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How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog

Blog-Post-TitlesTitles change the destiny of your posts.

Those few words at the beginning of your blog post can be the difference between the post being read and spread like a virus through the web like a wild fire and it languishing in your archives, barely noticed.

This month we’ve been talking about how to ‘craft’ blog posts and are looking at key moments in the writing of blog posts that it is important to pause and put a little extra effort into.

While there will usually only be a handful of words in your post title – they are the most powerful words that you’ll write because for most of your readers the decision as to whether to read the rest of your post rests upon them.

Why Blog Post Titles Matter

Blog post titles appear in:

  • Search engine results
  • RSS feeds
  • Links from other bloggers
  • Social media sites
  • On your archive pages (depending upon how you format them)

In each of these occassions the title can be the only thing that people see and the sole thing that people make the decision to visit your post on. Write a boring, complicated or confusing title and it doesn’t matter what you’ve written in the post – very few people will ever read it.

What should a Good Blog Post Title Do?

There are many techniques that copywriters use in crafting titles or headings both online and offline – but there’s generally one common goal behind them all. It can be summed up in the words of David Ogilvy who in Oglivy on Advertising (a great copywriting book) again and again echoes the refrain that:

the purpose of a title is to get potential readers to read the first line of your content.”

This is one of the lessons that has helped me the most in my own blogging and I’ve seen it’s power again and again.

Write a captivating and intruiging title and you’ll draw people into reading it every time.

How to Craft a Blog Post Title – 8 Tips

Titles-1-2How do you craft a blog post title that get people to read your blog posts opening lines?
There are many techniques for crafting blog post titles that will draw readers into them. Below I’ll outline a few (you won’t be able to do all of them in every single post).

Before I share them – let me give one universal tip – Don’t Rush – this is the main point of this whole series on crafting content. If there’s nothing else you come away from today – take away that if you rush your titles you could well be wasting the time that you invest into your actual posts. Invest time into your posts, it’s something that will pay off!

Now that we’re taking our time – here are 8 tips that I use in the creation of blog post titles. Note: you’d not be likely to use all of them in the one post (although for fun I did my best to get quite a few of them into the image title above). Different techniques will work better in different situations.

1. Communicate a Benefit

This is SO IMPORTANT. If a potential reader comes across your post in Google search results or your RSS feed or on a site like Digg and they see a title that promises to meet a need they have – they’ll click that link on almost every occassion. Identify a need in of potential readers (we talked about this in yesterdays post) and communicate that your post will solve this problem or need in your title. This is why posts with titles like ‘How to Hold a Digital Camera’ and ’10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits’ (LINKSSSSSSS) have driven hundreds of thousands of readers to my photography blog in the last year. They are not ‘clever’ or ‘cryptic’ titles – they simply SCREAM at those that see them what they’ll get if they visit the post. These titles don’t draw everyone that see’s them to them, but they’ll certainly draw in people with the needs that you’re aiming the post at.

2. Create Controversy or Debate

Another technique that can be very good at drawing people into a post is to set the scene for controversy, debate or a strong opinion. You need to be willing to back these types of titles up with posts that reflect the title – but controversy is one of those things that tends to pique people’s interest. Keep in mind that when you create controversy you’ll attract strong reactions in people.

3. Ask a Question

When you ask a question those who read it are wired to respond (or to see what the response is). I find that questions at post titles can be very popular at not only drawing in readers – but particularly effective at getting readers to leave comments – particularly if the comment directs a question AT the reader (ie use the word YOU in the question) rather than just being a random question. I’ll write more on personalizing titles below.

4. Personalize Titles

Titles-3When you write blog posts you are potentially writing to vast audiences of many thousands of readers – however readers can feel like the post is laser targetted in on their own specific situation, particularly if you personalize the language that you’re using. One of the easiest ways to do this is simply to use the word ‘you’ in your posts. I wrote a little about this in First Person Blogging about ‘You’ but mainly talked about using the word ‘you’ in the post itself but in the title of your posts it can have an even bigger impact. Example – 21 Ways to Make Your Blog or Website Sticky.

5. Use Keywords

Keywords in titles are good for two main reasons:

  • Firstly they grab the attention of readers who are scanning content – I noticed this recently when I was in a buying mode looking to get an iPhone. Anytime any post in my RSS feeder had the word ‘iPhone’ it was like a flashing light and attracted my attention to it. I could hardly help it but because I was on the look out for information to help me with that purchase the keyword was a great attention grabber.
  • Secondly – keywords are important for the long tail life of your blog post as they tell search engines what your blog post is about and will help it to rank highly for those words. Search engines pay particular attention to titles to assertain what a web page is about – particularly if you use the words in your page ‘title tags’ as well (read more on title tags and SEO).

