This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren
After reading this post, you’ll not only know what the ten most blogged-about topics of the past week are but you’ll also have at least ten great options for the opening line of your next post.
The opening line above makes a promise. And I hope that it made you want to read more. (You’re still here, right?) After your headline, the opening lines of your post may be the most important words you write. They determine whether visitors will continue reading or click past your post. Making a promise, like I just did, is one of many techniques you can try. I was digging into the ProBlogger archives and stumbled across Darren’s 2008 post “11 Ways to Open a Post and Get Reader Engagement,” which reminded me that it’s all too easy for bloggers to overlook the importance of those first few words. That’s why, as we look at this week’s blog trends (generated by Regator), we’ll also take a look how effective opening lines helped a few specific posts stand out from the pack.
- Gulf of Mexico/Oil Spill –Mashable identifies a need (in this case, the desire to understand the severity of the disaster) with the opening line, “Wondering just how much damage April 20′s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform explosion has caused?” Then, just as importantly, goes on to provide a solution. This technique is the number one tip on Darren’s list for a reason: It works. Painting a picture with words can also help you snag readers’ attention. The Gaggle does this very effectively in its opening line: “At last, it’s here: after more than two weeks of waiting, the eerie pinkish-orange foam mixture of seawater and crude oil that has been creeping ominously closer to has now begun to wash ashore the barrier islands off the coast of Louisiana.”
- Times Square – Intriguing or surprising statements are another way to draw readers in with opening lines. The Daily Beast does this with the line “The wife of the accused Times Square bomber lived a suburban life of shopping and Everybody Loves Raymond–until her handsome young husband became a monster.” Daily Intel uses the same technique: “The more we learn about wannabe Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, the more normal he seems.”
- UK Election – Asking a question that readers are curious about is another way to engage them. Toby Young asks, “Why hasn’t Gordon Brown resigned?” He follows through by hypothesizing and offering up possible answers. Starting with a question without a definite answer and offering up your own opinions can be a great way to elicit comments from those who agree as well as those with other opinions. Young’s post has, indeed, drawn a lively conversation from commenters.
- Greece – As Darren points out, “Your opening line need not be a textual one.” The Gothamist‘s photo of a riot officer falling to the litter-covered ground after being hit by a chair is a powerful and effective image that makes me want to learn more.
- Federal Trade Commission – Stats and figures can be quite attention-grabbing. Marketing Pilgrim uses a figure to create interest: “The FTC created quite a stir last year when they announced their new blogging guidelines to crack down on bloggers who receive products free in exchange for mentions or reviews. The FTC reassured bloggers that the rumored $11,000 fines wouldn’t affect them…”
- JJ Abrams – Darren points out that stories that illustrate a post’s point in an indirect way make for strong opening lines. FilmSchoolRejects uses this well in its post “Why J.J. Abrams Gets Away With Mystery,” starting with a paragraph-long story that compares mysterious roadside attractions and JJ Abram’s latest project.
- Lawrence Taylor – “If I asked you on May 5, 2010 who Lawrence Taylor was, you would probably respond that he was one of the best linebackers of all time.” This opening line from Bleacher Report acts, in some ways, like a question. It causes readers to ask themselves what has changed since May 5, 2010.
- iPad 3G – Cult of Mac uses a combination of wordplay and a totally unexpected statement to create an opening line that’s tough to walk away from: “The iPad is smoldering hot, especially in a professional grade microwave where it goes in pristine, then bursts into flames and comes out a charred, broken brick.”
- Lynn Redgrave – An analogy can put a story into context for your readers. “Before there was Bridget Jones, there was Georgy Girl,” says Shine’s Manage Your Life blog. This helps readers who might not be familiar with the actress a reference point and reason to read on.
- Conan O’Brien – Strong quotes are a brilliant way to draw readers into your post. In a recent post on Conan’s first interview since The Tonight Show debacle, PopEater begins by setting up then using this quote: ‘I went through some stuff,’ O’Brien told ’60 Minutes’ on Sunday. ‘I got very depressed at times. It was like a marriage breaking up suddenly, violently, quickly. And I was just trying to figure out what happened.’”
Here’s a challenge: Armed with these examples and Darren’s tips, try a type of opening line you don’t normally use this week, then tell us about it in the comments.