Writing headlines isn’t fun. Hitting the sweet spot between dull and clickbait is challenging.
You can spend hours trying to find the perfect headline that both summarises your blog post and encourages people to click.
But why waste all that time trying to perfect that one title, when you could throw a whole bunch of them into the mix?
A/B testing your headlines is essential if you want more clicks and ultimately more leads. But why should you do it?
Why should you A/B test your headlines?
Your headline is the first thing people will see – before they even get to your website.
And to quote copywriting legend David Ogilvy:
On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.
Your headlines will make the difference between your content fading into obscurity and people reading your content in droves.
You’re creating great content and it deserves to be read, and enjoyed by the masses. So, your headline game needs to be on point.
Now, there are plenty of headline generator tools, and the web is full of advice on how to write better headlines to help you.
But with so many headline writing formulas to use, how will you know which actually attracts the most eyeballs? That’s where A/B testing comes in.
Testing is what allows you to discover what truly works for your audience.
So, how exactly do you run A/B tests on your headlines? That brings me on to the plugin we’re going to use for this tutorial.
What is Thrive Headline Optimizer?
Created by the team behind Thrive Themes, Thrive Headline Optimizer provides a quick way to test the titles of your blog posts to see which performs the best.
Instead of having to manually tweak every headline, this WordPress plugin automatically analyses the best performing headline variant and displays it without you having to lift a finger.
Essentially it helps you get more from your headlines, increases engagement and gives a boost to key site metrics.
Now, it’s important that I point out the difference between this plugin and other headline testing plugins on the market (and, there aren’t many!)
Most plugins simply split the traffic between different variations and measures success by the visits your content receives. This can be useful, but this approach can easily be skewed by one person with a huge audience that shares your article. And those results tell you nothing about engagement.
Instead, Thrive Headline Optimizer measures three different metrics:
- Click through rate
- Time on content
- Scroll rate
These three metrics are combined to give an engagement score. It’s not specifically looking at what drives the most traffic, it’s focusing more on engagement. And, ultimately, isn’t that what really matters?
It’s also worth noting that this is a premium plugin. It’ll cost around $67 for a license but that comes with lifetime updates (and 12 months support). Alternatively, you’ll get it included if you have a membership plan.
Note: Thrive Headline Optimizer is now fully compatible with Gutenberg 🙂
How to A/B test your headlines in WordPress
Using Thrive Headline Optimizer is surprisingly simple. The Thrive team do an excellent job of guiding you through the process with video tutorials and a straight-forward workflow.
First, you’ll need to purchase a copy of the plugin. Then, you’ll install Thrive’s product manager which allows you to install and activate the plugin.
Then, navigate to the Thrive Dashboard and click on ‘Thrive Headline Optimizer’. This will take you to a dashboard primed for carrying out your headline tests.
Here’s a quick guide to setting up, testing and publishing those headlines.
Step 1. Choose titles to test
Getting started is as simple as watching the quick-start video built right into Thrive Headline Optimizer. This walks you through the basics of setting up your tests.
In short, click ‘Add New’. The page shown below will open prompting you to choose which post titles you’d like to test.
Clicking the plus icon adds them to the list of content to be tested. Alongside this, pages, templates and other custom content types can be included too.
To remove a title from the list, click the red minus icon.
When you’re happy with your selection click ‘Save and Continue’.
Step 2. Create headline variations
The next page is where you’ll create the variations to test against your original headlines.
Your original title is labelled as the ‘control’, while any additional titles you add are called ‘variations’.
Click inside a variation field and type in another headline idea. Press Enter to add another if you want. Or simply click ‘Add Variation’.
Pressing Tab will move you on to the next control title where you can repeat the same process.
With all variations added, click the green button to head to the next step, which is determining your test criteria.
Step 3. Set the test criteria
Thrive Headline Optimizer uses a number of signals to decide if a user is engaged. These include:
- The number of click-throughs a headline gets
- The count of visitors engaged when they scroll 30% down the page
- The time visitors spend on your content
You can use the default settings which is the recommended option, or, create your own thresholds for each signal.
