Why do some headlines work and others fail? They align with something of interest to the reader. No alignment = no click. Marketing 101 right? Wrong. If everyone knew this, every ad would work on its target audience.
[if you haven’t read the earlier parts to this series on headlines, start below]
Type any search term into Google and up pop at least 10 headlines (of the organic variety). But if that search term has buyer intent, then you get a whole load more. Some are paid ads, some are brought up for free by Google (in carousel format), and some are search suggestions (pay attention to these).
Compare your search term to each link’s headline. One of those links will win the click from a real searcher. And if it does, and does it more times than any other link (and the searcher stays on the landing page without immediately bouncing back to the search results and clicking on another link), it will cost the advertiser less money (if it was an ad link). That’s a lot of “IFs”. It’s no wonder headlines are tricky.
However, Google WANT (and need) happy searchers, so there’s a better than average chance that every result that comes up in Google has been tested multiple times (by Google) for alignment (the very alignment that brings clicks).
If Google fails to make this alignment (between searcher and landing page via headline), people will start to think Google is useless (and no one at Google wants or can afford for that to happen).
Advertising standards (put in place by ad platforms including Google – and not just the authorities) are there to stop scammy and spammy adverts. If any ad breaks those rules, it won’t be shown (although a few do get through from time to time).
It’s not quite the same for organic listings though. Google is only interested in delivering the best results for that (spammy or not). If a spammy headline appears, it’s not going to break the bank assuming it delivers what the searcher expected (ie. it had alignment).
The rules are different again for online display ads (the sort that pop up on landing pages). They break the rules all the time (mostly because the advertising platform delivering them has less stringent or policed rules in place).
But every display ad still comes under advertising authority standards regardless of platform (eg. CPR and CAP in the UK, and FTC in the USA – https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/advertising-marketing-internet-rules-road).
The moral of this story is that if you want to write better headlines (ie. ones that get clicks and have some chance of not breaking too many rules) Google is your starting point and alignment is the key (alignment of search query to headline to landing page).
In part 3 I talked about split-testing, and that the best split-tests are radical (eg. split-testing a button’s colour is not radical, split-testing a completely different headline is). Google’s organic search results knows nothing about this. They only know that the content of a landing page best matches a search query when the user lands on it and stays there for some time (plus hundreds of other search result attributes they measure of course).
So you’d think that to Google every page is a STATIC page (otherwise click-bait really would be rife – imagine an ever changing landing page – different headlines, different content changing all the time, how would Google ever categorise it?).
Yet this is part of many web platform toolkits INCLUDING Google (they’re called dynamic pages). These landing pages are usually there for advertising purposes rather than organic results, but by using Google’s (free) Optimize split-testing and landing page variant software, you can try different headlines AND landing pages in one go for ORGANIC search.
You’ll need to use Google’s Chrome browser and the Google Optimize plugin, but there’s no cost, and it’s a breeze to use (provided you know how to add Google snippets code to your site for both Google Analytics and Google Optimize).
Give it a go, but before you do, remember everything in this mini series on ad headlines and apply it to your tests.
PS. Google Optimize does a LOT more than simple split-testing of content, you can split-test traffic demographics too for example. Here’s a Google intro video: