Why Longer Headlines = Higher ROI For Brands (And Other Lessons From 500,000 Headlines Run Through Our AI-Powered Optimizer)

on The Future of Advertising, Headlines

Any brand advertiser in 2017 needs to understand that the people they want to reach are all dealing with a massive surplus of content and even larger deficit of attention.

The majority of us consume content by scrolling through our feeds, and more of us than would probably like to admit consume our content by headline alone. When Sharethrough surveyed Millennials last year, 91 percent said that content feeds were their primary source of information and one-fifth said they consume news simply by reading the headline.

As more sites reconfigured and redesigned for mobile and became more feed-based, there was an expectation that this explosion of content and over-reliance on headlines would see us all over-run by clickbait. In reality, the opposite is true. Headlines, whether attached to a native display or native video ad, allow brands to engage with the 98 percent of people who will never click on an ad, communicating an idea at the moment of impression while still enticing readers to click through to a full content experience.

Words matter. We’ve run more than 500,000 headlines run through our AI-powered headline writing assistant and when it comes to headlines, more words matter.

Here’s why.

We’ve seen a direct relationship between headline length and clickthrough rate

Longer headlines are rewarded with higher clickthrough rates. A headline with 51-90 characters has a clickthrough rate 36 percent higher than a headline with 1-30 characters in it (0.53 percent v 0.39 percent).

Headline real-estate matters, and making the most of that small hook into your audience’s brain with a well-written, straight-forward headline packed with as much meaning as possible will have a huge impact on your marketing success.


Just putting a headline on video has a big impact

Adding a headline and context to outstream video to make it a native video drives 10 second completion rates up 38 percent and increases brand awareness by 9 percent


A small increase in clickthrough rates can mean a big increase in ROI

If you take the results we mentioned above for display you’re going to see an average cost per click 28 percent lower using a headline of 51-90 characters than you would with the 1-30 characters.

Simply put, additional clever words in a headline can have a big overall impact in generating campaign success. If your native supply is limiting your headline length, it’s costing you money needlessly.


It’s not just the number of characters, but the quality of the words that matters

When we crunch the numbers of what sorts of words succeed in headlines against words that don’t - a clear picture of the impact of language jumps right out.

Headlines written in the third-person perform 68 percent higher than headlines written in the first-person. A headline that mentions a celebrity is 62 percent more effective than one that mentions a country. Audiences are 35 percent more likely to click on a headline that mentions an animal than they are one that mentions a brand name.


Paying attention to headlines pays off

Headlines that score above average (71 or more) in our headline analyzer performed better: seeing 28 percent lift in engagement, a 21 percent lift in time spent and a 33 percent lift in consideration.

Try it for yourself: headlines.sharethrough.com

David Simutis

Senior Product Marketing Manager @ Sharethrough. Fan of Jindos, Steelers, indie music, craft beer, neuroscience.