What if you could bring 28% more visitors to your blog and get 75% more shares just by rewriting your blog post titles?
That’s exactly what content marketing agency Priceonomics did.
And today, I would like to show you how you can do it too by reviewing the main AB testing tools.
But first, let’s see why A/B testing isn’t always a good idea!
3 good reasons not to A/B test your blog post titles
Before you even begin AB testing headlines, there are 2 important questions you need to ask yourself.
Is it necessary? Is it a good idea?
These questions may sound silly. After all, what bad could AB testing headlines cause?
Best case scenario, you find a blog title that brings you 28% more traffic just like Priceonomics did. Worst case scenario, you don’t.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works and AB testing headlines could cause numerous problems.
Here are just a few of the problems you could encounter:
#1 You generally need lots of visitors to A/B test headlines
Most AB testing tools use CTR as a measure of headline success. They look at the percentage of people who saw your headline and clicked on it. The more people click, the better the headline.
This works great for popular websites like Buzzffeed because they have thousands of visitors per day and can quickly get results.
But what happens if you only have a few hundreds of visitors per day?
You can still run AB tests but it could take weeks (or even months) before you achieve a statistically significant result.
If that’s you, AB testing blog post titles on your website won’t work. You could, however, use Facebook or Twitter ads. That’s something you will learn more about in the second part of this article.
#2 A/B testing tools can be hard to use correctly
There are lots of user-friendly headline testers but it’s easy to make costly mistakes while setting them up.
Lots of plugins designed to make your website faster also conflict with AB testing tools by showing the wrong headline to your visitors for performance reasons.
If you don’t set up these plugins properly, you may end up with wrong test results and think that a terrible headline is actually great.
Luckily, most websites use a pretty standard set of plugins so setting up AB testing tools simply requires you to spend a bit of time reading the documentation and making sure that everything is working as intended.
#3 Improving good headlines is challenging
In my quest to become a great headline writer (and get more traffic), I decided to rewrite the headlines of all 145 articles I published on my blog French Together over the years.
I thought it would be easy because French Together receives over200,000 monthly visitors but I quickly realized something.
Turning good headlines into great headlines is far from easy.
In fact, most of the blog titles I came up with performed the same as the headline I had already written.
Luckily, the massive improvement you get from the few winning variations is generally enough to make the whole process worth it.
After all, once a winning headline is chosen, it works for you without any further effort required.
It’s also important to note that most of the new headlines I came up with struggled to beat the original because I have always put a lot of effort into writing headlines.
If you never cared about your blog post titles and always used descriptive headlines such as “Broccoli gratin recipe”, you could easily come up with winning headlines and get a huge traffic boost.
In other words, the less effort you spent on your current headlines, the more likely you are to come up with winners if you AB test new ones.
The best headline A/B testing tools
There are lots of good AB testing tools on the market and while I chose Thrive Headline Optimizer for my test, you may find that another tool is a better fit for you (I don’t recommend Thrive Headline Optimizer if you don’t have a lot of visitors, for example).
Here is what I think of a few popular headline AB testing tools.
Thrive Headline Optimizer: the best option for most websites
Starting at $67 per license for unlimited headline tests, Thrive Headline Optimizer is a WordPress plugin and AB testing tool created to offer an affordable and reliable way to AB test article headlines.
Unlike most AB testing tools, it doens’t simply rely on click-through rate to measure headline success but also takes time on page and scrolling percentage (how far down the page visitors scroll) into account.
This helps you make sure that your blog post title doesn’t simply attract people but also make them more likely to read and engage with your content.
Nelio A/B Testing: a good alternative
Nelio A/B testing is a WordPress AB testing plugin you can use to test blog post titles, landing pages, Woocommerce product descriptions and a lot more.
With plans starting at $29 /mo for one site and 5,000 pageviews, Nelio remains affordable and is a great option if you have enough visitors to measure headlines success based on CTR (people clicking to read the article from a top post widget in the sidebar, blog post lists etc).
In addition to AB testing, Nelio offers cool features such as heatmaps and clickmaps.
Google Optimize: for those who know what they are doing
Google Optimize offers the ability to run 5 simultaneous AB test for free and is directly integrated with Google Analytics which makes it a great tool to AB test different elements of your website.
However, it does require more configuration than Thrive Headline Optimizer and Nelio and you will need to define the goal of each experiment yourself.
This makes it a great tool for people who already know what they want to measure and how to measure it.
Priceonomics Content Tracker: the best option for sites with few visitors
For $99 / month and $10 per title tested, Priceonomics Content Tracker allows you to test your blog post titles using Facebook ads.
In order to do this, Priceonomics Content Tracker buys 2 Facebook ads, one for each headline, and then measures which one performs best.
The advantage of this approach is that you don’t need to have thousands of visitors for it to work. In fact, it would work even if you had 0 visitors since the experiment runs on Facebook. The downside is that this could easily cost much more than other methods if you want to test a lot of headlines.
There is also the question of whether running Facebook ads is a reliable way of testing article headlines. I’m not an expert and honestly don’t know the answer but Priceonomics reports that AB testing headlines for their blog articles resulted in 28% more pageviews and 75% more shares so it definitely seems to work.
Unconventional headlines A/B testing tools you could use
Using Facebook and Twitter to A/B test headlines
If you are feeling adventurous, you can also buy ads on Facebook and Twitter yourself and use the social networks to find the best blog post title.
This is not something I tried because I am not an AB testing expert and don’t want to make mistakes that would render my AB testing efforts useless but you can read this post on Buffer’s blog if that’s something you are interested in doing.
If you choose to do that, please keep in mind that using Facebook or Twitter ads to AB test headlines still poses a few problems:
- slightly different posting times skew the results
- Less controlled environment
Using Hellobar or Optinmonster to A/B test headlines
In addition to using A/B testing tools or Facebook ads, you could use floating bars to A/B test your headlines.
In order to do this, simply create two floating bars with the same call to action but different blog post titles and see which one gets the most clicks.
The advantage over Facebook and Twitter ads is that you run the experiment in a controled environment (your blog) and will, therefore, get more reliable data.
Using your email autoresponder to A/B test headlines
Many email autoresponders offer subject line A/B testing tools you could also use to A/B test headlines.
In order to do this, simply write 2 separate headlines, send an email to your list and see which one performs best.
While there is no guarantee that a good subject line will make a good headline, this should still give you a pretty good idea of which blog post title works best.
Here are a few email autoresponders you could use to A/B test your headlines:
And you, what’s your favorite headline tester? Have you had any success with headline AB testing?