According to global media agency Universal McCann, 77% of Internet users read blogs. That’s a good thing because 53% of professional bloggers and 72% of those who are self-employed are interested in attracting new clients via their blogs. Seems like a match made in heaven, doesn’t it? Then why, pray tell, do so many blog posts fall flat on their faces?
While there are certainly other criteria involved, the faltering typically boils down to one of three elements.
1. An Engaging Title
Just as with writing an article, the title of your blog post carries a lot of weight. You usually have about three seconds to capture the interest of your reader via your blog title. Practically the entire decision about whether or not the post will be read is contributed to the title. (No pressure!)
What types of titles get the best responses?
► “How Tos” have always pulled well and will continue to do so. People want professional advice on how to do what they need to do.
► “Top ____” – Whether it’s Top 10 Tips for [whatever] or Top 5 Ways to [do something], readers want the good stuff, not the bottom-of-the-barrel tips. You could also substitute “best” for “top.” Keyphrases that include the word “best” are oftentimes the most popular.
► Asking questions causes a physiological reaction in our brains. Our minds automatically leap into the process of answering the question. This process gets people involved in your blog and inevitably drives readers to pursue the answer.
2. A Captivating Opening Paragraph
If you hook the reader with your title, the next feat will be to retain their interest with your opening paragraph. Even if you write the most intriguing title known to man, you can still lose your blog visitor if you stumble in your opening paragraph.
How do you keep them interested? Here are just a few of the many ways.
► State a statistic. I used this blog-writing technique when I created this post. The opening sentence reads, “According to global media agency Universal McCann, 77% of Internet users read blogs.” We’re naturally compelled by statistics because they convey authority and certainty. A great deal of trust is put into statistics which is just one reason they work so well in titles.
► Begin a story. “The year 1998 was one of the toughest I’ve ever faced. It seemed my once-perfect personal and professional life had begun to crumb all around me. What I didn’t realize was that the confusion, frustration and anger that would haunt me during the next 13 months would open the door to more freedom, money and personal satisfaction than I’d ever known.”
If you read that, wouldn’t you keep going to find out what happened next? Personal stories are highly attractive because they come from the heart. When you give readers a glimpse at what happened way back when and a tiny insight into what you’re about to tell them, they can’t help but stay along for the ride.
► Make an incomplete statement. “It was without a doubt the most contradictory statement I’d ever heard.” What was? “As I watched her fall, I knew there was no way she could ever recover.” Watched who fall? Fall physically or emotionally? Recover from what?
Incomplete statements drive us to want to fill in the blanks. Remember the question technique above used for writing titles? This is the reverse. Instead of asking the questions outright, you cause the reader to ask questions. As those queries start to flood our minds, so does an uncontrollable desire to answer them.
3. Interesting Information
Once you hook readers with a powerful title and intrigue them with a solid opening paragraph, you still have to deliver interesting information. After all, if they get past the first two steps only to find you’re telling them that your janitor has been promoted to the position of administrative assistant, readers will click away faster than the blink of an eye.
At the end of the day, elements one and two will do you little good unless you back them up with posts your visitors actually want to read. Find out what interests them then produce content that fills their needs. Conduct a free, online survey or search your blog analytics to see what people have typed into your search box.
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