Blogging: Choose Great Titles and Intro Sentences

Using great titles and intro sentences are so critical to the success of your blog. Not only do they grab the attention of your reader, great titles and introductory sentences seduce search engines like Google into sending you even more readers.

Choose Great Titles

Titles introduce your reader to your subject; it’s the lure that attracts the fish.

I like to use titles that:

  • Contain the words “How to” - people love to learn new things, and a couple good “how to” posts will draw more traffic to your blog than anything else. I have a lot of “how to” posts on my blog, but most of them don’t contain those words (see the next bullet).  Personally, I only put those words in the title if I can’t find a shorter, more direct way to title the post. Either way, I always tag those posts as “how to” posts.

    How to Pass Certification Exams
    How to do an Easy Server Share Audit
    How to Avoid Friendly Infections

Choose Great Introductory Sentences

The first sentence of your post should do the following:

  • Introduce the main point of your post, or at least some provide direction as to where you’re headed.
  • Contain the key words of the post, which should also be in your post title.

The first sentence continues the work of your title: drawing people in and keeping them reading. The reason the first sentence needs to contain the key words of your post is so that your first sentence appears in search engines. Let me demonstrate this from one of my posts, Where is the IS in CISA?.

Here’s how the first sentence used to read:

Now I understand why so many IT auditors don’t really know much about IT (or IS)  and security–and in my opinion aren’t worth hiring for that and several other reasons (for more info, see my series of “interviewing auditors” series that starts with Interviewing IT Auditors).

My key word, CISA, isn’t in the first sentence. As a result, when Google listed my post using CISA as a search term, Google displayed the third sentence in the post, which DOES have the term (see below). However, this sentence doesn’t tell the reader the direction the post is taking, but mentions a theory being tested, but the reader doesn’t know what the theory is or why he should care about it.

CISA Exam contains very little Info Systems and security content

Google result when keyword isn’t in the first sentence

The other problem with this original sentence is that it’s cluttered. So I revised it as follows:

Why do so many IT auditors who pass the CISA  know so little about IS and security–and in my opinion aren’t worth hiring?

Isn’t that much better? Read the whole post here.

My Other Bad Examples

I used to waste the first paragraph of many of my posts with useless words that meant little to readers, search engines, or RSS feeds:

1) Every guest post by Skyyler started with, yep, “Guest post by Skyyler”.  Skyyler writes good stuff and I appreciate what he brings to my blog (especially readers), but let’s admit it, most readers don’t search for Skyyler’s posts by his name (shout out if you do!). He’s not that famous yet (sorry, bud), so why clutter up the page and search engine results with his byline? Now I give him credit at the end of his posts. He’s okay with that. UPDATE: I gave him his own ITauditSecurity account, so his posts now say “BY SKYYLERACL”.

2) Did you ever see my posts that used to begin a paragraph that said only A Security Scout adventure… What a waste of real estate! I deleted those lead-ins altogether, but just tagged those posts with “Security Scout”. I’m not that famous either.  See all the Security Scout posts here.

Beat Your Competition

If your titles and intro sentences are better than those on other blogs, you can actually beat your competition. The first time I saw the PWC resignation letter was on the Life of an Auditor blog. I blogged about the letter and gave full credit to that blog, but compare the differences in the title and introductory sentence between the two blogs:

PWC Resignation Letter

Poor title, poor intro, no key words in title and intro

PWC Resignation Letter

Better title, better intro, key words in title and intro

So what happens when you choose better titles and intros?  Here’s a screenshot of what I found on the FIRST page of Google when I searched for pwc resignation letter.

Good title + good intro = good Google result

Google’s second choice is itAuditSecurity!

Search it yourself and notice that the other blog’s post isn’t listed on the first page at all! When I posted part of the PWC letter on my site, I wasn’t trying to steal any of Life’s thunder. I was merely sharing a great post that I found. I’d be surprised if the Life of an Auditor blog would complain about all the traffic I’ve sent it as a result of my post.

UPDATE: If you do the search today, I’m no longer listed on page 1, but neither is Life, so I think my point is still valid. I still get A LOT of hits on that letter, all from Google, and I can guarantee Life doesn’t get as many Google hits on it as I do.

You might notice that first place in the above Google search goes to Krupo, who runs the A Counting School blog, and comments on my blog occasionally. While his PWC post doesn’t have his key words in his first two paragraphs, they are in his title.  No doubt his blog’s higher page rank helps.

Google Your Search Engine Terms

The way I realized my mistakes was by Googling the search engine terms that were bringing readers to my blog.  I noticed that the Google results for some of my posts were much better than others, and I started analyzing why and started making adjustments. While I realize there’s much more to search engines and how they work than the titles and intro sentences you use, but every bit helps.

Your Turn

I’ve got a lot to learn, so if you have some advice for me, I’m listening. I haven’t fixed all my posts yet, but I’m working on it.

If you enjoyed this post, please Tweet it. And of course, a comment from you would make me smile even more.

P.S. Did anyone spot the change I sneaked into my blog as a result of writing this post? I realized that I hadn’t practiced what I was preaching, so I tweaked something in midstream. Hint: Google doesn’t lie. Bragging rights to the first person who points it out!

Read other posts of mine specifically about  blogging.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Blogging: Choose Great Titles and Intro Sentences

  1. Yay for the shout-out. I wanted to do that childish little cry of “I win!”.

    More amusing when pagerank beats some of the Big 4 official sites on certain topics. ;)

  2. Good stuff…it’s amazing how little things will get search engines’ attention. That is something I’ve discovered more and more. Keep up the good work!

  3. This post deserves my detailed study. I didn’t realise what a newb I was until I read this

  4. Thanks for comments, folks.
    @Cow
    Before you do anything, do the google check like I did on a couple of posts. Then change a few things and at least a month later, google the same thing again and see how much changes. The PWC letter example really opened my eyes.
    Hey, we learn from each other. The first thing I learned from you was how to get comments when you don’t post anything when you’re on vacation.
    :)

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