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Monday, August 19, 2013

Make Your Blog Post (Nearly) Immortal

In keeping with the comment thread started from the initial blog post  "I Stopped Reading You Today", let's talk about titles that earn their keep.

A title is the first thing most of us see as we're scanning our blog readers. It's reader bait.

Titles attract different audiences so nothing I tell you is an automatic 'click', but there are some pretty good models you can try.

When I scan blogs every morning, the titles that make me pause generally:

• make me a promise
• shock me with unexpected news
• tell me something personal

Let's start with the promise. Think back to any magazine article that promises to make you richer, skinnier, smarter, or more popular.  Now look at the majority of writer blogs that promise to give you the secrets to marketing, how to get a publishing contract, or how to be fantabulous at social networks.

I'll bet a lot of you click on those...and then quickly become disillusioned with the so-called "secrets". (We'll get into that another time.) 

What all these titles have in common is that they imply a promise. It works, but you have to deliver on that promise or eventually you'll lose your credibility.

Shocking titles: It's sensationalism at it tawdriest. Some people love them, but I'm not a fan. I used to follow one blogger who came up with the most outrageous, yet juiciest titles I'd ever seen on any blog. The post, on the other hand, had a lot to be desired.

Shocking titles work for clickability, but you better have a kick-ass post to go with it.

The personal touch works mostly for a blogger's regular audience. When I work in my dogs or homesteading into a title, I'm promising personal insight. I expect my regular readers to click on those posts because it's a glimpse into the secret life of someone they know.

I like these the best, but only because I'm deliberately talking to my friends. But as a means of growing my audience, it doesn't do much unless I use...

Keywords, The Big Payoff in Clickability: My number one criteria for choosing a particular title is its ability to show up in a search engine. For me, that's the golden goose. 

While I depend on my regular followers to read and comment on my posts, it's the keywords inside my title (and post) that brings in the biggest returns.

This is what gives the post legs. Every time someone tweets it, "likes" or shares it on Facebook, or links to it on their own blog, its reach grows. But the real muscles are the keywords.

When I write my posts and titles, I write them from the viewpoint of someone looking for information. I put myself in their places.

This more than anything else has helped with my visibility--especially with non-followers--people who are simply looking for an answer to their specific queries.

It's true that whoever found you through a keyword search might be a one-night stand, but then again, he might like your work so much, he stays.

Blogs are generally ephemeral. Once the post goes live, its viability might last a week at best. But a post and title with good keywords can live for years in a search engine. In that sense, I'd rather be a marathon runner than a sprinter.

How do you title your posts? Is it something you consider when you blog?



33 comments:

Brandy said...

Hmm. My post titles are generally about whatever I write in the first paragraph. Then again, I'm. To a professional writer. I use my blog partly as a journal...

James Garcia Jr. said...

Good morning, Maria. Thanks for sharing. I'm sure I can do a much better job of working my titles. I'll keep this in mind.
How are things? I'm getting ready to head off to work and enjoying a rare lightning storm outside my window. I love those. Have a great week!

-Jimmy

Stacy McKitrick said...

My most popular blog post was titled "Men Who Resemble my Characters." Don't know if was the title or the pictures of Alex O'Loughlin and Brandon Routh that drew all those viewers (it certainly wasn't my tags), but it was enough to tell me that I should pay attention to how I title my posts (and maybe add more pictures!). That post is over two years old and still gets hits!

Maria Zannini said...

Brandy: I don't know why I didn't have your blog on my reader. That's now been corrected.

And how you describe your blog (as a journal) tells people exactly the kind of audience you're looking for. Journal type blog posts are geared more for friends and close acquaintances, much like my homesteading and dog posts.

Maria Zannini said...

Jimmy: You may be afraid of snakes, but I'm afraid of lightning storms. Yikes! Stay safe.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: That's exactly my point!

Photos bring a lot of traffic, and it uses the same machine as keywords. People type the keyword, but look for images.

One of my most popular posts is still the flying saucer house. It gets an equal amount of hits from both the photos and the title.

Angela Brown said...

When I first started blogging, I was doing it more to just get myself accustomed to the idea of being in some kind of public eye, whether tiny or mighty. So the titles weren't a huge concern. As I've gotten further into publishing and blogging, I try to think a bit about the titles, though not with the level of deliberate SEO functionality that I should. Most of mine have tended toward personal or publishing journey type stuff...not much in the way of being a whole lot of help to others. Or for being a "stage" for other authors to "share their wares".

