Tag Archives: First Impressions

The Craft of Blogging #11 Titles

Titles do important work on any writing, and especially on a blogpost. For a blog the title has to work very quickly because, as any blog surfer will know, there are always lots of other blogposts to read. Apparently out of 10 people hunting for interesting pieces on the internet 8 will read the title and only 2 out of 10 will read the content. The question is how to choose titles that entice more of those missing 6 title-readers to read on.

Leopard by Peter Thomas, July 2013 via WikiCommons

Leopard by Peter Thomas, July 2013 via WikiCommons

The work of the blogpost title/headline

All titles need to do these things:

  • Catch the readers’ attention among all the possibilities
  • Announce the topic/content
  • Direct readers attention to the writer’s purposes
  • Invite the reader to read on

In the world of blogging first impressions are the only impression. Words need to do a great deal of work. The title of a post is often the only thing that a potential reader sees, not those enticing visuals you have imported, not that amazing first line. I chose what to read are from my twitter feed, full of competing posts, and email alerts from blogs I subscribe to. And like most social media users I make the decision in a second or two. What makes the potential reader open the link?

The title needs to stand out without being too cute (Robin Houghton’s phrase). And certainly without being tricksy. Nothing is more annoying than being misled into finding the post doesn’t follow through.

Title: How I found a WW2 spitfire in my garden. First line: Haha got your attention. Now read my post about the lambs outside my window.

Shreeja Jamdar suggest that some professional bloggers spend up to 50% of their time on a post contemplating the title. That’s over the top, but indicates how important they consider it. I don’t expect you have the time to do this. I certainly don’t.

Finding a few powerful words that work for you can also bring in readers. I found one recently, which I’ll share later.

What the gurus recommend

Guidance for bloggers abounds. Here’s a list I have compiled from various sources, including those mentioned below.

94 hook

Saying what it is

Being descriptive can work well. Here are two examples. How to write a click-worthy blog title from the blog Molly Greene: Writer, and 10 Blog title Formulae that actually work by Shreeja Jamdar on Crowdfire. Both got my attention. The titles did their job. This approach show how a descriptive approach links to the form of the post announced: a list, a how to …, my take on …, interview, review, round-up, prediction.

For book reviews the title and author seems to be adequate, Whispering Gums said in the comments on the general post on titles: On the tricky topic of titles. I agree.

The number

A very popular approach to titles relies on the attraction of numbers. It needs to have more of course: 10 ways to do something; 5 things I’ve learned about something; 4 good reads. Women’s magazines use this hook a lot. They always have numbers on their covers. According to Molly Greene, the number 10 gets the most hits. I noticed that Shreeja Jamdar’s post on 10 blog formulae misses the 8th formula.

The Question

Inviting a response is an obvious way to hook a reader. Has this happened to you? Would you do this to your best friend?

The How To [solve a problem]

This title says it’s just what the reader needs or may not have known they needed: How to deal with pesky spam on your blog; How to write a click-worthy blog title; How to find great images for your blog. We all need a little guidance now and again.

The How To avoid [a problem]

As above, you may not know that this is your problem, but read on and you will find out it is and how to fix it! How to avoid losing readers; How to avoid six of the most common blogging errors.

The Secrets

The approach appeals to curiosity, although secrets often means ‘How to…’. The secret of my writing success; The secret of good reviews. A little disingenuous really, this word secret, as nothing is secret on social media for long.

The Never titles

Not an approach I use because it is both negative and often at the expense of someone else, who did. But you can see the hook here. 5 things you should never do on your blog. Never run out of ideas for Christmas presents; Never give a dog a bad name.

The directed titles

Reference a group of people to appeal to them: For bloggers who want good titles for their posts; Ten best Victorian mysteries for readers of crime fiction; For fans of Elena Ferrante who want to know the truth.

Using power words.

You can use strong eye-catching words: awesome, mind-numbing, perfect, maximise, incredible, proven. The one that has worked for me is ‘a little rant about …’

And you could, especially if you are commercially minded, investigate SEO. After all, if titles play a major part in getting readers to your blog posts, then those search engines will pick up on the higher hit rate and push your keywords up their list. Success breeds success.

