If you run a website that relies on content to attract new visitors and keep them engaged, you’re faced with a variety of challenges.
We all know that good content is time-consuming and expensive to produce — fluffy 600-words blog posts just don’t cut it in a world where 2-million blog posts are published every single day.
As a content creator, you’re not only responsible for creating content, but you also need to spend time promoting it as well. The objective is to maximize both visitors and engagement — to achieve the highest ROI possible for every piece of content you publish.
We’ve all heard the latest statistics explaining how short the average person’s attention span has become and how little time you actually have to peak a visitors interest.
Headlines play a crucial role in the process of attracting the attention of visitors. According to Copyblogger, 80% of people will read headline copy but only 20% will continue reading. Those are some pretty dire statistics that highlight the importance of headline copy capable of drawing a reader in.
You’re probably asking two important questions right now:
- What constitutes good headline copy?
- How can I actually know when my headlines are effective?
The definition of good headline copy will depend on who you ask. Most of the time, the the best option is a result of experimentation. In this post, we’re going to cover exactly how Thrive Headline Optimizer can help you conduct those experiments and determine which headline produces the best result.
What is Thrive Headline Optimizer?
Thrive Headline Optimizer is the latest WordPress plugin from Thrive Themes. As a company that specializes in creating conversion focused themes and plugins, Thrive Themes have been on a tear. They’ve released a series of feature packed plugins including Thrive Leads, Content Builder, Landing Pages and now, Headline Optimizer.
What is Headline Optimizer?
Simply put, Thrive Headline Optimizer helps you maximize the effectiveness of your headlines, increase engagement and boost critical website metrics.
What makes Thrive Headline Optimizer different?
The first thing you’ll notice about Thrive Headline Optimizer is that it’s easy to use. Impressively easy. Even though I kind of expected this based on past experience with some of their other products, I was still surprised. Installation and activation were seamless and everything was conveniently located in the familiar Thrive Dashboard.
As it turns out, ease of use isn’t the only thing that helps this plugin stand out. The method this plugin uses to assess headline effectiveness and engagement is also a little different.
Thrive Headline Optimizer takes into account three different metrics in an attempt to determine which headline is producing the best results:
- Click Through Rate – How many website visitors are actually clicking on your headline
- Time on Content – Count visitors who’s visitor duration is x second or longer
- Scroll Depth – Count visitors who scroll x% down the page
You can see how these metrics look very specifically at how visitors are engaging with your site. Now, you might be asking, “what about social shares?‚ which is a legitimate question. After all, wouldn’t a high number of social shares and click-through be an indicator of a well-crafted headline?
The answer is an emphatic “no”. Imagine you write a blog post and give it a boring headline like “5 Ways To Write Better Headlines”. Exciting, right?
Now, let’s imagine that despite the headline, your content was actually pretty good. Normally you’d expect the click-through on that headline to be low because clearly, it needs some work.
But what happens if an influencer reads your post and decides to share it on his social networks? You’d probably experience an increase in traffic that has absolutely nothing to with writing a great headline and everything to do with who shared your post. Even if people visited your site and bounced, you might still be left with the wrong impression of your copywriting skills.
The added benefits of measuring engagement
In discussing the Thrive Headline Optimizer with Adam Connell, we both agreed that this plugin probably offers some additional benefits that go beyond just analyzing your headlines.
Measuring click-through rates on your post titles is a very clear indicator of how effective a title is. However as soon as you start factoring in the other metrics (time on content and scroll depth), you’re starting to measure overall reader engagement, not just headline effectiveness.
If you think about it, you can easily have an amazing headline combined with an introductory paragraph that completely disengages your reader. Which brings us to our next point.
The risk of over optimizing headlines
With Thrive Headline Optimizer, you’re able to create as many headline variations as you want, making one of its strengths also a potential weakness.
There is a good chance that the first headline you come up with accurately represents to content in your article. The second and third headlines are probably good as well. However as you begin to stretch your creative muscles, the odds of writing a headline that misses its mark increases exponentially.
As effective as click-bait headlines can be, they do little to earn the long-term trust of your readers. In this sense, when creating headline variations, it’s important to make sure that your content delivers what your headline promises.
It’s perfectly fine to draw a reader into your content with a catchy or provocative headline, just don’t leave them hanging. You might get away with it once or twice but eventually, readers will catch on and your headlines (including the accurate ones) will lose their effectiveness.
