And now, for the winner of last Friday’s THE TRICKY PART contest: Congratulations to Evelyn Berry, the winner of Laurie Schnebly Campbell‘s writing class. Evelyn, you can contact Laurie directly about your class.
Today we welcome guest blogger Marcy Kennedy, author of Strong Female Characters, with advice for all of you who blog–or are thinking of blogging–as part of your platform.
Half a dozen words shouldn’t be so hard to write, but when it comes to titles of any type–and especially blog titles–they can be the most frustrating handful of words imaginable. Once you learn the secret behind them, though, they become much easier.
So do you want to know my secret? Here it is.
Make a specific promise about what’s in it for the reader.
This breaks down into two parts—specific promise and value for the reader.
Blog post titles are the wrong place to channel your creativity.
Creativity and word plays in blog titles don’t work. If people need to read the blog post to understand your title, it’s a bad title. It’s a bad title because if people don’t understand your title, they’ll never reach the blog post you’re sharing. See the catch-22?
For example, a fiction writer I know did a fun post on bacon and she titled it…Bacon!
This post didn’t get nearly the traffic it deserved because people didn’t know whether this was a post about how much the author loved bacon, the best way to cook bacon, or a million other bacon-related topics.
WITS own Jenny Hansen, however, recently did a very similar post and did an amazing job on her title. She called her post 5 Bacon-Themed Gifts to Add More Pork to Your Life.
Do you see the difference? In one you don’t know what the post will be about. In the other, you know exactly what you’ll find.
If your tweet is too vague, you can use all the formulas you want and it will still fall flat.
Too Vague = The Shocking Truth About Doctors
We don’t care because we don’t know what shocking truth you might be revealing. About whether doctors practice what they preach? About whether doctors are stealing from their patients while under anesthetic?
Specific = The Shocking Truth About What Your Doctor Might Be Doing to Harm Your Health
Give the Reader the Obvious Benefit They’ll Receive from Reading the Post
What’s the takeaway from your post?
Your post should offer to meet a need your ideal reader feels (even if they don’t realize they feel it).
This could be a need for entertainment. It could be a need for a solution to a problem they have. It could be encouragement, either spiritual or psychological. It could be a combination.
Every Successful Writer Must Learn to Say “No”
You’re hinting in this title that the benefit in your post is success. Learning to say “no” to some things will make you a more successful writer. That’s okay, but why should I click through to read the whole post? What will I get in the post that the title hasn’t already given me?
Why You Need to Learn to Say “No” to Succeed as a Writer
This title makes the content of the post more clear. It’s going to give you reasons to say “no” to some things in order to succeed at others. Better, but if I already know I need to say “no” there’s no motivation for me to click through. Where’s the practical takeaway for me?
Six Ways to Say “No” With Less Guilt
Everyone can tell us that we need to say “no” to be successful, but not everyone can tell us how to do it in a way that’s easier and less stressful for us. That’s an amazing benefit. If you wanted to be sure that people understood the post was tips for writers, you could write “Six Ways for Writers to Say No With Less Guilt.”
When All Else Fails, Ask a Question
We all feel compelled to answer a question or to want to know the answer. It immediately gets us thinking. It’s also a great trick for fiction writers who might be writing about a topic in a post that doesn’t lend itself easily to an obvious takeaway.
I’m a fantasy writer and part of my brand is showing that fantasy isn’t about escaping this world. I write fantasy that helps us see life in this world in a new way and gives us a safe place to explore problems that might otherwise be too difficult to face. So part of my signature is posts where I take a life lesson from fantasy or science fiction. That’s difficult to translate into a title, so I pose a question about the topic we’ll be discussing.
Do You Ever Feel Like You Don’t Fit In? (based on How to Train Your Dragon)
How Do We Know If Someone Has Truly Changed? (based on Once Upon a Time and Rumplestiltskin)
Do You Believe In Second Chances? (based on Lord of the Rings and Gollum)
Have you written or seen great blog titles? Can you write a blog title based on your WIP? Are you willing to share them?
Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy) is a speculative fiction writer who believes fantasy is more real than you think. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance editor and teaches classes on craft and social media through WANA International.
You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth at www.marcykennedy.com. She offers a free PDF called Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Hiring a Freelance Editor to anyone who signs up for her newsletter. Click here to sign up for your copy.
Marcy, thank you SO much for this…I suck at blog titles (in fact, Jenny asked you to blog to save WITS from my blog titles.)
