Many hobby bloggers do not give enough attention to their titles. Your blog post might be a work of sheer literary brilliance, but if the post’s title is vague or banal, most readers won’t see even the first sentence of your post.
Good titles are hard to write, yet the title should be the most carefully crafted line in your entire post. It must be brief, and it must attract the reader’s attention quickly while also announcing the post’s topic.
Good writers don’t often begin by writing the perfect title and then proceeding to write the accompanying article. Sometimes the perfect title comes in a flash of inspiration, but usually you will write your blog post first, and then fish around in it for key words with which you will assemble the perfect title. I went through a number of titles for this series before settling on the right one. Among the rejected titles were “Keeping a Blog about Your Hobby” and “How to Write a Blog about Your Hobby.” When I realized that “blog” could be a verb as well as a noun, the current title fell into place. The original subtitle of this post was simply “The Title” until I realized that there was no verb. The current title is more precise.
A good title includes an active verb and at least one concrete noun. If your title must be long, use a colon to divide it into a title and a sub-title. Eye-catching titles often include hyperbole, mild innuendo, and controversial assertions. One of my favorite post titles, from woodworker Chris Schwarz, was simply “You Are Doing It Wrong.” It’s vague, but it got me to click on the link. Another technique is the numbered list: 25 must-have tools…, 12 tips for…, Three ways to use a…, 100 great books…. Look at the covers of your hobby magazines. Many of the article titles include a number. I don’t know why, but readers are drawn to titles that contain numbers.
That’s not to say that every title you write should stoop to gimmicks. A clever title is counter-productive if your reader feels cheated after clicking and reading a poker-faced post. If your blog post is strictly informative, then your title should be, too: “Pictures of My Latest Wedding Ring Quilt” or “How I Organize My Fossil Collection.” Readers know exactly what they’re clicking on, and search engines will guide other readers to your post when they search for keywords in your title. If you have written an effective conclusion, you may find material there for your title. Linking the title to the conclusion provides a sense of completeness as your reader finishes reading your post.
Always ask yourself, “If I were looking for information on my post’s topic, what search terms would I use in a search engine?” Put those terms into your title. Titles that begin with “How to…” or “Making a…” are especially helpful to readers looking for tutorials. “Pictures of…” or “Examples of…” will help readers who are searching for inspiration. It’s also a good idea to do a web search for your prospective title before publishing your post. You may find additional information, or you may find that there is surprisingly little information available on your topic. You may also find that your keywords lead to websites that you do not want to be associated with, which is another good reason to do a search for your prospective title first.
Bad titles are vague or self-referential. Skimming a list of blog posts on an aggregator, I might see titles like “Ready for day 4” and “Gearing Up for Summer” and “You can’t be too careful.” The first means nothing without context. I don’t know what the project is, or why it takes four days, but I’m unless I’ve been following the blog closely, I’m not going to click that link to find out. The second is little better. It could be about a hot air balloon ride or about cleaning out the bottom of the barbecue grill. It’s too vague to garner my interest. The last is a cliché. I would have to be bored out of my mind to click on the link, especially when I have titles like “Babies in the Toilet” and “We Had to Sleep in a Lake” and “The Most Overlooked Tool in the Shop” vying for my attention.
Once you have hooked your readers with your title, your post must fulfill the implicit promise you made in the title to inform, to guide, to entertain, to tell a story, or whatever.