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10 Tips for Opening Your Next Blog Post

Have you ever sat down to write and suffered from Opening Line Paralysis (OLP)?

It happens to me all the time—in fact it’s taken me about 15 minutes just to start this post. You know what topic you want to write about, and you might even have more main points in mind, but you just don’t know how to kick the post off!

If you suffer from OLP, you’re not alone—many of us bloggers do.

First impressions count

openings

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We all have a message drummed into us throughout life: people make snap judgements on you based upon the first impression you give. In many instances, those judgements are lasting ones.*

The same is true for your blog posts. Your opening line really does matter—readers will make a snap decision about whether to read your post by how you open that post, both in the headline or title and the opening line.

It’s no wonder that so many of us feel pressure to get our first lines right.

*It’s worth noting that you can bounce back from a poor first impression. For example, the first thing my wife ever said to me was, “Hi Michael, it’s nice to meet you.” Not a great opening … but I married her within a year!

How can you craft an opening line that will draw people into your post?

There’s no one right way to open a blog post. However, over the years I’ve experimented with a number of formulas that have worked for me.

Note that while I’m writing here about opening lines of blog posts, much of what follows can also be applied to blog post titles, too.

1. Start with a question

Lets start with the approach I took in this post—I asked you a question. The question I chose to ask in this post was one that attempted to make you remember a time when you’d faced a problem or need—paralysis at the beginning of writing a blog post (a fairly common problem).

This technique may not draw every single person who reads it into the post, but it will hopefully draw in those that can relate to the need.

There are of course other types of questions that can be used. Here are a few I could have gone with in this post:

  • Did you know that 9 out of 10 of your blog readers don’t get past the first line of your posts? This line contains the shock factor, but also puts a finger on the need we’ll be addressing.
  • How do you open blog posts? This type of question signals the topic to readers but also shows you’re interested in their opinions.
  • What’s one of the most common problems that bloggers have when sitting down to write posts? This question doesn’t touch on the actual need, but is designed to intrigue readers and will hopefully draw them in to find out if they have the problem.
  • Do you want to learn how to open your blog posts more effectively? This question only really has one answer: “yes.” Asking questions that have a “yes” answer puts your readers into a “yes” frame of mind, and hopefully one that makes them more positive and receptive to your solutions to their problems.

Let’s look at some examples from other sites.

Example: Does the traffic coming to your site come in a Yo-Yo like cycle of ups and downs that never really seems to go anywhere in the long run?—from 21 Ways to Make Your Blog or Website Sticky.

Example: “How do you take Portraits that have the ‘Wow’ factor?“—from 10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits

Of course there are many other types of questions that you could go with. If you’ve used some in your opening lines I’d love to hear them in comments below.

2. Start with a statistic

Only 1 out of every 100 readers Comment on your blog.” I used this opening line on one of my most popular posts here on ProBlogger. It’s a line that readers often quote back to me as a statistic that they’ve heard me say.

Stats can quickly and effectively communicate a need or sum up a topic in a way that few other phrases can.

3. State a need or problem

I regularly find myself staring at an empty Word document, wondering how to start my blog posts.

If your post is about helping people to overcome some need, problem or challenge that they have, a simple statement about your own experience of that need can be an effective way to go. Putting it in these personal terms shows your readers that you’re able to empathize with their need, and are writing from a more personal point of view.

Alternatively, you might not have the problem yourself. You could write in a less personal tone, but still highlight the need your reader might have.

4. Start with a reader’s question

I’ve used this technique many times in my posts. Simply take a question that a reader has asked in a blog comment, in an email, or on Twitter and put it at the top of your post (I always ask those who asked the question for permission first if it was asked via email or in some other private setting).

Taking this approach shows your readers that you’re interested in hearing questions. It also shows that what you are writing about is relevant, and emerging out of the real needs that your readership has.

Example: “Help me – I’m photographing my first Wedding!… Help me with some Wedding Photography Tips Please!“—from 21 Tips for Amateur Wedding Photographers.

5. Start with a quote

Introducing a post with the words of another person can also be an effective way of starting off. This effectively takes the focus away from you, but if you choose a quote from someone with authority and/or familiarity to your readers, it can actually add more punch to your article and make readers take notice of what’s to follow.

6. Communicate the benefit of reading the post

In this post I’ll share ten ways for opening blog posts that will ensure you’ll never be stuck for an opening again.

Start with the end in mind. By doing so, you’re communicating to your reader what they’ll get if they read on.

7. Make a claim

This post will make you filthy rich!

You need to be able to back it up, but opening with a claim about what your post will achieve can be an effective way of getting attention.

Claims need not be promises of benefits, though—they might also be personal claims of achievement. One that worked for me in the early days of ProBlogger was in this post, where I opened with the words, “It just hit me—like a truck—that I’ve just become a six-figure blogger.”

