Do The Wrong Thing: The Benefits Of Writing Unconventional Headlines

    I’ve been blogging for about two and a half years now and I know that eventually, after writing so many posts, you can start to get sick and tired of writing the same ol’ conventional blog post headlines.

    You know what headlines I’m talking about. Headlines like: “5 Tips For Doing This, or 6 Ways To Do That, or 9 Techniques to Accomplish Such and Such, etc.”

    Even the most die-hard blogging fans can get really tired of reading conventional blog post headlines all the time.

    Even though conventional blog post headlines can always be relied on for generating heavy traffic, overuse of them can make your blog appear bland, predictable, and lacking in innovation.

    So, every once in a while, I think it’s good to mix things up.

    The Benefits Of Writing Unconventional Blog Post Headlines

    Here are some of the benefits of writing unconventional headlines:

    1. Surprisingly, unconventional headlines can generate just as much traffic and engagement as blog posts with “conventional” headlines (if done right).

    2.    Starting with an unconventional blog post headline can really get you excited and motivated to flesh out that full blog post.

    3. Unconventional headlines make your blog not only sound smart, but they also make your blog sound refreshing to your readers.

    4. Unconventional headlines add a sense of variety and diversity to your blog.

    5. Unconventional blog post headlines add a sense of playfulness and creativity to your blog.

    6. Unconventional blog post headlines offer an element of surprise and suspense.

    7. Finally: unconventional blog post headlines are fun.

    How To Write Unconventional Blog Post Headlines

    Now that you know the benefits of writing unconventional blog post headlines, here are a few ways to help you write unconventional headlines that will still generate popular blog posts.

    •  Spin a popular song title to fit your blog’s niche

    Example:

    Song Title: “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story

    Blog Post Headline: “Something’s Coming To Your E-mail Inbox, Something Good (If You Can Wait)”

    Possible Blog Topic: A post on encouraging writers to be patient while they wait for agents to respond to their query letters.

    • Spin a popular movie title to fit your blog’s niche

    Besides the headline of this post which, of course, is a spin on Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, here’s another example:

    Movie Title: “He’s Just Not That Into You”

    Headline: “He’s Just Not That Into Your Book: How Querying Is Just Like Dating”

    Potential Blog Post Topic: Tips on how writers can query agents successfully AND how writers can be successful at dating.

    (I actually used the above headline when I tweaked one of my guest bloggers’ guest posts. Their guest post ended up becoming very popular.)

    • Spin a popular television show’s title to fit your blog’s niche.

    Example:

    TV Show Title: “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”

    Blog Post Headline: “It’s Always Sunny In Self-Publishing-ville”

    Possible Topic: In this post, the author of the blog can lead a discussion about whether authors who are self-published are happier than authors who opt for traditional publishing.

    • Spin a popular quote from a book, poem, or public figure to fit your blog’s niche.

    Quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Gandhi

    Blog Post Headline: “Be The Writer You Want To See In The World”

    Possible Topic: This post can discuss how writers can influence the types of stories offered in the mainstream by creating their own innovative work that will change that mainstream.

    • Write a really long blog post headline

    Example:

    Blog Post Headline: “The Story of How An Unfit Man, Allergic To Any Kind of Physical Activity, Fell In Love With Running And Became A Better Writer In The Process.”

    Possible Topic: How running a 5K taught you how to be a better writer.

    (Again, the above title is one of my own. Among tons of titles of average length, a very long title can really catch the reader’s attention.)

    • Write a one-word headline

    Example:

    Blog Post Headline: “Breathe.”

    Possible Topic: How the simple of act of breathing awareness can relax you, focus you, and improve your health.

    (The above headline is an unconventional blog post headline written by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. Again, among titles of average length, a one-word title can grab a lot of attention.)

    • Write a headline with a counter-intuitive premise

    Example:

    Blog Post Headline: “3 Anti-Tips For Killing Procrastination.”

    Possible Topic: How to overcome procrastination in new and unconventional ways.

    (The above headline came from a popular guest post I wrote for The Renegade Writer. By using the counterintuitive term “Anti-Tips” in my headline, I drew readers in because it left them to wonder: “What is an ‘anti-tip’ and why would the writer be sharing them with me if, by definition, it would seem that an ‘anti-tip’ wouldn’t work?”)

    • Write a headline that’s a spin of a common phrase you’ve heard your readers say (or you’ve hear people in your niche say)

    Example:

    Blog Post Headline: “Don’t Try To Make It ‘Easy.’ Just Try To Get It Done.”

