What kind of post titles attract more readers?

While I would have liked to spend the rest of the night trying to play a decent round of TF2 before the server disconnects me, duty calls. Lately, I’ve been carrying out an experiment, to see which kinds of titles attract more readers.

No worries, I assure you it’s all according to plan. So why did I even bother coming up with this ‘experiment’ anyway? Picture this: the casual blog reader, scrolling through a list of episodic blogs. Let’s say our reader wants to read up on Nichijou. SO he goes to a website, say AnimeNano, and searches for the Nichijou category. Alas, all he sees is this:

Let’s go through the titles one by one, shall we?

Example title: Nichijou Ep 13

These kind of titles are the ones most commonly seen on episodic blogs. While they are short and concise, they don’t sound very interesting, do they? Especially when all the posts have similar titles. You’re out of luck with this one. However, adding additional information can tip the scales in your future. Such as Nichijou Ep 11 and so-on could tell your reader that the post would concentrate on something else, making the post seem more interesting.

Same goes for series reviews. A nice way of writing the review would be to not simply post it as , for instance, ‘[C] review,’ but rather, find another way to incorporate the anime’s traits into your post. Anything that works in making the post sound more interesting, goes. Watchers can appreciate the little details like these.

Example title: Overshadowed Series, Endings 

These are editorials, but they are also very concise. The name is the topic at hand. Editorials tend to fare better than episodic blogs simply because they post on subjects that are more or less unique. Using a concise title could make the reader feel curious and click on, or read on just to see what the blogger has to say on the subject.

Likewise, a simple title relating to the anime works fine too.

Example title: No-one cares about your Vocaloid’s birthdays 

This is probably what Joel complained about. While the nature of the title usually attracts people on its own, it sounds very negative. People immediately think that the post will be some sort of rant. Once again, this could go two ways: either they want to read this supposed ‘rant’ or they just leave. Either way, it works pretty well for aggregators, where readers can easily read whatever catches their fancy.

Statement titles can go another way when rephrased correctly. A statement like the above sounds negative, serving as a hook. A strong or questionable statement could serve as a hook as well. In the 7-10 words most people use in titles, every word counts.

Example title: Informative titles

The kind of titles where the new information is the title itself. Either news posts or thoughts.This one works solely on whether the reader wants to read about the post or not. Tough luck, really. Just like running a newspaper. The more interesting your content is, the more the people want to read it. (duh.)

Now, although there might be other kinds of titles I missed out, I decided to end the experiment here and examine the stats of the posts AOIA churned out in the past 30 days, excluding posts with exceptionally high SEO (in order of views):

  1. Summer 2011 preview!
  2. [C] is horrible and we are all fools for being deceived
  3. On otaku style
  4. Thoughts on Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai.
Surprise, surprise. My hypothesis was that the stronger the statement the title makes, the more the views. Of course, some of the posts have had existed longer, so give or take a few hundred, it still appears that the more straightforward the title, the more the people will read it. People want a summer season preview? Ta-da. And so-on.
All of this doesn’t solve something though: how then do we make episodic posts sound more interesting? Any suggestions?
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About Valence

Starting over from Ambivalence, or Is it Ambiguity, now blogging at Monolith 32. Anime, MTG, Music fan. Amateur poet. I blog things.
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38 Responses to What kind of post titles attract more readers?

  1. Anonomyous says:

    I would caution that evocative titles also tend to polarise opinions. If the post is as extreme as the title, there is a tendency to only appeal to people with the same viewpoint while massively pushing away others. Since 2 people never have exactly the same views, this tends to lead to attrition as group A agrees with post 1, but only a subset of group A agrees with post 2 and so on.

    Though you could make an attempt to have an evocative title but a balanced post, from what i see, this tends to fail over time as the post content normally starts to align with the title.

    Also it is a massive headache to search for (for those that do not use aggregators and instead use goggle), if your post does not have the anime series its talking about (if any), so the best to me is still “Series Title” colon/dash/whatever “Witty line”

    • Valence says:

      Polarise opinions, but this might work better than it seems. It does attract people with the same viewpoint but people who don’t think this way get curious and click the links anyway.

      I doubt googling for anime blogs is such a good idea though.

      • Anonomyous says:

        The problem of the “bad boy” attitude is that it gets old pretty fast so you end up with a core audience that really agrees with you views. There are a few blogs (that will remain nameless) like that and though the initial curiosity factor is useful it ends up like that shop that sells poor quality stuff really cheaply. They can trick people into being a one time customer but they stay away after knowing the quality, so in the long run it tends to kill themselves.

        Also for the google thing, i think you can see who was the previous page that linked to you in html, so it might help to see if its a signiifcant factor.

        • Valence says:

          Hmm, I suppose the title gimmick does rely heavily on the initial curiosity factor. I guess building a core readership is better/.

  2. Marina says:

    I love thinking up titles for my blog entries, and they usually end up looking like thesis titles, complete with catch phrase, colon, and explanation (ex: “Dude, it’s totally EPIC!”: Heroic Feats of Epic Proportions”). Then I look at it on AnimeNano and think it looks too long, so I end up with my more recent type of generic titles, “Review: Bakuman.” It’s funny how much a title affects a viewer’s perception and attitude about a piece even before reading it.

  3. ~xxx says:

    Titles are also called the catch of the reader’s eye.
    and sometimes even the informative titles are enough to develop curiosity of an individual…
    but of course, the substance matters first and most of all.

  4. The thing is i dont want to spend hours on what post title i want to put :/
    na dbtw off topic, i dislike having review of each and every episode of a series, cant they just put a final review of it… or a first impression, half way then ending.

