As I have explained in a previous post, I track the weekly growth rate of two variables to measure the performance of my blog.
There are multiple factors that contribute to those numbers. One of those factors is how many times my posts are clicked on Medium. There are multiple factors that influence that stat as well.
However, when I look at my Medium stats, I see that the post title plays a significant role in how many times a post is viewed.
The “How To” Posts
A typical title formula is the “how to” titles. If you google the words “how to,” you’ll receive billions of results. “How to” posts are so common that they don’t stand out anymore. People grew resistant to them, just like the online banner ads.
My Medium stats confirm this conclusion. There aren’t any “how to” posts in my top 10% posts, but quite some in my bottom 10%.
The only exception to that conclusion is the search traffic. In that case, you have to offer solutions to a specific problem that people are searching for, and your page should be indexed high on Google.
I’m not interested in SEO at this moment. Therefore, I will avoid the “how to” titles from now on.
If “how to” titles don’t perform well, what type of titles perform well?
There’s a certain post title construction that performs significantly better than the rest, at least among the 140+ posts that I have published so far.
In this type of title you promise a single tip, method, solution, or a secret to a complex problem. People have a lot of complex problems in their private or professional lives, but they don’t have the time to follow a course on how to solve those problems.
They want to have a silver bullet solution that they can learn in a few minutes to solve their problem. With the silver bullet post, you are addressing that need and desire. Let’s go over a few examples.
The Principle that Explains All Human Behavior. Human behavior is a complex problem. We are not only confused by the behavior of our families, friends, and colleagues, but we are also confused by our own behavior.
Moreover, understanding this complex problem would give us an edge in our private and professional lives. What if we could understand and influence the behavior of our families, friends, colleagues, and prospects? The quality of our lives and our business results would skyrocket.
Of course, accomplishing all of that in a single blog post is impossible, but if a blog post could give us a tip and a direction to look at and study, it would be a great investment of our time. This is exactly what I tried to do with that blog post.
Pay attention to two simple words in this title: “the” and “all.” “The” refers to a single principle. The reader doesn’t have to learn, memorize, and use a dozen principles. They have to learn only one principle.
“All” refers to the totality of the problem. It’s not a partial explanation. The post promises to explain the whole problem.
This Is the Only Way to Solve Problems. Pay attention to the words “this” and “only.” The word “all” is not used in this title, but it’s implicit in the word “problems.” A meta-level solution method is proposed for all problems, which is something useful for most people.
One Habit That Can Turn Around Your Life. Pay attention to the word “one.” It implies that you have to adopt a single habit, not a dozen, to turn around your life, which is not a simple thing to do.
The Only Skill You Need to Succeed in Life. Again, a complex problem: to succeed in life and a single solution: the only skill.
The Only Tip You Need to Grow Your Audience as a Blogger. The complex problem: growing your audience and a single tip.
Optimal Emotional State for Maximum Performance. This title doesn’t include one of our helper words, such as “the, this, only, one,” or “all,” but includes the meaning implicitly. As a matter of fact, I could call this title The Optimal Emotional State for Maximum Performance.
I included this example to show you that you don’t need to rely on the helper words. You can go under the radar without using clichés or patterns, which will help you avoid the resistance of the Internet surfers to certain clichés or patterns, such as the “how to” posts.
The combination of a single silver bullet solution to a complex problem is a winning formula to construct a blog post title. You need to emphasize both of the components in the title, the complex problem as well as the singularity of the solution.
You can emphasize the singularity of the solution by using words such as “the, this, only,” and/or “one.” You can emphasize the complexity of the problem by using words such as “all.” As an alternative, you can ignore those words altogether and include the meaning implicitly in the title.
Avoid using the phrase “how to” in your titles, unless you have optimized your blog for search engines and you provide a solution to a specific problem. I could title this post “How to Compose Blog Post Titles that Get Clicked,” but I didn’t do that, because “how to” posts don’t perform well in my blog.
I used the formula explained in this post and offered a silver bullet solution, “a winning formula,” to a complex problem, “to compose blog post titles that get clicked.”
Last but not least, your title is your promise to your reader. You have to deliver on your promise. With a blog post, you have only one chance to convert a reader to a follower. If you don’t deliver on your promises, all the traffic in the world won’t help you much.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.