What’s in a Title? (Blogging Discussion)

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?

63 thoughts on “What’s in a Title? (Blogging Discussion)

  1. luvtoread says:

    I have this same struggle! I also prefer the bare bones approach to writing titles, which is why all of my reviews are either “Book Review” or “ARC Review” followed by the book title and author. I don’t write a lot of discussion posts. But I see all these catchy titles everywhere else and think should I be making mine catchier? Or at least say if I liked/hated the book in the title? But then… that really isn’t my style, so the dilemma continues! I also wonder about tags in titles too – if those get more of a response than just a plain, no tag/hashtag title. I confess that I find those titles difficult to scan through, so half the time I just ignore those all together.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      Honestly, I find the titles where they write a verdict on the book a bit weird because it seems to imply I don’t actually need to read your review if you’re giving everything away in the title. Like, if you write “Hamlet by William Shakespeare: An unpredictable story I hated because Hamlet is whiny and mean to Ophelia” as your title then…I just don’t need to read the review.

      I also wonder about hashtags in titles. I assumed people were using it as a hack because they autopost their blog posts to social media and this makes sure there are tags on the Twitter posts or whatever, but I find them annoying in blog titles. They definitely look cluttered to me and make it harder to see what’s going on with the post.

      Liked by 1 person

      • luvtoread says:

        That’s a good point about putting the verdict in the title. Sometimes I like to know if someone liked or disliked a book, like if it’s one of the popular YA books that everyone raves about, I’d like to read a post of someone not liking the book, but I’m not inclined to click and read if it’s just going to be another glowing review.
        As others have mentioned in the comments, I don’t like it when I have to click on the post to see what book they are talking about!

        Like

  2. Megan @ Ginger Mom says:

    What a great post! I am a little confused – what is “click bait”? I’m still very inexperienced when it comes to blogging. My book reviews used to just be titled [Review] Book title – Author. But for my post going up today, I decided to change it and see what people think. I definitely enjoyed your discussion 🙂

    Like

    • David says:

      Hi! Have you ever seen an Internet article with a title like “You won’t believe what happened when…!” or “She thought it was a routine checkup, but what the doctor told her will blow your mind!” or “This famous person broke down crying when he heard this…” Those are all examples of clickbait. Titles with a sensationalist tone designed to bait you into clicking on the article link by deliberating obscuring the actual information contained within. Tabloid-style titles, basically.

      Like

    • Briana says:

      David’s answer is great! For book blogs, I think the most “clickbait” type titles are when people call their posts things like “This was the best book I read this year” or “This book made me laugh and cry.” To me, the annoying thing about these titles is that they don’t actually say what book the post is about, which makes me much less interested. If you just call the post something like like “Book Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte,” I know whether I’m interested in reading that review or not. If you just write “This book was enthralling!” and expect me to click to read more, I’m not going to click because it’s possible the review is for a book or genre I’ m not interested in. I’d consider it a waste of time if I clicked on a title called “This is best book I read this year” and realized that book was, say, a bodice ripper because I just don’t read those.

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  3. alilovesbooks says:

    I think my titles are generally kind of boring. They do what they say on the tin. I would love to come up with something funny and original but really don’t want to mislead anyone even though I suspect my stats would be better.

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  4. David says:

    It’s one of the persistent issues any writer faces, really, in blogs, books, articles, poems, or what-have-you. Descriptive or eye-catching? Both if possible, of course, but sometimes it’s best to err to one side or the other. For blogging, I’m with you and prefer straightforward, descriptive titles. Clickbait usually acts as a repellent to me, and I instinctively appreciate and think higher of blogs with clear, concise titles. Like yours, for instance. 🙂

    Still, nothing wrong with adding some style or wit when possible. Formulaic posts like reviews probably are best suited for the straightforward, “boring” titles, but special features might have more relaxed formats and might lend themselves to livelier titles. I should probably liven up my titles more often, although that runs the risk of an even greater proliferation of puns and in-jokes that only I will find funny and clever!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I like punny and witty titles, as long as I still have an idea of what the post is about. If the name of the book is still in there, that is great. If I at least have a sense of genre, that is good. I am bad with puns, however, so I wisely don’t try to make them! 😄

