Recently I’ve been reading a lot of “How to write titles for blogs” postings.

The redoubtable Copyblogger is running a series, including an interesting post pitting the “use keywords” crowd versus “the humanists.” Some say keywords are critical. Others say write the best headlines you can, and the users will come. The battle rages.

Look at it this way; you’re trying to ignite a fire under your readers, and no fire burns without fuel, oxygen and a spark. Your keywords are the fuel and your blog is the oxygen. It’s up to you to provide the spark.

That spark can take many forms, but remember that every reader subconsciously asks the same question: “What’s in this for me?”

The Benefit

Nobody’s investing valuable time in something that promises little or no return. That includes your blog post. A headline is your first (and often only) chance to engage the reader.

No matter how many keywords you’ve jammed into that little strip of type, no one’s visiting if you’re not promising them some kind of benefit. This is where the “copywriter” half of any SEO or Web Copywriter title better get to work.

Everyone wants to be smarter. Or better looking. Or run faster… whatever. You’re offering something in that blog post (and maybe it’s just a slice of your life), but you’ve got to make that offer clear in the title.

“How to…” is the copywriter’s staple. As is the time tested “Ten ways to…” I recently wrote a blog entry about community building via blogging, and went with “Blogging for the brand. How to be a Superhero.”

There’s a benefit. Aside from maybe the colored tights, everyone wants to be a superhero. Anyone old enough to remember the VW “Lemon” ad? It was so over the top, you had to read it. The benefit was that you satisfied your curiosity. Brilliant.

So pick a benefit (and you’d better deliver in your post). And have at it.

When keywords matter less…

Given the rise of engagement marketing, it’s clear that most corporate blogging should be aimed at building an online community of brand fanatics – people willing to influence discussions about any product or brand on the Internet.

You’re not dragging in cold bodies off the Internet. You’re building a campfire (or coffeeshop) for readers – a place to engage a community of like-minded individuals. (No one covers engagement marketing better than the guys who are inventing it. Visit the Communities Dominate Brands site for more info.)

As a copywriter with more than two decades of experience, I’ve long held that engagement is the key to long-term survival in the marketing wars. Sell a widget to a consumer and you’ve made a widget’s profit. Engage that consumer – make them part of your community – and you’ve just earned a lifetime of widget profits.

Engagement has always been my watchword. Suddenly, the two-way communication of the “Web 2.0” Internet is making it affordable for even small companies. For copywriters looking to blog for profit, writing a corporate blog – for purposes of engagement marketing – will likely be a fast-growing market.

The biggest dollars will go to those with a proven track record of engaging readers and creating a community.

Your headlines better talk to your community in a direct, vital way, and keywords could well be a secondary consideration.

How to build community? More in an upcoming post…