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CRO i.e. how to maximize the performance of your content?

Seomphony - CRO - Photo by Noiseporn

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is a set of tools and tactics to increase the probability of your site visitors turning into actual paying customers.

I say “probability”, because CRO does not guarantee 100% conversions.

Indeed, the current conversion rates are around 1-7% depending on the industry.

The Conversion Rate Optimization methods range from basic Search Engine Optimization to quality link building to figuring out what to optimize based on what your analytics tells you.

Also, you should know that CRO has been criticized.

And indeed, growing your online profits covers more than simply increasing the number of transactions.

You need to give equal emphasis to metrics that track the quality of those transactions.

But anyway.

What is “conversion”?

A conversion could be anything.

For a blogger, a single blog subscription could be considered a conversion.

For eCommerce, a conversion might be a sale, a monthly service subscription, newsletter sign-up, product carting, or even an event click.

You can test and increase your conversion rates with the so-called A/B testing, where you would, for example

  1. Create two different versions of a headline both pointing to the same article
  2. Share both headlines in social media around the same time
  3. Analyze which one got more attention
  4. And then modifying the article headline itself based on the winner.

You can find more A/B test ideas here

Some are taking this to the extreme and are testing every aspect of the digital presence, down to how different hues of red affect the rate at which a “Subscribe” button is pressed. And there’s more to it.

Two red buttons
Which one is better?

And sure, colors, words counts, content lengths, publication timings, media types can all be tested infinitely.

But does it matter?

It may if you are a huge eCommerce site with lots of traffic.

There, a single change may produce a noticeable change in customer behavior, because statistically, it’s just probable.

It may also matter if you are just about to launch a new site. At that stage, some items must be A/B tested while others may be left for later.

With the rest of us, with our few pages and a few dozen of blog posts, what matters?

Conversion Rate Optimization starts from your value proposition

With your limited resources, there are a few things that you should concentrate on in conversion rate optimization in the first place. According to the sensible LIFT model by WiderFunnel, the factors are

  1. Value proposition
  2. Relevance
  3. Clarity
  4. Urgency
  5. Anxiety
  6. Distractions

Out of these, your Value proposition is the element around which to build.

The other five factors either drive conversions or inhibit them.

Out of them, Relevance, Urgency, and Clarity improve conversion rates, while Anxiety and Distractions decrease them.

Let’s take a look at each.

Conversion Rate Optimization drivers

Value proposition

Your Value proposition is the vehicle that provides the means for optimization in the first place.

A good Value proposition is easy to read and understand and clearly tells what benefits your customer can get.

In your customer’s eyes, your Value proposition is a cost vs. benefits formula that the brain launches subconsciously and automatically when they encounter your marketing touchpoint, for example, a web page of yours.

If your Value proposition meets the above criteria, you make it easier for a potential buyer to figure out whether he should buy from you or from your competitors.

If it’s not clear, he will definitely go to your competitor.

Thus, before you can state your Value proposition clearly, it makes no sense to test red hues.

Case example: testing different value propositions for EA

Relevance

While the value proposition may be clear, it will not help if the wrong kind of people land on your site.

Thus, your page must, for example, use terms your visitor relate to and be consistent with the incoming link.

Also,

  1. the message must be right
  2. the target group must be right
  3. the timing of the message must be right.

Otherwise, your visitor will be disoriented and leave the page.

How to improve Relevance?

By making sure

  1. The right kind of visitors
  2. From the right kind of channels
  3. Arrive on the right landing pages.

To conclude, the marketing message, the landing page content and the visitor expectations must all match for the experience to be relevant.

Clarity

The conscious attention span of a modern human being may be seven seconds anymore, but even before that, within a just a few seconds, the brain takes in all that you have on your page, processes the information and outputs the result to your conscious mind.

The result is either “This is for me!” or “I’m outta here”.

To increase the former, increase Clarity.

Clarity consists of Design and Content.

Designing for Clarity creates a pleasant “eye-flow” (for example, by supporting our natural F-shaped pattern reading style). Content clarity ensures the images and text combine to minimize comprehension time.

Indeed, if you can’t tell within a few seconds

  1. what you are selling
  2. how it benefits the visitor
  3. who is the product or service targeted at

you will lose a part of your customers. They will leave your site and might never come back.

Thus, an immediately digestible headline, tagline, and visual image are important.

The same applies to the page Call To Action (e.g. the button that prompts to take action).

