How Do You Stack Up

January 29, 2010 · Comments

titles Swing by any page at Alltop and browse the titles other bloggers are using. Now, compare their titles to yours. Which would you click? Go back and look at the last 30 days of your blog. How many posts does that encompass? If someone only had the last 30 days of your blog to go on, what would they say about it?

If you look at this graphic I copied, you’ll see a few titles that get your eyebrow raised. I found the experiment to be interesting, and even more interesting when I picked a topic material that wasn’t really my thing. It’s amazing how just the titles got me thinking about my own blog and what I could do better.

Just for fun, I grabbed the most recent titles from my blog. Here they are:

  • The Location Game – Over on OPENForum
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Review
  • How Social Media Can Power Your Business – Kitchen Table Talks
  • Points of Contact
  • The Social Media Pie – over on OPEN Forum
  • How I Use Mindmapping to Write
  • Cubicle Farming
  • New Job New You – a Book Review
  • The Writing Practice
  • Switch- A Book Review
  • The Beginning – Kitchen Table Talks
  • How NOT to Help Haiti
  • How Systems Thwart Service
  • Your Farmer List
  • Living In Google Wave
  • What is Your Pop-Up Store
  • Get Seen- Do It Now
  • Represented by the APB Speaker’s Bureau
  • More Fun Than Competition
  • Business Stripped Bare – Book Review
  • Do One Thing Very Well
  • How Heartfelt Marketing Delivers
  • The Future Is Evidently Blurry
  • A Customer Aware World
  • Experiment- 30 Days of Bing
  • Deepen Your Networks
  • New Sponsor – Search Engine Strategies NYC
  • Are You Ready for Fun

There are four book reviews. There are four “announcement/promotion” type posts. There are seven video posts.

Of the titles, I think I did okay. I think they could be better. I’m sure Brian would tell me I could do better.

So, what do you think? How do YOU stack up? Does looking at other people’s titles and ideas help you think about your blog?

Can you see the value in comparisons, or, as I talk about in More Fun Than Competition, are you just competing with yourself?

If your blog was the next Wired / BusinessWeek / FastCompany / whatever-for-your-industry, how would you rate it?

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  • Chris, this is a real fresh perspective. To be honest.. I pretty well suck at writing headlines. Tonight I checked out an interview that Trey Pennington did with author Sam Horn. His niche is helping others make their content pop. Good stuff. I guess the biggest issue I have with the science of copywriting is that it all seems very cliche. List posts, linkbait, the biggest secret to this, the revolutionized process of that... a bit too inflamed and cliche for me.

    Last year I wrote a post titled "How to get a landslide of Retweets" To be totally honest it was more of a joke than anything but it landed me a landslide of retweets. I remember hearing Chris Penn talk about creating headlines and copy that sells and attracts. His comment was that you would think much less of humanity when you see what people fall for and click on.

    When I write I guess I write from the heart but if fewer people read it then you are doing yourself and them a disservice. I try to find a balance.
  • The BBC write the best headlines.
  • I love your last sentence, Keith, because I'm the same way. I strive to write things of substance that push for growth and conversation. But if it's hard for people to find, read, and share, then how can that growth and conversation continue?

    Definitely a delicate balance between salesy, flashy headlines and headlines that are more subtle and "clever". I wonder if we'll ever find that balance exactly!
  • Karen
    Hey Chris,
    Life is so mad busy that I tend to want a fair idea about what I'm going to get before I click. So, 'Living in Google Wave' works better for me than 'Points of contact'. The more specific and descriptive the better.:-)
  • I'm a Kansas sex industry blogger focusing on stripping in Lawrence, KS.

    Based on your post, I think I've been getting better at titling posts since I started in November 2009, but I could definitely use some improvement. Looking at your titles is helpful. Yours seem written to inform, whereas mine, I feel, might be less informative and could feel shocking to a first-time reader. My objective is to share information about what it's like to be a stripper, not to shock readers. (It's an important perspective to put out there in a world that thinks all strippers are uneducated crack-addicted prostitutes with no other plans for their lives).

