What is the hardest part about copywriting and content marketing? Hint: it’s the shortest piece and the first thing your prospects see.

Okay, I know you know – it’s the headline.

Three cheers for headline copy! (Hip hip….)

These little lines of copy do the heavy lifting of enticing your prospective reader (customer) and they are the content that gets shared across the Web in social media channels.

Get it right, and you’ll bask in the glory of content marketing success. Get it wrong, and well…it’ll be wrong.

What makes good headline copy?

We’ve written elsewhere on this blog about some of the copywriting formulas that have been used by pro copywriters for decades. We know they work because those formulas show up time and again both online and off, in magazines, newspapers and blogs everywhere.


(And this might sound a little flippant, but stick with me here) If you want to know what makes a good headline, ask your audience.

Now that’s easier said than done, right?

Not so.

Online marketing presents the perfect environment for testing and promoting headlines that your audience prefers, IN REAL TIME.

Oh yeah: real time!

A/B testing can be achieved simply in your content management system by serving up two identical pieces of content, but with different headline copy. Promote them through your usual channels and voilà, you’ll see how your headlines stack up and achieve instant feedback.

Look at your email too

Your subject lines are headlines, so use the same strategy of  studying and tracking the headline copy (subject lines) that works best for your audience. It’s the perfect testing ground because you can actively test with small segments to get higher performance.

Try this: write two headlines for the same email that you think are great, enticing  headlines. Send them out in a 50/50 split to 10% of your email list. See which headline/subject line performs best in terms of open rate and click through rate. Then, push the winner out to the remaining 90% of your list.

That’s real time optimisation and testing of copywriting, and it’s the only way to be sure that your content marketing it performing to the best of its capabilities.

A word of caution

As much as we’d like to think we have all the answers, we don’t. As copywriters, we get used to testing our work to be sure what is working and what isn’t.

But no headline works in isolation. It is a piece of content that is part of the whole, and you need to try testing other pieces of your content as well to see how it performs.

For instance, when testing an email, the people over at Content Marketing Institute found:

We then A/B tested an email newsletter with the chart and one without. Without the chart, we achieved a 25 percent increase in click-through rate (at a 95 percent level of confidence).

So it’s not all down to one item of content, but it definitely pays to find out with testing.


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