Outside of the design of your blog (that’s a whole other post) perhaps the best way of creating that impression is though your post’s title.
Titles are so important on many fronts – including:
- Grabbing Attention in Search Engines – Head over to Google and type in virtually any word you can think of and you’ll often find millions of results. The interesting thing is that for most search results in Google (and other SE’s) there is very little for readers to go by in deciding which result to click on. There is a title, a short excerpt and a URL. The most highlighted of these is the title and I believe it is key in getting SE referral clicks.
- Getting RSS Readers Attention – in a very similar way titles have the ability to grab the attention of those following your blog via RSS in news aggregators. Even if your feeds are full post feeds rather than excerpts it’s likely that most news aggregator readers scan the titles of posts for things that interest them rather than reading full text. The same principle is true in other indexes and directories like Technorati, del.icio.us, digg etc
- Loyal Readers – Good titles also impact the way your loyal readers interact with your blog. As I’ve already mentioned – web users scan pages and one of the best ways to make them pause as they roll their eyes down your site is to capture their attention with a good title that intrigues them enough to slow down their frantic web surfing and actually read some of the content that you’ve pour time and energy into.
- Search Engine Optimization – While there are many factors that contribute to how search engines ranks a page of your blog, one of the most powerful onsite factors are the words that you use in the title of that page. This means making sure that the titles of your posts end up being in the <title tags> of your page (something I’ve blogged about previously here). Also important for SEO with respect to titles, in the opinion of many, is that your post titles form the basis of your URL structure and that your titles are live links.
Using Titles Successfully
There are many strategies that successful bloggers use to draw attention to their posts with titles. There is no real right or wrong and as with many aspects of blogging what is a ‘good title’ is a little subjective. Having said this – you might want to consider these six factors in writing titles for your blog posts:
- Keep it Simple – Most research I’ve seen into titles seems to argue that the most effective titles are short, simple and easy to understand. While breaking these rules can help grab attention (see below) they can also confuse, frustrate and put a glazed look in the eyes of potential readers. Shorter titles are also good for Search Engines – keep it under 40 or so characters and you’ll ensure the whole title appears in search results.
- Grab Attention – Good titles set your posts apart from the clutter around them and then draw readers into your post. Grabbing attention might happen using tactics of ‘shock’, ‘big claims’, ‘controversy’ or even ‘confusion’. While these tactics do work at getting people in – it should also be said that they can do more damage than good if the rest of your post doesn’t live up to the promises your title makes. By all means try to grab attention – just just ‘trick’ your readers into thinking you’ll provide them with something you can’t give them.
- Meet a Need – An effective title draws people into reading more because they feel you’ve got something to say that they NEED to hear. Indexes like del.icio.us illustrate just how effective this is. Quite often the articles that get to the top of the list are ‘how to…’ or ‘tutorial’ type articles that show readers that they will learn how to solve a problem or need that they might have.
- Describe – Some readers will be drawn into a post by a cryptic title that doesn’t tell them much about what they’ll be reading – but the majority of readers need to know something about what they’ll find if they read further. Titles should describe (in a word or few) what readers will get in the main post.
- Use Key Words – As I mentioned above – titles are a powerful part of SEO. If you want to maximize their power you need to consider using the keywords that you want your post to be found with in your title in some way. This of course is challenging when you are attempting to ‘keep it simple’ and to also ‘grab attention and intrigue’ – but it can be done. Words at the start of titles are thought to be more powerful than words at the end when it comes to SEO.
- One last tip on titles – Take your time with your titles. Many bloggers pour a lot of effort into writing engaging and interesting posts – but then just slap any old title onto it without realizing that in doing so they might be ensuring that their post is never read.
Treat your title as an mini advertisement for your work. Take at least a few minutes before hitting publish to not only make sure your post is in order – but that your title is going to do everything it can to maximize the chances that people will engage with what you have to say.