    Each of these titles was preceded by "Anna Undercover:"

    "Strippers = Ninjas," "Help With a Secret Project," and "Kansas Likes It Rough" (censored by online editor after publication, is now: "Kansas Is Rough") are some recent titles.

    I might want to be a bit less shocking, and move more into 'thought-provoking' to be more widely appealing.
  • And you probably want to put "Anna Undercover" *after* the titles so that the different titles have room in mobile browsers. : )

    Lawrence, KS? I think I'll be there in April for an event.
  • Am still considering putting the blog name after the entry titles. I have liked it in this format:

    Anna Undercover: Catchy Entry Title
  • rajtilak
    Now lemme see, I need to write a good article, I need to put on a catchy headline, I need to promote my articles on Facebook and Twitter, not to forget FriendFeed, I need to gift my Twitter followers everyday with precious tweets, I need to....aaarrrrghhh, the list keeps on increasing everyday man. Morale of the story, if you feel that you are being made to socialize online, then probably "make money online" or blogging is not your kinda stuff. You should try something suitable for the soft hearted, like maybe playing guitar on the sidewalk. I guess even that needs quite a dedication.
  • That's exactly it. If you want to build an online business relationship, it's going to take you some effort. But nothing in life is easy.
  • rajtilak
    Just wanted to say thanks. Why? Well, I kinda followed your advice.

    Earlier this morning, I published a review of a Google product (sorry, can't provide the link here cause I'm here to thank Chris and not promote my blog, probably would do that some other time), and gave it a catchy headline. Something like "Google Helps You find a Girlfriend." And it worked!

    I went to the Geeks page on Alltop where my blog is listed, and I compared the title. It was brilliant. So, thanks Chris. Cause this is probably the last thing we look at while writing for out blogs, the title. But never knew that it could really make such a difference.
  • ahockley
    Alltop is one place where I see specific, measurable results based on the quality (or lack thereof) of my blog titles. I see Alltop referrers all the time for posts with great titles. Posts with lackluster titles... not so much.

    That's a great tip to go browse others' titles on Alltop for ideas/inspiration. Where else can you find so many topical titles in one place?
  • Chris

    I pretty much feel as Keith does about my headline writing abilities. I am rebuilding the blog and in doing so get to see 6 months worth of headlines. Some I find myself scratching my head wondering what I was thinking but that is a sign of growth. The more posts, the more you learn and can be come better at it. I tend to read a lot of blogs each day (or try to) and I do notice the headline but not in how it got me to read but how it was written and ties to the article. That does seem to help with getting better.
  • Nice two-fer post, Chris. While you meant to remind us to get back to the basics and amp up headlines, what I really liked was how you sat back and categorized your posts. And let me know it's a pretty good idea to do book review and video posts. Gracias, amigo.
  • You know, Chris, to be honest...I've always thought your titles could be improved upon. But, strangely, I view that as a testament to the actual quality of your work. People don't care what the hell the title is, they want to read your content no matter what!
  • I always look at these type of statistics and wonder what this means in terms of how many people are actually struggling. For example, when I was in grad school, I probably showed in these statistics up as being under the poverty threshold, but I wasn't suffering. My parents might also show up as they are under 65 and retired, but they are quite well off. So how many couples with 2 elementary school kids are earning less than $21,834 year in and year out? In addition, I know 2 families well with very young children that probably qualify, but both of them consist of well educated adults for whom this is likely a temporary stage - and who manage to live just fine by being very frugal and creative. (One of my friends feeds her family mostly organic while spending less than food stamps would give her!) (Note, I fully realize it is quite different to live on $20k when you've got an education and parents who would help out in an emergency vs being a low-wage worker with no support system)
  • That's a great tip to go browse others' titles on Alltop for ideas/inspiration. Where else can you find so many topical titles in one place?
  • Chris,

    I spend a lot of time on my titles. I think of it like a book on a shelf: if the title's not intriguing, who's going to pick it up? (I spend a lot of time on them, but like everybody, I don't always succeed, LOL.)

