Blog Titles & An Epic Battle of Disdain

December 17, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Content Strategy

Content marketers can’t turn around without tripping over another article on the importance of blog titles. Everyone wants to tell you how to write a good one, why yours suck and then mock you about all the traffic you’re leaving on the table by not getting it. Look, I do get it. The experts say I should be spending the same amount of time writing my title as I do the rest of my post. And I give it my best. Sometimes I think I’m even improving, writing titles that do, in fact, attract and convert better. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t want to punch blog titles square in the face. Because they ruin everything.

As a writer, I resent them. I resent the fact that it doesn’t matter how perfectly worded my article is or how well I manipulate language to make my point. There will still be some readers who judge my post solely on the content of the title. If the title is purposely bold, it won’t matter how well-reasoned and articulate the rest of the post is – all they’ll see is that title.  Red.  They’ll skip straight to the comments to write me a 500 word monologue yelling that I’m baiting for traffic or who gave me the right to have an opinion different from theirs. Elitist, they’ll yell! Snob!

Sure, being able to move someone like that is great – but not when it hijacks the rest of the post and distracts from the point. If the title, instead, asks a question, readers will skip over those pesky 1,000 or so words before the comment box (otherwise known as “my post”) to quickly answer it. The title has become the meat, the content just the filler. Get a good enough hook and the line suddenly disappears.

The pressure of that gives me moderate heart palpitations. So much so you’d think I was in love. Sweaty palms? Upset tummy? An intense desire to run away? Yep, got ‘em all. There’s too much on the line when it comes to crafting that perfect blog title. Write a bad one and what follows it is irrelevant. The snap decision on what your post is about has already been made. And all that expert advice bloggers give out? All it seems to do is create more structure failure.

Create a benefit, the experts say! To catch a reader’s interest you have to whet their appetite by telling them immediately what the post is about. This gives them a reason to keep going. The trouble? Your entire post is now about only those seven words. You can never escape it. Pick the wrong word and your audience will beat you over the head with it.

Create controversy, they say! Ooh yeah! Write a controversial title and get people feeling defensive from the very start. Then sit back and look shocked when they don’t read the rest of your post and attack you solely off that small word string at the top. Ignore Robert Scoble, anyone? Yeah, that worked well.

Use Power Words! Use emotional triggers like “suck”, “fail”, or “loser” in your title to grab people and put them on their toes. Sure, it works, but you better break out your hardhat as you’re forced to deal with their unresolved daddy issues and high school-like passive aggressive tendencies. Turns out people don’t take well to you telling them they suck. Go figure. Their personal issues now takes control of your afternoon in comment moderation hell.

Maybe I have such distaste for blog titles because I’m still perfecting the skill. But I don’t think that’s the lone reason. Maybe I dislike them because they’re distracting, even when you do it well.

I want people to read my complete words. I want them to read the post from start to finish and form an opinion based on what I said, not what was implied. But that’s not what happens. Whether the title is good or bad, it’s all some people will see. Screw the rest of the post. Screw the message. Throw in lots of white space, headers and make it easy for people to scan [ie “not read”] your content.

As a content marketer, I’m still continuing my education, hoping that one day my hatred of titles will dissipate. I down my daily cocktail of Copyblogger and Cosmo like a good girl, crossing my fingers that the sexy writing and images will kick start my appreciation for them. But I leave little hope. Blog titles are the epic battle that I fight every day. And I have to. Without them my stories would have no name, no introduction. We’re friends until my title works against me. And at least they’re as vapid as blog images. Don’t even get me started on those.

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