Better writing strategies: SEO, A/B testing, and target audience


Associations may not be newspapers, but like publications and other media, they have a lot of headline work to do, be it for blog posts, emails, white papers or other communications. Here are some headline writing tips to help you attract your audience and get your message moving.

Focus on the power of SEO

Authoring and search engine optimization don’t always go well together, but the fact of the matter is that many people will find your articles using methods such as search engines. If your headlines are written cute or funny rather than relevant, it could jeopardize the reach of the stories you write.

When pointer Note that it’s important to consider things that were considered taboo in an earlier era of headline writing, such as: B. Using the full names of the people and organizations you are writing about.

“Users looking for information about an individual are more likely to use both first and last names in their searches, but print headlines have traditionally used only last names,” writes author Vicki Krueger. “An SEO-friendly headline uses both names.”

The Substack Newsletter WTF is SEO?, which highlights search engine considerations in particular for news outlets, says length (under 70 characters) is also an important consideration. Another factor? Where the keywords end up. As authors Jessie Willms and Shelby Blackley write, it makes sense to think about your keyword placement in headlines.

“Often when readers scan your home page or search results, they only read part of a headline. So you want to make the most of the first few words,” said Willms and Blackley. “Concentrate on taking what matters most on the front lines.”

Consider your target audience

Not every element of your content strategy will be aligned with your members or even within your organization. It can be aimed at the outside world, and a bad target could mitigate its effects.

A few years ago, the National Association of Realtors did something in this direction when they changed their content strategy for sending press releases on PR Newswire.

Mixing timeliness and a focused news hook, the organization emphasized headlines that anticipated relevant details, with a data point often paving the way. Since NAR often deals with data-heavy reports, this gave the press releases additional relevance.

“One of our most important insights was that we looked more closely at the headlines of our publications,” said Sara Wiskerchen, the association’s former executive director for media communications. “They weren’t as succinct or persuasive as they could be.”

Improve your click through rate (CTR) with curiosity

You saw an Upworthy headline, you saw them all, right? Sure, those overly click-friendly headlines might feel a bit like a meme, but they have their place.

CoSchedule, a company that makes a useful free headline analyzer, says creating a curiosity gap can be an important way to engage readers.

Peyton Muldoon of the company said it was a matter of psychology. “If you have something that makes your audience question their knowledge of a topic or know more, they need to click on it to find answers,” she wrote.

When you have something that makes your audience question their knowledge of a topic or want to know more, they need to click on it to find answers.

— Peyton Muldoon, CoSchedule

Consider A/B testing, but don’t let it define you

One thing many businesses do, whether for email or on websites, is A/B testing different headlines to see what works most effectively with their audience. This can be a great way to uncover different tactics that might work with a specific audience or piece of content.

But this approach has its limitations. Last year, researchers at Northwestern University’s Computational Journalism Lab conducted a study on the impact of A/B testing on headlines in major newspapers and found that trying to draw broader lessons from an A/B success story was inconclusive was.

“Our results suggest that interpreting and extrapolating A/B test results like these is difficult and can even lead to bad recommendations,” researchers Nick Hagar and Nick Diakopoulos explained in a paper for Harvard University’s Nieman Lab. “So-called ‘best practices’ can spread without any foundation in actual audience preferences. Writing headlines is only a small part of what predicts a successful headline.”

Don’t be too smart with your wording

If you’re a former print magazine editor, you probably know a thing or two about clever puns in headlines, which are often seen as effective ways to draw people in. But in the online age, those headlines can prove a bit too smart in a world of aggregation.

An NPR training guide to headline writing recommends emphasizing the spirit of the topic via a clever approach. Fun has its place, public broadcaster realizes, but it has its limits.

“It’s fun to write a headline with a play on words or a cultural reference, but is it necessary? Will people get it? Or will people spend too much time trying to get your joke? Again – creative and unique and full of life, but not to clever,” wrote the guide’s authors, Colin Dwyer and Stephanie Federico.

(JLG Gutierrez/E+/Getty Images Plus)


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