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.
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:
- The History of Philosophy, in Superhero Comics
- Henry James on Aging, Memory, and What Happiness Really Means
- J.R.R. Tolkien’s Little-Known, Gorgeous Art
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:
I shortened the slug to the following to put the emphasis on the main idea: 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.