“An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” ~Stephen King
There’s not much point having a blog if nobody reads it.
The trick is how you start a blog—it comes down to the opening.
Yes, you must have a dynamite headline that pulls readers in. And, sure, you might have 5, 7 or 51(!) brilliant suggestions with dazzling arguments, but if nobody reads past the first sentence, well…
Before we jump into how to write the perfect opening, let’s revisit why more readers is so important.
Why you blog is so damn important
Every web site we look at has the same off-balance characteristic: people spend 5-10 times more time on your blog than on any other page on your site.People spend 5-10 times more time on your blog than on any other page on your site. Click To Tweet
In other words, your blog is where you get people’s attention and get them interested in buying. Your blog is where the conversation starts.
It’s no different than striking up a conversation with a vendor at a farmer’s market or salesperson at a conference. The more time you spend with them the more likely you are to buy.
But, first we have to get them reading. And that’s gotten harder.
If your prospect searches for your solutions but don’t see a match right away…they’re gone. If they get your email, open the blog, but aren’t curious to read more, they’re gone.
And once people click away…they aren’t coming back.
So, we have to start our blog by snagging the reader by their synapses. And that starts with the first sentence.
At BlogWorks we do the heavy lifting for you. We write your blog with SEO-rich keywords, perfectly matched to your target audience so you can attract more prospects AND save hours and hours of time every week.
Before we get to that, let’s look at what kills the start of your blog…
How to kill the start of your blog
It’s easy to kill the opening and send readers away screaming. Here’s how.
- Run-on sentences that go nowhere: “If you want to be a great leader you need to understand the needs of your team while simultaneously keeping an eye on the future and coaching for performance”…WHAT?!?!?!
- Starting with a negative: “Bad leaders bring their team down.”…bummer.
- Stating the obvious: “Every team needs a leader”, or “Technology has changed how we work.”….Duh!
- Boring your readers: “This article will help you understand excellence in customer service”…Zzzzzzzz.
A good opening sentence is sticky – like Spiderman. And a great opening sentence is both sticky and does one more thing:
It makes you want to read the second sentence.
As William Zinsser wrote in the classic, On Writing Well “The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead.”
Now that you’re (hopefully) convinced your blog is essential for attracting and starting meaningful sales conversations, let’s jump into how to start a blog.
5 ways to start a blog post and hook your reader
- Ask a question
In his now famous blog post How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World, uber blogger, Jon Morrow doesn’t waste any time. With a 71 character headline that he assumes you will read, he goes straight to this opening question:
“After all, that’s the dream, right?”
Mike Stelzner’s massively successful Social Media Examiner blog has adopted a two-question opener that seems to be working. Like in this post:
“Are you trying to get more local customers? Have you tried Facebook video ads targeted to your local market?”
The technique is simple: work backwards from your topic to the question your prospects would be asking and start with that.
- Make a bold claim
What’s the most common (and useful) advice for creating viral videos on YouTube? Make a big claim in the first 7 seconds.
One way to do that with your blog is to start with a blog claim.
I like this style for two reasons: I think it grabs the reader by their curiosity and it challenges me to write a post that has some punch!
Here are some examples from our site at BlogWorks:
- About making money: “You want your blog to make money. Right?”
- About adding videos to your blog: Video is a great way to attract more readers to your blog and having them stay longer. If you know how to do it.
- About measuring the performance of your blog: Let me ask you a question: Would you drive a car without a dashboard or put your money in a bank if you couldn’t see your balance?
- Be a contrarian
Another way to get your readers’ attention is to start a blog with an uncommon thought. Chances are you have some beliefs and theories that would work perfectly for this style of opening.
Best-selling author, Ryan Holiday used this approach in his post: “Dear Entrepreneurs: Please Don’t Write a Book—We’re Begging You” to attack first time authors who take writing short-cuts (like hiring book-in-a-box companies).
“There has been no worse piece of advice out there recently than: If you’re an entrepreneur, write a book.”
I like the surprising opening to the post: “A Public-Private Partnership Could Be Key to Your Startup’s Survival” from Entrepreneur.com:
“Despite what many of us might think, there are a lot fewer startups than there used to be.”
- Use a statistic (or two)
There is something about including a statistic that adds instant credibility to your post. If fact, 98% of bloggers (ha ha) agree with me on this.
Futurist, entrepreneur and author Peter Diamandis is a big fan of this style of writing. Here’s how he opens his post about the future of cities:
“By 2050, two-thirds of the population, more than 6 billion people, are expected to live in urbanized areas. Exponential technologies will radically change the way we build and organize our cities in the future.”
Or this article about cell phones and homicide rates from the NY Times.
“The increased use of cellphones reduced US homicide rates in the 1990s, according to new research distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research.”
- Create a hook
We all love a mystery. It’s like a friend leaning in and saying “You know there’s something I’ve always wanted to tell you…”—you have to know what comes next.
When you start with intrigue you open a scene, but just enough for a movie to start playing in your reader’s mind. Now they want to know what comes next.
Here’s how uber-blogger Tim Urban of the massively successful Wait but Why blog opened his post about what would otherwise be a highly technical subject called Neuralink.
“Last month, I got a phone call.
Okay maybe that’s not exactly how it happened, and maybe those weren’t his exact words. But after learning about the new company Elon Musk was starting, I’ve come to realize that that’s exactly what he’s trying to do.”
And this is how artist, blogger Henneke Duistermaat of Enchanting Marketing breaks the ice in her post about mindfulness:
“At 3 AM, I was tossing and turning.”
And from one of my favourite authors, Ann Handley:
“Here’s the best writing I read all week. It’s 170 words tucked into a belly of a 7,000-word article.
And yes… it’s about stink bugs.”
Ready to start your next blog?
At the end of the day, your blog has to deliver value if you want it to be read, shared and bring you more followers. Kicking it off with a well thought-out opening sentence is a great place to start.
Enjoyed this post? Still not ready to go back to work? Here’s more great stuff:
5 brilliant ways to start your blog post with a bang
9 blog post ideas your audience will love
90 seconds to becoming a better writer
Great advice from someone who does blogging so well. Thanks Hugh.
Thanks Doug! Yes, I’ve made all the mistakes and still keep trying. Blogging has been one of the most rewarding creative outlets in my work and your feedback is a great motivation.
Thank you for the great tips!!
I can guess this advice works not only in blogs. Simply – in any other kind of text/article, It has to be just intriguing.
Yes, good point. You could even use these techniques in a speech (but only if you wanted it to be a good speech!)
Good point – you can use these starters in keynotes, workshops, articles, sales calls…