      Like

  5. hannah @ peanutbutter&books says:

    i personally like to be creative and experiment with my titles! alas, they usually (and unsurprisingly) end up not making that much sense. 😛

    i totally get why people would shy away from “clickbait-y” titles, though. i also observed that the clickbait phenomenon is far more common (and far more annoying) in online videos posted to platforms like youtube.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I have to assume clickbait titles work to an extent or people wouldn’t use them? At least not tabloids? But I still find them annoying! I just want to know what the article is about before I read it! If it’s truly an interesting article, the writer wouldn’t have to worry that all the real info is in the title, right?

      Like

  6. Dalindcy Koolhoven says:

    Titles are hard! I’m a journalism graduate and I’ve worked in the field, and even at work I’ve struggled with this.

    I think there’s some kind of sweet spot between a catchy title that makes people curious, and actual deceiving clickbait. I think the title “why I’m not interested in requesting ARC’s” is a good one! Because it makes the potential reader curious about the content of the post and they’ll click, but at the same time it’s not a deceiving title, because the post answers the question asked in the title. So that’s always what I try to do as well. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sydney @ Fire and Rain Books says:

    Interesting post! I tend to lean more towards you on the titling side, with simple, straightforward titles. Sometimes, though, a snarky witty pun comes into my head right as I am titling, and then I will use that. I don’t mind if the title is a little click baity or not completely straightforward, as long as it’s short. Some bloggers do like three lines worth of a title and to me that’s too long. Short and sweet is where it’s at! If I can be a little clever and funny with it though, I will, but I usually won’t spend so much time trying to come up with a title.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Ali says:

    I have a problem with what to title my posts as well. I never know if I should use click bait or just go straight forward, so I usually just go with the honest straight forward title. Honestly I think straight forward is easier to get readers.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Well, I would agree that I prefer straightforward titles. But since I haven’t done anything really exciting with mine, I don’t know if my traffic would change noticeably if I did something else… It’s all a mystery to me! 😀

      Like

  9. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    Clever tactic and an effective as far as weeding out bogus comments 😉 I know because I tend to use pretty straightforward titles as well and often receive similar remarls or comments telling the comment was not read (at least in entirity). I do feel like I should try dress up titles a bit more, but I am low maintenance haha. When I go to read something, I want to know what to expect. And well, sometimes I just lack creativity. Every now and then it happens though.

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    • Krysta says:

      I like straightforward titles in part because they don’t give me the impression that only a “surprise” can reel me in as a reader. I want the article to be interesting and informative enough that it stands on its own, even without a gimmicky title. My knowing what to expect shouldn’t ruin the reading experience if article is well-written. Kind of like knowing how Romeo and Juliet ends doens’t ruin the story because the story isn’t just about providing a shock ending. It’s about the language and the characters and the politics, etc.

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  10. Ilsa @ A Whisper Of Ink says:

    I’m not sure if I “clickbait” my titles. I do try and make them long and exciting and not just “Discussion: why reading is important” mine would be “LET’S WHISPER: Why is reading extremely important for all human beans and creatures alike?” Which i think gains a lot more attraction. I think if YOU are excited, so will your readers and TADA! Better stats. I also value being truthful in your title though and not misleading.

