Power Users: Gemma Peplow of Sky News discusses Headline Testing

Welcome to Power Users — a new feature highlighting Chartbeat users who rely on our product in their daily work, and have unique insights or tips to share.

This month, we talk to Gemma Peplow from Sky News who saw a 22% gain in CTR in one week by using Chartbeat Headline Testing. Find out more about how she and her team make it happen.

Name: Gemma Peplow

Organization: Sky News

Title: Chief Sub-Editor


Q: How would you describe your role and day-to-day responsibilities?

As a chief sub-editor at Sky News, I’m responsible for checking, checking, and checking again! The sub-editors go through every single story that goes on the site to make sure there are no mistakes, checking facts, spelling, grammar and tone; we’re the final pair of eyes before a story reaches the readers. We also make sure we have the best pictures and headlines possible to sell our articles and videos — and, working with our output editors, choosing which stories go where on the homepage and indexes.

It’s great to be able to see how much our changes improve click-through rate and engagement across the whole site.


Q: How does testing — headlines, other page elements, etc — play into your role?

It plays a big part. Changing a headline or a picture can make a massive difference to the performance of a story, so it’s really important to get it right.


Q: What was life like before Headline Testing?

The Headline Testing tool has been a bit of a life-changer! Before it was introduced, we would change headlines in our CMS if we felt there was a stronger line or a story needed a push; if the story then shot up the rankings, you would know you had made the right decision but it wasn’t always obvious. Now we can see the results in real time and have definitive answers on what works — and what doesn’t. It’s great to be able to see immediately how a good headline appeals to the audience.


Q: What’s the most interesting thing about testing headlines (in general)?

Seeing what kind of headlines grab readers’ attention and how small changes and certain words can make a big difference. It’s interesting to see how a good change in headline can also lead to an increased engagement time, as well as more clicks.

Because Chartbeat rates quality clicks, it’s good to see that clickbait isn’t the answer!


Q: How does Chartbeat’s Headline Testing tool help you and the team at Sky News?

It helps enormously, as we are able to see exactly which headlines work and which don’t, and analysing these results over time will undoubtedly improve our headline writing skills. This week, for example, I can see that headline testing has improved CTR on those stories by 22%. Knowing those figures makes you want to keep trying to get the best results.


Q: What are some tips or tricks you and the team have discovered in the process of testing headlines (if any) that help you use the tool more effectively?

That it’s good to test different angles and try a range of headlines. Don’t try and shoehorn something in if it’s not right.


Q: What have you and the team learned about headline writing in the process of using the tool to test headline variants?

I’d say we’ve learned to think even more about the language we use and which words will draw people in. Also, that it’s good to get a few opinions and get different people involved to get a range of ideas.


Q: What have you and the team learned about your readers in the process of using the tool to test headlines?

That they are not fooled by clickbait! It doesn’t necessarily work. Yes, you might get that extra click initially, but people will soon click out again if the article doesn’t back up the headline – and Headline Testing reflects that.

Numbers and quotes can be good, but they have to be relevant.


Q: What qualities distinguish an effective headline, in your opinion?

It’s one that makes users want to read that article, so it has to tell the story with simple but powerful and effective language.


Q: What qualities distinguish a delightful one?

It’s always nice to get a pun in there, but it has to be clever! Puns don’t work if they don’t also tell the story.

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