Gabe Rivera wrote a post on why TechMeme is now using its editors to curate titles that appear on its site.
Gabe’s post appears first on TechMeme’s website, which must mean Gabe has paid off some TechMeme editors to get his story to rise to the top.
I never saw it go out with a “tip @techmeme” on Twitter. Did you?
Well. His article is well worth reading anyways.
It an era of social media and newsreaders titles matter a lot.
I should know. When I first started writing this blog several years ago I had less followers than you have right now. I aspired to rise above the noise by putting out insightful content with a frequency that kept people coming back to check in directly on my website.
But the realist in me knew I couldn’t write daily nor could I convince you to think to check out my blog with regularity. So I need to stand out in two areas in which I compete for attention – social media and news readers.
Titles are an enticement to read a post. It’s how we inform ourselves these days. Often you ask somebody, “Did you see that article on Google buying so and so?” and the response will be, “no, but I read the headline.”
We inform ourselves through headlines. And so it should be. There is too much information to follow otherwise.
The three must reads for me daily are: The NY Times, TechMeme & Media Redefined. Sometimes I just scan and other times it serves as a launching-off point for me to digest the daily news.
And of course the other place I inform myself is on Twitter. I can my feed on my iPhone constantly, looking for interesting stories or just to hear what friends are talking about.
So back to “how I should know that titles matter.”
I invested in a social-media analytics & engagement platform company called Awe.sm and as an investor I always play around with the products in which I’ve invested.
So starting a few years ago I would hit “publish” on a blog post and wait for the clicks & comments to come rolling in. From this I learned the best times to post and how frequently to Tweet a blog post.
But the other thing I learned was how important a title was.
Sometimes I would start with a mundane title like, “Here’s my video interview with Bill Gross” and I would get a ho-hum reaction.
I would delete my Tweet and then write something like, “Your Product Needs to be 10x Better than the Competition to Win. Here’s Why:”
Ding, ding, ding, ding.
It’s like a Pachinko machine (yes, I had one in my house growing up).
You need to pull out an interesting fact from your article that’s germane to the overall thesis and is interesting enough to get the reader to think, “ok, I’ll bite, why is …”
I also make sure not to just make a statement or people react to it rather than click on it. In the above example it’s why I added “Here’s Why” to the end. If I just wrote, “You’r product needs to be 10x to win” people would just comment on that statement rather than click.
Trust me. I’ve reviewed the data on awe.sm.
And you’ll notice I did the same on this post, “Why Titles Matter a Lot if You’re a Blogger.” Leave out the word “why” and leave out many potential readers.
Another obvious trick that is fair game is to use a list. I often will write, “7 Tips for …” (emailing busy people, building relationships with journalists, getting access to VCs, whatever).
People looooove lists. I don’t know why. Human nature I guess. But awe.sm data has confirmed it and BuzzFeed has built an entire business around it! (and if you haven’t read & watched this YOU MUST! 10 Tips from BuzzFeed on How to Make Content Go Viral”
See what I did there?
In Gabe’s post he explained why TechMeme was having editors write headlines. One reason:
“Some misleadingly inflate the importance of the news in the headline, goosing click-throughs, but setting up discerning readers for disappointment.”
He meant to insert the word Business Insider in stead of the word “some” but he lost his nerve at the last moment.
This tactic is known as “link bait” and while it works for Business Insider it won’t work for you. Don’t try it at home. You’ll just piss people off and I guess you’re blogging to increase your reputation.
Then there is the other side of the coin
Bloggers with a devoted readership who can count on readers consuming the bulk of their output often enjoy writing more cerebral, enigmatic titles with meanings that fully reveal themselves only after reading the story.
Some bloggers consider composing a headline a mere chore, dashing out a few words thoughtlessly, and moving on
And by “bloggers” he meant Fred Wilson but nobody would actually write that in public.
Fred is the master blogger. He knows he can write September Bad Mood Blog as his title and everybody will still read it. I’ve talked to Fred about this over the years. He Tweets only once and doesn’t care about headlines or images precisely because he doesn’t have to care. He writes every day so people are trained to get their daily dose of Fred.
But for everybody else trust me – titles matter. And so does Tweeting more than once if for no other reason than to account for multiple time zones and the ephemeral nature of social media.
So do images. I sometimes take as long to pick and image as I do write a post. I used to throw up clip art. But then people threw up on me all the time. Mostly this guy and this guy. I respect them both so I mostly stopped.
Images matter for a lot of reasons. For starters they help build emotional resonance and memory of a story. Additionally they increase click-through rates dramatically. I know this for the same reason I know about headlines. We’ve run several tests at awe.sm and Tweets and FB posts with images perform much better.
When I Tweet you don’t see my image but on Facebook you do. I suspect this will eventually change on Twitter. Has to. The data says so.
So next time you put out a post think hard about your headline. No sense in writing and not getting the clicks you deserve. And if you do Tweet more than once don’t be afraid of changing your Tweet text to test our your headlines skills.
So Gabe is having his editors change titles on blog posts where the title sucks. Bravo. TechMeme readers will only be better off for it. Now if Gabe could just help edit some people’s Tweets.
p.s. if anybody knows how to get Feedburner to show my titles in my daily email that would be great or if you have ideas on how to convert my Feedburner list to a better email service that would be appreciated, too.