Good post titles are the new black

Readers have the attention spans of a gnat these days, and don’t spend more than a few seconds lingering on any post or article title found in search, deciding whether they want to read the following content. It gets worse on Twitter, where you only have 140 characters to entice someone to click through.

Follow these quick and easy tips to make your post titles descriptive and memorable.

Common sense rules for good post titling

Start Tweeting

I know a lot of people hate on Twitter, but besides it being my own personal news source, Twitter has made me a better post title writer, for several reasons:

  • it makes me an efficient writer (only 140 characters!)
  • it’s made me aware of the focus of my post. If I couldn’t state the point of my post in 140 characters or less, my post isn’t focused enough.

Keep it short

State your post topic in as few explicit words as possible.

Include keywords

Users will be scanning the titles to decide whether to read further, but Google is also scanning it to decide where to rank you. Why not please both and include relevant keywords?

Use specific words

Keep your writing focused by using the most specific words possible. For example, don’t say “pool” if you could say, “above-ground pool.” This is also true for post content.

Use active tense

An active tense sentence by its nature is shorter than passive. It gets you to the point faster. It’s also easier to read.

Which is easier to parse:

  • More Readers For Your Site Are Found By The Writing Of Good Post Titles
  • Good Post Titles Drive More Readers To Your Site

Put keywords close to the beginning of the post title

Usability testing has shown that people scan the first few words of a post title and decide whether to read further.

Don’t assume context

Let’s say you are writing blog posts in a series. If you entitle it, “Post #14: Good Karma,” someone reading your blog might see the other articles and understand the context, but a stranger encountering this title in the wilds of Google won’t know what the heck it means, and click elsewhere!

Common Sense Makeover

Let’s look at an example to illustrate these principles. Let’s say I’m writing an article about choosing a Twitter Client.

Bad Post Title: Make It Easy!

The word “easy” is always enticing, but this title doesn’t tell me what the post is about.

OK Post Title: Make Tweeting Easy With The Right Twitter Client

Better, it has the keywords “Twitter Client.”

Great: Choose The Right Twitter Client and Tweeting Is Easy

Great! Uses active tense, and keywords are right up front.

Extra Credit: Adding Oomph To Your Post Titles

Just like in life, shiny is more appealing than plain. Straightforward descriptive post titles can be effective for Google, but boring for your readers.

If your blog can take it, even being a little provocative can do wonders in getting people to click through your post. Last week I was trying to come up with a good post title for a blog post and went through a few permutations.

First draft: SEO is Dead, Content Is Alive
This one is descriptive but a little blah.

Second draft: SEO is Dead, No More Gaming Google
This is the one I ended up going with. It has nice alliteration, and has a tinge of naughtiness with the word “gaming.”

Shiny but might be too provocative: Google Is a Demanding Bitch, What It Wants NOW
This doesn’t have the keywords of “SEO” and “content,” but if I can assume my audience knows what function Google serves, with a title like that, I KNOW it will generate clicks!

Too Much Time On Your Hands Credit: Makeover Per Audience

You can tool a post title to suit different purposes. For example, a client has this post title on his blog:

No Twitter for lawyers? Hear marketing pro Larry Bodine’s take

This post title functions well enough; it tells the who (Larry Bodine) and the what (Twitter). I think my client structured it in this way because Larry Bodine’s podcast is part of the post. However, there are a few ways I could rewrite this blog post for different results:

Twitter useless for lawyers, says legal marketing pro Larry Bodine

This is a bit provocative and makes me wonder WHY it’s useless! Also I added the word “legal,” because it makes him more of an authority for this legal blog.

Larry Bodine: Twitter useless for lawyers

This is shorter, and if puts the focus more on Larry Bodine.

Hope this helps you focus your post titles!

NOTE: This post was originally written for Adriandayton.com. He runs a great site on using social media in the legal profession.

Posted on March 17, 2012 in Thoughts, Writing

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