August 9, 2011

The big secret to getting people to read your blog

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3108/3150724610_e2b0f585e3_m.jpgChris AbrahamLong blog post short: please be as descriptive as possible when titling your blog posts. In today’s decontextualized world of walls, feeds, RSS, e-mail, diggs, reddits, Stumbles, tweets, and retweets, you need to attract your potential reader based only on the appeal of your title and nothing else, especially if you’re new to blogging and don’t happen to be Seth Godin.

Use up to the 70 characters that Google indexes for each post title but make sure the most important message of the title are nearer the beginning of the title. Don’t bury the lead in the post and don’t bury the lead in the title, either.

Tweetmeme and other sharing services chop off long titles, so while you can go long, keep your essentials right at the beginning.

A good title is a good habit — here’s why

Recently I wrote the post Blog so you can be taken completely out of context in which I discussed how essential it is to make sure each blog post you write needs to be completely self-contained and self-referential. Looking back, I notice I missed the most important part of every blog post: the blog title.

In 2011, with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, retweets, sharing, and RSS via Google Reader, all anyone ever sees is the title of whatever’s shared, especially if you’re not Beth Kanter, Kami Huyse, Seth Godin, CC Chapman, Shel Israel, Geoff Livingston, Richard Laermer, Olivier Blanchard, Christopher Penn, Chris Brogan or Brian Solis. If you’re one of these bloggers, your title is a little less important; however, your name may well be stripped by the confines of a 140-character world, so a good title is a good habit even for our hallowed celebrities since their personal brand doesn’t always move as fast as the share.

So, though we’re all tempted to indulge in puns, in humor, in wordplay, and in breezy cool, please try to keep put your editor hat on every time you post to your blog. Who, what, when, where, why, and how. Five Ws and an H.

Also, remember that the title you choose needs to be both appealing, compelling, accurate, and trustworthy to both your human readers and also to machines: the spiders and bots that Google, Twitter, Yahoo!, Bing, and the other search engines send to visit your blogs and everyone else’s shares.

I hate it that WordPress asks for a title first because the title should be one of the last things you provide. I like to save my summary paragraph and my final title until the last minute and two of my editors — JD Lasica, here, and Mike Moran of Biznology — almost always provide my posts with even more focused titles and summary paragraphs. Of course, these two gems are reformed journalists, so I benefit greatly from their experience.

For this post, I chose “The big secret to getting people to read your blog,” though I would have loved to choose something more cheeky like “All you got is your title” or “You need to have them at hello” or “Bait your blog post with a great title.” But in the end, straightforward wins.

I know how I consume blogs, Twitter, and my Facebook wall, and 70% of my click-throughs are based on the title of the post. Another 20% is based on the person who does the sharing — including the blogger — and the final 10% is the blog it’s on, such a Mashable. That’s my percentage, but an excellent title can draw me to a blog and blogger I have never heard of via a tweeter I don’t know — even to a blog that is obviously a promotional platform.

Coming up with the essence of what your blog post is about

What do you need in your title? Simple: Read your post through and try to summarize it all into a sentence. Don’t concern yourself like I do as to whether your title wraps on the blog when posts (it doesn’t matter) and also please do not bait and switch the content or stuff keywords that are not germane to the post.

And, it bears repeating, Google indexes 70 characters of each title tag, so use as many relevant characters as possible. However, some other services don’t, so while you should use as many characters as you need to finish your thought, make sure your most important concepts are weighted towards the front of the title to make sure that the lead isn’t cut off in a retweet or share.

Do you have other tips and tricks for getting folks to click through to your posts? It’s a competitive blogosphere and mediasphere out there!

Chris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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  • Normal is a Dryer Setting

    Thank you for your advice. Some I am already following, and some I definitely need to implement. I'm not so concerned with the number of “hits” I get; I just want to reach others in the autism community who may feel alone or scared, because God knows I have as well. Thanks again and blog on!