Post Titles: Getting it right

Post Titles are important in all writing, but they are extremely important when you’re blogging. Why?

  1. Readers use your title to evaluate your post. Because people naturally skim rather than peruse, your titles are going to catch your visitors’ eyes. More than that, if you offer RSS feeds, many of your readers will decide whether or not to read your new post based solely on the title. If it doesn’t grab them, or doesn’t immediately make sense, your post won’t get the audience it deserves.
  2. Search engines expect the title to summarize the post. Just like readers, search engines evaluate you based on your titles. The way most blogs are set up, the title is a prominent feature. Search engines pick up on this, and look for keywords in your title for clues about the topic. If your title doesn’t accurately represent the post, you’ll miss out on some search engine visitors.

So what makes a good title?

  1. Accuracy. There’s a reason this is number one! If your title is a good representation of your post, you’re on the right track. Sometimes it’s very tempting to go cutesy (and I have a hard time resisting a good pun), but a straightforward, to-the-point kind of title will be more useful to your readers.
  2. Search-friendly words and phrases. Take a moment to think about who really needs this post. What would they search for to find the information you’re sharing? Use those words or phrases in your title to attract those people to your post.
  3. Emotional involvement. If you can make your title emotional (without overdoing it to the point where it’s hype), you’ll inspire people to read.  If you can work emotion in while still being accurate, you’ll be writing successful post titles.


What are some of the characteristics of people who crank out blog titles that work really well most of the time? Is it something anyone can learn?

Yes, and except in very rare cases, writing great post titles and other headlines can likely only be learned. Rather than relying on natural talent, people who consistently produce winning headlines have learned to do three basic things:

1. They understand that all compelling headlines make an intriguing promise that makes it almost irresistible to its target audience. Understanding the intended audience is key — a really great headline generally won’t appeal to everyone, and watering it down for mass appeal will only hurt you.

2. They study headlines that have been proven to work, and that usually means direct response advertising headlines. In that context, “proven to work” means people responded to that particular headline by pulling out their wallets and making a purchase. You can also learn by studying some of the top magazine headline writers, who work for Cosmopolitan and similar glossies, and even the tabloids you see at the supermarket checkout lane.

3. Most importantly, rather than simply mimicking great headlines, they understand why the headline works, and therefore can make an educated decision as to which type of headline structure is most appropriate, and how to tweak it within a certain context.

So what about the title of the blog post you’re reading right now?

1. Starting off your post title with “why” at the beginning of a declarative statement (instead of a question) is one easy way to focus in on the benefit of reading your article. That’s one of the reasons why the title of this post works, but the words that follow the “why” are what’s most important.

You can do the same by starting with “here’s why,” “what,” “when,” or “how,” or you can simply make a strong statement that clearly demonstrates that the elaborated answer will be provided in the body content. And of course a carefully worded question can magnetically draw in your intended readers as well.

2. The title is modeled after this famous advertising headline:

Why Some People Almost Always Make Money in the Stock Market

Within the context of what I wanted to convey with this post, the basic structure of this classic headline works perfectly.


3. Credibility. The use of the word “some,” and having “almost” modify “always,” make the headline much more plausible. Not even the highest paid copywriters in the world always nail a headline that works, and some people never write great post titles, because they don’t take the time to learn how.

Many people feel that a great headline is bombastic and full of hyperbole, but that’s usually not the case. If people don’t believe you can deliver on your promise, they won’t bother reading further, and your over-the-top headline fails.

As the people aiming to land on the front pages of Digg, Delicious, and other social bookmarking sites up the ante with headlines that strain credibility, their results will diminish, while you will gain an advantage by becoming a true student of great headline writing. Understanding what type of headline is appropriate to a specific context is the real key to writing magnetic post titles that will get your writing read.


Today I want to point out a useful tool for bloggers wanting to do a little research into topics to blog about (or even what topic to choose for your next overall new blog). The tool is a free one from Google – their AdWords Keyword Tool.

This tool is one that Google offer their advertisers (looking to work out what keywords to target on Google) but is also useful for bloggers wanting to research how many people are searching for certain keywords. It will also give you information about how many potential advertisers there might be on a topic also.

There are other tools that do similar things and many ways that you can use the AdWords Keyword Tool but let me show you a couple:

1. Using AdWords Keyword Tool to Chose a BLOG Topic

Lets just say I was starting a new blog and am having trouble choosing between topics or want to research specific keywords to use in my blog’s title and or domain.

I’ve narrowed down my interest to ipod accessories but am tossing up whether I should narrow my niche even further and just have a blog about ipod cases.

In the AdWord Keyword Tool I would simply enter in both terms and ask for keyword ideas. The tool will give me this (click to enlarge):

Picture 10.png

What we’re seeing above is a number of things. Firstly the Green bars under ‘advertiser competition’ show us that in the AdWords system there is a lot of advertisers competing for these keywords. This gives me an indication that if I were to use AdSense there would be a healthy amount of advertisements to serve to my blog.

In the ’search volume’ columns we get an indication approximate search numbers for the term per month in Google. While the numbers are unlikely to be perfect they do show that ‘ipod accessories’ gets searched for on Google more than ‘ipod cases’.

At this point in my topic selection process I’d probably also have a look at Google Trends for the two terms:

Picture 12.png

Here we see the same information (in terms of which term is more popular) but also see whether the topics are trending up or down and whether they have seasonal spikes (all good to know when choosing a topic for a blog).

2. Using AdWord Keyword Tool to Choose a POST Title

In a similar way I regularly use the AdWords Keyword Tool to help me form post titles that have potential to bring in search engine traffic.

Lets say that I’m writing a post on my photography site rating my favorite digital cameras. I’ve written my post and am going to call the post ‘Top Digital Cameras’.

Before I hit publish I decide to go to the AdWords Keyword Tool and type in ‘top digital cameras’ and ‘best digital cameras’.

Picture 13.png

What this shows me is that ‘top digital cameras’ only gets a third as many searches on Google as ‘best digital cameras’. Also, it shows me that ‘best digital camera’ (no plural) gets even more searches than both terms.

This gives me some clues as to what to title my post and what keywords to use throughout my article if I want to optimize it for a term with the most search traffic that I can possibly get.

If I were to look further down the results page for these terms I would also see other suggested search terms and how many searches there are in Google for them. This not only gives me ideas on what keywords to use in my current posts title – but also might give me ideas for future posts to blog about.

A variation on this is to use another helpful feature in the AdWords Keyword Tool – one that lets you submit text and get suggested keywords from it.

Here’s how to do it. Say you’ve already written a blog post and you’re wanting to choose a title for it. Simply choose the ‘Website content’ option and then the ‘enter your own text in the box below’ option. Then copy and paste the text from your post into the field provided and hit ‘Get keyword ideas’.

The tool will then scan the text suggest keywords that match it – highlighting those which have the most searches. You then can use these keywords as the basis for your post title.

Will this Really Have an Impact?

It is worth stating that using the AdWord Keyword Tool to help you choose keywords for your blog will have different impacts upon different blogs – depending upon how well they already rank on Google.

If your blog is new you might not notice much difference in the traffic to your blog no matter what keywords you use (simply because your blog is yet to build a ranking in Google yet) – however in time, as your blog accumulates links from other blogs and sites, it will certainly pay off. This is particularly true if you use the keywords not only in your blog post but the title (which has real power with Google particularly).


3 Responses to Post Titles: Getting it right

  1. says:

    wow, quite helpful. I will try Adword keyword tool out!

  2. says:

    Interesting. Thanks for the clue.

  3. says:

    worth digesting and implementing

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