So use keywords that relate to your post in your titles. This is a particularly useful tip if you write about products, people or companies as these types of ‘names’ are some of the most searched for terms on the web.

One more tip for keywords – if you can include them at the start of your title they can have more impact with SEO than if you include them at the end of a title (particularly if the title is long).

6. Use Power Words

Not all words are created equal – some evoke a powerful response in readers and it can be well worth your while to find out what they are.

It’s difficult to compile a list of these ‘power words’ but a few that I’ve found that can work (although read my disclaimer below):

  • Free – there’s something about the idea of getting something for nothing that triggers a response in most of us.
  • Stunning – I use words like ‘stunning’ on my photography blog a lot. These words are ‘big claim’ words that draw people into the post to see if it matches up (see below for more on ‘big claims’)
  • Discover – everyone likes to make discoveries. Another ther related word is ‘revealed’.
  • Secrets – this triggers a response because it promises to show you something you don’t yet know. Similarly – you could use ‘Little Known Ways to…’ as an alternative to ‘secrets’.
  • Easy – similarly to ‘free’ – we all like ‘easy’ don’t we? – also use ‘quick’. Better still – what about ‘quick and easy’?

Disclaimer – power words can be very beneficial, however they can also trigger negative reactions. Some people get skeptical when they see titles with these types of words and will resist clicking them – others will click them but get angry if the post itself doesn’t live up to the title. Proceed with caution.

7. Big Claims and Promises

I’ve mentioned this technique already but it does deserve a little further exploration as it is a definite way to draw people into a post. Making a bit claim or promise really extends upon my first technique – ‘Communicate a Benefit’ – but takes it to a place where the benefit being shared in the title just cannot be ignored.

These sorts of ‘big claims’ make guarantees that even people without a real need in your topic will want to check out.

The only problem with big claim posts is that if you can’t actually back them up with the post itself, you run the risk of putting readers offside.

8. Humor Titles

Titles-2The humorous title is yet another technique that can be very effective at drawing readers into you blog – that is IF you pull it off.

The risk with humorous posts is that they can also fall flat on their faces and leave you with a post title that not only fails to draw loyal readers in but which is not optimized well for search engines (unless you manage to incorporate some keywords).

Two More Quick Tips on Writing Blog Posts:

Keep it short – while it is possible to actually grab people’s attention with a very long title (the length itself can draw people to it) – in most cases you’ll want to keep it simple and easy to digest. This is good for readers but also search engines (they will only show 65 or so characters so if you go too long your full title doesn’t appear in search results).
Don’t use Periods (full stops) – this one might just be my personal preference and open for debate (although I’ve seen a number of copywriters talk about it) but using full stops or ‘periods’ at the end of titles can stop the flow of your readers. It’s not a big one but something that could have an impact.

Further Reader on Blog Post Titles:

  • 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.
  • 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.

What have you learned about writing blog post titles? Do you use some of the above approaches or have you found other techniques to work for you?

Read the Full Series

This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Deepak says:

    Hi
    I’ve been a regular reader of problogger. This post is just amazing and exactly what a novice or a semi-pro blogger would be on a look0out for apt titles for his post . Even I’m one such novice getting benefited from you gyan about blogging.Thanks Darren! and please do visit my blog and suggest some tips to improve it.

    http://projinfo.org/

  2. writer dad says:

    I have work to do in this area. I’m so focused on getting my post exactly the way I want it, that the title comes last. I’ve put more attention into it over the last week or so, but I can still improve.

  3. Dmitry says:

    Fantastic post. Headlines these days are just as important as the post itself — with users skimming through their large list of RSS feeds or social media links, the headline is your only chance to grab their attention.

  4. PC says:

    I always try to be careful in choosing my titles. In fact those titles have given a decent traffic to me.

    Thanks Darren Good post.

  5. Simon says:

    This is a great post Darren. I’m especially happy to see one more important blogger to highlight the importance of headlines. Just like I did a few days ago in How to Get Half a Million People to Visit Your Blog. Perhaps just a bit more detailed. Nice! :)

    http://condomunity.com/headline-writing-google-social-media-readers/

  6. One of the things that are the hardest are the titles.

    You have definitely provided a lot of good insight into how to get the readers reading the post. Sometimes, I just post pictures without much of a description. To me those posts sound nice ‘coz of the pictures but to a reader the picture might not mean anything without description….

  7. It’s funny that you use the headline from the ‘Scottish Sun’ newspaper to illustrate this excellent article, Darren.

    Being a Scot myself, I can vouch for the fact the headline writers know what they are doing when it comes to crafting titles.

