It doesn’t matter whether your article title is being seen on an RSS reader, on Twitter, Facebook or Delicious, those few words in your headline are vitally important. They’re the difference between attracting a potential reader to click and find out more or pass over to another article. So you have to get it right first time.
I work in list view in Google Reader so when I’m browsing new posts, all I see is the article title and perhaps part of the first sentence so I know how important the first impression of the title is. Here’s some points to consider when composing your title.
You have to be concise and state exactly what the post is about in as few words as possible, and at the same time your title must be clear and understandable. A useful guideline is to keep the title length to 12 words or less. If you’ve used the highly recommended WordPress plugin All in One SEO Pack to optimise your blog post for search, you’ll know that that most search engines consider a maximum of 60 characters in the title. Make sure of course that the title can stand alone, is grammatically correct, and conveys exactly what the post is about. Too long and readers may lose interest and move on without clicking the link. Too short and readers may be left with a poor impression of what to expect in the article and just move on. The illustration at the top of this post is a great example. In 3 words, it’s clear that the article is country-specific, about pensions and in particular, about problems with the pension system.
Get your keywords and keyword phrases in your title
Your keywords should be pretty obvious once you’ve written the post. Choose keywords and key phrases which represent your post but try and keep the title appealing. You can get some idea which words are best to use for your title on a particular topic by using a keyword research tools like say Google Trends for more popular keywords with a large search volume, or Google Keyword Tool. From this you can see the volume or trend of search on words that you enter. After using Google Keyword Tool to check out possible keyword phrases for this post, I chose blog post title, effective title, and keywords in title. But don’t mislead readers by inserting keywords in your title which just don’t represent the post. You’ll attract people who won’t find what they’re looking for and you’ll risk losing credibility if you do.
Don’t mislead your readers, your blog is global
One way to mislead readers, often inadvertently, is to blog about a topic which is region-specific, for example, blogging about free SMS services when upon reading the post it becomes clear (very often after you’ve read through most of the post) that the service only applies to a particular country. I’ve read quite a few posts particularly from larger US bloggers who don’t seem to truly appreciate they have a global audience but yet their posts can be very US-centric. Yes, I appreciate that the US audience is really important to them and they blog to them first and foremost, but please don’t forget that your blog isn’t restricted to country boundaries. You probably have readers from Iceland to South Africa and from Ireland to India who just aren’t interested in say free SMS services within the USA so please tell us all up front in the article title so we can move on and not waste our time. Simply put say (US only) at the end of the article title and we’ll all save some time and respect you more for it.
Recheck the title once you’ve written the post
Some people like to write the title first then compose the post, others write the post first. Whichever you chose, make sure you go back and check that the title accurately conveys what you written in your final draft.
Make the title appealing
Your title should whet your readers’ appetite. It may pose a question or offer information, a story, a solution or a tutorial, but whatever you chose, your readers should want to click on it to find out more, and shouldn’t be disappointed when they click through.
I hope I’ve listed some useful pointers in composing your article titles. If you have any tips you’ve found useful, drop a comment below.
Image credit: tristanf