So, over to you …

Be creative, spend a little time and care on the titles and see what works for you. And please share any recommendations for blog titles. And any great examples of the skill

77 Blogging-coverRecommended and related

A recent post on Bookword: On the tricky topic of titles in November 2015

And the two previous posts in the Craft of Blogging series:

#10 Reuse Recycle Reduce

#9 Problems and more problems

Blogging for Creatives by Robin Houghton, published in 2012 by ILEX: Lewes Sussex. 192pp

 

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Filed under The Craft of Blogging, words, Writing

On the tricky topic of titles

Titles – they are very difficult to get right – for a short story, a blog post, our book, the chapters in our book, my draft novel, the writing group’s anthology. The title has to do so much work that it requires hours of discussion, days of rumination and much experimentation.

101 RWA coverEileen and I rejected many, many titles for our book on retirement: The Golden Hours, How to Retire with Dignity, Retiring Now, Not your usual Retirement Guide. Our working title up to the point where we were about to hand over the manuscript was The New Retiring Book. It was our editor and publisher that found the right title: Retiring with Attitude. It says exactly what’s in the tin.

So what is the work of the title?

  1. Announcing the genre and subject

212 Fl B coverThe title is assisted by the cover design in indicating the book’s genre to the purchaser/reader as well as what the book is about and whether it’s the kind of book they want to buy/read. It helps if it is memorable for recommendations, word of mouth and requests in bookstores. You know, that book about the butterflies: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. There is a whole book about this: Weird Things Customers say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell. Check out Jen Campbell’s website here for more stories (such as ‘Have you got a signed copy of Shakespeare’s plays?’)

2. Invitation

The title can also entice or invite the reader. It might imply a question: The Aftermath (by Rhidian Brook) of what? The Secret of the Gorge (Malcolm Saville). So what is the secret? asks the title.

Or it might be intriguing like these examples: If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor, The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker.

3. Directing the reader’s attention

Pride and Prejudice might have been called The Bennet Sisters or How to get your Husband. But that would have been to misdirect attention. Jane Austen knew a thing or two about what impedes good relationships. She originally had First Impressions in mind but when she revised the book the title went further.

Catch-22 (by Joseph Heller) is such a good title it has become a figure of speech. It directs the reader to the madness and illogicality of war that binds everyone.

4. Snagging the blog reader’s attention

There is particular art to getting the right title for a blog post. Like in a bookshop it needs to capture attention, but in a very brief time. Apparently 8 out of 10 users will read the title, only 2 out of 10 will read the content. Guidance for bloggers abounds and I will add to the advice in a post next month, but here’s a teaser: it’s about questions and numbers and dire warnings!

It’s hard getting the right title

Every book I have ever been involved in publishing (all non-fiction) has involved much agony and hours of discussion about the title, jokey titles, working titles, disparaging titles and anti-titles until the point where the right one arrives. Or perhaps that’s just one right one among several.

I recall a very creative lunch when Eileen and I brain stormed the most silly and excellent ideas for the chapter titles in Retiring with Attitude. We quickly found Retirement ain’t what it used to be and went on to This is your rainy day. It felt very creative in a way that endless chapter revisions did not.

Until a month ago the book I am currently involved in writing (there are three authors) was called Ageing Now. We persuaded the publisher that this was a working title when we negotiated the contract, and we have become increasingly aware of its limitations as we have engaged with the writing: it doesn’t say much about the book; it’s too vague about content, readership, and purpose. We have a better one now. WATCH THIS SPACE!

And not having a title says something too, gives the reader more work to do. One of the writers in my writing group recently read a poem with no title and we had a lively discussion about that: what it did to the listener to have no title, did it need one, what the title might be, why she had not given it one. Thanks to the group for the discussion.

And some that got away

212 1984 coverTrimalchio in West Egg by F. Scott Fitzgerald became The Great Gatsby.

Strangers from within by William Golding became Lord of the Flies.

The Mute by Carson McCullers became The Heart is a lonely Hunter.

The Last Man in Europe by George Orwell became 1984.

At This Point in Time by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward became All the president’s Men.

These come from a blog by Anne R. Allen in a post called 10 Tips for Choosing the Right Title in the E-Age.

Can you spot the Alternate Titles in the quiz on The Reading Room blog?

 

How do you go about finding or creating the titles for your writings?

 

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Filed under Books, My novel, Publishing our book