I recently learned just how powerful post titles are for the reader experience. They are more than just an indicator of what your post is about. Gosh, they are so much more. I had a poor experience with another blogger's post recently, and it honestly soured my entire perception of their brand. I unsubscribed immediately after signing up for her list, and I intentionally avoid pins with her URL on them. That's terrible news for a blogger if I'm not the only one.
What on earth could she have done to cause me to avoid her content so harshly?
She disappointed me. (That sounds so elitist, sorry.)
It all started with her post's title.
The Importance of Post Titles
Have you truly grasped the importance of your post's headline? If you haven't, you may find that you're struggling to drive traffic to your blog.
Your headline is your first chance to reach people who are already lost in a sea of content.
I mean, just think for a second about how much content is out there for us to read. We couldn't read every article on the internet if we spent our entire lives trying. We are flooded with information.
Think about how often you scroll past a post, link, or title. On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, or any other website you happen to frequent, you scroll a lot. So what causes you to stop? How on earth do you decide to grace a certain piece of content with your click?
Usually, it's a headline or an image. In the case of blog posts, it's most often the title.
And you know what else this title does? It does more than just bring in traffic. It sets expectations.
If a title is humorous, the reader expects a funny article. When it's sophisticated and academic, they expect an objective, professional article. If it promises to solve a problem, they expect to have their problem solved.
Effective Post Titles
So we know that post titles draw people in and set their expectations. But how do we write them so we can take advantage of this power?
There are a million different ways to craft a post title, but I figured I'd give you a few ideas before we move on.
This list will lay the groundwork, but there's still another step that could be killing your conversion. We'll discuss that in a minute.
So what kinds of titles can we write?
- "How To" titles and List posts
- How to stand out in a saturated market
- 7 ways to use healthier ingredients in your meals
- 5 reasons that your brand sucks
- A guide to generating passive income
- Titles that pose a question
- Is your blog's website loading too slow?
- How long does it take to rank in a Google search?
- Titles that reflect an emotion or common phrase the reader feels/uses
- Are you terrified of interviewing for a new job?
- How to escape your 9-5 and finally be free
- Titles that address a major pain point
- How to eliminate your overwhelm and find more time for yourself
- Titles that challenge what you think you know
- Seven major mistakes you're making with with email marketing
- Titles that promise exclusivity
- What no one is telling you about social media
So What's the Problem?
You're thinking, "Hey, I know how to write titles like those. My headlines look like that!"
So what's the problem? Why did I abandon that blogger? What on earth did she mess up?
She didn't deliver.
No matter what clever title you come up with, or how strategic your keywords are, if you can't deliver on your title's promises, you will lose your readers.
This blogger made me a promise with her title. She promised that I would achieve success in a certain area in 30 days. As in, her post title was literally "How to be successful at ____ in 30 days."
While I didn't expect the solution to fix all my life issues in 30 days, I was expecting an action plan that I could work on to get the results I wanted. I mean, look at that title. Who wouldn't think that? Was I being unreasonable?
Instead, I received a super vague, and very short, post about having the right mindset. It was literally "believe in yourself" and "always work hard" advice. Good advice, but not at all what I was looking for or expecting from her post.
But I decided to give her a second chance because she had a content upgrade that promised a step-by-step schedule for achieving success in this field in 30 days. I figured maybe that short post was her way of leading you into opting in. I went for it because I was really interested in learning how to do better in this field.
The opt-in was garbage. The step-by-step schedule was still vague, unhelpful, and barely a schedule. It was chunks of text, obviously just typed into a Word doc, with zero brand presence.
I had been a subscriber for a solid minute and a half while I looked at the PDF. Then I deleted the file, unsubscribed from her list, and sent her emails to the trash. I didn't even repin her post.
How to Improve
I know this might sound a little harsh to some people, but the fact remains that she disappointed me. And after feeling that way, and being so irritated that I wasted my time, I know that I want to do everything I can to avoid giving that experience to anyone on my blog.
There's no way to ensure this never happens, that's just a fact of life. But we can strive to do what we can to reduce the chances. So how do we ensure we're delivering on our promises in our post titles?
- Create a title that actually matches what you can do.
Honestly, just know your limits. Don't promise "A Comprehensive Guide to Customizing Your Website" if you only know how to change fonts. Talk about what you know, whether it's from firsthand experience or a ton of research.
- Or, craft your post to match the title you want to use!
Sometimes, you have an inspired idea of a headline that will attract readers. Think about the expectations those people who click through will have, and make sure to give it to them in your post. If you really want to have "7 Ways to Have an Awesome-Tastic Vacation" in your archives, take the time to actually come up with 7 awesome ideas for vacationers!
- Wait to write.
There's always something you can be publishing, so don't feel pressured to release a post that isn't ready yet! If you're still researching a topic or experimenting with a technique, don't rush the post out the door. Your readers will prefer to wait for a more thorough post rather than receive one that's only partially completed.
Also, don't write your post yet if you don't have a single takeaway for the reader. For example, the takeway from this post is that I want you, the blogger, to incorporate the concept of "delivery" into your content strategy so that you don't disappoint your readers and lose conversions! If I were just ranting about my poor experience with that other blogger, this post wouldn't be ready to be brought in front of you.
Most of us can boil our blog's mission down to teaching our readers something. As such, every single post you write better teach them something!
- Do a walk-through.
Walk through the process as if you were the reader. From headline to the bottom of the post, does your title seem to match what you gave them? If you need to, have someone do the walkthrough for you. A family member, friend, spouse, or even a hired freelancer will work. You just need to have some assurance that the full experience is cohesive and value-packed.
Remember "greater than or equal to" from math class? Your post content should be greater than or equal to your post title. Which means you need to deliver, at a minimum. But even better? OVER-deliver!
Make them feel like you're giving away too much information. It'll take a little bit of strategy and a general idea of your blog's endgame in order to know if you're giving away too much, but it won't be the end of the world if you do! Consider all the questions they could have about the topic you've presented to them, and answer them!
Put in the extra 30 minutes to research some extra facts, data, or strategies. I'm guilty of this, but sometimes we're tempted to just put in a placeholder to cover up our laziness. My biggest one is "I don't have any statistics for this, but I'm pretty sure..." I mean, c'mon Katie. Just Google it. It's more helpful, more professional, and you look way less lazy.
(As a side note, I know exactly which articles I've done this in and I haven't changed them because I'm lazy so please don't judge me for it. I'll get there. I'm a work in progress.)
You can also take the time to create an AWESOME content upgrade that will make your post more actionable for them. Make sure it's a simple, quick, easy-to-use tool, and people will gobble it up (I'm writing this a couple weeks before U.S. Thanksgiving so yay gobble-gobble).
Don't go creating content upgrades for everything though, just to get emails. Only create content upgrades when it's relevant and helpful; where you can actually deliver a high value product for your reader.
And finally, you can even just give them links to external sources (or other free resources you may have) that will help them go further with that information. This is an easy way to help your reader find resources that dive deeper into an area they need help with if you can't offer it. It's also a great way to help out other bloggers and connect with them! People love when you link to their stuff!
Don't be a people-pleaser.
Now that I've droned on about not being a complete disappointment, I'm going to contradict everything.
Don't try to please everybody.
You're never going to make everyone happy. Not everyone is going to love your content. Don't let your desire to please the masses and be perfect ruin your business.
At the end of the day, content needs to go up. You're a blogger, after al!
If you've poured your heart into it, and genuinely tried your best to provide value to your readers, you've done your job. No one can ask more of you.
What are some things bloggers have done that caused you to run in the opposite direction?
Let me know below!
Until next time!
- Katie Scott