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Attracting Traffic: Tips for Writing Great Blog Post Titles

You’ve been working hard on your blog: you put thought and effort into your About page, your site title and…

You’ve been working hard on your blog: you put thought and effort into your About page, your site title and tagline, and you’ve even picked a funky blog name. You sweat your photography. You read and re-read your drafts to make sure they’re just so.

With over 1.4 million posts published on WordPress.com every day, how do you make sure your work stands out in the crowd? Crafting strong post titles is one way to snag reader attention, pique interest, attract followers, and earn repeat visits. Here’s a few ideas to think about as your write titles for your posts.

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There are plenty of posts like What Game of Thrones Taught me About Modern Society or Everything I know about Marriage, I Learned from Homer Simpson in the world today.

How many listicles have you seen recently? You know what I’m talking about: 10 Signs Millennials Will Ruin the World, or 15 Ways to Tell if You Really Are a Hipster. Sure, these types of headlines have become commonplace on the web and we too enjoy a funny listicle now and again. If you want your work to stand out from the crowd, you might want to rethink these types of constructions, unless you feel you’ve got a piece that transcends the genre. And in that case, we can’t wait to read it.

Study the masters

Chances are, there’s title inspiration and guidance in the blogs and magazine articles you’re already reading. Are there a few sites or magazines that you really like? Study their titles. Consider what it is about these titles that draws you in.

What captured your attention? What tickled your curiosity? Try emulating your favorite authors when you write post titles. Me? I admire Maria Popova‘s title writing style over at Brain Pickings. Never trite, always enticing, Maria’s posts always end up in my Instapaper account for later brain feeding. Here’s a few Brain Pickings post titles that caught my attention:

Lead with the end in mind

If you’re writing to educate, be it to share a personal anecdote or offer hard-won advice, it’s good to ask yourself: What’s the most important thing I want my reader to remember from reading this post? Crafting the answer into a post title automatically reinforces your most important point for the reader, making sure your message not only gets heard, but remembered.

Try creating intrigue or using the element of surprise with titles by alluding to something readers can only see or learn by reading the post. Consider Maria Popova’s headline above, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Little-Known, Gorgeous Art. Right away, I’m surprised — One of my favorite authors — Bilbo Baggins‘ daddy no less — was not only a writer, but also an artist? This piece of new information makes me want to follow that link and find out about Tolkien’s works of art.

BONUS: How do Google, Twitter, and Facebook see it?

Your post’s title automatically becomes your post’s slug, which is part of the permanent link or URL to your post.

If your post title is fairly long, (over six or seven words) consider editing your slug to remove words such as “to,” “from,” “our,” “this,” “that,” etc., that don’t specifically relate to the post’s topic, for speedier search engine parsing. For example, this post’s slug would have been:

/attracting-traffic-tips-for-writing-great-blog-post-titles

I shortened the slug to the following to put the emphasis on the main idea: writing great post titles.

/writing-great-post-titles

If you’ve got your blog automatically connected to push and tweet posts to Facebook and Twitter, post titles are what gets sent out as a default via Publicize, so it’s important to consider how your post’s title might be perceived when it appears on your social networks.

As you write your piece, you may also want to think about the words readers will use to search for your post and ensure those words get a place in the title.

And now, over to you

Writing enticing titles is not only an art form, it takes a bit of practice. In your blogging experience, what have you found most effective when it comes to blog post titles? Share your tips with the class in the comments.

125 Comments

  1. I have NO talent for headlines/titles/slogans. Never have. Makes me crazy because I know I am deficient in this necessary skill. I will keep trying … but after 40 years of trying, I’m not optimistic that I’ll suddenly “get it.” Sigh.

    1. Writing titles and headlines isn’t easy, that’s for sure. With luck there’ll be some additional tips here in the comments from fellow WordPressers you have a go at.

    1. I’m also also think puns are great. My blog is themed after a particular TV show, and as a fan when I understand “fan puns” I feel as though the post was “written for me” if that makes sense.

      That being said I’m still really bad at coming up with titles :P

  2. Really great advice in this post :) I think of my blog titles like the cover of a book; I only have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention as they pass by, so I have to make it count. Because I’m a humor columnist, I either incorporate a funny juxtaposition (“When it Comes to Looking Ahead, Look No Further Than Your Behind”) or visual (“You Can’t Run From Static Electricity”) in my headlines. And what you said about keeping the end of your post in mind when referring to the title is another terrific point; it really helps tie everything together.

