I wanted to send you this two months ago, but shipping would have forced me to become a hooker.
More on that in a minute.
You want people to actually read your blog posts, right?
Um, duh, Chelsea.
So I’m assuming you know that your headlines are the most important part of getting your blog posts read… and if you haven’t gotten them down to a science yet, allow me to suggest some resources:
1. 101 Headline Formulas that Capture Attention
3. Headline Formulas & the Science of CRO Copywriting
Yea, got it. Headlines.
But once people click through?
That’s when you’ve really got to hook them to keep their eyes on the page.
And if you’ve been into content marketing for any amount of time, you know that your headline gets people to click through and read your first sentence, and your first sentence gets them to read your second sentence.
And so on and so forth.
So there’s all this advice floating around about how to get that first sentence (and that intro in general) good enough to keep people moving forward.
Advice on why you should make your first sentence as short as possible.
Advice on why you should start with a shocking statistic.
Advice on why you should immediately take a controversial stance, just to piss people off.
But all I see with that advice is that it’s trying to trick your reader into getting their eyes down the page.
Which as a reader, is something that kind of pisses me off, to be honest with you.
I don’t want people trying to trick me.
I’m smarter than that.
You can have the shortest intro sentence on the face of the planet with the most shocking statistic ever, and if the rest of your content sucks, I’m still going to be able to tell. Because I’m not stupid. (And neither are all the other readers on the internet.)
But back to the point.
I know you don’t publish sucky content. Because Copy Power isn’t for content suckers.
But even the most well-meaning of us can get sucked into this bad intro advice because, well, it’s really the only intro advice out there on the internet, and we work so hard on our websites and our business that we want people to read our posts, for crying out loud, so we’ll do whatever it takes!!!
I feel you. Believe me, I feel you.
Starting a business and getting noticed online is hard fucking work.
(Sorry for the F-bomb, but let’s just call it like it is, okay?)
It ain’t easy.
And anything you can do to give yourself a little boost?
You’re going to do it. (Me too, ma friend, me too.)
So here’s what I’ve got to say: STOP TAKING YOUR INTRO WRITING SO DARN SERIOUSLY. And just let it flow.
Yes, just let it flow.
Like that picture of that hippie girl on Instagram.
She doesn’t care if she’s got buggy weeds in her hair, because she’s just letting life happen. She’s taking it as it goes.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you just let your business happen… because these things sure as hell don’t build themselves if left to their own devices.
But I am suggesting that you loosen the grip that you’ve got on your content… at least on your blog posts. And especially on the intros.
Lighten up a bit.
Sure, you can still give great, wonderful, and serious advice.
But you don’t have to be so darn serious about it while you’re doing it.
But omg Chelsea, I’m not creative and it’s sooooo hard to wriiiiteee. I don’t know how to write a better introoooo. :’(
I get that, too.
And to be honest with you, most of the time (especially when I’m writing blog posts for new clients), the intros I write in my first drafts are sucks-ville.
I just spill out something blah, slap it up on the page, and get into writing the grit and meat of the post as quickly as I can.
But by the time I write through that grit, some themes tend to emerge. Or a lightbulb strikes me while I’m writing one particular sentence. So I go back to the top and jot down that idea, to re-work into the intro when I’m doing the second draft.
And then, after about five posts for that client, I start to get better at their voice. So for the intro, I just start writing down whatever the heck I want that I think will fit in with their voice, and I don’t edit myself.
And you know what results?
Stuff like this:
Let me tell you, that intro didn’t come at first. But when that idea popped into my head, I felt soooo smug.
For that particular blog, it was pure genius.
Yes, even though Harry Potter has nothing to do with mobile versions of websites.
Let me give you another example. A letter (you know, the pen-and-paper kind USPS brings you) from a friend I received a few months ago:
I wanted to send you this two months ago, but shipping would have forced me to become a hooker.”
The rest of the letter had nothing to do with international shipping charges or her contemplating a career change.
But she started with a joke, because she’s my friend, and she knew I would appreciate it. She knew it would make her letter-reading experience more enjoyable.
Because, after all, she was writing directly & only to me—her friend.
And when we take the intros of our blog posts (or letters) too seriously?
It DOES NOT seem like we’re writing to our friends.
We can’t write off-the-cuff jokes, because it means we’re not serious enough.
We can’t be irreverent, because it means we’re not intelligent.
But I’ll let you in on a little not-so-secret: your readers are people just like you, who like to be treated as friends, just like you do.
Yes, even when you address them in the opening of your blog posts.
Friends are not overly-formal with each other. And this is really what we’re craving online and in our work lives, too.
Because no one likes serious stiff-necked mumbo jumbo, even if we do have to learn to put up with it.
So your homework is this:
For the next five blog posts you write, don’t even think about the reader-tricking advice you’ve read over and over again about intros.
Write those suckers out to your heart’s content and DO NOT edit your intuition for the first or second draft.
You can edit yourself down on the final draft for brevity, but I’d think you’d be surprised to see how much better your blog posts get. (And how much more your readers actually read them.)
Great post Chelsea,
I agree with your points. Both the first sentence, the middle and every other parts of your contents is as important as the headline.
And the worst mistake that content marketers can make is to use a tricking headline just to get people to click, like you, if i land on your article because of the headline and find out that your article is junk, i will simply go back.
I love the idea of not taken your first sentence too serious, its always better to write from your heart.