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    • Krysta says:

      A clickbait title isn’t necessarily long. It just withholds information from the reading and tries to draw them in by promising something shocking or exciting. In book blogs, these titles tend to be things like, “This book ruined my life.” It doesn’t give you the name of the book so you’re forced to click on the article and give it traffic if you want to know what this mysterious life-wrecking book is. The title you give isn’t clickbait because it’s still evident that you plan to discuss the importance of reading. 🙂

      Like

  11. Lee says:

    I find it completely impossible to come up with catchy or interesting titles. In fact, I’ve taken to using a format for most post titles just to save time and energy… It makes it all look rather boring, but I don’t see another option really.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think, in the end, content might matter more than titles. If there’s a blog I like, I’ll probably check out the latest post even if the title seems weird or unexciting. Or maybe I want to make myself feel better about my boring titles and tell myself I can make up for it elsewhere. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Adam says:

    I agree that balance is key, and elusive. I usually start with a very blunt title, “Dialogue”, and then experiment with alternatives to see if there’s a more artful way of saying it, without obscuring the meaning. I think clarity has to be prioritized, since audiences who start reading only to realize they’ve been deceived will be far more frustrated than those who accurately decided “this article is not for me”. I think there’s a time for flair, but in its own way I think stylized titles can also come to feel “generic”. At the end of the day I think the real question is “what is true about you, your style, your voice, that sets you apart?”
    In some cases it may be straightforward, utilitarian titles.

    And the title should be a reflection of the style of the piece as well. A snazzy title may pull audiences in, but if the article is dry and clinical, the people who liked the title will still be disappointed, even if the topic has been accurately represented.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      That’s a good point. Sometimes everyone is using the same types of punny titles or the same type of title and then it’s no longer so original, even if it’s clever-sounding. I also like your point that the title should reflect the piece.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Beware Of The Reader says:

    This is a difficult exercise. Kind of like the blank page for authors. I try to be catchy but straightforward too. People should know what I’m writign about in the title. Yet I try to be fun so it’s COMPLICATED! LOL

    Like

  14. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    You have some great points, Krysta! This is why I choose to write series-style posts, mostly. When I review a book, the title is just the book. When I write something else, it needs to fit into a preconceived category. This helps me ensure my audience understands the scope and intent of the post, as I lead each series post with a tagline describing the series. It’s a bit of a title cop-out, but it really works for me.

    I also don’t click on Click-Bait titles, particularly from bloggers. I find the bloggers who write titles like that don’t write the kind of content I want to read. It’s part of my internal filtering system. 😉

    Ugh. I don’t understand why people don’t actually read posts before commenting. It can be super frustrating. I mean, sometimes I accidentally skip a paragraph or misread a sentence, but we live in a world of distractions. It’s totally different when the commenter misses the entire point of the post. O_o

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Your system sounds good to me! I prefer clarity, so I don’t think it is a cop out!

      I think the problem is bloggers sometimes comment a lot for more traffic or to satisfy the expectation of a comment for a comment back. So they aren’t really interested in the lost, just commenting to get their link out and bring in more traffic for themselves. I get that you do have to comment around for more traffic, but I prefer when people don’t make it so obvious that that is literally the only reason they stopped by. And I don’t expect comments back when I comment on someone’s blog. I comment because I want to engage and be friendly, so I hope no one feels obligated to come here just because I liked their post! I don’t want why he to feel pressured on my account!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

        Exactly! I comment because I want to build a relationship with another blogger and engage them in the content on their blog. Over the last few months I’ve started to consider more and more about where my time should be best spent. One of my 2018 goals is to deepen my existing blogger relationships. I don’t want to spend my time blog-hopping to 8 billion different blogs. I’ll just focus on 8-12 and make strong relationships there. 😀

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        • Krysta says:

          That’s pretty much what I do. I prefer to visit blogs that I find engaging and intellectually stimulating rather than leave a comment here and there all over the place.

          I know that new bloggers are encouraged to comment all over and it’s true that increased commenting means increased traffic. However, I think that leaving one comment on 30 blogs might not be that beneficial in the long run if you’re not maintaining a relationship with those 30 blogs. I don’t know that most people would follow back because you left one comment…. So, I get where the advice is coming from, but I think that maybe new bloggers should be encouraged to find blogs they actually want to follow and comment on and build up a relationship there, instead of stretching themselves all over.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

            Yes! But I also wonder if there is a bit of a generational divide when it comes to blogging, too? Most of the people I follow are in their late 20s-mid 50s. A lot of newer bloggers are still in school. I know I hold different expectations of what I want from my blog and the people I interact with based on my age and the experience I’ve had in life. I truly believe the one-sentence comment blog hopping helps connect younger bloggers who are looking for different things. Does that make sense? Am I crazy?

