It’s no secret that crafting great headlines is a critical part of the puzzle when it comes to maximizing click-throughs and traffic. Sometimes a few small changes to a headline can result in a dramatic improvement.
There’s a good chance you already know how important headlines are. But while crafting great headlines is important, there are two primary challenges that most website owners face:
- We’re not copywriters — Coming up with a creative and winning headline right out of the gate takes considerable skill and practice.
- We’re on a tight budget — A significant stumbling blocks when it comes to creating winning headlines. Big companies like HuffPo have more resources at their disposal when it comes to optimization.
Lucky for us, the extensibility of WordPress makes testing headlines easier than you might imagine. As a matter of fact, testing headlines can be so easy, you might be remiss in the optimization of your website if you’re not actively testing headline variations.
There are several headline optimization plugins on the market that can make the process of testing incredibly user-friendly. Just a few weeks ago we took one of the leading headline optimizer plugins for a test drive and were pleasantly surprised at just how simple the process was — it literally took under 5 minutes to get started.
Before you jump into headline optimization, it’s important to know that gathering reliable and accurate statistics requires adequate traffic.
The more headlines you want to test, the more traffic you’ll need. It’s also important to note that the most important part of testing headlines is getting started. Don’t waste time trying to come up with the perfect headline formula — create 3-5 quick headlines and move on.
There’s a reasonably good chance that one of your headline variations will beat out the competition and your testing will be a success.
In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at four popular headline optimization plugins. By the end, you should have a clear idea of which plugin might work best for your site — all that’ll be left for you to do is get started.
1. Thrive Headline Optimizer
Thrive Headline Optimizer is a plugin that I reviewed right here on WP Superstars recently. I was impressed with the plugin then and remain so, even after this roundup post. It’s not cheap at $67/year for a single site or $97/year for unlimited personal sites. But with a 30-day “more engagement guarantee”, it’s tough to image going wrong.
Like the other plugins, Thrive Headline Optimizer allows you to create multiple (unlimited) headline variations right from within the default WordPress editor. There are basic statistics available next to the post editor and more detailed stats are available on a separate page.
While Thrive Headline Optimizer doesn’t measure inbound traffic from social like KingSumo Headlines, it does provide several other unique features including:
- The ability to create bulk headline tests. More specifically, you won’t need to visit each page or post individually in order to add headline variations.
- Successful or unsuccessful headlines are measured using 3 customizable criteria (click through rate, time on content and scroll depth). These criteria can even be customized on a per post basis.
These additional features mean you’ll have greater control and insight than with any of the other plugins covered in this roundup. You also get access to Thrive Themes support and some bonus content as well.
Price: $67/year for a single site or $97/year for 5 personal sites
2. Title Experiments Free
Title Experiments is a freemium plugin that is also available in the WordPress plugin repository. The free version of this plugin allows you to test multiple title variations for both post and pages.
Title versions are initially served randomly and you’ll be able to track the results in the default editor. According to the developer, the plugin measures two specific metrics:
- Impressions — How often a title is presented to a visitor on your website
- Views — How many times a visitor views a specific page
Based upon these numbers, Title Experiments Free will display two percentages. The first percentage indicates how much better or worse a title is when compared to the original. The second percentage indicates the probability of a title being presented to a visitor. The titles that are performing best, are shown more frequently. The titles that are performing poorly are shown less frequently.
Once a viewer sees a title for the first time, Title Experiments will make sure they see the same title in the future. Winning titles can be selected manually or left to the plugin to determine. This might not be the best option considering the free version doesn’t seem to actually halt the experiment — it merely displays the title less frequently.
Note: This plugin has not been updated in a while so use with caution or just avoid it entirely and use either of the plugins above.
HeadlineEnvy is a free WordPress plugin that’s available in the WordPress plugin repository. Designed to integrate with your Optimizely account, HeadlineEnvy makes split testing headlines very straight forward.
Once installed, just enter your Optimizely API key and you’re up and running. Testing headlines can be accomplished by adding one or several alternate titles from within the default post editor and then republishing your post.
Headline variations are tested anywhere that you see post, page or product titles output. This can include the homepage, sidebar, archive or in a widget. HeadlineEnvy and Optimizely will track statistics for each headline.
You can allow the plugin to select the winning headline or you can make a manual selection. Individual experiment details can also be viewed on a separate statistics page.
It’s important to note that HeadlineEnvy relies on the the_title filter hook so your theme must trigger that hook in order for the plugin to work.
If your website receives a decent amount of traffic or if you’re testing a large number of headlines, it won’t take long to hit your limit.
Price: Free but Optimizely plans start at $49.99/month.
We’ve covered four plugins in this roundup post that range from free to $499/year depending on your level of traffic. Feature sets are very similar across the board, especially when it comes to adding title variations. However, as soon as you dive a little deeper you’ll discover some differences that have the potential to make some of these plugins more appealing than others.
KingSumo allows you to track inbound links which as mentioned has its own set of drawbacks. Title Experiments Free is a run-of-the-mill plugin that gets the job done but the paid version offers the ability to test images as well as headlines. Thrive Headline Optimizer only measures onsite engagement but it also provides a degree of control that isn’t offered by any of the other plugins.
One thing that all these plugins have in common is ease of use. Getting started with headline optimization takes just a few minutes in every case — essentially eliminating any excuse for not performing some small scale testing at the very least. All the plugins can be considered “set and forget”. Minimal or optional input is required once you’ve launched the tests.
Picking the right plugin comes down determining your individual needs. While the free versions might be adequate for a period of time, it won’t take long to outgrow them.
If I were forced to select an overall winner after taking into consideration the pros and cons of each plugin, I would probably be faulted for selecting anything other than Thrive Headline Optimizer. It’s not perfect but it seems to be the most well-rounded option at this point in time.