When Briana published a post titled “5 Great Things About Project Gutenberg,” last December I joked, “You should have called it, ‘GET FREE BOOKS!!!!'” I was kind of serious. Even though everyone loves free books and Project Gutenberg is a great resource to get access to them legally, the post did not receive as much attention as I thought it would. “Possibly,” I mused, “bloggers who have not heard of Project Gutenberg aren’t clicking on the post because they don’t know what it is and therefore don’t care. But presumably they would care if they did know. After all, it’s free books!”
The challenge of giving appropriate and catchy titles to posts is one I struggle with every time I write a discussion. Titles are not my strong point and I tend to prefer titles that describe exactly what the post is about. If I see a “click bait” title in my reader, I almost never click on it. Partly because I don’t care to click on a post if it’s going to be about something I’m not interested in because then I would feel annoyed and tricked. Partly out of principle. I do not like titles that make me feel tricked.
Even so, I have to admit that what I think are interesting posts don’t often get that much traffic. And I can’t help but wonder if it’s partly the title. I see plenty of bloggers being far more creative than I am with mine: see “How to Write an Engaging Discussion Post,” and “Why I’m Not Interested in Requesting ARCs” for examples of my very straightforward titling practices. I wonder if bloggers continue to use “click bait” titles because they have noticed that these posts get more traffic than other titles.
However, I have another reason for trying to make my titles as straightforward as possible. It seems almost inevitable that each discussion post will get comments from bloggers who clearly did nothing but read the title–and assume they know from the title what I wrote. I typically handle this by repeatedly pointing out on comment after comment that, no, I didn’t write what they think I wrote. Sometimes I even excerpt a quote from the post as evidence that I actually said the exact opposite. But at least twice I have in desperation changed the title of the post–and immediately afterwards the comments assuming I said the opposite of what I really said stopped.
Currently I have no plans to change my straightforward titling practices. Even so, I routinely struggle to write titles that are clear, concise, and interesting all at once. I want to be able to reach audiences who actually care about the topics I am discussing and want to learn more or engaged in dialogue. But I also want to do this in a way that ensures I am not overwhelmed by comments from people who obviously didn’t read a word I wrote. So…I want to be catchy but not…too catchy? Or catchy but not confusing? The struggle is ongoing, and I suspect that it might never end.
How do you decide on titles for your posts?