The Power of L … er, Words. What Comes Next Will Amaze You.

The power of [a word] is a curious thing
Make a one man weep, make another man sing …*

You’re a writer, a reader, an emailer, a talker, a texter, a singer in the shower … so you probably also understand the power of words to make someone weep or sing.

I was weeping over some words myself a few weeks ago. Specifically, these words:

You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.

You see, I’d titled a blog post with these [special, funny] words, and was getting spammed many, many times a day. Yes, I have a spam filter. But the filters look for links in the comments, and spammers have begun putting the [pertinent, damnable] link into the authorization information (a lot of folks, it seems, are named Ray-Bans), so a lot of spam gets by. That is, it posts.

This flood of spam started as a trickle, but it seemed like for every spam comment I deleted, two more were posted. Several dozen comments slipped through in just a few hours. I was spending ’way too much time monitoring my blog until I figured out how to close comments for a single post.

After I did that I moaned about it on Facebook—more powerful words!—and within minutes had an explanation. My friend Josh (aka my digital and social media advisor) said,

I think it’s because you quoted The Princes Bride. Imagine how bad it would be if you’d quoted something truly popular, like Twilight!

Oooooh. So here’s three more words for you:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

And believe me, we’re not even going to get into that, except to say that SEO is, according to Wikipedia, “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s ‘natural’ or un-paid (‘organic’) search results.” That is, by putting into your title, headline, or text words or phrases that seekers might use to find your website, you can affect how close to the top of the list your site lands when someone thus googles.

It’s a bit more complicated than that and there are other factors (links) involved (here’s a page that landed very near the top when I googled SEO), but … that’s the gist. So if you use a very familiar set of words—like “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”—you’re liable to get some attention on the interwebs, kids.

Not that this was attention I wanted. I would love it if more people read [and shared, tweeted, commented upon] my posts. And I know one way I could improve my chances: change my titles. I’ve read all about it. These were the top six posts, in order, when I googled this subject:

How to Craft Post Titles That Draw Readers Into Your Blog
A Simple Formula for Writing Kick-Ass Titles
How to Write an Attention-Grabbing Blog Post Title
5 Ways to Create a Deliciously Irresistible Blog Post Title
Content Strategy: 9 Secrets for Awesome Blog Post Titles
5 Tips for Writing Brilliant Blog Titles

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

No, seriously. Those titles bore me to tears. I get it. I just don’t wanna do it. My post “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green” [most certainly] could become “10 Tips for Self-Editing Your Novel” … but I’d rather not blog at all if I have to do that.

On the other hand, I despise those [stupid, stupid, stupid] click-bait headlines too:

• “This Homeless Dog Was Rescued From Near Certain Death … But What Happened After Is Truly a Miracle.” (Near certain death? Who writes these things?)

• “This Couple’s Adorable Time-Lapse Pregnancy Video Is the Cutest Thing I’ve Ever Seen. Wait ’Til You See Why!” (Oh, stop it.)

• “We Don’t Hear Enough From Native American Voices. Here’s An Inspiring Message From One.” (Rolling my eyes.)

(Although I love them when xkcd parodies them.) Still, you’ve clicked on those headlines, haven’t you? It’s OK. No judgment here: I have too.

Words are powerful. You and I use them, though, to create something greater than the sum of its constituent parts. That goes for my post titles too. I like to employ a little bit of creativity in my work. (And yes, I often take inspiration from song titles.) I think y’all are [smart, fun, quirky] enough to get them.

Am I right? Let me know what you think in the comments. You won’t believe what’s going to happen next. :)

* With apologies to Huey Lewis, Chris Hayes, and Johnny Cole. From the song “The Power of Love,” recorded 30 May 1985 by Huey Lewis and the News.

 

Tweet: The Power of L … er, Words. What Comes Next Will Amaze You.
Tweet: I know one way I could improve the chances for my blog: change my titles. Bo-ring!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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2 Comments

  1. Michelle Ule says:

    It’s what I hate about SEO. They want you to do this, that and the other thing to boost your rankings but it makes your post and writing BORING. So, I only do half the things and write the title the way I want to.

    My favorite? Of Corset it Hurts.
    SEO hated it . . .
    I don’t care.

    :-)