Titles; The Importance, The Sublime, And The So What…

Well, I think I’ve milked enough out of writing my 1,500th post, thus it’s time to get back to ordinary business. In this case, the topic is based off a comment that post received that, initially I wasn’t necessarily happy with, but in retrospect I realized that it’s a word I’ve mentioned in 859 articles but a topic I’ve never written on; see, there’s always something new to address. And this is that post.

fliegender via Compfight

You’d think this would be a simple thing to come to an agreement with; write a compelling title and all is right with the world. Truthfully, that’s not always the case.

Some of the most compelling titles in history have led to some of the biggest arguments. If you want to see compelling titles, check out news stories on the internet and in newspapers. Something not often known is that writers almost never put titles on their articles. So, they might write a piece on one thing only to have an editor decide it needs a punchy title to drive people to it, even if the title has nothing to do with the article, or has something to do with the article that’s on the fringe.

At the other end, sometimes the titles make no sense, or are so ethereal that you’re left pondering their meaning or relationship to the story. For instance, a book I enjoyed called Torpedo Juiceicon had only one reference in the book to the title, that being a drink that this one particular bar made. It had nothing to do with the story but I spent a lot of the book making sure I hadn’t missed the reference. And you can think of a book like To Kill A Mockingbirdicon and possibly miss the reference in that story, yet overall it has nothing to do with what’s going on.

Still, titles can be very important. When I wrote my first book on leadership I initially titled it The Mitchell Principles Of Management because I’m horrible on titles in general, was worse back then, and I thought that a business book needed a business title. Even though it’s self published, one publisher did write me and tell me that it needed a better title, one that might get someone to actually pick it up since they didn’t know me, thus Embrace The Lead was born, even though it took probably 3 months to come up with a title. Man, that’s a lot of work!

This brings us back to the main question, which is just how important are titles anyway? My response… depends…

First, here are some major points to consider:

* Are you writing a story or an article, such as a blog post? If you’re writing a “how-to” then the title is important to let people know what you’re teaching them. If you’re writing a story about an encounter with aliens from another planet the skies the limit.

* Are you looking to be honest or just get people to come? Back in the day people who gave advice on writing titles for blogs said to put in words like “the secret to” or “the real story behind” and junk like that because humans love scandal, and of course that’s really true. But if the post doesn’t live up to the title, aren’t you the reader dismayed? Then we have titles of 3 of my latest posts, which I’m not linking to but you know where to find them: 5 More Android Apps I Recommend, 10 Social Media/Networking Don’ts In 2 Minutes, and Driving More Visitors To Your Blog; Are You Ready For The Work? True, honest titles but are they compelling?

* What are you hoping others will do if they read your article or post? If you’re hoping to drive visitors to consume and comment on your missives, that’s pretty cool. If you’re hoping they’ll share with others, compelling is nice but what’s more important is just how long is your title? Some titles are so long that trying to share them on social media platforms can be troublesome. For that matter, your putting them on social media is troublesome. Then again, it would certainly make you different and possibly stand out.

Lisa Lee Marie @ Formula D Irwindale Round 7 "Title Fight"
Charles Siritho via Compfight
here’s the “so what” of the post lol

Seems like I’m all over the place doesn’t it? Just had to get all that stuff out of the way first. So, onto titles and recommendations. As I said earlier, I think I’m the worst at titles, but that’s because I don’t sit around spending time trying to think of something outrageous to title anything I write. But if I did, these would be some recommendations:

1. If you write a how-to, it must be in the title.

This one should make a lot of sense. If you’re teaching someone how to build a birdhouse, tell them that instead of using something cute.

2. If you’re writing a review type scenario, that needs to be in the title.

Once again, tell people what they’re getting… but please, PLEASE, don’t use scam in the title unless worded properly.

3. If there’s an overall theme that keeps popping up throughout your tale, that should go in the title.

This one’s a bit dicey because, like the fictional books above, those were pretty much one liners. For blogging, and of course the stupid search engines, it works best if you help them help you drive visitors to your site.

4. Don’t play with the audience’s emotions. If you use a misleading title as clickbait you might get visitors but they’ll leave and never come back.

That’s all I’ve got. If you have any further ideas on your beliefs about titles, go for it. Onward and upward!

(the link with the light blue line denotes an affiliate link if you’d like to check out the book)

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10 comments on “Titles; The Importance, The Sublime, And The So What…

  • Always to try use catchy titles. I wrote an article with tips regarding different article titles about a year ago. Probably I need to brush this article a bit, but in general I always use a lot heading tags in my articles and rarely stick only to title. Sometimes, even the topic change on 180 degrees when I try to lead to something unexpected.
    Kaloyan Banev recently posted…Hands-on Preview: Drupal 8My Profile

    • Carl, I don’t use any heading tags in my posts; I just don’t have the time, and of course then I’d have to break into the CSS settings to change the fonts because they’re different and a different color than my normal text; I hate that part. What would you mean by “catchy” if I can ask?

