Thursday, December 16, 2010
How much thought do you put into your post titles? Think about the blogs that you visit. Or all of the blogs sitting in your Feed Reader. How do you decide which items to read, delete or skip? You skim. The items that stand out in skimming are the post's title and any lead image. If neither of those are eye-catching, a post will blend in with all of the others fighting for attention.
When I am reading a blog directly and not within my Feedly reader, I always look for the list of recent posts to see what I have missed out on in the last week. All I have to go by are the posts' titles. That's a very minimal amount of information to make a decision with, but I do it all the time. Not just with blog posts, but with magazine articles, book titles, TV listings, movie rentals, newsletters and pretty much any other printed collection of information vying for my attention.
You can go one of two ways with your title. Informative or witty. If you get lucky, sometimes you get a magic blend of both. The informative approach seeks to tell the potential reader exactly what the focus of the post covers. "Review of War & Peace." There is no question what that post is about. And if you are a lover of classics, Tolstoy or lengthy reviews then you would be drawn right to reading that post. Otherwise, you would likely skip it and look for something else that suits your interests.
If you went the witty route you would use something like "War, What Is It Good For?" You don't know exactly what this post is about. It could be a political commentary, or a stroll down musical memory lane or a funny post about that Seinfeld episode. Few would probably guess that it is a book review of War & Peace. This unclear post title appeals to a broader audience because of its ambiguity. More people are likely to decide to read and find out what it is. Many of them may bounce away as soon as they understand it is a book review of Tolstoy. But some may stick around in spite of that because of the quality of the post's writing.
Basically, a title can be a tease to trick people into reading something they might normally assume was not for them. Or it can alienate people who get smart to your misleading titles and don't appreciate the "trickeration." Informative, clear titles help people find a post easily on a specific topic. Someone searching for War & Peace reviews is more likely to turn up the informative title than the witty title.
I don't ever get lucky and create the magical combo title of informative and witty. Maybe something like "Reviewing War & Peace, What Is It Good For?" If you are lucky enough to be able to adjust your post title's URL (I don't think you can do this on the free Blogger platform) you can write a witty visual title and then edit the URL to capture the informative words that make it more logical for search engines.
If you aren't so lucky, you need to make a choice. Who is your audience? Do you care if people are drawn to what you write? Do you like to extend the creativity to the title too? I prefer to write the post and then discover the witty title that emerges naturally. Or I get tired and throw an informative title up there because it is time to go to bed. Teases be damned.