    Sometimes, however, they tend too much towards sensationalism and run the risk of losing credibility with their readers.

    It’s a fine balance to get right.

  8. sharfah says:

    Another thing… don’t write a list post as they drive most of us insane. dumblittleman.com is a good example of really bad titles.

  9. hi Darren,

    Yes you`re right-with this description I will start working on my blog with new aproach.

    Keep up the great work.

  10. Web blogger says:

    Very good article and really helpful tips on optimizing blog titles. When I’m thinking of post titles I try to put search keywords in them. Thanks for this post Darren.

  11. Dominique says:

    I certainly subscribe to keeping blog post short and too the point. I believe that you deliver more punch in your message that you want to convey to your readers that way.

  12. Jayson says:

    Blog Titles are important but just like someone said by the time I’m done with the post I have to work on the title. Anyways I’m trying to get better at it.

    Sometimes I wonder what pro bloggers have in front of them while they are writing?

    You must have a ton of references when blogging, I would think.

  13. Wedge says:

    Damn, I wasn’t expecting much from this post, as we’ve heard it all before… maybe.

    But thanks to the clear headings, it was all well laid out for us, thank you.

    I always put thoght into my titles (see my site on comms and writng) but I can try harder.

  14. Sunil Pathak says:

    this is really great guide Darren and Copy blogger’s Magnetic Headlines series is really a great resource for killer title idea i have book marked his title template post (never used any of them though) for reference

  15. I learned something new from this post, Darren. Thank you for sharing. Having “lists” in the titles also is an effective way for me.

  16. Home Biss says:

    Just be thankful that you folks are using WordPress. I’m on Blogger, leaving me little chance to create titles that are SEO friendly. :-(

  17. Shri says:

    I have always been awed by the blog post titles on problogger. And yesterday i couldn’t resist tweeting about it.

    “Wondering why i cant help clicking on every link that’s preceeded by the phrase “new at prologger” :) 06:05 PM August 18, 2008 from TwitterFox ”

    Great timing. Now i can stop wondering and start writing enticing titles.

    Thx a ton, Darren.

  18. Gem says:

    Thanks for the idea! I am sometimes at a loss when thinking of a catchy title that will draw my readers to the content of my post.

  19. Syed Balkhi says:

    Post Title is very important. It also distinguish talented bloggers to new bloggers. It is your post title that makes a difference in how many diggs you will get. How much traffic you will get from Social Media. People who recieve tons of Social Media traffic like me have to think 5 times before we pick a title.

    Excellent guide Darren.

  20. For any Blog, Post Title is crucial.
    Excellent Post Darren. Thanks.

  21. Yes, a great title should not only draw in your target reader – but it should also incorporate keywords that are important to the theme of the blog post. If you can master this ability, you’ll help optimize your site at the same time. And if the blog post goes viral, then you could receive potentially hundreds or thousands of links with that keyword phrase in the anchor text. And that can do wonders for your SEO efforts.

  22. Hemu says:

    Awesome Darren. This is Oxygen for any blog. I know post titles are very important, But i don’t know how to optimize them. Now you gave me the fuel. Thanks Darren.

  23. Steph says:

    Hear, hear, Darren! Titles are the hook in any type of writing. Thanks for sharing this golden material – and thank you for the easy-to-read layout.

    I have a power word to add: cure.

    Most people have an itch to scratch and are looking for the tool to do the trick. I recently wrote two posts on my health blog, “The Cure to Overeating and other Addictions,” and “The Cure to Indecision.”

    Thanks again and keep up the great work.

  24. Jeff says:

    A great addition to this post would have been to uncover the titles of your most visited blog posts (or a sample of at least a few of them) to provide some examples for your particular blog.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  25. Elizabeth M says:

    Excellent post! made me think about the story of the preacher who was running out of catchy sermon titles and came up with “The Day I Gave a Pig a Permanent Wave” which was about The Prodigal Son.

  26. Thanks for another great post.
    I wonder if (LINKSSSSS) in the first chapter about benefits is a reminder for you to make links for those two articles mentioned.

  27. Debo Hobo says:

    This was helpful as usual. I have been experimenting with longer titles of late. I did not realize only 65 characters are picked up in the search engine. hmm back to the drawing board.

  28. By using my key phrase (made in usa) often in article titles, I’ve been able to get a lot more search engine traffic than I would have otherwise.

  29. Thanks a ton. I write a blog called “media, museums, migration & more.” Some of the topics/language may not be known or familiar to everyone, and after reading this post I can see that I need to work on titles to make it easier for people to access the information.

