Writing Good Titles Is One of the Most Difficult Things About Blogging

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For me, the most difficult thing about blogging has always been writing those post titles. I've never been any good at it. In the early days of Atheist Revolution, I'd write them without any consideration of SEO or keywords. I'd often think I was being clever with a title and only in hindsight consider the possibility that my low traffic on a post might be due to the fact that nobody who saw the title would have any idea what the post was about. About the only consolation I had was based on multiple observations that I was not alone: many bloggers write poor post titles.

What makes a post title poor? That's easy. A poor title is one that does not inspire people who see it to click on it to read the post. Setting aside clickbait, which is a different sort of problem, the most common type of poor titles I see are those that are far too short (i.e., 2-3 words) and nondescript to be useful. Essentially, these titles convey nothing about the subject matter that will be addressed in the post. The only reason I might click on such a title would be if I was curious what the post was about, but that is rare.

I am not suggesting bloggers should necessarily write post titles focusing primarily on maximizing SEO. I recognize that can lead to a different set of problems. Writing for search engines rather than one's human audience is hard to recommend. And I am definitely not suggesting post titles should be clickbait. Nobody likes the experience of clicking on a title because one thought it was about one thing and then finding out that it had next to nothing to do with that topic. All I am suggesting is that good titles inform potential readers what the post is about and try to stimulate interest in the content. Still, that's easier said than done. It still isn't something I've come close to mastering.

The mistake I have made the most has involved the short non-descriptive "clever" title I thought potential readers might respond to but ended up being meaningless to almost everyone. I've made that mistake more times than I care to count. Let's consider an example. Suppose I write a post about a particular challenge I've been facing as an atheist living in Mississippi (there are several from which I might choose). Imagine I go with the following title for the post: "A Recent Challenge." You see the problem, don't you? Nobody who sees that title show up in their feed reader or social media account is going to click it. Why would they? It isn't sufficiently descriptive. That post could be about anything! Some regular readers may check it out, but it won't draw any new ones. It also will perform poorly in terms of SEO. Overall, it is a missed opportunity. And yet, I see bloggers write titles like that all the time.

A big part of what is going on here boils down to bloggers' lack of understanding about how people interact with their content. At least, I know this was a problem for me. If we imagine that we are writing for our regular readers and nobody else, post titles are close to irrelevant. Maybe a few of our regulars will even appreciate the "clever" titles we generate. But doing this limits the odds of our posts showing up in search engines or encouraging new readers to visit. If you are on social media and something pops up in your feed with "A Recent Challenge" or something similar as the title, you are going to ignore. I would.

The perfect title for a blog post is descriptive of the post's content, stimulates interest among those who encounter it across, and is consistent with SEO best practices. And here's the thing I've struggled to remember, writing posts with titles like that will not make my blog any less attractive to my regular readers. Thus, you have much to gain and nothing to lose by writing better post titles. Well, almost nothing. Writing good post titles can be time-consuming. I wish I was better at it!