Hi. This is an old, unmaintained blog. You may find these sites more to your liking:

Carson Brackney: This is my primary site.

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Ad Astra Traffic Team: For those who'd like to get writing gigs with Ad Astra.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Titles matter...So, why do mine stink?

When I write for clients, I make sure their articles have good titles.

What makes a title a "good" one? Well, that depends on the planned use for the material, to some extent, but there are a few elements I take into consideration when writing titles.

  • First, the title should be attention-grabbing. The title should draw the reader to the subsequent text. An eye-catching title's exact nature is going to vary based upon the audience. For instance, a site frequented by those with more academic inclinations may prefer something like "Writing Effective Article Titles: Balancing Novelty with Information." A site targeted at a different demographic might do better with "Your Article Title should not Stink." You get the idea. Different strokes for different folks and all of that. The bottom line is to convince those who see the title to pause and to keep reading.
  • Second, the title should communicate the nature of the content. "Seven Ways to Date Natalie Portman by Next Week" might attract some attention, but if the actual article is about the best way to grout your shower, you're probably looking for trouble. Readers don't like getting suckered and misleading titles run contrary to the net's primary function of being an efficient means of information gathering. It also flunks the test with regard to the third item on our list...
  • Third, old school SEO dictatets that the title should contain desired keyword terminology. If the article is about "steak knives" and the client is trying to rank highly for "stainless steel steak knives," I should try to get that keyword phrase into the title. Thus, "A Guide to Stainless Steel Steak Knives" is better than "A Guide to Steak Knives." Yes, both of them stink in terms of capturing reader interest, but at least one of the contains the important keyword phrase. In reality, I'd try to construct a title that stood out a little bit more while containing the phrase. Inclusion of the keyword phrase in the title is considered valuable by many content buyers for SEO reasons. It's a balancing act, though, as trying to keyword-stuff titles decreases reader appeal. Personally, I don't subscribe to the school of thought that obsesseses on keyword density. However, many of my clients DO believe it is extremely important and I will produce the best-reading materials that matches their KD expectations.

Okay, so why am I not practicing what I preach with respect to titles at the Content Done Better Blog? I don't think my titles are misleading, but one can make an argument that I don't bend over backwards to make the posts appear to be scintillating "must-reads." Also, I do a very poor job of using keywords related to freelance content writing and copywriting within the titles.

I'd love to claim that I have stumbled across a secret technique that allows me to stray from the principles I've outlined above. I haven't.

I should, really, be doing a better job. If I made a conscious effort to include post-related keywords in the titles, for instance, I would definitely be doing myself a favor. Even if it didn't resonate with the SEs, it might with potential buyers.

I guess that means I am being a bit hypocritical. Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, but that really isn't a good excuse for doing things that fly in reason's face.

I think the titles here, with their occasional cutesiness and lack of keywords, grew out of habit and the fact that I started this blog without a great deal of thought about traffic generation. I saw the blog as a side addition to the Content Done Better static website and just started writing without a great deal of concern for optimization.

Another reason I don't always follow the three general principles mentioned earlier is because I personally don't fully embrace the keyword density model of content writing, nor do I think that H1 tags and other on page factors have quite as much power as they once did. If my clients follow those principles, I write to suit them, of course.

It also stems from the fact that I approach the content of this blog more informally than I do my clients' work. I tend to write these posts "on the fly" and keep my fingers crossed that readers will recognize that some of the typos and other errata stem from the fact that this is a friendly blog and is not a painstakingly edited endeavor.

Anyway, I think I will start trying to write better titles here. For the sake of stylistic consistency, I will probably retain the "multiple title" format and ellipses, but will also take an extra moment to think about attention-grabbing and will try to squeeze a handy keyword phrase or two into the mix.

Although my self-critique might have some value for readers, the primary message to this post is that titles do matter. If you are writing your own content, make a point of inventing good titles. If you are hiring a writer to produce content for you, ask them to write titles that grab attention, accurately describe the article's content and that utilize definied keyword phrases.

TECHNORATI UPDATE: This blog has now received the cold shoulder from Technorati for twenty-one days. Still no contact from any human despite a few help requests. Any predictions on how long it takes for a fix?

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