By Tracy Gold published January 23, 2013

Content Strategy: 9 Secrets for Awesome Blog Post Titles

why we love unicorns, content strategyIf you’re like many content marketers, you may be missing out on a key part of a successful content strategy: excellent blog post titles. After agonizing over creating perfect, thorough, compelling content, it’s so easy to forget the title until the very last minute. We’ve all been there, and we should all be ashamed.

Sure, titles aren’t very long. Yet they are an extremely significant part of your content strategy because blog post titles — and all content titles — draw readers into your content.

If no one is reading your content, what’s the point of your wonderful call-to-action? Or your amazing compilation of 100 content marketing examples, or whatever type of content you’ve slaved over for hours? If you write a blog post and no one reads it, does it even exist? 

In my last post, on creating a title report, I talked about a preliminary step to writing great titles — building a report to illuminate what the best blog post title types are for your specific audience. Yes, building a meaningful title report requires a lot of data, and a lot of time.

In this post, I’ll share some of the trends the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) found in the title report we conducted, as well as some of the methods we use on a daily basis to ensure we’re writing the best blog titles possible.

Read on, and change the way you think about titles!

1. Focus on titles

I know. Duh. But think about it — how much time do you spend on your blog post titles, truly? For the Content Marketing Institute, we spend an average of 30 minutes per title in search of the absolute best wording. That adds up to a good chunk of time, but as I explained above, what’s the point of having an excellent blog post if its title won’t draw in traffic? Take the time to think twice about your blog titles or, if time is tight, bring in an outsider (like CMI did with me).

2. Never write misleading titles just to get people to click

No matter how sensational and marvelous your blog post titles are, if your content doesn’t live up to your title, say goodbye to returning visitors and conversions, and say hello to a high bounce rate and a bad reputation. For a hypothetical example, take a post titled “9 Steps to Social Media Monitoring Success,” that actually only describes nine features of the monitoring software company publishing the post. Title-content mismatches will only confuse — and alienate — readers. 

3. Find the right keyword 

If you have SEO targets for your web presence, make sure you are using your blog post titles to help you reach those targets. But even if you already have extensive SEO research at hand, you’ll likely find yourself wandering into new keyword territory at some point. In these moments, I rely on Google Adwords’ keyword tool to help me decide between keywords.

For example, I often use the word “headline” to talk about blog post titles in order to avoid confusion with SEO page titles. But a quick search on the Google Adwords’ Keyword Tool tells me that “blog post titles” gets 260 searches a month, while “blog post headlines” only gets 16. (That’s why the phrase “blog post titles” is in this post’s title!) 

find the right keywords, content strategy

4. Position keywords near the beginning of your blog titles

This is a good SEO practice for both robots and humans. Let’s face it. We humans are too busy to read to the end of a long title to find the term we’re searching for (I know, it’s pathetic).

Again, you can see an example of this tactic in this post’s title with the keyword phrase “content strategy” placed at the front of the headline. Colons are your friend for this method, but make sure the keyword is relevant. In this case, we’re going from a general topic to a specific topic that lies underneath that “umbrella.” But the dual purpose of something like, “Unicorns for Sale: 12 Reasons Why We Love Unicorns” can turn readers away — the second part may catch the eye of fantasy genre fans, but they would likely avoid clicking on the post because the first part (“Unicorns for Sale”) looks like a spam email header. 

5. Use numbered lists in blog titles

We all groan about numbered lists in blog posts. But the truth is, they work. In our research, titles that began with a number performed 45 percent better than the average.

Another approach is to start with a keyword and include a number later in the title. Take “Content Marketing Checklist: 22 To-dos for SlideShare Success,” for example. We tested both title types, and when the headline started with a keyword, it actually performed slightly better.

While one approach to this method is to work more numbered lists into your blog content strategy up front, you can also use a numbered list in a post after it’s written. Is the post split up into sections? Can those sections be numbered? Boom. But again, don’t mislead your readers — make sure a numbered list format actually fits the content of your post. 

