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How to Turn a Lousy Blog Headline into a Great One

January 3, 2011

I think this is one of the shortest post I’ve ever written on Blogging Bookshelf (though it’s still 950+ words…), but it touches on one of the most important parts of blogging: having a great headline.

Below are a series of 6 different headlines that I brainstormed for a guest post I did. The first one is super lame, but they gradually get better until I come up with one that draws the reader in.

The guest post is here over at Traffic Generation Cafe. It’s all about the different things that distract bloggers from getting stuff done.

When I first sat down to write the article, I didn’t have an outline or anything in mind other than the general topic. So I wrote the following headline at the top of the Word document (I write all of my blog posts in Word documents first):

Different Kinds of Distractions that Bloggers Face

Now I’ve seen worse titles, but this one is pretty bad. It’s uninteresting, vague, and non-compelling. After I wrote the article (which, ironically enough, took be forever to do because I kept getting distracted!), I had an exact number to add to my title. Do this whenever you can; we all love lists. This is the result:

9 Kinds of Distractions You Need to Eliminate to Become a More Productive Blogger

This one is good because it’s specific and it has a number. It’s bad because it is just too long. It’s also too awkwardly written and too verbose.

The next incarnation was aimed at making it shorter and not as clumsy sounding. I eliminated the superfluous “You Need” (it’s implied, anyway) and changed “become” to “be.” That left me with…

9 Kinds of Distractions to Eliminate to Be a More Productive Blogger

But I didn’t like the double infinitive (to eliminate to be), so I thought of another way I could convey the same idea but with fewer words that got rid of the double infinitive. The result was…

9 Distractions that Inhibit Productive Blogging

Now we’re getting somewhere. It’s short and sweet. But it doesn’t really have that interesting punch, does it? It’s kind of boring and stuff, and it still sounds a bit clumsy. It doesn’t roll off the tongue, does it? And there’s not really any urgency. It doesn’t scream “Click me!” I needed to spice it up a bit, so I did this:

9 Distractions that Kill Your Blogging

Better, right? I almost left it at this, but I had extra space in the title (I always think about how a headline will look on Twitter. It can’t be too long or it won’t all fit, but it might as well take up all the space it can). And it still didn’t scream “Click me!” or “Read me!” loud enough. So I added what I call a “kicker”:

9 Distractions that Kill Your Blogging, and Why I Hate Shopping Malls

There. It’s interesting. It solves a problem (most bloggers get distracted). It’s a list. And you want to click it to 1) see how you can stop killing your blogging, and 2) see why on earth I hate shopping malls and how that relates to blogging.

Cool! Are we finished?

Not quite. THIS post’s title actually went through a few stages of purification, too. Here they are:

  • The Evolution of a Good Blog Headline – Not interesting enough.
  • The Evolution of a Great Blog Headline – Better. Why say “good” when you can say “great”?
  • How to Turn a Crappy Blog Headline into a Great One – This one draws you in more. People can relate to writing crappy headlines and want to learn how to fix them.
  • How to Turn a Lousy Blog Headline into a Great One – I changed “crappy” to “lousy” because some people might not feel comfortable tweeting a post that has “crappy” in its title :)

Make sense?

So the moral of this post is just to keep tweaking and rewriting those headlines or article titles until they’re exactly how you want them. The extra time is well worth it. My last post was about how you don’t need to worry about your blog being perfect, but I’d recommend spending as much time as you need to on those headlines! They need to be as close to perfect as possible!

Oh, and one final word about headlines, and this is possibly the most important thing to keep in mind: Your headlines need to make sense and be compelling in and of themselves! I don’t like seeing posts that are something like “Article Marketing, part 4.” If you’re writing a series of posts, name each one individually so that it can stand on its own two feet. So maybe part 4 of the article marketing series would be, “Which Article Directories Should You Submit To?” or something like that. And then in the first paragraph of that post, you can mention that it’s part 4 in the series.

Over to you!

Alright, now you can shamelessly promote your own blog in the comments by responding to one of these:

  • What are the most popular posts on your blog? Share their headlines! (You can see my 10 most popular posts in the right sidebar.)
  • Rewrite one of your lame headlines using some of the ideas from this article.
  • Rewrite one of MY lame headlines using some of the ideas from this article.
  • Want a critique of one of your blog headlines? Tell us which one and you’ll get a reply from me and whoever else feels like chiming in.

Everyone can post ONE link in their comments to their own blog posts if they’d like :) But do NOT just leave a one-sentence comment saying something like, “Help me fix this headline here: http://www.myblog.com/myarticle.” Write a real comment that adds value and then add your link in there, or else I’ll delete your comment.

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