Generating the title for your blog post can be tricky business. Do you aim for catchy or clear? Brief or descriptive? Should you give just a hint or make it obvious? Should you worry about the reader or the search engines?
Here are 5 guidelines that address all of these concerns, helping you meet the needs of the search engines and the reader while maintaining the personality of the post:
- Focus on the title after you’ve written the post. You never know… while you’re writing the piece, the title might just jump out at you! The primary goal of the title is to describe the post. It’s also nice if the title can reflect the personality of the article. Not easy in just a few words, but often possible. Until you’ve written the article, you can’t actually be sure what it is going to be about let alone what personality will emerge. Let the article come first.
- Start with the primary keyword phrase that shows up in the article. This will serve two purposes: (a) It makes the topic of the article obvious to the reader at a glance and (b) Search engines will pick up the pattern that the words in the title are reflected in the article. Think about it this way: What keywords is the reader going to use to search for your post? At least two of those words need to be in your title.
- Categorize your article by using descriptors like How to…, 5 best…, 7 reasons… and What if… These simple phrases tell the reader what type of information you are offering: Numbers indicate brevity and bullets which are always alluring to the reader because it will be a quick read with highlights that will be easy to grab; How to… indicates directions or guidance; Words like best and worst set the focus and tone of the piece. If you have control over the whole blog, consider using these types of descriptors consistently across all of your posts. You’ll see fairly quickly that the blog roll is easier to read because the titles are designed consistently. These descriptors can become categories in themselves, making your blog that much more searchable.
- Catchy is good, but clarity takes priority. You’ve achieved clarity right out of the gate with your keyword phrase and then sharpened it further with descriptors, so make sure you don‘t toss all of that work under the bus for the sake of fun! If you can bounce off the keyword phrase with something cute and descriptive, go for it! If you don’t come up with something obvious, don’t let it be an issue. In fact… if the catchy phrase you want to use isn’t somehow reflected in the voice of the post, it can actually put your title out of sync with the content of your post. If the humor doesn’t emerge naturally, don’t push it.
- Keep the length of the title under 65 characters, including spaces. This makes the title more “tweet-able” because it leaves 75 of Twitter’s 140 characters for further description, a call out (read this!) and, most importantly, a link to the article. This matters as much as every step above. It’s great to post your article to your blog, but if no one reads it you have accomplished nothing. Social media is your friend: Publicize the blog post’s title and link through social media to build an audience.
One more thing: Most blogs are set up to build the URL off of the post’s title the first time you save it. Especially if you’ve changed the title a few times, make sure the URL does reflect your title and even consider pulling out unimportant words (a, the, it) that search engines – and people – will naturally skip over. Search engines work off of your URL so what it says does matter.
All these steps together will generate a good title for your blog post because it will be clear, focused and tied to your keywords. Keep in mind: Cute and fun can be good, but it is better is when someone actually reads your post.