What’s in a Title? Can More Be Made Out of the Same?

Last autumn, in a fit of generosity, I wrote an article on blogging for everywoman that has been well received. It is always easier to preach than to practice. Fine, I can write convincingly on what makes a good blog. But can I practice it?

Any self-respecting professional in any field is interested in bettering themselves and their work. Sometimes it is a necessity for survival in competitive arenas. Recently, I witnessed copywriter and peer Al Allday make some changes to his site, influenced by his competitors but still strongly fashioned to himself.

My space is very different – it is in no way fashioned as any sort of business portal – but this silent observation has certainly made me think about what it takes to improve even a quiet cornerstone like this page.

Recent Improvements: Frequent Writing

The omens are fairly positive. Although Writing Privacy has a small readership, the beginning of this academic year brought a more positive approach to writing that has delivered some benefits here. Just under one third of the site’s posts have been made since October, and hits have been increasing nicely.

I started advertising new posts on Facebook, only willing to continue if interest was garnered. Facebook’s new profile layout has stopped ‘casual’ referrals. Homepage links are relegated from a prominent spot, underneath the profile picture, to the bottom of a separate ‘info’ tab, which is sorely disappointing. However, interest has remained steady, for which I am grateful.

It is often said that regular blogging maximises the performance of a blog. It is less often said how it benefits the blogger. The benefits that regular writing can bring are astounding. Just a few:

  • It necessitates action. The brain is a muscle like any other. After so long unpractised, its capacity for skilled tasks can get rusty quite quickly. (Speak for yourself, K.)
  • It prompts thought and improves thought. Blogging – perhaps any writing that goes unpaid – comes with its own set of challenges. Can my posts interest, inform, inspire and excite on any topic? Choosing a niche and sticking to it is a challenge. Dedicated blogs on early-modern material are very popular. There is a huge readership at stake. But flexibility, and the liberty for future Skimming Stones, is more appealing. What I write has to remain creative, but that is its own reward.
  • It develops my research. Explaining ideas aloud to non-specialists helps me to express them more clearly, to elucidate better, and to understand them better myself. I teach my young tutees that the first rule of writing is clarity. Without that, there is nothing. That is the rule I learnt last, disappointingly, but the one I cherish the most.
  • It aids networking. It is a fabulous compliment when somebody shows interest in early-modernity (or another subject) through my eyes, and I have enjoyed wonderful dialogue – even if (ironically or appropriately) it took place in more private grounds than here.

Future Improvements: Titles

What's in a name? What's in a title?
What’s in a name? What’s in a title?

So then, where next? Do I stretch my principles and actively advertise my blog more explicitly? [Publicising fresh posts to Facebook is comparatively mild when compared with the digital equivalents of cold-calling, or featuring the address within every email signature]. Or, are there more localised changes that could be made?

WordPress is currently highlighting a feature of its own: want to blog better in 2011? Apart from the usual suspects (frequency; social media publicity [or ‘sharing’ as it terms it]), it has been suggested that more detail should go into titles. It seems a fairly rudimentary part of blogging, but it is a definite area for consideration here.

I cannot recall all of the combinations that have led search-engines to ‘Private Party’, but the full title of this post, which seemed extravagant at the time, conveys a lot of information, and has attracted more views than any other post in its short life-span. Hopefully now it dislodges some of the torrent listings that scourge my musical champions. The extended title has evidently been more beneficial than (as has often been the pattern here) simply ‘Private X’ or ‘Privacy and Y’.

It is often tempting to follow an academic preference: ‘“Quotation”: Followed by Title’. But while this can create intrigue, it is hardly an ideal use of words when social media has a premium on characters. Clearly, then, there’s a certain amount of optimisation that can be done internally before the casuistic wrangles about casting the net need surface again.

For a blog like this, I have always hoped that the writing could do most of the work in maintaining a small readership, and perhaps growing it modestly. Here’s hoping that some small modifications will squeeze more potential from, essentially, the same material.

How important are titles? Has anyone consciously changed the way they used titles and noticed any difference? I would be glad to hear any thoughts!


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