    Possible Topic: A post about how writers need to focus on getting the writing done, and forget about trying to make the writing easy (because writing will never be “easy.”)

    (This was another headline of mine that became very popular. It was a spin on a common phrase I heard my readers say often: that it wasn’t “easy” for them to find the time to write.)

    • Spin your blog’s title and use it to teach or share something new that relates to the theme of your blog.

    Example:

    Blog Post Headline: “The Zen of The Barbell”

    Possible Topic: How lifting waits is a form of meditation that helps you focus and become aware of your surroundings.

    (Again, the above is a headline from Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits. This title brings an unconventional idea to the reader: that lifting weights, something often associated with lots of noise—the clank of the barbells, the music from your iPod, grunting—can be re-associated with stillness and peace, both of which are central to the overall theme of Zen Habits.)

    • Finally: write a headline that is a spin of a common phrase of yours that you have used on your blog (and that has really resonated with readers).

    Example:

    Blog Post Headline: “Don’t Think. Just Do.”

    Possible Topic: A blog post about how,  sometimes, writers should avoid overthinking writing and just do it.

    (This another blog post headline of mine that caught fire a few months ago. I think that what helped it was that it was a common phrase that I used in older blog posts before but never used in a headline until then.)
    Good luck, Bloggers!
    Hopefully, these ideas have got your creative juices flowing around the topic of blog post headlines.

    Good luck, bloggers!

    Do you agree with me that sometimes using unconventional headlines are beneficial? Or do you think that bloggers should always play it safe and just stick to conventional headlines? Do you have any ideas for writing unconventional blog post headlines that still generate popular posts?  Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

    A guest post by Ollin Morales. He is a fiction writer,  freelance writer, blogger, and ghostwriter. His blog, Courage 2 Create, chronicles his journey as he writes his first fiction novel. His blog offers writing advice as well as strategies to deal with life’s tough challenges. His blog was named one of The Top Ten Blogs for Writers by WriteToDone two years in a row (2011, 2012).

     

    About the author

      Ollin Morales

      Ollin Morales's blog, Courage 2 Create, chronicles the author’s journey as he writes his very first novel. His blog offers writing tips as well as strategies to deal with life’s toughest challenges. After all, as Ollin’s story unfolds, it becomes more and more clear to him that in order to write a great novel, he must first learn how to live a great life.

    • Ollin, I’ve always believed in the power of the unconventional. Thanks to your post, I now have more ideas than ever before on how to make it happen! 🙂

    • Hello Ollin

      Absolutely agree, let’s have more unconventional post titles! I write the blog ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ in the UK – the title itself is inspired by one of my favourite songs and 90% of the post titles are inspired by songs that I love. Whilst the blog isn’t about music, the titles have created an additional dimension to the blog that reflects a part of my personality – to the point where it now has its own ‘Soundtrack’ page!

      Looking forward to reading more from you.

      Toni

    • Hi
      I’m a great follower of American marketing and writing and as a 62 year old Personal Trainer I needed a unique headline to get attention during 60 Second Presentation. There are hundreds of six foot, tanned trainers out there with qualifications to spare. I’m five foot five, little hair, some teeth missing and a dodgy knee.
      What could I say to make people take notice.
      “Together We Can Stop Work Killing Us.” I think that got their attention.
      I’m all in favour of unconventional headlines.

    • Hi!

      possibly if you write unconventional headlines for your posts you pay for it loosing traffic, becouse your could find a better title por SEO. This may be more or less relevant depending on your base of followers. For sure your can get more impact on your followers and comments with a crazy headline, and sometimes it is important to have fun y follow your inspiration.

      Gregorio

    • Floreva says:

      And it is tiresome for readers to only be able to say “great” or “excellent”, as some blogs are just *always* packed with such great posts.
      We do not want the blogger to think we lack vocabulary. So, sorry, for not finding a more predictable word : your post is greatly excellent.
      and, thanks

      Floreva

    • Floreva says:

      And it is tiresome for readers to only be able to say “great” or “excellent”, as some bmogs are just *always* packed with such great posts.
      We do not want the blogger to think we lack vocabulary. So, sorry, for not finding a more predictable word : your post is greatly excellent.
      and, thanks

      Floreva

    • Bakari says:

      Great post, and a very good idea. Has me thinking of interesting titles to create.

    • Thanks for the excellent post. I’ve never considered spinning a title or trying the zen , single word approach, when posting about photography. Thanks for the ideas!

    • Jeff says:

      Great blog. Loved it. This is an awesome perspective for someone like me who’s just getting started and a reminder I shouldn’t get too focused on being formulaic but continue to be creative. Thanks!

