Answer: Good question. Given that titles are what people read first, they should really pop and explode at your reader.
I get a lot of questions on writing compelling post titles, thus this entry, and there’s really no one right way to do it. There are, as usual, criteria though.
I should note, I didn’t come up with this strategy. It’s been around forever. And just like I moved from Minnesota to New York to get noticed by more employers, you might want to move your titles around to get noticed by readers.
A great, useful, clickable post title must do three simple things.
Your titles should challenge, relate, and explain.
That means the titles challenges the reader’s current beliefs with a statement like “The Truth about Peanut Butter” or “What Roger Federer Never Wins At” It means the title relates and hits on your interests, and even relates something crazy that you thought was definitely unrelated.
And, that title explains the upcoming content just a wee bit. This last part is the easiest; you’re probably explaining when you challenge and relate.
Let’s look at how some other blogs use this strategy and work their medieval magic. This entry, by the way, is a lot like my entry on blog post images.
Examples: Mashable and ViperChill
I’m choosing Mashable.com and ViperChill because both offer a lot of interesting titles, yet work with completely different strategies.
Either way, as you scan those two blogs its usually the titles you’re looking at and judging before you click through. Mashable takes a newspapereque approach and dumps a lot of current events, news stories, and updates you seemingly should know about at you.
Mashable is an awesome site, but I find their article titles too diverse, too many different, unrelated words in the titles. Their article are often news related, about releases, which may totally miss your interest.
Before we hit ViperChill, think about your average sports article title.
If it’s a tennis article, you’re most likely to click on “Federer wins, reacts strangely”, than “Federer wins: crowd applauds”. Why? Because the first is just more different. You want you titles to be different! On a newspaper, it’s a bit different than on a blog because a lot of topics on the newpaper, regardless of how great the title, you may simply just not be interested in.
With blogs, however, the focus is usually pretty narrow. You can assume that if a reader has found your blog, most of the time they’re already interested in your type of content. That said, you want your titles to stand out and do the things I mentioned above.
Now for how ViperChill meets my three amazing criteria.
ViperChill, aka Glen Allsop, is a blogger in the online marketing niche. Lets look at this post title of his:
“The Future of Blogging: I Had to Tell You This” This title does it all. It hits on something we’re curious about, challenges our knowledge of what blogging current is, and explains what the post will be about.
As you can see by my arrow the readers were quite excited.
Readers are picky, and impatient. They need a gripping title. Don’t bother writing/publishing a post with a commonplace title.
Do not wait until you’re completely done with the post to write your title. You’ll pick something on a whim only you think is clever. It will end up being irrelevant to your readers. Place much more emphasis on the title than you’re already placing.
The SEO stuff
Post titles are crucial for SEO. Optimize a post tile for SEO, and more people will end up reading it.
This is easily the best point I’ll make in this entry. Titling posts the right way can be great for SEO. Do it the wrong way, and you’ll miss out on hundreds or maybe thousands of reads.
For reference, go ahead and Google “future of blogging”.
See how Glen’s post pops up first? Now, look at the words he used in the permalink.
Specifically, what goes into the post URL is crucial, because what search engines see. That’s what the Google robots crawl when they cruise through your sitemap. You can’t trick crawlers though, if your title is irrelevant to the post content, you’ll get penalized.
A lot of blog applications like Blogger and WordPress.com grab onto your title and put it (at least part of it) into the post URL. You need to manipulate what goes in the URL, because it’s so darn important.
Say you write a post title “The Best College in Minnesota You’ll Want to Apply To”. You want “Best Minnesota Colleges” in your URL, because that’s most likely what people are searching for. The best post URL would look like this:
Remember, Google likes simple. Simple URLs are the most relatable to people’s searches. If you have a WordPress self-hosted blog, one way to manipulate your URLs (permalinks) is by using Custom Permalinks. You can find that plugin through a quick G search, or read more about it on my WP plugins post.
If you use Blogger and can’t control your URLs, you can still publish a post titled “Best Minnesota College” to get that in the URL, then change the title to make the post more reader friendly.
Remember, reader friendly and SEO friendly can be two very different things
Have any questions on the above? That was a lot of information. If I didn’t explain titling, title SEO, or anything else in clear, let me know below with a comment.
Or if you just want to say hey too, that’s just fine.