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How to Swipe Great Titles … and Use Them On YOUR Blog

Posted By Ali Luke 15th of December 2016 Writing Content 0 Comments

How to Swipe Great Titles ... and Use Them On YOUR Blog | ProBlogger.netFrom ProBlogger Expert Ali Luke of Aliventures.

How often do you sit down to write a post, only to draw a complete blank?

Blogging prompts can be really helpful if you’re stuck for ideas. Sometimes, though, what you’re struggling most with us coming up with a title.

What you want is a ready-made title template: one that you know will hit the mark with readers, and that will help you create a well-structured post.

The great news is that you can find those templates all over the place, on any popular blog you read. Just take a great title of theirs … and spin it into your own.

But Is it OK to Use Someone Else’s Title?

Some bloggers worry that using someone else’s title is unethical, or even illegal.

The truth is, it’s neither. Legally, there’s no copyright on titles – and given that many blog post titles follow tried-and-tested formulas, there are inevitably lots of posts with very similar titles anyway.

Morally … might be a greyer area. If you’ve swiped a particularly unusual title, you may want to link to the original post to acknowledge it. If you think someone might mind you borrowing from them, it never hurts to ask.

Many bloggers, though, freely borrow other people’s titles and even post structures: it’s common practice, even at the highest levels of blogging. (Check out this account from Jon Morrow about how one of his most popular posts was heavily based on one of Brian Clark’s.)

However …. as with any area of blogging, don’t do something that you feel personally uncomfortable with. If your title seems a bit too close to an unusual original title, you might want to have a rethink.

How to Find a Great Title

If you read blogs (and hopefully you do!), then great titles are all around you. Some especially good places to look are:

  • Twitter – what post titles have stood out to you recently? Which ones did you click on?
  • “Popular post” lists – you can find these on many blogs, often in the sidebar. Posts don’t generally become popular unless they have a reasonably good title!
  • Magazines – editors know all about creating titles that grab attention on the cover. (Note, for instance, how often they use numbers.)

It’s often a good idea to seek out blogs outside your own niche: this can bring in fresh title ideas, and it also forces you to change at least a few words of each title. If you blog about WordPress, for instance, you might find inspiration on a parenting blog … or vice versa!

How to Twist That Title

Once you’ve found a title, it’s fairly straightforward to “twist” it and make it your own. You can do one – or all! – of these:

  1. Change the main topic (e.g. “blogging”, “writing”, “growing tomatoes”, “raising happy kids”).
  2. Change any numbers involved (e.g. “six tips” could become “ten tips”).
  3. Change the adjectives (e.g. “one powerful way to…” could become “one simple way to…”).
  4. Change the context (e.g. “at home” could become “at work”).

I’ll run through a couple of examples for each:

#1: Change the Main Topic

Title: How to Make Time for Blogging During Your Lunch Break (Larry Alton, ProBlogger)

Changing the topic could turn this title into:

  • How to Make Time for Writing During Your Lunch Break (writing blog)
  • How to Make Time for the Gym During Your Lunch Break (health blog)
  • How to Learn a New Language During Your Lunch Hour (language / education blog)

Title: Is it Smart to Increase Your Credit Card Limit? (John Ulzheimer, The Simple Dollar)

Changing the topic could turn this title into:

  • Is it Smart to Put Your Kids in the Same Bedroom? (parenting blog)
  • Is it Smart to Join the Gym in January? (health / fitness blog)
  • Is it Smart to Keep a Handwritten Journal? (writing or personal development blog)

#2: Change the Numbers

With a list-style post, you don’t need to stick with the original number of items. (This can also help to make the title feel like your own.)

Normally, you’ll also want to change the topic – the exception here is if you’re linking back to and perhaps building on the original post.