Hmmmm.....

LD Masterson said...

I need to research effective keywords. That's my biggest weakness.

But I'm with James, lightning storms are awesome.

Mark K said...

Interesting and somewhat thought provoking post. In all honesty, I hadn't even considered the things you mention; I just write about the things that entertain, interest and, sometimes, excite me into wanting to share.

But after this post I will certainly be considering things more carefully from now on.

Thank you, Maria, for a very insightful and educational post :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Actually, I've been WAY LAZY with my blog post titles. LOL
I guess I should put more thought into them.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: Even personal posts have drawing power.

Think about when you guest-posted here about the Christmas project you and Chipmunk did. Or the people who Google homesteading projects, or chickens, or goats. That draws them in. It might not be what they were actually looking for, but something that we said inside the post or title showed up on a Google search so they came to check it out.

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: I once had to drive through a lightning storm through the flat plains of Illinois where my car was the tallest thing there. Oy.

I was praying the whole time!

Maria Zannini said...

Mark: I don't think it matters what the topic is. If it's interesting to you, you probably aren't alone. But they can't find you in a search engine if you don't leave crumbs first. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: To be fair, I don't think every post needs to be scrutinized and stuffed with keywords.

But when you want your post to get extra mileage--especially for events like book releases or blog tours, it helps to blog about something people will Google.

It's just a tool when you want to encourage more eyes your way.

PS Thanks for the tweet!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I try to think of clever post titles but I don't always succeed. Seeing an interesting title on a blog will draw me in.

Melissa McClone said...

Good post. I don't think much on my titles. It's usually the last thing I write and try to use something I've written about. Sometimes it works other times too obscure. Probably need to think about them a little more!

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: Clever is interesting but plain, old to-the-point is just as effective.

Maria Zannini said...

Melissa: Subtle titles often go over my head--probably because I tend to read many of them before I'm fully awake. LOL.

Anne Gallagher said...

Ha! I totally suck at titles. Just look at my books -- plain Jane at best. Blog titles are no exception. Although this week's post had regurgitation in the title and I think that's kind of a fun word.

raelynbarclay said...

Hmm...I seem to be reading a lot of blog related posts recently. Must be a sign :cue Twilight Zone music:

Great info Maria. I definitely need to sit down with my blog :)

Misha Gericke said...

I try to make sure that my blog titles explain what's inside my posts. Especially when it's one of my writing technique posts. :-)

Maria Zannini said...

Anne: I like coming up with titles. I think it hails back to my old copy writing days.

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: Or the adage, sick minds think alike.

I actually took this topic right off the comment thread from the original post. There were a lot of good thoughts on visibility.

Maria Zannini said...

Misha: Those are my favorite titles too. I try not to get too clever with my posts. Entertaining is one thing, but I don't want to mislead people. I do want it to draw people when they do Google searches though. That's a bonus.

Gwen Gardner said...

I'm not the greatest with titles, but I'm working on it. At least, I'm aware that titles are important and need to be eye-catching. Right now I'm struggling with topics. Thanks for the insights, Maria.

Maria Zannini said...

Gwen:
Re: Right now I'm struggling with topics.

And that's my topic of discussion for next Monday. :)

Mike Keyton said...

Most of my recurring hits are on the 'travel' sections of my blog, and, weirdly, one post I did on corporal punishment in schools. Some of those hits are from the...er... maladjusted, but a large number come from an organisation interested in school discipline. I must confess though, apart from choosing a title that amuses me or one that just seems apt, I've never ever thought about this before.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: This is just one of the many things I think about every time I blog. I probably need a hobby.

Rula Sinara said...

Great point about key words!

Giacomo Giammatteo said...

This was a good post, Maria. Unfortunately for me, I don't take time to think about keywords or SEO, I just write a post and put it up. I know that's not good, so one day I'm going to have to learn all that. Thanks for sharing.

Maria Zannini said...

Rula: I've only touched the tip of the iceberg. But it's a start.

Maria Zannini said...

Jim: SEO is such a huge topic, but it's worth studying. You probably know more about it than I do.

Rum-Punch Drunk said...

Happy New 2014 Maria. This is a really good post. I always try to make sure that the titles are relevant to the post so that the reader knows a little of what to expect when they visit. I'm not very good at it but I'm still learning loads.

I'm not really clued up with things like keywords, SEO, technical stuff etc, because that's my weak point in blogging. But I concentrate a lot when it comes to the content because that's what will make someone return or walk away forever.