    So yes, I do look at other titles, thinking what has that title got that I haven't got and how can I adapt it, all the time. It's very valuable for me. How funny that even though I'm on Alltop I'd never thought of staring at it for title inspiration! I think that's a great idea!

    I'm certainly hopeful that MCE will eventually get just the right exposure and be the next whatever-for-my-industry. Compelling titles is key to getting fabulous new reader-eyeballs in.



    P.S. Do you think that as you've gotten more readership, knowing that X number of people *will* read you and recommend you daily, regardless of the title, has made it harder to focus on killer headlines?
  • Hard to say. I never take the audience for granted, especially because my goal is to educate *and* build business. In my case, my titles have to drive potential buyers, and that's a bit harder. : )
  • Instead of a headline that says, "hey, look at me", always strive for "here's something of great value to you".
  • Bingo. This is simple, yet brilliant advice. Always put the reader in the headlines/copy.
  • Nice reminder. My tendency is to write the post and then slap on the headline almost as an afterthought. This is Bass Ackwards for course - especially if you come from a newspaper background where the headline is the story (and there are writers who do nothing but write these - or at least there used to be).

    An old teacher back in the day used to have her own litmus test for headlines: how would they read on a T-Shirt? Would it be provocative enough as a stand alone?
  • InsuranceNick
    On the contrary, I find it's often useful to write the headline after a blog post. Many times, an idea isn't fully developed at the beginning and conclusions and key points are drawn during the process. Stewing over the headline first and trying to get your writing to fit within the confines of the headline can be limiting, especially if you really love the headline.

    Considering I write about insurance, headlines are critical just to avoid the perception or boringness.
  • Hi Nick - I wasn't implying you should write the headline first. I was just trying to say (albeit unsuccessfully) that you should spend some time thinking it through. I for one could do better at this.
  • Most copywriters will tell you the same thing. Work on the headline after you've written the article.
  • Ivan I agree about writing the content first. BBC do have great headlines but the Americans just seem to be able to top us all. It's seems like an in built ability they are born with.
  • Oh Judith! Oh Judith! Oh Judith!

    <the Americans just seem to be able to top us all

    Here we differ...

    Led Zep v Nirvana
    Bill Shakespeare v Anyone
    Olivier v Deniro
    Agatha Christie v Dan Brown

    But I will concede that no-one does self-promotion better than then Americans - they've got that nailed.

    ...and yeah Bobby Dylan is a God
  • julito77
    Feeling pretty good about the titles we are generating and Chris, you are a testament of the fact that in order to succeed in this, you have to post consistently and post often. Nice work.
  • fabulousphotogifts
    Hi Chris - what a great idea.

    I'm writing a post for a renewable energy blog I look after / write for on a daily basis which will publish on Monday - basically, it's a list of the headlines I've used during January (with links to each post) and asks the readers what caught their eye and whether they feel the topics covered are a good spread or they'd like to see more (or less) of certain topics.

    Here's the blog url itself: - keep an eye out on monday won't you?

    Thanks for the continued inspiration Chris.

  • I expected my headlines to leave a lot to be desired but surprisingly they weren't too bad -- often better than the post itself (which means they were a bit misleading, I suppose, though not deliberately).

    One thing I did notice with a few of them was that they were quite locally focused and with the geographic spread of my visitors, I'm sure many were uninformed about the background (though I think some of the links I had would have provided that).