Title: The Five Most Realistic Ways to Make a Living as a Writer (Glen Long, Smart Blogger)

This could become:

  • The Three Most Realistic Ways to Make a Living Blogging
  • The Ten Most Realistic Ways to Make a Living While Travelling
  • The Twenty Most Realistic Ways to Make a Living Working at Home

Title: 7 Ways to Write Better Action Items (Charlie Gilkey, Productive Flourishing)

This could become:

  • 3 Ways to Write Better Blog Post Introductions
  • 6 Ways to Write Better Calls to Action
  • 10 Ways to Write Better Emails

Occasionally, a title might use a particularly significant number – e.g. the title of my post “7 Habits of Serious Writers” was inspired by Stephen Covey’s book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. (I’ve also seen a lot of posts that are the “Ten Commandments of…”) If that’s the case for your borrowed title, you’ll probably want to keep the number the same.

#3 Change the Adjectives

Many titles include a modifying word, like “powerful” or “secret” or “inspiring” or “easy” – and often, you can create a quite different feel for your post by switching this word.

Again, you’ll likely need to change the actual topic as well.

Title: Six Inspiring Experts Answer Five Questions on Writing and Blogging (Ali Luke, Zen Optimise)

This could become:

  • Six Stand-Out Experts Answer Five Questions on Building a Business
  • Six Parenting Experts Answer Five Questions on Raising Resilient Kids
  • Six Bestselling Authors Answer Five Questions on Writing and Publishing

Here’s another example:

Title: The Definitive Guide on Creating a Content Strategy (Will Blunt, Write to Done)

This could become:

  • The Quick Guide to Creating a Content Calendar
  • The Ultimate Guide on Creating a Content Plan
  • The Ten-Step Guide to Creating Your Content Strategy

#4: Change the Context

The context of a title – the timeframe or area to which it’s applied – is also something you can easily tweak.

Title: 5 Ways to Find Blog Design Inspiration Offline (Mark Zeni, Daily Blog Tips)

This could become:

  • 5 Ways to Find Blog Design Inspiration in Magazines
  • 5 Ways to Find Blogging Inspiration at School
  • 5 Ways to Find Blogging Inspiration on Your Local High Street

Title: How Bad Emailing Can Impact Your Business (Andrew Hudson, Kikolani)

This could become:

  • How Bad Emailing Can Cost You a Potential Job
  • How Bad Emailing Can Lose You Friends
  • How Bad Emailing Can Turn Away Customers

Making Several Changes to Create a Title that Truly Fits Your Blog

Often, you’ll want to make several changes at once to a title … and in the examples above, you can see that it’s often appropriate to change a couple of different things (e.g. the topic of a list post and the number of items in it).

Here are a few examples of titles that look quite different after being changed in several ways … each time, though, the underlying structure of the title remains the same.

Title: 6 Ways Grammarly Can Improve Your Writing And Editing (Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn)

This could become:

  • 10 Ways the Jetpack Plugin Can Improve Your Blog
  • 7 (Unexpected) Ways Reading More Books Can Improve Your Grades
  • 5 Ways Social Media Can Increase Your Blog’s Traffic

Title: A Surefire Way to Raise the Stakes in Your Story (K.M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become Authors)

This could become:

  • A Surefire Way to Get More Traffic to Your Blog
  • A Surefire Way to Sell Your Next Ebook
  • One Simple Way to Create a Content Calendar

Title: Struggling to Write for Technical Experts? Try These 3 Powerful Content Marketing Practices (Kyle Fiehler, Copyblogger)

This could become:

  • Struggling to Write for Beginners? Try These 5 Powerful “Beginner Mindset” Techniques
  • Struggling to Stop Yelling at Your Kids? Try These 3 Simple Tricks
  • Struggling to Improve Your Search Engine Rankings? Try These 6 Straightforward SEO Tweaks

Writing great titles isn’t easy – but you can take a huge shortcut by borrowing an existing structure, rather than trying to re-invent the wheel.

Plus, the more titles you study and tweak, the more you’ll get to grips with what makes a title work … and one day, other bloggers will be borrowing from you!

