When we talk about performance, we usually think about conversions, leads or sales. But often, you can gain a competitive advantage by working to improve metrics that, at first glance, might not seem too important.
In the bigger picture though, metrics like these can help to give you an edge against the competition and eventually impact conversions.
Click through rate (CTR) is one of those metrics and today, I’m going to show you a proven tactic that’s very easy to implement, but can yield significant improvements in click through rate.
I’ll then show you how and where you can deploy this for the greatest effect.
But before we get to any of that…
Why should you care about improving click through rate?
How does improving CTR give you a competitive advantage?
- The main and obvious benefit is more traffic
- More people click and more people arrive at your website. More people arriving at your site means more awareness, more people sharing your content and ideally more customers that you are acquiring that might have chosen a competitor
- But did you know that CTR is also a ranking signal in SEO?
- One of many signals yes, but all things being equal, if you can entice more people to click your result vs a competitor’s, it might be that little something extra that you need to improve your first page position for several relevant keywords… meaning even more traffic as the higher results tend to claim a higher percentage of the clicks
- The same goes for social media sites and any other platform with a clickable headline
- As people are scrolling, your headline is part of what grabs their attention and entices them to click
“When a prospect is faced with the option to click your link, a competitor’s link or nothing at all… any edge you can create to entice them to take the next step and click your link, will give you a competitive advantage”
Now we know why it’s important, here’s the technique. Are you ready?
Include words in brackets as part of your headline.
Don’t overthink it.
In fact in a study by HubSpot and Outbrain, they found that headlines with brackets performed 38% better than headlines without brackets.
HubSpot themselves even report that they have seen a 33% increase in views when the title contains brackets.
Let that sink in a minute.
Including brackets in your headline could increase traffic by a third. That’s why this technique can give you an edge over your competition. Surprisingly, it still seems to be a very underutilised tactic, yet it’s easy to deploy and the competitive advantage can be significant.
So why does this work and what words do you put in brackets to improve performance?
The reason why this works can be linked back to a core principle of persuasion used heavily in conversion optimisation and that is:
“If you can reduce anxiety or friction and improve clarity, more people will be inclined to take the desired action.”
With this in mind, use the bracketed description to let people know what they can expect after the click.
Example from the study:
A Look Inside Mashable’s Evolution [Interview]
Letting people know – in brackets – that the content is an interview, helps to clarify what they can expect if they click. Reducing the anxiety and improving clarity this way, means more people take the desired action.
Other examples of bracketed descriptions could be:
- [Free Download]
- [Free Guide]
- [In-Depth Guide]
- (Step-By-Step Walkthrough)
- (Case Study)
- (2019 Update)
Another approach that’s also in line with conversion optimisation techniques, is to use the bracketed content to help convey a benefit, trust, urgency or social proof.
Examples could be:
- [Free Shipping]
- [Same Day Shipping]
- [Low Prices]
- [X% Off]
- (Limited Availability)
- (Ends Sunday)
- (Established 30+ Years)
- (Over 1M Happy Customers)
A few bonus tips from the study that you might want to test to improve click through rates are:
- Using the word “photos”. This often works well because people tend to engage with visuals
- Using the word “who” increased CTR by 22%. The suspected conversion principle that this taps into is social proof and fear of missing out. “Who else wants…” suggests that others are already benefiting from the content.
Interestingly, certain words and phrases had a negative effect.
- The word ‘Why’ decreased click through rate by 37%
- “How to” and “tip” reduced click-through rates by 49 and 59%
- Using the words: “easy,” “simple” or “best” as well as “magic,” “trick,” “amazing” and “secret” all reduced click-throughs, as did headlines with urgent calls to action like ‘need’ and ‘now’. This is likely due to the overuse of this type of language causing it to be associated with spam and click bait
- Speaking to readers with “you,” “your” and “you’re” also appears to be a turn-off
So to summarise, using bracketed descriptions in your headlines and titles could increase click throughs and therefore traffic, by up to a third, while at the same time helping to improve your organic search rankings.
This is a huge benefit for a tactic that’s very easy to test and surprisingly, still underutilised.
So review your headlines and test some bracketed descriptions and hopefully you’ll experience a competitive advantage in higher traffic generated from the same piece of content.