I’ve run a little experiment on this blog in the last three months. I’ve attempted to start every post with around 50 words that would draw you in. It’s working.
In my view the title and first few sentences of a blog post should:
- Intrigue the reader.
- Promise what’s coming, accurately.
- Incorporate a clever or counterintuitive turn of phrase.
- Be natural and inviting.
- Avoid clickbait. (Clickbait means attracting clicks with false promises.)
- Use a few keywords that will attract searches.
Writing this way is much easier to describe than to do. We are all taught to start writing in a natural way, warming up slowly. “As I was reading my email this morning, I had an insight.” Or “I’m not so sure I agree with the conventional wisdom.” I’m suggesting that you completely remove the mystery. A person reading the opening to your blog should know exactly what’s coming.
This has other advantages. I do not need to write meta-descriptions. These opening sentences are what my subscribers get in their emails, and what Google searchers see in their searches. That all works because my openers do double duty as summaries and subtitles.
Writing this way at the start of a post feels unnatural at first. But today, you have about 50 words to get the reader hooked enough to read more. If you fail, they’ll go on to something else.
Take a look at the title and opening sentences of my top 10 blog posts and you’ll see how I do it.
10 top writing tips and the psychology behind them. There are plenty of folks happy to tell you how to write better, just as any doctor will tell you to “eat right and exercise.” But changing your writing (or eating) habits only happens when you understand why you do what you do. I can help you with that. [352,894 views]
Can we save academia from bullshit? Based on the 23,000 people who viewed and shared it, you liked my post on writing tips and psychology. But those in academia were displeased. [4,632 views]
5 ways that writing without bullshit helps your career. Writing without bullshit seems like a good idea. But is it actually better for your career? [2,956 views]
My cord cutting experience (and the bullshit that came with it). Last week I was a TV subscriber with a landline phone. Now I stream my TV and have much faster Internet. This transition was a lot harder than it sounded because service providers deceived me. [2,090 views]
The 4 questions to ask before you write anything: ROAM. Effective writing creates a change in the reader. Whether you’re writing an email, a blog post, or a strategy document, four elements determine your success: Reader, Objective, Action, and iMpression. I use the (slightly skewed) acronym ROAM to keep all four in mind as I write. [1,825 views]
11 key planning tips for writers and the psychology behind them. Crappy writing springs from crappy planning. Like an architect, plan before you build. On a project that takes weeks or months to write, spend at least one day on planning. Follow these planning tips to maximize your chance to create something great. [1766 views]
Rewrite passive voice and reveal the truth. Passive voice sentences conceal who is acting and create creepy feelings in the reader. Fixing them reveals the truth and improves the tone of your writing. If you write advice or instructions of any kind, here’s your tutorial. [1,733 views]
Why there is so much bullshit: an analysis. All day long we read on our various screens. This has vastly increased the demand for content, which comes to us through many channels. But those who create it have forgotten what good writing is. [1,709 views]
Why is Twitter’s CEO leaving? Because “Everything is Awesome.” Twitter’s got problems. Its active users grew only 18% year-over-year. Profits are a mirage in the distance. While Twitter’s users are reading tweets, they’re not clicking on them very much. And the CEO just announced he’s leaving. But if you read what they publish, you’d say “Everything is awesome!” [1,644 views]
How to write boldly when you are afraid. When you’re afraid of how people will react, you distance yourself from what you write. This makes your writing weak, which makes you seem weak. [1,508 views]
What do you think? Is this the right way to start a post? Could you get to the point this quickly? Try it. And not just in blog posts, either.