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Blogosphere Trends – What Bloggers Are Writing About This Week

This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren

Every week, we’re using the trending topics from Regator to show you what bloggers are writing about most during the previous seven days. Click any trend to see posts about that story. So far, we’ve used the trends to illustrate how you can break out of the echo chamber and solve problems for your readers.

This week, we’ll focus on crafting effective post titles/headlines. You can delve into the ProBlogger archives to find some great posts by Darren on this topic: “How to Craft Post Titles That Draw Readers Into Your Blog” is a must read for every blogger and “15 Ways to Rework Your Next Blog Title” is a useful follow-up. For this post, we’ll focus solely on the effectiveness the headlines, but as you blog, remember to deliver on what you promise–some of the posts behind these headlines do that better than others. Let’s see how a few bloggers handled the headlines for this week’s top stories:

  1. Twitter – Between buying Tweetie, archiving tweets in the Library of Congress, holding its developer conference, and unveiling promoted tweets, the service could not be ignored. The title of Gizmodo‘s “Inside America’s Secret Historical Tweet Vault” is almost as tough to ignore. As Darren points out, there are “power words” that, when used with care, can make your titles nearly irresistible. He lists words like: secret (used here) free, stunning, discover, and easy. There are plenty of others: exclusive,  shocking, new, etc.
  2. Goldman Sachs – “How to” titles are effective because they follow Darren’s #1 headline rule: Communicate a benefit. The Money Game‘s “How to Trade the Goldman Panic Right Now” does this well. My most widely read post ever was a “how to” post: “Seven Ways Social Media Is Ruining Your Life–And How to Fix It.” In large part, I credit the headline for that post’s popularity.
  3. Supreme Court – Personalizing titles by using “you” helps readers feel connected to the story. Queerty‘s “The 3 Supreme Court Cases Obama’s New Pick Will Decide for You” takes a larger story and makes the reader feel that it’s relevant to him or her.
  4. President Obama – Creating a keyword-heavy headline not only gives your readers a clear indication of what to expect, it also makes it easy for them to find your content in search engines or aggregators. Sometimes a straightforward, keyword-heavy headline is your best bet. i09′s “Obama’s Plans for NASA: Mars by 2030, $6 Billion Budget Increase Today” is long but will be easy to find in a search. CMT Blog’s “Garth Brooks Is Just Like Barack Obama” is even more effective. It has keywords but also draws on reader curiosity.
  5. Pulitzer Prize – Asking a question in your post’s title draws both readers who want to see how others answer and readers who are interested in sharing their own viewpoints. You might find that using this technique also helps you get more comments. “Sure, Online Journalism Nets Its First Pulitzer But Will a Blog Ever Win?” from Techdirt is a great example of a headline that provokes strong opinions and encourages discussion.
  6. Tea Party – Creating controversy with your headlines is one way to attract readers if you’re prepared for the consequences. Many bloggers enjoy igniting heated discussions. If you don’t mind disagreement, try stating a strong, polarizing opinion in your headline like AlterNet has in its post “The Tea Party Crowd Needs to Wake Up to Who the Real Villains Are.”
  7. Conan O’Brien – You’ve heard it before but I can’t do a post about titles without mentioning that people adore lists. Absolutely love ‘em. Lists quantify benefits and let readers know they’ll take away seven, 10 or even 99 new facts, tips, or tidbits. Take, for example, Vulture‘s “Seven Things Conan Can Do on Cable That He Couldn’t on NBC.”
  8. Record Store Day – If you’re covering something you have a very deep knowledge of, consider creating a “guide” style post. These posts are making a big promise to your reader–”guide” implies that you’ll be telling them all they need to know–so be sure to deliver. “Pitchfork Guide to Record Store Day” and “Flavorpill’s Guide to Record Store Day 2010 both went that route.
  9. PopeWSJ’s Law Blog chose to ask a hot-button question that would incite reader participation with its post “The Pope Can’t Be Sued Abroad…Is That a Good Thing?” and managed to elicit some comments nearly as detailed and lengthy as the original post.
  10. Iceland – Using humor in headlines is a tricky thing but, when done well, can result in clicks aplenty. City Room’s “Iceland Volcano Spews Consonants and Vowels” and HuffPo’s “Volcanic Ash Cloud Turns Out to Be Finale of Lost” both managed to make me smile…and get me to click to read the full post.

One last non-trend-related tip I’ll give from my own experience. Magazine editors labor for longer than you may think to craft the perfect cover line that’ll make you drop your hard-earned cash on their products. As a whole, they’re pretty good at it and the same principles apply to blog post titles. I’ve found that spending half an hour at a bookstore reading cover lines can be a great way to get inspired.

What makes you want to read a story? Please tell us about “power words” that have worked for you, humorous headlines you’ve crafted, question headlines that have elicited huge reader responses, or other techniques you’ve found to be effective. What works for your blog?

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

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Comments

  1. FredInChina says:

    Warning: strong opinion!

