How to Double the CTR on Poor Performing Headlines (Case Study)

By Chris Huntley 

Published on  December 14, 2023

“What a waste of freakin’ time!”

These were my exact thoughts after a new writer and I had worked closely on an article for bartehrman.com about who wrote the New Testament. I did keyword research, he wrote a fantastic article, we added graphics, charts, and CTA’s, and we even started ranking at the top of Google.

The problem?

While we were ranking in the top 3 position, we were getting less than a 3% CTR (Click-Through-Rate).  

That’s pretty poor considering FirstPageSage.com’s research citing you can expect as much as a 10.2% CTR if you’re in the third position in Google.

The problem was our headline which was simply:

“Who Wrote the New Testament?”

When I realized I had made the critical error of focusing all our attention on the qualify of our article but all of two seconds thinking about the headline, I made a simple change to spark curiosity in the reader.

“Who Wrote the New Testament? The Answer May Surprise You”

The result was immediate.

Our CTR more than doubled giving us an average CTR of 7.4%.  Here were some of our new CTR’s by keyword:

What’s even more impressive is that after I made the change, within a couple of weeks, we took over the #1 position in Google, the featured snippet for our main keyword, “who wrote the New Testament.”

A lot of times, Google will do this if they see more interest in one article over another.  Our CTR must have been better than the results in the spots around us, so they knew they should bump us up.

The two places I monitor headlines are for my website articles and Youtube videos.  Both are critical to monitor and test.  I’ll show you how to find your poor performing headlines and improve them here.

How to Find (and Fix) Your Poor Performing Headlines

Let’s start with blog or article headlines.  Of course, when I refer to headlines here, I’m really talking about the title that is displayed in Google search results, which is the title tag.

The easiest way to find find your articles that aren’t performing well is to:

  1. Go to Google Console
  2. Under Performance, click on Search Results
  3. Make sure all four options at the top are checked: Total clicks, Total impressions, Average CTR, Average position
  4. Scroll down and select Pages

Step 3 above should look like this when you select all four performance metrics.

Then, again, in step 4, you click on Pages, and you can now see the CTR of individual pages on your site. 

At this point, what you’re looking for is a page with a significant amount of impressions but that has a low CTR, especially compared to other pages in similar positions.

Here’s one I clearly need to work on:

In the example above, this page has an average position of 7.5 which is higher than most of the other page positions in the screenshot, but has the lowest CTR of only 1%.

A quick peek at my title tag reveals a pretty weak title tag of “Who Wrote the Book of Revelation? The Mastermind Uncovered.”

Let’s try to diagnose the problem here.

A few things to note when working on this:

  • Use a character counter to ensure your title tag isn’t too long.  Aim for 60 characters or less so it doesn’t get cut off in the Google preview.  This one is 58 so I’m ok there.
  • Keywords matter – I don’t have much room to massage this because I’ve got to keep “who wrote the book of Revelation” in the title.  But I can change the subtitle.
  • Intrigue – After your main keyword, it tends to work well to place your hook after that like “the answer may surprise you”

In this case, I just don’t think “the mastermind uncovered” is a juicy enough hook for my subtitle.  If you’re dealing with a similar issue, where you need to write with SEO and the reader in mind, try a combination of a keyword at the front followed by a hook afterwards.

You can use subtitle phrases like:

  • The Surprising Truth
  • The Answer May Shock You!
  • Exposing the Lies
  • (That Experts Don’t Want You to Know)
  • #4 Will Shock You!  (for list posts)  

You might also use a good headline formula article for motivation or ask ChatGPT for some ideas.

In my case, I think I’ll try “Who Wrote the Book of Revelation?  The Surprising Truth”

Do you see the power of this exercise?  In the past few months, we got 191k impressions for this page with only a 1% CTR.  If all I did was improve that to 2%, I’d get an extra 2,000 visits in the next 90 days.  If I can improve it to 4%, it would mean an extra 6,000 visitors!

How to Find (and Fix) Your YouTube Headline CTR:

To find your CTR for YouTube, follow these steps.

  1. Go to YouTube Studio
  2. Go to Content
  3. Select a Video (You can click on the thumbnail or the text title)
  4. In the left panel, click on Analytics
  5. Click on Reach

You can now see your “Impressions click-through rate.”  It looks like this.

According to SmartLook.com, a good CTR for YouTube videos typically falls between 5% to 20%. However, upon analyzing my channel’s analytics, I noticed that my CTR is slacking a bit, with very few videos crossing the 5% mark.

Clearly, there is room for improvement!

When it comes to boosting your CTR on YouTube, it’s important to consider not only the headline but also the thumbnail design. The thumbnail is the first visual impression viewers have of your video, and it plays a crucial role in attracting their attention and convincing them to click.

Here are some effective ways to enhance your thumbnail design and increase your CTR:

1. Eye-Catching Imagery: Choose a visually appealing and relevant image for your thumbnail that instantly grabs the viewer’s attention. It should be clear, high-quality, and visually striking.

2. Bold Text and Graphics: Incorporate bold and easy-to-read text on your thumbnail that highlights the main topic or benefit of your video. Use contrasting colors and visually appealing fonts to make the text stand out.

3. Compelling Headline: Just like with blog post titles, a compelling headline can greatly impact your CTR. Craft a concise and intriguing headline that sparks curiosity and encourages viewers to click on your video to discover more.

4. Consistent Branding: Maintain consistent branding elements in your thumbnails to establish a recognizable visual identity for your channel. This can include using your logo, a consistent color scheme, or a specific style that reflects your brand’s personality.

5. Test and Analyze: Experiment with different thumbnail designs and monitor their performance using YouTube analytics. Pay attention to the CTR and viewer engagement for each variation to identify what works best for your audience.

By investing time and effort into creating visually appealing and compelling thumbnails, you can significantly improve your CTR on YouTube. Remember, the thumbnail serves as a gateway to your content, so make it captivating and irresistible to increase the likelihood of viewers clicking and watching your videos.

Conclusion

In conclusion, optimizing your headlines can have a significant impact on your click-through rates both on your website articles and YouTube videos. As I discovered through my own experience, a simple change to the headline can double or even triple the CTR, resulting in higher rankings and increased traffic.

Remember, the headline and thumbnail serve as gateways to your content, so make them captivating and irresistible to increase the likelihood of viewers clicking and engaging with your content. So, don’t overlook the power of a compelling headline – it can make a world of difference in driving traffic and boosting engagement.


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