Targeted Blog Post Titles Draw Traffic

man with magnifying glass First impressions are lasting impressions and that’s why blog post titles are almost as important what you write within the post itself.  Your blog post titles should attention grabbers that interest readers enough to compel them to click the title link and read the full post.  Best practice for crafting targeted titles is use of the active voice and strong present-tense verbs.

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” — David Ogilvy

Short, keyword rich, optimized titles

It’s keyword rich titles that peak interest and draw traffic to your post.  Targeted readers, who use keyword searches in search engines and social media sites to locate content of interest them are more likely to:

  • become regular readers and subscribers;
  • submit comments on your posts;
  • backlink to your posts in posts of their own;
  • share the URL with others via social media and social networks.
“Empty heads are very fond of long titles.” — German Proverb

Your title  appears in three key spots (browsers, search result pages, external websites) and it is the single most important on-page SEO element (behind overall content).   SeoMoz advises the best practice for title length is to use less than 70 characters in your title, as this is the limit Google displays in search results. That’s why it’s also important to craft a key word rich title that’s easy for targeted readers to find.   The blog post title that asks a question may be the exact answer that targeted readers will search for to find your article.

Title Templates and Formulas

In How to Write Magnetic Headlines  Brian Clark provides an illuminating statistic about the true power of titles: On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.  He also  provides 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work  and 7 More Sure-Fire Headline Templates That Work   that can be used over and over again.

“Writing headlines is a specialty – there are outstanding writers who will tell you they couldn’t write a headline to save their lives.” — Bill Walsh

Writing effective blog headlines is a skill that develops through practice. Once a draft headline (blog title) has been created then assessing it by answering additional questions makes good sense too.

  1. Is it specific?
  2. Is it focused?
  3. Is it credible?
  4. Does it touch a nerve?
  5. Is it easy to understand?
  6. Does it provoke curiosity?
  7. Does it invite conversation?
  8. Does it have a newsy element?
  9. Does it deliver a complete message?
  10. Does it make a unique claim or statement?
  11. Does it offer a compelling benefit for reading?

Test Audience Approach to Crafting Titles

“Next, in importance to books are their titles.” — Frank Crane

In Blog Readers: A Writer’s Focus Group blogger Kathryn McCullough shares the results of inviting her readers to participate in the selection of a title for her memoir. The test audience feedback is  informative.  Some readers offered insightful suggestions; some offered detailed feedback. Others simply weighed in on whether or not they liked the working title.

Headline Categories Approach to Crafting Titles

There are many approaches to crafting targeted titles to draw traffic to your post.  In The Copywriter’s Handbook, copywriter extraordinaire Bob Bly provides  eight time-tested headline categories.  I find it helpful to check this list of possible headline categories before I write a blog title  so maybe you will  benefit from doing the same  thing too.

Discussion

Do you decide on the titles for your post before or after you write the post?

33 thoughts on “Targeted Blog Post Titles Draw Traffic

  1. yet another fabulously helpful post. I am at the point where my “product” ( patterns on ravelry) are linked to particular posts so it is important that the post reflects the product and also has a “tight” succinct title.
    My answer to your discussion question is “I didn’t put near enough thought into it until I realized it’s importance from reading your post”. :)

  2. Hi,
    I have just started blogging and thinking up attention arresting headlines is turning out to be a struggle, one I never anticipated. This post is a huge help… am glad I found your blog.

  3. I needed the information on how long post titles can be, and I knew I would find it somewhere on your site! Thanks again for being my help desk. The only problem I have is that everytime I come looking for help I find too much that is interesting to read and I end up losing another hour or two…

  4. Great post, TT, thanks– easy to see it really struck a chord.

    I especially enjoyed the David Ogilvy quote. I knew headlines/titles were important, but I see now they’re even more important than I thought.

    Also new to me: the fact that Google limits its search results to 70 characters. Certainly a persuasive argument for keeping post titles short.

    1. Hi Mark,
      When it come to titles brevity is best. I’ve done some very amnateurish testing of character limits tolerance with Google when it comes to blog titles and taglines. http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2009/06/22/creating-an-effective-blog-tagline/

      Here’s another David Ogilvie quote for you: “The headline is the ‘ticket on the meat.’ Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising.”

      Hope you have a great week. :)

  5. Hi timethief ~ what a fantastic post! I do think of my titles before I write my posts, but I can’t say they’re very creative or unique. Since reading your post, I have given more thought to them. I tend to have “blogger’s” block!

    Is it wise to go back and re-think my previous titles, and change them? I don’t have that many to go through, but again, your timing is perfect as I’m a new blogger.

      1. Ugh, I’ve done those things already, but better late than never to find out now, since my blog is only a few months new. Thanks again for your valuable info!
        I also like your new header!

