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Titles That Work on ProBlogger—And Why

Darren recently highlighted some of the posts that attract clicks at Digital Photography School. Many readers were interested to see the kinds of titles that do well here at ProBlogger, so today I thought I’d show you the posts that garnered a lot of traffic here in April.

The top titles

Here are the top seven, in order of their traffic levels:

  1. Win 1 of 10 Trips to the Great Barrier Reef in QLD, Australia #QLDBLOG
  2. 19 Essential WordPress Plugins for Your Blog
  3. 9 Facebook Marketing Tactics That’ll Triple Your Fans
  4. 3 Reasons No One Comes Back to Your Blog—And How to Fix It
  5. And the Winners Are… #QLDBLOG
  6. Attract 100,000 Pageviews in 1 Month Using SlideShare
  7. A Systematic Approach to Writing Successful Blog Posts

Why they work

Looking at this list, a few features immediately jump out at me—I wonder if you found that, too?

  • Titles that quantify the post’s benefits work well: Facebook tactics that’ll triple your fans? 100,000 pageviews in one month? 19 Essential plugins? Win one of ten trips? Quantification of benefits is a theme among these titles. I know people say “list posts do well,” but I think the issue—at click—isn’t the list so much as the perceived payoff. And all of these post titles promise a big payoff, up-front. Of course, to be shared, the posts need to deliver on that payoff, and these ones obviously do.
  • Natural language speaks volumes: The title 3 Reasons No One Comes Back to Your Blog—And How to Fix It quantifies a benefit, but it also speaks in natural language. It’s a slight exaggeration—you’re probably not getting zero repeat visits to your blog—but it’s one that we’d use in conversation with our blogging friends: “Man, no one comes back to my blog!” The same goes for “tactics that’ll triple your fans.” Bloggers seem reticent to use contractions in titles, but they can work really well—especially in keeping the rhythm of the title swinging along. They also suggest that the post will be written in language that’s approachable and on the level.
  • Titles that speak to “you” have cut-through: Three of these titles refer directly to the reader: your blog, your fans. While you’ll want to mix your titles up a bit, bringing the message and the benefits home to your audience by speaking to them directly is a good way to pique readers’ interest. Using “you” and “your” can give titles personal relevance.
  • Unique ideas grab attention: We see titles about Facebook marketing and WordPress plugins all the time, and they’re basically essential reading. But some of the other titles in this list communicate unusual ideas, and get attention for that very reason. Get 100,000 pageviewss a month … using SlideShare? That’s going to make a few people stop and sit up. Similarly, systemizing writing is a bit of a foreign concept for many: just how do you systemize what’s seen as an unruly, unpredictable creative task? So topics are important to the success of these posts, too.

How we tweaked them

Finally, I wanted to show you how we’d altered these titles, so you can try similar tweaks on your own post titles.

  1. Win 1 of 10 Trips to the Great Barrier Reef in QLD, Australia #QLDBLOG: This post was originally called “Queensland Competition” but Darren updated it before publication! Smart move.
  2. 19 Essential WordPress Plugins for Your Blog: The only change I made here was to the ending. The post’s original title was “19 Essential WordPress Plugins for 2012″ but I thought the content would have more longevity without the time-limitation. I also like to use “your” in titles where I can, because I think it gives some titles more cut-through: “Essential plugins for my blog? Really? Alright, I’ll take a look.”
  3. 9 Facebook Marketing Tactics That’ll Triple Your Fans: This post was submitted with the title “9 Facebook Marketing Strategies to Triple Your Fans”. I changed “strategies” because, well, they weren’t strategies. I also wanted a stronger sense of causality between the tactics and the results, so I used “that’ll.” Altogether, these changes alliterated well and gave the title a strong natural rhythm, too.
  4. 3 Reasons No One Comes Back to Your Blog—And How to Fix It: This post was originally titled, “3 reasons no one comes back even after a huge spike in traffic”. The problem was length, and context. Comes back to where? When I see titles in my Twitter feed or RSS feed reader, keywords jump out. I wanted to get “blog” into this one. Also, since Alex had included “The fix?” headings for each of the reasons he’d identified in the post, the “—and how to fix it” part of the title basically wrote itself.
  5. And the Winners Are… #QLDBLOG: Again, Darren wrote this one and, within the context of the blog, there was no need to change it.
  6. Attract 100,000 Pageviews in 1 Month Using SlideShare: This one was submitted with the title, “How to get 100,000 views in 1 month using Slideshare” but I wanted to get that big number closer to the start of the title. Also, we have a lot of “how to” posts on ProBlogger, so I try to vary them a bit so the blog doesn’t come across as one big how-to post. Finally, the full word “pageviews” seemed a bit more Google-responsive than “views.”
  7. A Systematic Approach to Writing Successful Blog Posts: This post was submitted with the title “How to write a successful blog post,” but on reading it I saw that it presented a system for writing, and I’d just scheduled another post on systematized blogging. I thought this post would be a nice follow-up, so I scheduled it for the same day and gave it a title that tied it to the theme of systematized blogging. As I mentioned above, this title was a bit more of a head-turner, since the whole problem with creative tasks like writing is that they seem so slippery and difficult to manage.

