Increase Your Blog’s Traffic With Compelling Titles

hamster

(or Matt Cutts ate my hamster and why blog posts are like salt…)

Ok, firstly Matt Cutts didn’t eat my hamster. No one has eaten my hamster. He is alive and well and (just in case you are still worried) here’s a photo of me with him taken just now.

The reason for the headline is that today’s post is all about the biggest challenge for any blogger – getting your post noticed among the crowd.

You could be the William Shakespeare of the blogosphere, writing thousands of words of beautifully crafted prose every day, but unless you can grab people’s attention then there is a good chance that no one will ever know what it is to experience the sheer joy of reading your words.

If you are reading this right now, and haven’t clicked back in disgust at my deception, (or the disappointment of not seeing the head of google’s webspam with the head of my hamster poking out his mouth), then I am guessing my post stood out. I can promise you that the second part of my title is relevant and that blog posts are (a little) like salt.

I’m going to look at one of the main social networks and biggest sources of traffic for bloggers, twitter, and what it is that makes certain posts stand out among the crowd. But first, some stats…

What Are You Up Against?

According to this post and infographic at digitalbuzzblog there are 2 Million new blog posts published to the internet every day. Within these posts there is apparently enough content to fill time magazine for 770 years. This figure was from 2012, so it’s probably even more now.

To put this into perspective, it is estimated that there are around 1 Million grains of salt in a salt shaker, so imagine 2 salt shakers full of salt and your blog post as one tiny insignificant grain. You’re going to have to be a pretty exceptional grain of salt to get yourself noticed!

Ok, I’m going to continue with this salt analogy for a bit while I talk about getting noticed on twitter, so bear with me…

How would you notice 1 grain of salt in amongst all those other grains?

Salt shaker, transparent background

your blog posts are a bit like salt.. honest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Be The Biggest Grain Of Salt Out There

Lets imagine for a second that as you are pouring your salt, there is one mega grain that is about 50 times the size of all the others. We will ignore the practicality that it probably wouldn’t fit through the holes for the purposes of continuing this poorly executed analogy.

So, the monster grain of salt plonks out onto your microwaved chips and immediately grabs your attention – simply because of its sheer size.

What the hell does this have to do with getting your blog post noticed on Twitter?

Good question! Well, the first way in which your blog post will cut through the crowd is if you are already a big fish. Most of us are guilty of scanning through our twitter feed and if we see the profile pic of a blogger we already admire, particularly an A lister, then we are much more likely to click the link or retweet (sometimes because the content is good, <honesty>and other times because we want them to notice us</honesty>). So being big means you don’t have to work so hard, but how do you get big in the first place?

Stand Out From The Crowd

The next day you cook up a perfect jacket potato and, despite your slight trepidation caused by yesterday’s humongous salt episode, you pick up one of the two salt shakers on your dining table and give it a shake. It’s looking good, until… a green grain of salt pops out! Yuck! Or maybe you like green? Whatever the case, this lime coloured grain of salt has definitely grabbed your attention.

So, how do you grab people’s attention on twitter?

Well, you probably guessed from the title of this very post, but a lot of it (the vast majority) is to do with your title.

If you ask many A list bloggers they will tell you that they spend as much time crafting their titles as they do in writing their posts. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase that headlines sell newspapers and the same is true for blog posts.

Well written titles are magnetic, grab attention and invite clicks – people just can’t help it. And on twitter, you get just 140 characters (with your URL taking up 22 of them), so the title of your post and a couple of tags is pretty much all you get.

How Do You Write Magnetic Headlines?

Well, I am not going to go into too much detail on this as I believe that this series of ebooks on copyblogger is pretty much the definitive resource. You’ll need to sign up with them (free), but it should be the next thing you do after reading (and sharing 😉 this post as it will change the way you write. In the mean time I’ll quickly give you a few examples of 3 types of headline that work well.

How To Headlines

Examples…

  • How To Work Less And Earn More
  • How To Get Six Pack Abs While You Watch TV
  • How To Destroy Your Competition While You Sleep

I’ve just made them up off the top of my head, but hopefully you will see how if they were real articles they would grab your attention.

List Posts

  • 7 Ways You Can Work Less Hours And Make More Money
  • 4 Ways You Can Get A Killer Six Pack With No Exercise
  • 6 Easy Ways To Outrank Your Competitors

People like lists and numbers!