When the page is clear, the visitor

  1. Knows what he must pay attention to
  2. And what he needs to click in order to proceed

Thus, if you want to sell more, simplify the language, shorten the sentences and avoid difficult words.

Urgency

A sense of Urgency improves conversions.

Urgency, in turn, constitutes of two components: internal (or how the visitor is feeling at the time of arrival) and external (or what you can introduce during the visit to increase the sense of Urgency).

The latter includes

  • the tone of the presentation
  • offers valid until a specific day only
  • deadlines (for example a planned price increase in the near future)
  • limited availability of a product or service

With these, you can even out the demand for your products or services. The purpose of these is to make your visitor buy now because this might be his first and last visit to your site.

Conversion Rate Optimization inhibitors

Anxiety

Many arriving at your site may have desires to buy from you, but something prevents them.

That something is Anxiety or a fear of

  • the deal failing or other unexpected disappointment
  • the product underperforming or service underdelivering
  • getting cheated, losing the money, getting fired or becoming the laughing stock.

Whether the Anxiety is rational or not, it affects your sales.

That’s why you need to reduce it any way you can.

Anxiety is a function of the Credibility you have built with the visitor and the Trust you are asking them to have.

To reduce Anxiety, you can

  • present professional certificates
  • https traffic
  • lock icons
  • testimonials
  • money back guarantees
  • 30 day free trials

Distractions

Have you heard of landing pages?

They are a popular method to introduce a first time visitor to your site.

A landing page is a web page designed to drive the visitor to complete one task, and one task only.

That’s why it’s stripped off of anything that prevents the visitor from completing that task.

The task may be to

  • subscribe to a newsletter
  • download a guide
  • type in the credit card number
  • share a content

That’s why the design must be simple and distraction-free and the offer on the page targeted for a single purpose.

The number of distractions can be even calculated in the form of Attention Ratio.

That is the number of clicks leading to the desired results divided by all the interactive elements on that page.

A distraction-free ratio is 1:1 and it means that only one thing can be done on the page.

And, the smaller the AR is, the smaller the page conversion rate will become.

Conversion Rate Optimization – so now what?

Let’s recap the message of this article

  1. Formulate a good value proposition. No meaningful conversion rates can be generated without an effective value proposition
  2. Increase Relevance and Clarity, and inject a sense of Urgency
  3. Decrease Anxiety and the number of Distractions.

Once these are in order, you can concentrate on the button hues, right?

Not so fast: keep your eye on your strategy.

It probably encourages you to grow. Growth happens through an increase in sales.

Now, an A/B tests may indicate that changing a detail in a page design results in a higher conversion rate. But if the change eventually hurts your sales or impacts your revenue negatively, you need to choose the change that increases your long-term bottom line.

Don’t be tempted by the short-term conversion spikes.

There you go. Happy conversions!

Also: only convert the right kind of people. Do you know who yours are?

How to conduct a SEO audit?

SEO audit by Seomphony.com - Photo by Dmitry Pavlov

When done the right way, Search Engine Optimization can can have a significant positive impact on your online presence.

It can determine whether potential site visitors end up on your site in the first place, and whether they can navigate it and find what they are looking for. In addition to website traffic, it can also affect the conversions you get.

This is why it’s critical to conduct an audit of your site to determine whether it’s meeting its full potential. This is especially true if you have operated a site for a long time.

Here at Seomphony, we specialize in the more scientific marketing and sales tactics, but they cannot really be utilized before your site is in shape first.

So let’s get going.

What is an SEO audit?

Simply put, an SEO audit is a health check for your site.

It is a thorough analysis of all the technical infrastructure on your site, as well as the off-site and on-site elements that could help improve your website’s usability, visibility, and accessibility.

Depending on the size of your site, the process could require a lot of time and effort, but there’s usually several things that you can correct immediately.

There are software on the market that can help with SEO audit, and it makes sense to use one again if you have thousands of pages online.

On the other hand, it is better to learn the SEO audit basics below so that you can look for and identify the right things to fix.

Who needs an SEO audit and when?

Every website can benefit from an audit especially if one has never been conducted. Roughly, the longer the site has been up, the more need there is for the audit. One way to decide about the actual audit timing are major Google algorithm updates, or for example once a year.

The fairly simple audits that I’ve done for sites with max a couple of dozen pages and articles have all easily resulted in a list of fifty to one hundred items to fix. Older and bigger sites may require a full redesign before the site begins to match current search engine requirements again.

