Five Minute Upgrade – Writing Blog Post Titles That Grab Attention
You’ve just spent a ton of time putting together your latest blog article, and now it’s finally time to launch it. You know the quality is there, but how can you possibly summarize the entire thing into a one line title?
How are you going to make the perfect elevator pitch for your article?
Hold on a second, take some deep cleansing breathes, let’s take a look at some ways to make titles really grab the attention of your audience.
1. Create Curiosity
Let’s say one day, after a good deal of research and hard work, I make a post entitled Little Known CSS Secrets. Think about your reaction if you saw a post title like that pop up in your Twitter feed, would you click it? You may think you know the ins and outs of CSS, but now I have just presented you with a new possibility – you’re missing something.
An individual that believes they have CSS locked down might not be as receptive to an article named Common CSS Techniques, but once you create a potential gap in their knowledge – aka little known CSS secrets – they will want to fill that gap.
Titles that include terms such as “common mistakes/misuses”, “secrets of”, “little known”, “must see/have” and “essential” imply that there is something you might be missing.
- Does the title create a knowledge gap?
- What terms have I used that spark curiosity?
2. Appeal to Self Interest
Why should I care about what you have to say? How does it benefit me? Keep these questions in mind because when a potential reader comes across your article in their feed, you’ve got only one way to address them – your title.
Another method is to get them invested in the article, which can be done by appealing to the type of people that they associate themselves with (ie: Designers, Bloggers). Going along with the above Little Known CSS Secrets example, let’s adjust it slightly to appeal to even a seasoned CSS veteran that might not buy into the whole “secret” thing – Little Known CSS Secrets of the Masters. Now we have not only created the potential for a gap in knowledge, but also made a play on their ego. They are now going to be as curious as ever, wanting to find out if they truly know all of these secrets that the other CSS masters allegedly know, it becomes about not wanting to fall behind.
Self Interest Checklist
- What type of people (ie: “Marketers”, “Designers”, “Bloggers”) am I appealing to with this article?
- From the title alone, how does the the article potentially benefit readers?
- If I didn’t write this, would I care?
3. Being Unexpected
How can you be unexpected? Upset a common belief, practice, or trend. Be brash, bold, more candid than you normally would. Anything that breaks the stereotype for the industry will likely also attract a decent number of eyes. If a person would probably follow reading your title with a “What!?” then you might be on the right track.
It’s important to be careful to not be so shocking that you slip into the gimmicky infomercial type of talk – I Made a $80,000 in 3 months… and You Can Too! Continued usage of sensationalist titles will also cause people to be desensitized to your articles – when everything is exciting, nothing is exciting.
- Have I seen this title before?
- What is surprising, shocking, or unique about this title?
- Have I crossed the line into gimmicky?
4. Clear and Concrete
I could have titled this article Get Your Blog Post More Traffic, but I didn’t. Why not? It’s not concrete, you would have no idea how the article would go about increasing your traffic, just that it would. How many spam messages come up on your radar that promise the exact same thing?
Which is more effective – Optimizing Image Labels for Visitor Usability with HTML or Adding Captions to Your Images? Stand out by being precise and avoid polluting your message with too many buzzwords.
When coming up with titles, I generally try to focus on describing the end result rather than the process, that way you know exactly what to expect. (Example : Animate Curtains Opening with jQuery)
- Can I be more specific without being wordy?
- Have I avoided “buzzword/jargon pollution”?
- Is the goal of the article clearly illustrated in the title?
Examples – Putting it All Into Practice
Jacob Cass recently posted a pretty neat roundup of The Most Linked to Pages of Top Design Blogs, which provides an interesting look at titles that work. To further illustrate my points let’s take a look at a small sampling complete with breakdowns.
Something to think about for each title – What strikes you about this title? Were you driven to click it?
- Simple – It’s targeting a specific group of people
- Unexpected – Bold and not the typical “feel good” title
- Curiosity – What makes him qualified to say this? Why will I fail?
- Self Interest – It’s not a random startup potentially failing, it’s mine.
- Simple – I know exactly what I’m going to see.
- Unexpected – Oh yeah, I didn’t realize, it makes sense there were other drafts.
- Curiosity – There are other logos ideas? Now I need to see them.
- Self Interest – Involves a person I know/followed
- Simple – I don’t have to decode the title’s meaning to know if it applies to me.
- Unexpected – Not necessarily.
- Curiosity – Essential? What if I am lacking some of them? I do call myself a designer.
- Self Interest – I’m a designer looking to constantly improve, here’s a competitive edge.
I encourage you to take the time to cycle through more of the titles in Jacob’s post and see if you can pick out winning traits of each, who knows what might be useful for you in the future.
Case Study – My Oops Title
I made a mistake recently. When it came time to finalize a title for one of my posts, I rushed it along for the sake of getting it out the door, ultimately landing on a title which fell flat. The article didn’t receive the typical amount of circulation around the Twitter scene and I continue to wonder if perhaps a stronger title could have changed that. Enter Quick Tip – Reading & Editing HTML Attributes in jQuery.
- Simple – Sounds specific but not entirely clear what we’ll be doing. Almost too much jargon.
- Unexpected – Debatable.
- Curiosity – Perhaps, if someone wants to know what the title means.
- Self Interest – Not really, why should I bother learning this?
- Simple – Okay, I’m dealing with jQuery and images. I have a target goal.
- Unexpected – Hmm, I didn’t know I could swap images with jQuery.
- Curiosity – I wonder how to go about swapping images. What does the “More!” refer to?
- Self Interest – Here are some tangible ways I can improve my site/learn more about jQuery.
It may not be perfect, but I like to think it is a bit of a step up, satisfying my “quality title” requirements. What do you think?
Go Forth and Title
I, by no means, am trying to hop up on a soapbox and tell you that this is the way to do things just because I could tie certain traits to certain titles. We are in an industry that thrives on creative approaches and there are always posts that will break the template.
At this point I want to put it on you – what do you think works? I’m looking forward to a hearty discussion in the comments below.