A metal trash can covered a small crack in one of our collaborator’s parking lots, covering a killdeer’s egg. Killdeer lay their eggs within rocks, and this was the spot this particular bird chose—right in the middle of a parking space. After some creative problem solving, the team moved the egg little by little to get the bird out of harm’s way.
Killdeer have a very specific tactic they use to protect their eggs, which I got to see in action when the postal worker got out of his mail truck. Killdeer squawk at things they consider to be predators and pretend to be injured to draw attention away from their eggs. The worker was pretty stunned by this behavior, taking his time to get back into his truck so as not to attract more attention.
When I heard about the situation at first, in the middle of a meeting, I thought, “What a great news headline: Mother Bird Lays Egg in Local Business’s Driveway.”
Blog titles, like news headlines, help us remember important bits about a story.
They pop into our heads when we experience things, and when we remember blog titles, they can prompt us to recall stories. But as much as titles assist us, they can also hinder us by giving us misinformation, sensationalizing, or not giving us enough data to recall the piece. When I was younger, I vividly remember seeing National Enquirer on the shelf at a local grocery store with the “news” headline, “Hilary Clinton Abducted by Aliens!” And I still remember it 20+ years later.
But when we’re offering genuinely helpful information to folks that we want them to find, effective blog title writing becomes more of a necessity—to be able to communicate exactly what’s in the piece they’re about to read. Here are a couple strategies I’ve found to go about that.
Summarize the piece into one paragraph, then distill it into a sentence.
For SEO purposes, this is especially helpful to have since you need a meta description anyways. A summary makes it all the more simple to get that sorted out. Shortening that summary to a line gives you your first potential title.
Then write 24 more blog titles.
You have your first potential blog title ready to go, even if it’s a bit long. Now write 24 more. This is Upworthy’s headline formula. All writers have to write 25 titles for every post. When you practice this yourself, some are going to be great contenders, but most of them will be awful. Regardless, writing so many blog titles gets you to really think about the content. It might seem like a lot, but with some practice, you’ll get this part of the process down to 15 minutes or less.
Try a variety of blog title formats.
Vary your blog title style on your site but also within your 25 blog title practice. You can use this list to draw from, but here are a few favorites:
- [Number] of Ways to [Achieve a Desired Outcome]
- [Keyword]: How to [Long Tail Keyword]
- [Number] Lessons I Learned From [Experience]
Traditional formulas aren’t the end-all-be-all, though. Consider your target market. What do they want to read? If the blog title you write ends up being outside of a formula but shows your reader is going to get value out of your piece, that’s okay!
Decide if you’ve said too much, too little, or just enough.
Find the Goldilocks middle ground of blog titles. When you look at your list, check the length. Read your blog title options out loud, and if you have to take a breath in the middle of reading one, it’s way too long. Think about which words you might be able to cut or, if your blog title doesn’t give enough information, which words you can add. Always keep your target market in mind as a compass: Will they read this based on the title, or will they navigate away?
It’s difficult to be objective about these things because titles are subjective by nature. But if you’re having trouble getting into the mindset of your customers, step away for a bit. You don’t always have the luxury of waiting a week or two to post a blog, but you might have 15 minutes to take a walk or watch an unrelated YouTube video. That’ll give your brain a little time to reset.
Remember: You can always alter a blog title.
If you circle back to something later and don’t like it, you can change it! Know the back end of your website enough to be able to make small tweaks to a blog without concern. When you shift a title, also update the URL to your blog post. It’s another place to ensure your keywords are present!
As your blog builds and you test out a variety of title formats, monitor your analytics to see what works and what could use some adjusting. Blog title writing is all about practice, which is why that Upworthy trick still rings true more than eight years later.