The doctor’s in, blogging brethren.
Sometimes the most effective way to create great works is to examine the worst of said works and learn from them. In our case, these works are blog post headlines. And lucky for us, there is a sea of mediocre material to pluck from.
I’ve recently scoured the Web to find real examples of crummy headlines, and now I’m taking them to rehab. Take a seat and learn by example as I put the worst headlines on trial and pinpoint the best ways to write killer post titles.
Boring adjective use
“Four Good Ways to Use Media in Classroom Blogs”
“100 Nice and Beautiful Blog Designs”
“10 Really Cool Blog Posts from 2013”
Words such as “good”, “nice” and “cool” have no place in the blogosphere. These are lazy, boring and nondescript terms that don’t tell people anything about your post. If you’re tempted by these weak words, consider superior alternatives: “phenomenal”, “delightful”, “magnificent”.
Use superlatives in your titles to back up what’s behind the post! Words like “best”, “greatest” and “biggest” are versatile, while superlative variations of more specific expressions are useful in context.
And if you find yourself digging for new ones, remember that the English language is pretty expansive. Here is a whole list of bold and potent adjectives to use in your post headlines.
“8 Important Stats Gathered from Analyzing Over 18,000 Small to Medium Ecommerce Sites”
“Turn your computer into a fully featured software router and share any Internet connection with your friends, co-workers, and mobile devices”
You get the idea. Too long – didn’t read.
Several things happen when a headline goes on for too long. Depending on your blog’s design, it may wrap to three or four lines in length, pushing the meat and potatoes of your post below the fold. It also takes up more space in social media interfaces when you share your post (such as Twitter, where you only have 140 precious characters to work with). Additionally, search engine results pages may not display the entire title of your post, as most limit page titles to 70 characters.
And in the large majority of cases, long titles are unnecessary. A title serves the purpose of grabbing the reader’s attention as quickly as possible, encouraging their clickthrough and leading them to your story. Shortening your headlines will make them more concise and readable. In the long run, the ability to say more with less is an indispensable skill every blogger should develop.
Recycled, totally played out headlines
“What ______ can teach us about ______”
“Top _____ trends to follow this year”
“A quick and dirty guide to _____”
“____ and ____ and ____, oh my!”
“X ____ lessons we can learn from (insert pop culture reference)”
“X hot tips to doing ______ the smart way”
Let’s be serious: nobody wants to read the same post they’ve seen 100 times. When you name your post with a cliché headline, you’re blending into the sea of mediocrity and asking for failure.
You’re also competing with a number of older, well-established posts with very similar names in search engine results. This means people are less likely to find your work right off the bat.
So be unique and be bold! Come up with creative, off-the-wall, never-before-seen titles that will make potential readers curious. Devote the time and put some real thought into your headline, because it’s far more important than most writers give it credit for.
Confusing or vague wording
“Top 10 Trends in Mobile Across Paid, Owned, Earned Media”
“Customers Want to Be Recognized and Valued in Multichannel Loyalty Programs”
“Five Key Questions to Ask to Achieve a Customer-Centric Culture”
What kind of trends? That’s a wide variety of “media”, and “media” itself is an incredibly broad term. What on earth is a “multichannel loyalty program”? And why should I care about these alleged “key questions”?
Be specific in your headlines, and address the most interesting parts of your post instead of leaving it up to question. Be clear and direct to ensure that you’re making sense to your readers.
Use layman’s terms to appeal to a wider audience. Niche lingo and complicated industry terms can be confusing and detract people from reading your content.
So next time you’re thinking up a title for your blog post, make it count. Don’t be vague, don’t use played out themes, don’t use boring adjectives and don’t make your titles longer than they need to be. Avoid these major mistakes, and you’ll be a champion headline-writer in no time.