Despite the fact that the title is just a small part of the blog post, it can demand a disproportionately large part of the post-writing time.
We bloggers always try to keep it as simple as it can be, to disclose the idea behind the blog post, but at the same time keep the intrigue to lure the reader to click on the blog title.
Mark Ferguson, realtor and real estate investor, who has written over 450 articles for his blog at Investfourmore.com, a site with more than 300,000 page views a month, told us: “For a while I experimented with the 'top 5....' or '9 ways to....,' but that always seemed like I was faking it. My best posts have been the most personal, sometimes the most revealing, and when I am not afraid to admit mistakes. I still write most titles as questions I think people want answered or how to's. So far it has worked well with 5,000 SEO hits a day, from a real estate agent and investor who had no idea what a blog was three years ago.”
Forrest Wheatey, Digital Marketer from London shared with us a small guide he uses to create the best possible titles for headlines for his blog Fantastic Removals:
- Use Google to search for niche-related questions people are asking over the internet. Quora.com and Yahoo Answers are one of the best places for that.
- When I find the topic I will write, I put the question it will answer through Google once more and see the "See more results" for different variations.
- I use the core (for example in "How to move a piano,", "move piano" is the core thing) and put it through Answerthepublic.com for even more variations.
- When I have my list of 20-30 or more keyword variations, I run them through Google Keyword Planner and see which one has the highest search volume.
- I play with the different variations of the expression, comparing the score with Coschedule.com/Headline-Analyzer
Shana Haynie, Creative Director from Splash Marketing Agency, thinks that there are two types of titles for every blog post. The one that you use for SEO, and the one that you use for social media and promotion. The best way to title your blog post, she continues, comes from a combination of keyword research, and following the trends.
For her recent article on a blog that she manages, her content creator wanted to call the article “Nutrition Buzzwords and Understanding What They Mean.” The writer believed that this is what the article was about, and that people would be interested in reading the content based on this title. But Shana instinctively knew the writer was wrong. So, she hopped on Google Trends and did some research. Sure enough, no one was searching for “nutrition buzzwords;” however, “food trends” was searched quite a lot.
Then she decided to hop on BuzzSumo and see what other people in the industry were writing about. Once again, there were only two articles about nutrition buzzwords, but hundreds of frequently shared articles about food trends. She analyzed the titles of these articles and came up with her own versions.
They decided to call the article “Food Trends” for SEO (the URL slug matches the headline). And for social media, the article is called “Are These Food Trends Worth the Hype?”
Utilizing basic SEO practices ensures that your blog posts will eventually start to rank for the keywords you are targeting. If you aren’t using SEO, you won’t get anywhere with blogging. No one will ever find you on their own, and you will have wasted all of that time and effort creating content for an audience of one.
But, according to Shana, you don’t want to use your SEO title for sharing on social media. You have to be a bit more creative in order to get the clicks you are looking for. Using engaging questions, making shocking claims, creating interesting lists (using numbers), and instilling your title with a sense of urgency or FOMO (fear of missing out) are all great tactics that you can use when creating a headline for social media.
Of course, you want your title to be relevant to your blog post, but don’t skip the research stage when deciding what to title your post. You have to think like a marketer, not like a writer, in order to find the best way to make people want to read your blog post. Study the trends, analyze your best competition, and look back at your top performing posts in order to find your blog title secret sauce.
“The goal determines the title,” says Vincent Scatena, Chief Marketing Officer for IMP Corporation.
The important characteristics of a blog title obviously depend on what is important to the blog or company. In other words, what's the goal and who's the audience. For instance, if you're a bank and your goal is to motivate current customers to use the bank's mortgage services, then the title need not concern itself with "shareability;" it just needs to communicate to the customer (e.g., "For Only 3% Down, You Can Buy Your First Home").
However, Vincent continues, if the bank's goal is to get new customers who are not necessarily paying attention to the blog, then shareability is the key; you need to get your customers to share your content on their social streams. In this case, an attention-getting headline with a bit of fear tactic sprinkled in could do the trick... something like "Top 10 Reasons Your Current Bank Is Ripping You Off."
His current company deals in power generation equipment, largely to the marine and oil & gas industries. They are already one of the world's most well known providers, so their focus is on brand awareness and prestige. With that, their goal is not to get readers to share their posts, but to get news publications to pick up their stories and quote them online and in print. This strategy has gotten them quoted and published dozens of times in the past year, including in major outlets such as Forbes.
Since their target is the media, their headlines have to demonstrate conflict. For example: "Oil Price Plunge Set to Hit US Genset Sales" was a title that Decentralized-Energy.com picked up in February 2015. The title sounds less "bloggy" and more like a newspaper headline.
The blog title that got them quotes in Forbes was "Natural Gas Overlooked in Obama's Clean Power Plan." The title builds its conflict by pitting one element versus another.
Joe Goldstein from Navolutions, writes his blog posts for a lot of different reasons: "to create something shareable, something link worthy, something that will rank organically, or just to get an idea out of my system," and he always writes the blog post titles with the post's purpose in mind.
First and foremost for him, it's vital to remember that the title matters most before you click on it. If you're already on the post's page then you’re probably committed to reading some part of it, even if you're just going to skim. The title has done its job to get you there, and now it's the post’s turn.
The next question he asks is where this title will be seen the most. If it’s in an email newsletter, you've already earned the reader's trust and interest, so you just have to broadly appeal to a narrow audience. For readers with an interest in SEO and a fairly low level of technical sophistication, “How we got a link from the Huffington Post” works perfectly: it promises a post that is specific, valuable, and accessible. It says that we already have the link, which means this isn’t just some hypothetical situation. And it says it with "got," not "acquired," "built," or "earned," because he wanted it to appeal to a reader with even a low level of SEO literacy.