Example: “I have earned $119,725.45 from Amazon Associates Program since I began using it as a way to make money online late in 2003. Around half of that amount was made within the last 12 months.”—from 11 Lessons I Learned Earning $119,725.45 from Amazon Associates Program.

Note that not all “claim”-style openings have to be about money!

8. Tell a story

Everyone loves a story, and to kick off with a post with one can be a very effective way of drawing readers into your blog (for many reasons).

One example that comes to mind of this was a post I wrote on dPS. I kicked off the post with a story of taking photos a George Michael concert.

Example: Last night my wife came home with a book and started a conversation on a topic which I’d been dreading a little since the time we first found out that we were expecting a baby later in the year. The book was called something along the line of “Names for your Baby”—from: Choosing the Domain Name for Your Blog

9. Start with a controversial statement

Controversy can be similar to a big claim, in that it is one great way of getting attention—but also can open up problems if you aren’t careful. Use with care!

10. Go for a punchy opening

One of the opening lines that I’ve had the most feedback on was this:

“It hits you like a TON of BRICKS! It’s an idea for that KILLER blog post that is just bound to bring you all the traffic that you’ve ever dreamed of…” (from How to Craft a Blog Post).

The post went on to paint a picture (and tell a made up story) of a scenario that many bloggers face. It worked partly because it was a story of sorts, but also because I used formatting to emphasize words and aimed to make the opening quite “punchy.”

These are my favorite ways to open blog posts. What are yours?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Jamie Harrop says:

    A lot of your examples here make a connection with the reader, Darren. Whatever method you use, I think the most important thing is to connect with your reader. Make them think something, do something, or remember something. The actual opening to this post is the perfect example. By asking a question that you already know the answer to, you’re able to predict that most of your audience will connect with this post straight away and want to read more.

    Connect. Discuss. And call to act. The three step format to most good blog posts.

    Jamie

    • Hey Jamie,

      I couldn’t agree with you more about the need to connect (and related) to your reader. I find that is always what draws me in most.

      One the the most popular posts I ever wrote started with “Today I felt like a total failure….”. I can only conclude that anyone who hit my blog that day saw the headline (which was far different than my typical) and couldn’t resist reading and commenting on the post.

      Trent

    • Darren Rowse says:

      great observations Jamie!

  2. Regarding #2 on this article, I like to use my Facebook page “Likes” and RSS feed count to help show social influence that my website is well followed by others.

  3. Awesome Darren!

    This post has officially been bookmarked for future reference. I have only been blogging for a couple weeks and this will surely help.

    My favs of the above are telling a story, stating a statistic and using questions.

    Thank you!

  4. Darren,

    You are back writing!

    This is an excellent post (like all the others).

    The idea of open a post with a question is one that I am using for my video interview show!

    Each interview starts with a question!

    Since I only have a few seconds to catch people’s attention, I am relying on the question to convince people to stick around and listen to the entire interview.

    I have also found that the question is a great grounding place for me to mentally get ready to ask my guest the BEST possible questions.

    I also will end my show notes (copy on the video blog) with a question as well in order to get readers more motivated to leave comments.

    Thanks for this great post and I’m sure it will become a great discussion!

    Krizia
    Women Entrepreneurs HQ Show

  5. Thanks Darren -for the tips for starting a better first line . I get hit by OPL as you said above too. I know what I had to write about but I don’t get a single character to write. Now I started asking questions to readers. I wrote in my latest guest post in weblogbetter -”You are a blogging master right?” and in my upcoming post “Are you sure your blog is protected?” and so on. I found that it is also help full in getting more comments.

    Chris

  6. It’s all about setting the scene, or painting a picture for the reader. This takes the form of the first 3 or 4 lines of one of my posts, which I seem to have a knack for. Looking back on several posts it seems I often start by defining terms, laying out problems and generally introducing the issues at hand then explaining how they relate to the reader. Occasionally I might throw in a few pieces of personal experience but I’d say 90% of the time it follows that “here’s the problem, and here’s how I can help” model – not that it’s intentional, it just seems to naturally happen that way. Probably a result of formerly writing 20-odd articles a day in a similar format for various clients. I find closing lines harder because I don’t like repeating myself, but I still like to reach some conclusion on the issues at hand.

  7. susan says:

    Thanks for reminding me of effective leads, Darren. When I read the first point, I stopped, went back to a recent post and reworked the opening sentence to be a question. That give me some ideas on how to write the first paragraph. Ahhhh, a much more interesting and helpful post is the result. Even though the post is about my goals for the week, I think the opening paragraph could be helpful to others on the value of public to-do lists.

