I’ve written literally thousands of articles and blog posts since I first started blogging in 2008. Believe it or not, learning how to write good titles that are eye-catching, attention-grabbing and curiosity-invoking was never high on my list of priorities.
My focus has always been on practical “how to” titles. I write for readers who are searching the internet for tips and solutions to problems — sometimes very serious, personal, and painful problems. I can’t afford to be too clever, creative or cute when I title my blog posts (which, to be honest, I prefer to call “articles” because of their length and focus). But now that I’m rewriting all my articles, I’m learning that I can be both creative and clear.
There are no easy tips on how to write your best title ever; anything good and right and beautiful takes time to create. Like you! Think you were born as smart, funny, and skilled as you are right now? No sir. God is taking time to shape you into who He created you to be…and it’s the same with writing the best title ever.
Finding the right title for my articles and blog posts is extra challenging because of SEO (search engine optimization). I want readers to type something like “how do I write a good title?” into the search engine…and I want my blog post to stand out. If you were drawn to my title (currently How to Write Your Best Title Ever – but it may change), then my work paid off!
The best title is short and sweet. Less than 10 little words. The title is the shortest part of your article, but it can take 75% or more of your time. Writing a good title makes is difficult partly because of the competition. There are literally millions of things to do on the internet, a gazillion things to look at and listen to and interact with! How do simple little articles and blog posts – especially when they’re long and wordy like mine – hook readers? How do you write a good title?
How to Write Your Best Title Ever (or 7 Tips for Writing Titles That Titillate Readers)
These quick tips on how to write a title will help change your mindset. And that, fellow scribes, is the most important way to tackle title writing. If you can change how you think about your readers and what you’re writing – if you can put yourself in your reader’s shoes – then you will write a good title.
1. Write down emotion-producing titles of articles, blog posts, YouTube videos
My current best way to write titles for blog posts and articles is to pay attention to popular magazines and websites. Today, for example, I saw the title “How to Get Your Best Sleep Ever.” Bingo! A new title goes in my file of good titles to steal and adapt. But don’t just steal good titles: note why they appeal to you. Do they make you feel relieved, angry, scared, excited, curious? A good title will invoke some sort of emotion in the reader.
2. Know your reader’s problems, questions, fears and anxieties
If you’re trying to write a great title for a blog post, your mindset is different than if you’re writing a title for an essay, print magazine article, scholarly journal or church newsletter. For example, newspaper readers might be skimming the whole paper; they’ll only read headlines that jump out at them. Tabloid readers want something inflammatory and gossip-worthy. General interest websites, blogs, and even small businesses who blog to attract clients try to write headlines that are both informative and catchy.
In 10 Easy Ways to Find Good Ideas for Magazine Articles I described the importance of knowing your audience. I bet you’ve heard that before, so we won’t go here. Instead, look at that title. What do you like about it? Dislike? Would you read it? It depends on your goals and needs as a reader.
3. Get detailed, specific, concrete, focused
Now that I think about it, “How to Write Your Best Title Ever” isn’t that good for SEO or “find my blog!” purposes. I didn’t take my own advice in tip number one. Who is my audience? Am I helping health bloggers, freelance writers, grade 8 students, professional authors, academic researchers, magazine editors, book publishers, navel-gazing memoirists? Who knows. My title might be more effective as “How to Write Your Best Blog Post Title” or “How to Write a Good Title for an Essay” or even “3 Tips for Titling Your Thesis.”
4. Be creative. Not creepy.
Be specific and creative, but not too weird or creepy. For example, the title of this blog post is currently “How to Write Your Best Title Ever.” That’s a pretty good title for an article because it tells readers what to expect, it solves a specific problem, and it’s clear. However, my more creative title (3 Tips for Writing Titles That Titillate Readers) is ineffective. Why? Because of the word “titillate.” Good alliteration, but possibly confusing, unclear, or even offensive.
That said, however, you are allowed to be creative AND creepy if you’re writing a blog post or article for October 31. If you are writing about scary stuff and need a nudge, read 8 Ideas for Halloween Blog Posts and Magazine Articles.
5. Don’t use your first idea as your title
As with all writing tips and rules, this one can be broken. Generally, however, your first 10 (or 100 if you’re like me) titles won’t be your best one ever. It takes time and thought to write a good title that invokes emotion in readers and tells them what problem will be alleviated. They need motivation to click your blog link or read your magazine article or give you the best grade on your essay.
6. Play with ideas to find your best title for your work
When you have a possible title (I started with the boring, vague “How to Write a Good Title” and didn’t get very far), try adding or subtracting words, swapping in synonyms, or completely rephrasing the whole thing. If you have time to poll friends and family, do it! Give them three possibilities; ask them to choose the best title. Remember that if you resist the urge to slap a silly little title on your work, your article or blog post will skyrocket in popularity and effectiveness.
7. Match your title to the tone, mood and content of your work
If you’re writing for New York Times magazine, your title will be different than if you’re writing for Reader’s Digest. If you’re writing a blog post on how to write good articles, your title will be much different than if you’re contributing a chapter to a literary journal on how to write a title for a poem. The best titles aren’t necessarily creative, clever or funny. The best titles represent the tone, mood, and content of the piece.
When I’m struggling to find the best title for my blog posts, I often leave it overnight. I’ll still publish the post…and when I see the title the next day and cringe, a new and better title often pops into my head. Sometimes my brain needs to sleep on it before I can write my best title ever.
What’s your best title ever? Feel free to share below…