  • Hi Mitch, Nice to see this post on titles. 🙂 Good advice on the titles. In the post, you’ve said “If you’re writing a “how-to” then the title is important to let people know what you’re teaching them.”…This point is so true and I totally agree with you.

    There are many who write titles with the word “Secret” but when we read the post, it’s nothing secret. What I want to say is that if the title says “Secret”, then it must really be something secret that none others know.

    I liked the way you explained how people gather comments with titles so clearly.

    And definitely, we, as bloggers, shouldn’t pay with our audience’s emotions but deliver them exactly and to the point what we promise in the title.
    Mainak Halder recently posted…4 Must-Do Things For Beginner Bloggers To Optimize Your Blog For Search Engine RankingsMy Profile

    • Thanks Mainak. I hate going to blogs or articles where the title doesn’t match up with the story. I don’t mind it for literature because there’s usually an underlying theme that I may or may not figure out, but that’s on the reader. And flamboyant I’m not; wish I was sometimes. lol

  • Great points, Mitch 🙂

    You seemed to have summarized everything 😀

    I don’t spend much time with titles (then again, it depends). But, most of the time, I just write what comes to my mind. It might not be the best strategy, but in the end, I feel satisfied…I feel that I wrote out my heart, instead of brain.

    Of course, sometimes it’s better to write with our brains, especially if we are looking to get more results.

    One of my other grips? Apostrophes? I love using punctuation marks on my titles, but the problem most of them don’t work very well on social media, especially on Twitter (When using the tweet button on a site).

    Instead of Apostrophes, I get things like “& amp ;”. So, I had to go back and change my titles a couple of times (Fortunately, I noticed it soon, so it wasn’t too bad).

    Anyways, thank you for sharing this, Mitch 🙂

    I still read all the research about how awesome numbers are on titles and stuff…but, I am not going to worry about it.

    At the end of the day, results do matter..but, so does my satisfaction with blogging. So, I am going to keep writing titles out of my heart (and use a bit of brain while I am at it :D).
    Jeevanjacobjohn recently posted…Want to be more Creative? Just be bored!My Profile

    • Great stuff Jeevan. Most of the articles you see about how great titles are supposed to be are from people who say they spend time thinking of a topic, then time thinking of a title, and then they start writing. Once I decide the topic and the direction I just add the title and go about my business of writing the article. It’s rare that I’ll change a title once I’ve started one but having that title keeps me on track.

      I’ve never noticed whether that apostrophe is messing up for me or not; I don’t think so but I’ll have to keep watch on it.

  • And as if that is not enough we still have to think about SEO right? Gotta have the keyword in the blog post right? That is what they say.
    The other thing ‘they’ say and I believe it is true is titles with a list is good. I get a lot of retweets on twitter with something like “5 More Android Apps I Recommend” or the like.
    Finally, I think it is funny when a title is built around alliteration. “Five funny facts about fruit” 🙂
    Troy recently posted…#988 Baby animals learning to standMy Profile

    • Troy, I’ve heard that list posts are great but hadn’t really thought about associating it with titles. Let’s look at my stats for the last 30 days. I’ve had 3 posts that have been list posts, of sort, in the last month. According to Google Analytics those posts are ranked #2, #3 & #8. That’s not so bad, but then the other side is that the amount of time spent on average on those posts is 47, 57 and 50 seconds. The one most people seem to be spending the most time on… this one, at over 2 minutes! 🙂

      As for the SEO part, here’s my take on that. If you’re writing naturally you won’t have to worry about the SEO because your keywords and keyword phrases should naturally come up in the article, and of course it should match up in some fashion with your title, unless you write something like my story on Thursday or my story about the keys, since that word was in the story but since it was a story keywords weren’t even a thought.

      • I get what you are saying about writing naturally. For sure that is correct.
        The thing about having ‘list posts’ I believe is when promoting the post on Twitter or ??? people will tend to click through to something like “Top 8 ways to quickly clean the stove. #6 will shock you!” which is why I like those.
        Troy recently posted…#981 FeedlyMy Profile

      • List post titles are catchy Troy, but one can’t live off tons of them because the readers get sick of them after a while. It’s always good to have some, but we all need to mix things up also; diversity goes a long way everywhere, even in writing one’s blog. 🙂

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