A lawyer asked me why I have my blog on the LexBlog platform. I could have answered that it was because Kevin O’Keefe and Kevin McKeown are friends, but that is not enough for me to choose LexBlog. Put simply, the LexBlog team is the best in the business. They make it seamless for me and help improve my blog.

Helen Pitlick is the LexBlog pro who works with me. She also works with many of the lawyer bloggers I coach. Helen has been helping me and the lawyers I coach with creating the most effective headlines. I asked Helen to share her thoughts with you.

If you’ve ever walked past a row of newspaper stands, you may have noticed that the headlines grab your attention in fantastic ways, sometimes without mentioning anything directly related to the content of the post.

Think of a few classic newspaper headlines: “We’re In.” “Gotcha.” “Caught!

These tactics work for the print medium because potential readers are already positioned to view the headlines as they walk down the street, and there’s not a lot of competition – major cities will have just a few newspapers.

The web is different; many readers are not already in front of your blog, and even the ones who are have hundreds, thousands, even millions of options to choose from. The classic headline approach is not going to work for your blog posts, though many law bloggers try to mimic it.

Law blog post titles should be short, keyword optimized, direct, and cover exactly the content of the post.

“Keyword optimized” means that you should think about terms readers would actually search. For example, “hydraulic fracturing” is the technical term many scientists and lawyers will use to describe the process of extracting gas from rock, but most regular people will be searching for “fracking.” You can use a tool like Google Insights to determine which is a more popular search term.

This doesn’t mean your titles need to be boring (Peter Sandeen gives a few memorable examples in a very informative Problogger guest post on titles), but the real conversational element should come across in the content itself.

To give you a few examples of titles that are “short, keyword optimized, direct, and cover exactly the content of the post,”  I’ve made-over a few of Cordell’s titles:

Current: It Takes a Team

  • Better: Do your law firm’s partners drive away associates?

Current: How to Deal with Too Many Eggs in One Basket

  • Better: How not to lose a large client (and what to do if you do)

Here’s why this matters. Your blog’s readers are coming from four different places:

  1. Directly to the blog – these are people who already know and love you and are typing your URL in or have you bookmarked
  2. From a referral source – clicking on a link to your blog from Twitter, LinkedIn, another blog post,
  3. Subscribers – these folks receive your posts either in an RSS reader or their email inbox.
  4. Google – visitors coming in through the search engines.

The first two groups – people coming directly or a referral source – don’t care what your post is titled; you’ve already got their attention. They’re also generally not a very high percentage of overall traffic.

For the second two groups – subscribers and people coming in from search engines – titles matter a great amount.

Google runs off of a complex algorithm that helps it determine which webpages would be the best results for specific terms users search for. This formula takes a number of factors into consideration, age of domain, number of inbound links, and relevant words on the page being among them, and is designed to mimic what would be most relevant to the human user.

Because a blog post’s title tells both Google and a real reader what the post is about, Google’s algorithm gives the words in the title extra weight.

However, because Google is a computer trying to think like a person, it can’t detect the elements of humor, sarcasm, metaphors, irony, puns, cleverness, etc. that legal bloggers sometimes use to get their titles to “stand out.” Therefore, Google is less likely to return that post in their results for relevant searches.

Human subscribers are similar. As a serious blogger, I subscribe to hundreds of blogs on a variety of topics in my RSS reader and many more in my personal email. The titles of these posts come in as the subject lines of the emails and RSS entries. I don’t have time to read each of these blog posts, so I scan for the ones that I think will be most worth my time.

Ultimately, it’s the titles that tell me exactly what a post will cover are the ones I tend to read because I know exactly what sort of information they will give me; with limited time and so much other good stuff in my reader, why click on something that might not be interesting?

So, what do you think? Have you noticed a difference in keyword-optimized titles versus the more vague ones?

Many thanks to Helen for sharing her ideas. Now, those of you blogging can use keywords to get more readers.