The Best Way to Increase Your Feed Readership…

…is to use great titles.  Seriously.

Here’s an example: Steve Rubel’s "The Web 2.0 World is Skunk Drunk on Its Own Kool-Aid" rant caught my eye yesterday because of its great title.  After reading Rubel’s post, I added it to my link blog, where it was spotted by Steven Hodson.  As Hodson writes, he unsubscribed from Rubel’s feed a while ago, but he just resubscribed based on the strength of that one post – and I’ll wager that the post’s title is why it got his attention.

As people subscribe to more feeds, the more they stop reading every unread item and instead just skim the titles looking for something that interests them.  If you use boring titles for your posts, skimmers like myself are likely to skip right over them.

In addition, once people get used to reading feeds, they start subscribing to link blogs and search feeds which aggregate content from all over the web.  People who aren’t subscribed to your feed often find you through these aggregate feeds, and it’s the strength of your titles that leads them to read what you have to say.

Now, I’m not about to recommend using sensationalist, "National Enquirer"-like titles – that would just pollute your name/brand, leading people to unsubscribe from your feed.  But descriptive, catchy titles get the attention of readers who might otherwise never see your words of wisdom.

So if you’re going to take the time to write a blog post, make sure to also take the time to give it a good title.  Yeah, I know that sounds painfully obvious, but a quick glance of your unread items should provide plenty of examples of interesting posts that go ignored because of lousy titles.

8 thoughts on “The Best Way to Increase Your Feed Readership…

  1. Nick,
    You would be correct on that assumption. As I said in my post Steve Rubel as a Web 2.0 proponent at one point for me anyway got to be just too much to read. All that Web 2.0 goodie goodie was sparking my gag reflexs :) but his post yesterday – which I only read because of the title – was an excellent thought provoking post.

  2. Another good way to pick up traffic is to do “list posts”, with titles like “Five Techniques to Optimize Delphi Code” or “Ten Ways to Detect I/O Pressure in SQL Server”
    I also like to look at my referer statistics to see what Google searches are finding my content, which gives me an indication what people are interested in.

  3. I’d love your advice on which is the more powerful attractant:
    a funny or catchy title like Rubel’s, or a plain jane SEO content driven title?
    It’s hard to have it both ways, and I’m never quite sure what to do.

  4. @Steven: I’m right there with you. Having survived the first boom-and-bust, I can’t help but notice the similarities between then and now.
    @Meredith: Assuming that catchy titles and SEO-friendly titles are mutually exclusive, I’d opt for catchy titles. However, I’d argue that catchy titles are ones that include the keywords which interest potential readers, which should also make them SEO-friendly.

  5. Sadly it seems that titles have fallen victim to the ‘everything must be packed with keywords’ mentality. Some writers are more interested in catching the attention of Google than catching the attention of real readers. Me, I prefer quirky titles because that is the way I speak and that’s what catches my eye. And they don’t sound fake…

  6. When I’m going through Google Reader every morning, my finger is always on the ‘J’ button to skip to the next article, and if a title doesn’t interest me, the post doesn’t get read. Simple as that.
    Google isn’t going to read your post and comment on it. I might. Create posts for the readers. I mean, this is what you do it for. Right?

  7. The most clicked posts in my music blog are those which have a question as title. “What is minimal techno?”, for example, seems to draw attention of people who are new to this subject, and want to know what is all about. Making questions and answering them is a good formula to attract readers.

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