They say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but there’s no adage (that we know of at least) that says “don’t judge an article by its headline.” Perhaps that’s why most people do just that on the Internet. So, how do you know if you’re writing a headline that will both get people to pay attention and engage?
Enter: headlines.sharethrough.com. Sharethrough is an all-in-one native advertising software for publishers, app developers and advertisers. As part of their services, they offer this free tool that allows you to test headlines for how likely they are to receive impressions and how likely they are to see engagement.
How it works
Sharethrough ranks headline quality on an overall Headline Quality Score that breaks down between Impression Score and Engagement Score. These probability scores will rate your headline out of 100 and will also work on a color system for Below Average (red), Average (yellow), and Above Average (green).
The overall Headline Quality Score is based on a proprietary algorithm that combines Fogg’s Behavior Model with Sharethrough’s own neuroscience and advertising research. Sharethrough notes that it takes over 300 variables into consideration, so let’s focus on Fogg’s Behavior Model because a) it’s one measurement we can really pick apart and b) we love Fogg’s Behavior Model.
Why you should give a Fogg about Fogg’s Behavior Model
Dr. BJ Fogg founded the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University and is the author of Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do and the co-editor of Mobile Persuasion: 20 Perspectives on the Future of Behavior Change.
This model illustrates that a behavior occurs when three elements come together: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. If the desired behavior does not take place, we can see that one of these elements is missing, and we can see with this arc the “action line” that divides success and failure. What this means for headlines is that we want to make sure that potential readers are highly motivated to click on your content while making it as easy as possible for them to do so.
Sharethrough breaks this down as a combination of Impression Score and Engagement Score. The views of your content will drive interaction. Note that with Sharethrough, Engagement and Impression scores are reflexive — what increases one can decrease the other.
So how does it work?
Go to headlines.sharethrough.com and enter in your proposed headline. When we entered the headline “How to use headlines.sharethrough.com,” we can see that that our Overall Quality Score was 61, with an Engagement Score of 53 (average) and an Impression Score of 47 (below average). Sharethrough also offers some suggestions for each of these categories to up our game. For example, humanizing language will help to increase the Engagement Score, while context words will increase the Impression Score.
Changing the headline to “How to improve your content (and your life) with headlines.sharethrough.com” makes the overall quality go up to an Overall Quality Score of 67. Our Engagement Score is still 53, but the Impression Score has shot up to 73. Sharethrough will also hold onto your recent searches, which is helpful if you want to compare scores between a few variations on one headline
How can I improve my score?
Sharethrough’s feedback on headlines touches on some common themes:
- Headline length: More is more, don’t be afraid to be descriptive. This is also great if you’re hoping to index for long-tail search terms.
- Limited use of positive sentiment: Sad but true, people are more likely to click on articles that present a problem — as well as a solution.
- Avoid passive language, including words like “almost,” “doubt,” “confused,” and “guess”
- Use “alert” words, including “afraid,” “scare,” “risk,” and “alarm”
- Use “context words.” Sharethrough has a collection of 1,072 words that are scientifically proven to hook people in a headline, and they’ve categorized them around insight, time, space, and motion. This is worth downloading to have on-hand.
PS: Whole Whale does not receive any promotional consideration from Sharethrough, we just like them a lot.