One problem that I regularly saw in the days that I took on blog consulting work was bloggers who spent hours and hours slaving over the writing of quality posts only to take 5 seconds to slap a very ordinary title on them.
While poor titles won’t have as much of an immediate detrimental impact as some of the other ways of letting a blog go that we’re exploring this week – over the long haul it can really hold a blog back from reaching it’s full potential.
Why Blog Post Titles Are Crucial
I can not emphasize enough the importance of the titles of posts. They matter for numerous reasons:
1. Your Title Acts as an Advertisement for your Post – the handful of words that you choose for the title of your post determine whether it will be read by the vast majority of people who see it. In a time where people scan hundreds of posts quickly in RSS feeds, are presented with thousands of alternatives when they search in Google and run their eye over many new posts on social sites like Digg or Delicious people are increasingly making decisions on the worth of posts and whether they’ll engage with them based upon titles. In effect your title acts as a mini advertisement for the rest of your post.
2. Titles Are Important in SEO – the words in title of your post have more power than any other words in your post when it comes to how that post is indexed by Google and other search engines. If you’re looking to get ranked for a certain keyword you had better find a way to get it included in your title. The reason for this is that SE’s look at titles as indicators of topic of posts. They also look at ‘title tags’ and the permalink structure of pages (the URL) – both of these things are usually connected with your title.
3. Titles are a key for Viral Content - I’ve already mentioned Social sites like Digg and Delicious in my first point above. Titles are KEY for these types of sites not only because they draw people from them to read your content – but because the title itself can be the sole reason that some users of these sites vote for your posts. It’s a sad thing really, but some social bookmarking site users don’t actually visit sites before they vote for them but instead vote up (or down) posts based upon their titles. While this seems a little pointless it can actually be important as their vote might tip your post into a ‘viral’ surge of actual traffic.
Solution: The solution to the problem of good content but bad titles is fairly obvious – take more time with your titles. If people make a decision whether to read your post based upon your post titles if you are not giving them considerable thought you are almost wasting your time slaving over your actual posts.
5 Tips For Developing Great Post Titles for Your Blog
I’ve written a lot of advice previously here at ProBlogger on writing titles including:
1. Keep it Simple – Most research I’ve seen into titles seems to argue that the most effective titles are short, simple and easy to understand. While breaking these rules can help grab attention (see below) they can also confuse, frustrate and put a glazed look in the eyes of potential readers. Shorter titles are also good for Search Engines – keep it under 40 or so characters and you’ll ensure the whole title appears in search results.
2. Grab Attention – Good titles set your posts apart from the clutter around them and then draw readers into your post. Grabbing attention might happen using tactics of ’shock’, ‘big claims’, ‘controversy’ or even ‘confusion’. While these tactics do work at getting people in – it should also be said that they can do more damage than good if the rest of your post doesn’t live up to the promises your title makes. By all means try to grab attention – just just ‘trick’ your readers into thinking you’ll provide them with something you can’t give them.
3. Meet a Need – An effective title draws people into reading more because they feel you’ve got something to say that they NEED to hear. Indexes like del.icio.us illustrate just how effective this is. Quite often the articles that get to the top of the list are ‘how to…’ or ‘tutorial’ type articles that show readers that they will learn how to solve a problem or need that they might have.
4. Describe Your Post – Some readers will be drawn into a post by a cryptic title that doesn’t tell them much about what they’ll be reading – but the majority of readers need to know something about what they’ll find if they read further. Titles should describe (in a word or few) what readers will get in the main post.
5. Use Key Words - As I mentioned above – titles are a powerful part of SEO. If you want to maximize their power you need to consider using the keywords that you want your post to be found with in your title in some way. This of course is challenging when you are attempting to ‘keep it simple’ and to also ‘grab attention and intrigue’ – but it can be done. Words at the start of titles are thought to be more powerful than words at the end when it comes to SEO.
‘Bonus’ idea – Hit the News Stand:
Head to your local News Stand and spend some time looking at the titles and headlines that are used in newspapers and magazines there. You can learn a lot from this type of analysis about what types of words and what patterns work in headlines. See this technique explored further both here at ProBlogger and at CopyBlogger (the master of great titles).
Share Your Best Post Titles
Got some good blog post titles to share with us? Leave them in comments below and tell us the story behind them, the strategy that you’re using and what impact they had.