time on page
We had anticipated that the list posts would increase page views, but we were blown away to discover how far ahead of the two other titles they performed. It quickly became clear that our audience was more likely to click and share articles that began with a number. Meanwhile, articles that began with how to and why were essential to create conversions and drive traffic back to our main site.
The results of our headline optimization experiment showed us that an editorial strategy needs a variety of content, including list posts to generate traffic and drive social shares, but you also need meatier content that yields low bounce rates and higher time on page to increase conversions.
You can incorporate these ideas into your own content marketing strategies by running Google Analytics data on your blog content to determine which headlines prove popular with your audience. You can also use this data to set traffic, social share, bounce rate, and average time on page goals. If you’re interested in increasing traffic, spend some time analyzing which articles drive the highest page views and write similar headlines. If your goal is to drive traffic back to your main site, look for headlines that have a high average time on page and low bounce rate. While writing headlines is no easy feat, data can help you better understand your audience and ultimately ease their pain points.