How to Create a Great Title

Category: Weekly Columns

 

What makes a good title? What makes a bad one? Is it like the Supreme Court once said about obscenity, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it?” The answer to these questions is a resounding Yes! A title is the first thing that will attract OR repel a potential reader, viewer, buyer. Nothing else matters if that attraction is not there.

I come from a background where I learned a LOT about titles. In the early eighties, I worked at ABC TV in the television movie department. Those were the pre-cable, pre-VCR days when the three major networks ruled the airwaves. In those days, every Sunday night the three networks competed with made-for-television movies.

There were only a few ways to promote these one-night only events: TV Guide ads, on air promos, and the title. A TV series could gain word-of-mouth traction, as could a song, a record album, a movie, or a play. But the TV-Movie was ONE NIGHT, so the title was an essential component of its success.

At ABC, I worked for a master of promotion, Brandon Stoddard. He brought the mini-series form to prominence with Roots, Winds of War, Masada, and so many other amazing events. He also worked his staff over when it came to titles ‘cause he realized their consuming importance. He knew what branding was before that term existed.

We’d have “Title contests” in the TV-movie division. He cared that much. It was fabulous training for me in not only my then career in television, but my current career in Social Media. I had some great teachers along the way, including the late but equally great, Brandon Tartikoff.

Let’s take some famous titles and some not-so-famous ones and consider why they did or didn’t work.

A great example of a lousy title is the recent Disney movie, “John Carter.” Based on an obscure book series, the movie was actually terrific. Sadly, the title was so bad that, in my opinion, that and that alone doomed the movie to failure. That title told us NOTHING.

The opposite was “Star Wars.” In two words, it sold conflict, outer-space, adventure, and science fiction. It didn’t hurt that the movie was break-through. Another great title was “Titanic.” EVERYONE knew about the Titanic. Again, simple and direct, and a great movie to back it up.

Now, let’s look at Social Media and how we title our websites, our Twitter handles, our blogs, and more. I’ve already written about the value and importance of your Twitter name and bio so I will leave that to you to peruse separately.

What is a good website title? Well, since I work in the dad space, let’s think of a good title for a new dad website. I’m giving it away to the first dad blogger that claims it – all I want is devotion for life and attribution somewhere on your website.

Ready?

Great title for a dad blogger.

Are you sure you’re ready?

Here it is:

The Naked Dad…or, I actually prefer The Naked Daddy.

Why is this a great title, you ask? It has so much going for it that I’ve even thought of using it myself. Heck, it may already be in use and if it is, good for him.

It is a great title because:

1. The word “Naked” is provocative.
2. The word “Naked” has many meanings…it can mean unclothed and it can mean exposed or vulnerable. “Vulnerable” is good for a dad blogger.
3. It’s short and to the point.
4. You’re a dad blogger and it has “dad” in the title.
5. It’s catchy.

Get it? Other great ideas for titles come from popular culture. Use a song title (examples I’ve used: Everybody Hurts, Happy Together, Three Wooden Crosses) for a blog title. You get the juice from its familiarity. Often beginning a title with “How to” or simply having the title be a question is intriguing and piques interest.

Check out my index of material on this website…you will SEE examples of everything I’ve suggested! Don’t be afraid of a provocative word as long as you’re not crossing “the line.” Use words that don’t belong together but sound and read good. Do SEO keyword searches and maybe it can inspire a good title without compromising your content.

I hope this helps. I love coming up with titles so hit me up when you’re stuck sometimes and leave your thoughts below, in the comments section!

  • http://twitter.com/MimiBakerMN MimiBakerMN

    Well, I know who I’ll be talking to when I’m doing posts that need to be eye catching. I mean, they all should be, but some more than others. I actually liked your example of The Naked Daddy! Why can’t I come up with stuff like that? Dang, you’re good!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thanks Mimi. I’m ALWAYS there for you if you need ANY help…seriously!

  • Seattledad

    Your right, a title can make or break a post or blog.  I think I get a ton of hits on my blog just for the curiosity.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I often START with a title and work up a column from it! 

