(I’m excited to announce that next week’s blog will feature the first in a two-part interview with Eric Olsen, co-author of the book We Wanted to Be Writers: Life, Love, and Literature at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. So please stay tuned!)
According to recent forum threads, a number of Scribophile members have recently created new blogs. So this week I thought I’d talk about a critical aspect of blogging—writing effective post titles. A strong post title is important because it is the initial impression your reader gets of your piece, a sign of things to come, the firm handshake that sets the tone and gives the first impression.
The following seven tips can improve the quality of your blog post titles:
Hint. Your post title should hint at what you’ll be writing about without giving too much away. It should entice the reader the come in and sample the wares. It can even be a little teaser for the reader, a starting “hook” that will make your reader salivate to know more–a habit which, sadly, makes for some very moist keyboards.
Short*. Generally speaking, titles should be short and catchy. One word, a phrase, a short sentence, a single image, or metaphor is sufficient. In trawling Blogger for five minutes, I found some great post titles–I’m Pissed at You, Weakness is my Weakness, Dying to do Letterman (how did she mean that?), This is Why I Dance, and Tastes like Canadian Bacon—and some that were, um, less exciting—Goals, Project, Day 3, When All is Said and Done, Memories. Do you see the difference? The first list makes me want to keep reading, while the second list makes me want to shank somebody.
Caveat: A long post title can be interesting to change things up or for the sake of variety after a series of short, pithy ones. Keeps the readers on their toes.
On topic. Your title must telegraph your message, so make sure it stays on-topic. In other words, write a title that has something to do with the body of your post and any thesis you might be asserting. Don’t write your title about your dog and then, halfway through your post, decide your post is a rant about the endless lines at Starbuck’s. You will confuse readers and, if that happens too often, you will lose them.
Subtitles. Subtitles are cool. Movie sequels have them, so why not blog posts? I even stole one from Star Trek—The Wrath of Khan–for the second installment of The Scrib Gym.
Allusions. An allusion, as I’m sure you know, is when a writer makes reference to another piece of literature, a current or historical event, a common catchphrase, a famous figure, or a fictional character. Making an allusion in your blog post title not only hints at what’s to come, but it can save time by accessing a shared knowledge that will engage your reader. The aforementioned satire of Star Trek was an allusion. In this blog post title, of course, I also allude to a quote by Shakespeare. One of the best and most creative uses of allusions can be found on uber-agent Betsy Lerner’s blog. Her blog post titles are always lines from classic rock songs. Beautiful.
Sub-headings. Not technically part of the post title, granted, but an important part of titling your writing, nonetheless. As you write the body of the post, ask yourself if your paragraphs can be hunked into sections and then give each of those sections a sub-heading. They help organize your post, keep your reader focused, and as an added benefit, provide visual rest for the eyes.
SEO. I don’t know a whole lot about the inner workings of Search Engine Optimization, but I do know that it bears mentioning when speaking about blogs. If you’re interested in increasing traffic to your site, it is important to incorporate SEO rich words into the post title (as well as the post itself). This means you plug in words that people might use as key search words when they’re looking for a similar content in a search engine like Google or Bing.
Strong titles can hook readers into reading more of your post, but poor titles can encourage them to click away with yawn. Although many (if not most) blog posts are written rather quickly, it can be advantageous to spend a few minutes thinking of what kind of handle to attach to your entry.
Blog post title game: A link to the best blog post title from your own blog or someone else’s will earn you 3 karma points. Deadline is midnight (PST), September 1, 2011.