On Choosing the Title of a Blog Post

A blog post has two parts: the title and the body, the writing that follows the title.

I wrote in an earlier post, In twenty-five words or less, that, “The most important words are the title. It is your first and only chance to get the reader’s attention. You want to give them a reason to read the first paragraph.”

These words hold true, but to make your post more effective you also need to think — carefully — of search engines such as Google:

Pick a title that contains the key elements of the search string that summarizes the subject of your post.

It is the “hits” on this and related search terms that will lead people to your blog.

See for example Configuring Intel 845G video chipset on Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn desktop. This post is about some problems I had installing Ubuntu on an old Aptiva desktop and my success in resolving them. I wanted to share that experience and so picked a title that would show up in searches. For example, that post is the first post returned on “Configuring Intel 845G video chipset on Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn desktop”. That is no surprise. But it is also the first result returned by Google on “Intel 845G video chipset on Ubuntu,” the third on “Intel 845G Ubuntu,” a string that captures the essence of what I was writing about, and the tenth on a search for just “845g.”

That post is currently the most read post so far today, and has been among my most-viewed posts many days since I wrote it, since I am not the only one who has had problems with Intel’s 845G chipset and Ubuntu.

There is one caveat, however. Once you pick the title of a post you don’t want to change it. For example, I titled a recent post The FSL License: Fun Software License. Only minutes after publishing it I realized a better title would have been “The Fun Software License (FSL).”

You can’t go back. As soon as you publish a post it goes out to the folks who use RSS to read your blog. If you change the title, then they will get “404” errors when they try to read it using the URL that was sent out. In the case of WordPress, they will see a message, “Easy, tiger. This is a 404 page.You are totally in the wrong place. Do not pass GO; do not collect $200.”

You can, however, change the content of the post once it has been published; for example, to fix grammatical and layout errors, though in a spirit of fairness you need to maintain the integrity of the post as first published.

So choose the title carefully. Make it catchy, and searchable. But understand that you need to get it right the first time.

One Trackback

  1. […] have written before on the importance of picking a good title for a blog post, and one of my posts yesterday has proven to be an example. […]

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