Ever write a blog post that was brilliant, but nobody reads it? It happens to me all the time. (Insert blogger tears here.) Or, have you read someone else’s blog post on a similar subject that’s not nearly as good as yours but gets tons of retweets and comments? What is it about their article that made it so popular? While your content might be better, you could be failing because you’re not controversial enough, and you could be writing poor titles. Not long ago, at the Future Insights Live conference in Las Vegas, I attended a session led by Gabe Rivera, founder of Techmeme, about how to build influence for yourself and your business through blog writing. Of the issues he brought up, I was most fascinated by his focus on the importance of titles and picking a fight, publicly, with someone more influential and popular than you.

The Supreme Importance of Titles

Here are Rivera’s tips to improve the quality of your blog post titles:
  • Communicate the importance of your piece: There is so much competition to get eyeballs, and many bloggers are writing about the same topic. Impress upon the reader the importance of your article. So instead of writing a title like, “This story is about Apple,” write, “This is the best story about Apple.”
  • Let the title promote your piece far and wide: Your blog title is a piece of ad copy that will travel far. When people link to your story in tweets and on aggregation sites, they will probably use the title that you use.
  • Consider your audience as distributors: Similarly, consider who and how wide you want your article to be retweeted. If you want a specific person or company to see the article, put that name in the title (e.g., “New York will always be a tech backwater, I don’t care what Chris Dixon or Ron Conway or Paul Graham Say”)
  • Avoid enigmatic titles: Often titles are purposefully enigmatic, or clever, without getting to the point. While dashes of cleverness are OK, avoid anything that confuses the reader.
  • Don’t bury the lead: Make sure your title hits the main point of the article.
  • Steal vague titles: When a popular media outlet puts up a vague title, it’s inviting the competition to take the same story, but improve upon it and bring in a wider audience with a better title. For example, the New York Times Magazine published a story about Target sending diaper coupons to a family who had a teenage daughter, but they titled it “How Companies Learn Your Secrets.” Forbes took the same story, rewrote it, and retitled it “How Target Figured out a Teen Girl was Pregnant Before Her Father Did.”

Don’t shy away from conflict

Another great tip Rivera offered was the importance of “fighting up,” or comparing yourself or an issue you care about with someone bigger than you. Ultimately, you want the audience to compare or contrast you or your thoughts with the issue. On camera, Rivera and I talked about the famous fight TechCrunch kicked off with the DEMO conference when it launched its own conference TechCrunch 40, now renamed to TechCrunch Disrupt.


Here are Rivera’s tips for “fighting up:”
  • Remember, everybody loves a good fight.
  • There’s lots of wrongness in the world to use as subject material.
  • Don’t antagonize, get personal, or be tawdry. Be useful and helpful.
  • Correct, disagree with, denounce, accuse, or call out.
  • Write for the unconvinced.
  • Get your facts straight.