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Testing Web Page Headlines

The Marketing Experiments Journal
Testing Web Page Headlines The Marketing Experiments Journal

It doesn't matter how experienced you are, or how good a writer you are, headline testing will always surprise you when you see the results.

In addition, headlines have a significant impact on the performance of the entire page.

How do you test headlines? You can perform a series of simple A/B or A/B/C split tests, or you can use multivariate testing.

In a recent and ongoing quest to increase conversion rates for an existing web page, we conducted a multivariate test with six alternative headlines.

These headlines were all written for a single page which offers parents of young children the opportunity to find out if there are any registered sex offenders living in their neighborhood.

"There are More Than 491,720 Registered Sex Offenders in the U.S..." 

  1. "Does a sexual offender live in your neighborhood?"

  2. "Identify Sex Offenders Today-- Be Aware, Be Alert & Be Safe"

  3. "Protect Your Children, Identify Sexual Offenders in Your Area" 

  4. "Identify Registered Sex Offenders Living Near You"

  5. "Search the National Sex Offender Database"

Here are the results:

The fifth headline ("Identify Registered Sex Offenders Living Near You") converted 34 percent better than the next best headline. That 34 percent increase in conversion rates is a very significant number, particularly if you have high visitor volumes, high-ticket items to sell or strong repeat business. In other words, this kind of improvement can have a major impact on revenue figures.

Without taking the time to test, you will simply never know whether your current page could do significantly better with a different headline.

You'll find a full archive of our test results, and analysis within the MarketingExperiments.com Research Archives.

The Marketing Experiments Journal publishes primary test results from work with our research partners once every two weeks. Subscription to the Journal is free and gives you full access to both our archives and teleconference calls. Subscribe here.

I'm hoping at least one, if not more, of the above reasons resonated and you are now open to considering moving your B2B marketing efforts onto the social graph. Before you do, I must warn you that there are challenges and consequences to doing social poorly. Similar to consumer brands, B2B companies have to think differently about social media. After all, social media is a place where consumers and customers own your brand. As such, social media programs must employ best practices, which I outlined in this previous iMedia article.

The most significant challenge faced by B2B brands is one of culture. A company's culture must inherently support the following principles of effective social media engagement: transparency, honesty, relevance, value, and commitment. Transparency is perhaps the greatest hurdle for corporate marketers used to "spinning" messages to even the most educated and sophisticated B2B customers. Value is also a significant hurdle, as B2B brands are typically unsure of what customers want from them in the social world. (Tip: Ask your customers and prospects what they want, when they want it, and in what format they prefer -- then give it to them.) Last but not least, it is important to have a corporate culture that is able and willing to commit to social media over the long haul. After all, it's a marathon -- not a sprint.

Another issue facing B2B companies is the need to determine the best way to segment and target markets effectively via social media. Companies that segment by vertical markets might struggle with singular corporate profiles, while having multiple profiles can be onerous, fracture the brand, and confuse the target audience.

If the preceding big hairy warning didn't scare you off and you're still considering developing or enhancing your social presence, there are a few basic steps you need to take.

Step 1: Listen
Do not formulate or finalize your social media strategies until you've listened to the marketplace. It will give you the guidance you need, even without asking questions.

Step 2: Plan
Develop a plan that includes key audiences, objectives, content strategies, metrics, and benchmarks.

Step 3: Create
Develop content and optimize associated social profiles for optimal visibility.

Step 4: Communicate
Implement content strategy and initiate outreach. Don't forget step 1 -- never stop listening.

Step 5: Engage
Start conversations and develop relationships that include prospects and customers. Evolve your program based on feedback; give customers what they want.

Step 6: Measure, test and refine
Optimize your overall program based on performance.

Much has been written about developing effective social media marketing strategies, particularly on a platform-by-platform basis. Below is a short list of platforms we've deemed most effective for B2B brand marketers, based on user intent and demographic profiles.

Due to its origins in professional networking, LinkedIn is perhaps the most effective social platform for B2B marketers. When building out a LinkedIn strategy, be sure to include service descriptions on your company profile, create and participate in groups, ask and answer questions, follow competitors, and test advertising.