How do you go about creating good titles for posts on your blog? Share your secrets with us in the comments.

About Georgina Laidlaw

Georgina Laidlaw is a freelance content developer, and Content manager for problogger.net. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Samuel says:

    Those are some nice titles. They have opened some unique ideas in my head. Thanks!

    Some posts like this have to provide excellent value, and you guys have just done that.

  2. Ishan says:

    Nice tips.

    I learned a lot about creating successful headlines. I usually do not ponder too much over headlines and base them on gut feeling. Will try to use tips from here now!

  3. Ben Troy says:

    a powerful title captures the reader’s attention and connects with their needs, i think the most important is the practical meaning, blog post is better than a pure article as it comes from real experience of author, the title should be related to how-to , live result to show tips,…

  4. Sebastian says:

    Sad in a way. But I guess the good old list-post still work like a charm.

  5. Georgina – this is an amazing post. This is so helpful and I’m going to keep your tips in mind when I’m writing. I have a calendar full of upcoming posts and it’ll be fun tweeking the titles.

    I do try to choose titles that people will click on and that are SEO friendly. But it’s not easy all the time. You make it seem so easy.

    Kimberly

  6. Thanks for including the “why” behind the power of these titles. Appreciate your insight.

  7. Lisa Stoops says:

    One thing I’m doing is analyzing my email and blog stats to see which emails get opened more and which posts are visited most and then taking what I find and incorporating it into my headlines for everything going forward. I’m finding list posts do cause interest as well as words and phrases like…free…how to…and anything that has to do with what I have learned.

  8. I love a post like this that gets into specific real-life examples. The distinction you made between “list” titles and titles that quantify the post’s benefit was extremely enlightening for me!

    • Georgina Laidlaw says:

      Hi Kirsten,
      Yep—it’s something that’s been bothering me for a while so I was glad to get it out there :) Thanks for your comment,
      Georgina

  9. Spencer says:

    Nice advice here on creating attention-grabbing titles.

    One thing that I’ve noticed that works really well on my blogs is to offer a complete
    system or solution in the title (and deliver of course!).

    For example, “My Proven Step-By-Step System for SEO Success” is much more powerful
    than “7 SEO Tips From the Pros”.

    The only problem with that is that it takes a lot of hard work to deliver the goods!

  10. laverneh says:

    Great article. Thank you. Headlines are really, really important.

  11. Attractive headlines do make an article more enticing to read. I will use quantifying the posts benefits. By nature people want to know what’s in it for them.

  12. Jon Stone says:

    The benefits of a good title are endless. I hope to use these tips to start optimizing the titles of by blog posts for success. I have personally been a big fan of list-style titles for a while. They make posts easy to format and give the reader a general idea as to the time they will have to invest reading and what is in it for them.

    On the other hand, I have started ignoring most list style posts with a number much higher than 10. Seems that people have decided that the bigger the number the better. Unfortunately, they do not bother putting in the time. If you are going to go for a big number, do not just give readers a link-filled page with one liners. Take the time, craft the post and release top quality. While the title might lure them in, the content keeps them coming back for more.

