Write Outstanding Titles and Openings for Your Blog
Write Outstanding Titles and Openings for Your Blog
You’ve probably read about why you should write better titles and openings, but do you know how to do it? Do you know what makes an opening exceptional, and can you spot a weak title? Spending some time revising your titles and openings can strengthen your writing, improve your blog’s SEO and traffic, and help you retain readers.
Improve Your Titles
You’ll want to achieve at least two things when writing your blog titles. First, never forget that you’re writing for real people. Your titles should clearly describe the article content and at the same time grab your reader’s attention. A good title can convince a potential visitor to click through to your site; a poorly worded one can send traffic to your competitors instead.
You also need to think about search engines and SEO when writing your titles. After all, if potential readers can’t find you through search engines, then no amount of terrific writing will help. Because search engines pay particular attention to titles, you should take the time to make sure yours do all they can to bring traffic to your site.
Is it possible to write titles that are both reader- and search engine-friendly? Absolutely.
Include keywords in your title
Because search engines make heavy use of the title, you should include keywords in your post title. When search engines can accurately index your site, readers can more readily find you.
To help you write your titles, think of all the keywords (or search terms) that someone might use to find your post or posts like yours in a search engine. Let’s say you’re writing about how you lost 20 pounds by giving up junk food. Some of your keywords might be: diet, weight loss, junk food, and nutrition. Here are some possible titles.
- How I lost weight by giving up junk food
- Give up junk food and lose 20 pounds
- Eat Right. Lose Weight.
- How I gave up junk food and dropped 20 pounds
- Lose weight without dieting
I’m sure you get the idea so far. Here comes the fun part. Take each of the titles you’ve come up with and copy and paste it into Google. What does the search return? For example, a search on my first title, How I lost weight by giving up junk food, returns tons of links to sites that tell how to lose weight while eating all the junk food I want. That title will probably work, but take a look at the third entry, Eat Right. Lose Weight. At first glance, that sounds pretty good. However, you get much more general results when you use that as a search phrase. I would rethink that one. Evaluate each title to see if you’re getting other posts that are somewhat similar to yours. If not, you probably want to tweak the title and try again.
That’s intriguing, not mysterious. Many people read dozens, even hundreds, of RSS feeds daily. It’s unlikely that readers will take a second look at your post unless they know that you’re writing about something they’re interested in. Don’t try to be cute or witty with your titles. You’re better off (and so are your readers) with simple blog posts that get the point across.
That doesn’t mean, however, that your post titles have to be dull. You can be clear and intriguing at the same time.
Here are some examples of good titles. The title is clear, but not boring:
Another technique is to mention what benefit your reader will receive from the post, or from following the advice in the post. Whether she’ll have more money, be more attractive, or have more free time, try to add something to the title to indicate how the reader will benefit. To put it bluntly, readers want to know what’s in it for them.
Shorter is Better
Although you can sometimes be successful with long post titles, in general, shorter tends to be better. For one thing, many search engines and RSS readers will truncate long titles, so your meaning may not be clear if that happens.Longer titles can often simply be just too wordy. Take some time and rework them to tighten them up as much as you can.
For more pointers on writing great titles, visit these sites.
Improve Your Openings
Brian Clark of Copyblogger has a terrific post covering just this topic. As an added bonus, his title, 5 Simple Ways to Open Your Blog Post With a Bang is great as well. I won’t rehash what he’s said, but I will offer some tips of my own that I’ve found to work well.
Solve a problem
If you can show your reader how to solve a problem she has, then she’s likely to keep reading. Whether you’re explaining how to get rid of clutter, eliminate debt, or knit a sweater, readers will appreciate the time you spend helping them solve a problem.
How to Use Valuable Content to Attract Opportunity is a good example of a post that opens by offering to solve a problem. Here is an excerpt:
Are you struggling to attract prospects? Do you need to increase the size of your opt-in email-marketing list? How can you stand out in a sea of noise?
Visit Lifehacker to read some well-done how-to posts on a variety of topics and gain some valuable insight as to how it’s done.
Readers are curious; otherwise, they wouldn’t bother reading your blog, or anyone else’s for that matter. Provide your reader with a teaser in the opening to encourage further reading. Here are a few examples:
- Did you know the average American owes thousands in credit card debt?
- Virtually any family can live on one income.
- Your house can go from squalor to spotless in only a few minutes a day.
Tell a Story, or Invite Your Readers to
Everyone loves a good story, and blog readers are no different. Open your post with some storytelling, or encourage your reader to join in the story with you.
- Do you remember the first time you spent the night away from home?
- When I first walked out on the baseball field, I was almost too excited to play, but I never finished the season.
- Finishing high school was one of the worst mistakes I’ve ever made.
The first opening encourages your readers to step into the story with you by remembering something from their childhood. Most people will be intrigued to find out how their experience matches up to yours. The others set up a mystery of sorts, and who doesn’t love a mystery? Your readers will stay glued to their screens to find out what happens next.
Techniques to Avoid
Don’t be misleading
Many sites use misleading titles and openings to drive traffic to the site with little thought for the reader experience. You’ve probably run across a few of these yourself. Usually, they’re covered with ads, and it’s obvious that the blogger is more interested in generating traffic for ad revenue than providing content. It’s useless to try to attract people to your posts unless they’re likely to be interested in them; otherwise, they’ll click off your site as quickly as they clicked on to it.
Don’t skip the opening
Some people hate to write openings, so they tend to skip or minimize them. While the occasional post can still be good with no opening, most posts will benefit from a good hook. If you’re tempted to skip your hook, then go ahead and write the rest of the post. Often you’ll hit on a good idea for an opening when working on the rest of the article.
You may think that you’ve put together a great title and killer opening, but don’t hit the “publish” button just yet. Let the post rest for a while, a day or so if you can. The time will give you a little perspective on your writing, which will enable you to spot problems before the post becomes public. You’d be surprised, the post you thought was terrific yesterday can become no better than ho-hum overnight.