  30. I always advise people to include words in the title that others would Google in order to find your post.

    Doing this helps you to
    1) keep the focus on the reader and what they want/need
    2) resist the temptation to write cutsie titles that mean nothing to anyone

    Laura Christianson
    co-founder, HeBlogsSheBlogs.com

  31. I can relate from experience that is difficult (um… sometimes impossible!!!) to come up with a title that is “attractive” which
    scores well with SEO.
    For example, if we fill the title with “power” words it is likely that the key word might not end up in the url.

    I am amazed at how you managed to do it. I mean in this post – “post title” and “draw readers” … right on the money I would say.

    I suppose finding the right balance between SEO and a “attractive” title takes a lot of patience and practice :-0)

  32. Keral Patel says:

    Great explanation. Using keywords as well as getting the attention of users both should be well balanced in the title. It should be catchy but it should contain keywords and if it does contains keywords then it should be catchy ;)

  33. Glenn Abel says:

    As a decades-long headline writer, I’d point out that “Police Arrest Batman” is active, but buries the element people care about. “Batman nabbed by cops”

    Google likes that better, too. Great movie.

  34. Writing titles is a real challenge, I find. But I can tell you this, it’s a challenge I WANT TO succeed in, because I really do believe that a good title is paramount for good blogging.

  35. Istioselida says:

    excellent post! sometime we don’t give the necessary importance to the title, and its truth that is crucial for the reasons that you said!

  36. zakka life says:

    I try to use key words. Because I own a craft site and I post a lot of “How To” projects I usually will write something like this “How to Make a Transformer Birthday Cake”. But then I wonder if I should write something clever instead. *Sigh*

    Enjoyed reading this post and it gave me some new ideas to work with. Thanks

    jessica

  37. ashok says:

    Just got your twitter message. I have plenty of long-winded posts with even worse titles. Perhaps the worst is “Computers and Education:”

    http://www.ashokkarra.com/2007/09/computers-and-education/

  38. Kara says:

    These are excellent tips. Thanks so much Darren….I’m going to especially try out personalizing using “you” more often. Every bone in my body resists that given the teaching I’ve received on scientific writing but even that’s going in the more personal direction too! As always, I appreciate your work.

  39. My shot at the post titles:

    1. When a Sister Dies
    2. Teens Can Help Your Online Marketing Advantage
    3. Pregnant Sistah, Check Your Blood Pressure
    4. Poor Women Die Earlier From Breast Cancer
    5. IM Party Benefits Two Children’s Charities

  40. Ooops! Please delete the first comment. It was meant for the Title Creation Skills post.

  41. Hi Darren,

    Perplexed about those pictures of great headlines. Always thought you were in Australia but all of those seem to be from UK newspapers?

  42. David says:

    this is an excellent post on an important topic. Page titles are crucial in SEO , so it is worth spending some time just deciding what your blog post title is to maximise your returns on each post

  43. USA Guide says:

    Yeah blog titles are extremely important, but I tend to go for more keyword-optimized titles..

  44. I’m drawn to witty and tongue-in-cheek titles, but I’m not too savvy on what optimizes SEO (which is why I’m reading you more often…to learn the tricks of the trade).

    Some of my favorite, and imho best, post titles are for photographs: ”A Pair of Pear Pairs”, “How Troll!”, “Fly boy”, but they probably don’t bring increased traffic to my blog. Self indulgent perhaps, which doesn’t always serve the blogger well.

    I have been more intentional of late @ titling, realizing their power; your series confirms that.

  45. zim says:

    Well, at least for me it worked, because I’m here! I came to know what would make my blog more popular. Nice article, thanks

  46. Remember you want a title that will immediately get the readers attention and draw them in like a magnet.

    I use:
    - Exaggeration
    - Alarming aspects
    - Far fetched ideas
    - Stupid/Goofy humor

    I try to clown around and leave people smiling and laughing in every aspect of life.

    For example – my book “You Laugh I’ll Drive” instantly sparks an interest and guarantees to spark curiousity regarding what is between the pages. The title is an immediate attention grabber!

    Check out my website for more examples:
    http://www.allkiddingaside.biz

  47. Toni says:

    Great tips – I will try these out when I start my own blog shortly.

  48. Great stuff as usual! I’ve learned a lot by following your blog posts religiously. You’ve significantly expanded on what I learned somewhat by accident on my website regarding titles, keywords, subheadings, etc. Still learning and still experimenting so I really appreciate your insights on this topic. I particularly like seeing how you cross-link between your existing posts and will start doing more of that on my blog right away!

  49. uwak says:

    thanks…far sharing the technics above…..very useful and good strategy……..always open the success secret…

  50. Thanks Darren.

    Awesome, I am doing my best to apply.

    Thanks

    Stephen Baugh