Why My Blog Headlines Suck And How I Can Improve Them

I began writing this entry way back in October after I added the “Best Of Evolving Times” section to the sidebar. As soon as I launched that new feature, it became painfully clear just how bad my headlines are.

During the month-long process of researching and writing this article I came to the conclusion that I had improved my headlines enough that I did not need to post this entry. But then, along came 9rules and my post yesterday about Problogger’s latest group writing project.

Both of these have clearly pointed out just how critical it is to have headlines that stand out in the sometimes very large crowd as well as pointing out that, while my headlines have certainly improved, they have not done so to the level I would like.

So in the spirit of continuous improvement I have decided to post this entry and continue using these techniques to improve my headlines.

First let’s have a bit of a chuckle and look at just how bad some of my early blog headlines are and why!

Many of them don’t clearly, if at all, tell potential readers what the topic of the article is: The Old Interior Angel, A Good Day To Die. Unless you’re very familiar with David Whyte, you won’t recognize the first title as a reference to one of his poems. And while a few people may have heard the phrase “A good day to die,” they’ll have to do some pretty good guessing to get what my entry is about.

Some of my headlines may qualify as “witty” but very few are truly funny enough to create a clickability factor: I Like To Watch, Don’t Feed The Animals. Only die-hard Peter Sellers fans will get the first one. And the second one will probably make people think of the zoo…Wrong answer! Let’s face it; unless you’re Seth Godin, http://sethgodin.typepad.com/ you probably can’t get away with having witty headlines that don’t tell you a heck of a lot about what’s in the post. And I’m certainly not Seth Godin!

A few of my headlines have a “heavy” feeling even though the entry itself, while addressing a heavy issue, does so with lightness: Life On Hold: The Weight Of Death, No Time To Grieve. Heaviness, in my experience, is never a great seller. A much better headline strategy would be to find the light within the heaviness and focus on that.

And most of my headlines lack good keywords/tags: Into the Mystic at Harbin Hot Springs (actually, there were at least 4 visitors to the site that used “Harbin Hot Springs” in their search) Caution: Singing Driver Or Tears of Joy Ahead (again there were a couple of searches on Caution Singing Driver). I guess you never know what people are going to use in their searches.

The point is that most of my headlines are not compelling enough to stand out in the crowd.

Regular readers of the site probably aren’t bothered so much by the headlines. They know that they’re going to get value from the entries.

But new readers, and people seeing these headlines in search results, feed readers, technorati, etc., don’t yet have personal knowledge of my writing. So they need some extra coaxing.

That coaxing has to come from the headline.

So how do I intend to improve my headlines? Here are a few of my thoughts. And, in case you’re wondering, I freely and appreciatively credit many of these ideas to Brian Clark at Copyblogger.com. Here’s a link directly to his “headlines” category with 14 (as of the time of this entry) great entries on blog headlines. http://www.copyblogger.com/category/headlines/

Here, then, are the strategies for improving my headlines:

Write the headlines first:

Before embarking on this headline improvement campaign I had a file with the name “topics for evolving times posts.” I’ve changed the name of that file to “titles for evolving times posts” and have already started a list of titles. Here are just a few of the upcoming entry titles. (Don’t hold your breath though, as there is absolutely no telling when I may get to these).

  • Why My Blog Titles Suck And How To Improve Them (That’s this one).
  • Ten Secrets of Personal Growth: Lessons From the Masters
  • How to Avoid Fundamentalist Thinking: Five Keys to Remaining Open Minded
  • Blog Carnivals: Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Shoot Them
  • How Much Are You Worth? Breaking Through Your Internal Glass Ceiling
  • Why You Will Never See a RANT Category At Evolving Times

Write at least ten versions of each headline:

I think I remember hearing Lorrie-Morgan Ferraro once say that she writes at least 100 headlines for her projects. I could see doing that for an important sales page or email campaign. For blog entries that are, hopefully, coming fast and furious, I feel that ten variations is probably enough to find a good one.

  • Here are the ten headlines I came up with for this one:
  • Why my blog headlines suck and how to improve them
  • Why my blog titles stink and how to make them better.
  • Better Blog Titles Mean More Visitors
  • Want better blog headlines? Learn from the pros.
  • Want better blog headlines? Don’t copy me.
  • Why my blog headlines suck and how I can improve them
  • Four steps to better blog headlines
  • Read this and write blog headlines like Brian Clark
  • Why Seth Godin can get away with bad headlines
  • Blog headlines matter: Here’s how I’ll make mine better

Of course the problem is that once you have ten headlines you have to choose one. Not always an easy task. For this entry I went with clear, to the point, and just a bit edgy (for this blog anyway): Why my blog headlines suck and how I can improve them.

Experiment using proven headline formats:

Brian Clark says it far better than I could. Check out: http://www.copyblogger.com/headline-swipe-file/ and

http://www.copyblogger.com/10-sure-fire-headline-formulas-that-work/
Include targeted keywords in my headlines:

For Evolving Times, keywords/phrases that I am targeting include: personal growth, Law of Attraction, Intention, The Secret, Consciousness, Abundance, etc. Whenever possible I’ll plug a keyword/phrase into my headline. Two things to remember though:

First, the entry must provide a payoff for searchers who found it using that phrase. If I have a headline with Abundance in the title and the entry is not primarily focused on abundance I have turned off a whole bunch of potential readers.

Second: You really never know what people are going to search on. For a long time, one of the most searched on phrases for Evolving Times was “This too shall pass” and all it’s various permutations. It linked to a short little entry from long ago. So I’ll continue to trust my intuition and use random phrases on occasion to see what unexpected phrases might lead people to Evolving Times.

Those are all the ideas that I’ve come up with for improving my blog headlines. I’m very open to suggestions and would love to hear your thoughts. What tips do you have for me? How can I make my headlines even better for you? Because, ultimately, better headlines make it easier for you to find the perfect Evolving Times entry.

Leave me a comment with your thoughts.

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      6 Responses to “Why My Blog Headlines Suck And How I Can Improve Them”

      1. Niya Christine on December 29th, 2006 2:23 pm

        Hey Ed,
        I have a discussion item about your latest article in your e-news…Dreaming Big Living Large.
        I love this article. It says to post comments about your articles there on this blog. But where?
        It’s unrelated to this article in your blog.

        Lemme know…
        You’re awesome bubba!

        –Niya

      2. Anand on December 29th, 2006 10:57 am

        Well congrats, I think it actually worked. I skimmed through a big list and this one caught my eye 🙂

      3. nakedpastor on December 29th, 2006 12:04 pm

        some good advice. i like your blog. i’m into personal growth too… maybe not as gluttoneous as you. i nailed i like to watch from being there. i’ll check in once in a while. saw you at the problogger contest.

      4. Edward Mills on December 30th, 2006 8:54 pm

        Anand and NakedPastor: Thanks. I guess I’m learning from my past mistakes!

        Niya: Haven’t posted that one yet. Better do that now. Thanks for the reminder.

        ed

      5. Edward Mills on December 31st, 2006 2:55 pm

        Niya: The article is up and you can get to it here: http://evolvingtimes.com/2006/12/a-simple-new-years-eve-ritual.htm

        By the way, I’m still waiting for five things from you!

        Happy New Year.
        ed

      6. How To Write Titles and Headlines Like a Genius : EarthFrisk Blog on February 13th, 2008 3:25 pm

        […] Why My Blog Headlines Suck And How I Can Improve Them […]

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