Blog Titles are Ads

It’s true, they are. Trust me on this. Whenever you write a title for a blog post, it’s an advert, it’s more than an advert, it’s the gateway to your content, the description of your content, the teaser to your content and an ambassador to your weblog. Really, this stuff is soooo important to get right first time.

At core, a blog title has two basic functions:

  • To describe your post
  • To attract clicks

Forget keywords for search engines for the moment, because if you don’t get these fundamental points right, then you have nothing worth ranking for anyway. It’s all about the click, and after the click, it’s all about trust, and reputation.

So, some of you might be thinking i’ve put my underpants on my head and gone stark raving mad about now right? Well, let me explain, it’s simple stuff when you get it, and it wasn’t untill i blogged, that i truly began to understand the importance of good titles.

What makes a bad title?

It might help to understand how to write a good title, if we look at what makes a bad title first.

How many times do you see the following in your RSS reader?

  • This is cool!
  • Funny
  • Acme corp thought about doing a short title because that makes sense and then decided to be totally stupid about it and write a really long one that nobody can be bothered to read, and wondered whey there RSS CTR was so low…

All the time right? Annoying isn’t it?

The thing about titles is that they act, in terms of both RSS and Search results as a description of your content. Sure in search results there may be a snippet of text, but that snippet is generally chosen by the search engine, and lord knows they don’t always get it right! And sure, your RSS readers may well know your blog, but answer me this; Do you have time to click on something that gives no indication of what you’ll get when you get to the page?

I certainly don’t. And for that reason, together with sheer bloody-minded stubborness, i won’t click them. Period.

So, that covers those first two examples. What about the third?

Well, usability big wig Jakob Nielsen recently wrote about weblog usability, and in it, amongs other gems was this:

“people often read only the first three or four words of a headline when scanning a list of possible places to go”

And you know what? You know that feeling you get when something just seems like too much effort? That slightly sinking feeling, where a kind of very mild depression washes over you, untill you get it over with, or decide not to do it? Well, I get that with long titles!

Dammit, im too bloody busy to mess around reading your essay of a title. Sheesh…

Ok, rant over. I hope you get my point 🙂

Ok, let’s do good title’s now eh?

Good titles act as a gateway, as i’ve said before, they proceed your content, lay the red carpet if you like and work as ambassadors for you and your blog. A good title, is worth it’s weight in gold, and it’s really not so tough to get right.

As Jakob put it here, they act as microcontent

Your posting’s title is microcontent and you should treat it as a writing project in its own right. On a value-per-word basis, headline writing is the most important writing you do.

You need to picture your title from an RSS reader perspective, from the perspective of someone skimming a whole long list of titles for something to click. You do want them to click your title right?

Here’s a few pointers that i feel are important for good blog titles:

  • Keep it short – 3 – 8 words max
  • Where possible, put your “eye-grabger” within the first three words
  • Describe your content, what will they find when they click?
  • Be bold, be tabloid, be outrageous

Now let’s look a bit closer at each.

Keep it short:
We know from what Jakob says that this is good, we know from our own experience that this is good. So why is it that people still insist on writing a damn essay as a title? I’ve no answer to that, but seriously, im going to bloody well thump the next person i meet with that habbit heh.. The thing is, that a title that’s too long is just as bad as a non-descriptive title. Cheifly because people cant get the point quickly.

Eye Grabbers
If you’re writing about a hot topic, or a contraversial topic, or even just a relatively plain topic, you need to get your eye-grabber in those magic first 3 words. 4 at most.

Notice the title for this post? “Blog Titles are Ads” – It’s got it all (he says with absolutely no trace of modesty whatsoever). You know it’s about blog titles, and it has “blogs” and “titles” within that golden 3 word start section. Lovely.

Descriptive Titles
This comes down to the busy person thing again ok? We’re all busy, and bloggers as a group, and blog readers as a group, are busy than most i’d wager. We need to be given not only a reason to click, but a reasurance that our click won’t be wasted.

Time is my most precious possesion, isn’t it yours?

A descriptive title also builds trust. Seriously. Just think about it, if you write “Blog Titles are Ads” and then the post about something different, i’ll feel deceived. It may be only in a small way, but I will feel it, and it will affect my perception of you, and your blog. I’ll likely not come back again, and i certainly wont’ be linking to you.

Be Bold!
In my opinion blogs should be opinionated, should be lively, should be fun and sure, even outrageous. The model doesn’t fit all subject matter, but it fits a lot. If you can inject just a smidgeon of scandal, or fun into your title, whilst still being descriptive, and short then it’s just the icing on the cake as far as im concerned.

You’re a winner, you’re a star. You made me smile, so i’ll read it, I’ll link to it, i’ll talk about it and most importantly of all, i’ll return.

Man, there’s so much in a title…

This post could quite literally go on forever. There’s so much more to talk about, but for now, i think we’ve covered the most important points.

So, go ahead, rip it apart. It’s alll very well me sitting here laying it out, but what do you think? What works on your blog?

Come on, you know you want to…

5 thoughts on “Blog Titles are Ads

  1. ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucccccccccccccccccccccccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk

  2. >>>Forget keywords for search engines for the moment, because if you don’t get these fundamental points right, then you have nothing worth ranking for anyway.

    I think it has to be balance between the two. If the post doesn’t rank high you are missing traffic and even if it ranks high and the SERP title and description are cryptic people will not click though.

    I think the best of both worlds is on your site target a keywords and then add a subtitle beside the title, in the SERP put the subtitle at the start of the description, and in the RSS feed put the subtitle at the start of the content.

    I built a Title Optimization WordPress plugin that does this.

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