Benefits of an SEO audit

An SEO audit determines your as-is state based on which you can determine a workable plan for improving your site’s rankings on major search engines.

It also allows comparison with competitors. SEO audit is a great benchmarking exercise that can give you an idea of what your competitors are doing. This can help you devise tactics to improve your own visibility and accessibility.

It educates you about all the factors that could affect your ranking on major search engines. This will allow you to pay more attention to them in future.

Supports you in creating a winning SEO approach to serving your customers better. By knowing the weaknesses of your website, you can create a strategy that helps you fix issues and improve your domain authority.

What does an SEO audit cover?

A Search Engine Optimization audit covers three main areas, mainly:

– Technical aspects of the site.

– On-page analysis

– Off-page analysis

Technical Aspects of the Website

A technical audit involves an analysis of the technical foundation of the site. These are all the nuts and bolts that help your site run. This type of audit makes it easier for search engine spiders to crawl and index your site for easy accessibility. Some of the website features to analyze include:

DNS settings

This analysis helps you ensure that search engine bots don’t get an error whenever they try to crawl and index the site. To do this, log into your Google Search Console and check for crawl errors and the current status on your dashboard. If there is a green check under DNS, the site is good to go. However, if there are errors, you need to perform a more thorough check to get an explanation of the problems you need to address.

Server Error

On the same Google search console dashboard, look for a green check under ‘Server Connectivity’. You can go into further detail in the search console to look for any crawl errors, as well as the total server connectivity errors.

Robots.txt fetch

This is also available on the console dashboard. As long as there are no errors, you are good to go. You can also use the Robots.txt tester to ensure specific parts of your site are not being blocked.

404 errors

All sites get 404 handling errors. Therefore, a small number of these errors is nothing to worry about. However, if you are getting thousands of 404 errors, or if you experience a sudden spike in the number of errors, there could be a problem with the site. 404 errors indicate that there are missing pages, and this could mean that the server has issues, or that there are problems with the site’s performance.

To check for 404 errors, go to the Google search console dashboard and click on crawl. Click on crawl errors, and select the ‘Not found’ tab. If there are a lot of errors, will have to delve deeper to discover what the real issue is.

Site security

Search engines such as Google give preferences to sites that are secure. Therefore, having security in place can help reassure your users and even slightly improve your search rankings and traffic. Check your site on your browser to ensure there is an ‘s’ after ‘http’.

Indexation

This analysis ensures Google is indexing all the pages it should. Start by going to your Google dashboard and clicking on Google Index. Select ‘Index Status’ to see the total number of indexed pages. Next, go to Google search engine and search for ‘site:[yourwebsite name]’. Look for the number of indexed pages the results page returns. The numbers should be equivalent, and any major discrepancies should be analyzed further.

HTML validation

Use a HTML validation tool to determine any errors your site has. Be extra vigilant for any fatal errors. Give the report to your web developer to improve a site accordingly.

XML Sitemap

Ensure the site has an XML sitemap to make it easier for bots to scan the pages. It’s important to ensure the sitemap is simple and straightforward, as cluttered instructions can weaken the sitemap’s integrity and cause bot confusion. To scan your site’s XML sitemap, use the free W3 syntax checker.

Malware scan

Most search engines can find viruses and malware on a site. A site that has a lot of viruses can be marked as unsafe, and visitors may be wary of browsing through its pages. Therefore, it is advisable to run a scan to check for risks.

Mobile friendliness

An increasing number of visitors access websites through their mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets. Making a site mobile friendly can help tap into this market and reach the site’s full SEO potential. The Google Developers mobile friendly test can help you determine if the site can be easily accessed and navigated on a mobile device. What you need is an ‘Awesome’ score from Google Developers. If you don’t get this message, analyze your site further to determine any issues it has that may affect its responsiveness on mobile devices.

Site speed

The speed of a site has a lot of impact on the user’s experience, and it can influence their decision to stay on a site or to visit it in future. Most of the time when conducting an SEO edit, you’ll find a problem affecting the speed of the site. The likelihood is fixing this issue will have a huge impact on the traffic volume as well as conversion rates on your pages. Websites such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights can help you determine the speed of your site on both desktop computers and mobile devices. It is important to note that you’ll never get a perfect score on these tests. However, you should watch out for certain factors and results, including:

– Code to text ratio

– The size of a page

– The size of images on your site

– Cache installation

– Minimizing or externalizing scripts to improve site speed

On-page SEO audit

A thorough on-page audit would involve an analysis of every single page on a site and that makes sense if you have a maximum of a few dozen of pages. However, this is not practical for sites that have hundreds or thousands of pages. For such sites, it is better to take a sample of 50 to 100 pages and analyze them to determine the health of the site.

