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15 Ways to Rework Your Next Blog Post Title

titles.pngThis 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):

  1. Communicate a Benefit – a title should tell readers something that they’ll ‘get’ by reading your post.
  2. Create Controversy or Debate – not suitable for every post title but there’s nothing like Debate to get people checking out a post.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Further Reading

For a little extra inspiration and instruction on how to craft great blog post titles check out these resources:

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. pierank you says:

    upgraded my blogging at the same time as the 31DBB and owe a lot to your wise words..plus the sense of community which this has created.

  2. Spyros says:

    Indeed, post titles seem to bear much importance to the success of a single post on a website. I’ve also found that post titles that are in fact answers or contain a rather “unexpected” piece of information, tend to attract more people. For instance, in my blog i tend to use questions like : “Are Success Stories about Websites TRUE?” or “What is the most important element of a successful website?”. It seems that those are the most attracting posts to new visitors.

  3. I often times rather write an SEO friendly title to get rankings but it is important to also have catchy titles in order to get people to want them to read.

  4. Great Post Darren you always give out good info. Thanks again for the post. http://www.maddengeneration.com

  5. Emily Geizer says:

    Thanks so much for this! I’m also reading Darren’s book right now and just finished the section around post titles. It’s becoming increasingly clear to me how important they are and what a huge learning curve I have with this. For those of us not in advertising, this is especially difficult!

    But, just observing my own patterns when I’m searching for information, I know that good titles are critical. I recently changed one of the titles from a popular post from Toilet Training Regression to End Toilet Training Regression Now.

    Thanks again, Darren!

  6. Matutu says:

    Ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!! Not to so funny but yes..let me say this if you surely can’t write a good tittle then you won’t get the flock of readers that’s a simple fact. Best example as we all know,magazines,newspapers,novels all sell coz of great tittles.
    all comes down to creating great tittle before anything..LOL

    http://www.frogblogger.com

  7. Bryan Karl says:

    Wow thanks for the tips. Currently, I am actually into this dilemma of how to effectively write a post title to make it attractive as well as good for search engines. This post is my answer. Thanks so much! :)

  8. Jon says:

    Simple, yet rarely remembered. We see these tactics used daily be it on magazines, newspapers, radio, or TV newscasts. We should definitely take a lesson from them, as they clearly attract viewers/readers. Everyone is in a rush nowadays…people don’t have time to read a whole post just to see what the point was. I couldn’t agree more that post titles are incredibly important.

    Thanks for bringing up the topic again and reminding all of us who let it slip our mind!

  9. yes agree with these tips Darren… actually, nothing beats with simplicity. simple but catchy and informative, these are the reasons why people visited your site.

    but what do you think is more important, the returns that you get in displaying ads on your site? or the earnings that you make from your products?

    i think, the best rule of a thumb is that if you need people to buy your products, don’t display ads on your site ’cause it’ll make them choose those from the ones that you’re really selling.

    just a thought…

    by the way, thanks for these tips again Darren.. keep it coming! :)

  10. shannon says:

    Title get people interested but hopefully you have something to write that makes sense and deals with the title.

    shannon
    http://www.eighthorses.com/

  11. Essai Selvan says:

    Writing a good blog post title has been a greatest challenge ever since I started Blogging.

    It’s been 2 years but still can’t make a compelling blog titles (sometime :P) May be this will help me a little bit. Let’s see what happens.

  12. I like the idea of making it controversial cos I have noticed recently that the Posts on my blog having controversial titles regarding the ongoing news were viewed more then the others posts having straight and simple titles

  13. SYoung says:

    Your advice to write for the reader first and SEO second is refreshing! As a veteran writer from the old “print publication world” I simply can’t force myself to put words in a blog piece so often that it is just ugly writing. I probably won’t “make it big” in the techno world!

  14. Tasha says:

    Ahhh!!! As always something meaty to work on. So many ideas I just never thought of before.

    Thanks teacher YOU ROCK !!!

    Tasha
    http://www.theeangels.com

  15. Gary Sanet says:

    The copyblogger is an expert in this field :)

  16. Michael Hall says:

    thanks for the great content darren and all the other commenters, i don’t think it was mentioned already, but i’ve seen and used a wordpress plugin that lets you rotate several versions of each post – i.e. you can have several unique posts with their only title and content tied to the same url/post slug, it keeps track of which titles were clicked on, so you can remove the losers after you have a clear winner.

    so each visitor would see a diferent version of that post if you added alternative versions, it uses tracking to make sure they don’t notice the rotation.

  17. Nic says:

    I THINK I’m quite good at writing titles. I naturally do most of the things you mentioned. But this is all great advice, I learnt a few things here I can remember to stop me getting too cocky!

    I once couldn’t think of a title for a post so I just wrote the first thing that came to mind. Then the first line of my post was something like, ‘I realise that’s not a great title for a post, doesn’t exactly make you want to read on, does it?’ and one of my readers commented, “Actually, I thought it was a great title – it made me curious enough to click the link!” I was pretty pleased with that.

    I really enjoyed your 31 day blog thing and learned some valuable stuff.

  18. Jason says:

    Awesome Darren. And thank you for the very valuable 31 DBB. This task 32 though is the one that ties it together.

  19. WebDev says:

    Well, well, when first I saw the title I thought this is yet another tips list. However, this is not. All the points are pretty explained so the reader doesn’t need to decrypt it. Thank you.

    Personally, I use slugs to get search engine attention and titles to get visitors from search engines :)

  20. Tommy Kirt says:

    As a new website owner I built my site using the Microsoft philosophy of Generics In Naming, including generic site name and article title names, I thought it was clever being exact and to the point (and boring). Alas still so much to learn. I can however vouch for the Lists, one of the top articles on my site and the one I promote the most is a List, it’s great as it really sums up a lot of topics in a very brief way, perfect for a lot of busy surfers who would otherwise bounce. I already know a lot of articles that could do with renaming using these principles, I would just like to be sure it won’t harm my rankings before I went ahead.

  21. Lovely points, those.

    I had read somewhere that it’s inportant to include your keyword in the post’s title, especially in the first three words. This helps Google spot your post better. Don’t know how effective it is, but I have begun implementing in my own blog as well as that of the company I work for.

    Your blog is a God-send, if I may say so! Thanks, Darren.