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5 Tips for Writing Brilliant Blog Titles

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With over 2 million blog posts published each day, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to actually get people to read your content. Not only should your post be a great piece of writing, but it should ideally be published on an authoritative site to rank in the SERPs, and the site should have an active audience that will share it via social media. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it should have an awesome title that will make people want to click on it.

Did you know that many Twitter users will retweet articles that they have never actually read? I guess this is the modern day equivalent of pretending you’ve read an intellectual French novel at a dinner party. But these Twitter users won’t share a title that doesn’t make them look cool. Something generic and bland like ‘Useful Pinterest Tips’ won’t do the trick, but something more intriguing like ‘7 Things They Didn’t Want You to Know about Pinterest’ just might.

I didn’t want to offer a set of title templates where you can fill in the blanks, as the beauty of a good title is its uniqueness. If everyone followed the same formula, these headlines would lose their impact. Instead, here are some actionable tips that should help you write your own effective titles.

1. Make it engaging

To borrow some terms from Jasmine Henry’s article published on Social Media Today, a good title should be actionable, intriguing or emphatic. Here are some real-life examples from inbound.org of each to show you what I mean:

How to Speak in Public… Even If You Hate Public Speaking

This is an actionable title as it tells you that the article is going to show you how to do something useful. ‘How to’ titles are usually a safe bet for this reason. There’s also an element of quirkiness in the second part of the headline which addresses a concern some of us might have and persuades us to read on.

The Stalker’s Guide to Highly Effective Guest Posting

Here the author has created an intriguing title by taking what could be a rather pedestrian headline and imbuing it with sense of strangeness with the word ‘stalker’. Stalkers are a bit creepy and not something that you would expect to find in an article about guest posting. This makes us want to read on to find out exactly what being a stalker has to do with posting on other people’s blogs. Plays on words sometimes work well to create intrigue too.

Dollar Shave Club: The Unboxing Experience is F***ING GREAT

This is an emphatic title which describes the unboxing experience as not just ‘very good’ but ‘F***ING GREAT’ (capital letters). This bold claim and edgy use of language makes us want to click the title setting us up for a strong-minded blog post with fresh ideas. Using the slang and streetwise language of your target audience (e.g. ‘epic’ and ‘awesome’ rather than ‘best’ and ‘great’) can make a big difference. Swearing just to get attention doesn’t work, though, but in this context it’s a reference to Dollar Shave Club’s viral video.

2. Set the right expectations

A blog title needs to be more descriptive than the title of a magazine article. When someone reads a magazine title they have the whole piece in front of them, the images, captions, everything to help them make a decision to read on. On the web, a blog post title is usually seen in the search results or in a tweet without this additional information. Therefore, it has to do more to convey what the article is about. Be careful not to write a jaw-dropping headline that everyone will want to click on but that has nothing to do with the content. If the reader’s expectations aren’t met by the article, they will have a bad experience and may never come back to your blog.

3. Keep it short and sweet

Generally speaking, the post title will be used as the title tag that appears in the search results. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep it below Google’s display limit of 70 characters, so that it will appear in its full glory in the SERPs and encourage the reader to click on it. A title of this length can also comfortably fit into a tweet. Some bloggers talk about the ideal title being eight words or less, which I think is a good rule of thumb. However, if your headline needs to be longer than this to get that perfect blend of engaging the reader and setting their expectations, do it!

4. Include a keyword but don’t go crazy

Now more than ever, the emphasis should be on writing for the user rather than for the search engine. That said, it’s worth thinking about what your prospective readers are searching for and including a relevant keyword or two, so that you rank in the searches you deserve to be found for. I used Google Adwords Keyword Tool to find some relevant search terms with a reasonable volume. Here they are with number of global exact match searches:

[blog title ideas] = 880

[blog titles] = 2,400       

[catchy headlines] = 720

I opted for the phrase ‘blog titles’ because I thought that a proportion of these users would be looking for content like mine (I myself used the search ‘how to blog titles’ when brainstorming ideas). ‘Blog title ideas’ didn’t accurately describe my content and ‘catchy headlines’ suggested to the reader too much that I was writing about newspapers rather than blogs.

5. Learn from others

Following the classic advice of learning from your competitors, why not see what titles other people are using and try to better it? You’ve possibly read some similar articles during the research phase of your current piece. Ask yourself which titles worked best for them, which angles did they use? It doesn’t take long to come up with a few provisional title ideas, and I’ve always found it useful to run these past a colleague to get a sense of which one is most effective.

That’s all folks, I hope this post has given you a few ideas on how to make your blog post titles more effective, or at least inspired you to read up more on the subject. If you have any other tips, please leave a comment and let me know. Thanks!

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3 thoughts on “5 Tips for Writing Brilliant Blog Titles

  1. Paul Edwards

    Thanks Matt, Writing catchy titles can be just as hard as writing the actual copy. If you are trying to capture Stumbleupon traffic or similar, a really catchy title is a must. A quick look at Zergent (another popular network on which you can share your articles) and you’ll see that nearly all the top articles are all “Top 10 of….”, or, “the best of….” An engaging title can make all the difference in this digital age of short attention spans.

    Reply
  2. Areej

    Hey Matt,
    Great post! Do you recommend ‘Blog Name Generators’ as a tool to be used by content strategist or do you think it kills creativity?

    Reply
    1. Matt Lindley Post author

      Cheers for your comment, Areej!

      I think blog name generators are a great tool for coming up with ideas for post titles that you may not have thought of. I’m a firm believer in writing, say, 20 different titles for a piece of content before deciding on the best one – and a blog name generator can help you with this.

      I think usually the winning title will pop into your head when you least expect it: when you’re trying to fall asleep at night or while you’re down the swimming pool. But tools like this can create the triggers that enable your subconscious to do its magic :-)

      Hope this helps!

      Reply