So far we’ve covered how to choose your topic and how to craft your title in this series on crafting blog posts. Today we’re going to talk about the importance of your opening paragraph and how to write it so it pulls the reader into your post. It’s a gripping story, really, one you won’t want to miss!
Why Is Your Opening Paragraph So Important?
In my last post about crafting headlines I talked about how your post title is one of the most important elements on your blog because, when crafted properly, it draws you reader to your opening paragraph.
Well, if your title is the most important element, then your opening paragraph is a close second because that one paragraph either engages your reader and pulls him into the body of your post, or it turns him off completely and he leaves your page.
The average online reader will read your title and closely scan your opening paragraph. He may not read that first paragraph word-for-word, but he pays a little more attention to it so he can see if your post is going to meet his needs. If he’s not convinced, and not engaged, by the time he finishes scanning that first paragraph, chances are he’s not going to stick around. So, choose your opening lines carefully, grasshopper. They can make or break your blog.
11 Tips for Great Opening Lines
1. Identify a Need: By now you should notice a common theme. In my post about choosing your topic and my post about crafting your titles I focus on identifying a need. You have two types of readers visiting your blog: Readers who need information and know what they’re looking for, and readers who only know they need information because you told them they need it. Either way, they’re on your blog in response to a need. Let them know in your opening paragraph that you understand that need and you have a solution.
2. Ask a ‘Yes’ Question: Ask a question that only has on possible answer, and that answer should be “Yes.” For example, the title “Did Your Blog Lose Traffic During The Last Panda Update?” is a pretty good title, but some readers could say “No” and skip over your post thinking that it doesn’t address their particular needs. If you titled it, “Are You Worried About Protecting Your Blog From The Google Panda?” then the only answer any blogger can give is “Yes.”
Why is a yes response important? Because when the reader says “Yes” it means he completely understands the need your post is going to fill and he’s already agreed he has a need for this information. His only alternative now is to read the rest of the post.
3. Ask an Intriguing Question: An intriguing question is one that makes the reader stop and think – but it has to be interesting enough that the reader feels compelled to continue reading. “How did I get 10,000 new subscribers in a weekend?” is intriguing. It’s something that captures the readers’ attention and makes him say, “Hmmmm. I don’t know. How DID you get 10,000 new subscribers in a weekend? I’m interested!”
4. Tell a Story: Your readers visit other blogs, too, and they’re bombarded with facts and data. Start your post with a personal story, even if it’s fiction, and give your readers a little break from all that hum-drum drudgery they see all over the Web.
5. Be Surprising: Say something unexpected. You’ll often see me throwing in numbers like eleventy-billion, and bajillions. Sometimes I throw in an old quote from my mom or my grandmother, something that’s totally out of line with the rest of my writing style. Don’t be afraid to coin your own terms or twist a phrase or mix metaphors. It adds color and texture to your writing and that kind of writing is what grabs the reader and pulls him into the post.
6. Be Controversial: If you hinted at controversy in your title, get even more specific in your opening paragraph. Tell the reader what’s going on and how you’re going to blow it out of the water. Let them know you’re going into battle and there will be blood.
7. Make a Promise: I generally use three or four sentences in my opening paragraphs but sometimes one is all it really takes, especially when you make a promise. “Today I’m going to tell you how to make $10,000 with your blog this month.” I know I’d dive right in if I saw that title!
8. Create a Scenario: Create a scenario based on what would happen if the reader found a solution to his problem. “What if you could pay off your mortgage by the end of the year and still have money left over?” Make an even bigger impact by turning it into a negative – “What if you got hit by a bus tomorrow and couldn’t work for the rest of the year? How would you pay your mortgage?”
9. Cite Statistics: Personally, when I see statistics in an opening paragraph I always sit up and take notice. In my mind, that means this blogger is serious about solving my problem. So serious, he’s actually done some research instead of just giving me advice off the top of his head. “Only 1 out of 100 visitors will ever leave a comment on your blog” That’s a powerful statistic and now I want to see where he’s going with this.
10. Use a Quote: I like to use quotes or old wives’ tales to open my posts. Quotes can lend your post a little authority, especially if you’re quoting someone famous like Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein. Old wives’ tales resonate with readers because they heard them from the mothers and grandmothers as far back as they can remember.
11. Use an Image: Your opening line doesn’t necessarily have to be text. Sometimes you can use an image to draw readers into your post. Be careful here. If you’re not sure, go back to text. Personally, I’m better with writing than I am images, so why take the risk?
In the next post in my how to craft a blog post series I’ll be covering the meat of your content – Does your blog post matter? But for now, don’t forget to share your expertly crafted titles in the comments down below.