The last thing you ever want to do is disappoint your readers.
Using Thrive Headline Optimizer
It’s about time that we get into the process of actually using Thrive Headline Optimizer, which, as it turns out is extremely simple.
Once the plugin is installed, you’ll find everything you need in the Thrive Dashboard.
Launching the headline optimizer is as easy as clicking the big green button. From there You’ll be prompted to create a new headline test.
From the initial headline test screen, you’ll be able to select from either post or pages. Deciding which headlines to test is simply a case of clicking the small + icon next to the headline, which moves the headline into the list of content to be tested. Alternatively, you can click “Add All” to test all your headlines, as long as you’ve got time to come up with a list of variations for every headline all in one sitting.
You’re also able to add alternative headlines right from within the post or page editor for added convenience. And in case you’re running a WooCommerce Store, you can also test product headlines as well.
Once you’ve selected your headlines to optimize, continuing to the next screen will have you setting up your variations. Technically, you can enter as many variations as you want, just be wary of the fact that testing more headlines requires more traffic.
The final step before you can actually start testing is to determine both your engagement criteria and you winner settings. Both of these options can be toggled which gives you ultimate control.
- Engagement Settings – can use either default plugin criteria or test specific criteria.The actual signals remain the same, but you can adjust the percentages and visit duration as needed.
- Automatic Winner Settings – can be enabled or disabled. Here you’ll be able to select either the minimum number of engagements (sample size), the test duration and the percent chance to beat the original.
With your settings configured, click “Start Test” and you’re ready to go. From there Thrive Headline Optimizer will redirect you a summary page that displays the following information:
- Views – How many people actually saw your post title
- Engagements – A visitor enters the single-post page after seeing the headline (excluding off-site sources). This action also excludes them from future engagements on that post
- Engagement Rate – Your overall engagement rate
- A list of content with currently active tests
- A list of completed tests
Individual test results can be found by clicking on each test. The test screen shows engagement rates graphed over intervals that include daily, weekly and monthly.
There is also an easy to interpret summary that shows all the relevant data for each individual headline. As well, there is an indicator at the bottom that lets you know the winner will be selected automatically once all criteria are fulfilled.
Support & pricing
Thrive Themes support has always been good as far as I am concerned. Support is managed via a forum – response times and resolutions never seem to be a problem.
Pricing starts at $67 for use on a single website. This gives you 12 months support, but what I especially like is how Thrive offer lifetime updates. After your first 12 months, you just get a “top-up” for support when you need it.
Alternatively, you could opt for a Thrive Themes Membership which gives you access to all of their plugins.
Here are some of our favourites:
- Thrive Leads – The best lead generation plugin available for WordPress.
- Thrive Ultimatum – Countdown timer combined with lead generation elements in one plugin (very effective).
- Thrive Quiz Builder – Deploy BuzzFeed style personality quizzes to generate huge amounts of leads.
- Thrive Comments – A great plugin that encourages engagement.
- Thrive Architect – One of the best landing page plugins on the market.
- Thrive Optimize – An add-on for Thrive Architect that allows you to run A/B split tests so you can boost conversions.
You’ll find a bunch of other plugins available, and you get access to any new products, sometimes before public release.
Membership plans start at $19/month (billed annually), which allows you to use any of their products on up-to 25 of your websites.
Got clients? Their agency plan will allow you to use plugins on up-to 50 websites (your sites, or clients).
Thrive Headline Optimizer pro’s and con’s
- In true Thrive Themes fashion, it’s easy to use
- Settings can be customized for individual posts
- Thrive Themes support, forums and training
- Has the potential to significantly improve your traffic
- You’ll need enough traffic to generate valid test results in a decent amount of time
- No support for Gutenberg currently.
Wrapping up this Thrive Headline Optimizer review
I’m a fan of Thrive Themes. I’ve tried a few of their plugins and I have a subscription to Thrive Leads. My expectations were pretty high going into this review. Although I only had a short period of time with which to experiment with this plugin, I wasn’t disappointed.
Ease of use is very high — you can literally get started in under 2 minutes with your first headline test. And since much of the process (optionally) is automated, including the selection of a winning headline, it’s easy to ramp up the use of this plugin, testing literally dozens of headlines.
And, Thrive Themes removes any risk by guaranteeing you’ll be happy with your test results in the first 30 days. If not, you can request a refund.
My initial impression is that if I was in need of a plugin to test headline variations, this is a great place to start.