“A great headline mixed with a lame opening is like inviting someone to your house, only to slam the door in their face as they approach.”
-Brian Clark, Copyblogger
First impressions matter. A snazzy headline might be enough to lure readers to your blog, but your post has to keep the momentum going. You have, at most, a paragraph or two to convince folks that your post is worth reading. Otherwise, they’re going to click away (or “bounce,” as the kids and Web traffic analysts like to say).
So just how do you capture the attention of your readers and entice them to read on? Fortunately, there is no one right answer. The secret is to find the methods that work for you, or that are best suited for the content and mood of your blog post.
That said, here are 9 proven techniques for crafting opening lines that will draw your readers into your blog posts.
Lead with a Quote
An interesting and relevant quotation can grab your readers’ attention and set the tone for what’s to come. If the quote comes from a noted authority, it can also lend credibility to your post. If you’re going to use this tactic, carefully consider the quote and make sure it pertains to the rest of your article. If you find yourself trying to awkwardly shoehorn an ill-fitting quotation into your post, you should probably consider another opening strategy.
Ask a Question
Another time-honored method for kicking off a blog post is to ask a question. This is a great way to pique the curiosity of your readers and get them thinking about your subject matter. The question needs to be provoking to the reader, so avoid rhetorical questions or question with a cut-and-dried answer. Asking a question that relates specifically to your readers’ problems or needs can be effective, but you need to make sure you actually deliver the answer (or at least *an* answer) in the body of your post.
Open with a Reader’s Question
This can be a frequently-asked question, or a specific question you’ve received from one of your readers. Not only does this show your readers that you’re interested in hearing from them, but it also shows them that your writing is relevant to their needs.
Tell a Story
There’s a reason speechwriters are often advised to open with a joke. A humorous story is a natural way to draw in readers, while a personal anecdote will allow you to connect with them on a more personal level. As with the quote, make sure the story you’re telling is applicable to the rest of your content or you may find your readers losing patience.
Paint a Picture
If you want to engage your readers, try invoking their imagination by setting the scene and dropping them into the action. The mental image you’re producing can be hypothetical (“Imagine, if you will…”) or even nostalgic (“Do you remember when…”).
Cite an Interesting Statistic
“Interesting” is the key word here. Not only should the factoid be pertinent to the rest of your article, but it should be uncommon knowledge that will surprise your readers. For that reason, it’s a good idea to cite your source and be prepared to back up the statistic if necessary.
Make a Bold Claim
“Reading this blog post will make you rich,” is going to engage a lot more folks than, “Reading this blog post will teach you more about the history of mayonnaise.” That said, make sure you actually deliver the goods. Making wild promises and failing to follow through will only hurt your credibility and alienate your readers.
Identify a Need or Problem
If your blog post is about helping people solve a problem, overcome a challenge, or meet a need, then mentioning this pain point in the opening can be an effective attention-getter. If you’ve actually experienced the problem yourself, then your readers will identify with you and will be more inclined to read on to see how you dealt with it.
When all else fails, try the direct approach. If the subject matter of your blog post is compelling enough, you may be able to catch and hold the attention of your readers by simply summing up your main point in a short sentence or two.
These are just some of the ways you use your blog post opening to pull in your readers. Try one or two of these tactics out when writing your next post and see if it encourages more readers to stick around. And if you have any other blog post opening techniques that have worked for you personally, let me know. I’d love to hear about them!