Main and Footer navigation

Navigation affects the experiences your users have on your site. Navigation on the site should be simple, accurate, and intuitive. Everything should be logically arranged and keyword focused to make it easier for users to access the information they need. There should also be straightforward navigation on the page’s footer.

Breadcrumbs

If the site has any breadcrumbs, analyse to ensure they are relevant and functional. Breadcrumbs can help with schema markup and improved navigation, as long as they lead to the right pages and convey the right information.

Content

Content is king on any website, which is why it is important to ensure the site has the right information. To stay competitive, it is important to update the content on a site consistently and continuously. The articles and on-site information should always be optimized for a certain keyword relevant to the industry or target audience. These long-tail keywords improve a site’s chances of ranking highly on search engines. More information in my article about SEO Copywriting.

URL analysis

URL is the path that search engines follow to access a site. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the URL is analyzed for usability and indexation. A good URL should convey what the particular page is about. When analyzing URLs, ensure there are no numbers or symbols. The URL should be short, simple, and keyword focused.

NAP Presence

NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number. A business site should have this information on all pages on the site to make it easier for users to contact the owner. The NAP should be present on the header or footer to ensure it can be seen throughout the site. The information should also be consistent on all pages. For SEO purposes, you can also integrate maps on your site to make it easier for users to locate the business.

Page-by-page analysis

This involves a deep analysis of all the pages on the site. Some of the details to look out for include:

1. Page title

2. Meta description

3. Headers

4. Keyword focus

5. Relevant copy

6. Interactive and visual content

7. Internal linking

8. Alt tags

9. Broken links

10. Advertisements

11. Layout and readability

12. Spelling and grammar

13. Call to action

Off-page audit

This is the final phase of the audit, and it mostly involves backlinks and social media audits. It is important to know where traffic to your site comes from, and whether the sites are authoritative and respectable.

Traffic

One of the best tools to use when determining the traffic to your site is Google Search Analytics. To access it, go to the search console dashboard, click on ‘Search Traffic’ and select ‘Search Analytics’. You’ll see a chart with information on your site’s ranking, performance, and search viability.

Search penalties

If a site has been penalized, you may have to go through quite a bit of to get it indexed again or ranking higher on search engines. There are two types of penalties, manual and algorithmic. Manual penalties are enacted by staff members in Google, and they spell real trouble for site owners. To check if a site has been manually penalized, go to ‘Search Traffic’ on the Google search console dashboard, and click on ‘Manual Actions’.

Algorithmic penalties are automatic, and represent a decrease in site traffic after algorithm changes. There are quite a number of tools to help you determine if an algorithmic update affected your site’s rankings or traffic. If you see any decline in traffic after an algorithm change, it means that your site was penalized because it didn’t conform to the rules of the new algorithm.

External links

An audit should analyze the quantity and velocity of inbound links. Ideally, inbound links to a site should increase steadily over time. If the velocity is too high over a short period of time, it could suggest that the content on the page went viral, or that there is spamming or negative SEO. Negative SEO tactics and spamming could get a site penalized. It is also important to ensure that the deep links are more than the home page links. Deep links are inbound links to internal pages on a site. Home page links are links to the site’s start page.

Inbound links should com from Top level domain sites. Generally, the most authoritative and beneficial links are from .gov and .edu sites. You can also get a lot of benefits from .com and .net sites. But: to determine the actual quality of a site and a link, use a professional tool such as SemRush, Moz or Majestic.

Another factor to consider when auditing a site’s inbound links is the link topic. The inbound links should come from relevant industries and sites, not ad-heavy or adult-themed sites.

Conclusion

After conducting an SEO audit on a client’s site, hold a meeting with the site owner to discuss the findings of the audit and advise on ways to correct issues and errors for improved site performance.

Want to know more?

Robbie Richards has excellent ideas about removing “dead weight” from your site.

With GTMetrix you can get a quick overview of your site’s technical health.

Link-Assistant.com has a good checklist for performing technical SEO audit.

Branded content

Seomphony - Branded content - Photo by Artem Kovalev

What is branded content?

Branded content is technically about articles, videos, podcasts, images and live elements that are designed to serve your clients in every stage of their customer journey and to behave according to your brand guidelines at the same time.

