Smart marketers know that humans are creatures of habit.
Nowhere is this more evident than in our online search behavior (you know… the stuff we type into Google everyday). Turns out that no matter what you’re selling — people tend to search in very similar ways.
As a result, some types of content (and some kinds of blog post headlines) attract more SEO traffic than others.
We’ve been hard at work testing five headline templates built specifically to get more traffic from Google.
In fact, every six months, we’ve seen our organic traffic 2X since we started using these templates that specifically speak to our Customer Avatars.
Not only does this build the right kind of SEO for our content, but it brings in the right kind of organic traffic for our inbound marketing agency and clients.
They’re working like gangbusters for all our clients. One in particular has seen their organic traffic almost 3X in six months…
Today, we’re sharing all five headline templates, why they work, and variations of the headlines that keep things fresh.
Let’s dive in.
1. The Comparison Headline
“[This] vs. [That]: Which is [Adverb/Adjective]?”
This is one of my favorite types of articles to write.
Not only is it great for SEO, but it’s also fun to pit multiple products or solutions against each other. And customers (cold, warm, or hot traffic) who are serious about buying love this type of information.
Two of the Top-3 articles on our blog right now are comparison articles.
The HubSpot vs. WordPress article is responsible for landing our (currently) biggest client. He wasn’t even considering hiring a marketing agency when he read the article – he was trying to decide if he should build a website on HubSpot or WordPress.
Another client’s top-performing articles feature comparison headlines.
Yale Appliance and their content marketing journey is a fun case study to read by Marcus Sheridan at TheSalesLion.com if you’re interested. In short, they are sold on the power of blogging, and they are intense about continuing to provide honest content on their blog.
I checked their top performing articles, and this is the one with the most LinkedIn shares:
- [Getting Paid] How to Choose Between PayPal vs Stripe vs Merchant Accounts (DigitalMarketer)
- Citigroup vs. Wells Fargo: Value Beats Quality (Wall Street Journal)
2. The EST Headline
“The [Adjective] Way to [Goal] (optional qualifier to diminish effort/cost/etc.)”
This headline performs the best for new blogs, because it attaches to both human behavior and long-tail keywords with lower competition. The variations for EST are almost endless, and can be combined with other templates to double-up on the power of the headline.
We recently helped launch a new brand with a new website, new domain, and in March, a brand new blog. That month, we posted this article and with little-to-no domain authority, it found a foothold for some long-tail searches.
It’s currently the most popular blog post for The Water Scrooge.
Because The Water Scrooge is based in New York, where a good portion of multi-family buildings are older, which means installing big plumbing additions or systems to recycle gray water isn’t an option.
Since it is illegal to charge tenants for water, landlords are at a loss to pay for the skyrocketing water costs in an environment where tenants have no incentive to conserve.
If you were a landlord in that environment, how would you search Google to solve that problem?
This is how we work, psychologically. We rarely ask for any old way to solve a problem. But we routinely ask for the best way to solve a problem.
We don’t ask how to lose weight, we know how – go on a friggin’ diet. But we do want to know the fastest way to lose weight.
This is why these articles work very well for building up traffic to a new blog. It can rank for long-tail search terms with lower competition quickly, and begin to build an audience on your website. And, it fits with the way we do use search engines.
Also, when you combine this headline with one of the other four, you can get even more out of it. We’ll talk about combinations in a moment.
- The best way to play Pokémon Go? In a group (USA Today)
- The Fastest Way to Level Up in Pokémon Go (Tom’s Guide)
3. The Cost/Price Headline
“How Much Does [item/service] cost (optional qualifier)?”
Yeah, that’s another one of our clients ranked #1. Yay!
We’ve been doing content marketing for Atlantech for 12 months in July. A lot of their content is based on these five headline templates. As we gobble up more and more long-tail searches, their organic (green) traffic is growing at 15-30% every month.
No, this article doesn’t drive millions of visits a month. But it has attracted qualified leads in their service area.
Removing the qualifier might increase the traffic totals, but again, content marketing cannot be about vanity metrics alone. It must be about attracting, helping, and nurturing the right kind of traffic.
- How Much Does Server Colocation Cost? (Atlantech)
- How Much Does an Inbound Marketing and HubSpot Consultant Cost? (The Sales Lion)
4. The Common Problem Headline
“[Number] [Negative] People Have With [Item/Service]: And How to [opposite result]”
This headline and close variations of it are found all over the internet, on many of the top blogs, and for good reason.
- Self-Preservation Instinct: The negative aspect of the title appeals to our “lizard brain” as Seth Godin calls it. We don’t want to be the one experiencing the negative – and reading this article will make us aware of the negative and provide insight to avoid the negative.
