Reading takes time—time many people just don’t make on a daily basis. We want videos or pictures to get the point and only read if something looks entirely too interesting to pass up. Books make this plea for attention with compelling covers, sometimes of half-naked men and other times with blood and gore. Add those images to a snazzy title, and no one can resist. Your blog doesn’t have a snazzy cover with which to draw in the masses, so it all comes down to the blog title.
Throughout history, books have had some pretty cringe-worthy titles, and bloggers can learn from these faux pas. Authors and publishers have a pretty set list of laws from which to draw from, but the blogosphere is still so new that the rules aren’t yet as clearly defined. We can, however, get an idea of what works and what never will.
Keep It Simple
We’re sure you have a lot of information to convey, but you should save that for the body of the blog. In fact, most experts suggest 75 characters or less for a blog title. The same is pretty much true for book titles, as well. If you don’t want to end up on one of those “ridiculous titles” roundups, get to the point. Concise is always better, even if you can’t come up with something catchy.
This can be a tricky thing, especially since we’re all striving for that first results page on Google searches. You’ve got to keep it simple, cram in keywords, and reel them in, all at the same time. If you’re still not sure of what not to do, take a look at some of these ridiculous book titles for a clue.
By the time anyone gets done reading the title, they’re too exhausted to open the book. The same holds true for your blog, so don’t mess it up.
…But Not Too Simple
When you find a formula that works, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. One or two “Five Tips for…” blogs and you’re golden. More than that, and you’re redundant. If people visit your blog and see the same titles over and over with a word variation here and there, they won’t even click on the first. Work hard to come up with unique vocabulary, use alliteration when possible, and don’t be afraid to be “punny.” Again, learn from the publishing industry about what works and what doesn’t. Publisher Harlequin is one of our favorite repeat offenders:
Keep Your Promises
If your blog title is designed solely to reel in viewers without much regard the content, your readers will never trust you again. How mad do you get when you pick up a romance novel that doesn’t have a happy ending? For that matter, if you sensationalize the material without basis, you could wander into tabloid territory. The smarties over at BrainZooming.com have a list of bait and switch blogging moves that will help you title your compelling content without making people mad, including titles that ask questions the blog never answers and long titles with a blog of only a few words. Pulling the bait and switch on your readers guarantees they won’t come back tomorrow, no matter how sensational your title may be.
For fun, we’ve listed some of our own truly terrible blog title ideas—and why they’re so very wrong:
Wake Up Tomorrow to Find Millions in the Bank
Who wouldn’t read this blog? You’re guaranteed to get plenty of clicks and maybe even some linkbacks and tweets out of something this compelling. However, unless you’re providing general information about all the money in all the banks or giving detailed instructions on how to rob one, the content of this blog is not likely to live up to the sensational title.
Do Something Great with Your Life
Most of us already have enough self-esteem issues without a blog title telling us we’re just not doing any good. Aside from that, this title is so vague that the content could be about anything. Are you telling people to plant trees? Adopt a child? Join the Peace Corps? Maybe you’re simply telling people the importance of smiling at strangers. The point is, no one’s going to click on that title, and if they do, they’ll be disappointed with what you have to say, no matter what point you make.
Become a Bestselling Author
This one looks pretty good, right? Readers imagine a blog full of helpful tips and tricks sure to get their books on the New York Times list to end all lists. So what’s the problem here? Well, unless every person who reads your blog and implements the tips and tricks you offer becomes a bestselling author, you’ve lied.
This is a lot to remember—so much, in fact, that even this blogger hasn’t yet come up with a title for this particular entry as of this point in the writing process (irony is a fun tool, too.) This is further proof that no matter how many books or blogs you write, coming up with compelling, short, honest titles never gets easier. If you do find it easy, you’re probably doing it wrong.