Internet surfers are like goldfish. Many studies have proven that the average attention span is reduced by up to 30% when browsing online. The average surfer will decide wether or not they’re going to remain on a page and read the information or numeracy with it within 3 seconds of the page loading.
Similarly hundreds of eye tracking studies have shown that the primary piece of information that a user seeks within those 3 invaluable seconds is the headline.
Nielsen’s study “How People Read on the Web: The Eyetracking Evidence” calls out the importance of the headline
The headline is one of the most important elements of web content design and optimisation. There are two distinct flavours of headline that I see in my day to day. The marketing blurb and the value proposition.
So what is the best style of headline? Marketing? Value prop? Feature focused? Short and snappy? Long and descriptive Every business, product, service, web site is different. Similarly every web site user, custom or prospect is different. It’s impossible to know which headline style is going to resonate with which user or segment without A/B testing it.
By testing different headlines a business can make informed decisions using a structured optimisation tool and leverage hard data and insights.
The marketer can then develop performance specific headlines and importantly, deliver the different variations of a headline to the different users or segments that resonate with the particular headline.
I always direct a client to test their headlines within the early stages of their optimsiation roadmap. Start with the significantly different variations, typically marketing blurb vs value proposition focus.
As a rule of thumb and in my personal experience most websites lead with a marketing blurb focus headline, that I’d their static site or default content is marketing focused. This style of headline works well for acquisition based headlines where a user has been exposed to a marketing style message before landing on the site. Traffic generated from a Display Ad with a marketing style message, or perhaps a TVC that has driven a user to a landing page are typically good areas for Marketing Driven headlines. Similarly there are segments that will respond better to the product or features focused headlines. For example returning visitors that may have already conducted some research and are looking for reinforcement and product enforcement messaging will respond better to the more factual style headline. But without testing one headline style against another businesses and marketers are shooting in dark.
Headlines are typically a real point of conjecture within the business. I’ve heard many an argument between sales, marketing and product about what that all important headline should be. Testing once against offers a simple solution to solve the argument and allows hard data to make the decision. Personalisation goes a step further and allows all styles of headline to run concurrently on the site together and utilise the right message for the right user at the right time.
By testing headlines I’ve not only experienced increases in conversion rates but also significant decreases in bounce rates, time on page increase. The simple value vs marketing blurb is one of the best low hanging fruit optimisation practices and I implore you to take advantage of this simple tests in your strategic optimisation program’s.