The absolute best split testing advice we can honestly offer is to stop wasting all your time on the headlines. Now we understand that there are loads of so-called Internet Marketing experts telling you the opposite. In some cases, I am sure they even have split testing screenshots showing you how one headline “converted” better than the other. However, here are three simple but undeniable reasons why their split testing advice is dead wrong when it comes to headlines:
3 Split Testing Basics About Website Headlines
#1: Headlines Don’t Drive Conversions, They Pull Prospects into the Site
The function of a headline is to generate interest and pull prospects further into the site, not convert prospects into buyers or qualified leads. Now if a headline fails to do that, then yes, it will harm conversions. But the simple truth is that even marginal headlines will often pull in over 90% of visitors further into the copy. It’s at that point, sadly, where most people then lose interest and leave the site.
#2: Only Bad Headlines Affect Conversions by Alienating Prospects Above the Fold
The simple truth is that only bad headlines will drive down conversions by alienating visitors above the fold so they don’t engage with the other content or website features. But, equally true split testing advice is that even the best headline will not generate any more conversions than a good headline. Headlines don’t convert, CTA’s and other sales tools do.
#3: 90% is the Magic Number
If you can get 90% or more of the total unique visitors to read past the headline, then move on and split test more conversion-oriented sales tools like the value proposition, CTA’s, price points, offer details, bonuses, etc. Attempting to split test further and get 95 or even 100% of visitors to read past a headline will not significantly boost conversions and will just add to the cost of optimizing the landing page or sales page.
Notable Exceptions to Our Split Testing Advice
We believe in full disclosure on FullTiltPitch so while our extensive split testing experience fully validates our advice above, there are some exceptions:
Adwords/Facebook PPC Ads
Measured as the click-thru-rate or CTR, the overall effectiveness of Adwords and other PPC ads do depend greatly upon the headlines. But the reason is pretty simple: The only information a prospect has to use to decide whether or not to click thru to your site is that headline, so of course it will drive conversions and fly in the face of our earlier split testing advice when talking specifically about PPC ads.
The headlines on squeeze pages do indeed help drive conversions because the amount of information or content available to a prospect is again quite limited on these sales tools. So if all a prospect has to review is a headline and maybe a few bullet points, then of course the headline will play a larger role in overall conversions–but only non-paid conversions like you would find on a squeeze page.
On Amazon and similar services where you are essentially trying to attract traffic to your posting, the headline both helps determine search results and the click-thru rate to your actual product description. Now this is very different than your own site where you are essentially driving your own traffic in which the headline truly only functions to capture interest and get prospects to engage further with your other content.
Look, for ppc ads, squeeze pages, and postings on sites like Amazon and eBay where you are competing for other people’s traffic, there is no doubt that the headline plays a huge role in conversions. And in those cases, our split testing advice is completely different. In fact, traditional A/B split testing using specialized software isn’t even an option for 3rd party sites like Craigslist or eBay.
However, our split testing advice about headlines for sales pages, landing pages, and product descriptions on your own site remain: Once your heat mapping analysis shows that 90% or more of prospects are reading past the headline, start split testing other sales tools that do indeed have a direct impact on conversions, such as:
- Price Point/Offer Details
- Value Proposition
- Credibility Tools like Testimonials and Trust Logos
- Layout and Placement of Sales Tools
But for the headline itself, it is just a tool to engage the prospects, not convert them. This is why inserting CTA’s above the fold almost never work because the prospects don’t yet have enough information to make a decision which is why they read down into the copy. So don’t be fooled by split testing advice telling you invest loads of time on the headlines: Once you get 90% or more of visitors to read past the headline (as verified through heat mapping software), start testing the more conversion-oriented sales tools. You’ll see much quicker results and dramatically reduce the time required to optimize the sales or landing page you’re working on.