Which headline was the winner?

28 replies
Here's a little guessing game for y'all (I say for y'all, because I already know the answer)

This comes from my personal swipe file, and it's from a weight loss supplement I helped write an advertorial style web page for, a couple years ago.

After coming up with about 4 dozen headlines, we finally narrowed it down, and decided to split test the following three.

Each headline got 1000 page views. And with no other changes to the page, but the headline, one of them out-performed the other two by a wide margin (nearly 200% bump in response over the second place contestant)


Can you guess which headline was the winner?



#1 ) Weight Loss Breakthrough! - Scientific Research Uncovers A Plant Based Molecule That Activates Your Body's Own Natural Fat Burning Metabolism - With No Dieting, And No Strenuous Exercise


#2 ) Laboratory Tests Confirm How This All Natural Supplement Safely And Effectively Melts Fat From The Body


#3 ) Could This All Natural Herbal Supplement Be The Cure For Obesity?


So, what's your best guess?

And for a bonus question... "Why" do you think the winner did better than the other two?
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#headline #winner
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    I like #1 but perhaps I am not the target audience. It's clear, the opening is arresting in a good way, and speaks to the target audience. There's something specific, the breakthrough. I like that! It's easy to understand and not over-selling. It's just a breakthrough, not a miracle cure. Then the details after keep my attention.

    #2 is kind of boring: I don't care about lab tests and my eyes fall away from reading the rest of the headline before I get to "safely".

    #3 is OK and it asks a question, which I like, but it's not creating believability-based curiosity ("cure for obesity"? OK, sure...nothing is a magic cure for obesity...ya lost me ;-) )

    Also I think an image attached to the headline with #3 could make a big difference in clickthroughs or continued reading.

    Anyhow just my opinions and although I'm overweight I'm not truly the target market.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
    #1 has a lot going for it...

    > "Breakthrough" - is a proven power word that people respond to
    > "Scientific Research Uncovers A Plant Based Molecule" - .mild curiosity and authority
    > "Activates Your Body's Own Natural Fat Burning Metabolism" - big benefit
    > "With No Dieting, And No Strenuous Exercise" - makes losing weight sound easy and painless

    But it's long. Some would say too long.

    So I'll guess #3 - strong curiosity

    Alex
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  • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
    I probably shouldn't go against Alex, but I'll guess #2.

    I'm not a trained copywriter by any means, but here's my reasoning:

    #1 - Longish for a headline. Too many multisyllabic words (too intelligently written to appeal to lower intelligence readers). Doesn't really appeal to the emotions.

    2 - Short, simple, to the point, and "melts fat" makes losing weight sound easy! Easy is appealing.

    3 - Makes it sound like the outcome is in question.
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  • Profile picture of the author SARubin
    Well, it looks like all three headlines got a vote. But only one of them actually took the control.


    And the winner was (drum roll please... bada, bada, bada, boom)...


    # 3 was the hands down winner! And it beat the other two by a fairly large margin.


    But why?


    My guess is that with all the hyped up claims in marketing (especially in the weight loss industry) the first two looked similar to the claims everybody else was making?

    But the third one simply asked a question. And that allowed people to let their guards down, because it didn't sound like a sales pitch.

    At that point, curiosity took over and they wanted to know more.

    Also, as I originally stated, the entire piece was designed as an advertorial (more like a news story, than a sales page) so I'm guessing that the subtle, "under the radar" style headline, was more congruent with the rest of the piece?


    Of course, that's just a guess. Because when the company asked customers why they chose to purchase, they mostly got ambiguous answers. (nobody came right out and said "I bought from you because of your awesome headline")



    #1 came in second place.

    And I think if the rest of the piece was a full on "sales page" it might have been the most effective of all three headlines. (For the very reasons that have already been stated, by some of the other skilled copywriters who responded here)...

    It was a bit longer than I usually like. But it did have a lot going for it, as far as "authority... bold promise... ease of product use"



    #2 didn't do very well.

    Now, I don't think it was necessarily a bad headline (after all, I created it, so it had to at least be kinda good... right? ) And it did get a little response.

    But overall... it was the least effective of the three, this time around.



    Of course, we all know headlines are only part of the equation for a winning sales piece. But, it's arguably the most important part. Because if the headline doesn't draw people into the piece, then nothing else matters.


    And while we got a few insightful responses here, with solid reasoning why each one "could" have been the winner...

    I guess it just goes to show... You never really know what your market will respond to... Until you test it!
    .
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    If you're spending time and money on advertising, but not getting the results you want to see... I can help you fix that. SARubin - Conversion Flow Specialist

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  • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
    Okay, I saw the result before I had a chance to post, but I'll man up and confess.

    I picked #2. The reason? "Lab testing" made it sound more legit. Perhaps it might have worked better as a headline for a full-on pitch.