If the post will mostly be seen on social media, he wants to stick with clickbait tactics: titles that are alarming, unresolved, or are unavoidable based on their novelty value alone work well. He wants a reader to scroll past, stop dead in their tracks, and ask, “Did I just read that right?” Titles like “Why Facebook's Updates (Probably) Won't Kill Your Business” work because it takes a second for your brain to catch up with the parenthetical. They make a business owner think, "Oh good, I have nothing to worry about...wait, what do you mean, 'probably?'" At that point, they’ll just have to read the post and find out.
If the post is designed to rank organically, Joe wants to build it around keywords that have good ranking potential. “Why Does My Furnace Smell Like Diesel?” works better than “Why Does My Furnace Smell like Gas?” because it’s incredibly specific and less likely to be targeted by bigger players.
Questions work really well as titles here because they connect with a very specific user intent, though ultimate guide posts are another good option. The caveat with ultimate guide posts, however, is that the post body has to justify the title and someone can always build a bigger skyscraper.
Lastly, he adds, if the post is designed to attract links, he wants it to include keywords that will fit with his commercial keyword goals, at least in part. “Where to Find Free Sandbags in San Diego” works perfectly because just about any link to it will inevitably include San Diego in the anchor text, which is where the company wants to rank for a variety of keywords.
No matter what the post's goal is, never forget that the title is ultimately a promise. If you promise “The Ultimate Guide to Cheesecake Milkshakes” and only deliver two recipes and a couple of stock photos, people are not going to click on your links again. If you share “108 Reasons Trump Will Ruin America” and start grasping at straws after reason #50, then you've cried wolf. Start with a title that captures what your post truly is, skew it to your primary marketing channel, and then format it around your audience's vocabulary.
Writing titles for blog posts may sound like paint-by-numbers, but without a soul it will die on the vine. Joe recently put together “How to Remove a Shark From Your Flooded Home” as an April Fool's day post for a water damage restoration company. It fell very flat. His intention was to write a post that looked marginally legitimate at first glance and quickly devolved into something ridiculous, like a Monty Python sketch: “Shark attacks are no laughing matter, and the larger species are difficult to physically overpower. That's why your best defense against a shark is a verbal defense. Try attacking your shark's poor life choices. After all, if your shark had a steady job and a family, it wouldn't be staying at your house.”
In retrospect, the site is full of real DIY guides, and at a glance it just looks like another one. He should have gone with a title that was absurd and demanded attention. Something like “Great White in Your Gazebo? Here's How to Kick Your Flood Shark Out” or ”How to Hurt a Hammerhead's Feelings,” and ”Other Ways to Get Rid of Your Home's New Shark” may have done the trick.
Any way you slice it, you should never stop experimenting with your blog post titles. One of the best ways to experiment with titles is to recycle other post title options into your remarketing efforts. He might head back to Twitter to ask, “Do you want to see how to snag a HuffPo link by blogging about fish restaurants?” or invite people to “Check out how blogging about a Reddit post earned me an awesome link” to test click-through rates. You never know what you might find, he finishes, and that's half the fun.
“It's taken me a while to understand the art of blog titles. There's so much involved, which means that even today I wouldn't say I've mastered the form,” says Billy Peery from LoSoMo Inc.
When he was younger, he ran a personal blog. His blog titles were an oddball mix of wacky and pretentious: “The Tao of April Fools” and stuff like that. They were effective at grabbing a reader's attention, but he looks back at them with a bit of embarrassment.
As time went on, he continued in the wacky direction, writing for the blog of an improvisational comedy troupe. Comedy writing eventually led him to Cracked, where he wrote “5 Real People More Terrifying Than Any Movie Villain.”
He didn't come up with the title, but it was interesting to receive the title from an editor. Since it got over a million views, it really drove home how important blog titles can be. Using the listicle format (organizing the article by listing a number of things) contributes greatly to their success, he thinks.
Now he works at a digital marketing firm, which means he is frequently writing blog posts for clients. He thinks the number one thing that posts need to do is fulfill a need in the reader.
Admittedly, the wacky, attention-grabbing format can work, but his greatest successes with blog post titles have come from just being honest about what need is being fulfilled.
So, here's a wacky blog title that didn't work: “Donald Trump is an SEO Loser.” Billy was trying to hop on a bandwagon there, while grabbing people's attention with a provocative title.
But really, who cares about Donald Trump's SEO? Is that fulfilling the need of a reader who wants to understand something?
On the other hand, “The Ultimate Guide to LoSoMo” has been more successful; the title lets people know that it's going to be informative. By naming your blog post the ultimate guide to something, you're making a promise to the reader: this is the be-all end-all, most-comprehensive guide to the subject at hand. LoSoMo, a marketing term that confuses many, gets explained in the post as quickly as possible.
“What has all that experience taught me?” Billy asks himself. Well, here are the takeaways:
- Your title needs to grab the reader's attention, but it shouldn't be outright wacky. This'll help you get noticed on social media.
- Your title should use a keyword that relates to your topic. This is good for SEO purposes.
- Your title should promise to fulfill a need the reader has (most likely a need to know something).
As being professional blogger or just a beginner your experience and advices are always important. Share with us your thought how do you struggle to get the perfect titles for your blog post. Do you use special toolk like Forrest Wheatey or just trust your intuition?