Have you ever been accosted by a person in a giant hot-dog/doughnut/other-random-food-advertising costume while walking down the street? A jarring experience, to be sure, but we bet it got you to stop your usual train of thought and consider the product they’re trying to sell, at least for a few seconds. Why do those costumes exist? Well, they’re giant, kinda funny, and almost impossible to ignore. Obviously, they work (they wouldn’t exist if they didn’t). And, in a way, they serve the same purpose as blog post titles.
How much time do you spend on your blog post titles? The title is the first thing people see, and it largely determines if people will read on or leave. (For a discussion of the last thing people see, the call-to-action, read last week’s post Writing a Better Call-to-Action: Stand Out from 5 Billion Websites. Pretty good title, eh?)
Coppyblogger has one compelling statistic that should convince you of the supreme importance of titles: 8 out of 10 people who stumble onto your blog post will read the headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.
Why the discrepancy—what’s happening there? Obviously, those 8 people are making a judgment call about whether they’re interested in the topic, and whether they think reading on will be worth their while. They’re doing this solely on the basis of the title.
To compel people to read on, a title has to accomplish two things: it has to communicate the topic of your post, so people can judge whether they’re interested in the subject or not, and it also has to stand out and be unconventional enough to convince readers that among the 150 posts available on the same exact topic, yours is the one they should read.
Obviously, creativity plays a part in writing good titles, but your chances of writing a killer headline will improve if you follow these simple rules:
Your title isn’t just your topic.
If your title merely states your subject, you’re doing it wrong. For example, “Blog Post Titles and Click Throughs” could have been the title of this post, but it wouldn’t have been a good one. It’s technically correct, in that it describes what the post is about, but it lacks any flash to indicate that we might have a unique take on the topic.
Use strong language.
No, we don’t f***ing mean swearing. We mean focusing on active words and strong images that evoke a feeling within the reader. Don’t say “Good” when “Best” or “Great” will do. If your title bores you, amp it up a notch. Channel excitement. Think: energy drink commercial. Your titles should build up enough momentum in the reader’s mind to get them to move onto the first paragraph.
Write three potential titles for every post.
As with most things, practice makes perfect. If you force yourself to come up with three titles potential titles for every post you write, you’ll not only get better at coming up with unique titles, but you’ll also become more discriminating about what works and what doesn’t, because you’ll be comparing different variations, words, and structures.
Becoming a better writer and being able to consistently generate interesting content is a lifelong process. But if you want to see quick improvements in your website metrics, perfecting your post titles and calls-to-action is the project you should absolutely tackle first.