This post is task #32 (a bonus one) in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge.
Your task today is to rework the title of the next post that you write
OK – so you need to have a post written before you can do this one but assuming you have a post ready to go – here are a few reflections on getting the titles of blog posts right.
Why the Title is One of the Most Important Elements of Your Next Post
The title of your next post is the main factor that people use to determine whether they’ll read your next post. This is true in most places that people are going to stumble upon your post whether it be on a search engine, in an RSS feed, on a social media site, in a link from another blog etc.
A great title will draw people into the post and give them reason to read it.
A bad title will more often than not be ignored, glossed over and mean a post goes unread.
As a result – bloggers need to spend at least a few minutes thinking specifically about the post title before publishing. Without it all the effort that you put into your actual post could be wasted.
8 Tips for Writing Compelling Blog Post Titles
Much has been written on the topic of writing great blog post titles and I’ll link to some great resources below – but here are a few strategies and tips that I’ve found useful (note: to get a full explanation on each of these read my post How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog):
- Communicate a Benefit – a title should tell readers something that they’ll ‘get’ by reading your post.
- Create Controversy or Debate – not suitable for every post title but there’s nothing like Debate to get people checking out a post.
- Ask a Question – in my experience posts with questions in the titles tend to get read more than others – they also are better at stimulating comments from readers.
- Personalize Titles – for example: using ‘you’ in your post title (and post) can have a real impact and take a post from the realm of ‘theory’ into a more personal post.
- Use Keywords – keywords that signal to readers and search engines what your post is about can help draw in significant traffic if you use them well.
- Use Power Words – Not all words are created equal – some evoke a powerful response in readers – words like ‘free’, ‘stunning’, ‘discover’, ‘warning’, ‘secrets’, ‘easy’ etc all work well in my experience of blogging.
- Make Claims and Promises – as long as you can back them up in your post – a big claim or promise can get someone’s attention.
- Humor Titles – be careful with this one – funny can work great but it can also leave your readers very confused if it’s too cryptic…. or if it’s just not funny.
Again – you can get a fuller description of each of these 8 strategies here.
7 More Tips on Writing Titles
1. Run it by Your Blog Buddy – on day 15 of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog you were encouraged to find a blog buddy. The activity of writing titles is one thing that having a blog buddy is best for. I have a couple of fellow bloggers that I regularly ping with an instant message to bounce ideas off when it comes to titles. More often than not the quick conversation that follows improves the title considerably.
2. Consider Title Updates – I know that this will annoy some bloggers who don’t believe in updating posts after publishing them but I personally don’t have a problem with updating post titles after they’re published if it is clear that they are just not working. The only thing to remember is that some blog platforms derive their URLs from the title so you’ll only want to make updates if you can keep your old URLs in tact.
3. Write for Readers First and Search Engines Second – some bloggers try to write titles that are so optimized for search engine optimization that they forget their actual readers. It’s possible to have a post that ranks really well in Google but that is so poorly worded that even though it ranks #1 nobody will click on it – keep readers as your #1 priority.
4. Keep it Simple – I find that it is often the most simple and straight to the point titles that simply say what the post is about that work the best. There are times to be a little ‘clever’ but more often than not it is a title that clearly gives the topic and communicates a benefit of reading the post that will get clicked on most.
5. Learn what Works and Repeat it – Don’t feel you have the reinvent the wheel with every title that you write. The more posts you write on your blog the more you’ll begin to learn about what works and what doesn’t work. When you find a format that works well with your readers don’t be afraid to use it again. Of course you won’t want to use exactly the same title more than once but you’ll begin to see some formulas that work (see my link to a great series by Brian Clark below – it contains some title formulas to try).
6. Don’t Oversell Your Post – the temptation with blog posts is to make them so compelling and have such a big promise that they go beyond what the post itself can deliver. In doing this you create an expectation in your reader that you just can’t fulfill. Don’t oversell yourself or you’ll have disappointed readers on your hands.
7. Numbers and Lists – Tried and True – one of the most successful types of posts (and therefore titles of posts) are the good old ‘list post’. The title that tells readers how many points you’ve made has something about it that just seems to connect and compel people to click them.
Let me finish with the advice I started with – take your time with your blog post titles. You invest considerable time and effort into your actual posts – don’t short change yourself by slapping the first title that comes to mind on them.
For a little extra inspiration and instruction on how to craft great blog post titles check out these resources:
- A great book that I’ve found helpful is Advertising Headlines That Make You Rich: Create Winning Ads, Web Pages, Sales Letters and More – it contains a lot of proven headlines that the author David Garfinkel has used in his own copy writing. While it’s mainly about headlines in advertising that have worked much of it applies to blogging (and other places you need compelling headlines) also.
- Andy Beal wrote a thought provoking post – How to Optimize Blog Post Titles – in which he explores two audiences of blog posts and how he suggests you optimize titles for each at different life stages of a post.
- Aaron Wall shares How to Craft Kick-Ass Title Tags and Headlines – the post has some good SEO tips but also considers the ‘human’ aspect I mention above.
- Brian Clark has written some fantastics posts on Blog Post Titles in his series Magnetic Headlines. It includes some title templates that are worth experimenting with.