  8. Annie Sisk says:

    Great suggestions, Darren. One thing I’d caution against (which is totally seductive and even I’ve fallen under its spell from time to time) is overpromising in the lede and then not being able to deliver in the rest of the post. The headline and the first sentence (when it contains the lede) make a promise to the reader. It’s really easy to come up with a great headline and opening salvo, but then somehow go off course in the rest of the post. That’s why I always review a finished post pre-publication for consistency and what I call “internal integrity” between the headline, lede, and body (and recommend that my clients do as well). You’d be surprised (OK, no, you, Darren, probably would not be surprised) how far off your original intended path you can write yourself without ever being aware of it.

    • That’s very true – sometimes I will focus on perfecting the body of the post and then tweak the intro to suit, which is one simple way you can get around that issue. Call it some influence from my film/TV editing background where we’d work on the middle of the project and then have to go back and fix (or sometimes kill) the opening scenes!

    • Olivia says:

      You are right @Annie.
      When this happens to me I know its time to cut the article in several posts. Most of the time the reason for these “inconsistencies” is that I try to cover too much ground at the same time.
      The other thing that help me with my openings is to cut all the introduction and see if I get fastest to the point. It usually does!

      Thanks for the article, Darren.

  9. patrick says:

    Those are all great examples of how to open a post. I especially like the part about asking a question and/or using statistics. When done the right way these methods can definitely improve your post opening rate.

  10. Elise says:

    Excellent ideas and suggestions, Darren. It is an important issue to consider – how to start the post – because as you say, we need to give the reader a reason to keep reading. It is absolutely just as important as the title of the post, because if they are not congruent we’ll lose the reader we captured with the title after the first sentence. And, as you mentioned, it is important to relate to the reader. You’ve given us lots of ways that we might relate to the reader, but my favorites are asking a question that you feel they will relate to, starting with a reader’s question, or telling a story where they can picture themselves. Thanks for your ideas – refreshing!

  11. Good one Darren. However, don’t you think that starting your post with a controversial statement can get you in trouble and spoil the reputation you have built?

  12. Great advice Darren! While I don’t really have the dreaded “OLP”, I was happy to see I’ve used all of your suggestions in my blogging. For me it’s been about experimenting, changing things–not getting stuck in one mode–and learning from others.

  13. Graham lutz says:

    sometimes I’ll open the post with a mistake I made or saw somewhere else. – seems to work so far!

  14. These are some great ideas Darren! This post goes into my Blog file!
    Now I’m off to my blog to see how I’m doing with this!
    ;-)
    Lori

  15. Dave Wilson says:

    Darren,

    Has a blog comment blog comment ever altered the entire trajectory of your life?

    Detoured you from Ordinary Avenue and sent to careening down the Success Superhighway? Your fears and struggles appearing small in your rear-view mirror, while before you a sprawling horizon of endless opportunity?

    Chances are that this comment isn’t it.

    But dang, that’s for the terrific post anyways!

    Dave

  16. I didn’t used to like opening with questions, but I find myself liking that format more and more.

    But however you start, the important thing is just not to spend the first paragraph or three throat-clearing and working up to what you want to say. Blog posts need to cut right to it!

  17. Maaike Quinn says:

    I like all these ways to start a blog post. What I don’t like, though, is how these tips can easily turn into an easy trick. Before you know it, you start most of your blog posts in the same way, which is rather boring.

  18. Rob says:

    In regards to titling your posts, I really think it is all about originality and capturing the attention of your readers. People are becoming lazier and lazier on line and you really have to make them WANT to click on your post.

  19. I’m going to have to remember some of these openings. It’s not always easy to come up with an opening I’m happy with.

  20. Kristi Hines says:

    I always struggle with the opening paragraph of my post. It really is the one that can make or break your article, just like the headline. I usually write the rest of the post first in hopes that by the time I get to the end, the beginning will be easier to figure out. Thanks for these great starting ideas!

  21. Becky says:

    I typically open with questions or thoughts. I struggle with how to start or relate what I write next to the opening thoughts. Do you have suggestions on how to bridge them together?

    • Darren Rowse says:

      it can feel a bit awkward trying to make a connection but sometimes simply answering it works.

      Question:

      Here’s how I approach it.

      Doesn’t need to be the cleverest tie in if you’re struggling :-)

  22. Janice Hardy says:

    Great post. As a writer (fiction) first lines are critical in general, and important to me personally. I just can’t start a story until I have the right opening line. My blog posts are the same way. Sometimes I worry about starting them all in the same vein, so I love your breakdown on various types. Saving this one for those days when I’m not sure how to start a post :)

  23. WebCareFree says:

    Hey,

    Thanks for this post. We are a new company trying to build up our blog and I think that these 10 tips will help us out alot. Thanks for the post.

  24. Not only do I suffer from OLP, I also suffer from GTP. (Good Title Paralysis). Help!

  25. Tim Villard says:

    Hey Darren,

    Thanks for the tips. I always struggle everyday on what to write. Now this gives me more ideas to try and make it a little easier.