    #3 was my second choice, mostly due to the click-bait sound. Which, in hindsight, should have made me pick it first for generating clicks to the advertorial. Gotta pay attention to the details.

    #1 got eliminated purely due to the length.

    Thanks for posting the puzzle.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
    Three would have been my next choice, but I picked the worst for first, thus solidifying my claim that I'm not a trained copywriter.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
    Out of curiosity I just ran all three headlines through the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer, and #2 won. The real world winner, #3 came in last. None ranked very good, although the first one was too long to get the full analysis. Guess that utility isn't that good at analyzing headlines.
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    • Profile picture of the author SARubin
      Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

      Out of curiosity I just ran all three headlines through the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer, and #2 won. The real world winner, #3 came in last. None ranked very good, although the first one was too long to get the full analysis. Guess that utility isn't that good at analyzing headlines
      Yeah, I've run headlines through the EMV analyzer in the past.

      It does have some value. Although it seems to analyze headlines (up to 20 words) based on the emotional value of the words themselves, in comparative ratio with the number of words being used.

      It is a neat little tool.

      Unfortunately, I've learned that it doesn't take into account the syntax, or context of the headline, compared to the rest of the sales piece.(Or the target market that will be reading it)


      (Although, maybe if we used it for this page, we might have gotten even more response?)
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      If you're spending time and money on advertising, but not getting the results you want to see... I can help you fix that. SARubin - Conversion Flow Specialist

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      • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
        Originally Posted by SARubin View Post

        Yeah, I've run headlines through the EMV analyzer in the past.
        Yeah, it's helped me out in the past. I linked to in my newsletter a long time ago, but I warned my readers it's just a rudimentary tool, you still have to apply common sense and test different headlines.

        Fun little "contest" you had here. I think your reasoning on why the winning headline was best has some validity.
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  • Profile picture of the author cearion
    Banned
    Number 1 of course. as to why? I got my attention. It made me read the rest of the sentences. The other two makes me want to skip it after the first word.
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  • Gotta figure "melts fat" has allure.

    Tellya, I am sum blind salamanderbeest crawlin' around deep below surfacea the Earth, skinny hide bustin' out for succor ... I am so gonna LOVE alla this weirdsily unwanted trickle down frickin' fat oozin' the tits from outta my DISMAL CAVERN EXISTENCE ceilin' like RAINDROPS in a DESERT.

    Yanno what?

    Gonna prone myself out all kinda YOGA an' mebbe GAPE.

    Aw plz tip alla that POTENTIALLY BOOTY-SMACKIN' CELLULITE the heck insidea my scrawny salamander ass.

    Tellya, I read weight loss, I see only invitation to become merely a more wraith-like frickin' specter.
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  • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
    I knew it was #1 or #3. I would have bet it was #1 though, for the reasons already mentioned.

    I suspect the media used mattered as well. If it was in advertorial form, #3 would be the obvious best headline, because it would be consistent with format and the readership's expectations. But the salesman in me just loves #1. And if the ad were in the National Enquirer...I'm assuming that #1 headline would be more profitable. But of course, assuming something doesn't make it true, testing does.
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    • Profile picture of the author SARubin
      Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

      I knew it was #1 or #3. I would have bet it was #1 though, for the reasons already mentioned.

      But the salesman in me just loves #1. And if the ad were in the National Enquirer...I'm assuming that #1 headline would be more profitable. But of course, assuming something doesn't make it true, testing does.
      Personally, I thought #1 was the best of the bunch (a little long, but it still had a lot of power behind it), and #3 was the weakest of the bunch.

      But, when the numbers came in...

      Well, let's just say it didn't really matter what my old opinion was, because my new opinion was that #3 was the best of the bunch.
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      If you're spending time and money on advertising, but not getting the results you want to see... I can help you fix that. SARubin - Conversion Flow Specialist

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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
    A couple years ago, when the test was run, click bait headlines with a question mark at the end were doing very well.

    #3, while not quite strong enough to be a click bait headline, resembles one.

    Something along this line would have probably out-performed #3... "Could This Newly Discovered Herb Actually Melt Away Fat?"

    Or just adding the word "Finally" to #3 would make it a click bait headline.

    Alex
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  • Profile picture of the author Maxxx333
    hi dude, i go for the 1, it sounds more pro, and less boring, everyone can understand what it is, and wants to follow. The number 2 sounds quietly boring, and seems complicated, because according to me, it's not everybody who will follow, as they are expecting to be having some lab results, that most people will not understand,
    The number 3 is good, but if you can have something to complete it and make it more attractive, then good.
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  • Profile picture of the author Digitalage04
    I say #3 for me 'coz people nowadays tends to look for organic and healthy way to reduce weight.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ivelina Y
    #1 is the winner for me. Though it is a bit longer than most of the ads we've seen on the internet the wording is very good.
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  • Profile picture of the author DABK
    My choice was #3: resembles a lot headlines on AOL and other sites like that and those work because they tickle curiosity bones, which all people have in abundance, all the while being just a harmless question.
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  • Profile picture of the author splitTest
    I picked # 3... Then when I read a few of the responses in favor of #1 I was swayed by their logic...