- Shopping Behavior: When shopping for a service or product, we want to stave off buyer’s remorse, especially when it’s a larger purchase. I can’t count how many times I have searched for “problems with” or “product scam” just to see if other people had regretted the purchase.
This article for our client StandDesk connects with the shopping behavior, delivering a 5% lead conversion rate, which is great for blog article footer CTAs, which we see hover around 1-3% across all industries.
- Pokémon Go: Common problems and fixes! (Not Again! Stop it with the Pokemon Go references!)
- 5 Common Content Marketing Mistakes to Avoid (DigitalMarketer)
- 21 Landing Page Mistakes to Avoid From 4 Split Testing Experts (DigitalMarketer)
- 5 Common Problems Marketing Managers Face (and How an Inbound Agency Can Help Fix Them) (HubSpot)
5. The Brand Interruptive Headline
“The [Adjective] [providers/products/competitors] in [geolocation] (Reviews and Pricing)”
This is one of my favorite headline templates to use, and it’s a lot of fun to watch. There are a lot of benefits to writing these types of articles:
They Build Trust With Readers
When you write about your competitors, you don’t want to slam them.
That’s counterproductive, and saying “I’m better” is going to work against you. But, when you talk about each competitor in a positive light, it gives the reader a signal that your content is about helping them, not selling to them.
If you’re willing to send them to a competitor, you’ll be willing to tell them the truth.
They Bring Your Brand Under Your Control
If you are writing about local businesses, and you include “reviews” you have a chance to outrank 3rd party websites like Yelp – where you have no control.
Someone (even a competitor) can trash you on Yelp, and you are almost powerless to do anything about it.
However, if you bring that discussion to your website, you can control the “feeling” searchers get of your brand.
They Capture Branded Searches
This is the real fun part.
If someone searches for a brand name other than yours, you probably won’t show up.
If they didn’t know about you before the search, you have zero chance to capture them. But, if they search a competitor and end up on your website… why not?
Marcus Sheridan, the River Pools and Spas guy, has a great story about these types of headlines. He decided to be courageous enough and talk openly about his competitors, something businesses comically shy away from.
“We don’t want our leads to find our competitors!” is a common response. Frustratingly so, I might ad.
Here’s a news flash: your target customers already know about your competitors.
So Marcus wrote articles like this, and two things happened:
- His competitors contacted him thanking him for writing nice things about them.
- His blog articles outranked those same competitors for branded terms. This means River Pools and Spas was attracting traffic that searched for things like “Acme Pools and Spas Reviews.” Thus, he attracted a lot of leads and customers from people who were going to buy from his competitor. But he got there first because he dared to provide helpful, trustworthy content.
- The 12 Best HubSpot Partners of 2014: A Massive Review (The Sales Lion)
- 5 Best Data Center Colocation Providers in Virginia (Atlantech)
- 50 Of The Best Inbound Marketing Blogs And Influencers To Follow In 2016 (Lean Labs)
How to Use These Templates
If you haven’t noticed, not every title exactly matches the template.
And they shouldn’t for good reason. You don’t want to get too predictable or stale in your content – or your readers will get bored.
Yet, if you use the templates as a starting point, you can consistently create headlines that appeal to your audience.
Headline Variants that Work
- This vs. That: Which is Best?
- The Best [X]: This vs. That
- The Cheapest [providers/products/competitors] in [geolocation]: Which is Best?
- How Much Does [X] cost? This vs. That
- This vs. That vs. That (Pricing and Reviews)
- How to [opposite result] [X] Mistakes People Make With [X]
These templates perform well for us, mostly to build organic traffic by capturing low-competition long-tail keywords.
Here’s the key to making them work well: focus on being helpful.
“How Much Does Ole Roy Dog Food Cost?” won’t go viral on social media. Neither will reviews, or comparison articles.
But they are helpful to those who are asking those questions.
If you are launching a new blog, or are having trouble driving traffic to your website, these headlines can work wonders to get you off the ground and building an audience of targeted readers.
Here’s a few more to tuck away into your arsenal…
- What If You Could Have [X] By Just [Doing X]?
- [Number] [Shocking/Terrifying] Facts About [X] You Need to Know
- [Number] Things [Industry Seller] Isn’t Telling You About [Something Important]
- Does [Product or Service] Really Work? [Number] of [Sources/Examples] That Say [Yes/No]
- What [Influential Person/People] Are Saying About [X] Will Surprise You
- What You [Need to/Should] Know About [X]
- How to [Get/Achieve/Do X] Without [Negative Possible Result]
- What [X (random well-known thing)] Taught Me About [Industry Specific Principle]
Put these to work and let us know how your SEO traffic grows!