You just told me why! I was trying to be clever and creative with my titles. I’d think of a twist, like I would in writing, and be all proud of it. Jenny would tell me it sucked (nicely,) and I’d be frustrated and confused.
NOW I GET IT!
Thanks so much! And Jenny, I’m sure, thanks you too.
Yes, indeedy. Jenny thanks you kindly! For the fantastic post AND the shout out to More Cowbell. 🙂
Thank you all for having me here. As someone who always gets value from the posts on WITS, I’m thrilled at the chance to do the same for others.
I realized I talked about “okay tweet,” “better tweet,” and “best tweet” and part of what hit the cutting room floor when I was trying to get my word count down was my point about the direct connection between good blog titles and good tweets. This skill translates. Learning to write good blog titles will also help you on Twitter with convincing people to click and share your tweets.
When people tweet your blog post, they’re likely tweeting your title, exactly how you’ve written it. In other words, how you write your blog titles directly influences how much traffic you’ll receive from a site like Twitter. There’s my bonus tip for everyone 🙂
Making a promise to the reader – that’s brilliant!
Thanks 🙂 I’m glad I could help!
Great insight from someone who rocks her titles! 🙂 I love it, Marcy. Great point about specificity.
Thanks, August! You do an excellent job on your blog titles. I wish I’d thought to draw some examples right from your titles.
I try to be so creative with my titles, and yet I’m always drawn to the “5 Ways to…” types of titles of other blogs. Thank you!
What we’re drawn to is a good indicator of what types of titles work 🙂
Great advice. I hate really long titles too.
I’m with you. I don’t like to put a hard word count on blog titles, but they shouldn’t look like a sentence!
and also another useful tips : http://showfirepost.blogspot.com/2013/09/seo-rules-how-to-write-perfect-post.html
Great advice, Marcy. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve agonized over a post title and still thought “meh” as I pressed “Publish!”
Even knowing how to write good titles, we’re likely to hit ones that make us say “meh.” I know I do on my blog. We do the best we can, and at least they’re bound to be better than if we didn’t try 🙂
Thanks. I’m going to post either tonight or tomorrow morning and my title will be stronger as a result of your article.
I SO struggle with this. Thank you for your clear tips, Marcy!!!
Great post. It’s a standard newspaper issue too – most of which have sub-editors whose sole job is making these hook-line titles up. Back when I was regularly freelancing to papers and magazines I used to concoct such titles for the piece I was writing, in MS, then see whether it got through or whether a subbie thought they could come up with something better. A few did, but mostly it would emerge with some other title on it, usually involving some abysmal pun or, on occasion, a fairly complete mangling of the actual keyline theme I had in mind.
Great tips Marcy! I love the simplicity and usefulness of this post. Sometimes I don’t know if I think about it that closely. I’m probably guilty of getting caught up in word play with my titles. But you’re right, the most commented on posts are the ones with clear titles that are specific to what I’m writing about.
Thanks Marcy another great and informative piece. I clicked through from twitter to read this post 🙂
Hi Marcy! So sorry I couldn’t get over here yesterday. It was a busy day. Yet, I did want to give your post my undivided attention. Especially since most of us do struggle with blog titles. I think there is a lot of pressure for a blogger to get it right. That blog title must pull in the reader. In a way, it is a form of advertisement for your post. I look at my blog titles as a theme. In my title is the theme of the post, what the post is really about. The title is the first thing I come up with. It gives me focus as to what to write and then I weave it through my post, as you of all people have probably noticed. Thus, the title of my posts my take me a while to get it right. I do like to have fun with them. I want them to be catchy. Thank you for simplifying this for me. Great post! 🙂
Great advice! I’m all too guilty of writing vague blog titles…
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Nice and concise, Marcy. As you know, I struggle with blog titles. But I’ll keep this post for reference. Glad to see the cover of your new e-book up. It’s a fabulous, fluff-free, mini e-book for writer’s who are busy. 🙂
God, Marcy. You opened the door to the answer to my problem. Sometimes I feel like I spend more time thinking of a title than writing a post, and my titles still suck. You are awesome!
good advice. i feel I am quite terrible at blog titles. I need to work on them, as well as my posts. It is a lot of fun writing but hard work.
It’s the title of this blog post that brought me here 🙂 ’cause my titles are random successes, hit and miss. Thank your for the succinct reflections on this subject.
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