Remember that old song, “Charlie Brown,” by The Coasters? “Why is everybody always picking on me?” What woman hasn’t heard this line: “They boys only pick on you because they like you.” We all know that’s mostly not true, but now and then…
Well, you have to admit it’s fun to sit up high in the sweetgum tree, lobbing tiny, spiky, medieval maces at unsuspecting innocents down below, and it sure doesn’t mean you don’t like them.
I like Mitch. He’s a good sport. He can hang out in my tree fort and lob his own sweetgum balls, if he can bring himself to climb past the squirrels. A fellow blogger with a good heart and just enough of a “mean streak” to be honest and funny without being cruel, Mitch knows that “picking on” a fellow blogger (as opposed to siccing the dogs of the Internet on him with the intent to destroy him utterly) is a time-honored tradition and a great cross-promotional blogging tactic. We can’t just have everyone agreeing with everyone all the time, now, can we?
Doesn’t a link back to the original post suffice, unless we have something to add to the conversation or a point to debate?
About a year ago, Mitch went off on the topic of misleading post titles – another time-honored Internet tradition, best served with a generous, greasy helping of spam. Why do misleading, click-bait titles exist? Aren’t they annoying? Apparently, like spam, they work.
We all know that the best way to combat the illegal drug trade is to get rid of the demand; it follows that the best way to get rid of misleading, click-bait headlines is to convince everyone not to click on them. Good luck with that.
You’re fighting human psychology; I’d suggest working with it, rather than against it, and offered up a few ideas in, “Posts Not Turning Heads? Try On 25 Headlines to Find Your Best Fit, Every Time.”
To Mitch’s point, “It’s okay to write Upworthy-style titles, now and then, provided you deliver on the promise and don’t annoy the reader who falls for them. A clever title that doesn’t provide a clue about the content of the blog post won’t bring in interested readers in the first place, but a too-clever title that misleads readers into clicking, then fails to deliver, will mean lost and grumpy readers.”
I offer a framework and a checklist for a successful blog, but suggest striking a balance between predictable and fraudulent. It’s tough, but worthwhile, to write an intriguing headline that also delivers what readers expect.
Mitch also argues for originality. Others call for more creativity. But it may be helpful to make a distinction between “originality” and “creativity.” According to the author of the blog ad verecundiam, “All originality is creativity, but not all creativity is originality.” That may be overly broad; by the author’s definition, about 99.999% of everything we could come up with is derivative, interpretive, building on whatever primal building blocks inspired us. Further, we might never know who came up with an original idea first, where two people arrived at the same conclusions and produced the same work independently of one another. Disney’s “Cinderella” would be creative, but would specific character inventions be original? I would argue “yes.”
When it comes to blogging, I would settle for a blogger’s own interpretation of a topic, infused with a liberal dash of personality. I’d settle for darned near anything but blatant plagiarism and paraphrasing that wouldn’t impress a fourth grade Language Arts teacher.
Mitch has high expectations, overall; I’m learning to pick my battles. If you want to use common titles and headings, be my guest. There is a certain value – and I do mean from a reader’s standpoint – in being able to identify and locate information. Call this “SEO” if you like, but I’m more interested in optimizing search for human beings. Ask yourself: “If I were looking for exactly this information, how might I search for it online?” Go to Google and search for it. Then look for other ways other readers search for it, but first put on your own reader hat for a second. Work those phrases into your text.
Consider, before sucking readers in with a click-baity, Hooverish title: Do you have something to add to the discussion, or would your reader be better served by links to others’ blogs and articles? Are you serving readers or just trying to trick them into clicking your ads? It’s okay not to blather on about the same ol’ stuff; there is real value, to readers, to fellow bloggers, and to you in sharing your own carefully curated, useful links to solid info, clearly written by other bloggers who will appreciate a link back.
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