Often overlooked due to a lack of sexiness, blogs are still highly effective communications vehicles for B2B companies. Done correctly, a corporate blog is ideal for creating awareness, credibility, and even thought leadership within your industry. B2B buyers and influencers frequently research online, and blogs typically rank well, so it's a no-brainer to create and optimize compelling content on a corporate blog. If your bandwidth is limited, consider sponsoring an existing industry blog or guest-writing for it.

Also known as the second largest search engine, YouTube offers tremendous untapped value for B2B marketers, particularly in terms of generating awareness. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how many words is a 30-second "how-to" video at 30 frames per second? (Answer: 900,000 words.) Interviews, product demos, and archived presentations are all effective marketing fodder for video syndication.

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because Facebook is known as a personal social network, it is increasingly used in a business setting. Apps like BranchOut are trying to take on LinkedIn by identifying business connections in your personal Facebook network. Also, consider testing Facebook advertising, due to the unique targeting abilities. You might hit B2B decision makers when their guard is down.

Although Twitter is less frequently seen as a heavy-lifter for B2B marketing, it can be effective at generating awareness and engagement with constituents. At its core, it is an easy and effective amplifier of existing (social) marketing efforts. You can syndicate blog posts, videos, and LinkedIn or Facebook status updates directly to Twitter, giving you additional exposure to a large network. Engaging on Twitter can be highly valuable as well; look to identify and engage influencers based on Twitter stream commentary.

Relatively new on the scene, Quora is a social platform to watch in terms of creating thought leadership. As an expert community (think LinkedIn Answers, Yahoo Answers, and Google's Orkut), this online community consists of subject matter experts -- and appears to have a greater level of sophisticated users than LinkedIn. Quora's media buzz is tremendous, as is the growth rate of adoption, but time will tell if Quora will be able to dethrone LinkedIn as the king of Q&A for B2B.

Don't forget to leverage a variety of free and affordable tools to minimize your time commitment and maximize your ROI from social media. Monitoring platforms like Google Alerts, Social Mention, and TweetDeck offer real-time insights into conversations. Management platforms like HootSuite allow a variety of employees within the organization to engage in social media on a platform-by-platform basis. These platforms also allow you to schedule status updates, shorten URLs, and measure clicks and conversions across social profiles.

Despite the lack of overwhelming content around B2B social media marketing, there are case studies and success stories that demonstrate clear value. At Anvil Media, one of our technology clients, ColumbiaSoft, was able to generate a dozen leads after only two weeks of interaction on LinkedIn Q&A. More recently, DIBroker, a provider of disability insurance, experienced tremendous success with Facebook advertising. Specifically, DIBroker saw a significant increase in lead quality and decreased cost-per-lead by 28.6 percent, as compared to optimized PPC programs. Read the Facebook advertising case study on Anvil's website.

If you're a B2B marketer considering moving into social media, I hope the information above provides sufficient motivation to move forward, even if on a limited testing basis. Good luck, and don't wait too long to get engaged -- as your competitors might not be as hesitant.

Kent Lewis is president and founder of Anvil Media, a search engine marketing agency based in Portland, Ore.

On Twitter? Follow Lewis at @kentjlewis. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Leverage customer advocacy and social networks

These days, it's difficult to run a successful loyalty program without leveraging the power of social media and by making customers vocal advocates for brands. By reaching into customers' social networks, companies can strengthen existing relationships while also improving overall brand awareness. Tying a social media element to a consumer engagement program helps brands amplify their messages through word-of- mouth (WOM).

USA Track & Field (USATF) for instance, uses its Facebook page to encourage registration for its own rewards program, USTAF Rewards. The brand then gives points related to any USATF-related social media activity completed by members, which can be redeemed for exclusive merchandise or to attend events. By providing compelling rewards for social interactions, USATF is leveraging the power of its biggest fans to act as digital megaphones for the brand.

Form a partnership

We know that people love having choices. To broaden the reach of their rewards programs, brands are teaming up with partner companies to offer things they never could on their own. By working with partners, brands can tap into each other's respective audiences and help engender loyalty by engaging more customers with more varied and compelling rewards.

