I think one of the hardest things I have to do as a writer is to give a title to a blog post or a subject line to an email. I want to have more exciting and engaging blog titles! Writing those titles can also be one of the easiest tasks, depending on the type of content I’m creating a blog title for. For instance, a recipe for cajun chicken noodle soup is easy to define a keyword phrase for and compose a title. The title for a blog post about living during a season of transition would be harder.
I know during the editing process for my collaborative blog, Middle Places, the title almost always gets changed. I read somewhere lately that you should write 25 titles for every post. Then change the titles out and share them again. It gives you a great potential to reach more people and a way to test what kinds of headlines bring the most engagement for you. Swapping out photos is also a great way to gain extra mileage on evergreen content.
Be direct with your blog titles
When I start to work through the SEO checklist (Yoast SEO plugin is awesome for this, by the way!), often I’m reminded that the need to be direct and simple with a title overrides the creative process, unlike titling a book. It’s more of a science with a dash of creativity mixed in.
As fun as it is to be artsy and clever with titles, it’s terrible for SEO. It’s also not the best way to engage readers. They’re more likely to click if they know what it’s actually about. So what’s good for SEO and engagement? Being direct.
Back in my early days of blogging and running Middle Places we were so very clever. In fact, we were so clever that we probably kept a lot of people from reading some great content because the title didn’t say anything about what the blog post was about. Blergh!
- In the middle of this pregnant pause (it was about Advent)
- In the middle of a chain of love (it was about the community found in running a half marathon)
- Quieting the Gong (it was about authentic love and busyness)
- At the end of the day (it was about parenting tweens)
If I wrote those same blog posts now, I would retitle them:
- Anticipating the pregnant pause of Advent
- How sideline camaraderie helped me finish the race
- How choosing love made all the difference for me
- Choosing to appreciate the tween years of parenting
So, I wanted to share a little bit about titles and why they often get changed in our editing process, plus my secret inspiration source and a favorite tool to use when you’re stuck.
How to choose keywords
To create a blog post title the first step is to choose the keyword phrase for SEO. To do this, I like to think backward. If someone were going to google and see my post as the best answer to their query, what are they going to type? For instance, they will most likely not type “darkness” if they are searching for something about depression. They will type depression, or maybe surviving depression or even how to pull out of depression.
These keyword phrases then become the core I use to build my blog title with. Not only does it tell the reader right off the bat what this blog post is about, it also tells the great Google how to index it to improve SEO.
If you need more help with determining keywords, check out Google Adwords. You have to create an account and provide payment information, but you will never be charged unless you run a campaign. Also, MOZ has a great tutorial on SEO best practices for beginners. I’m no expert on SEO, but I’ve learned so much about optimizing my blog’s content for SEO by using the Yoast SEO plugin and working through the MOZ tutorial.
Being direct doesn’t mean being boring
For the last month, the posts that have done the best on my other site are the ones with the most direct titles, but have an emotional element to them or ask a question. I pulled the top 5 from my analytics for Middle Places as an example.
Each blog post answers exactly one question or inspires a new way of thinking about one issue … one being the key. That’s something my editor and I are always checking for and why sometimes a whole paragraph (or more) will get trimmed out of a blog post. What’s that one question or idea or conviction? That’s what your title should capture and convey.
Not only will this tip of “one thing” help you with your titles, it’ll help you become a more powerful communicator on your platform. Too many rabbit trails will likely cost you readers.
Don’t Click Bait
When I’m stuck on a title for a blog post, my secret source of inspiration is Storylineblog.com. The titles there are extremely engaging, yet very direct. You’re not left wondering what you’re about to click into, but you still need to click. Donald Miller and his staff create engagement without being spammy or click baiting, something I highly respect.