That’s the time you have to capture your reader’s attention.
Seem extreme? Think about your reading habits. Maybe you’re scrolling through your phone between meetings or while you wait in line for coffee. There’s likely a handful of articles where you stop at the headline, never clicking the link. The article you do decide to read, well, it’s possible you don’t make it to the end of the page.
Here’s the research.
Let’s not let this happen to your blog content by doing two things: nail the headline and introduction. Your headline needs to crush it so they click, your introduction needs to rock so they stay.
There are a few rules you can apply in writing both.
1. Keep it short.
Attention spans are shrinking, so keep things short and simple.
Headlines: Here, content needs to be easily digestible not just for readers but for search engines. A search engine will only show about 65 characters, so if your headline is too long, part of it will disappear. According to a HubSpot analysis, headlines between 8 to 12 words in length get the most Twitter shares on average, and headlines with either 12 or 14 words receive the most “likes” on Facebook.
Intros: Generally, keep it between 25 and 30 words. Rarely is there a need for more than 40 (i.e., I used two). Your reader needs to know what your story is and why it matters. They don’t want to wait. To steal an old journalism adage, don’t bury the lead.
2. Meet a need.
If a reader stumbles across your article and it promises to meet a need they have, they’ll likely click. (Disclaimer: don’t become clickbait.) In both your headline and introduction, introduce the problem and communicate how you will help solve it.
Headlines: “How to…” or “Five ways to…” are simple, yet reliable ways to communicate a benefit. Other words to keep in your arsenal include tips, reasons, lessons, tricks, ideas, secrets, and strategies.
Intros: You don’t have to solve the problem you presented in the first line. (That’d be a little unrealistic.) But make sure your reader knows you will so that they stick with you until you get to the solution.
Bonus tip: Make both your headline and opening line personal by using “you” where you can.
Don’t be boring.
Think back to your high school research paper writing days. Not to discredit your skills, but your writing was likely bland. Your headline felt technical, and you probably gave a definition or quote to kick things off in the intro. You’ve graduated, so leave that behind.
Headlines: Don’t be afraid to have fun here. Use strong words and phrases, especially at the beginning, so you catch attention straight away. If it’s appropriate, try injecting humor, or maybe ask a question to get your readers thinking.
Intros: My biggest request here is don’t sound like a robot, sound like a person. That means writing how you speak. You can still use some tried and true introduction strategies — like using a statistic (though it should be one that packs a punch) — just make sure your writing has a voice that connects with your audience. One tip to try is telling a story. This, particularly, is an engaging way to bring your readers into your blog. Keep in mind that the story doesn’t have to be lengthy.
Bonus tip: Your intro doesn’t have to rely on text alone. Sometimes an image is the most effective way to open a blog.
Of course, there’s much more that goes into crafting great content. (Even if your headline and introduction are fantastic, you can’t botch the rest.) But we’ll have more on that later.