        1. Hi there,
          You’re welcome. Thanks for the compliment on the header. I tire of header images very quickly and frequently change them. You have a comment of mine in moderation on your blog. lol :)

  6. This is so informative! I do try to pay attention to my titles, but I don’t consistently follow this effectiveness guidelines. I find it challenging to write keyword rich titles on some of the topics I write about. You can’t really say “personal development” or “happiness” in every title! But I really do get the point of this. Thank you for this helpful information.

    1. Hi Sandra,
      I know what you mean about keyword repetition in titles. We want to be creative rather than repetitious and if we chose to use the same niche reflective keywords over and over in our titles we could sound like parrots pretty quickly. Rather than attracting readers we could repel them if our titles all sound alike. I find that your post titles do clearly communicate what the post content is focused on. I focus on writing and allow the keywords that natually occur in my writing to guide me when it comes to title development.

  7. Strangely I choose a title that I like before I start drafting the blog post. Normally I don’t do this for other types of writing at all. But a catchy or meaningful title (to me), keeps me inspired and anchored as I write along the rest of the text.

    Yes, wierd. I may modify my title when I am close to finishing my final draft of the blog post. Sometimes I ask my partner to suggest a better title and he has sometimes offered a more imaginative use of words. So it does help to bounce ideas off a person who also enjoys writing / has respect for the written word.

    Unfortunately my titles sometimes are too lengthy. So gotta learn to encapsulate the vibe of the blog post in a better way.

    It’s great to be creative with titles but not too obtuse. Otherwise content essence will not be captured from titles in google searches. I learned this the harder way: 2 blog titles on bike art include “Stripping the wallpaper…” I am certain some (demented) readers thought of the real clothes stripping.

    1. Hi Jean,
      Choosing your keywords and title first is the recommended practice. I like the idea of bouncing your title ideas off your partner before making a choice.

      I avoid being “creative” with titles in this blog because it is a how to blog and any attempts at creating catchy titles just makes my posts harder to locate. This is what I adhere to:
      (3) The best way to write a good headline is to keep it simple and direct. Be clever only when being clever is called for. Don’t yield to the temptation to write cute headlines or slogans unless doing so fits especially well with the content.

      Thanks for commenting here. I hope you are enjoying your vacation. :)

    1. Hi Joe,
      I’m not very accomplished when it comes to title creation. That recognition prompted me to do some research and reading. Reading Kathryn’s blog brought to mind how important titles are and has prompted me to do a aim to create more catchy titles. Thanks for your comment.

  8. Followed the tips from 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work in a post entitled “What Everybody Ought to Know”. Thanks for the tip!

  9. Thank you so much for the shout-out. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate it and how unexpected it was. You have made my 4th of July holiday here in Kentucky extra special.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    1. Hi Kathryn,
      I was an active reader on the sidelines who was intrigued by your writer’s group test audience project for selecting a title for your book. It was so interesting to read the suggestions, comments and reactions. It made me ponder how many writers do use this approach and now I’m eagerly looking forward to reading your memoir.

  10. I think titles come to me as I write, particular titles for a particular section. I try to make it memorable and relevant to the what I’m writing about, but it’s hard to make things constantly catchy sometimes.

    1. Hi Issac,
      I lack whatever it takes to come up with a title first and then write. That’s only happened to me occasionally. However, it is what the experts advise. Like you I find that post develop as I create the post content. Sometimes I have a working title and sometimes I don’t. Coming up with catchy titles is something I ought to focus on in the future. I enjoyed visiting your blog. Happy blogging!

  11. Hey, to add to my last comment: I posted about Andy Griffith today, with the headline “Good-Bye, Andy Griffith: We’ll Always Have Mayberry.” I showed up nowhere in Google. Just now, I revised the headline so the first words were “Andy Griffith,” and right away found myself at the bottom of the first page of Google results. Pretty good change, I think.

    1. Hi Kate,
      Thanks for your comments. Your experience reinforces that fact that keyword placement in titles and content is a factor when it comes to where they are displayed in search results. Timeliness does too. The nature of my content precludes what your describe and the entertainment niche is one I rarely venture into. I haven’t broken any links by deliberately changing any blog title URLs. In fact I avoid doing that. :) http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2011/08/05/avoid-creating-404-pages/ Thanks for sharing here and best wishes with your blog.

  12. Timethief: I’ve had excellent results with this since I first read the suggestion to prominently use the main topic in a post headline. I did a post on the TV show “The Pitch,” with the heading “5 Things I’ve Learned from The Pitch.” Google results were OK but not great. Then I changed to to “The Pitch: 5 Things I’ve Learned,” and when I Googled “The Pitch” I was No. 2 in the results!
    I’ve had this happen several times.

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