This is a guest contribution by Belinda Weaver, SEO copywriter behind The Copy Detective.
A sheriff’s car rolls up to an intersection, where several cars are burnt out and overturned. The occupant, a police officer, gets out, slowly walks to the back of the car and pulls out a gas can while cautiously looking around.
He walks. He walks past more cars, all clearly abandoned. We watch him peek in to one car to see a decomposing body. He looks sad but not surprised.
He hears a shuffling noise nearby and is instantly alert. It’s a girl. A young girl shuffling away from him (and us). He calls to her. Eventually she turns, revealing a decomposing face dripping with blood. She stares then begins to walk towards him, building speed as she goes.
The danger is clear and our policeman quickly shifts into position, his gun raised. He fires BANG! and we see the little girl fall back onto an impressive blood spatter.
I’ve just described the first 4 minutes and 23 seconds of the TV series, ‘The Walking Dead’. Before the credits had finished, I was hooked. Three series in, I’m still hooked.
That’s the power of a good opening. It can make you stop whatever else you’re doing and sit, in a state of rapt attention. It can bring you back week after week.
How often are you doing two to three other things while reading a blog post? You might be watching TV, listening to the radio, on social media, cooking dinner, talking to your partner …multi-tasking with media is more common today and if you want to get someone’s attention you need to do it from the get-go.
It starts with a great blog title
When readers are looking for the next blog post to read they generally start by scanning a bunch of blog titles (or headlines). It might be titles in their blog reader of choice, or email subject lines from blogs they subscribe to.
As Darren once said, “Titles change the destiny of your posts. Those few words at the beginning of your blog post can be the difference between the post being read and spread like a virus through the web like a wildfire and it languishing in your archives, barely noticed.”
It’s important to write a blog title that gets your blog opened. There are plenty of great Problogger posts about writing titles, starting with this one.
Assuming you make it past the first hurdle, your blog post is opened and the first few paragraphs are read… if you’re lucky. It might be just the first few sentences. All the while your reader is inching their cursor closer to the back button and the next blog.
Every sentence is ‘Last Chance Saloon’
Every word matters and each sentence that’s read brings you closer to a new subscriber.
There are lots of different ways to open a blog post but here are some ways to write a killer opening. The kind of blog introductions that let dinner burn while they’re read.
Zombie opener #1: Intrigue the reader
‘The Walking Dead’ set the scene. There were no rolling credits explaining that a virus has swept the earth and only a small percentage of the population remained un-zombified.
No. It did set a dramatic scene that made you question what you expected. The mystery unfolded until the big picture was revealed. In this case that big picture was a little zombie.
Tip: Don’t take too long about setting the scene. You don’t want your reader to get bored or impatient as they figure out when your blog’s going to get relevant.
Zombie opener #2: Make it personal
As our policeman cautiously tiptoes through a trail of devastation, it’s clear he is alone. We instinctively know that this will be his story. The way the series opens lets us share that story in an intimate way. We feel his caution, his shock and his sadness. We instantly wonder how we would react, which puts us in the story.
The opening of your blog post can draw in your readers in the same way.
You see, every blog reader wants understanding. They want to know that someone else feels the way they do. The best way to get a reader hooked is acknowledge a challenge they’re facing. The more secret the challenge, the better.
Tip: Repeat people’s thoughts back to them so your reader feels like you understand them. Weave your personal story into the shared challenge you are solving so you’re talking with your readers, not at them.
Zombie opener #3: Startle your reader
Reading blogs online can draw most readers into a bit of a stupor. The opening few scenes of ‘The Walking Dead’ are quiet. They’re suspenseful and a little bit weird. But then…. BANG! A little zombie girl gets shot down!
If the opening few lines of your blog can jolt your readers out of a stupor, well, you’ve got their attention.
Tip: Try using one-word openings. Or one-sentence paragraphs. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and break a few old-school writing rules.
Remember that the first paragraph or two of your blog is competing with other blog posts, the TV, the radio, the children and dinner. The faster you can get your reader hooked, the more likely it is they will keep on reading. If the rest of your blog post is as good as the opening, they’ll read all the way to the bottom and hit Subscribe.
So, how far into a blog do you decide it’s worth reading?
Belinda is a professional copywriter confidently walking the line between writing effective copy and creating an engaging brand personality. Get your FREE copy of her cheat sheet to incredibly effective copywriting and make sure you’re the first to hear about her next copywriting master class.