It is not advertising in the traditional sense of commercials, banner ads, social media ads, etc. The key is to drive real engagement through content that educates, informs and/or entertains your audience.

Engagement is created through a story. The story must place your target audience in the center while your product or service takes a “supporting” role. By doing so, your target audience can see the kind of people they want to identify with. They need to see themselves in your stories.

Cultural Imprinting is acceptable in this context as long as all artifacts in the story carry the same meaning the target audience wants to communicate to their peers.

Examples of branded content

  • The whole term of “branded content” got conceived after in 2001 after the introduction of the series “The Hire”. Produced by BMW, each of the eight-part episodes, directed by an international filmmaker, revolved around a narrative. The true objective, however, was to highlight the performance capabilities of various BMW vehicles.
  • General Electric regularly publishes content for their content hub “GE Reports”. It tells stories related to GE’s industry, featuring articles from different voices. You can experience content about innovation, digital transformation, and also GE business, and no advertising of their products.
  • T Brand Studio published this article for Netflix before “Orange is the new black” went live. The piece mentioned nothing about Netflix’ services or products in a traditional advertising sense, but it did provide original insight into the topic of female inmates — a topic that also serves as the main focus of a Netflix original series. Instead of spending on a banner ad telling people to watch the new series, Netflix put their resources towards getting a piece of content in front of the eyes of over 1 million New York Times readers.
  • One of the most successful branded content campaigns to date has been Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches”. Dove’s research had initially revealed that only 4% of women polled described themselves as “beautiful”. A message called “beauty is for everyone” was conceived. It was delivered in the form of videos that featured an FBI sketch artist drawing women as they described themselves. Then, the artist drew portraits of the same women, but the descriptions were given by strangers, resulting in the difference between the two sketches often being breathtaking. The campaign was the most watched branded content in 2013.

The recent branded content campaigns include

The History of Branded Content

Branded content is not a new trend. Already in the 40s it was common for shows to have a specific sponsor, or even for a brand to create their own content.

In the 1970s, brands like Proctor and Gamble created and sponsored their own soap operas.

Today, companies and organisations approach sponsorship through their social responsibility programs, and content can include podcasts, videos, web series, articles, and even virtual reality.

Why Branded Content Works Better Than Traditional Advertising

  1. It has been found that 60-90% of TV viewers and people online skip advertising. Viewers and visitors are increasingly aware of the techniques being used and sophisticated enough to seek for more meaningful experiences than mere advertisements. When done well, branded content can very well respond to this demand.
  2. A study by Forbes and IPG Media found that branded content consumers found branded content 2X more memorable than display ads.
  3. Nielsen found that branded content outperforms pre-roll across several KPIs, e.g. Affinity, Intent, and Recall .

Is branded content for you?

The first thing to understand is that branded content is different from content marketing. The latter focuses on your products and services and may more or less facts based. The former puts your audience in the centre of the experience and uses emotions. You have to get comfortable with showing your audience to your audience through a story that for example touches one of the four core human emotions and places your product or service as one element of the experience.

Also, you need to consider these five keys to successful branded content, by Nielsen

Finally, you can use Studiobinder’s proposal for creating the campaign project:

  1. Set campaign goals
  2. Develop and entertaining idea
  3. Produce the content & launch

What is disguised marketing?

Seomphony - Disguised Marketing - Photo by Marcela Laskoski

Marketing comes in many forms.

The most obvious is the billboard outside, the loud radio ad and the overacted TV commercial.

They underestimate your intelligence and try to be funny, but end up being annoying.

Then there’s Cost based Advertizing: “Buy now! Cheap! 19.95. Only today!”.

You see it everywhere. It serves the basic survival needs. The only differentiating factor is the price.

Third: Emotional Inception.

You see happy people drinking Coke so you assume that drinking coke makes you happy.

This is higher up on the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but it works by encouraging you to think that using product X will produce result Y.

Last, let’s not forget Cultural Imprinting.

Cultural Imprinting also works through mass media by communicating a message that you can choose to convey to your friends and peers in a shared space of meaning.

For example, as a “chill” person wanting to socialize with other “chill” persons, you may want to own a special pair of “chill” sneakers, because an advertisement positioned those latest pair of sneakers as an item for “chill” people.

That works as a means of social recognition. You want to maximize the number of social interactions with like minded people. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We want to belong.

Disguised marketing lets your customers choose and communicate the meaning

But you have a sophisticated product and your consumers are equally sophisticated.

