If you think that creating content to sustain your content marketing strategy is already challenging, consider this: in the age of “glanceable content” (a phrase coined by best-selling author, Rohit Bhargava) you have about two seconds to capture the attention of your intended audience and move them to action as they scroll through search results on the web or their social newsfeeds. Two seconds—if you’re lucky. So how do you avoid this potential barrier to engagement and conversions? Add the Two-second Test to your content development checklist. That is, write your headlines and titles then test them with your content reviewers to see if they can be comprehended in two seconds or less. Keep this test in mind when you create your visual content, too—any social graphics or infographics should also be easily “glanceable.”

How to: writing headlines and titles that pass the Two-second Test
So how do you make the headlines and titles that you write for blogs, social posts, emails and other digital communications engaging enough to draw in your audience within two seconds while clearly communicating what the reader can expect if they do invest their time and attention in reading your stuff? Marketing software vendors Hubspot and Outbrain recently released a study of their 2013-2014 content marketing data which provides some research-based insights into how to structure your headlines for maximum inbound marketing impact, here are some of the highlights:

  • Headlines that included the word “who” generated a 22% higher CTR (click-through-rate) than headlines without the word “who.” “Why,” on the other hand, decreased CTR by 37%. When it comes to intriguing readers with your headlines, focus on who not why.
  • Headlines featuring the word “photo(s)” performed 37% better than headlines without this word.
  • Headlines with bracketed clarifications performed 38% better than headlines without clarifications, suggesting readers are more likely to click when they have a clear picture of what lies behind the headline.

A few other tips:

  • To rank higher in search, a good rule-of-thumb is to keep your headlines under 65 characters so that they don’t get shortened in search engine results. If you can’t get your headlines under 65 characters, make sure you include the most vital information early on in your headline.
  • To optimize your headlines and titles for both social and search be sure to use the keywords you know your audience is searching for. Keywords work best when they’re at the front of the headline.
  • Make sure your headlines are tweetable: you need them to be under 140 characters, but shorter is even better, so that they can be retweeted without truncation.

Given the massive amounts of information that most of us are bombarded with on a daily basis, creating glanceable and engaging content means that headlines and titles play an increasingly critical role in content marketing success. Keep the Two-second test and the research above in mind as you are writing, and, of course always measure your results so you can learn what style or format generates the best results for your business.

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