How to start a blog post – 5 examples that really work!

How to start a blog post - 5 examples

“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.

Right?

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.

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

  1. 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.

  1. 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?
  1. 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.”

  1. 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.”

  1. 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 entrigue 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

5 brilliant ways to start your blog post with a bang 

start your blog post with a bang

Most blogs suck. 

You might have the most brilliant advice, but nobody reads it. 

The solution starts withthe start. 

A recent survey found that only 30% of readers make it to the end of a post. Just like a YouTube video – if you dont grab your readers attention in 3 seconds its sayonara.  

Theyre gone. 

In this post you will learn a 5 step approach to quickly retro fit old posts gathering digital dust, or tweak new posts to start working miracles.  

Lets jump in with some mind work.

1. Enter the conversation

To capture your readers’ attention you have to first enter the conversation going on in their mind (Robert Collier). In other words, grab their attention with something theyre already thinking about. 

– If youre a financial planner, tell me how to avoid costly mistakes.
– If youre a realtor, tell me how to make more money when I sell my home.
– If youre an IT consultant, tell me how to choose the best IT consultant. 

Not sure where to start? Start with a list of the most common questions your prospects ask you.

2. Get my attention

water splashing in woman's face

This is keymake me stop and want to read more. Your reader found your latest post via your email or social media. But, theyre not committed yetwith the click of their mouse theyre gone – never to return to that post. 

So, hook them with bait that makes them hungry for more. 

Start with your first sentence. Its job is to get me to read your second sentence. And so on.  

In your #blog, the job of your first sentence is to get me to read your second sentence. And so on. Click To Tweet 

Dont force me to wade through a muddy dissertation. Instead, start with a bold statement, a bit of controversy or a question. 

For example, I could have started this post with something like: 

The problem with all too many blogs is that they fail to get the attention of readers and, as a result, dont drive traffic to your products or services. 

Ugh. 

Instead, I started with: 

Most blogs suck.

3. Tell me the Problem

person holding question mark to face

Heres a blogging secret. If the reader doesnt care about your topic, they wont care to read about it 

So, make it obvious. 

In the first 2 sentences you need to TELL ME THE PROBLEM you will solve. 

Here’s a blogging secret. If the reader doesn’t care about your topic, they won’t care to read about it. Click To Tweet 

Even better: choose only one problem to solve. 

Here are 3 examples from our blog:

1. In this post we tackled time management:
Lets get one thing straight. I waste time, you waste timeeveryone wastes time.

2. This post is all about getting more traffic:
And its time to get serious about your business and your blog. You want more trafficthe right traffic.

3. This post is about restarting your blog writing:
You havent published for at least a month – not so great.

4. Make a promise

Every salesperson worth his/her salt knows this. To keep your prospects attention you need to make a promise of what you have to offer. 

It could be as simple as Let me show you how we can fix that, or I think I have the perfect solution for you. 

Its no different in your blogonce you get my attention, tell me what comes next.  

For example, this post is about blog performance:
In this post were looking at super simple tune-ups to make your blog work better and, maybe, even a bit sexier. Sound good?

5. Please get to the point!

time on site screenshow showing how to start your blog post with a bang
The average time we see on our client’s blog posts is 2-3 times more than other pages.

Finally, a great blog gets to the point. 

You got my attention, you entered the conversation going on in my mind, you even described a problem you know I have – great! Now, get to the point and deliver the goods.  

The average visitor time on our clients websites is about one minute. The average time we see on their blog posts is more like 3 to 7 minutes. Wow! 

Your blog has the ability to stop readers from clicking away. Your blog can also drive traffic to your revenue pages.  

If you do it right. 

A few small changes to the start of your post can improve time on site, list growth – even conversion to sales.  

It all starts withthe start. 

Enjoyed this post? Here are 3 more all about blog writing: 

5 easy steps to publishing your next blog post (even if you dont have time)
90 seconds to becoming a better writer
How to never run out of blog ideas ever again

3 Amazing WordPress Plugins to Power up your Blog

more blog traffic

This might be the most important article you read this year.

Okay, a bit of hyperbole, but if you’re trying to get bigger results from your blog, this will be damn good.

In this article we are looking at the 3 plugins we use the most often on this site.

Think of a plugin like an app on your phone. They can be a waste of time and actually slow down your site…or they can be amazing and make life oh-so-much-better. Add to that, most plugins are free, or at the very least have a free version.

Here they are:

1. Better Click to Tweet
2. Insert Post Ads
3. Editorial Calendar

I’m going to spell out the steps for each plug in below. You can also grab some popcorn and watch this 12 minute video.

Video roll:

01:00 Better Click to Tweet
4:38 Insert Post Ads
10:26 Editorial Calendar

1. Better Click to Tweet

This might be the simplest improvement you make to your blogs results—make it easy for readers to Tweet about your blog. In our goldfish-like attention world, nothing is better than saving your customers’ time.

[In our goldfish-like attention world, nothing is better than saving your customers’ time.]