    The thing is easier post title, the easier the viewer will understand and find whats it looking for. they have a short attention span lol
    like marina have Review:bakuman, bam easy, instead of having like ”here is my review on this fall season series bakuman”… long.. so ye i agree with example number 3 too.

    • Mind you with long titled series….dam what can we do about it orz..
      meh forget what i said then :/

    • Valence says:

      Long is long, but the titles have to sound good as well. No-one will post ‘here is my review on this fall season series bakuman’ as a title because it sounds bad. Terribad. In this case the simple title is better.

  5. feal87 says:

    I’ll never use an episodic title even if I’m actually writing a discussion over a particular episoes, there are no really reasons on the visitors side, but it makes me feel like a machine more than a writer. :P

    “Hidan no Aria – No Shirayuki, but Riko sure got a lot more likable!” <—example of title of the last two episodes of Hidan no Aria. :P

  6. abscissa says:

    The titles is a make or break one-liner of an article. It’s too bad that once you screw this up, the perception about the quality of the entire writing will be misjudged too. Before, I experienced that I misspelled the title and it’s really embarrassing. I didn’t even want to read what I wrote.

    • Valence says:

      Maybe misspellings make the writer seem more personal too ._. Some writers have a very distinct style, and this can be seen even through their titles.

  7. Overlord-G says:

    The same philosophy you’re discussing can be applied to books, media titles, video games, PPV events, bacon and eggs, etc.

    As for me, all I care about is maintaining my blog and not losing all I wrote. The amount of viewers comes later. I write my reviews on other sites besides my blog. There’s where I focus more on amount of readers, on the blog itself if I do get readers there, more power to me I guess.

  8. Azure says:

    Dammit valence, you beat me to it. Though I was planning to write a post about the titles of series and not post tittles…
    I find it hard to come up with titles: it has to be relevant but still be eye catching.

    And mis spellings… Are the bane of my online life. Hope I don’t screw up and bring a shitstorm here.

    • Valence says:

      misspellings* ;D

      Titles are hard to write too. Not only do they have to attract attention, they have to sound good. Some titles come across as too awkward.

  9. Ryo_kun says:

    Lol true. I guess I should be more innovative with my post tittle from now on. At the same time being very careful too. I’ve been thinking about that for a while until I see your post.

  10. I try to be very direct and very concise as possible when making a title. Not that I do not spend a lot of time doing a unnecessary prep work to find a good title, I just believe it is something that comes naturally. I let my post material speak for itself.

    However, when I do anime reviews (not episodic blogging) it would be best for me to use for example: [Anime Review] Chaos;Head or whatever just for the sake of being clean and organized. I got so now I started carrying a notebook and pen with me whenever I get new post idea and title from brainstorming…

  11. Nopy says:

    “Contest” always draws a lot of attention :)

    I usually leave it to the content to bring in readers. Anyone who has visited my blog before will know what to expect from me, and Google goes through the content of an article when it gives you search results. For those reasons, I just stick to “Anime Episode XX” or “Anime Review”.

  12. Shance says:

    Most titles ride along the tenets of context, wherein the mere presence of key words would determine how much readership a post can earn. As long as the key words are present, you already have enough readership. Anything you do to spice up the title, such as additional descriptions for the post, are just additional hits for making it sound awesome.

    As for suggestions on making episodic blog titles interesting, I think you’ll have to think of a good way to spice up the episodic post first before you can spice up the title.

    • Valence says:

      Making it sound awesome is a priority to me…but I’m failing at it ._.

      • Shance says:

        The need to have an awesome post title for the post itself to be awesome is a false assumption: A lot of bad posts actually have good titles slapped onto them.

        On the other hand, some posts have very simple titles that, by using tried and tested words and wordplay, do exactly what they’re intended to do.

  13. Jotaro says:

    Could admin of this site answer me about what kind of Post comment plugin do you use?

  14. misaki says:

    I like to have post titles that tell readers what the post is going to talk about… and nothing more. They’re relatively vague on purpose – I want my readers to click on the post if they’re even the slightest bit interested in the topic and then read my posts to discover the good material within. If you have a post title that’s over-the-top, then the post itself might be a letdown in comparison.

    I feel like three good things to keep in mind when titling posts are…
    - Refrain from writing full sentences.
    - Keep it short.
    - Keep it on-topic.

    On episodic titles: I believe that episodics are meant to be easy to look up, rather than intended to hook readers. What differentiates episodic posts isn’t the title, but rather the blog. As a sometimes-episodic-reader, I tend to click many different episodic posts and I end up reading them and commenting if I like what I read (whether it agrees with my opinion or not). The title really doesn’t play any role in this.

    Of course, that’s just how I feel. Maybe others like the little taglines after “Nichijou Episode 13:”

  15. Valence says:

    Taglines add character. They add the blogger’s voice to the title. It makes it sound more casual. Nichijou Ep 13 sounds like a chapter from a textbook: boring.

    One more thing: not too many colons or dashes in the title will be good. Otherwise it seems too over-the-top. Sentences can be good if you keep them short too. Like ‘I went to Anime Expo’ or something, maybe. Sounds fine. But not ‘I went to Anime Expo and I loved it blah blah blah.’

  16. They say don’t judge a book by its cover. Uh, hello? Who ever has the time to follow such an idiom? First impressions are after all, first impressions. Good, not-so-good or plain crap. Either way, it’s the reader’s lost for not clicking that one link.

  17. Persocom says:

    I guess my blog post titles are usually pretty darned lame in comparison to many out there. I think they play an important role but then so does content, but that’s a different topic altogether. Titles definitely attract, but often I find myself turned off by the content within (not here but elsewhere). Even so, negative attention is attention, and boosts your popularity also. Well, I guess all I’m really trying to say is this got me thinking, and that’s a good thing. *Takes notes*

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