By default, Thrive automatically displays the best performing headline to maximise engagement on your content. You can tweak these settings with your own conditions. The defaults are:
- Minimum engagements
- Minimum duration
- Chance to beat Original
When you’re satisfied with your settings, click ‘Start Test’.
Step 4. Publish and view the results
With your headline split tests running, you’ll see a page similar to the one below.
This provides you with an overview of tests that are currently active. You’ll see a daily summary of views, engagements and engagement rate.
Clicking the blue window icon on the far right-hand side will open the reporting window for each test to view further analytics.
When your tests have run the full test period, you’ll see them further down the dashboard page under the heading, ‘Content with Completed Tests’.
Although they may be completed you can still view reports and create further split tests with these titles if needed.
How much does it cost?
Thrive Headline Optimizer is available as part of Thrive Suite, a bundle of WordPress plugins and themes designed to help you get more customers.
This includes their flagship theme builder, Thrive Leads (opt-in forms), Thrive Architect (landing pages), and much more.
Plans start at $19/month (billed yearly) and can be used on up to 25 websites. An agency license is available as well.
Further tips to optimize your headlines
Split testing your headlines is an effective way to test titles you’ve already come up with. But what should you do if you can’t think of anything to optimize?
If you’re stuck for ideas, try some of the following tips.
1. Use Portent’s Content Idea Generator
Enter what you want to write about into this headline generator and you’ll find matching titles to get the creativity going.
The headlines are funny and engaging and can spark an idea or two of your own.
If you need more help, be sure to check out our article on headline writing tools for more ideas!
2. Add symbols and numbers to your headline.
Including digit numbers to headlines, usually generates far more clicks and engagement than writing the number. There’s something powerful about that digit that draws the reader in.
Further to this, using [parenthesis] has a similar effect. What if you combined the two?
Here’s an example:
“Fifteen Easy Tips for Writing Better Headlines plus Bonus PDF”
“15 Easy Tips for Writing Better Headlines + [Bonus PDF]”
Which stands out more to you?
3. Use questions to generate interest
Questions are an excellent way to engage a reader’s curiosity. They want to know the answers to the question, so will click the headline to find out.
A headline like this is a prime example:
“What is Search Intent? And How Do You Optimize Your Content For It?”
The question isn’t so easy that the answer is obvious, and it offers real value to the reader should they click through. They’ll be curious and engaged enough to read through the content and find the answers they seek.
4. Deliver on your promises
When you’re so busy trying to come up with a headline that gets clicks, it’s easy to forget about what you’re promising the reader.
Your headline is a promise and you have to deliver on that promise to keep people coming back for more.
All too often click-bait headlines overpromise on their content. Instead of reading something amazing as promised, you end up scrolling through endless galleries with mediocre content.
Make sure you can deliver on a headline every, single, time. It will make you a better blogger and your readers will thank you for it.
5. Re-use past winning headlines formulas
If you have a sizeable archive of past blog posts, re-using the headline formulas you used for some of your top performers can be a great way to generate more headlines.
Screen Rant, a YouTube channel dedicated to Movies and TV, use this tactic to attract more views on their videos.
Take a look at these:
- 25 Pixar Easter Eggs that are Hidden in Plain Sight (2.2m views)
- 10 Marvel Easter Eggs that Went Undiscovered (1.5m views)
- 25 Deadpool 2 Easter Eggs and References you Totally Missed (2.3m views)
The pattern is similar in all three, yet with a few tweaks, they’re all generating well over a million views each.
A winning headline from the past can be a winning solution for future articles too.
And, you’ll find plenty more tips in our article on writing better headlines.
How to test headlines in WordPress like a pro
Generating ideas, writing and testing headlines is a crucial part of creating a blog post that is widely read and shared.
The Thrive Headline Optimizer is an ideal solution for bloggers wanting to take some of the work out of getting the most from their headlines. With its streamlined design and simple user interface, your blog posts will be delivering excellent results in no time at all.
Combine this with the best practices and headline tips above, to really get enviable headlines, more engagement, improved click-through rates and ultimately, more leads.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means we may make a small commission if you make a purchase.