Over the past several month's I've written a number of posts on the importance of content marketing. There's no question that in the world we live in today, content - quality content - has to be part of your digital marketing strategy. Brands are constantly competing for attention in a crowded marketplace. And, CEO's are constantly looking for the ROI in their marketing.
No question that we're in a daily battle to get attention for our business. When it comes to producing attention-grabbing content, a great place to start is with the headline. The next challenge is to keep the reader reading - but you can't do that if you don't get their attention in the first place.
Are You Testing Your Headlines?
If we're in agreement so far, then I'm wondering when was the last time you actually tested a headline? When was the last time you divided up your email list and emailed the same post with different headlines to your segmented lists to see which headline got more clicks? I'm guessing most of you have never ever done this or even considered doing this. Give it a try, the results will be instructive.
Writing attention-grabbing headlines is not a new concept. Long before the Internet, back in the days when people read something called a newspaper or a magazine, writers were fixated on writing attention-grabbing headlines. Professors in colleges across the country taught classes on this subject.
Optimize Your Headlines
Today we're able to track clicks like never before. If a reader visits our blog, we're alerted. If they then click on one of our blog posts, we know that too, and, we can use the headline as a content marketing metric while measuring our success. This is a concrete measurement of our performance, an analytical element you should track and analyze.
Assessing this data is the next step. Using the data to optimize your headlines is key as we've seen the optimization of headlines morph into a mixture of art and science over the past several years.
Headline clicks are essential, but this is really just where it starts. Frankly, the headline click is meaningless if the content doesn't get read.
A Content Marketing Metric Your CEO Will Love
Once you get the reader to click on your headline, your content needs to engage with them and get them to read all the way to the end. For The Friedman Group, getting readers to finish our blog posts is an incredibly important metric we track and analyze - this is a metric your CEO will love too.
Consider this: Getting a reader to click on a headline is a great thing. If you're then able to get the reader to read a paragraph or two, you may call this success. But, getting a reader to read all the way to the end provides a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and a data point that really means something. Maybe a lot of things.
Tools like Chartbeat provide stats on how far down the page a reader scrolls, they measure where on the page your browser is pointed on a second-by-second basis. These tools can tell us whether a reader gets all the way to the end or immediately bounces from the page after clicking on the headline. Remember, we really do want readers to read all the way to the end. This evidences real engagement and helps deepen the bond with our brand.
Facebook Solidified My Thinking
I've considered this metric important for several years and felt completely validated when, on June 12th, Facebook said they were going to start tracking how much time we're spending reading stories. Facebook tells us that showing content that matters to users is one of their goals, and, Likes, shares and comments don't tell the entire story of what's most meaningful. Facebook's research told them that just because someone didn't interact with a post didn't necessarily mean the content wasn't meaningful.
Based on their findings, Facebook is "updating New Feed's ranking to factor in a new signal - how much time you spend viewing a story in your News Feed". Facebook has begun to track how long you spend reading particular posts and then surfacing more posts like that higher up in your News Feed in the future.
The Bottom Line
It really boils down to this: tracking headline clicks, Likes, shares and comments is important, these are metrics that have meaning. But with today's technology, we can zero in on our readers' habits and work to make our content more compelling.
Ask yourself this: "Why would I want to take the time to write something people aren't going to read in it's entirety?" If your answer is, "I wouldn't" then not only do your readers win, but your brand does too.
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