    I completely forgot that the OP mentioned this was a headline for an advertorial...

    Now (after finding out the answer & being reminded that it's for an advertorial), I'm thinking of course #3 did better...

    #1 is too "salesy"... Would undermine the way an advertorial works...
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  • Dash it - too late to pick 3.

    My favourite but you kind of feel tempted to go with 1.

    My guess is many clients would have preferred 1 (because they feel it's like most of their competitors but maybe slightly better).

    But 3 blasts through all the "same as," "oh no not another 500 word shouty, screamy headline" and "over the top hyperbole" which is still all the rage in weight loss.

    Great to hear 3 was the winner by a country mile.


    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author ezjob
    I thought it was number 1 but I'm glad to know that 3 did better.

    I like shorter and to the point headlines myself.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bella Lopez
    I think the 3rd one. As an audience I feel I'll click this headline more easily as it doesn't make any claims and asks a small question which entices me to know the answer.

    Further, it is not too wordy and I am a skimmer so this quickly catches my eye and I look deep into this post.
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  • Am I right in assuming that all the credibility & benefits in #1, were also quickly delivered after the headline in #3?

    #1 targets, adds credibility, provides a new take on known mechanism (metabolism), speaks to emotional objections (tough exercise and diet)... all necessary for a great lead. But "Weight Loss Breakthrough!" doesn't pull the prospect to keep reading/watching as well as the #3 headline.

    So if all that great copy inside #1 is quickly delivered right after the #3 headline demands the prospect keeps reading, I'd say that combination of persuasion techniques and "keep reading" techniques explain why #3 performed best.
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    • Profile picture of the author SARubin
      Originally Posted by Benjamin Farthing View Post

      Am I right in assuming that all the credibility & benefits in #1, were also quickly delivered after the headline in #3?

      #1 targets, adds credibility, provides a new take on known mechanism (metabolism), speaks to emotional objections (tough exercise and diet)... all necessary for a great lead. But "Weight Loss Breakthrough!" doesn't pull the prospect to keep reading/watching as well as the #3 headline.

      So if all that great copy inside #1 is quickly delivered right after the #3 headline demands the prospect keeps reading, I'd say that combination of persuasion techniques and "keep reading" techniques explain why #3 performed best.

      Hey Benjamin -

      Yes, the lead opener (after the headline) went right into talking about how doctors and research biologist at a prestigious institute, have studied the DNA of certain plants and herbs. And have discovered how particular molecules interact with metabolism in the human body.

      I tried to keep the piece sounding more like a news story. Which could be why #1 didn't produce as well? (It may have come across as too "salesy" which diminished the newsworthy effect of the piece?)

      But, the article went on from there. And I also squeezed in how Asian medicine has been using these herbs for thousands of years, but now western medicine has finally been able to scientifically verify "how" they work within the body.


      And then at the end, I graciously added in the name and contact info of a company (my client) that uses the highest purity standards, in the production of this herbal supplement.

      Below that, was the offer to purchase directly from the company.


      This last part was a bit of an experiment as well. Even though it was on the company's' website, we tried to make it look like a third party news story, rather than a message from the company itself.

      By starting it, and finishing it as a newsworthy story, the thought was that it would come across as more impartial and authentic?

      Of course, one risk was that it would confuse people, and leave them wondering why we referred to ourselves in the third person. But it didn't seem to confuse anyone, and sales went up. So, that was a good thing.


      I wish I could share the whole piece here, and possibly get some feedback from other copywriters, on how to make it even better. But a verbal NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) with my client, only allows me to use pieces of it as a swipe file. And even though it's only a verbal NDA, I still intend to honor it. So sharing the 3 test headlines in this thread, is pretty much the limit of what I'm willing to make public.


      Anyway, it was fun reading some of the guesses, and comments, that were posted on this thread.

      All the best,
      SAR
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      If you're spending time and money on advertising, but not getting the results you want to see... I can help you fix that. SARubin - Conversion Flow Specialist

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  • Profile picture of the author TheNamesM
    I went with #3, half expecting #1 to be the winner (which would've made me sad).

    I took #3 primarily for two reasons:
    1) It's dressed like a question, unlike some sales-guy's gotta-sell-this-today, hurried pitch. Sounds more genuine. In fact, without you providing context, it could have been the headline of a serious article in a perfectly reliable magazine!
    2) It was shorter and yet focused well on the (likely) core benefits, without being cheesy.

    My $.02...
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  • Profile picture of the author R0b328
    I'd go with #1, punchy and well written
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  • Profile picture of the author Jeffrey Joson
    i know the 2# is the worst but didn't expect that the 3# can defeat the first by a huge margin
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