6. Avoid dropping names 

Here’s another snippet from our research: Blog titles that included person or brand names received 47 percent less traffic than average. Unless you’re dealing with a major brand name — or perhaps even if you’re dealing with a major brand name — think about how you can pull out a relevant topic or trend mentioned in the post instead of using the name of the person, brand, or campaign the post is about. Your target audience may not be willing to click on a name that’s unfamiliar to them, or on a brand that they are not interested in, but chances are if the topic applies to their business, or the post highlights a trend that they will need to know about, they will click to make sure they don’t miss out on vital information.

7. Learn to love your thesaurus

There aren’t many words in blog titles. Thus, you need to choose exactly the right words. I use thesaurus.com to jog my brain when I can’t find the word I’m looking for, or even to find a synonym that’s alliterative with the rest of the title. Watch out for words like “things,” which waste precious space and can often be substituted with a more specific word.

8. Brainstorm the heck out of that baby 

Don’t stop at just one or two title ideas — you might miss out on a really good one because it didn’t occur to you immediately. If you get stuck, unleash yourself at the title with no inhibitions until you’ve practically got a page full of ideas. Then you can mix and match the best words and phrases on the page to form your final winner.

9. Treat titles as a team sport

Ever notice how much easier Scrabble is when you’re playing on a team? Well, sometimes writing great blog post titles is like playing a game of Scrabble (except harder). You have a limited space in which you’ve got to fit in a keyword, yet you also have to make the title compelling and communicate what the blog post is about. Plus, you’ve got to keep track of your editorial calendar, and avoid using the same three words in your titles for five posts in a row.

Though it’s my job in CMI’s editorial process to focus on blog post titles, the whole editorial team supplies feedback and suggestions that inevitably result in stronger blog post titles, and a stronger blog. Make sure the key players on your team have titles in mind, and that the person responsible for titles — whether it’s the author, or someone else — is open-minded.

How will you work writing great blog post titles into your content strategy? Have any tips to share from your experience with blog post titles? Comment, and join the conversation!

Want more guidance on simple strategies that can improve your content in a meaningful way? You’ll find these helpful tips, and more, in CMI’s Content Marketing Playbook.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons

Author: Tracy Gold

Tracy Gold is a marketing consultant, writer, and editor. Tracy is also an instructor for the Content Marketing Institute Online Training and Certification program. Please don’t hesitate to drop Tracy a comment on this post, and for more like this, follow her on Twitter @tracycgold.

Other posts by Tracy Gold

  • Pawel Piejko

    Very informative post, Tracy, thanks! From my experience, I can add that a great title should be followed by a matching lead paragraph and an eye-catching picture (if you use them). I think they should complement each other.

    • http://tracycgold.com/ Tracy Gold

      You’re absolutely right that they should complement each other! Catching attention is key in this age of information overload.

      • Sarah Bauer

        To stand out amongst the content-creating masses…add that to the challenge of crafting compelling blog post titles!

  • Dennis

    Interesting and practical. Where did you find the visits in Google’s keyword tool?

    • http://twitter.com/Theonlineshift Edward kimani

      On the advanced options on the keyword tool, choose filter ideas then add local monthly search and global search to view monthly search / visits

      • Dennis

        Hi Edward,

        I do get the number of local and global searches in the way you suggested, but still can’t find visits. Any thoughts?

        Dennis

        • http://tracycgold.com/ Tracy Gold

          Dennis, I totally meant to say “searches.” Editing to fix that!

          • Dennis

            That clears things up! Still good stuff, though ;)

  • http://twitter.com/Theonlineshift Edward kimani

    I never thought of using the keyword tool for titles, it makes such a huge difference. thanks a lot.

    • http://tracycgold.com/ Tracy Gold

      Yes, it can make a big difference!