Better Click to Tweet is a simple, free plugin that makes it super easy to let your readers, with just 2 clicks, share your post to all of their followers on Twitter. And that one tweet can put you in front of thousands of followers loyal to that reader.

There are similar tools, like Click to Tweet and plugins like sumome and social warfare offer a click to tweet option.

This video explains how to install the plugin.

Once you have the plugin installed adding a click to tweet is easy:

Copy a quote from your blog you want readers to share. Click on the location in your post you want to insert the click to tweet. Click on the blue bird in your menu bar, paste the quote and you’re done!

more blog traffic

2. Insert Post Ads

This plugin is amazing! I first came across it on Mike Stelzner’s Social Media Examiner’s blog (which has become like a Wiki for how-to social media). I noticed there were ads for his conference on every blog post. And I knew he had thousands of posts – clearly it wasn’t possible to have inserted the ad manually. That’s when I had a peak at his source code and viola!..Insert Post Ads (Thank You Mike.)

On any WordPress site, you can insert a banner for a webinar, live event (like Stelzner did for his conference), book sales, optin, content upgrade, a sale event or your daughter’s lemonade stand.

Within a few minutes your advertisement/offer/announcement is on every blog post on your site. And just as quickly you can remove it.

more blog traffic

Here’s how this clever little plugin works…

Once you have the plugin installed (did I mention it’s free?).

1. Drop the banner image you want displayed into a draft page on your WordPress site. You won’t be publishing this page – it’s just there so you can quickly get the html code from the image.

2. Click on the image, go to edit, and select “Link to Custom URL” and paste the link to the event or sales page you want to promote. Click “Update” to save the banner. Now that you have a linked banner, you need to load that into the Insert Post Ads plugin.

3. Click on “Text” to display the HTML code for that page (if you’re getting confused, watch the video on this page.) Copy the code for that banner into your clipboard. Click “Save Draft” to save your page in WordPress.

4. Go to your Insert Post Ads plugin “Post Adverts > Add New Posts.” Enter the name of the new insert where it says “Advert Title.” Paste the HTML code into “Advert code:” Choose “Display the advert After Paragraph Number” and choose a number. Click “Publish”

That’s it. It’s going to seem like Greek (no offense to all the Greeks who read my blog), but once you’ve done it, oh let’s say 114 times, it gets easier!

I encourage you to write out the steps so next month when you go to replace the banner it’s much quicker.

3. Editorial Calendar

I think I saved my favourite for last.

Imagine having all your blog posts – past and future – nicely organized and displayed on a calendar. Automatically! That’s what the Editorial Calendar plugin (yup, free as well) will do.

[Imagine having all your blog posts – past and future – nicely organized and displayed on a calendar. Automatically!]

All you have to do is install the plugin and presto! it populates with all your posted blogs and – this is my favourite part – it lists all your draft posts in a tidy list in a right-hand side bar.

But, wait, there’s more! (thank you Steve Jobs for that one.)

more blog traffic

You can do a quick edit of a draft right from the calendar. You can also move your draft posts on the calendar and it will automagically update the posting date on the draft.

If you aren’t using a more robust tool, like coschedule or post planner, Editorial Calendar is a slick, nibble alternative. And if you collaborate with an editor or assistant, this tool will save you tons of emails back and forth about dates.

You’re welcome.

Ready to learn more? Here are 3 of our most popular articles on this topic:

7 Types of Call To Action to Move your Blog Readers to Action
Your end of year blog tune up
51 ways to get more business from your blog in the New Year

7 Types of Call To Action to Move your Blog Readers to Action

get more blog traffic

It’s hard to imagine a sales person not asking for the sale or a Amazon not having an “Add to cart” button. So why do so many blogs not have a call-to-action?

Does yours?

Before I get to my 7 favourite call-to-action (CTA) options, let’s take a step back and talk about what your blog is for.

Your blog is there to help people. Even blogs that share travel stories or pontificate about the pro’s and con’s of nose piercing are there to help.

And if you want to help people, you need to offer more than your written advice. It could be coaching, an online course, live events, consulting, or your book. That’s where you CTA comes in – helping people.

Alrighty, with that out of the way, let’s look at my favourite CTA’s.

1. Internal link

By far the simplest and most essential CTA is to link to another blog on your site. The reader can go deeper with related content and you get them on your site longer. Longer on site means more time to visit your products and services pages.

Of course, you can also link directly from your blog to pages that lead your reader closer to a sale. When I’m writing my draft blog post I will underline a word if it relates to another post I’ve already published. That way I don’t interrupt my writing (like that) to go search for the actual link. I’ll go back and add the actual link before I publish.

One last point…a quick fix strategy is to go back to your top half-dozen posts and add internal links to other posts and to your products and services pages. Don’t over do it, but 4-6 links in a 400-1,000 word post is not going to seem overkill.

blog traffic

2. Bottom of post

Did you know that 30% of people buying a book on Amazon will buy a second book from the list “Customers who bought this item also bought”. Why not use the same strategy in your blog?