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            • Krysta says:

              That could be. I thought that maybe the blog hopping is more for newer blogs. It does help to get your name out there and get traffic. And it’s easier to blog hop and comment back when you have fewer comments and followers to keep track of, which is probably truer for newer blogs.

              Liked by 1 person

  15. Darque Dreamer Reads says:

    I’m usually straight forward in my titles too. If its a review I title it “book title by” and if there is an interview attached I say so in parentheses. If I do a beauty review, I start with the title of the product and brand name.

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  16. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight says:

    I am also very straightforward with my titles and prefer titles that say exactly what the post is about. I too sometimes wonder if they actually get people to click or not, but also like you, I have no plans to change my titling. I think having it be straightforward is probably better for search engines too, making it more likely your post will come up and people who are actually looking for that will click it. So maybe that’s another advantage!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      That’s a good point! One of my friends advocated for straightforward titles on articles because she was concerned about how search engines would find relevant ones.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Yeah I actually cringe at clickbaity titles (and by that I mean posts that don’t actually deliver whatever it is they promised) And yes, I get lots of people who clearly didn’t read the post- although a lot of people might have had the decency to read the opening or something… but they clearly didn’t get to the bit where I clarified (usually with a #notall about whatever generalisation I was making this week 😉 ) hehehe I think it’s always a struggle tbh 😉

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, it’s strange how people tend to assume that the post is always making a blanket statement or advocating an extreme. There can be such a thing as nuance! I’ve started trying to add disclaimers to all my posts, as has Briana. As in, “Just because I said I’d like to see more of X in YA, that DOES NOT mean EVERY SINGLE book must have X.” It literally just means, you know, I’d like to see some more of it. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • theorangutanlibrarian says:

        Yeah for sure!! I get that so often and it always seems silly to me (especially when it’s clear people haven’t read that I’ve already defended their position!) hahaha I’ve tried disclaimers tbh- I even had one on a satirical piece that said “don’t read if you’re easily offended”- someone inevitably got offended 😉 I hope you have more luck!! hahaha I’d have thought that’d be self explanatory 😉

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  18. Zoie says:

    For discussion posts, I think straightfoward titles work very well because people will know what they’re getting into when they click to read your posts. More creative titles work better with fun bookish posts, travel posts, and sometimes book reviews as well in my opinion. It’s definitely finding a balance between being too straightfoward and creative though — I’m more willing to read a post that has a unique spin to it other than “Book Review: [Insert Book Title Here].” 😊

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      That makes sense! I don’t mind creative titles, as long as it’s still clear what the post is about. If someone has a creative title that still manages to indicate the book being discussed/reviewed, I find it helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Daniela Ark says:

    I totally agree titles should be as straightforward as possible. Creative title are fun but can be deceiving, and many readers don’t like to be tricked 🙂 However, if the image is very explicit of self-explanatory then I think you can be more creative. Great Post Krysta 🙂

    Like

  20. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says:

    Okay, so this is funny because I just commented on that post about Project Gutenburg and said you might have wanted to include something about free books in the title. I think there’s a difference between being crazy or too catchy with your titles and making sure that people know what kind of content to expect. And it’s really weird when people comment on a post just based on the title. I guess they didn’t actually read the post? Or at least not carefully?

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Haha. There is a difference between a catchy title and a title that seems to be written by an overly enthusiastic blogger, I guess!

      I do find it odd people assume content based on the title, especially if the title is a question without an obvious answer. But I guess that is one way for people to maximize time and blog hop fast. But I think the thing to do then would be to skim the first and last paragraphs since that is where the main points should be….

      Like

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