  • http://twitter.com/patricia_haag Patricia Haag

    Hi Tracy – I really loved the info you shared here. I do have a question. Do you brainstorm the permalinks also? I noticed that when I tweeted the article, the title in the link was different from your article title. Does that make a difference?

    • http://tracycgold.com/ Tracy Gold

      Yes, I would suggest thinking carefully about permalinks and the SEO title as well. Shortening these to focus more on the keywords is a good strategy.

      • http://twitter.com/saranshgarg Saransh Garg

        Hi, I’d like to ask some ppl change their tweet or post title i.e. different from the original article post titile. In that case, users comes to their site but do that users long lasting or has returning potential ? also how much it effects seo. ?

  • Rarg

    Interesting post… never had used Keywordtool for titles. Most of the time it is just to get a keyword strategy. Thanks

    • http://tracycgold.com/ Tracy Gold

      It’s extremely helpful for titles! But not always necessary if you know the keyword you’re going after already.

      • http://twitter.com/saranshgarg Saransh Garg

        Can you mention one or more good tools for keywords since i’m facing lil. issues these days with my google adwords accnt. ?

  • http://geniusgeneration.us/ Dwayne Golden Jr

    What a great post literally bookmarking this, I just had a chat with my girlfriend about this yesterday who is an accomplished blogger as well. A great post with a bad title is like a car that runs great but with rusted paint on the outside. LOL

    • http://tracycgold.com/ Tracy Gold

      Good analogy!

  • Jeffrey Dobkin

    As an old school direct mail writier I offer this technique to my own readers for writing the most effective headlines: It’s the Jeff Dobkin 100 to 1 Rule: write 100 headlines, go back and pick out your best one. Hey, I didn’t say you’d like it, I just said it’s the best way to create the most effective headlines.

    Sure, you may be able to get away with writing a dozen or two, but when you hit that perfect headline — you’ll know it right away. This tip is from my book “Uncommon Marketing Techniques.” Please buy it as I need the money. Just kidding — you don’t have to buy it. Just send the money.

    • http://tracycgold.com/ Tracy Gold

      Ha, using that method writing the title might take longer than writing the post! But it’s definitely worthwhile to come up with a few different ideas.

  • Roger C. Parker

    Dear Tracy:
    Valuable article! I especially liked your idea of using Thesaurus.com to not search for alternative words, but for words that are *alliterative* with other words in the title.

    • http://tracycgold.com/ Tracy Gold

      You bet! Alliteration can play a big role in making a title catchy, but should never override meaning.

  • Arnie Kuenn

    Excellent article Tracy. I often tell people, if they are going to spend 4, 8, 12 hours to create a great piece of content, take at least 15 minutes to really work on the title. It can make all the difference.

    • http://tracycgold.com/ Tracy Gold

      Absolutely.

    • maxx

      Want to promote something, do you have something new? Promote it on 21Articles.com. Submit your content. Once its verified, you can drive more traffic to your website or blog and get more attention, recognition and credibility.

  • http://twitter.com/satomiis あおば

    This is very useful lists! Can I translate and introduce this to Japanese marketers in my blog? I will post with link back..

  • http://www.accidentalhacker.com/ Rob Sobers

    Good list! However, I wholeheartedly disagree with #6. My all-time best blog post (by a landslide) was a name-dropping post.

  • http://www.virtuacash.co.uk/ VirtuaCash

    Nice Post, I enjoyed reading it. Brainstorming is definitley a must, it helps out soo much. Thanks for posting :)

  • Carolyn McMaster

    These guidelines are spot on — and the advice applies to *any* display copy in any medium.

  • http://twitter.com/SoyFigueroa Daniel Figueroa

    Excelent post! Something i would add is including to the title a “tag keyword” at the end that indicates a little further what they will find in it, for example [Video], [Gallery] [How-to] [Free] and so on, depending on the type of content that your blog shares.