They are educated and informed and they are doing their own research, following those people and brands that complement their sense of self-realization, and not your sales targets.

They walk their own paths, create their own meanings and stand proud as individuals. They don’t share their experiences with masses but to a few selected individuals. They don’t maximize the number of social interactions but form a few high-quality ones.

Still, you’d like to raise the awareness of your brand, help visitors compare your value offering with those of your competitors, help potential customers decide and service them afterward.

You could try Product Placement by, for example, placing Aston Martins in James Bond movies. Not a big deal, you know they are there already before the movie because that’s what James Bond did in the books, too. But your customers probably don’t watch Hollywood blockbusters.

There’s Guerrilla Marketing that grabs attention in surprising ways, for example with a flash mob, unannounced. It’s fun and the post-mob video may go viral. But Guerrilla Marketing tries to maximize shock value. Your customers don’t move in masses.

There’s also Content Marketing that, when done well, does educate people with valuable “How to” type of articles. But eventually, they will start sending you special offers based on your interests.

Enter Disguised Marketing

Disguised marketing is indirect. It’s marketing that doesn’t look like marketing. It happens within another context than your brand, website or marketing material itself.

Here are some examples.

It may be an online story, where your products are carefully placed in the visual imagery or storyline as objects or themes. But: no special attention is paid to them. The characters may use the objects as any other, but just because they happened to be around. A brand name may be mentioned in a conversation. A scene may happen in front of a storefront. A person may use a service in a scene, but casually, like any other. No tone of voice, facial expression or other element gives away anything out of the ordinary.

Timing is important here. As soon as the camera follows anything else than the story or the timing of an action related to an object is different from the rest of the story choreography, the viewer will figure out that something’s up.

It can be a YouTube video channel of a lifestyle vlogger, where he/she casually mentions a brand every now and then. But it has to be because the vlogger sincerely enjoys the product or service, and not because it was the one that offered the biggest bribe. Humans can spot fake enthusiasm.

Disguised Marketing can also be in the form of a tangential content site that publishes cat videos and occasionally drops a link to your main site. For example, a luggage retailer could publish country-specific travel guides.

Finally, the traditional link building may be considered disguised marketing. You can, for example, search for discussion forums and social media interactions about a specific topic or industry, get involved and mention your main site in a suitable context. But once again, the key is to remain natural.

Disguised Marketing is an investment

Respect your customers. Act like a human, not like a sales robot. Build links, but don’t be mechanical. Participate in discussions, but don’t sell it. Tell a story.

Disguised Marketing is an investment. Anybody can say “Hey there! Look at this! Good! Cheap! Buy now!”. But that is medieval market square noise.

Your customers are more intelligent. They have a strong “psychological immune system“, avoid being manipulated and don’t do what everyone else is doing.

With Disguised Marketing you can present them several different messages that they can themselves choose from.

10 ways to write a good headline. It’s not clickbaiting!

TL;DR: want to write a good headline? Get creative by writing the first headline that comes to your mind and then make 25 versions of it. The 26th may be what you are looking for.

The longer version:

Writing a good headline is an art form of its own

From business perspective, the headline is important, because the it is the first element of your copy that customers read. Based on the headline only, the viewers create a first impression that either draws readers in or pushes them away.

Technically, the headline (along with description and URL) is important, because the headline is what Google displays of your page or article in its search results page. If the headline is not informative and relevant to the keyword they were looking for, visitors will move on.

Research: for example, CopyBlogger found out that 8 out of 10 people read headlines and only 2 out of 10 will actually read the rest of your content.

An extreme form of headline writing is clickbaiting. It is the method of writing headlines that strive to maximize advertising revenue. An example clickbait goes like this: lolboom.net/15-things-you-wont-believe-are-made-out-of-legos. It’s catchy, arouse your attention, promise to deliver, but to get to the end of the content, you may need to flip through a jungle of advertisements.

Develop good headlines based on findings from your analytics

Headline writing in the inbound marketing context may sometimes resemble clickbaiting, but only because it is based on actual science: we inbound marketers generally know what has been found to be a working solution.

We know it because there’s a lot of research results around. Several million email, article and page headline research has been done, and they all indicate that we humans, on average, get more interested in certain

  • number of words,
  • order of words, and
  • choice of words

over certain other combinations.

The inbound writing style that encourages you to apply such techniques may feel cold at first. But the choice is yours.

I would never force you to use a specific style. All I’m saying: “Look, this is what generally works, and here, this is what your analytics tells about the preferences of your particular audience. You are absolutely free to ignore both and to use your gut instinct. I’m only bringing the facts on the table, nothing more.

