Poor titles are quite common in the blogosphere. They are poor titles because they miss two important opportunities: quickly informing the reader what they will gain from reading the article and/or including keywords or keyword phrases that people would likely use in search engines when seeking information.
When I’m using Google reader to quickly scan the article titles of hundreds of blogs for useful content, I’m unlikely to stop and read a blog post when the title provides no clues about what the article is about. One example of a blog where I never know what I’m going to get is Seth Godin’s blog. He has titles like “Laziness” or “How can you do it!?”. If it were anyone else but Seth Godin, I would skip over these blog posts because I don’t want to take a risk to read something that might be irrelevant or not-useful. An article about “How you can do it” could be about almost anything. However, since Seth Godin is the top marketing guru in the world, he can get away with it. Most small businesses can’t.
If you want to attract readers who are interested in fulfilling a need or desire that you can help them with, then you want to write concise, specific titles that communicate what information you are presenting and use keywords that searchers are likely to use when searching for that specific information.
Earning a first page ranking for a specific keyword phrase in only half the battle. You also have to get the searcher to choose your listing over the other available options. You can win the click by having a title that quickly informs the searcher about what your page is about and whether it is relevant and potentially useful. Well written titles can really stand out from the crowd.
Sometimes writing the title can be as important as writing the actual content of the article. Some copywriting experts suggest spending half of your time on the title and the rest on the content. An effective approach is to write the title of the article first, and then focus on fulfilling the promise that you make in the title. Problogger does a great job of writing catchy titles. Some examples from the Problogger site are “How to Set Up Your First Blog the Right Way the First Time” or “The 7 Harsh Realities of Blogging for Bucks”.