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Friday, January 20, 2012

Blog Post Titles, leads and RSS feeds

"Don't bury the lead" is a journalistic expression bloggers would be well advised to follow. It means put the strongest and most compelling points of your story at the beginning of your posts, the who, what, why, where and when. Why? Because RSS feeds put a premium on your post title and opening sentences.

RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication and can be used to effortlessly republish your blog posts to multiple websites across the internet.

So, why do I feel your post titles and opening sentences are important enough to blog about them? Because if you use an RSS feed to share your blog (on twitter Facebook, Linked In, etc. or even if you don't, your fans might) what those feeds republish are your post titles and a snippet from the beginning of the post itself. You usually have no (or very little) control over which part of the post is republished so you need to make sure what you're leading with is interesting enough to pique the curiosity of readers enough that they'll click over and read the post in its entirety on your blog.

Feed Informer on the sidebar of The Flirty Blog

For instance, I use the free Feed Informer RSS feed on the sidebar of this blog so that when people arrive at the site through a shared link or a search engine (not through the home page) they can see samples from my five most recent posts. Here is what a feed snippet looks like in  the sidebar of my blog:

An impressive and delicious DIY antipasto appetizer
17/01/12 15:00 from The Flirty Blog • A Wedding & Lifestyle Resource
Check it out. Over on The Flirty Guide avid foodie, Wedding DJ and MC Carl Mindling shows you how to make this bright and colorful antipasto...

Now I could have titled the post "My friend Carl knows how to cook." Even though it's true, unless you know Carl it might not be as interesting as the title I chose. Plus the search engines wouldn't ever refer anyone to the post unless someone searched for those specific words and the chances of that would be very slim.

BTW Feed Informer is great to add to your website home page so visitors there can see and be tempted to read your most recent blog posts.

I use Networked Blogs over on Facebook to republish my posts on the official The Flirty Guide Facebook business page. The snippet that gets published includes a thumbnail image. The text looks like this:

The year I broke my feet running Bloomsday
Yup, that's me in a bikini, lounging near a swimming pool, while reading Fatal Attraction. If you want to know why read on. . .It all began in 1989 when I went to Spokane, Washington to run in the annual Bloomsday run. It's a 12km, timed road race for professional and novice runn
source: The Flirty Blog
link: Full Article...

Is this making sense? I think you can see how important it is for those first few sentences to really draw your readers into the story. If I'd titled the post "You won't believe what happened to me" and led with "It all begain in 1989 when I went to..." I don't think the message would be as compelling as creating a dramatic headline that I "broke my feet" and leading with an intriguing teaser about reading Fatal Attraction, poolside in a bikini.

On Twitter the feed is short, 140 characters to be exact. So you have to very brief and get your main points right in there:

TheFlirtyGirl Stacie Tamaki
How to cut crabs from a carrot: What's not to love about carrot crabs? Aside from being more affordable than cra... bit.ly/wb5lDL

I think that was enough. I immediately shared that the post is a tutorial, that carrot crabs are lovable and inexpensive to make. Hopefully it was intriguing enough for people to click on the link at the end.

On Linkedin the feed is longer than Twitter but the same principles apply... A headline that catches a reader's attention followed by a call-to-action or reason to come read the post.

Stacie Tamaki via Twitter
Are you a blogger too?
First let me say thanks for being here and reading The Flirty Blog! Sometimes I wonder how many of you have blogs too? Then it dawned on me I should just ask! So today, instead of writing about me, I'd like to ask any of you...

And this is really neat. The author of the Art Evolve blog has kindly added my blog feed to the list on her sidebar of "Wonderful Blogs." So every time I publish a new post the title shows up on her blog as a link that people can click on to come read the entire post.

The thing is, writing a blog post isn't the same as writing a novel or an email. There are definite best practices to use to make your post as reader and RSS friendly as possible. Unless you've ever been a journalist these things are not something you would be aware of or know how to do naturally. You have to learn why they matter, understand how RSS feeds work then practice, practice, practice. Once you've done it enough writing effective post titles and leading paragraphs will become second nature.

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