Why Blog Titles Are Like Your In-laws

October 1, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Content Strategy

Blog titles are like in-laws – you have to act like you give a shit. Even if you don’t.

There’s a skill to writing blog titles and headline because Titles Change Everything. Your headline determines whether people make it to the first line of content. It determines how many links you’ll get. It determines whether the post gets 5 comments or 50. It determines your retweets and if it goes viral or just collects dust and crickets. If you’re not spending time crafting your blog titles, it’s like spitting in your in-laws face. Good luck with that. Let me know how much the divorce costs.

Some people (like Andy), enjoy headline writing. Truthfully, I don’t. I’m just no good at writing blog titles. I do, however, recognize their importance. And you need to do the same.

Why are blog titles important?

They get people to that first sentence

This point cannot be stressed enough: Your headline is what gets people to read your first sentence. If you see a post in your feed reader, tweeted or mentioned on another blog, if that title sucks, you pay it zero attention. You’re onto something else. Good titles get people to the first line of content, that’s their job. After that, it’s up to you to knock it out of the park, but a good title at least gets you to the plate. Bring people in by using trigger words that grab attention – “you suck”, “brandjacker”, “profiling”. Words that make people uncomfortable, that challenge them or that play on their own vanity or love for buzzwords.

Even if this was the only thing blog titles accomplished, it would make them worth the time investment. But it’s not.

They grab traffic

All the pretty, pretty SEOs will tell you how important it is to run your blog titles through a keyword tool before hitting publish. And they’re right, you should. But not so you can play the keyword stuffing game. You want to do it simply to ensure you’re using the same language as searchers and using the terms and concepts they’re interested in. Talking the talk makes you sound “like them” and helps them pick out your article in their RSS stream. If someone is fanatical this morning about Google Wave, seeing it in the headline of your post is going to make them click. You should be using terms and phrases that will help you benefit from future search traffic.

They get you links

Your blog title gets you links and will often be using as the anchor text coming to your site. Whether you’re being controversial or using the magic words “How To”, your title is what people share. Honestly, sometimes it doesn’t matter how much your posts sucks, if the title is good or warrants a chuckle, people will still pass it around. Titles that dramatize a situation, promise to solve a problem, or shock people can help get you links and fill your bucket of attention. Make your title engaging enough that if you saw it stuffed as a link in a piece of content, you’d click it.

They’re social media gold

The title you give you post is typically the title your readers will use when submitting it for social media purposes. Don’t make them think and change your title for you. Because they won’t. And then you’re SOL with your linkbait attempt. Offer a good title from the start and you’ll always fare much better. It also gives you a chance to control your destiny the next time you’re Stumbled, Dugg, and passed around. Never underestimate the power of a socially-conscious title. And I’m not talking healthcare.

They state your promise

Your title tells people what to expect. You’re establishing that there is a benefit to continuing with the article. They want to know the 11 ways of being more efficient at work. They want to know how to score a Google Wave invite. And they definitely want to know the 20 signs that someone borked their WordPress install. The greater you make the benefit, the higher the chances you’re going to get them investing their time in you. It’s all in the promise and the promise is all in the wrists.

If you’re the type of blogger that spends three hours crafting a post and 10 minutes on a title, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Your title is just as important as the main content, perhaps even more so. Without a good title, the post is invisible.

Here are some other good resources for blog titles:

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