15 Best Practices for Blog Titles
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
You’ve heard that all your life. But no matter how many times you hear it, does it ever really alter your habits?
If you walked into a bookstore right now with no particular book in mind – just browsing – what would you do? You would drift over to the section with the genre that appeals to you most and begin scanning all of the titles, left to right, and running your finger over the spine of each one until something stands out.
The question is: what stands out?
The first thing you’ll notice is the cover artwork followed by the title. Sure, you’ll read the back summary to see if it is anything you’ll want to spend money on and invest your time to study it; but you won’t even get to that point if the title doesn’t sound appealing.
It’s the same with articles on the internet (only there isn’t cover art for Google searches – just titles). So it can be argued that the title of your blog or article is the most important part – at least when it comes to getting your viewers to click on the link. If they don’t open it, they can’t read it.
So what does it take? How do you get them to take the bait?
1) Always start with a working blog title
A working title means it’s one that is general enough to flow with your subject as you make changes, but it is also distinct enough to keep you focused on the concept, so you don’t drift into multiple directions while you’re writing.
For example, the working title for this particular blog was simply, “Best Blog Title Practices.” It was enough to keep me centered on my end goal, but I didn’t want to put a list number on it while it was still in development. If I had written “5 best,” I could have limited myself and possibly stopped researching past the first five, even if there were more, fantastic tips (and there were). If I had said “20 best,” I may have kept digging and digging for information to fill in those last few practices only to find some average or even poor practices – which ends up watering down the content and weakening it.
2) Be clear and concise
Think about it: when you’re searching for articles, do you want to browse through hundreds of options looking for the one that will answer your question? Neither do your readers. The fastest way to get them to open your post is to tell them quickly what’s in your article.
Keeping a title under 70 characters will keep it from getting cut off in the search engine results as well. It’s not the end of the world if that happens, but if the most important part of your title comes at the end, your searchers aren’t going to see it. Think about a movie or tv show that left you with a dull cliffhanger. Did you have the desire to see the next part, or did you just move on to the next thing?
In short: make it memorable and digestible.
Example: “15 Best Practices for Blog Titles” (Yes, I know – that’s the title of this article.)
3) Make it sound important
People want the most relevant information that’s going to be the most useful to them.
A title like “10 Social Media Tips Every Manufacturer Should Know Right Now” is going to grab the attention of manufacturers – it not only calls them by name but gives them a sense of urgency. The audience wants to stay up to date on trends and knowledge relevant to them, and titles like this tell them you have the information they want.
4) Use “How-To” titles
Most readers browsing through blogs are doing so to find information. You know you’re providing it for them, but they need to know that. A “How-To” title will tell them right away that they’re going to get the instructions for which they are looking.
Example: “How to Win at Video Ads Every. Single. Time.”
5) Oppositely, use “How-Not-To” blog titles
Everybody wants to feel like they’re right. These types of articles give your readers that reassurance – and if they happen to be missing steps or they are getting a few things wrong, they still feel confident in the things they are doing something right.
Example: “How Not Having a Social Media Strategy is Killing Your Online Presence.”
6) Use numbers
You’ve probably noticed a trend in the title examples: numbers.
Numbered titles give the reader an idea of how much time they’ll spend reading the article and what exactly they’re getting into. Think of it as a movie preview that gives you the synopsis and the run-time.
Example: “8 Reasons to Hire an Outside Web Developer”
7) Don’t be afraid to be a little dramatic
Over-the-top = views.
Readers thrive on the dramatic – it’s in our DNA.
Let’s be honest: you want to click on a title such as, “Why Daily Tweets are a Waste of Time.” These articles tend to spread because they spark interest.
But make sure you have solid data to back up that title – otherwise it will flop.
8) Use your buyer personas to your advantage
Chances are, you have your ideal buyer personas put in place (if you don’t, take the time to do it). You’re already using them to figure out what topic would appeal to them, so why not use them to determine what title would appeal to them as well?
When you know how your personas react to the rest of your business, you’ll know how they’ll react to your writing.
9) Use your customers
If you have customers asking you questions, it’s not only a good source for a topic, but you can turn the question into a title.
When one of your customers are asking a question, there’s bound to be others – as well as people who have never heard of you before; but you can bet they’re Googling the issue.
Say you see the question, “How often do I need to do maintenance on my air conditioner?” The title for your responsive blog could be, “Everything You Need to Know About Air Conditioner Maintenance.”
10) Use action titles, not passive ones
You want to be viewed as an authority in your field – use a title that reflects that.
The key is to make a strong, unwavering statement in the title and back it up with facts in the text.
Example: any of the above example titles.
11) Brackets are your best friend
If you have something particular and helpful in your article like data or an infographic, put it in brackets at the end of your title.
Using characters other than letters helps your title stand out, and adding the clarification gives a clear expectation to the reader.
Example: “How to Stay Cool During the Hottest Summer Yet [Infographic]”
Say you come up with a great title. It’s catchy, it’s clickable, and it’s unique. But if your content doesn’t match up with it, you’ll lose the trust of your readers. That means they won’t return.
In short: respect the reader’s experience.
13) Make. It. Pop.
There’s nothing wrong with being a little creative once your title is accurate.
Apply strong language. Think about words that are typically used dramatically: “hate,” “never,” “always,” “brilliant,” etc.
Utilize the “who.” If you can find examples of people or brands who are doing what your blog is supporting, take advantage of using them as examples.
14) Make them tweetable
It may not sound important, but with a culture that’s so focused on social media, you want to make sure you adhere to the restrictive guidelines. Twitter gives you 140 characters to work with, but you should leave a little extra space for someone to include a comment in the retweet. The 120-character length seems to be a sweet-spot.
15) Use any keywords at the beginning
Or at least try your best. The faster your audience sees the keyword they’ve been searching for, the more likely they are to click the link.
Bonus: If you’re still having trouble, use resources
When all else fails, tap into your resources. There are plenty of idea-generating sites available:
HubSpot’s Blog Idea Generator – Toss in your topic ideas, and it’ll spit out enough working titles to last you awhile. And if you’re struggling with a direction to take your material, generating titles will give you a boost.
IMPACT’s BlogAbout generator – This one is similar to HubSpot’s. You fill in a single topic, and it spits out fill-in-the-blank options for you, endlessly. Just keep hitting the refresh button they provide until you find one that suits your needs. You can also save the ones you love, and they’ll email them to you for safekeeping.
Old articles – Take an old blog that had a good reaction from readers and turn it into something new. If you had a well-received article covering a how-to, turn it around and do a how-not-to.
Portent’s Idea Generator – If you’re really struggling, this generator will help you come up with topics as well as titles – two for the price of one. As a bonus, they’ll also tell you why that title works so that you can apply it to other articles in the future.
Somebody else – If you collaborate with other team members, someone will be able to give you some input. It doesn’t have to be anyone in the group you’re working with on the article – just someone knowledgeable on that topic or who wants to be knowledgeable.
Titles are imperative to your blog.
If you can’t get someone to open your article, you’re missing an opportunity. You could have a reader that turns into a lead, a lead that turns into a customer, or a client that turns into a brand ambassador.
It all boils down to this question:
Would YOU read it?
If it doesn’t appeal to you, it’s not going to appeal to anyone else, either.
If you are a manufacturer or professional service company and need help with your blog, contact Tiny Orange, and we can show you what we can do.
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