Every Great Headline Needs an Even Better Opening Paragraph

dukeo.com

You have approximately two to three seconds to grab your readers’ attention before they click away from your page. In those two seconds they’re going to scan the title and your opening paragraph. Every great headline needs an even better opening paragrpah or your blog is doomed to die a slow, painful death, and your high hopes for success right along with it.

opening paragraph

One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three… That’s three seconds. If your blog were a bomb you’d want to set the timer for only three seconds. And by the time that timer ticks down to zero your blog needs to explode with energy, vitality and engaging content that sucks your reader right into the page.

Your headline should be informative and attention-grabbing. It should let the reader know how he’s going to benefit when he reads your article. That’s what brings the reader to your blog. But it’s your opening paragraph that convinces his to stay on the page.

Regardless of what type of delivery you choose to use – humor, personal experience, or professorial – your first paragraph needs to tell the reader, in three sentences or less, what you’re going to tell him in your article. For example, in my opening paragraph for this article you can see that I’m going to tell you what it takes to write a good opening paragraph and what happens if you don’t.

I like to use a question in my opening paragraph sometimes. It makes the reader stop and think. For example, “Everybody says you have to have a great opening paragraph, but what if you’re not an award-winning writer? Are you doomed to fail?

I never intentionally use humor. Unless you’re a professional comedy writer it’s very difficult to write humor that “reads” funny and more often than not you just sound forced and frozen. But if you have a good, funny, personal anecdote to share that you think will grab your readers’ attention, then go for it and introduce it in your opening paragraph.

It’s also important to remember that a lot of the people who come to your blog are first time visitors. They don’t know you’ve talked about this topic before. They don’t know that this particular blog post is the third in a series. Always assume that the reader has no idea what you’re talking about when you write your opening paragraph. But make sure that by the time they get to the end of it they do.

Some bloggers think they have to tell the whole story in that first paragraph but really, what you’re going for is to grab the readers attention so they want to read more. A lot of readers only scan the first line of each paragraph so if you put everything into that one, first paragraph, they’re going to skip over all the good parts.

The key is to keep that opening paragraph short but engaging. One of the best openers I’ve ever read was written by Stephen King: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” That’s it. But you know who the key characters are, you know what they’re doing, and you’re already drawn into the story because you want to see what happens next.

Stéphane Kerwer
Article written by Stéphane Kerwer (1995 Posts)
Bonjour from a french guy. My name is Stéphane Kerwer and Dukeo is my blog. I do most of the heavy lifting in here but from time to time, you may see some guest posts. To receive updates from Dukeo, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.
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6 Comments (Add one)

  1. Bruno Gebarski
    Bruno Gebarski

    Thank you and excellent advice!
    It is like in journalism: Headline summarizes the first paragraph; first paragraph summarizes the whole article: For people in a hurry, reading the headline and the first paragraph of a news article is “enough” for them to get the bulk of the storry: that’s it.
    Thank you for great advice.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Thank you for your comment Bruno.

  2. Deirdre Jones

    Loved this post! So many writers/bloggers WASTE a good headline/title. Okay, your headline got me here, now I’m expecting you to deliver the goods. You have to keep your readers’ attention. Attention spans are short, especially on the Internet. A good blog post/story leaves you wanting more at every turn. Great tips!

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Thank you for your comment Deirdre! I have to agree with you… People put a lot of efforts into their headline, then they just forget it and do half the work on the content itself. It’s usually a big disappointment.

  3. Julia Spencer

    I agree with you completely.I can judge about it even from my own experience of a reader. I also prefer to read the headline and the first paragraph and to decide if I will read an article till the end

  4. Manual Joseph

    100% true. Good titles results in more visitors to the blog/ website,but also the first paragraph is what is going to keep users on your site. I’m fairly new at this, but I’ve seen a difference from my first posts to where I am now. :)