  • http://www.shortcutblogging.com/ Dave Young

    Good stuff. These can also be good tips for recycling older posts…take the basis of a post and turn it into a list post, or vice-versa. A way to steal your own content, in a good way. We put our customers through a pretty comprehensive blog outline exercise (we offer it for free). But, after they work through it in a year, they must start again. Of course, good topics are good topics and we have them come at the same keywords from a different direction or using a different style of post. The re-write is easy because we use an interview style. There’s really no risk of duplicating content.

  • http://www.ronvanpeursem.com/ Ron VanPeursem

    Thanks, Tracy. There’s no such thing as getting “too much” good input on building titles! I think I’ll try to summarize these points, and share them with others on my blog (Yes, of course I’ll use proper attribution. You did all the work!). -Ron.

  • http://www.dulaney-solar.com/solar-landscape-lights-s/62.htm Solar Lights

    Tracy,

    thank you for this great and helpful post. I had my challenges finding good titles! :-)

  • http://twitter.com/amandaedodge Amanda Dodge

    I find the Huffington Post twitter account to be guilty of number 2. “Justin Bieber did WHAT with Selena Gomez?” and the article will be about their romantic hand-holding date.

  • http://www.mybusinesstricks.com/ Peter Mutiso

    Hi Tracy,

    I agree with you. Blogger and webmasters in general should take time in getting the right topic for their blog post because it is a very important aspect of the blogging life

  • sameer

    Nice Blog.
    This is interesting and good topic.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Blog writing services

  • guri2734

    thanx for sharing very informative blog
    i have also written some tips on

    HOW TO WRITE PERFECT BLOG POST TITLE ? – TITLE WRITING TIPS
    http://www.fbtricksbyguri.com/2013/04/how-to-write-perfect-blog-post-title.html

  • Jaideep

    Thanx for sharing but i need a blog title not post title please help me i previously worked on a blog as http://yoyotrend.blogspot.in/

  • r r

    Thanks for the post!

    I have just started: http://thereisnothingtodo.wordpress.com

    THANKS :)

  • Talha Khan

    great post but i have a question i have blog of movies,games,softwares and songs download.http://downloadmediazone.blogspot.com/
    Will the strategy of keyword analysis work for such a blog???
    as i name all the posts like
    ”resident evil 5 full version pc game free download”
    io just replace the game name but all the name remains the same??

  • Sam H

    I enjoyed reading this post. With recently joining a marketing department it was useful. I’ve written some additional points too. Hopefully it helps!

    http://www.exeid.com/news/uncategorized/the-secret-to-writing-an-amazing-blog-post/

  • sahara
  • zahed

    Call Sacramento Bankruptcy Attorney
    Excelent blog post! Something i would add is including with the title a “tag
    keyword” afterwards that indicates a little further what they will likely find
    in it.

  • Ruhul

    It is perfect rule and picture. alherabd

  • Zahra Raza

    Well presented key points imperative to keep up in mind while blogging!

  • charles

    Nice I want to join blogger what are the steps?

  • Kathy Abel-Wagner

    Living with Sarcoidosis for the past 27 years.

  • Kathy Abel-Wagner

    Is “Living with Sarcoidosis for the past 27 years.” a good blog title?

  • http://www.crispycontent.de/ Ben Harmanus

    Great tips, I will position my keywords in the beginning of my blog titles more often. I clicked on the Thesaurus link and it has a misspelling. All the best!

  • Aayushi thakur

    Great
    Article. it’s Really Helpful and Enjoyable Post for Every Blogger. Thank you
    very much for Sharing with us. ColourCote

  • Jay Kapor

    Great
    Article. it’s Really Helpful and Enjoyable Post for Every Blogger. Thank you
    very much for Sharing with us .

  • raihan mahmud

    nice article. quality content. i like this post.

    thanks a lot for this unique post

    http://www.viewers2012.blogspot.com

  • http://www.actividadeseconomicas.org/ economicas

    thesaurus link is wrong