10 resources for writing a good headline

55 ideas for a good headline: coschedule.com/blog/write-a-headline.

To increase trust, deliver in content what you promise in the headline: wpcurve.com/headline-writing.

A 56 character long headline allows the full display of it in search engines: blog.hubspot.com/marketing/a-simple-formula-for-writing-kick-ass-titles-ht.

Human psychology and headlines: surprise, questions, negative superlatives, How to-answers, specificity and numbers in headlines work better: blog.bufferapp.com/headline-strategies-psychology.

If a headline does not result in a click-through, your content promotion effort is wasted. But a change of one word in the headline may increase click-throughs by 46% quicksprout.com/the-definitive-guide-to-copywriting-chapter-3.

Learn how you can test the impact of different headlines among your audience: the Buffer test: wordstream.com/blog/ws/2014/07/17/headline-writing.

CoSchedule analyzed 1 million of their own headlines and learned that

  • List articles are shared the most,
  • the words “you” and “your” performed well and
  • in Twitter, business and technology words performed better than words referring to home or health (which work better in Facebook).
  • Als0, headlines with high Emotional Marketing Value are shared more than others.

okdork.com/2014/07/22/we-analyzed-nearly-1-million-headlines-heres-what-we-learned

List of Common, Uncommon, Emotional and Power words that work and the proportion in which they should be used in a headline: coschedule.com/blog/how-to-write-the-best-headlines-that-will-increase-traffic.

Do you do email marketing? Check out these 13 email subject lines that encourage your recipients to read the rest: blog.hubspot.com/sales/intriguing-email-subject-lines.

And, my personal favourite: write 25 headlines exercise: slideshare.net/Upworthy/how-to-make-that-one-thing-go-viral-just-kidding.

Now it’s your turn

What have you found out to work best in headlines among your own audience? Any other good headline tips? I would love to know. Please comment!

Four types of information

There’s a lot that can be said about management, but in any case, it’s definitely about creating organizational structures that feed the right information on the manager’s desk so that he/she can make the right decisions to keep the organization on track.

During our years we’ve worked with many different kinds of people, and we’ve been observing what information they deal with. Gradually, we’ve started seeing a pattern:

Our hypothesis: management is about managing four types of information

There are four kinds of information in the world:

  • Beliefs
  • Assumptions
  • Opinions
  • Facts
Four types of information - The Balance - Seomphony.com

Let’s explore these more closely.

Beliefs

Beliefs are a specific type of information that is strongly associated with strong personal feelings towards morale and ethics.

Some of the beliefs are based on religious texts that people of belief refer to in their decision making. Some take them as truths, others as general guidelines. You can spot a belief in action for example when someone claims that

  • “It says in <insert the name of a religious text here>”, or
  • “<insert the name of a spiritual source here> says that…”.

Those are typical beginnings of a sentence that a belief based person starts his / her turn.

Note that we’re not placing the above on any scale of good-bad or right-wrong.

We’re merely pointing out that many people in the world base their worldviews on beliefs. Beliefs can indeed be strong moral guidelines, but equally often they can conflict especially when new facts are presented.

In addition to religious people, politicians also use beliefs in their speeches.

“We believe that the United States of America…”

“I believe the European Union is a…”

“It is our belief that the economic growth in Asia continues to…”

Indeed, national and international politics are based on many beliefs.

Once again we’re not saying it’s good or bad. It may just be that a nation or a group of nations is a very complex system and no matter how carefully your list all relevant factors and plot out their causes and effects, their result is often unknown.

All a politician may be able then to conclude is that X is believed to take place.

Assumptions

Assumptions are probabilities, often related to risks.

Both are actively managed for example in projects, where the likelihood of certain risks need to be estimated and their impact mitigated.

Assumptions are also something that businesses need to manage whenever they forecast demand.

Third, customer behavior may be unpredictable. It is also a reason some companies have switched from fixed annual budget rounds to rolling five-year continual budgeting, which is a form of assuming that this is how things will roll out, but we have limited visibility.

Or we assume that since we’re dealing with customer X, Y is going to happen, because Y has often happened with customer X, but not always. But we assume Y is going to happen so we prepare for it.

Opinions

Opinions abound.

Everybody has one. Many have several.

Opinions are widely used everywhere. Media and the news channels love to gather and distribute opinions in the form of polls and interviews. Millions of people post their personal opinions online in social media every day.

