This Is A Sucky Title But You’ll Still Click On It

Confused man looking at laptop

Photo: Bruce Mars

We’re always told to never judge a book by its cover, but we always do. We can’t help it. It’s how we survive. For instance, what goes on in your mind when a stranger approaches you in a dark alley?

First, you’d probably call yourself an idiot for wandering in dark alleys. Next, you’ll be sizing up this person to see if they’re a threat.

That’s probably what you do when you scroll the WordPress Reader too, don’t you? You flip through titles at breakneck speed, only stopping at the ones that catch your eye. Then you move on to the next step of the blogging experience—determining if the actual article was worth your time.

Once in a while though, you get drawn into less than ideal posts. Like, is item number four really that mind-blowing? Will I really not believe why this man ate nothing but sugar for one week?

You almost always leave those articles feeling worse than before though. If anything, you’ll probably want your five minutes back.

So this is my way of reversing this concept. I’m going to give you zero expectations upfront with a crappy title, and see if I can get you to read all the way to the end. 

Here we go

Let’s start with flattery. I’m going to throw some compliments your way and see if you’ll stay. First off, you’re unique. In fact, you’re in the 1%. I mean that.

That’s because out of the 400 million users that frequent WordPress every month, you’re one of the few that actually clicked on this crappy title. You’re probably also a blogger, and how many people in this world could call themselves one?

Following that, I’m going to assume that you want to use your skills to inform, entertain, or educate your readers.

Well I’m going to tell you that you’ll find none of that here, so you best close this tab right now.

Still here?

Well then, you’re now in the top 0.5%.

Bunch of drivel

Have you ever clicked on an article and felt like it was written by a robot? And by that I mean people stuffing it with so many keywords you’d think it was a digital Thanksgiving turkey. 

Have you ever seen titles that suggests the author’s just learned about power words? Something like The Bizarre 5 Things I Do To Keep My Dog From Dying! with the number one item in their listicle being ‘I feed it’.

Or maybe you’ve seen the ones where every piece of content links to their paid services. Browse through their post history and every article starts with ‘Why you need a professional writer for…’

Well, I’ll be glad to know that you won’t find any of the above in this article either.

Woman looking over glasses questioningly

Bet you can’t find the point of this post. Photo: Rabie Madaci

Shortcuts only

We’re always looking for hacks, aren’t we?

We’re looking for the magical keywords that’ll automatically gain us more visitors. We want the perfect featured image that’ll compel our readers to click. We want the magic SEO button, the optimum posting schedule, the foolproof lead magnet.

We want to be the next Mark Manson or Arianna Huffington. We want each article to impact the lives of millions. And for that to happen, we need to brood over a killer title, Mad Men style. Then comes the eureka moment that’ll result in a lifetime’s worth of subscribers and sponsorship opportunities.

But reality hits, and we find ourselves staring at our paltry stats, and that’s where we lose the dream.

Those things only happen to special people, you think, so normal people like you shouldn’t even try. Besides, you’ve blogged for a few years now and nothing much has changed since.

But wait, there’s more

Wow, that previous segment was depressing as hell. That ought to have knocked a couple more people off the readers’ list. Congratulations. You’re now part of the 0.3%. I really don’t know if those are the exact numbers. I’m pulling these figures out of my ass.

But I do know that if you’ve come this far, then you’re probably a compulsive gambler, because only people as crazy as you would double down on the terrible odds of something profound happening. I’m telling you, there’s none. 

Yet, I’m also telling you that perhaps that’s the point. Maybe there isn’t a point to blogging, but you should do it anyway. Because not being the next Huffington Post doesn’t mean you can’t change lives.

The point of it all

We’re probably looking at this the wrong way. We keep wishing for that large readership, for our big break, for that interview with Joe Rogan, but maybe our power lies in leaving the world a better place, no matter how small the change.

We shouldn’t wait to be famous before putting out our best work. After all, the two people reading your blog posts deserve your best, because they’re there when the others are not. 

So maybe it’s not about influencing the masses. Maybe it’s about changing people’s lives, one person at a time. And if I’ve successfully bored the rest of my surviving readers to tears by now, you’ll probably be that one person.

And now that it’s just you and me, dear reader, I finally get to tell you the point I want to make: It’s that you do have the power to change other people’s lives through your writing.

After all, if I could get you to read up to here with a stupid title, why can’t you do the same, only better?

40 thoughts on “This Is A Sucky Title But You’ll Still Click On It

  1. Very engaging, despite your best efforts to prevent that 😛. I really liked this line:

    “We shouldn’t wait to be famous before putting out our best work. After all, the two people reading your blog posts deserve your best, because they’re there when others are not. ”

    That’s similar to the logic I use, but much more caring and nice. I figure, in college I put in hours and hours of labor to produce a research paper ONE person, the professor, will read. So if two people read, I’m way ahead of the game. But also, I think of it like talking to a friend. When we’re being personal and confessional, we usually talk to one or two people, not thousands. So it’s all good. If a person responds and you have an exchange, then you’ve made a great connection with another human being.