  26. Daniel says:

    There are some really helpful ideas here.

    Hey Darren! You didn’t just make that story up, did you?(Re: How to craft a Blog Post).

    Many of the tips you provided, are also used by a number of sites, using various manners of delivery.

    Some, you enter the site and “POW” from the opening millisecond you are hit from all directions( Probably a little bit over the top).

    At the other end, the author tends to “Catch your attention” then guide you gently, as you are offered more insights( A much less, ” in your face” approach)

  27. Great tips, Darren. Many people always look for granted the opening of the blog’s entry. Thanks for the tips!

  28. Daniel says:

    Great tips Darren! Will definitely bookmark this one for the next time I’m staring at a blank page on wordpress…

  29. Brit McGinnis says:

    Thanks a lot for the help! I’ll definitely be using these tips in writing my own blog. Posts like this are of great help to starters like me, please write more!

  30. Haru says:

    hey nice tips..
    usually i use opening with statistic or with some questions to get my readers attention..and its work

  31. Royur says:

    Awesome tips!

    Sometimes I use jokes or quotes to start my blog post, dunno if it works though as I never measure them.

    So what’s next? Tips for opening your next comment post?

  32. Glynis Jolly says:

    I have found that if I have a unique angle on the topic from the very beginning, not only does the traffic increase but also the comments.

  33. Kendra says:

    Usually, I just jump right in to writing. After I have finished, I go over my drafts and edit away. I like the approach of just putting on paper (or comupter screen) what comes to my mind first, and then, the clean up comes later.

    I will say that I have started to use the question approach a bit lately. I notice when I read other blogs and find an interesting question as the opener, it hooks me in!

    Thanks, Kendra

  34. I struggle with this all the time Darren. I have tried to model my approach on newspapers. They have to get their key messages across in the first couple of sentences. The Who, what, where, when approach works well.

    I’ve also found questions to be useful. I recall Tim Ferriss wrote an excellent article on headlines that get re-tweeted http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2010/08/30/popular-retweets/ which is the real opening line…!

  35. Ankush Kohli says:

    Start with sharing your last post share your some thoughts on last post & connect it to your new post . It will give you starting paragraph connect them by asking question on their thoughts & reviews .Point 4 is good clue.

  36. Amanda says:

    I love opening with a story. It starts the connection with your reader right away and gives me the chance to add a little personality into an otherwise button-up business blog.

  37. Nivin says:

    Hey Darren,

    This is just perfect timing! I’ve been REALLY struggling to get my post started and your first tip pretty much solved my Dillemma – So, thank you!

    It’s so easy to forget to engage with your readers, and the tips you provided definitely helps fix that.

    I’ve also noticed that when a question is posed in a post/article, it helps me engage, making it a lot easier to read.

  38. Wow. This is quite a broad list. Thanks for taking all that time out to provide us with all of this useful information. It is always nice to have reference materials to make our blog post better.

  39. Joseph says:

    Good post, Darren. As you pointed out, many of those tips can apply to headlines as well as openers to our blog posts. I’ve used this method with several of my headlines. For example in “Why Is America Getting Fatter?” draws the reader in with a question that requires more than a mere yes or no response. The reader has to think because there is more than one answer to the question.

    The same applies to “How Do You Change the Direction of Your Life?” and “How Do You Shred Body Fat While Building Muscle?” each of those titles captivates the reader with titles that speak directly to a problem that they’re experiencing. It’s a very effective way to get a point across to the audience and leave a lasting impression on them.

    Interestingly, last Monday sat down to I write “Are You Satisfied With Your Life?” and used a title that seems to be yes or no question but my intent was the have readers take a closer look at where they are in life, that’s reflection.

    I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a kid, and reading the articles here at problogger.net gives me ideas to make them even better. You can never stop learning.

    -healthy_blogging

  40. Great post as always. Very helpful guidelines :)

  41. Alexandre says:

    I think I have good writing skills and I’m always trying to carry out some of your recommendations in my blog posts. Excellent post.

  42. Paula Moore says:

    I like the passive aggressive revenge approach. I really enjoyed writing a post about a colleague who annoyed me. It opened: IT WAS SUGGESTED TO ME BY ANOTHER CHIROPRACTOR THAT I MIGHT LIKE TO DRESS UP A LITTLE MORE FOR WORK. It was a great revenge tactic, especially as I told him I wrote a story about him that he might like to read. Ah the internet is such fun!!

  43. These are excellent ideas for blog openings. I can’t wait to use the Punchy Opening idea on our next blog story. Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to reading more of your posts on Facebook and Twitter.

  44. Michael Pace says:

    Darren,

    Thank you, thank you for writing this post. Each time I go to stop my weekly post, I pull this up from my delicious.com file and start thinking about my thoughts using this filter/guide. Just wanted to say thanks for making my posts and life a little easier.

    Mike