  • http://www.dadblunders.com/ dadblunders

    I actually knew next to nothing about SEO when I choose Dad Blunders …. I actually choose for it a reason and that was my tag line… now I think it works well together and it does seem to peak curiosity. Titles is something I struggle with the most but I really am trying to learn. I place a lot of emphasize on them in my blog now and i didn’t in the beginning (I wish I had of I had some really great posts)   I will tell you one thing if I was going to choose another name now I would do something like daddy cowboy (maybe not that exactly but something similar) …. I have no idea why but when ever i publish photos of myself in my cowboy hat and boots and tag it the popularity of the photos soars…..

    Aaron

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Whether it was dumb luck or calculated choice, I think you have a winner title there, Aaron!

      • http://www.dadblunders.com/ dadblunders

        It would be a little bit of both Bruce. I knew that a title was the first thing a person saw. It would make you or break you. I had hoped people would be curious to see what a dad blunder is and I have had lots of people stop to check that point out. It also worked well for the tag line I had written. I knew nothing about SEO at the time (I can’t say that now) so there was some dumb luck involved too…

        Aaron

  • gina valley

    Good post.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thanks Gina…are you good at it?

  • http://nickkellet.com/ Nick Kellet

    Love it. I always named things better for other people. You are always so close to your own stuff. It’s hard to be rationale and objective. It’s always best to put some time between inception and naming. That said I always love a straw man name, it helps you find a better one

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Yeah, I’d change your name to Samantha!

  • http://www.amberrisme.com Amberr Meadows

    I kind of like the Naked Dad, and another clever one? Aaron with Dadblunders. 

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      We agree, Amberr! Titles are sooooo DARN important, IMO.

  • http://twitter.com/AG_Wallace A.G. Wallace

    Good post. Unfortunately, NakedDaddy.com is registered by someone in Malaysia. Perhaps a subdomain at Blogspot or WordPress is still available. GoDaddy (no pun intended, of course) reports that BareDaddy.com and NakedFather.com are not yet registered – but they lack the appeal of your suggestion.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

       BUT, is The Naked Daddy gone? 

  • textbookmommy

    I love this post and you have hit some really good points!  Bloggers especially need to think about blog post titles and how wording them can potentially bring in traffic.  Google’s Keyword Tool is a great way to help formulate blog post titles.  This is one I recently started using.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      TY TBM…Would love you to join us at #DadChat any Thursday from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. PT – we’re a great world-wide community of dads AND moms!

  • Daddysincharge

    You’re right… I recently wrote a post titled “My Penis Tickles” well wouldn’t you know it was one my most read, or at least most looked at posts this month. I don’t know how many people were disappointed that the post was about my kids riding an amusement park ride, but I hooked them in with the title.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      When I saw that title, I immediately thought it was a gimmick title but that it WOULD WORK! Sometimes, it’s smart to do that. If you do it too much, you’ll piss people off…once in a while it’s just fun! Good job, John!

  • http://brianvickery.com/ Brian Vickery

    Dadblunders is a good one…so is realmattdaddy. Absolutely great example with Star Wars and how many emotions it can generate. Good ole “elegance in simplicity”.

    I would think Naked Dad would really have to watch for the spammers, but I agree in the “vulnerable” and “provocative” at least getting readers to the point of reading the bio.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Hey BV…we are now in Des Moines…tired but okay. BUT, it doesn’t compare to the comfort and joy of spending last night with you and your family!

  • http://joshuawilner.com/ Josh

    I almost used “The Condom Broke” as the name of my blog.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Perfect title for a porn star, though!

  • Tekaranlady

    Yeah, titles are something I’ve been working on. Every now and again, I manage a good one. Most of the time though, I blank when I go to title a post.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Reach out to me when you blank…I love coming up with titles!

  • Mathew

    Daddy Cool at daddycoolproductions.tumblr.com

  • dysfunctionaldose

    Great post! I’ve been trying to get better at titles. I can always tell if I did good on the title by my page views.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      That’s a slight clue, isn’t it!?

  • David Weber

    This is good advice for any kind of message.  I’m good at coming up with bad titles that I think are good but actually are not.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      David, run titles past me any time…it’s a good idea to do that anyway!