Research Reveals 7 Keys to Lead Generation Success

We’ve recently concluded a significant research effort across our different sites/newsletters that evaluated the effectiveness of different lead generation pieces.  This represents more than 1,000 titles across 10 industries.

The title of your lead gen content marketing item accounts for 82% of the variance in performance.  This is the single most important performance factor.

Certainly, you want good content, ideally on a topic that will perform well, but the reality is that the title is hugely important.  Of course, when we are talking about performance/effectiveness, it’s a question of whether someone will choose to download it.

What did our research find?  Here are the 7 Key Factors to creating the most effective title.

#1 Topics / Value

As you would expect, certain topics have better or worse performance in each site/industry.  What topics are going to perform better?

Well, the great thing on each of our sites is that you can go anytime to see the articles that have the highest social scores for the day, week, month, year.  Social scores indicate that the audience is more interested than normal in the topic.

I’d suggest looking at the annual summary.  For example, if I go to Human Resource Today’s best posts for 2016, I can find the top articles based on what our audience has shown they find to be interesting.  You can do this on any of our sites using the little calendar icon on the top right.

For Human Resources, I can see articles talking about:

  • Retention / Turnover
  • Employee Engagement
  • Performance / Performance Management / Performance Reviews
  • HR Analytics
  • Technology

These are clearly the kinds of topics that HR professionals found to be most interesting during 2016.  If you take a look at the titles, in most cases they are talking about common pain points / value propositions.  This is important as it indicates value for the reader.

In addition to value, popular methods, tools and technologies correlate to effectiveness.

When we look at the titles of the top performing lead gen pieces, they are very similar to the titles of these articles.  Some examples:

  • Leaving performance reviews behind: Where to start
  • Seven Habits That Are Stalling Your Employee Engagement Program and How to Fix Them
  • 5 Things That Drive Employee Turnover and How to Stop It

Now, I can already hear what you are saying.  I’m writing an eBook on OKRs and I don’t see OKRs anywhere on the page.  And, yes, in fact, the following title did not perform very well:

Get this OKRs e-book to learn how to get started with Objectives and Key Results

However, OKRs are really a technique that’s aimed at improving performance.  It changes performance management in many cases.  So instead of talking about OKRs in the title, you should focus on performance or performance management.  In fact, one of the top articles for the year talks about where OKRs fit into performance management, engagement, and achieving objectives.  That article doesn’t mention OKRs in the title.  Instead, they focus the article more broadly on modern performance management mechanisms where OKRs play a central role.  And the title is focused on Employee Performance instead.  So, this title:

Improving employee performance with OKRS

Had much better results.  I would claim that not even mentioning the method and instead focusing on the outcome would have performed even better – see below for more on this.

#2 Clear, Known Terms

This one is harder to define, but we periodically have lead gen pieces that we frankly don’t know what they are about.  Some examples:

  • What’s your performance score?

I just said that performance is a good general topic.  However, I don’t know what a “performance score” is.  New terms generally do not perform well.  I get that you love your new term “performance score.”  And you probably are thinking – I bet people will wonder what that means.  You are probably right – but they don’t wonder enough to download it.  Similarly:

  • Building Stronger HR Partners Through Talent Analytics

You might want to call it HR Analytics rather than Talent Analytics.  And “HR Partners,” not sure what that means.

  • Get this OKRs e-book to learn how to get started with Objectives and Key Results

This is the same example as before.  It likely also suffers from the audience not knowing what OKRs are.

#3 Avoid Company Names

Including company names is negatively correlated with effectiveness.   There are a few counter examples such as when it’s case studies from multiple known companies.  Even then it’s a risk.

We believe that audience members may not think their company is anything like the case study companies.  But frankly we don’t know why.  So just generally avoid company names.  You can instead say something like “Leading companies share” or a similar generalized term.

#4 Type

We have seen the following terms with a small positive correlation with effectiveness.  We believe because it indicates a deeper, richer piece of content.

  • Guide
  • Whitepaper
  • Research
  • Trends
  • Best Practices

Audiences click on lead gen pieces to get informed.  Words in titles that convey that a specific piece contains useful insight with meaningful depth will get the audience to click on them.

#5 Numeric

We also see good success with including numeric counts at the start of the title.  And alliteration (same first letter) also seems to work well.  Here are some examples:

  • 7 Secrets
  • Seven Secrets
  • 13 Ways
  • Five Steps

#6 Power Words

We see a positive effect from using power words.  Here are some types of power words:

  • Love – Hate
  • Critical / Essential / Brilliant / Stunning – Silly / Stupid
  • Get / Change / Learn
  • Effective / Easy / Simple
  • Discover / Unexpected / Secret

For B2B lead generation, these are some of the more common power terms:

  • Essential
  • Critical
  • Successful
  • Powerful

#7 Negatives Need Positives

When you are talking about a problem, your title needs to suggest you have a solution.


5 Unknown Ways You’re Wasting Your Training Budget


5 Things That Drive Employee Turnover and How to Stop It

The bad example could have easily been turned into a good example by adding a similar positive statement as the good example.


Based on our research, these 7 key elements will make your lead gen pieces work much better.  And now that we know these keys, it’s easy to see why the following titles were good performing:

The Essential Guide to Recruiting Performers

6 Ways to Create a Successful Innovation Program

7 Secrets for Measuring Training Program ROI with People Analytics

Hopefully, this is helpful when you are trying to formulate your next lead generation campaign.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply