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Headline Swapping: Why You Should Write 3 Different Headlines To Maximize Reach

Today, you’re going to learn why some of the top media companies are using headline swapping to drive maximum reach and traffic to their content.

What’s headline swapping?

That’s the question I set out to answer after hearing about some media companies writing multiple headlines for a single piece of content. After coming across this trend, I decided that I was going to dive deeper and see what it was all about.

In this blog post, you’re going to learn how a simple approach such as headline swapping can have a direct impact on content engagement, SEO rankings and your ability to create content that gets spread on social media.

Let’s get to it…

How Slate.com Uses The Headline Swapping Technique To Drive Millions Of Visits & Thousands Of Shares

 

Slate Headlines

The Social Title

The goal of a social title is to inspire people scrolling through Twitter or Facebook to click on a link. Some of the most viral and effective social media titles leverage a concept called the curiosity gap. It’s the content we’ve all seen on Facebook. It’s the content made famous by the BuzzFeed, Upworthy, Viralnova, World Star & eventually embraced by everything from Slate.com to the Wall Street Journal.

As Joanne Weibe of Copyhackers described the Curiousity Gap:

It’s the space between what we know and what we want or even need to know.

In the Social Title being used by Slate, what we know is that Lady Gaga & her infamous Meat Dress. What we want to know is who the woman is behind it… And that’s what causes us to click.

On-Site Title

The goal of an on-site title is to do one thing:

Keep you on-site.

In 2009, Jakob Neilsen pointed to the editors at BBC News as being the best at creating these titles. He described these headlines as being:

  • Short (The average headline consumed a mere 5 words and 34 characters.)
  • Rich in information scent (Clearly summarize what happens)
  • Front loaded (The most important keywords are used)
  • Understandable out of context
  • Predictable (Users know whether they’ll like the article before they click)

Wait… What…

I know.

It’s completely opposite from what we’ve seen spread around the web.

But what makes it work is that this is the title once you’re on-site. Once you’ve already been lured to read the content from social media. It’s at this point where the author shouldn’t be striving to lure you in but instead be striving to keep you engaged.

In the example from Slate, the on-site title is short, rich, front loaded, understandable and predictable. It gives you enough to glance over it and begin digesting the primary content immediately.

SEO Driven Title

This is where things get really interesting.

The actual SEO title, the one that shows in Google search, seems completely different from the social and on-site title.

Why?

Because it understands a simple principle around why people use search engines.

They’re going to a search engine to find answers.

Most people in the world aren’t searching for answers about who was behind the meat dress but a large portion of Lady Gaga’s fan base and music fans will be looking for a review of her latest album. Especially the week of launch, take a look:

This surge of interest and this title ensures that Slate can drive traffic from search.

That’s the goal of an SEO title.

Social Media Titles vs. SEO Titles

seo-social-titles

The Case For Creating Multiple Headlines

typing-headlines

When you think about the difference between the social title above and the SEO title, think about the audience.

Who would find the social content clickable?

Who would find the SEO title clickable?

The social content is more likely to be clicked by anyone who has heard of Lady Gaga and her meat dress. It could be a Lady Gaga fan. It could be someone who is bored and just looking to procrastinate. It’s someone whose attention you were able to capture when they had an initial goal of simply scrolling through Facebook or Twitter.

On the flipside, the person who finds the title crafted for SEO is in a different state of mind. The keywords are focused around a Lady Gaga album review… The person who finds this content isn’t someone who just happened to stumble upon it mid scroll. The person who finds this content is someone who wanted to find a review of the album Joanne by Lady Gaga.

People use google to find solutions.

Sometimes it’s to find out how to tie a tie.

Sometimes it’s to learn who won Survivor.

Sometimes it’s to find out what other people think of Lady Gaga’s new album.

People using Google want solutions and an SEO title delivers that.

Crafting three titles gives you the best of both worlds. You have the ability to lure a reader in on social media and solve a problem when someone relies on search. Most blogging platforms have plugins that allow you to optimize your headlines for both social, SEO and on-site.

Take advantage of these tools and capitalize on these two benefits:

1) Search Traffic Can Drive Long Term Results

An article created with an SEO driven headline gives you the ability to rank in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPS) and drive long term organic traffic. The biggest benefit of showing up here is that organic traffic is usually the highest quality and unlike social media you don’t have always to pay to play.

2) Social Media Can Offer Immediate Traffic Through Shares

A quality blog post and a catchy headline on social media can drive thousands (maybe millions) of visits to your site within a short period of time. The life span of the average Facebook post is about 3 or 4 days and on Twitter that could be 3 or 4 hours. It’s not easy to create content on social that is sure to generate thousands of shares but a compelling headline is one of the most important factors.

Wrapping Up

Ready to use Headline Swapping for your own content marketing efforts?

Good.

Now show me in the comments that you’ve truly learned something from this. I want you to comment with an example of an SEO title, Social Title and On-Site title for a blog post that you’re thinking about writing.

I’ll let you know if it’s a good combo and if there’s anything you can do to improve it.

I look forward to hearing from you! 

(This article was inspired by this post on Inbound.org)

11 responses to “Headline Swapping: Why You Should Write 3 Different Headlines To Maximize Reach”

  1. Hi … Nice article

    I am little bit confused in on-site title .. what is the focus keyword and where is it located in onsite title ?

    • Ross Simmonds says:

      I don’t think there is much emphasis placed on ‘focus keyword’ for the on-site title. It’s more focused on the UX for the reader vs. SEO title which tackles the keyword.

  2. Mel says:

    Great insight and perspective. I may doing at least 2 parts of this without even realizing it. Definitely going to hone in and test it out. Thank you!

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  7. nicky says:

    Good informative article! but If the article is about “tutorial type” or “review type” for example “hostgator review” i don’t think there could be a social title, only onsite and seo title can be framed. Wats your thought about this?

    • Ross Simmonds says:

      Great question! I guess it depends. I mean, I’d be more much likely to click on an article titled: “Six Reasons Why I Love Hostgator (My Personal Review)” than I am to click on “Hostgator Review” — And I’m pretty sure a lot of people would be more likely to share that as well. If the review isn’t formated in a 6 point format, the headline could still take on a social lens. Something like: “Why I’m Moving All My Sites To Hostgator & Never Looking Back” could work well..

  8. Wow! Great idea. I have not seen it like this before. Thank you

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