Using Titles Effectively on Blogs

My Mum drilled into me at a young age that first impressions are important.

Outside of the design of your blog (that’s a whole other post) perhaps the best way of creating that impression is though your post’s title.

Titles are so important on many fronts – including:

  • Grabbing Attention in Search Engines – Head over to Google and type in virtually any word you can think of and you’ll often find millions of results. The interesting thing is that for most search results in Google (and other SE’s) there is very little for readers to go by in deciding which result to click on. There is a title, a short excerpt and a URL. The most highlighted of these is the title and I believe it is key in getting SE referral clicks.

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  • Getting RSS Readers Attention – in a very similar way titles have the ability to grab the attention of those following your blog via RSS in news aggregators. Even if your feeds are full post feeds rather than excerpts it’s likely that most news aggregator readers scan the titles of posts for things that interest them rather than reading full text. The same principle is true in other indexes and directories like Technorati,, digg etc

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Granular (One Topic) Posts

One topic per post – We’ve already spoken in this series about choosing a niche topic for your blog, but another strategy of many successful blogs is that in addition to having an over arching niche topic they tend to have each post focus upon a more tightly targetted topic.

On some levels this is a fairly natural and logical thing that most bloggers naturally do – but occasionally I come across a blog post that seems to want to answer every question known to humankind in a single post. The result can be a long, unfocused, rambling post that doesn’t really go anywhere.

Instead of feeling you need to stuff everything into one post – a strategy that often works better is to be more ‘granular’ in the way you post (ie break it down into grains).

In effect you end up with a blog that can be visually show like this (click to enlarge):


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Post Length – How Long Should a Blog Post Be?

We might as well continue exploring the topic of writing good content with a topic that has been debated by bloggers rather hotly over the years, the length of the optimum post. There are a number of ways of looking at it:

  • Reader Attention Span – It is pretty well documented that the typical web reader has a short attention span when it comes to reading content online. My own little investigation into length of stay on blogs found that average blog readers stay 96 seconds per blog (I’ve seen other more scientific tests that show similar results). What ever the number – it’s generally not long. As a result many web-masters purposely keep their content length down to a level that is readable in short grabs.
  • SEO – There is a fairly strong opinion among those considered experts in Search Engine Optimization that both extremely short and extremely long web pages are not ranked as highly as pages that are of a reasonable length. Of course no one really knows how many words are ideal – but the general opinion seems to be that a page of at least 250 words are probably a reasonable length. Similarly, many advise keeping pages under 1000 words.
  • Quantity of Posts – One theory that goes around is that shorter posts allow you to write more posts and that more posts are better for generating readership with RSS and in Search Engines. While I don’t know their strategy personally, some believe this is what sites like Engadget and Gizmodo do with their high number of short posts which make up the majority of their content.
  • Topic/Genre – The type of post that you’re writing will often determine it’s length. For example when writing a review of a product you’ll generally write a longer post than when you write a news related post where you link to something someone else has written.
  • Comprehensive Coverage of the Topic – Ultimately this has to be the main criteria that bloggers go with. I can’t remember who advised this but at some point in the last year I read someone saying that you should write enough to comprehensively cover your topic and then stop. Long posts for the sake of them are not a wise move – but so are short ones that don’t cover the topic well.

In the end you need to find your own way on this. Here at ProBlogger I tend to mix it up a fair bit. I try to write at least one longer post per day that gives readers a bit of meat to chew on (whether it be a tips post, a review post, a rant etc) but I also throw in ‘newsy’ posts throughout the day.

Writing Good Content

I’d now like to swing the blogging for beginners series onto the topic of writing content with a series of posts exploring different elements of quality content. By the way – Peter mentioned in the last post in this series that his part 2 piece on blog design would be posted today – unfortunately he’s been unwell and the post will be delayed.

List after list have been compiled by bloggers on the things that make blogs successful – but on every one that I’ve ever seen has been a statement about content being the ultimate key. ‘Content is King’ is a catch cry that has echoed through the blogosphere for years and while at times I think it’s been used to the point of ignoring other aspects of what makes a successful blog – it really is what a good blog boils down to.

