Close
Close

The Walking Dead Guide to Writing a Killer Blog Opening

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.

The screen goes black and opening credits begin.

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.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Check out the incredible features and the selection of designs. It's that simple - start using Genesis now!

Comments

  1. So, Belinda, how far into a blog do I decide it’s worth reading?

    Well, if I get past the headline stage and actually start reading it then, just like that film where you think it’s going to get better in a minute, I often find myself painfully following it to the end.

    But one thing’s for sure. If I do find by the end that it wasn’t worth reading, I’m usually highly unlikely to visit that blog again.

    • Belinda says:

      I agree with you there Kevin. If I get to end and feel like my time’s been wasted, I’m unlikely to look for the next post.

      Personally, I give a post/book/movie until the half way point. At the most. If they don’t have me by then I’m outta there.

      Thanks for leaving your thoughts Kevin!

  2. Kingsley Agu says:

    Thanks for this master piece. I’ll try and make sure I start all my writing in a personal way next time.
    I know I’ve done it before, and I can still remember how well readers responded to the post.

    It’s just that at that time, I had no idea that it was because of the personal way I started the post that made it go viral.

    Will keep others in mind. Thanks for this post.

    • Personal openings are a great way to open a blog post as long as you link your story to your readers. Acknowledge their secret fear or dilemma and make it shared position. Darren does this LIKE A BAWS.

      I’ve also found the more personal I get, the better the response! It makes sense as we’re all searching for a connection at some level, whether we know it or not, and personal stories make a connection that much easier.

      Thanks for commenting Kingsely.

  3. sandi says:

    Scary but interesting reading :-)

    Thanks for this article!

  4. Sarah Bauer says:

    And that’s why writing the opening line or two of a blog post is the most difficult part of the process! Sometimes you have to be downright cinematic to catch a reader’s attention.

    But really, if your blog content lives up to the remarkable claims of its title, you’ll have readers hooked. You can encourage readers to totally realize this with sub-titles that deliver the goods.

    Love the Walking Dead references!

    Cheers
    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

    • Thanks Sarah. Making sure your blog content lives up to title is critical as there is nothing more disappointing that a crap follow up to an awesome preview. So the challenge of creating a great blog post starts with the title and finishes at the last work. No room for slacking!

      Thanks for sharing your tips!

  5. Andrew says:

    Great post! It was your headline that attracted me to it…
    Usually I would skim over the first paragraph and decide from there if I’m continuing to read through. Valid point in earlier comments too; if I do read to the end and feel it was a waste of time (more of the same or over-sensationalized) I’m not going to look for further posts.

    • Creating content is easier than ever before but it means we’re all becoming much more discerning readers as a result. Rather that getting three strikes, it’s more like we get one — if we’re lucky!

      Over-sensationalising the headline is a big trap. There are some many templates and posts for writing headlines but you’ve got to back a great headline up with a great post! Thanks for your feedback.

  6. Okto says:

    How do I decide a blog worth reading? hmm … never thought of it, I just read. But there’s particular things that grab my attention … the headline. A headline you can read in a single glance obviously communicates its content more effectively than one you cannot. Usability research shows that people not only scan body copy, but headlines as well …. and they tend to take in only the first and last 3 words. This suggests the perfect length for a headline is 6 words.

    Great Post Belinda!

    • That’s really interesting Okto. I bet there is an optimum headline length based on how well your reader knows you.

      For example, when you’re just another blogger on the internet your headline needs to work really hard. It needs to be easily skimmed and communicate effectively. When your readers know you a little better you can afford a move past the super-efficient headline and take up a few more characters.

      Thanks for leaving your thoughts and those stats.

  7. Hi Belinda,
    Well, your opening certainly grabbed me. So neat to see your post shared on the BizSugar community. I’m wondering how much you worry about SEO while writing your attention grabbing openings. I guess I’m asking the age old question, do you write for humans or search engines…or is it realistically a bit of both? Readers must find your post first, of course, usually through a Google search. But once they get there, optimization is not enough to hold them.

    • Hi Heather and thanks! I’ll have to pop over and leave a thank you on BizSugar.

      In answer to your question, I didn’t think about SEO at all while I wrote this post. I was thinking about zombies :) In fact, I don’t think about SEO when I write most of my blog posts (on The Copy Detective). I might consider SEO after the first draft and look for opportunities to work some keywords and phrases in but I write for my reader first and foremost.

      That’s not to say I don’t pick some blog topics based on keyword research but I try to make these keyword-driven posts a minority. I also work hard to find an interesting angle so the keyword focus isn’t even noticeable.

      As you say, optimisation might get you traffic but it won’t keep it or convert it.

      Thanks for commenting!

  8. marty says:

    These are great tips I like how you used the walking dead as example my biggest problem in the past has been making my post personal and not just some boring report this has given me a lot to think about

  9. Edson Hale says:

    First impression is the last impression. this is the guiding rule to start every post. Whatever style you adopt to open your post but it must be impressive and sticky to make your reader stick to your post till its end. But the conclusion of the post is also equally important it must be good enough to make reader proud of his decision to read the entire post

    • Great tip Edson. Your conclusion needs to work just as hard as your opening… but that’s for another post ;)

      Thanks for leaving your thoughts!

  10. siddharth says:

    These are great tips and it is very scary but interesting too.

