Creating killer content is the best way to drive engagement on your website, but first, you have to attract an audience. One of the most effective ways to build that audience is through the creation of profitable native ad campaigns.
Unfortunately, many publishers, brand managers, and affiliate marketers miss the point when it comes to creating top performing native ad headlines.
A/B testing can only get you so far but without a working knowledge of effective headline creation practices, it becomes easy to waste thousands of dollars on campaigns that don’t convert.
As a leading provider of native ad headline creation services, we are always working at Presto Media to develop the best headlines possible for our clients. To reach our goals we often find ourselves speaking with experts in the industry and closely studying articles posted by other industry experts.
Here are 14 native ad headline tips that can skyrocket your campaigns to the top of the ever growing heap of placed advertisements.
Target Your Audience in the Headline
You need to stand out when presenting content to the masses. You may believe your content is unique but keep in mind that millions of new pages are added to the web every single day. If you want to get the most out of a reader base you’ll want to target a specific group of readers.
The team at Outbrain offers a great example of how you can target a very specific demographic.
Good: Expecting Mothers: Here Are 5 Running Tips Just For You
Evil: Top 5 Running Tips You Should Know
Straightforward is Better
“In some research, straightforward headlines outperform creative ones. That’s great news because it can save you hours of time while attempting to brainstorm super creative headlines,” Revcontent CEO and Founder John Lemp told Presto Media.
Good: Why Aren’t You Publishing These 15 Blog Posts?
Evil: Free eBook: 15 Blog Posts You Should Publish
Go Against The Experts
Joe Burton, founder and CEO at ROI Marketplace, explains that recognizable names and phrases helps to engage users. Potential readers want to know exactly why an established leader in any given field may be falling behind the competition while also learning about the “next big thing” in a field they are interested in.
Good: This Simple Computer Trick Has Bill Gates Worried
Evil: Make Your Computer Run Faster
Use Power Words That Speak To The Reader
Olena Postnykova, the former head of the creative department at MGID told Website Magazine that the company’s best-performing ads use “power words” that speak to the reader.
Among the growing list of words that work are “Painless, Effortless, Painstaking, Bizarre.”
The goal is to offer words that “pop” and give a definitive overview of what the reader is about to experience.
Emotional words and any key phrase that can provide an authoritative expression are good here.
Throw A Hook In At The End Of The Title
Good: Create Expensive Looking Movies With Your iPhone
Evil: It’s Cheaper Than Ever To Create Expensive Looking Movies
Why This Works: The Good example above focuses on a “hook” which in this case in the iPhone being used to create expensive looking movies. Our bad example focuses on the problem but doesn’t hint at a solution. Think of these titles as “cliffhangers” for your audience. How in the world can an iPhone create amazing looking video? You have to read on to find out for yourself.
Combine Something Very Specific With Something Vague
The balancing act for an effective Native Ad comes down to giving readers something of interest and then guiding them towards the unknown. We want to keep native ads honest while offering readers something of further interest that intrigues them by offering a solution or a further look at the topic.
Good: This Amazing General Motors Ad Destroyed An Age Old Advertising Rule
Evil: This General Motors Ad Has No Sound At All
Ditch Title Case For Headline Creation
Extensive studies conducted by Taboola, Outbrain, and Revcontent have all revealed that capitalizing the first letter of each word in Native Ads results in much higher click-through-rates. This is a surefire way to minimize your cost per click.
Good: 5 Reasons Reality TV Will Be Doomed In 5 Years
Evil: 5 reasons reality TV will be doomed in 5 years
Use Specific Numbers And Data
Want to build a bit of authority before your reader even clicks through to your article? Specific numbers increase a reader’s interest and can convince them that some serious research was put into the content they are about to consume.
Good: Download This Resume Template That Got 60% Callbacks
Evil: Popular Resume Template
*This data driven fact was provided to Presto Media directly by Revcontent but we’ve seen this advice work across Taboola, Outbrain, Content.ad, and various other native ad networks.
Use Instant Appeal
There are a few important details about the headlines below that readers should note. NativeAdBuzz Co-Founder and CEO Peter Trueman points out that the first example offers a sense of urgency while leaving the reader wanting more.
The second example, conversely, offers a childish choice of phrasing with the word “totally” and Peter points out that it doesn’t offer any guidance as to what the reader is about to consume that may interest them.
Good: 6 Gym Fails That Can Kill Your Progress And You…
Evil: Video Games That People Totally Judge You For Playing
Negative Words Perform Better (Yes It’s A Sad Fact)
Negative words are a trigger point for millions of readers but don’t confuse a negative word with a negative sentiment. For example, you might tell a reader to “never” do something instead of leading them to something they “should” do.
Here’s a great example from Outbrain about how negative words can be used to drive higher click-through rates.
Good:If You’re Concerned About Weight Loss never eat these 9 foods
Evil: Eat These Foods If You’re Concerned With Weight Loss
Tell A Reader What They Are About To Feel
NativeAdBuzz has found through an analysis of millions of native ads that telling readers what they are about to feel tends to lead to better performing content.
Good: 10 First Person Shooters Serious Gamers Will Hate You For Playing
Evil: Video Games That People Totally Judge You For Playing
Side Note: NAB also points out that juvenile words such as “totally” also tend to scare users away.
Write Exactly Like You Talk
Postnykova reminds native headline creators to focus on natural language that is easy for potential readers to absorb. Your language should come off genuine and your statements should sound like something you would say to a friend in passing.
Good: This Product Is Responsible For Thousands Of Deaths And You Own One
Evil: The Product Has Killed 10,000 People, Report Says
Basically, don’t write headlines like they are coming out of an old-timey newspaper.
Use Audience Referencing Religiously
Good:“For golfers who are almost (but not quite) satisfied with their game — and can’t figure out what they’re doing wrong”
That example was provided by social media management platform Buffer and was taken from famed headline writer Mel Martin.
Buffer does a great job of explaining why this matters so we’ll let them take over from here and ditch the “evil” example this time.
“With an audience referencing headline, your reader immediately feels known and named. This construction gets attention because of the way our brains are fixated on solving problems. It’s part of our survival instinct for our brains to go out and actively search for potential problems we might have – even if they’re as minor as our golf swing or cooking. When you are the precise target audience for a headline, your brain basically says, ‘That’s for me!’”
Use Headline Questions Effectively!
Questions can pique a reader’s interest and lead them down a path to find an answer. The research team at Outbrain found that headline questions were incredibly effective at driving higher click-through-rates and lower CPMs for advertisers.
Good: What Happened To John Mayer’s Twitter Account. Here’s The Truth.
Evil: John Mayer’s Twitter Account Was Shut Down By The Singer
Side Note: You can also ANSWER questions in a headline.
Putting It All Together Into A Single Successful Platform
At Presto Media we have found through our own industry research that no single headline option works for all types of content.
Successful campaigns require publishers to create numerous headlines and test them across various networks. If you are using images in your ads, every headline also needs to be tested against every image to find the best performing ads.
With the right mix of quality headlines written by arbitrage experts and plenty of A/B variant testing, your content arbitrage and product marketing efforts can be quickly improved.