What is Good Content?

Ultimately defining what is ‘good content’ is a subjective exercise (perhaps in a similar way to defining what is a ‘good book’ or a ‘good movie’) and so a post like this one is likely to cause a little debate as each person will define it differently depending upon their personality, their needs, the topic that they are talking about and perhaps even their ethics. Not only will bloggers themselves each have a different view on what is ‘good’ content – but readers tend to also. I know that every time I ask for feedback on ProBlogger and what I write more about I get a real spectrum of responses.

Future posts in this series is an attempt to unpack some of the elements of content that might go towards making it good – or not. At most points along the way there will be debate but hopefully out of it readers will be able to mix and match the elements and identify what works for them.

So without any more introductory remarks, lets get into it with the first element of writing quality content:

Usefulness and Uniqueness – As this post is a part of a series of posts that get back to the basics of blogging and so I will start unpacking the topic of ‘writing good content’ with perhaps the most basic and obvious point of all:

‘for a blog to be successful your content needs to be useful and unique to your readers’

As I say – it’s not rocket science but it’s a factor that I think bloggers need to continually be asking themselves about as they review their blogging. Is your blog useful?

Back in the days when I studied marketing I remember sitting in lecture after lecture getting more and more frustrated as I heard my lecturers drum into us the same thing time after time. Although they said it in different ways, the lessons that they communicated was largely the same in every instance and boiled down to this: [Read more…]

When Not Posting is a Good Thing for your Blog

Wayne’s hit the nail on the head with his post Posting desperation: When anything won’t do where he examines a good strategy for beating bloggers block…. Posting Nothing at all.

‘Instead of letting some slipshod meaningless post fill that taunting empty posting box, it would be better for you and you blog to skip a day. I know, I know, that is probably blasphemy to the ears of many. Not posting at all is also a solid blogging technique that is rarely discussed.’

Wayne goes on to talk about some of the consequences of feeling you have to post about something and as a result posting substandard content. The crux of his argument is that your blog is your brand everything that you present on it to readers becomes part of this.

In a sense, every post you write has the potential to add to your brand or take from it. Substandard posts written just for the sake of posting something might give you temporary relief from the feeling of having a slightly out of date blog – but they could also do you serious damage, especially if it becomes a regular thing.

Of course if bloggers block settles in for the long term you there are always strategies for combatting it – but one to consider is as Wayne suggests – ‘do nothing’.

Writing Integrity Day

Andy Wibbels is having a writing integrity day.

What is it?

It’s pretty simple really – it’s an attempt to get all that writing you’ve been putting off done by being a little accountable to others. He’s done it before – it goes something like this:

  1. We all get on the phone at 10am Eastern/New York time.
  2. Everyone takes 10 seconds (no more!) to say what they are going to work on for the next hour.
  3. Hang up.
  4. Write like hell.
  5. Get back on the phone the next hour and do it again.
  6. Rinse and repeat until 5pm.

It’s a fun idea to help make the day as productive as possible and which will get us bloggers who sit alone all day staring at the computer interacting with ‘real’ people for once.

Of course it doesn’t quite work for us non US types – I’ll be well and truly asleep for most of the time everyone else is writing with integrity.

Interestingly the date Andy’s chosen is 14 February – Valentines day – the perfect day to connect with other bloggers :-)

Why I don’t use Free Articles on my Blogs

A common question that finds itself into my inbox from readers is with regards to the practice of using ‘Free Articles’ to put on your blog. I quite often talk about how building the quantity of content on your blog is one strategy for building traffic over time but the temptation for those unable to write large quantities of content is to look at other places for it.

Free Article sites like ezine articles (there are many many others) are places where writers submit articles to be used freely by other webmasters in return for the links usually contained in a footer at the end of the article. Such articles can be picked up by thousands of sites which can be good for the writer (see below for another take on this) as a result of the incoming links that the articles bring to their sites.

