I’ve whined often enough about having a dreadful name for a blog. This post, as the title suggests, is not going to be about that. I’m going meta here by discussing blog post titles, as the title says. But, isn’t every blog post title a suggestion of what’s to come? I guess it’s meta-meta on this one but, the point is, it is important to think about them. Whether you’re happy or unhappy with your blog name, you can redeem yourself if you come up with titles (and hopefully, content) that are compelling enough. What is even better, you get a chance to do so with every new post. Really, it ultimately doesn’t matter how bad your blog name is. Can you count the number of artists you know who have terrible names but, songs you love? A blog post title is a chance to not only renew expectations your readers may have had of your blog (and you), it also brings new readers in. Which is why, it is so important to get it right everytime.
My blog post titles are what inspired my blog name. As some of you may know, it is the dirty-cheap-politicized part of it, ‘Opinions,’ I hate. The ‘Of’ allows me continuity, inspiration. I don’t think many bloggers do this but, my titles inspire my posts most of the time, not the other way around. In fact, I find it much harder to come from a nebulous, many ideas-words-and-phrases sort of place to narrow it down to a thematic, titular word or phrase that would sum up everything it’s about, while leaving it mysterious. I’ve never worked as a copywriter but, I suppose it’s all the advertising that is around, all the time, that compels me to think of everything within a few words. I may be many-worded, emotionally and intellectually, when it comes to Amy Winehouse’s music and life but, it’s the culture I am in that makes me think of her in a few. It’s not like the two can’t co-exist but, it’s almost always that you begin with the latter to, maybe, proceed to the former. You have to be sufficiently intrigued by what something or someone is about, before taking the time to find out more.
Thus, blog post titles are like advertising. It is a promise but, also a tease. We humble bloggers think of it as telling what the post is about but, it has to be more than that. It shouldn’t only tell you what it’s going to be about, it should make you want to find out more. Of course, rules of advertising have changed in recent years. It would have been easier to draw people with clickbait titles in the past (even if it wasn’t a bait and there was something substantial on the other side) but, people have become much more programmed through habituation on what to avoid. While sensationalist titles still draw people in (for example, any number of news headlines), something simple but intriguing can do the trick better than you expect. For example, this Ted Talk titled The Person You Really Need To Marry, which itself was inspired by a viral article, may seem like something a dating/matrimonial website would promote but, the video does the opposite by promoting self-love and independence. It might seem like another boring how-to on finding the right guy (really, how many such articles are about finding the right girl?) but, it leads to something different and yet more meaningful than what you expected. Misleading perhaps but, also provocative and powerful.
I am fully reconciled to the fact that I’m unlikely to ever write a post that will go viral, or even draw in more readers than I am used to. My blog post titles have a lot to do with that. Usually, if I have the words “writing” or “blogging” in them, because they are about writing and blogging, I can expect to find both new and regular readers reading it. Everything else is more niche and because I abide by my preference for shorter titles prefaced with an ‘Of’ (c’mon, my most read post is called Of Of’s), it doesn’t have that viral quality to it. My two most recent posts that have also gone on to become my most successful, show different aspects of blog post titling. Of Getting Personal, understandably, must have attracted readers on the basis of it being a promisingly confessional title, even though that is exactly what the rest of the post dismissed. It is almost like the above mentioned Ted Talk, nullifying what it promises in the title. My poem Intimacy, on the other hand, was the other successful post that summarised what is to follow. It took me a long time to come up with that title and I had thought of simply using the first line of the poem as the name. But, the title added extra layers I hadn’t anticipated as I had written it. It became part of that text, that dialogue, which is what all good (or great) titles should do. Not just promise, tease or suggest but, imbibe and become one and whole, inseparable from what’s to come, and even adding to it.
How do you come up with blog post titles?