    Thanks for this article!

  11. soubhik says:

    Sounds quite interesting… the Zombie starting..

  12. Belinda- WOW- this post was amazing.

    There are so many bloggers out there that know they have valuable content to share but do not know how to deliver that content in a way that gets people to read it in the first place and keep on reading . . .

    I am a new blogger and I am so happy I came across your post at the beginning of my journey. I definitely will use your outline for my first pillar posts.

    Another topic I keep hearing about is that we should write posts not only for giving great content but also content that readers want to “share”- any suggestions on how new bloggers should go about incorporating “shareable” content into their posts?

    Thanks!
    Amy

    • Hi Amy and thanks for your great feedback.

      When it comes to creating content that is sharable I think it can be broken into two parts: the way you write it and the way you present it.

      The goal when writing shareable content is to have your reader 1) get excited and 2) think that their network could benefit.

      So the first one (being exciting) can be down to your angle and writing style, and writing blog openings like this post suggests can help with that. After getting your reader’s attention, one technique to keep it is to create a rhythm with your words. A rhythm that keeps your reader’s eye balls glued to the screen.

      I think you also need to consider how useful your content is. You don’t want to create such a broad appeal that you beige-out but tapping into the needs and challenges of a large audience will help you create content they want to share with their (many) friends.

      Then, there is presentation. Make sure you have social media share buttons within clicking distance so your reader doesn’t have to think about the next step. They have those little calls to action, right there in front of them.

      I hope that helps! Happy blogging!

  13. Diego Santos says:

    Great one, Belinda. You totally hooked me into this post. The best way of giving tips is to use them in the first place. Great job.

    • Thanks Diego! It was one thing I checked at the end of the writing process: have I actually applied my own tips? :) I appreciate your feedback.

  14. Great and timely post. We need to re-configure our blog headlines and opening paragraphs better and the analogy to the TV show is great! Makes it easier to understand and implement.

    Thanks so much!

  15. Ferb says:

    Love these tips and breaking a big paragraph into a small paragraph is also help a lot or you can even break down into small sentences to help readers skim through faster. But a great header is also the first thing that need to be in the post.

  16. Shane says:

    I’m a little new at blogging but have been writing fiction for a good while. I feel the same about the opening whether it’s the essay form, a novel or a short story.

    I don’t think that all novels need to have that mystery-suspense potboiler hook, but I do think the first sentence should have something interesting or attractive about it. John Ashbery said that when he started out writing poetry, he tried to put at least three interesting things in each line and later in life, settled for one interesting thing each line.

    I think that giving each sentence one good/interesting ‘thing’, whether that be an idea, an image, a colorful world or any number of surprises, is a nice if difficult goal. I understand it’s a vague goal too, but oh well.

    I’ll keep reading a blog if it has a strong sense of voice and if the grammar is well-placed. If it doesn’t feel manufactured, in other words.

    For someone used to writing fiction, it’s a little difficult to achieve a personal tone, I find. I’m so used to a sort of fictive ironic distance.

    Great post. P.S. Walking Dead is a wonderful show and I don’t even like zombie stuff.

    • One good/interesting “thing” per sentence… I like that Shane! I definitely try and create one great concept per paragraph but bringing that down to a sentence level, even if it’s just a word, is a great idea.

      When it comes to finding your own voice, it can take time. I try to write like I speak (only a little more grammatically correct) and I think that’s a great starting point. I suspect your challenge will be silencing the “fiction writer’s voice” that tries to take over. But if you keep on writing your own stuff, you’ll find it.

      Thanks for commenting!

  17. Kanchan says:

    Scary but nice article. I was totally hooked up with that.. Wished it was a bit lonegr
    Thanx for that Belinda…

  18. Great advice! Thank you! I enjoyed reading this. As someone who posts entries about spiritual topics, I’ve learned writing a blog opening requires a great deal of prayer, too. :)

  19. this a great blog post starts with the title and finishes at the last work. Thanks Sarah sharing with us this post

  20. gutiyo says:

    Point 1 and 2 are very interesting.as they help in keeping the reader glued to the page, increasing time spent on page and probably getting then to view and maybe click an ad or two

  21. Great advice on how important this stuff is. Very interesting. If people read this and put it to practice its amazing the results you can get.

  22. Chip Hill says:

    Great post Belinda. I could definitely relate to this article being a fan of the show! It’s good to see that you practice what you preach and this whole article is making an example of what you are writing about (as you obviously intended). Thanks for the great article.

    • Thanks Chip! It’s a cracking show is it?

      I watched another show – a sci-fi show – that all the hallmarks of being just as exciting but the intro was a scrolling wall of text explaining the back story. It worked for Star Wars but this, compared to the Walking Dead intro, had me giving it a mental count down before I switched over. It really highlighted the power of a great intro to me.

      Thanks again for leaving your thoughts.

  23. Ashley says:

    Thanks for the great advice! For me its hard to write the title then the blog post. I cannot think of a good title that sums up what I typed out but I also have to write it out in a clever and simple way to catch the attention of the reader. Great advice!

  24. jerry bridge says:

    Excellent but some people are better than others and I am just at the start of the learning curve…I need 1:1 advice…any one out there want to get in touch? Many thanks – Jerry ‘Travelman’ Bridge