How to Nail the Opening of Your Blog Post

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The opening four notes to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony are the most popular notes in Western music.

Dun dun dun dum

They are stormy. Heroic. Disorienting. Short enough to be remembered. Portentous enough to be memorable.

Today you’ll find those notes everywhere. In movies, commercials, and songs when the dramatic and foreboding are needed … And we hardly bat an eye.

We recognize them, we know them, and we love those first four notes. Not so for Beethoven’s opening night at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien in 1808.

One contemporary composer of Beethoven — one who represented the consensus — said, “That sort of music should not be written.”

But it was, and Beethoven has been well rewarded for his courage to create the remarkable.

In fact, when it comes to creating a blog post that opens with a bang, that’s exactly what you need … the remarkable.

Brian has already told you how to get there by using these five methods:

  1. Ask a question.
  2. Share an anecdote or quote.
  3. Invoke the mind’s eye.
  4. Use an analogy, metaphor or simile
  5. Cite a shocking statistic.

Now I’d like to give you ten examples of those five methods in practice … and why they work.

10 examples of blog posts that nailed their openings …

A Real Simple Solution to the Death of Google Reader
What makes this post work so well is that Jerod Morris hijacks the Pope’s resignation to talk about the impending death of Google Reader … tying both together with a plume of smoke. It’s a dramatic, vivid opening.

What’s Your Excuse for Not Achieving Your Goals?
Robert Bruce opens up with a headline that hits you in the gut. After you’ve taken a breath, you are then hit with the definition of the word “excuse” … complete with the pronunciation. After that he rolls out, staccato-style, a litany of typical excuses we’ve all been guilty of saying. It’s hard to pull yourself away. He completes it with the one-word question that makes us all keep reading.

How Three Drag Queens in a Bus Lead to Better Blogging
The headline is irresistible (and one of the best examples I can find of the fascination hook), and the first sentence is an enticing question. Then James Chartrand introduces the benefit  to keep reading. Furthermore, this headline and opening is equally delicious for the inside joke … what we didn’t know about James when this post was published. And you can read that story here.

The #1 Conversion Killer in Your Copy (And How to Beat It)
Sonia Simone opens with the benefit first, asks a series of questions meant to identify a problem you can relate to, and then amplifies that problem with the next two sentences. Next, she anchors the problem with a vivid metaphor (the troll under the bridge), and finally proceeds to tell a story about her life … which  is really about the jaded consumer.

8 Bad Habits that Crush Your Creativity And Stifle Your Success
That’s a great headline to begin with: creativity and success … and what you can do to enhance either … are bona fide attention getters for a mass audience. The 2,500 plus tweets and nearly 3,000 Facebook likes prove this. Dean Rieck then keeps the momentum going with a comical quote from Robert Frost … and launches into the science of intelligence and creativity.

The Inigo Montoya Guide to 27 Commonly Misused Words
You can’t go wrong with a reference to one of the world’s best-loved movies: The Princess Bride. Talk about finding a cultural hook that will resonate! Brian Clark then hits our insecurities of looking dumb when it comes to misspelling words, making this opening irresistible, so we keep reading.

The Glass Ceiling, the Inner Circle, and the Key to Building a Popular Blog
Read any of Jon Morrow’s blog posts and you’ll encounter a killer opening. But this one is his best because he tells a story about himself that we ultimately all see ourselves in. And the cool part is you don’t even know it’s happening. You are just with Jon … his story … and falling down the page in a dream-like state.

The Eminem Guide to Becoming a Writing and Marketing Machine
This is another example of a personal story that works. And here’s why it works. Sean Platt, in less than ten paragraphs, makes an about turn on a topic he was utterly convinced about. And that he chose a controversial figure … one whom everyone in the world snubbed at one time. But, as Sean explains, you’ll change your mind as you discover the true quality of Eminem’s content.

8 Strange Rituals of Productive Writers
Writers love learning about other writers. Even the boring stuff like what they do when they wake up. But mention that these routines are strange, we strain our necks like were passing twisted wreckage on the side of the road. That’s what this headline accomplishes. In six plain words. But Kelton Reid doesn’t stop there. He then unfolds a yarn about baseball player Ichiro Suzuki’s odd care of his baseball bat … and it’s equally odd how Kelton even got that story.