At the bottom of each post simply list 3 more posts they might enjoy. After all, if your reader gets to the bottom of the post they probably want more on that topic.

We started offering a list of 3 additional posts at the bottom of every new post on our blog. It such a simple task, you’d be crazy to not do it. Again, just like the suggestion above for retrofitting older popular posts with internal links, you can easily add suggested posts at the end of those same posts,

blog traffic

3. Social shares

One of the easiest ways to increase traffic to your blog is to have readers share it on social media. The math is impressive:

One of the easiest ways to increase traffic to your blog is to have readers share it on social media. Click To Tweet`

Imagine if only 20 people share your post. But those shares go to some 20,000 of their followers. It doesn’t take a big percent of responses to see how your traffic will increase.

There are a few tools, like sumome, addthis, sharethis and social warfare that make it super easy to share your blog on social media. All of these tools should work perfectly on mobile (your mobile traffic could be as high as 35-45% of all traffic) with share buttons that stay at the bottom of the phone’s screen as the reader scrolls.

blog traffic

4. Content upgrade

This CTA is a little more complicated to set up, but the results can be impressive. The idea of of ‘content upgrade’ is to deliver a report, or guide or check list that supplements the blog post the reader is on.

For example, if your post is about 5 ways to give feedback to employees, your content upgrade could be a check list that helps you choose the right feedback to use in your next coaching session.

Ideally, the gift can be consumed in one sitting and has high value for the prospect. After all, this is their first impression of you and your business.

To receive the download the reader has to optin to your mailing list.

The trick is to take the reader to what’s called a “landing page” where the offer is presented and there’s an invitation to join your list if they want to receive the gift but also receive future updates from you. The simplest way to do this is to create a hidden page on your site (like www.yoursite.com/offer) with the offer. You can also create custom landing pages in most CRM’s, like Convertkit, Ontraport, Active Campaign, etc.

blog traffic

5. Click to tweet

One of the easiest ways to encourage readers to share your post is to set up a click-to-tweet option. Your reader sees an interesting quote, identified with the Twitter bird icon, they click on that quote and your blog is shared onto their Twitter channel with a link back to your blog. This makes it super easy or your reader to share and you get exposed to their followers.

The set up for a click to tweet option is simple. At BlogWorks we use the plugin Better Click to Tweet. This video explains how to install the plugin. And there are others, like Click to Tweet and plugins like sumome and social warfare offer a click to tweet feature as an option.

Once you have the plugin installed add a click to tweet is easy. Copy a quote from your blog that you want readers to share. Click on the location in your post you want to insert the click to tweet. Click on the blue bird in your menu bar, paste the quote and you’re done!

blog traffic

6. Sidebar CTA

Most blogs have a menu of sidebar displayed options. It might be your most popular blog posts, advertising a product, like your book and it can be an invitation to join your mailing list.

Building your mailing list is an important strategy for marketing your business. Even with the explosive growth of Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and other social channels, you will always get stronger sales by directly emailing a list of loyal followers.

The sidebar CTA is an invitation to grow your list, usually in return for receiving a gift, or “lead magnet”.

Many of the mailing list tools, like Mail Chimp (called a signup form) or Convertkit (create form) make it super easy to design and load the “widget” box, complete with image of your gift, into your website. The full sequence of events, like Thank You page, optin confirmation email, etc are easy to set up.

More robust CRM (Customer Relations Management) software, like Active Campaign (create form to capture contacts) and Infusionsoft (create WordPress optin form) also allow you to create the form.

The beauty of these sequences is that once you jump through all the hoops (there are loads of videos on YouTube explaining how to do this), it will run 24/7 for years. Your job is to check the numbers and change to a new gift if you aren’t getting the results you want.

7. The Pop-up CTA

Finally, we come to the much maligned pop-up CTA. But, before you run away screaming “I hate pop-up’s!” You need to know something.

Pop-up’s work. The trick with pop-up’s is to not annoy your reader! All of these tools are designed to select who sees your popup and how they see it. For example, you can delay the popup until the reader has been on your post for 2 minutes or they are about to leave you page. You can also set the popup to not show to returning readers. 

Some of the most popular popup plugins are Optin Monster, ConvertPlus, or WP Subscribe Pro.

One more thing I’ve got to do!!

At this point you might be freaking out and thinking “One more thing I’ve got to do!!” Here’s the deal:

Just like investing in professional pictures of your products (or your profile picture), adding CTA’s to your blog are an investment. Every day you can be helping your readers with your blog or you can be helping them and you by getting them to respond to a call to action.

A small investment now (like 5 minutes to add internal links to a post) could pay big dividends day after day for years to come. So, stop screaming, pick one and get to work.

You’re welcome.

If you enjoyed this article (You new this was coming, right?), you’re going to want to check out these as well:

Why You Should be Re-Loving Your Old Blog Posts
How to Ensure Your Posts Look AMAZING On Social Media
Why You Need A Standard Operating Procedure For Your Blog