The Big Fat Lie Everyone is Telling You About Headline Testing

When I was doing the market research for our new Headline Optimizer plugin, I came across something that made me quite angry. There's widespread deceit and misinformation going on, about what the actual purpose of testing post titles is.

With today's video, I address this issue directly.​


Do you have any questions about this topic? Thoughts you'd like to share? Leave a comment below!


Author: Shane Melaugh

Shane Melaugh is a co-founder of Thrive Themes. When he isn't plotting new ways to create awesome WordPress themes & plugins, he likes to geek out about camera equipment and medieval swords. He also writes about productivity here.

  • Shane, as always, you provide great points to falsehoods out there and get past the Marketing Speak! Thank you. I purchased Thrive Headline Optimizer, I’m interested to see some of the results it brings back after the tests run for awhile.

  • Christian H says:

    Hi Shane,
    Year-long user of Thrive Leads on my wordpress site – based on my amazing results (and continuing improvements) from that plugin, I only debated about 5 minutes before getting the headline optimizer.

    I love how ya’ll think and I agree, measuring on-post engagement makes a TON of sense because I don’t just want 1000 new clicks with a 99% bounce (10 engaged readers) rate, I’d MUCH rather have 100 new clicks with a 25% bounce rate. (25 engaged readers)

    Anyway, preaching to the choir, I’m sure. For anyone on the fence about the Thrive plugins, I HIGHLY recommend as a small local biz / blog founder and manager. They have helped so much in our quest for continual improvements and smart data-driven, statistic-based business decisions.

  • Prashant P says:

    The ingenuity in your presentation and finally the end product is what makes Thrive Themes standout than the rest…

  • Nigel Aslett says:

    Shane.. I get 000’s of emails.. yours is one the only ones that I can say is guaranteed to be opened! You are honest with your subscribers.. Never spam us with all those latest offers and produce products that are very high quality!

    Just wanted to say thnks for this post and more so for being one of that oh so rare bread.. the “honest” Marketer!

  • Pattu says:

    Hi Shane, I am a thrive leads user and am interested in the headline plugin. However, the promo video on that and the present video are not clear enough to me about how exactly this will work. I publish a post with a three word title A B C. Will the plugin jumble this up for different users? A little more clarity would help. Thank you.

    • Larry Rampulla says:

      Pattabiraman M,
      Having written the blog post you know best the reaction you want from your reader. Write several headlines: a). Mary had a little lamb.; b). Mary liked to eat lamb,; c). Mary invested in lambs wool.; d). Who knocked Mary up. The plugin will present different Headlines to readers recording and comparing their reaction. After a set number of exposures you select the preferred Headline going forward. In this manner you will stack your sales funnel with the greatest number of prospects on the way to conversion.

    • Keith W says:

      I, a user of Thrive Themes but not a staff member, will try to clarify.
      Here’s how A/B testers work:
      You create headline “A B C” and headline “M N O” and headline “X Y Z.” The plugin then serves the next visitor the next headline in the list —and keeps track of how many of each were served and the results.
      Many have the option of the plugin automatically selecting the “winner” and making it the one served from that point on.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Hello Pattabiraman,

      With Thrive Headline Optimizer, you can click a button to add new headline fields in your post editor. In each field, you can add a new headline (and it can be as long or short as you want). You can also test as many headlines against each other as you want.

  • Kelvin Parker says:

    We can’t let reality get in the way of a good marketing message … LOL – you cover some very valid points.

  • Mark Bossert says:

    Ba-Bam! Shane dropping truth. Well done mate.

  • Adam Kaan says:

    Thanks for that Shane, rather have brutal honesty than a sexy sales pitch any day. Too much hype and lies really does a disservice to people like me who are just starting out. The other thing I notice is a lot of information out there is outdated.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Hi Adam,

      Thanks for your comment!
      I agree that hype and lies to support someone’s marketing campaign are a huge problem, especially for those new to the field.

  • Mika N says:

    Shane what a fucking Great product thrive content builder is man! Can’t thank enough for creating it, one of the best investments I made!

  • You’re one of the very few, or actually when I think about it: the THE ONLY Internet Marketeer who I TRUST Shane!!! That’s why I alway Open All your emails and always be Happy to View your video’s!!! And that’s why I’m also be very Happy to be a Thrive Member!

  • Tom G says:

    Which headline will google see – respective which will be found via SEO if headline changes via A/B Test and e.g. A could enclose keyword and B not

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Hello Tom,

      Keep in mind that there’s a difference between the SEO (meta) title of a post and the post your visitors see. Google will always see the meta title primarily, no matter what happens with a headline test.

      When a test is running, Google will see your main headline (the first one in the list) and it will see the winning headline once the test has ended. But again: that concerns the H1 heading on the page itself, not the SEO title of the page, which always remains unchanged.