About Ali Luke
Ali Luke blogs about the art, craft and business of writing at Aliventures. She has two free ebooks on blogging, Ten Powerful Ways to Make Your Blog Posts Stronger and Ten Easy Ways to Attract Readers to Your Blog … And Keep Them There. To get your copies of those, just sign up for her weekly e-newsletter (also free!) here.
Comments
  1. Great post Ali. I think it’s always a good idea to write your own spin on a title. But sometimes they’re too generic and it doesn’t matter.

    “10 Best Business Books” for example, can be used by anyone.

    • I agree. Though I think sometimes generic titles can benefit from a bit of added specificity to help your post stand out (e.g. “10 Best Business Books for Bloggers”).

  2. Hello Ali,

    Well, i do not create too much fuss about the Titles as i am a affiliate marketer, but recently i am getting into Facebook Marketing and that’s where a catchy title can make all the difference.

    So, recently I have been learning how to tweak my titles to attract more readers from social media. So in that way, you have given me a lot of ideas, which i can implement to make catchy titles.

    Keep Up the good Work !

  3. Hi Ali,

    Great ideas. I try to make my blog titles as catchy as possible. Lots of great ideas here to use if you are looking for some new inspiration.

    Beth

  4. What a great post! Thank you!!!

    • Great tips Ali.

      Titles are really vital. They increase your traffic, sales and conversions.

      The simplest way to write powerful titles is to analyze what already went viral. You can also use free headline creators like Portent (it’s a really good tool) to come up with amazing headline ideas.

      Also make sure to use whiteboard for generating ideas. You can then extract as much as headline ideas as you can by reading books, magazines, blogs etc.

      Great insights Ali!

  5. Excellent blog. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hey Ali,

    If you try to search any topic then the title would be nearly same of many. But as you have mentioned, it’s good to change it.

    Change the adjectives, the numbers etc. Give it another touch and re-invent your own amazing title.

    ~Ravi

  7. Although I do browse current sites with great headlines that get clicks, like Buzzfeed and Refinery29 for the headlines and for inspiration… I often find that I get more out of my old Gene Schwartz swipe file or the ads covered in “How To Write A Good Advertisement” by Victor Schwab.

    The older language and lack of click-bait spammy-ness allows my brain to synthesize them easier… Sometimes it is the off the wall ones for a totally different niche that really inspire me for a great title. #OldSchoolCool

  8. This is a great post! Thanks so much for sharing all of these great tips!

  9. I bookmarked this article when I came across it last month because I thought it was interesting – still do – but now I’m conflicted.

    I am seeing more and more people cross the ethics line and it’s really bothering me. Take the title issue – I just read an article with the title Purple Cow. Of course, this is the same title as Seth Godin’s book, and in fact, the imagery and content of the article are remarkably similar to the book – but the ideas and advice are presented as the authors.

    A couple of weeks ago a blogger in a group I belong to posted an article and I was stunned to see that the image he used was none other than the Facebook banner image of Darren Rouse! I contacted the manager of the group and expressed my concern – it’s bad enough to use someone’s image without permission, but when that person actually happens to be in it that takes it to a whole different level. I was told it’s no big deal, don’t worry about it. At my insistence they finally (I’m told) at least gave Problogger photo credit.

    Certainly, neither of these examples is critical in the big scheme of things, but the lines are clearly shifting for what is considered ethically acceptable and I can’t help but wonder where we’re heading in the future.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Marquita. I agree that both those examples are definitely well beyond what I (or, I hope, almost any blogger) would consider reasonable use.

      I’m a little leery about using *exact* titles, unless they’re quite general (“Purple Cow” is, I feel, pretty specific!) — and I’d certainly never advocate using someone else’s ideas/content without attribution.

  10. Tribute Boxing and Fitness says: 11/11/2017 at 6:39 pm

    Nice Article! How to Swipe Great Titles … and Use Them On YOUR Blog useful for SEO Learner. Thanks for sharing this handy Post.