While I’m a die-hard believer that all artists should have an art blog, I do realize that taking that first step into blogging can be a very strange, almost surreal experience.
For example, with blogging, some things that seem simple and natural—like how you write the titles for your blog posts—are actually fairly complex and VERY integral to the success or failure of your blog.
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I know I’ve briefly talked about writing titles in some of my other SEO articles, but today I promise I’ll do a little more than that. . . and to start off, I should probably explain who (or what) you’re actually writing your titles for.
There are two audiences for your blog post titles
When you write, your first audience is people, obviously. But in a way, you’re also writing for the search engines, because without a little help from them your blog won’t be very easy to find.
So what’s the difference between these two audiences?
In short, people react based on their gut—they’ll click on your title if it feels right, answers a need, intrigues them, challenges them, or asks a question. They need to be able to read and understand the title quickly, and then have the desire to click on it.
Search engines, on the other hand, are computers. They’re boxes with circuits inside.
So instead of “reading” your titles, search engines break them down into individual words (and groups of words). They make graphs and charts with your words, they number them, cross-reference possible meanings, and even analyze the order you placed them in.
To put it bluntly, they have no soul. :)
How to write titles for search engines
If there were only search engines like Google and Yahoo reading your blog, it would be pretty easy to write the perfect titles for your blog posts, every time.
Search engines focus on specific keywords, so you would too. Your latest blog post about painting the squirrels in your backyard could have an ugly title like this:
“Squirrel Painting Squirrel Art Squirrel Artwork Painting of Squirrels…”
Atrocious, right? You’ve probably seen titles like this one in the past, just stuffed with keywords. (It was a lot more common several years ago.)
Luckily, search engine programmers started cracking down on that kind of thing—if you keyword-stuff your titles now, you’ll most likely get penalized for “over-optimization” and your blog post won’t show up in the search result pages at all.
How to write post titles for people
Take a look at the cover of any magazine in the checkout line, and you’ll get a good tutorial in how to write blog post titles for humans.
You’ll see article titles like “How to ______” and “10 best ______” or sometimes “Where do YOU ______?”
In each case, the titles reach out and grab attention. They offer information, advice, or ask questions—and they’re also very specific. You never have to guess at what the article is about.
When you write your titles for people, think about whether or not YOU’D be interested in reading your own blog post, based on the title you gave it. Is your title confident? Does it specifically state what your blog post is about?
Remember, your title will be competing against 9 others on a search engine results page. If it doesn’t stand out, it won’t be clicked on.
Writing titles for both people and search engines
To get the PERFECT blog post titles, you have to write your titles mainly for people, while still giving the search engines a little something extra. Using our previous example regarding squirrels, here’s what a good title might look like:
“The Cutest Squirrel Painting Ever (Two Squirrels Pose for an Oil Painting)”
It’s a little long, but that’s OK. It’s not perfect, but that’s OK too. The best titles won’t be perfect—they’ll be human readable and search engine optimized.
The reason why that’s a good title for search engines, is because it uses two variations of each keyword that you’d want to target for that blog post: squirrel/squirrels and painting/oil painting.
Anybody searching in Google for those keywords, or a combination of any of those keywords, will be much more likely to find your blog post.
The reason why it’s a good title for people is because it makes a claim (cutest ever) and it explains exactly what the blog post is about (two squirrels posing for a painting).
Of course, there are always several different ways you could write a blog post title—rarely is there only ONE way.
Sometimes you’ll want to leave off repeating your main keywords twice, just to keep the length down. Sometimes you’ll find an opportunity for even more variations of your keyword without looking spammy.
The key is to spend some time with each post title. I’d suggest at least 10 minutes. Try a few variations, do a little keyword research, and then pick the best option.
Final considerations when coming up with post titles
One great way to get a few more keywords into your blog titles is to create two short titles and put them together with some sort of punctuation between them—like I did with the squirrel title above.
You can use colons (:), dashes (-), or pipes (|) in addition to regular punctuation like periods and question marks. Search engines just ignore punctuation, but it will probably help people make more sense of your title.
In the same vein, make sure to capitalize your title words consistently. Search engines don’t care, but people do. I usually capitalize everything but insignificant words like “and,” “the,” “or,” etc.
Also, you MUST reinforce your title with your content. A title counts for nothing (well, almost nothing) if the text of your blog post doesn’t expand upon and explain your title. Both search engines AND people expect it.
You may even want to include subtitles throughout your blog post to break up longer sections of text and to reinforce your title. This helps with search engine optimization, too—look at the keywords I’ve used in my subtitles and you’ll see that I’m using variations of certain phrases over and over again.
I hope it’s clear that with a little effort you can easily transform your titles into lean, mean, optimized titles that will do a lot more for you over the long haul.
Just give these methods a shot on your next blog post title (or twenty) and then keep an eye on your stats for an influx of visitors. You may be amazed at the results.