Blog Title Made My Head Spin Like The Exorcist

blog title


The blog post title said flat out that doing what you love was a bad career move!


I read it and my back immediately went up. What farce is this? The gall to claim such a thing!? (You may have noticed I have “doing what you love” plastered on every page of my blog, in my mission statement and consider it a personal credo.)


So, I just had to keep reading. And as I did, I wanted to scream with terror and indignation like a child who’s had her favorite toy snatched away by some snotty kid in daycare who thinks she owns everything!


I couldn’t believe that this post, first published in 2007, was still garnering attention, had been tweeted over 200 times and inspired over 450 comments, many of which were in agreement. The final twist of the knife? It was written by a respected blogger who also dishes out career advice in some 200 newspapers. Nooooooo!


As I read, my indignation grew into a menacing dark cloud gathering above my head, bursting at the seams, full of lightening and thunder. Until it finally ruptured and I struck…in a comment. I’d show the author and her devoted readers what’s what.


My long-winded comment, probably unread by anyone (it was rather long), got lost in the heap of the 400 or so others, eventually buried by newer ones that just kept piling on. I don’t think I “showed” anyone anything, but I definitely helped the post’s popularity and ranking!


So, why the rant about blog post titles today?


Well first of all, time heals all wounds and now from my rainbow and unicorns perspective, I can look at this piece of work objectively and see it more for what it is: a piece of “controversial writing”. It’s made to provoke you and to poke at your emotions so you’ll not only want to read, but respond (like I did).


That’s the muscle behind controversial pieces and headlines. Here’s what Problogger had to say about the popularity of edgy titles:

Create Controversy or Debate

Another technique that can be very good at drawing people into a post is to set the scene for controversy, debate or a strong opinion. You need to be willing to back these types of titles up with posts that reflect the title – but controversy is one of those things that tends to pique people’s interest. Keep in mind that when you create controversy you’ll attract strong reactions in people.


Social Media Today also found they had more reads when publishing controversial titles:

In the several articles I have submitted to Social Media Today I have found varying degrees of success. While my articles all provide constructive, useful information for anyone in the business of social media or anyone thinking about launching a campaign, I have found that the #1 way to get my articles read is to be somewhat controversial in the headline.


Case in point, the Social Media Today post titled, “Social Media ROI For Idiots” was read 19, 876 times!


The allure of controversial headlines is similar to slowing down and looking at car accidents.  They shock us, intrigue us or simply rub us the wrong way. Yet, we inexplicably and sometimes shamefully have to look.


Some common provoking tactics use negative words like “idiot” or “bad”, others make a statement that contradicts popular belief.  Both, like a car accident, carry shock value that draws our attention.


Here are a few examples of other popular titles online:

“How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” by NY Times, 734 Comments

“6 Reasons Why You Should Quit Blogging” by Blue Glass,  427 tweets

“Drop Social Media Buttons Call” by netmagazine, 402 tweets

“How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did” by Forbes,  1,577,169 views!!! (If that’s not controversial, I don’t know what is.)


But Back To the Bad Career Advice Post


So, revisiting the Career Advice post in my zen state, I noticed how the author had used this controversial approach and how it had manipulated my reaction and sooooo many others’s.


Furthermore, most of the popular posts listed in the blog’s side margin also had controversial titles. Obviously, the author recognizes the benefits of using provoking headlines.


I dug a little more and also discovered that the post ranked on the first to second pages of Google results for the term “career advice”, confirming again the use of clever marketing and writing.


Take note that I’m not for one second implying the author was insincere in her post. Despite the use of a controversial title, I do think she was being authentic and believed in what she wrote. She’s just savvy enough to know how to get an audience to not only read, but react to what she has to say. Clearly this makes for good traffic, blog activity and rankings! (But I’d prefer you have something constructive to say.)


Which, brings up an important question:


Can you use this tactic in your business? In getting traffic to your site?


Of course! 


Use edgy blog post titles to get noticed. If you back up your titles, delivering what they promise, you’ll increase your chances in getting more readers, more shares and a heck of a lot more comments.


And remember, no matter what you write and how controversial you are, keep your market in mind. Write for them. Said another way, deliver what they want. This way, they’ll benefit from reading what you write.


But please, please, please promise me you won’t write how doing what you love is bad career advice. I won’t read it. Not this time around.


How about you? Have you ever read  posts that evoked a strong response? Do you use controversial titles?



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4 Responses to Blog Title Made My Head Spin Like The Exorcist

  1. Advertising headlines and newsletter titles use headlines screaming key selling phrases and incentive words to spur attention and highlight attention. The stimulating headlines and selling titles induce a driving force to read on. The ultimate goal of the advertising is to sell almost everyone worth selling anything you have of benefit to buy.

  2. Very true.
    Not just blogs use this kind of approach…ads and newsletters like you say…also, movies, books, what have you. Anything to get attention in this noisy world. And in the end it’s to sell you something whether a product, service or idea.

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. I’ve noticed this tatic often and it’s caused me to go clicking the ‘negative’ headline for the positive information I’m looking for. Almost like even though I was sure the information I wanted was for positive reasons, but what’s this? Something suggesting that my idea or path I’m wishing to take isn’t the best idea? Hmmm, let me click it and see if it’s worth changing my mind. But then, only to have my idea re-enforced because of the misleading title. But yep, it worked. Thanks for postin.

  4. Thanks Darin! You’ve explained very well how controversial headline work!!