Long time readers of ProBlogger (and I mean LONG time) will remember that ‘free articles’ were actually something I once used on this blog on occasion. It was only on a handful of times but without really thinking of the implications of them I had posted a number of them.

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Bloggers Block

The following post was submitted by Lyndon from Flockblog

A successful Blogger does one thing above all others.

A blogger writes.

A successful Blogger puts fingers to the keyboard and writes quality blog posts often and regularly. Seems obvious, but one of the biggest potential problems successful bloggers can have is procrastination and no one is more guilty than me. Even writing this post has had me thinking that maybe I should do the washing up, or I must just check my email. Sometimes it‚s the hardest thing to sit down and write. Here are some tips that if followed make things a whole lot easier.

  1. Develop a routine.
  2. Brainstorm topics
  3. Free Associate
  4. Go for a walk.
  5. Set Achievable Goals
  6. Reward Yourself
  7. Minimise Distractions
  8. Discipline Yourself
  9. Give yourself a deadline
  10. Show off your past successes

1. Develop a routine.
If you know that from 2:30pm to 3:30 you must write two posts, it makes things a lot easier. An established routine means you do not have to think what you should be doing, you just do it. Timetable your day, work out a routine that works for you.
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Turning Off-Line Into On-Line Content

Tammy Powley is a weblogger and freelance writer from South Florida.

One of the first content collecting tips most bloggers pick up is signing up for content helpers like google news alerts. I have to admit to doing this myself, and I use a lot of them. News alerts (no matter if they are from google or CNN or wherever) are wonderful tools for automatically gathering content related to your blogging topic. Of course, it takes time to go through all those alerts. For example, much of what I write about is related to jewelry, beading, and jewelry making. So, I would say about half of the alerts I get are about people stealing jewelry, not exactly something my readers want to know about, even think about! But, while these web tools are great, there are other ways to gather content ideas off-line and incorporate them into your on-line blogging needs.

Here are a few tips for finding information related to your content in the off-line world.

  • Subscribe to related magazines. Now, I know some folks are going to say they don’t have time to read all the magazines that deal with their topic, and that’s not exactly what I’m suggesting. However, select a few magazine that are the better-known titles in your industry. I have to admit to being a real sap when it comes to magazines – I truly love them – but I have learned that I just don’t have time to read them all, and they all don’t have information that my readers care to know about. Therefore, I’ve tried to narrow them down to a chosen few. One example is the publication BeadStyle. For me, this is the perfect magazine because it covers jewelry making, beading, and jewelry fashion. By just skimming through the ads and table of contents, I usually come up with at least a half dozen content ideas for my blogs.
  • Read your local newspaper. Again, don’t feel like you have to read the whole thing, but skim read the headlines. The local paper is usually pretty inexpensive, and it has local as well as national news. Even with jewelry, every once in a while, I’ll find a related article, maybe something about a new fashion trend, a celebrity designing jewelry (oh, yes, Paris Hilton comes to mind), or yet another story about a beader turned entrepreneur. Most people read the paper, at least on the weekends any way, so this idea isn’t much of a stretch to consider.
  • Look off and then on line. Most periodicals these days have web sites, especially the larger ones. Once you locate some content ideas in a hard copy, remember that you can also find links on line as well. Look for the URL in the publication’s header or in the first few pages where editors and other contributors may be listed. Look for key words within articles as well. If you are writing about Donald Trump, then google him and see if you can locate his web site. (By the way, it happens to be and it’s actually pretty cool.)
  • Find frugality at your library. Hardcopy publications can get pricey, especially if you are writing about topics such as business or finance. Unplug on occasion and make a trip to your local public library. Bring along some change. While many libraries allow you to check out magazines, some will not allow you to check out the most recent issues. They also have some materials that are only available in the reference area in the library rather than circulation, so again, you can’t check them out. However, you can photocopy them.

Once you start looking around in your off-line environment, you’ll be surprised at what you can find to help generate content related to your blog topic. It’s easy to get so caught up in the virtual world of the net that we forget some people still actually read hardcopy publications, and in fact, these publications can be useful to even the most devoted weblogger.