The Surprising Truth About Headlines: Copywriters Lie

Lately I've been obsessed with writing solid headlines. I'm a sucker for gold stars, so I've been just addicted to several headline analyzer tools.

Headline Analyzer Tools

And you know what?

Wait for it. Wait for it. Wait for it.

Yep. For all the power, validity and truth behind these little headline tools, you gotta keep your head on straight.

What the Heck, Garett Moon?

First, a bone to pick:

Garett Moon, founder at the awesome CoSchedule, wrote this headline:

We Analyzed Nearly 1 Million Headlines. Here's What We Learned

Do you know what's funny about that? Do you?

One feature of CoSchedule is this awesome headline analyzer tool. The article with that title is not misleading. It's about how to use CoSchedule to create awesome, shareable headlines.

Learn the truth about free headline analyzer tools :)

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Well, of all the headlines that I analyzed for this article, that is the only one that scored a dangerous "red" score of 53.

Second, and I am not out to rip Garett Moon. I think he's amazing and I love CoSchedule. But...

Second, that headline goes against the actual "takeaways" in his article.

  • Takeaway #1: List Posts are Huge 
  • Takeaway #2: Use "You" and "Your" A Lot
  • Takeaway #3: Help Your Readers Imagine a Better Life

Okay. Enough. The one "takeaway" I want to focus on today is that time and again I entered highly shared headlines written by top copywriters into both the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer and the Advanced Marketing Institute's Emotional Value Analyzer (EMV) (highly regarded tool).

And time and again I got mediocre scores.

To be fair, in Garett's article, he's super clear about getting a score of 30% in the EMV for his headline, and feels we should shoot for between 30% to 40%. If course, 50% and above rates you a "gifted copywriter" so there's that.

A Headline Scoring Exception

Barry Feldman wrote an article over at KISS Metrics called 

Hate This Headline? You'll Probably Share The Story.

It got a score of 70 over on CoSchedule and a 75% EMV. Wow. Pretty amazing. But was it the top shared story about headlines last year? Nope. No it wasn't*.

The Top Most Shared Headlines

The top shared story from BuzzSumo within the topic of "headlines" is this:

 The Dog That Made Headlines Around The World Is Finally Safe

And, okay, it's a bit of a stretch to say the topic is headlines, but do you know what is funny about it?

Guess what EMV score it got. Go ahead. Guess.


And on CoSchedule it got a "yellow" 69%.

When I actually narrowed the search to "headline" and "copywriting" there were way fewer shares overall, which says a lot about how much we love to share dog stories. But also, here is the top headline:

How to Write an Irresistible Headline

And its EMV score? 16.67% 

Of course, it got a respectable "green" CoSchedule score of 74. Still.

My Takeaway?

With an average 31% (and rising) traffic coming from social media, you do need to focus on your best copywriting skills when writing headlines.

The shares and engagement send the right signals to the search engines and you end up with traffic from social media sites. 

However, as always, becoming obsessed with scores and free tools is never a good idea. Use common sense, study the best headlines, and use free tools and resources in moderation.

In fact, I'm leaving you today with a few excellent tools to begin using today. They can't replace the brain God gave you (yet) but they go a good long way to helping you improve your copywriting skills and keep you on your toes, too.

The Tools:

This is a short list of excellent resources to help you improve your headline writing. Search engine optimization is changing, fast, and you can't rely on simply throwing a keyword near the beginning of your headline, keeping the size below 152 pixels, and done.

  • Great trick from Garett Moon: Write a different headline for each social media platform - Really tailor your headline to that audience and get better results. In other words, more business oriented headlines for LinkedIn, more "Pinteresty" headlines for Pinterest
  • Use CoSchedule Headline Analyzer   - Actually, use everything in CoSchedule.
  • Use BuzzSumo - When you actually see what gets shared, you do begin to see patterns emerge.
  • Read Cosmopolitan. For the headlines, of course. 
  • H/T to Joan Stewart for this idea. Use B-Rhymes to find interesting word combos.
  • Use the EMV - If it doesn't kill you, that is.
  • And, of course, the tried-and-true Moz tool to make sure that your headline stays within that 152 pixels. 
  • Use Atomic Writer. It'll help you with audience matching, headline scoring, spelling, grammar, format, length...you'll like this one.

And My Scores?

If you're curious, with this post, I have the following:

  • Atomic Writer: 77 + "Specialist" audience 
  • CoSchedule: 70 
  • EMV: 42.86% - Oh how much I wanted a 50% or higher...

What do you think of these tools? Do you use them or do you rely mostly on your swarthy good looks and charm to get the shares? Enquiring minds want to know!

 *Actually, to be fair, it was the fourth or fifth most shared story. So it's pretty spot on.

Wendy Kelly
Nov 17, 2015
From the Custom Fit Online team

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