      1. Having a great opening sentence or paragraph is absolutely crucial in my opinion, especially in magazine, column or short-fiction writing. With novels, you have more latitude because people are willing to invest the time. But in the shorter writing forms, I think of it as a bait and hook: The title is the bait, and the first paragraph (first sentence if possible) is the hook that gets people to stay — possibly against their will or, in the case of my readers, their better judgement ;)

    1. Hi @Techpersonified, welcome to blogging! The best place to ask for feedback is our weekly Community Pool feature. There, we encourage you to post comments to ask for specific feedback on your blog. Users get great feedback from other WordPressers there.

  3. I love taking part in other peoples weekly challenges but I have started to rename them to something other than x’s weekly challenge just to make it stand out more. I still fully credit the host within the post for their amazing challenges.

      1. Thanks Krista. The top articles I write each year according to my stats are almost always the timely ones related to ANY current events/hot topics.

  4. I try to go with something big and use a word or phrase that you often don’t see in blogging. For instance, my latest article contained the phrase “death superhighway” which is sure to grab the attention of a reader. Good info on shortening the post slugs too, I’ll have to make sure to do that.

  5. Titling is always one of the hardest aspects of writing for me. I love your tips here, especially leading with the end in mind. I was struggling with a title for the post I’m currently writing, but I think I’ve got one now. Thanks!

  6. I love, love, LOVE thinking up titles. It’s so fun for me. According to SEO standards, I’m sure I’m doing it all wrong, but I think about it a little differently than just trying to ensure that my posts come up in a search.

    I want a title that piques the curiosity of the person who sees it. I want them to read my title and wonder what in the world my post could be about. It’s part of my voice and part of the story. You’ll rarely know what my post contains simply by reading the title.

    On the flip side of that, I see titles that are great as far as SEO optimization is concerned. These are very factual titles that instantly clue the reader into what the post is about. I’m sure that’s the smarter way to go. But conversely, I know right away whether I want to know more about those subjects or not and can easily delete based on those titles alone.

    Food for thought…

    1. Well, as the post pointed out, you can change the URL part of your title (for SEO optimization) without having to change the actual post title. So you can have the best of both worlds :)

  7. I started Getting Views from my Youtube Channel yesterday, Im pretty pumped to get the extra traffic :) I try to keep my post titles to be fairly accurate to whats in the post. Then I focus on cleaning up the clutter like extra words and such

  8. I like your post. Do you ever use keyword research for your titles or topic? I am new to this and have been learning a little bit from a site call InfoBarrel Writing Strategies. I like the idea of picking low competition keyword topics to drive natural traffic to your blogs.

  9. Hi,Krista…great post! I want to ask,how can you make your post stand out from the crowd when you write some topic that recently booming in the web? For example, after watch the hobbit 2, I make a review about the movie and almost every tolkien or maybe Legolas fans do that. The writer point of view and the title can be diffrent. But unfortunately the keyword or tag like ‘hobbit’ and ‘review’ can be same. Can my blog post stand out of the crowd?

    1. It’s pretty difficult to write titles for movie review posts without the title of the movie in question, eh? Everyone’s perspective differs a bit from the next person. If I were you, I’d try to use an observation that is uniquely yours, or in other words, something you don’t think fellow reviewers would have picked up, and use that to differentiate your titles.

  10. What’s been irking me lately is when blogs don’t live up to the promises being offered in their titles. i.e. ‘Best tips for editing’, and then the blog post essentially asks for tips on editing.

    1. @Heather you touch on a really good point that I didn’t cover in my post: that to build up a loyal following, your posts need to actually deliver on what the titles promise. Otherwise, readers feel let down (as you note), or as though the author is pulling a fast one. Visitors might show up initially, but when they see that the goods aren’t “as advertised,” they’ll be less likely to return. Writing accurate titles goes a long way toward building trust with your audience.

      1. Useful that trust and respect will follow with on-target content that points directly to a flashy/hyperbolic title.

        And good to have a photo of your own that you took a picture.

        I hear over and over for SEO purposes that the title must have at least some words that do express the blog post’s main topic.

  11. Some of my last titles were

    - I’ve chosen my word
    - I love deads space
    - Crowns and shadows
    - Fairy tales and other stories
    - My brain and 1

    Hmn. I like them, but I’m not sure HOW peeps see/find them, except for maybe how I tag them?

    As newly trancfered from blogger to WP I do not know my way around here much yet.
    I’m always looking for new blogs to read, and use freshly pressed and search for tags every day.

    What other ways can I find good blogs here?
    Tips would be great :)

  12. Hi! great article, really looking for some inspiration and advice for some blogs i had in mind so to me this was a great read! hope to have more posts from you! :D

  13. I took a different route. Every title on my blog is “XYZ Insults My Intelligence” (with the occasional minor variation) and my tagline is “Things that Insult My Intelligence.” It ties diverse content together really well but I have no clue if the repetition is good or bad for SEO.

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