‘Hi Michael, it’s nice to meet you’
These were the first words my wife spoke to me.
Not the most spectacular start to a relationship…. considering my name is Darren.
Opening lines matter – particularly when it comes to blogging. If you don’t get them right your posts will go largely unread.
Do you want to discover how to make opening lines effective?
In my last post in this ‘how to craft a blog post’ series I identified your blog’s title/headline as the most important words that you’ll write in a blog post and I said that the purpose of the title is to get people to read your opening line.
The second most important words in your blog post are those that follow the title – your opening line. Their purpose is to get people to read the next line – to draw people deep within your post.
11 Techniques for Opening Lines
So how does one craft an opening line to a post that effectively engages readers and stimulates enough interest to get them to read your blog post? Here are a few tips that I’ve found helpful.
1. Identify a Need
If you haven’t got it by now you should be starting to see that I place a lot of importance on identifying a reader’s need and solving it as a key to writing successful blog posts. You don’t have to solve the need or problem in the opening line but an effective way to get readers to read deep into your post where you do solve it is to tell them that you will in the opening line.
2. Ask a Question With Only One Answer
This is a technique that copywriters have been using for a long time and it works. To do it, ask a question in the opening of your post which leaves your reader little room to answer anything but ‘yes’. I did it in line three of this post (‘Do you want to discover how to make opening lines effective’) but it could also effectively be used as the very opening to this post.
Asking this type of question does a couple of things. For starters you’re communicating what the post is about and the need that it will fulfill in the reader – but secondly (and more importantly) you’re drawing out a response in your reader and one which puts the need that your post will solve squarely in their mind. Anyone reading and answering ‘yes’ to my question above enters into this post having just said that they want to discover how to write engaging opening lines – this ‘buy in’ helps in the communication process that follows.
Asking ‘yes’ questions can actually be something you use more than once in a post. Ask a series of them scattered through your post and you can actually take your reader on a journey that leads them to your call to action.
3. Ask an Intriguing Question
Another type of question that is effective at getting readers interested in reading further into a post is one that leaves them hanging and wanting to know the answer.
‘What does Bill Gates and Martha Stewart have in common?’ – ‘How did I take my RSS subscriber numbers from 0 to 51,346?’ – ‘Is the Nikon D700 the best Digital SLR Camera Ever Invented?’
All of these questions will appeal differently to different audiences – but all leave readers wondering what the answer will be and give them a reason to read on further into a post.
4. Say Something Unexpected
The opening line of this post (where I tell about my wife getting my name wrong when we first met) breaks most of the techniques that I’ve stated above – but attempts to do something a little ‘different’ or ‘surprising’ to grab readers attention by sharing something personal and at a first glance ‘off topic’.
I don’t talk about my family often on ProBlogger – so this opening line is designed to break the pattern and encourage readers to take a second look.
I find that when I do this it seems to ‘snap’ readers out of the way that they normally approach your blog and take a little extra notice for a moment or two (which can be enough to hook them into reading your post).
Of course – the unexpected opening line should relate to your post’s topic on some level.
5. Tell a Story or Share an Analogy
Building on my last point – I find that telling ‘stories’ to open posts can be one way of snapping people out of their ‘ho hum’, ‘eyes glazed over’ state that many of us have while surfing the web. This is particularly true on a blog that is more serious or formal in nature – to share a story means you’re switching genre’s for a moment or two which can be enough to grab your readers attention for at least a moment or two.
Stories can be short (a one liner like I did above) or longer (although you probably won’t want to go too long). They can be your own personal stories or stories of someone else. They can be true or even fiction.
I’ve often open posts here on ProBlogger with ‘tangents’ – analogies or stories from my life that are a little off topic – but which go on to help illustrate a principle. I find that these types of openings often draw in a new type of reader and get more reader engagement with others. Perhaps it’s just a refreshing change from the normal type of posts or perhaps it shows a more personal side that appeals to some.
For example (titles and opening lines):
- My Search for the Perfect Cafe and What it taught me about Blogging – “I’m currently on a search for a good local cafe to blog from.”
- Keeping a Blog Diary to Analyze Your Blogging Routine – “This year for Christmas I’ve asked my wife if she’d give me a personal trainer.”
6. Make a Claim or Promise
Sometimes a simple but bold claim is the most effective way to get people to read deeper into a post.
‘Today I will teach you how to give up smoking.’ – ‘In this post you’ll discover the secrets to taking the perfect portrait.’
These sorts of openings simply tell your reader what they’ll get if they read on. They are short, sharp, to the point and effective.
Alternatively you can make a claim about your own achievement. I still remember the impact that this post had on establishing ProBlogger as an authority site. The opening line was:
‘It just hit me – like a truck – that I’ve just become six figure blogger.’
The only thing I’d say is that you better be able to back up the claim or promise in the post itself or you could have some angry readers on your hands.
7. Make a Controversial Statement
There’s nothing like the hint of controversy to grab people’s attention and cause them to stop in their tracks and take note of what’s going on.
Strongly state your opinion on a company, product or even another person and you’ll find people will want to read on to see why you’ve said it and to let you know if they agree.
8. Paint a Picture
This is a technique that I’ve used a few times in public speaking that I think can translate across into writing effective blog posts. The basics of it are to get your reader using their imagination to picture some kind of scenario.
This can be used in both positive or negative ways:
Positive – get them to imagine a scenario when they achieve some success or overcome some problem.
Negative – alternatively get them to picture the consequences of a problem left unsolved or a failure that they might fear.
Engaging the imagination of your reader is a powerful thing which can evoke emotion, help them to get in touch with fear and feel needs but also give them real motivation to make change.
9. Use Statistics
Using a statistic that packs a punch can effectively communicate a need and grab attention.
Example – 10 Techniques to Get More Comments on Your Blog – Opening Line – “Only 1 out of every 100 Readers Comment on your Blog”
10. Start with a Quote
This is one that I occasionally do that can be quite effective – if you use the right quote of course.
Using the words of some one other than yourself can bring authority and credibility to your post. It can also grab attention if you choose the right person.
Examples with opening lines:
- Following the Paths of Others vs Leaving Trails – “Do not follow where the path leads, Rather go where there is no path, and leave a trail.” – David Perkins
- Lessons from Tower Defense on How to Reinvent Your Blog – “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
11. Use an Image
Your opening line need not be a textual one.
‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ and used effectively at the opening of your blog posts a compelling image can be instrumental in drawing readers to read your posts.
I have been using images combined with words on almost every post in my photography site for some time now and have long noticed that when I open with an image it tends to draw more readers into a post and can lead to more comments. I’ve even had readers tell me that they only reason they read a post was as a result of seeing the image in their RSS reader.
The key is to find an image that is on topic, that is striking and that readers find compelling or intriguing.
Will You Share Your Best Opening Lines With Us?
The above 10 techniques for opening lines of blog posts are just scratching the surface of the ways that you can grab attention and draw readers into your blog posts. You’re unlikely to use more than two or three of them in any given post and will most likely want to not use the same one in every post that you write (loyal readers ted to become numb to them if you do).
What other techniques do you use to open blog posts?
Read the Full Series
This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.