    So that brings up a question: even if it is within the scope of your blog, should you be local if your audience is from all over the place? On one hand, we're told local (even hyper-local) is a big deal for building audiences (at least with news). On the other, it strikes me that someone in Omaha isn't likely to find something about New Brunswick, Canada terribly compelling.
  • inspectilm
    Blogging also requires us to learn new things and stack up on them. Blogging for the discerning, is a learning process.
  • Very well put! It's that learning process that separates those who will succeed from those who won't.
  • A check against Alltop's list is valuable. I like comparison and reading other bloggers' tips. Still, I am an experiential type of guy. I'll touch the fire to see if it is as "hot" as people say. My blogs are works in progress, so I don't mind using them to learn. The good news, Chris? I am proving that your tips work. ;-]
  • Not sure why you needed to list all 30 titles but hey. The argument you makes is very valid. What sort of picture are you creating in the blog, is is congruent with your goals, your where you want to go our as Gary Vee would say your legacy. I think yours paints a good mental picture and presents human business (see I listen) very well.

    I think headlines can be important too or I am with Keith too.
  • thesocial1
    This is a great topic, but how can I spice up my community blog where I share information?
  • Thanks Chris, We do get too much involved in our own work to stop and think what we are really doing. At least that is what I realize of myself right now.
  • Thanks Chris..this is definitely important to think about, as writing for blogs is different that writing a "term paper"! We are geared today for "impact and brevity" You get 140 characters and 2.7 seconds to get my attention: the new bar for engaging readers it seems. What's interesting for me is it isn't always consistent with what I think is engaging and what actually is to readers? So, I continue to post and learn. Ultimately, it's about what adds value to my world and what I can share with my sphere of interest. One of my biggest headline responders was "Johnny Depp leaves Five Thousand Dollar Tip". Go figure!!
  • Chris,

    I agree that headlines are difficult, however I check mine out at the Advanced Marketing Institute Headline Anlyzer

    The analyzer scores the headline out of 100 base don its intellectual, empathetic and spiritual appeal.

    For example, this title, 'How Do You Stack Up' scores 40% while my alternatives 'Do Your Headlines Rock' and 'Teasing Titles Turn Up The Volume' score 50%. Do you think they are any better?
  • Thanks for the tip. Will give that one a try! I do prefer Teasing Titles Turn Up.
  • gerardmclean
    If you want great headlines, hire a newspaper copyeditor! These folks are the funniest, wittiest most devious people I have ever worked with and I say with with the highest praise and awe. Great Alltop tip. I've been using that ever since Alltop came out. Thanks for giving away the secret :-) (BTW, the topic Dogs is STILL not there.. we have to be under Pets with cats and birds.. )

    Great headlines are ok, but the byline is still the bigger draw. It's just a fact. Chris and I can write the same headline, but his will get clicked on tens of thousands of times more than mine.

    Testing is also important. When tweeting out a new blog post, tweet out under a few different headlines and see what draws more. Then, change it if the first one does not test well. And write the headline after writing the blog post. Sometimes, the post takes a different turn as you write; I know mine do... What was I saying??
  • Woah... thanks for the post, Chris. It's an honor to have you call out The Brand Chef post like that.

    While I work hard to make headlines draw readers, sometimes the content dictates the title. That particular post just rolled out and BOOM. There it was.

    Again, it's an honor to have you "mention" the post. Thank you!

    Keep Cooking!
    Andrew B. Clark
    The Brand Chef
  • Chris you no longer need headlines, I anticipate you content everyday. However, thanks for expanding the minds and thinking of us who with your input are making headway into our marketing businesses. Keep it coming Chris, with or without headlines.
  • That's interesting. I have actually just browsed through Alltop a while ago, but never used it for anything. Now, I might actually do your experiment once in a while.

    I just looked at my own titles, and some of them are ok, and others are not. I should definitely compare myself to other successful bloggers more. I should also be more focused when I write, and not just write about "everything that comes to my mind".

  • This is great advice for bloggers. I never think about looking at related blogs and seeing what they're writing about, what their titles are, etc. Thanks for the great tip!
  • Just looking at your titles, not a lot jumps out at me. I'd say they don't stack as well as I'd have thought. I'm a subscriber and rarely look at the titles closely.

    A few of your titles really jumped out though and would have caught my eye in feedreaders.

    This post made me think though that I should review mine on a regular basis.

    Good call out. Cheers, Todd
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