Out of all the four types of information, the proportion of opinions is probably the biggest.

That’s because the contemporary world loves winners, funny people and the unexpected – those people that exhibit dominance in human interaction with their behavior.

Once again, that is not a criticism. Extroversion is one of the ways to exist in the world, and the modern world loves extroverts.

Facts

Then, we have facts.

The Earth revolves. France is in Europe. Bitcoin is volatile.

These are facts that can be scientifically proven and have been substantiated by millions of people so many times throughout the years that we know they are not mere collective hallucinations.

Notice that it’s important to distinguish between data (which is an abstraction of reality) and facts (which are direct, undisputed observations of reality made with our five senses).

Facts are useful, but they may also conflict with for example the views of a beliefs-based person.

Opinions, on the other hand, may sound like facts when a strong feeling is inserted.

For assumptions, facts are needed, but still, they are only probabilities.

The information distortions

Now, let’s talk about what happens when one of the information types dominates over the others.

The Divine Guidance

Four types of information - Balance - Seomphony.com

First, we have the Divine Guidance. Here, the person is so convinced by his guiding beliefs (which may be religious or other) that regardless of how many of the three other types of information you present them, their mind remains unchanged.

We find this fascinating.

A strong belief can take a person through difficult times (thinking about, for example, what the Holocaust survivors have told about what made them persevere).

We find it equally fascinating, after watching a few of the Atheist Experience sessions, how a strong belief prevents a human being from changing his worldview no matter how many logical arguments are presented.

Once programmed, it is difficult indeed to change how the brain later functions.

This is often the root cause to change resistance. Let us know in the comments if you have succeeded, though!

The Mental Disorder

Four types of information - Assumptions - Seomphony.com

A good project manager is assumptions oriented. His/her job is to think about all the myriad ways a project can derail and come up with control plans to get it back on track.

But in the other end, we have The Paranoid.

These people think that the world is a dangerous place. Thus, they try to maximize their sense of security by promoting rules in their communities. If an exception can’t be handled by a rule, they will come up with a new rule.

We call these the “Straight A” people. If there was an AA grade, they’d go for that. Unlucky for them, there is not, so they are stuck with A:s and it doesn’t make them happy.

But the thing is, no matter how many A:s there’d be up for grabs, no amount of them would satisfy the Paranoids.

And this is what a well-functioning adult can understand.

The world is unpredictable, but we just have to get along, even survive, and not get hung up on all the minutiae that pour in our general direction.

For example, to get forward, Pareto analyze. See what’s important and focus on that. Make a move. See if it helps. If not, test another approach.

The Auction

Four types of information - Opinions - Seomphony.com

The Auction is when extroverted people dominate.

The extroverted usually dominate, because they get energized by thinking aloud and through active dialogue.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but the extroverted may dominate discussions at the expense of what the introverts could bring on the table.

We love Auctions, because of the collective hallucinations they create. Auctions are the signs of our times: whoever shouts the loudest, wins. And human brains love to get confused. It provides an easy platform to get entertained, or later to blame someone else.

The only wish of introverts is for the Auctions to go on so long that the batteries of the extroverted ones run out. THEN introverts can begin to have some real conversations.

(That actually happened once. We attended a five-day training. The extroverts dominated Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. EVERYBODY had an opinion. Arguments flew. Extroverts were energized.

Until by Thursday lunchtime, their batteries run out.

They were exhausted. Complete silence.

Then we introverts took over.

Many views were shared then.

The Machine

Four types of information - Facts - Seomphony.com

Machine people are scientists. They want to dig out the facts and bring data to the table.

But facts may be uncomfortable. It may be hard to look at the truth, kill your darlings and move on.

Also, facts may be what they may be, but your gut feeling may tell otherwise. What do you do?

Incidentally, we’ve been accused of being a Machine, especially our intimate relationships.

But really. How is it better to roll around in emotions than to rise above the whole thing and look at the big picture of what’s really happening and why?

But they have told us that this should not be done. Apparently, it’s too cold an approach.

But at least we can keep on using it in our work 😉

So four types of information. Now what?

So there you go.

We’re thinking that we see these four types of information in action every day at work and at our own customers.

“Will not work here”

“I doubt that fact, our business is so special”

“We tried that already ten years ago”

“If X happens, then what?” (some unnamed catastrophy will hit us)

We’ve started testing this theory now. Let us get back in ten years. 😉

Or leave a comment! Are you seeing the same?

Seomphony 2021