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Five ways to improve headline click-through rates
By Simon Edelstyn, Vice President Business Development, Europe, Outbrain,
They say never judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to online content, it is fairly likely that your article is going to be judged by its headline. With so much content online (and the amount growing at a phenomenal rate), users are making split-second judgements about what to read and what to skim over.
Many marketers are heavily investing in the creation of high quality online content that appeals to readers in order to reflect authority and build a community around their brands. However, with such a large quantity of content online, how can you make your article stand out?
At Outbrain, we help a large number of content creators get their content read by the right audiences online. In order to learn more about what makes readers actually click, we collected data from 150,000 article headlines that were recommended across our platform to see which characteristics got clicks, and which didn’t. The results give content creators an insight into what headline features are the most clickable:
1.    Eight is the magic number
Our research showed titles with eight words had the highest click-through rates with these headers performing 21% better than average – so consider the length of your title if you want to get clicks.
2.    Consider colons and subtitles
Headlines with a colon or hyphen in the title - indicating a subtitle - performed on average 9% better than headlines without.
3.    Pics get clicks
Just as we are attracted to images in newspapers and magazines, we are also drawn to pictures online. Our research shows when a thumbnail is added as part of an article headline it can increase clicks by 27%.
4.    Make lists of odd numbers
Lists translate well to digital; they receive impressive click-through rates, and multi-paged lists and galleries drive page views. Interestingly, our research has shown that headlines with odd-numbered lists have a 20% higher click-through rate than even-numbered ones (so make it top seven tips rather than eight).
5.    Questions work
Our research showed that titles ending with a question mark had higher click-through rates than those ending with an exclamation mark or full stop. Try using three exclamation marks (!!!) instead of just one, as these headlines received almost twice as many clicks as those with other punctuation marks.
Headlines have become the shop window to your content – allowing a preview at what lies within before venturing through the door to the full article. As content continues to grow and how we consume it continues to change and evolve, good titling becomes increasingly important. More often now, we share and get our content from social media sites like Twitter, where the title is all we have to go on – there’s no blurb or image to help catch a reader’s eye.
A few tweaks really can make a big difference to how often your articles are read – we’ve seen a huge difference in click-through rate performance after just small amends to the title. With marketers investing so much in creating content, it can be such a shame for it to let you down at the last hurdle simply because the title didn’t appeal.

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