I’ve written a lot about writing and creating powerful, effective, and attention-getting headlines and post titles on your blog, but more needs to be said on the subject, especially for blogging teachers and students.
The following are not effective nor attention-getting post titles:
- March 2006
- March 17, 2006
- Today’s News
- Today’s Homework
- In Class Today
- I’m Okay
- What am I doing?
- What am I doing today?
- How are you?
- Whatcha doing?
- New Post
Post titles like “March” make sense if you are the one writing the post and know that it’s actually March 17, 2006, but it makes no sense to someone who stumbles upon your blog from a search or reading down the line of Most Recent Posts or Most Popular Posts. Did something special and memorable happen on that particular March?
Dates hold power when there is something powerful associated with the date, such as 9/11. The symbolism in the date and the national emergency phone number in the United States, dialed by thousands on that day, is powerful. But “March” doesn’t mean much without a serious association. It could also mean there is a peaceful rally followed by a march to the courthouse or something. We don’t have enough information from which to draw conclusions on what “March” means.
There are a lot of student and teacher bloggers out there using post titles like “Homework” also not helpful nor informative. Homework for what? “Homework for Science Class” is helpful, but what do you call it next week? “Homework II for Science Class” or “Another Homework for Science Class” – all not good choices.
“Today’s Homework” isn’t good unless with the next blog post you change the old post title to “Yesterday’s Homework” which is a lot of work and creates a lot of confusion. It also doesn’t change the post URL.
So what makes a good post title? One that lets the reader knows immediately what the blog post is about. Use simple, clear, and effective words.
Post Titles With Dates
If you have to have the date in the post title, make the date set in time and add information that helps us understand the blog post topic. “March 2006: Math and Time Zones” gives us a better idea of the date and the topic, and that throughout March of 2006, mathematics and their impact on time zones, GMT, UTC, daylight savings times, and how to calculate times around the world are being discussed. From just that short post title, we can draw a lot of conclusions.
For those covering educational material for their classroom via their blogs, a post title of “Homework: Biography of a Mathematician” clearly imply the intent of the homework, but by adding the date, “March 26, 2008, Homework: Biography of a Mathematician,” the post has lost its timelessness. Does the post content have value six months from now? Two years? Then get rid of the date completely so you can refer back to the post as homework for future projects, and no one will think, “Why do I have to do such OLD homework?”
When announcing an event, it is important to include the date, especially if it is the first announcement of the event, such as “Community Gathering on April 30, 2008” rather than “Community Gathering on Wednesday” which leaves people wondering which Wednesday.
Is it important to include the year? It depends upon the event. If it is an annual event, it may help to know which year is under discussion. If it is an annual event, and it doesn’t matter as the information applies across time, then including the year might not be relevant. Focus on the information that will help the visitor get to the point fast.
Is it important to include the times of the even in the post title? Again, it depends. If the post title is really long, “Forest Grove Community Gathering of Artists on Wednesday, April 30, 2008, from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM,” is just too long and gives too much information. A shorter version with only the event and the date might convey the message faster. The post can contain the details.
Vague and Moody Titles
Post titles that really say nothing but or more reflective of emotions, polite manners, or just a lack of creativity when it comes to filling in the post title blank, are really useless and need to be stopped.
“It’s an okay day” greeted me one day in my feed reader. It wasn’t okay for me. I’m glad it was okay for the blogger, but honestly, I didn’t care. It’s just another day. Unless you can add something to the post title that makes me want to find out what kind of day it was, a lesson learned, an inspired thought you want to share…I’m not interested. I don’t have the time to waste on frivolous and vague blog posts.
I skip all blog posts titled I feel sick, having a bad hair day, wonder what he’s doing now, wish I was somewhere else, and not again. While they are things we say to our friends and family all the time, without the history behind it, I just don’t care.
A post title sitting in my feed reader must inspire me to click. That takes a lot of energy. My eyes scan down the list of new posts in my feed reader, jumping from title to title, seeking keywords that reach out and grab my eyes and pin them to the link. Without the grab, I just skim on by.
In Public Speaking 101, students are taught the rules of giving a good presentation:
- Tell them what you are going to tell them.
- Tell them.
- Tell them what you told them.
A blog post can be written in a similar manner. The blog post title is step one: tell them what you are going to tell them. The content is step two, and the summary at the bottom of the post can be step three.
If you aren’t telling me what you are going to tell me in the post title, then I’m not interested.
The Gimmick Post Title
Avoid ridiculous or gimmicky post titles. I used one for years that my mother creatively came up with, “Making $$ Doing What Comes Nature-ly” about the business of nature photography. I’ve published this article for print magazines many times with this title, or a variation thereof, to great success. For several years, it was a solid source of income. So I was stunned when I published it on my blog and it was ignored. I had almost no traffic to the article. Demands for reprints from publications continued, but it was ignored on my blog.
After a couple years of watching it be ignored, I changed the post title to How to Succeed in the Business of Nature Photography and it took off in web traffic.
Cute titles and phrases just don’t work when you are trying to get the attention of web surfers. They need it now and they need it clear. Blog titles are not a time for word or guessing games.
The Post Title That Doesn’t Deliver
“Complete Guide to Web Design” is a great title, but if the post is four paragraphs long and holds no links to more information or resources, I’d not call that “complete” as a guide, would you?
“Sexy Web Designs” are often sexy because they have pictures of half-clothed people, not because there is something inherently “sexy” about their layout and design elements. Just put a little “sex” in your blog post title and people will often line up for a glance.
What happens when that glance doesn’t deliver? When the promise of sexy, complete, guide, tutorial, how tos, and such aren’t backed up by the content, what happens?
Readers jump on and jump off, often to never return. They don’t tell their friends. They don’t write about it on their blogs. They don’t even tweet about it, unless to poke fun. It’s useless content because the title was great but it didn’t live up to its promise. When you make claims and don’t back them up, you lose readers, but you also lose integrity.
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