Apparently, people will spend around 37 seconds reading a blog post before deciding whether or not to continue.
(No, I’m not sure how they worked this figure out either – but speaking from my own experience of skimming blog posts for the juicy bits, let’s assume it’s about right).
Statistics like this heap pressure onto your blog post’s headline and opening. Get these right, and they’ll work as a seductive team; one enticing readers in, the other helping them stay put.
Lots of people worry about coming up with the perfect headline for their blog post. Yet far fewer worry about what comes afterwards; thus their opening becomes a neglected and resentful team member, intent on sabotaging the rest of the post.
Along with citing a persuasive statistic, here are two more compelling ways to open your next blog post.
Save the waffle for breakfast
I recently took a column writing masterclass hosted by Jay Rayner, he of the voluptuous Guardian restaurant reviews. During the class, he offered a brilliant piece of ‘opening’ advice, which was: “invite readers in through the door, not down the chimney or through a window”.
In other words, get right to the point.
Don’t open your blog post with a rambling ‘scene setting’ paragraph that repeats things everybody knows already, and that they’ve already heard countless times before.
(A classic example of dull waffliness might start with something like: “the Covid pandemic has changed the way we live and work…”)
Instead, you could start with a question that you will answer through the post. If you don’t want to do that, summarise your main point in one simple, snappy sentence, then use the rest of the post to take readers through your thoughts.
Both of these options will naturally create a clear, bold, and direct opening that people are likely to find readably refreshing.
Tell a personal story
Opening your post with a personal anecdote has two benefits: it provides immediate interest, and it makes the post difficult for other people to copy.
(I often use anecdotes to start my blog posts, sometimes changing names and other minor details to protect the reputation of the other people involved!)
Clearly, your anecdote must relate back to the subject of your blog post. But if you can’t think of an entire story, try sprinkling in a few details that will paint pictures in readers’ minds.
One example, written by a talented member of my most recent blogging course, talked about a coaching conversation that had taken place in the crisp outdoors, whilst “sipping the first mulled wine of the year”.
Simple tweaks like these will gently elevate your blog posts, to the point where readers remain long after the average 37 seconds have passed.
(Which, considering the amount of time you spent writing them, is only fair).
I’ll be discussing tips like these, and many more besides, in my two-hour online workshop, ‘Revive Your Blog!’ on Thursday 25th November.
I'm a friendly and professional writer, reviewer and editor who works with warmth, humour and flexibility.
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