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#Tip: Study finds headlines with 60 to 100 characters perform best

August 12th, 2013Posted by in Top tips for journalists, Traffic


Outbrain, a content recommendation service, has analysed how headline length impacts engagement and has found that headlines with between 60 and 100 characters get the most click throughs. (It is worth noting that this study looks at paid links.)

Outbrain, which acquired analytics platform Visual Revenue earlier this year, analysed eight months worth of click through data on more than 100,000 English headlines for paid links that ran in Outbrain’s network.

The post explains the findings:

We found that moderate length performs best, with engagement declining as headlines approach either the shorter or longer end of the spectrum. As you can see in the graph below, headlines with 60-100 characters earn the highest click-through rates and these rates decline as headlines decrease below 60 characters or increase beyond 100 characters.

These headlines are longer that the BBC-recommended lengths, which was 55 characters when this post with tips on headline writing was published in September. Back in 2011 Econsultancy proposed a 65 character rule.

The Outbrain research found that 16 to 18 word headlines perform best.

When measuring headline length by the number of words, rather than characters, we found the same pattern of results. The highest click-through rates were again achieved at moderate headline lengths, with 16-18 word headlines performing better than headlines of any other word length.

It is also interesting to note this research by Outbrain on positive superlatives, and how ‘best’ and ‘worst’ do not appear to be compelling to readers.

On a related note, Visual Revenue, the analytics tool which is now part of Outbrain, provides news outlets with a tool for A/B headline testing. Half of the readers see one headline, half an alternative headline and then the one that proves to be the most engaging is then adopted and displayed to all readers.

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