Headline Dos and Don'ts

April 17, 2019
January 2, 2019
There’s a fine line between headlines which are compelling and those that many would consider “click-bait.” Part of that relies on your long-form content telling a story, the rest is reliant on the headline you use to tease that story to elicit a click. These are some of our "best practices."
Best Practices

Do This

There’s a fine line between headlines which are compelling and those that many would consider “click-bait.” Part of that relies on your long-form content telling a story, the rest is reliant on the headline you use to tease that story and elicit a click.

We have compiled some “best practices” for ad headline creation in 2019, based off our expert team of media buyers, market research, and information provided directly from advertising sources.  

Enticing the user to want to read more, while taking care to not use an outright falsehood to garner a click. Readers will drop off in the first few pages if they feel they have been misled by the ad.

Creating Mystery in the headline that’s solved in the article. Ideally, this mystery should be solved as deep in the article as possible, keeping your impressions per session and therefore revenue per user at desired levels.

Exaggerate - Use enticing language to build intrigue. Strategic exaggeration can have a major impact on your click-through rate. Over-exaggeration, however, can have the opposite effect. As with images, understanding where that line falls comes with trial and error.

Stay Away From Numbers - Using numbers removes some of the mystery. It forces your headline to give away a very specific detail about the story, but if you are going to use numbers, the number 10 performs best.

Challenge the Reader - In other words, ruffle some feathers. Challenge their knowledge or perception as it relates to your content. People have a borderline uncontrollable desire to click headlines that challenge or refute things they believe to be true. Again, keep in mind, the deeper in the article you address this challenge, the greater your PPU will be.

Evoke Emotion - This builds on the point of challenging the reader. Headlines that play on the reader’s emotional response consistently have better results. To get even more specific, and again echoing the last point, the negative end of the emotional spectrum tends to elicit a higher CTR.

Challenge the reader's knowledge or perception as it relates to your content. People have a borderline uncontrollable desire to click headlines that challenge or refute things they believe to be true.

Use Creative Words - Become best friends with Thesaurus.com. Wordsmithing your headlines to contain uncommon words. This gives the perception that the article is written by someone of authority on the topic. This doesn’t mean use obscure words that only world-class spelling-bee winners can define, but don’t use “bad” when you could use “horrible,” or “strange” when you could use “bizarre.”

Not Too Long - Long run-on sentences cause people to analyze what they’re reading. The key is to aim for the limbic response. Short, to the point or cliffhanger, and let their need to know more take them to the article. You may want to provide context, but the lack of context is a strong motivator.

Don't Do This

No ALL CAPS WORDS - Most sources ban words in all caps unless it’s an acronym.

No Cursing - “The 7 Words You Can’t Say On Television” (RIP George Carlin) also apply to your ads as well.

No Politically-Leaning Headlines - Taboola, Outbrain, Yahoo, and Facebook are extremely picky about political content. If it has any left/right lean to it, you can assume it will be rejected. Even neutral, fact-based content has a hard time getting approved. So unless you’re the Associated Press, best to focus your efforts elsewhere.

No Threatening or Violent Speech - Just don’t do it. Also, it gets rejected outright.

Stick to these basic suggestions and you should get off to a great start. Remember to make use of A/B testing. You will save a lot of time in trying to figure out the “why” behind a rejected campaign if you make duplicate ads with subtle differences, and then analyze, analyze, ANALYZE!

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