How I Titles

  • How I Work A 15 Hour Week And Make $90,000 A Year
  • How I Got Six Pack Abs While Sitting On My Butt
  • How I Outranked All My Competitors And Bought Myself A Ferrari

Hopefully you get the idea and it has got you thinking about how you write your post titles, but for a load more examples and advice on title formats that people can’t help clicking, jump over to copyblogger.

It goes without saying (although I’m about to say it anyway) that once you have managed to get people to notice your post on twitter with a snappy magnetic title, you have to back it up with amazing content.

So, today we have learned: –

  • Matt Cutts didn’t eat my hamster
  • There is an exceptionally tenuous link between blog posts and salt
  • Writing a catchy, attention grabbing title will get your blog posts noticed on twitter
  • Once you have people’s attention, back it up with well written, engaging content

If you have any questions or feedback, then please leave a comment below. For loads more blogging tips, SEO tips, marketing advice and pictures of my hamster, you can subscribe to the blog by RSS or email, add me on twitter or seek me out in the pub, kidnap me, tie me up and force me to reveal all my secrets.

Probably best just to add me on twitter.

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About the Author

I'm a web developer, programmer, blogger and SEO expert from Glasgow, Scotland, with over 15 years experience in the industry. When I'm not writing about marketing and SEO you'll find me strumming the guitar in my band or listening to Revolver on repeat. Follow me on twitter, connect with me on google+ and add us on facebook to keep up with all the latest trends in SEO and online marketing.

Leave a Reply 13 comments

Apollo - July 10, 2013 Reply

I totally agree; great content is wasted unless you can reach an audience. Blogging is much harder than most anticipate.

Jennifer Jinright - July 10, 2013 Reply

Hi David!
I like your analogy. It’s quirky and easy to understand. It will help a lot of new and some seasoned bloggers. Your poor hamster is going to have a fit when he reads this though! You may want to password protect it and conveniently forget the PW when he asks! 😉 Thanks for a fun, helpful read.
Jennifer Jinright

    David McSweeney - July 10, 2013 Reply

    Thanks Jennifer, glad you enjoyed the post. Yep, he’s curled up in bed at the moment… think he knows I’ve been up to something (particularly as I woke him up earlier for the photo). I’ll give him a corn on the cob to make it up to him!

Tom Jamieson - July 11, 2013 Reply

Hey David! I use “how to” and lists on my blog and they usually work the best. Thanks for sharing your insight.

    David McSweeney - July 11, 2013 Reply

    yep, list posts in particular work well and the format makes them easy to write

ataur - July 12, 2013 Reply

Thanks David McSweeney,
We entirely acknowledge; great information is usually lost if you do not can get to a great target audience. Writing a blog is quite a bit tougher compared to almost all be expecting. This post is equally important. This post is very inspirational and motivating.

Reards,
ataur

forklift training - July 25, 2013 Reply

Great blog post David, keep up the good work and look forward to reading more posts.

Navneet - July 26, 2013 Reply

I liked your William Shakespeare part and time magazine part , really loved to read your words. Thanks for sharing this article. Top article of the Day

    David McSweeney - July 26, 2013 Reply

    Thanks Navneet, glad you enjoyed it

Glen Wilson - July 28, 2013 Reply

Firstly, HOW DARE YOU…I FEEL DUPED….
Secondly, Thank GOD your hamster is alive
Thirdly, It’s a pity Matt Cutts didn’t get food poisoning as a result
and Therestly, that was a good article. You got me here, I laughed, I learn’t, I followed, I signed up and now I’m commenting.

Let’s hope you grow up to be a big grain of salt.

ps. How are you finding commentluv? I’m thinking of getting it myself

    David McSweeney - July 28, 2013 Reply

    haha thanks Glen. Glad you enjoyed the article.

    I would definitely recommend installing commentluv – it’s a nice way to reward your commenters. I just use the free version at the moment, but I’m thinking of upgrading to premium.

Ian Ray - July 29, 2013 Reply

Great post and love reading your blog. Also it help me motivated in doing my blog posts.

Dilip Win - January 7, 2014 Reply

Hi David,
I agree with your points, Title takes very important part in an article. Google crawls all the sites with its title basis only. Concentrating on title surely increase blog traffic.

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