    • You always appear with such thoughtful comments that I fear I can’t do them justice with my replies.

      I appreciate the fun-to-read and meaningful thoughts you share, and I always enjoy them. It’s like opening a pen-pal letter of sorts.

      I too take it like talking to a friend, especially in the blogging world. In fact, I doubt I can write any other way, lol.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

      • O poop don’t worry about doing justice to my little comments. You always have a different angle than I read elsewhere, and your posts invite more discussion than merely a “Great post!” like many people leave all over WordPress…

        I enjoy the exchanges as well 😊

  2. Funny and entertaining post Stuart. With a great point at the end. Well worth the click bait title. I’ve found the blogging journey to be immensely rewarding – more because of the connections than anything else. Honesty I think if I had a massive readership I might lose that to a certain extent. Do it to inspire just one person. In fact shove the numbers somewhere the sun don’t shine. The moment you start chasing them it ruins the fun of it. Take it easy Stuart. Wishing you well 🙏

    • Glad that the post didn’t end up as a waste of your time! That’s all I I can ask for, really :)

      Yeah, the readership thing is a tricky one, isn’t it? I’d imagine it’d get you to need to follow certain expectations, and that’ll muddle your message when it comes to writing. Thanks for visiting and for the well wishes!

      • Sure is – of course you want readers – you want feedback. But I find it’s a little soul destroying when you start chasing the numbers. Now I concentrate on making genuine connections instead of trying to get as big a readership as possible. It’s more rewarding. Thanks Stuart – I’ll be back!

  3. I feel like you read my mind! I definitely entered blogging with a little bit of that “maybe I’ll become famous” mentality that I thought I had outgrown, so I planned on saving key “star” content for that day when I’m famous. But it’s been such an interesting experience of sharing thoughts and building connections with people I don’t know and never would have met. The goal has shifted.

    • Oh yeah, I still do that too. My ‘bestest unique idea’ for a novel is always on the backburner, because I’d rather fail on my lesser ideas first. But I’m going to hop onto that once I’m done with my WIP.

      Thanks for visiting as usual! Always good to see you here.

  4. Hey Danker hope you are doing well. Brilliant post and must say quite engaging and hilarious. How’s it going with the book?

    • Thanks! Was aiming for hilarious but sometimes I think my written humour is lacking at best. Book’s still in the works at the publisher’s but we’re already approaching the layout and final proofing stage, so it all looks on track for April 2021!

      • You are doing good in what you want to put across to your readers Stu! Wish you the best with the book🙂

  5. This was hilarious! I learned my lesson on paying attention to stats with my podcast. For 5 years actively releasing the show, I’d be disappointed by the number of downloads. It was amazing to have more than two or three people listening, but of course, you want to have thousands and I never got there. Now that I’ve ended that show and haven’t released anything or done any promotion in 8 months, I’m getting a couple thousand downloads a month. It makes no sense at all! Just another reminder to have fun with what you’re doing and put it out there. Whoever needs it will find it and the numbers really do not matter.

    • That’s so true! It’s almost as if we don’t get what we want, but what we need. And I guess what we needed all along was the realisation that it’s putting out the work and enjoying the process that matters.

      The internet really makes no sense, and it behooves us to not dwell on things like these that are beyond our control.

      Thanks for sharing your wonderful perspective, Cheryl. Loved reading your thoughts!

  6. I did read to the end, and I really liked what I read. I do think writing is a passion and you are right, it may speak to one or it may speak to many. I enjoyed your humor and your writing style.

  7. This was such an interesting read! 😂

    You won’t believe the articles I’ve read because of such titles😂
    I don’t have a dog but I would probably click on the dog article with that title 😞

    I’ve come to realise “it’s about changing people’s lives, one person at a time.” For me at least.
    Thanks for this!

    • Lol I think I should get around to that dog article then! It’s all about changing one person at a time until the day comes when you can change thousands. Thanks for stopping by, Wonani!

  8. Brilliant!! I too must admit that it was exactly what I needed to read as I sit down to write this week’s blog post. It was a worthwhile reminder. Thank you.

  9. Congratulations on writing the most “meta” blog post of all time!

    Reading this helps me with my mentality as a newer blogger. Do I want to monetize and become famous, or do I want to genuinely help and connect with my content?

    • I think both pursuits aren’t bad at all. We need fame to sustain our content production, and a little bit of money doesn’t hurt, though having people take the time to comment—such as yourself—after reading your posts also does rank pretty high in the ‘what do I want out of blogging’ question. Thanks for visiting!

  10. I get so tired of clickbait that sometimes a title that sounds enticing will actually make me lose interest. But only sometimes. I’m as guilty of clicking on bait as anyone else. So it was a treat to read a post that examines that and rebels against it. Nicely done!

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