The purpose of a blog post title or "headline" is to get potential readers to read the first line of your content. Write a captivating and intruiging title and you’ll draw people into reading it every time. Remember, just as in a traditional newspaper, blog readers tend to skim headlines to find posts that appear to be important to them. The right words in the title are the difference between being read and being ignored so don't rush.
Headlines these days are just as important as the post itself — with users skimming through their large list of RSS feeds or social media links, the headline is your only chance to grab their attention. Headlines for blog posts matter on multiple levels - they are what appears in search engine results, RSS feeds, links from other bloggers, social media sites, web site archives. Often, the only thing that people see and the sole thing that people make the decision to visit your post on. Write a boring, complicated or confusing title and it doesn’t matter what you’ve written in the post - very few people will ever read it.
Before giving you the "DO'S" let me give you a couple of major "DON'TS
- Do not type your headlines using all capital letters - it is considering SHOUTING and therefore rude; it is also against Talk of the Sound policy to write headlines in all caps so your post will either be edited or deleted by a site administrator.
- Do not write a headline that can only be understood by reading the article - a reader will not be "intrigued" by your cryptic headline but confused and therefore skip over your article.
- Do not write "cute" titles that do not mean anything to anyone but you; no "inside jokes".
Top 10 Tip for Effective Headline Writing
1. Communicate a Benefit
Promise to meet a need. Readers with that need will be drawn to your post. For example, "Top 10 Ways to Reduce Your Taxes in New Rochelle" or "How To Pay A New Rochelle Parking Ticket Online".
2. Create Controversy or Debate
Set the scene for a controversy. For example, "New Rochelle's New Trash Proposal Stinks"
3. Ask a Question
When you ask a question those who read it are wired to respond (or to see what the response is). Even better, direct the question AT the reader (i.e., use the word YOU in the question)
4. Personalize Titles
Personalize the language that you’re using. One of the easiest ways to do this is simply to use the word ‘you’ or 'your' in your posts. For example, "21 Ways to Make Your Garage Sale a Success"
5. Use Keywords
Important for two reasons: (1) they grab the attention of readers who are scanning for particular content; (2) they tell search engines what your blog post is about and will help it to rank highly for those words. Search engines pay particular attention to titles to assertain what a web page is about (and the "tags" or categories you assign to your post). Keywords at the beginning of a title have even more impact. This is why you will often see the word "New Rochelle" in a title in Talk of the Sound and why it is often at the beginning of the title.
6. Use Power Words & Phrases
Power words and phrases can evoke a powerful response in readers and can increase interest in your post but you had better deliver on the promise of your headline or readers will be angry. To build your own list, stop by an magazine rack and look at the women's magazines; their editors are experts at using power words and phrases.
- Power Words & Phrases: Free, [blank] For Less, Stunning, Discover, Easy.
- People love to read lists: Top 10 [blank], The Hottest [blank], 21 Best Ways to [blank], 10 Reasons to Love/Hate [blank].
- People love secrets: Secrets, Best-Kept Secrets, Little Known Ways to [blank]", Behind the Scenes at [blank].
7. Big Claims and Promises
Communicating a benefit (see above) but on a grander scale. As with power words, make sure you can deliver or you will make readers angry.
8. Humor Titles
Not everyone can write humor and even the best comic write can fall flat so use this sparingly but a humorous title can be very effective at drawing readers into you blog.
9. Keep it Short
Many search engines and RSS readers display only the first 65 characters or less so going beyond this risks truncated, confusing headlines
10. Do not use full stop periods
The entire point of the headline is getting the reader to continue past the headline to your first line of copy so do not use punctuation that tells the reader to stop reading.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog post is, in parts, a summary of the post and comments over at Problogger.com: How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog, part of a series on improving your blog by Darren Rowse.