How to Become an Exceptional Writer
Leave it to me to include my own article on a post about best openings, but I think this opening does one thing very well … it slowly leaks out a story that pulls the reader along … enhancing the story with concrete details, an international rock star, and concluding the opening with a short dialog that  encourages the reader to keep reading.

Over to you …

Granted, while these blog posts are great, none of them will ever achieve the status of Beethoven’s dun dun dun dum … but that’s okay, because with a blog post all you need to do is get the attention of your reader, and keep it. And that’s why these blog  post openings are truly remarkable.

Can you share other articles that open with a bang? On Copyblogger or elsewhere? Post in the comments below …

About the author

Demian Farnworth


Demian Farnworth is Copyblogger Media's Chief Copywriter. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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Comments

  1. Nothing beats Nathan Hangen’s “The Mercenary’s Guide to Building
    Your Internet Marketing Empire”:

    “I don’t kill people for money (I do that for free).”

    BOOM! How can you not keep reading that?

    One simple opening from my own article, “How To Network Like The A-List”

    “Why do some people in the entertainment industry get the best jobs and the biggest breaks, while others have to fight for every inch of opportunity?”

    http://careergreenlight.com/mastermind

  2. It isn’t just the headline, but the first few sentences that keeps them. Like the barb is to the hook, so are opening lines to a headline…

  3. Good post. I’m working on a similar post…It explored the art of a killer opening sentence, so this was helpful. :-)

  4. Love this piece Demian! And reading Robert Bruce’s post just motivated me to have a kickass day.

    What are your thoughts about Seth Godin’s openings? He very rarely has a drawn out opening. Oftentimes it is just a sentence or two before he jumps right into his point. Do you think this is because he is so good at crafting compelling openings in few words … or because he is so respected that just the byline being “Seth Godin” is enough of an “opening” to compel full, enthusiastic reads of his typically short posts without much shock and awe at the beginning?

  5. Bad opening lines kill you. 90% of the guest post submissions I receive on one of my blogs (usually trying to link to an online degree site) start with a vague sentence that’s supposed to situate the reader in the subject at hand. Lifeless. Boring. And I’ve learned the articles don’t get better as they go along. Show some spunk, people!

    • We like spunk. :D I wonder if that is the function of people being bred on creating quick, light SEO content … the more articles I can write the more money I can make?

  6. I like Jon Morrow’s “The Art of Being Interesting.”

    “Be interesting.”

    It’s good advice, but it’s nothing new. You’ve probably known from the beginning that being able to interest readers is a crucial part of growing a popular blog.

    It’s pretty obvious that no one is going to stick around unless they find your blog interesting.

    But how are you supposed to do it exactly? How can you “be interesting?”

    I’m glad to be a part of Jon’s GuestBlogging course because the feedback I receive on opening and closing paragraphs in addition to content is invaluable.

    Thanks for this post! I copied + pasted it into Evernote.

  7. Demain:

    Thanks for the post. This was great. For everyone commenting, I am a new blogger and I really want to get great at my headlines.

    Quick question:
    I try to write for my audience instead of SEO, but I want to be found as well so I use Scribe and Yoast’s SEO tools to help me out. Yoast tells me to put my keyword in the blog title, which often kills the pow. How necessary is it to have the keyword in the title? What do you guys do?

    Thanks in advance!

    Eddy

    • If it’s killing your headline, think about why. Your keyword phrases are the expressions people are using to find what they want on the web, so they shouldn’t be “unnatural.” Sometimes when it’s hard to get your keywords in the headline, it’s because you’re being “clever” instead of straightforward.

      Other times, though, it just doesn’t quite work. If that’s the case, put them in the title tag, not the headline, as part of a clear, reader-friendly title. (They should be in the title tag either way.)

      We have lots of headline advice for you in our Copywriting 101 ebook, you can get it here: http://www.copyblogger.com/copywriting-101/ (it’s free).

  8. Beethoven did something despite the fact many people said that he shouldn’t have. Thats courage.

  9. ahhh- can someone please tell “James” to speak with Gini over at Arment Dietrich/Spin Sucks? She did the same thing. I’m sure that if she hasn’t found that link already that she would love to have/read/re-post it. 2013 people, that’s all I’m saying. Chris- yep, I’m a chick.