  • Shane, thanks for the great video smackdown on the Snake-oil Salesmen. I love ThriveThemes; keep up the great work!

  • Isabella B says:

    Thank you for sharing super useful info. I have purchased the headline optimiser plugin and I am using it will the fab heading guide that you shared few days ago. Keep up the great job!

  • Reona S says:

    Shane, thank you for bringing the best marketing tools! No doubt, Thrive is the best investment so far and I’m a happy customer. A/B testing is what makes this product so much more powerful, now we can A/B test forms and headlines… but what about Landing Pages which is essential for business just like leads?

    I see many people requesting for A/B testing landing pages on forums. As myself, I’ve googled for A/B testing tools since I really needed it, but these plugins are expensive and usually monthly subscription. I’ve read your Google Analytics A/B/N testing method in 2014, but it didn’t work for me in the first and the process was kinda complex and troublesome. I also tried free old A/B testing plugins but they didn’t work as well (don’t track conversion).

    I hope A/B testing feature for landing pages would come to Thrive Family this year, that’s going to kill it for sure!

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Hello Reona,

      Thanks for you comment! Trust me, A/B testing for landing pages is something we have our eyes on very firmly. 😉

  • Mal says:

    Hi Shane,
    thanks again for the real deal on the techno guff, and I just love it when you’re “Pissed Off”. :>)

  • Paul says:


    I have a question wrt your plugin.

    When an article is created and the 3+ headlines have been generated. Do all 3 headlines get pinged to google, etc for SEO purposes? So there are 3 headlines for the 1 article? If so, is that SEO safe?

    Also what happens when a winner has been chosen? What happens to the 3 other headlines?

    Can we have more information about how this plugin works for traffic? I mean, imagine a sharing scenario? Do I post 3 times to facebook, 1 for each headline and then remove the other 2? Where is the cut-off point in running 3 headlines and then going bezerk on the internet with the winner headline?


    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Hello Paul,

      Keep in mind that there’s a difference between the SEO title (meta title) of a post and the H1 title in the post itself.

      The SEO title is never affected by a headline test and always stays the same.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Concerning posting to Facebook, there’s a different story again. Facebook also reads its own meta tags (open graph), where the title can be different from you actual post title.

      Plus, it caches this title, so even if you change the open graph tags on a piece of content, Facebook will probably not change anything unless you ask it to re-fetch the data.

      In practical terms, I recommend that you start using the A/B test winner for the social media title, but only for posts that you’ll be re-sharing a lot.

  • Absolutely true. Other bogus claims like seize 1st place in Google for only $9.95. That is why I am glad I signed up with Thrive. Real value without BS.

  • Fiona says:

    I’ve seen far too many false promises, and as you put it – bold faced LIES – about all sorts of plugins and services promising the delivery of all sorts of extraordinary % of traffic increase.

    So glad you’re shining the light on this sort of bad behaviour.
    And sharing the truth, realistically, and without the marketing hype.

    – Fiona

  • roger says:

    headline plugin: Is this for just post or we can use on landing pages too?

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Hello Roger,

      This plugin manipulates the WordPress title on posts, pages, WooCommerce products and any other custom post types.

      If you use Thrive Landing Pages, the WordPress title field is not used on the page (everything on the page is overwritten by the landing page), so it doesn’t apply there.

  • roger says:

    To clarify, I mean can we use this to test headlines on sales page or optin page too?

  • Bjarne says:

    Does your headline optimizer work in all languages?

  • Simon P says:

    Thanks so much for these insights, Shane. I love your honest, up front approach. This business needs more people like you.

  • Christopher says:

    Boom! That just happened. Lol

    Love it Shane. Your commitment to true conversion optimization is inspiring.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Matija says:

    I see others mentioned it also but I still dont exactly understand how will this affect SEO aspect.

    So I add main headline and as permalink that headline is used. Now I add 2 more headlines.

    Headlines are only changed on site (as I understood) for visitors.

    Google search results shows main headline and its link. In case headline number 2 wins that headline will be shown in search results but link from first headline will be used?

  • Mohamed H says:

    There is Engagement Rate in Facebook Insights, For Pages with more than 1 Million Fans You can make test and monitor Engagement rate in business page.

  • Jesse Grillo says:

    Is Headline Optimizer plugin still available? I just read about it on an ad copy website. How much is it?

  • Abhi says:

    Hi Shane,

    A quick on on the plugin. Say I want to test 3 different headlines, when my site is shared on social media sites, which version will be displayed? Facebook, Twitter etc show the page’s headline and featured image as well as description.

    Also, how does this work with SEO, is there a way to set a default headline for SEO and Social media and test only for visitors?

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