Image by reinvented via Flickr
Long blog post short: please be as descriptive as possible when titling your blog posts. In today’s decontextualized world of walls, feeds, RSS, e-mail, diggs, reddits, Stumbles, tweets, and retweets, you need to attract your potential reader based only on the appeal of your title and nothing else, especially if you’re new to blogging and don’t happen to be Seth Godin. Use all 70 characters that Google indexes for each post title but make sure the most important message of the title are nearer the beginning of the title. Don’t bury the lead in the post and don’t bury the lead in the title, either. Tweetmeme and other sharing services chop off long titles so while you should always go long, keep your essentials right at the beginning.
Recently I wrote Blog so you can be taken completely out of context in which I discussed how essential it is to make sure each blog post you write needs to be completely self-contained and self-referential; now, I notice I missed the most important part of every blog post: the blog title.
In 2011, with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, retweets, sharing, and RSS via Google Reader, all anyone ever sees is the title of whatever’s shared, especially if you’re not Beth Kanter, Kami Huyse, Seth Godin, CC Chapman, Shel Israel, Geoff Livingston, Richard Laermer, Olivier Blanchard, Christopher Penn, Chris Brogan or Brian Solis. If you’re one of these bloggers, your title is a little less important; however, your name may well be stripped by the confines of a 140-character world, so a good title is a good habit even for our hallowed celebrities since their personal brand doesn’t always move as fast as the share.
So, though we’re all tempted to indulge in puns, in humor, in wordplay, and in breezy cool, please try to put your editor hat on every time you post to your blog. Who, what, when, where, why, and how. Four Ws and an H.
Also, remember that the title you choose needs to be both appealing, compelling, accurate, and trustworthy to both your human readers and also to machines: the spiders and bots that Google, Twitter, Yahoo!, Bing, and the other search engines send to visit your blogs and everyone else’s shares.
I hate it that WordPress really wants a title first because the title should be one of the last things one provides. I like to save my summary paragraph and my final title until the last minute and two of my editors, Mike Moran, here, and JD Lasica, over at Socialmedia.biz, almost always provide my posts with even more focused titles and summary paragraphs. Of course, these two gems are reformed journalists, so I benefit greatly from their experience.
For this post, I chose “A great title is essential if you want your blog post read” though I would have loved to choose something more cheeky like “All you got is your title” or “You need to have them at hello” or “Bait your blog post with a great title,” though I wasn’t sure. (And we’ll see what Mike does with the final version before it goes live.)
I know how I consume blogs, Twitter, and my Facebook wall, and 70% of my click-throughs are based on the title of the post. Another 20% is based on the person who does the sharing–including the blogger–and the final 10% is the blog it’s on, such as Mashable. That’s my percentage, but an excellent title can draw me to a blog and blogger I have never heard of via a tweeter I don’t know–even to a blog that is obviously a promotional platform.
What do you need in your title? Simple: read your post through and try to summarize it all into a sentence. Don’t concern yourself like I do as to whether your title wraps on the blog when it posts (it doesn’t matter) and also please do not bait and switch the content or stuff keywords that are not germane to the post.
And, it bears repeating, Google indexes 70 characters of each title tag, so use them all. However, some other services don’t, so while you should use as many characters as you need to finish your thought, make sure your most important concepts are weighted towards the front of the title to make sure that the lead isn’t cut off in a retweet or share.
Let me know if you have other tips and tricks for getting folks to click through to your posts in a very competitive blogosphere and mediasphere.