Killer Blog Post Titles: Why You Need Them

Do you want people to read your blog? (Like I really need to ask?) Blog post titles are the hooks that grab your potential readers by the shoulders and pull them into your content. If they don’t, 80% of your prospects will move onto the next shiny piece of content that catches their attention. Remember the strength of your title drives reader attention.

Many bloggers toil over their posts to craft the best content they can and assume that the post will stand on its own. The reality is that it doesn’t. You need a strong blog post title to lure readers in.

5 Blog title guidelines to help you

Here are five tips to help make your blog post titles more effective at attracting readers.

  1. Provides a benefit for your target market. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. They’re thinking “Why should I read this post?”
  2. Has a sense of urgency. Take a tip from direct marketers and focus on benefit. Think infomercials where the announcer states: Please call within the next hour; our operators are standing by. (Like the operators are leaving before their shift ends.)
  3. Delivers the goods. If your post’s headline doesn’t provide the information readers expect, it’ll fail. Even worse, you may have trouble getting these readers back again.
  4. Is short and to the point. Remember readers skim looking for a way to move on. Grab them and reel them in fast.
  5. Contains your keywords. While blog post titles should be written for humans, it’s important to attract spiders to ensure your posts get indexed by search engines.

What’s the best way to learn about headlines?

Check out the magazines at your supermarket checkout counter or at a large magazine stand such as at railways and airports. What pops out at you? Look at magazines that live and die by their newsstand sales because their cover headlines must get passersby to feel that they must have this issue of the magazine. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Cosmopolitan, People and The National Enquirer are great at this. (Here’s a good resource: Pushing Social’s list of resources for title research.)

8 Blog post title formulas that work

Take a page from direct marketers who are well practiced in the art of overcoming inertia to get people to take an action.  Here are eight blog post title formulas to test on your blog.

  1. Take a number. While some people complain about the frequency with which bloggers use them, titles featuring numbers do work. That said, be careful not to put all of your data in your headline. While these titles get a lot of retweets, click-throughs tend to be low since readers have the information they need from the tweet and don’t feel compelled to read the story. Here’s a good example, 125 Free Blog Topics.
  2. Teach me. How-tos are powerful. One reason people read blogs is to get more and broader information about topics of interest to them. Let readers know that your post is providing a useful mini-lesson. Here’s a good example from this blog, How to Be a Twitter Chat Champion.
  3. Ask a question. This works well because readers subconsciously answer the question and get drawn in. Here’s a title integrated with a personal question: Are You Practicing Spaghetti PR?
  4. Are you talking to me? Make your titles personal. Include the word “you” to pull readers in with the sense that you’re talking directly to them. Here’s an example: Are you Cultivating Your Next Generation of Social Media Super Users?
  5. Just say no. Some of my best performing posts are attributable to telling readers not to do something. No one can resist being told that they can’t do something. It just adds to the allure. For example, Don’t Tweet This.
  6. Take advantage of stars and/or popular trends. Take your pick of pop culture and leverage it to create a wonderful post. Here’s an example of how to use current events, After Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami, What Matters to You? It works because it turns a terrible event into a learning situation for readers.
  7. Make an unusual association. Make an unexpected connection that gets readers thinking. For example, What Obama can learn from Sarah Palin; it doesn’t get more dissimilar than these two political opposites.
  8. Be a contrarian. Be controversial and go against the majority. Realize that while this is useful for gathering comments, they may be filled with strong emotions.  Here’s an example: How to get lurkers to engage.

For your blog post titles to improve, you must keep practicing and testing them. Like the rest of your writing, your titles will improve with practice. The reality is that you can’t just have the same title for every post or it’s boring. While your post’s permalink title must remain the same, you can use Twitter to test your title ideas and then tweak your title. Just don’t change the permalink!

Do you have any blog title suggestions? If so, please add them in the comment section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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Photo credit: Chang’r via Flickr

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7 Responses to Killer Blog Post Titles: Why You Need Them

  1. Julie says:

    One of my most popular post titles is a “how to” title- now I know one of the reasons why that post is doing so well. Thanks for all the ideas!

  2. Christen Branca says:

    This is very helpful and thank you!  (-;  I am working to improve my posts everyday.  I love knowing I can make a difference to others!  It’s important to me to share.  Thanks so much!!

  3. Just great info for everyone that is in online business. Headlines do matter, that’s true. But sometimes one may await something unusual, and (if compare what I’ve seen with this post) there’s not much of a no-how here.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is great information.  I’m totally going to use the formulas to create titles! Thank you for a wonderful resource! 

  5. Amber Avines says:

    Great tips, Heidi!

    As much as I hate to admit it, the posts I’ve written with numbers in the titles are among my most popular! But, I do put a lot of thought into titles. As you say, they’ve got to capture the attention of the otherwise distracted masses. Too many people think of titles as an afterthought; unimportant. But, without a good title (even worse, a bad one!), your fabulous content has a good chance of being overlooked.

    Good reminders, Heidi! Thanks for putting them all down in one place 😉

  6. Another benefit of short titles, they can be easily RT. With titles that are questions, a tweeter can ‘answer’ it in the tweet; yes those are Twitter centric tips but helpful to bloggers trying to build a following.

    All and all these are some good ideas Heidi. I do wonder about #6; while yes you want to be relevant per current events, I’d caution against using some events like tragedies for personal gain as it can be seen as manipulative if not done well. For the most part, I have no issues with lists and how-to posts, provided they deliver the goods as you say… but sometimes they don’t are too linkbaitingly deceptive. Most of all, keep it in line with the post as I agree with Christine, there’s something so disappointing about a great headline married to a lackluster post. Too much of that will have me reading less of a blog. FWIW.

  7. It’s very disappointing to purchase a magazine with the appetizing headline on the front and a let down between the covers. Makes me not want to buy that magazine again. This can very well be applied to blogs.
    Thanks Heidi, great points for improving my blogs!