  13. Wow! I was just blown away by this post. I thought I completely understood the importance of great headlines…but this was great insight into how you optimized yours. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Your use of the non-word “highlit” in your introductory paragraph demonstrates that bloggers should pay professionals to edit their copy.

    My first reaction on seeing poor spelling or sloppy syntax is to stop reading. There are many people like me. It is good business to present clean, concise, edited copy.

    Another benefit of professional editing is that it keeps the word count down and brevity is essential in a world where there are simply too many words.

    • Georgina Laidlaw says:

      Hi Leith,
      Thanks for your feedback. As a professional editor as well as a professional writer, I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately as the only content editor for ProBlogger, I need to edit my own work—and I’m sure that with your wealth of experience, you know how difficult that can be.

      I’d be sorry indeed if all you got from this piece was an opportunity to point out an error. We’d love to hear your thoughts on titling, too :)
      Georgina

      • I could probably write a whole post on “poor spelling or sloppy syntax” — such a hot-button topic.

        Leith, I love your focus on quality, Georgina, I totally understand “self-editing” (as a phase or a way of life :P)

        Just a few cents here, on a topic I’m passionate about:

        On my blog (ryzeonline.com) I aim to have my writing mirror my speaking voice closely, and use quite a bit of slang, as well as breaking many grammatical conventions.

        Not only that, when I’m reading, I realize that there are quadrillions of words on the internet and for me to dismiss the value of certain sites based on a typo is ludicrous and probably not in my best interests.

        The flipside of course, is personal quality standards, and then all of it is context sensitive. It’s likely a much different issue on CopyBlogger or ProBlogger than it is on The Hip-Hop Forums :D

        • Georgina Laidlaw says:

          Hey Jason,
          Thanks for sharing your thoughts—both here and below :) So glad you enjoyed this piece and the discussion as well!
          Georgina

      • Hi Georgina,

        I just finished reading a post by Harry French on negative posting. How appropriate.

        I’m guilty of making negative comments in the previous couple of days because I am new to this form of communication and I’m trying to understand how and why it works.

        I wasn’t downright rude and didn’t use any profanity, but I was intolerant of your feelings. I’m easily annoyed when I come across errors in spelling and syntax. However, I was thoughtless and a little pompous and I apologise.

        Your post was well-conceived, well-written, entertaining and useful.

        Best regards.

  15. Hi Georgina! I followed a tweet from Darren here (I think :P)

    Anyway, that was one of the most insightful and concise looks into headline creation I’ve seen.

    In particular I like the explanation of what was tweaked and why, and it really highlights how some analysis and focus can really help.

  16. What is really remarkable about this article is the comparison between original and modified headlines. This clearly explains how any headline can be changed to make it more dynamic and appealing.

    Sanjay Johari

  17. Chris Lappin says:

    I loved reading this to see the why. Then the ‘before’ and ‘after’ headlines really showed what an enormous difference a slight change can make.
    I’m currently working on writing great headlines so this is very useful.
    Brilliantly clever and explained in a really simple way. Bookmarked!

  18. Fredrik says:

    Thanks for including the rationale behind the tweaks. I have tried to be witty and use wordplays in the headlines to grab attention but have to admit that it doesn’t work at all. I’ll apply the tips here and the conventional list type of headlines for some time now and see what happens.

  19. Georgina Laidlaw says:

    If you enjoyed this post, we have a two-parter coming up in July (21-22) about titling posts, and then delivering on those titles in the post text :) If you found this post useful, keep an eye out for those ones!

  20. IncomeFor says:

    Thanks for the awesome post. I think I am going to start putting much more thought into my titles. Here I was thinking I was already thinking about the titles good enough. :)

  21. I just recently launched my blog and it’s crazy how important a catchy title is! Probably the most important element of a post (other than the actual content of course). Great article! :)

  22. velanhcs says:

    Hi,
    Your articles are very impresseve and attractive, this is my first time I came across you blog, it is so good to read, keep writing.

  23. Ehsan says:

    Hello Georgina, I have missed some of them when they published, Thanks for sharing all of them in this post. This post gave advice for killer headlines.

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  26. This is really helpful. I got to know so much from this artical. Thanks a lot!!