For example, Zumiez, a specialty retailer of action sports-related apparel, equipment, and accessories, works with partners to develop its most prized rewards -- limited edition or autographed merchandise, such as skateboards, guitars, and apparel. Through its partner relationships, My Zumiez Stash offers exclusive rewards that loyalty program members can't find elsewhere, broadening the exposure, appeal, and value of the brand and its partners.

Make it personal

Consumers expect brands to give them more personalized offers and services beyond traditional discounts. Yet many brands fail to properly leverage customer data in their loyalty or rewards offerings. To get the most from the additional consumer knowledge gained through loyalty programs, companies must use these data points -- such as demographics, purchase history, product preferences, or reviews -- to offer more meaningful experiences and rewards.

Office Depot is one brand doing a great job customizing its rewards for members. During the sign-up process for Office Depot Rewards, members select one of three membership types: Local Business, Loyal Customers, or Star Teachers, to receive offers customized to those groupings. Members only receive exclusive rewards tailored to their respective group. This approach helps Office Depot segment customers and develop more relevant customer relationships that mutually benefit the brand and program participants.

Build a community

Cultivating loyalty isn't just about developing a physical program. It's also about building a sense of community among fans. The internet, for example, makes it easier than ever to reach niche communities that have particular interests and demographics and bring them together to support a brand. Communities, whether online or offline, also enhance loyalty to help companies create long lasting relationships.

To extend reach and amplify messaging, it's integral to build a community that allows fans to interact with one another and share ideas to improve their experience with a brand and its products.

The king of this tactic might be Harley-Davidson. The company has placed a premium on nurturing not only a strong relationship between itself and its riders, but among the owners themselves. In 1983, the brand founded the first nationwide Harley Owners Group (lovingly called "HOG"), which provides everything from roadside assistance and nationwide riding events to custom riding maps that detail the best routes for biking around the country and special concerts. Harley-Davidson also recently expanded these efforts to specialized owner groups for women, Latinos, African-Americans, and veterans to show that the "Harley Lifestyle" is for everyone. For Harley, the quality of the bikes is important, but the community it supports and fosters is what makes the brand truly iconic and forms an emotional tie to its fans.

Incentivize customer feedback

Gathering customer feedback or reviews on products and experiences is becoming critical for success for any company. After all, it's difficult to determine how participants perceive a program and products unless brands ask. By incentivizing feedback via surveys, interviews, or online polls within a loyalty program, companies not only open a direct line of communication between the customer and their brands, but they can also obtain a more complete picture of their audience, leading to more targeted experiences.

Dunkin' Donuts, for instance, sends members of its DD Perks loyalty program occasional surveys to gauge interest in its program and inquire about ways to improve it. Similarly, Lancôme has integrated product review incentives as a key facet of its loyalty program to give customers a voice while discovering new and creative ways to enhance products and customer experiences. Feedback empowers customers and shows that their opinions are meaningful to brands. This reciprocal dynamic is the cornerstone of any long lasting relationship.

Keep things fresh

Loyalty program members often favor variety in the initiatives in which they participate, so it's essential to find new ways to reward customers. Creating additional methods for members to earn rewards, benefits, and points, such as new activities to incentivize action, or different ways to introduce the program to friends, helps keep programs engaging and fresh. Regularly assessing and adding to engagement-based activities can help brands amplify their programs and encourage customers to become regular participants.

Some brand loyalty programs, such as Sony Rewards, work hard to continually offer new options for members to earn points. For example, Sony often makes incentives timely, such as allowing gamers to earn points for buying a PlayStation Plus membership at participating stores upon the release of new consoles. Similarly, TOMS continually changes the specific philanthropic endeavors that loyalty program members can participate in as the brand spreads its mission across the globe and finds new issues to support. By offering new ways to motivate customers and persuade them to interact with brands, companies can move the needle on incremental customer sentiment and earn positive goodwill.

The way that people communicate and establish relationships is constantly changing, and the tactics that businesses use to reach them must evolve to keep up. Customers are taking more control in how they deal with brands, so loyalty tactics must take that into account. By implementing some or all of the strategies outlined above, companies can strengthen customer relationships, drive revenue, and build loyalty long into the future.

Geoff Smith is the SVP of Marketing at CrowdTwist.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.


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