  10. Awesome! Love the examples. My favorite is James Chartrand’s headline :)

  11. This article by Sonia Simone, posted here on Copyblogger, had the most chilling opening I’ve read to date. Not just because of the way she set the scene, but also because I saw myself in it. It hit me square in the heart, scary and wonderful all at once. http://www.copyblogger.com/time-to-step-up/

    • Oh yeah, that was a potent. Thanks for calling that one out.

      • Glad to see that one added in by Malinda. It’s one of my favorites — as are several of the others you listed.

        “Fight the guitar … and win” still resonates. Not sure how long ago I originally read it, but I knew immediately upon clicking over that I had read it, and loved it.

        Stories and metaphors can be incredibly powerful, used with creative wisdom. Thanks for this extraordinary post, Demian.

  12. I believe in getting emotional attached with my readers..

    Instead of telling other people about the good, I always tell them what bad can happen with you… :P

    I start with negative things and ends with positive moral.. This is how I roll :P

  13. The article has a lot more informative information than just merely focusing on writing the content. It becomes very important to grab the attention of a viewer in the times when he’s least interested in reading the full paragraph. That is the time when the title plays the role of catching the eye.

  14. I love when bloggers grab my attention with surprising comparisons or anecdotes. Especially when they’re comparing something seemingly incomparable like usability testing and cute dogs.
    Good example of both – captivating title and catchy 1st line with shocking statistics?
    http://blog.hubspot.com/reimagined-mad-men-era-ad-campaign

  15. It´s not only the opening headline – it´s a mixture about the headline, the next one or two phrases in the beginning of the article and very often also the picture to the article.
    Not so many bloggers put a recognition value in their opening – lika a short phrase that everybody know that this is another article of Mr./Mrs. X

  16. Well said. Capturing the attention of your reader is the key to any blogger, and this must be done instantaneously to provoke and compel them to read through and let them crave for more….

  17. Who has never for once loathed his or her job and seriously considered quitting to change a godless world?

    So, I vote Jon Morrow’s guest post at ProBlogger.net as my most cherished blog post with a bang headline!

    “How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World.”

    http://www.problogger.net/archives/2011/05/18/how-to-quit-your-job-move-to-paradise-and-get-paid-to-change-the-world/

  18. Great point about lists, or giving the audience an exact figure of bullet points. I suppose this makes reading a post seem more manageable.

  19. I came up with this one for my golf website at this post http://www.talkinggolfonline.com/long-putter-ban/.

    “Golf as we know it is under threat”

  20. I honestly feel that the introduction to your blog post is the most important part. On most of my blogs homepages, I show the introduction, and then use the more tag, that way people can skim over the home page and decide for themselves which posts they want to read. Without a proper, catchy introduction, the viewers will have no incentive to click and continue reading.

  21. Great examples. One thing I might add is the rest of the article needs to be great, too. Nothing turns me off more than a headline and opening that misrepresents the rest of the post just to grab attention.

  22. I feel its not only the heading or the starting para but the whole content that needs to be well crafted, written and presented …

  23. Great openings and exciting headlines, however one thing I feel has been fogotten is shareability. You do want your headline to be short enough to also work in a tweet, and a retweet. But nailing it all in just a few words, now there’s the magic!

  24. Great points. I have always tried to ask my readers a question in opening so they will be thinking of how they will respond to it after they finish in the comments.

  25. These are all great examples of headlines and openers. But what if a segment does not get it? I personally think that any reference to Inigo Montoya is awesome but some younger people may have never seen the Princess Bride. (Andre the Giant steals the show IMO) Or does knowing your target audience come into play here?

    • The question you have to ask yourself is: do I care about that segment? We can’t be all things to all people. It’s the generation X stories and songs that Brian originally shared that drew the crowd and why they stick around.

    • You can’t please everyone. If you try, you’ll please no one. So don’t sweat those who don’t get it, and delight those who do.

  26. Good topic and ideas . Thank you

    The following is one I used recently that caught people’s attention and the open rate for people getting the email was very high in comparison to my average experience

    Here it is:

    What Can You Teach The Oldest Profession?