      • I think the formulas are good, but formulas are meant to be broken every once in a while. When you have a lot of formulaic headlines, and suddenly you break from that, your post really stands out. This blog post in itself is a great example of what I’m talking about!

    • Gem Webb says:

      This is the most original thought based blog post on blog post title creation I’ve ever read. It gives the secret to creating engaging titles. I finally put it together how High to medium search volume titles can be created in coordination with Googles FREE keyword tool. Thanks so much!

    • Thanks for this, Ollin!

      I’ve read and written so many headlines, they all start to look the same to me. And at that point, I can bet they’re starting to look the same to my readers, too.

      Now I have a few more headline ideas in my writing bag!

    • One of the funniest headlines is this one by Karol Gajda

      How To Drive 1,802 Kilometers With A Cat In Tow (or How To Pull Kitty From A Thorn Bush)

      It’s on his sadly now defunct blog ‘Ridiculously Extraordinary’

    • This post brings up some good points. But we have all read over and over that these unconventional titles will actually hurt you. Is there a happy medium? Oh, and “lifting waits”: really, on a writer’s blog?

      • If you use them all the time, unconventional headlines will certainly hurt you. But that is not what I am suggesting.

        I’m suggesting you do it every once in a while to break up the monotony. But of course, you are welcome to disagree with me!

    • My dear, unconventional blog posts are THE best! 🙂

      I wish we could only write those all the time…life would be easier! 🙂

      p.s. Great post! Thank you! 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • Me, too! Alas, sometimes we really do need to rely on those good old conventional headlines!

    • Leslie says:

      Hooray! Finally, amidst a sea of boring articles about how to write boring titles, one that allows writers to exercise their main strength — creativity. Thanks Ollin. I’m off to check out your blog.

      By the way, I once considered a blog post titled, “Hey Google, Is That a Page One Ranking In Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me?”

      What do you think of the popular wisdom that says titles should be no more than 70 characters for SEO purposes?

      • I must have just been writing my comment as you were writing yours, Leslie. I agree whole heartedly!

      • Dave Zan says:

        What do you think of the popular wisdom that says titles should be no more than 70 characters for SEO purposes?

        He he, finally got around to commenting here after lurking and reading for some time. IMHO, that’s relevant IF you’re heavily depending on search engines.

        Otherwise, I say just write for your readers. 🙂

      • Hey Leslie,

        I hope it was clear that I’m not AGAINST conventional blog posts headlines that follow SEO rules. I still use conventional headlines and I will continue to use them.

        My thing is that I think readers appreciate when ever once in a while you mix things up. But you should still make sure each unconventional headline 1. expresses what the article is about, 2. is something that can come up in searches with key words OR has key words that your regular readers recognize or that your niche recognizes.

    • Chris Lovie-Tyler says:

      Finally, someone has addressed the issue of nauseatingly formulaic blog-post titles!

      I understand why people use them, but c’mon, people, where’s the creativity?!

      Thanks, Ollin, for breaking the ice and suggesting some alternatives! [Sigh of relief]

      • You’re welcome Chris! I think a break from the monotony every once in a while can be very refreshing!

    • June says:

      Hi Ollin. When I first started blogging last April, I didn’t know about the importance of writing ‘killer’ headlines, as they say. So I just used headlines that I thought matched the content of the articles I wrote. For example, my first two headlines were ‘Is it Freaky to be a Virgin? and Chasing After Shadows.’ But after reading about writing headlines to generate traffic, I tried to write headlines with keywords in them.

      To be honest, though, I prefer to use unconventional ones. They sound more appealing and not so robotic. Although, I have been using the traditional ones. It hasn’t made much difference in generating traffic to my blog though.

      Thanks for this article.

      • I think a good mix of both would be good. I’m not suggesting to abandon conventional headlines completely here, I’m just saying that throwing in an unconventional headline every once in a while really excites readers.I certainly will continue to use both conventional and unconventional headlines in the near future.

    • Hey, Ollin! I was just reading another guest post you wrote for Write to Done in StumbleUpon! You know, the one on how to deal with emotions? In my case, I find good old music to be a pacifier.

      I also have a headline in my head screaming to be written: “Don’t Be a Parrot!” It’s not unconventional, but…

    • alicia-joy says:

      Excellent post with concrete examples to get us thinking. I have “spun” a few quotes before as headlines, but I probably wasn’t as creative as the ones you mentioned.

      I definitely think it’s a good idea. Breaks the monotony of the traditional headlines. Now I’m off to get creative with my next one.

      Thanks for the inspiration!


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