You’ve consumed copious amounts of caffeine while crafting your content. You may have mindlessly munched on thousands of calories while writing a super relevant post. If you’re like me, maybe you’ve yelled one too many times at your kids to give you some quiet space, pushed your cats off the keyboard (for the hundredth time!) and relied on your husband to finish the dishes while you’ve desperately tried to gather your thoughts and write.
Congratulations! With all your hard work and bullet-proof content, you now have something to share with the world - a reason for readers to come visit your website and check out what you have to offer.
But don’t stop there! The most IMPORTANT things to pay attention to are the very last items that you probably consider when writing a blog post - your title, excerpt, and image. By asking yourself these 3 questions while crafting them, you’ll ace these key components so that people will be more likely to click-through and read that beautiful piece of content you just wrote.
But before we dive into these super important questions, let me clarify what items I’m referring to. The title and excerpt, along with your image, are used to display a link preview of your blog post when the link is shared on social media.
These little snippets of information are windows into the content of your blog post. Imagine that your readers are window shopping down a quaint little street. Your blog title, excerpt and image need to be neatly and strategically placed in your store window in order to entice your readers to come into the store and check out what you’re selling.
The following tips will help you get your “shop window” ready.
TIP #1: BE CLEAR
This is the foundation on which everything else is built, and luckily it’s simple and straightforward: be clear on what your blog post is about. If you’re writing about the “best way to use roses in a flower arrangement”, don’t show an image of lilacs. Make sure your title and excerpt accurately describe what your post is about and don’t be vague (unless you’re intentionally creating mystery). Being clear establishes trust in you. Trust that you’re competent enough to communicate your message and trust that you aren’t being deceptive.
TIP #2: BE CONCISE
Being concise means conveying your point in as few words as possible. Consider these points for each item below:
The Title: The optimal character length for a title is about 60 characters. Go ahead and start with whatever title comes naturally to you. Work on its content and delivery. Then, widdle away any words that are absolutely necessary. You don’t have many characters to work with here, but it’s the first thing that your reader will be drawn to. They’ll first read your title to decide whether your content is something that interests them.
The Excerpt: The optimal character length for the Excerpt is about 155 characters. Anything more than 155 characters, and you’ll risk having your excerpt cut-off. This could lessen the impact of your words and negate all the hard work you put into crafting this short summary. Anything less than 70 characters, and it looks incomplete. Even if you’re able to create a well-written excerpt in less than 70 characters, visually, it will look unpolished.
The Image: Don’t try to say too much with the image. It should only support what the title and the summary are saying. Avoid words in this image unless there’s a good reason to do so. Usually there isn’t, and it will just add another layer of complication that isn’t necessary.
Need help keeping track of the number of characters your using? Try this free tool - http://www.charactercountonline.com.
TIP #3: BE COMPELLING
Just writing a matter-of-fact title and excerpt might be clear and concise, but we don’t want it to read like a textbook, so we also have to be compelling. Keep your voice conversational and try to subtly elude to the answers that you might have for your readers inside your post. You might ask yourself... What’s the Incentive to read my post? What can they learn? How can they benefit by clicking through and reading it? Can I add some mystery so that they feel compelled to click?
And there you have 3 tips that will help you assemble an enticing blog title, excerpt and image.
But wait… there’s more! Ha! I’ve always wanted to say that. Thanks for humoring me. :-)
I have one last thing that I haven’t mentioned yet. It might be the most important ingredient to getting this perfectly right.
CONSIDER YOUR READERS.
Put yourself in their shoes. Take a look at your title, excerpt and image together and try to imagine what your readers reaction will be will they come across it in their social media news feed. To go back to the store window analogy… would the way you’ve displayed these items in your “window”, entice your ideal reader to enter in?
I can’t emphasize this enough…
Trying to see what you create through the eyes of your intended audience is the SECRET SAUCE to communication success.
Let me give you a simple but powerful procedure that you can follow - after you’ve put your title, excerpt and image in place - that will help you ensure that your post is share-ready.
1. Go to this URL for the Facebook Debugger - https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug/
2. Enter the URL of your blog post into the empty field. Then click on the “Debug” button.
3. This will pull up the link preview for your blog post. How does it look?
4. Take in the the whole thing together. If you were a potential reader, would it entice you to click?
5. Make any needed edits from within your website to the title, excerpt or image.
6. IMPORTANT: If you make changes to the title, excerpt or image on your website after viewing this, you must click on the “Scrape Again” button. This will prompt Facebook to fetch the new information from your website and display the new information for you to view.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT (HONESTLY. THIS IS IT!)
You might ask… but what about SEO? Shouldn’t I be considering what keywords I should use so that I’ll get discovered in the Search Engines? My answer is yes, but. The most important consideration is your reader. If you successfully accomplish the things I’ve mentioned in this article, and your blog post titles, excerpts, and images are clear, concise and compelling, AND you’ve done a good job of making sure you’ve considered your ideal audience/reader - then you’ve made it 99% of the way. Always start with these considerations first, and then you’ll be in good shape to consider that last piece of the puzzle.
But that’s a topic for another day….