    Too many links, too little focus, too much mainstream consensus…
    I don’t like this column.

    Maybe I would find it more attractive if it was targeting one or two original posts/views/titles/idea/angle/opinion & extract what can be learned and re-cycled?

    But of course, that’s me…
    Fred

  2. Deano says:

    Never really see the point of these types of posts.

    Seems very American biassed too; there is an election going on in the UK, massive protests in the streets of Bangkok, many of the Polish government about to be burried.

    If the topics you chose were about writing blogs, outsoucing news, making money, business then maybe some point to the articles. But as it stands seems you are just filling up a good blog with needless generalised content.

  3. Darren, I worried endlessly today wondering whether you were sick or something! The post today was posted too late, anyway all looks good now!

    Oh, and Kimberley thanks for your post.

  4. D'MarieF says:

    You’ve come up with some helpful examples & tips for coming up with intiguing titles.

    But mostly I want to say, “I LOVE my Regator iPhone app!!”

  5. David says:

    personally, numbers in titles attracts me the most!

  6. Sharon Gold says:

    Good blog! I hope this terrible ash cloud will leave us alone. My neice is stuck in Italy and she’s running out of cash. I heard the ash cloud will be staying for at least another week but I don’t know if I should believe it. Does anybody know if it’s true?

  7. Kimberly says:

    @Fred Thanks for the feedback. My intention is to use the specific examples given with each trend to provide you with general advice/tips that you might use on your own blog.

    @Deano The stories you mention are most certainly worth writing about and are being covered on many blogs. The Polish president made last week’s list and I suspect the general election in the UK will show up soon in some form. That said, I certainly see your point about the Americentric nature of the trends but since these lists are generated from a large amount of data rather than being hand selected, my theory is that the slant is a product of the demographics of the Blogosphere. The most recent “State of the Blogosphere” indicated that nearly half of English speaking bloggers are from the U.S. (http://bit.ly/8056pE), which would, unfortunately, tend to bias the list that direction.

    @D’MarieF Thank you!

    @David Absolutely! That’s a great point and is tied in with the reason people enjoy lists so much–quantifiable benefit to the reader. Thanks for adding.

  8. Usually, witty and humorous headlines work best for me. The City Room headline just jumped out at me and begged to be clicked. Numbers on the other hand, don’t work so well with me.

    And I agree with Deano, there is a huge American slant to your headlines. Maybe you could focus on region-specific news, which would make your tool more interesting to a large number of people.

  9. Ray Randall says:

    The best advice in this post comes from Darren.

    “…I’ve found that spending half an hour at a bookstore reading (magazine) cover lines can be a great way to get inspired.”

    Kimberly’s wisest observation is what magazine writers know instinctively.

    Kimberly writes, “My most widely read post ever was a “how to” post: “Seven Ways Social Media Is Ruining Your Life–And How to Fix It.” In large part, I credit the headline for that post’s popularity.”

    What matters in this title? How to do something. Just a matter of knowing what people want to learn how to do.

    The second observation: Kimberly used the number “7″. There’s magic in “3″ and “7″.

    Third she makes us think about what we suspect: “social media is ruining your life.”

    And of course, she tells us “how to fix it.”

    To me, these are the essential components to article writing and blog writing.

  10. The volcano in Iceland has most flights across Europe canceled.

  11. FredInChina says:

    @kimberly, thank you, I understand what you say your intent is and I am confused:

    From a content oriented theme (What bloggers are writing about), we drifted to a general advice on writing techniques…

    If it is the former, the headlines of the NY Times or USA today will do, thank you very much, we just found out that bloggers rely on what’s in the papers.
    If the latter, I’d like to see a little more focus and several examples for each point… but then, as I mentioned earlier, there cannot be that many.

    I don’t want to sound too direct and hard, maybe it is simply a matter of tweaking the format a little bit and redefining the purpose more precisely?

    And, of course, once again, maybe it is only me…

    Have a great day
    Fred

  12. Nunzio Bruno says:

    Aside from the happenings in the blogosphere one thing I really took away from this post was a refocusing on post titles. I feel like I get so caught up in content and all the business portions of the blog that I sometimes, often, get lazy with the titles thinking that people will just show up because I wrote something. (Someday they will :) ) It’s good to be reminded of this because if your tag lines are not getting attention then odds are neither is your message. Thanks!!

  13. Dave says:

    Finding a topic to write about is always the hardest thing for me. I don’t want to always write about what everyone else is already blogging, but sometimes that means I get lower traffic. What a conundrum!

  14. Skyler Meine says:

    Post titles that take you off guard seem to generate the most traffic. The other day I came across a blog post about moobs at nomorebacon.com and I couldn’t stop myself from reading it.

    Anything will solve a problem I am currently trying to figure out pulls me right in.

  15. I went to Italy years ago and I didnt have enough time to see as much as I wanted. Recently my friend went there and told me about so much that I did not see. When I went I saw mostly southern Italy this time I want to see Florence and other northern cities.