Giving Good Headline

good-headlinesI was having a Skype chat with fellow sci-tech blogger Wayne Smallman [yes, he’s 6’5″ and heard all the jokes], he was just about to post an item on sustainable housing and why there is no need to build when you can grow your own. The post is about designer trees and how they might be converted into homes for Hobbits, tree huggers, or the environmentally conscious. Trouble is, he was struggling with a post title and had come up with – Arboreal Aeroponics.

Unfortunately, to his ear it sounded like Latin pr0n and to me it was like something you’d grow illicitly in your attic conversion with UV lights and some herbal seeds. There was also the possibility that some readers mistake it for Aboriginal Aerobics and assume the item was about how indigenous peoples can improve their health through exercise.

The conversation got me thinking about how we silly bloggers come up with catchy headlines for articles. There are those who work like me with a journalistic head on and try to come up with titles that do the same job as a newspaper headline. I wrote about this task in a post on Sciencebase called Giving Good Headline, which gets an awful lot of the wrong sort of traffic, unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly.

There are those bloggers who search and scour Google Adwords looking for the best combination of keywords that will give them a boost in the SERPs (search engine results pages) and others who use use tactics aimed at getting people to link to their posts rather than simply read them.

A combination of all three strategies is probably the best way forward: come up with a journalistic newsy headline, check it for keywords, and then tweak it to make it irresistible for social bookmarkers to tag on Digg, Mixx, Buzz, and any of the myriad other web 2.0 sites with double consonants and lacking adequate numbers of vowels. You never know your post might even attract the right sort of readers even if they are looking for Latin porn or aerobics classes in the Outback .

Author: David Bradley

Freelance science journalist, author of Deceived Wisdom. Photographer and musician.