Has Blogging Dulled The Power Of Your First Line?
When we’re trying to grow our audiences, we work hard on headlines that get people to click to begin reading. And if we’re smart (and we are), we also work hard to make the first line of a blog post draw our readers in to keep reading. But what happens after we’ve built a community we’re proud of?
Folks tend to make our regularly posted thoughts part of their daily beat, so traffic is pretty stable. And if we’re part of a tribe (formal or informal), we can count on enough shares to make us feel good about ourselves. And depending just how large we’ve grown, those shares can number in the hundreds.
Pretty good, eh?
But at the same time, we’ve slacked off on enticing new readers because we’re content with our community, who we know will come anyway. So headlines like, “It’s Happening Again” or “Just A Note” are followed by inside jokes, personal reflections, and other items that have no relevance to a first-time visitor.
Is that a bad thing? I say no, with the following qualifiers:
It’s rude to publish post after post that has nothing to do with your blog’s goal without explanation or a redirect to something more relevant for new readers. When I subscribe to your blog, it’s because I saw plenty worth reading, and had hopes of more of the same–at least for a while.
When your blog is a powerful platform, you have a lot to prove every time you post. So give us the lighthearted fluff, but add a pith that makes it worthy of your brand or you as the blogger we’ve come to love.
Make sure your first line draws in at least the people who read your stuff every day. So it may not be relevant to new readers, but it should be relevant to your readers, somehow. This is where the inside jokes come in–and invite new readers to laugh with a link for context.
Every blog post is an exercise in starting all over again as a writer. We go through the overconfidence, the self-doubt, the pre-publication jitters, and the publish chills every time we pull up the post editor. So no, we’re not always perfect.
We can use each blog post to keep the zing that brought in new readers fresh, and keep our writing skills sharp. But if you blog for a living or for your business, you also need to make sure your marketing muscle doesn’t get flabby. That means every blog post is also an exercise in building your readership to make progress toward your social media goals.
Have you thought about the techniques you use in your headlines and first lines to draw in readers, old and new?
Thanks for the impetus to write the post percolating for a while, Margie Clayman!
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ShakirahDawud Truer words have not been spoken. "Every post is an exercise in starting over agaian as a writer." That is fantastic and should go for many things that we do. It keeps you from breeding mediocrity.
Thanks for that!
My excitement hasn't worn off yet, but check back in with me in September (That will be one year). I honestly treat every post as if it was my very first, because some babe in the woods new blogger might just stumble upon my site.
I often draft a headline, then constantly go back and tweak it as I write out the post. I seldom start with a finished headline and then let the copy flow. I do pay attention to the first sentence, then the second, then the third ... ;) Crafting copy is something I'm now quite crazy about, but have much to learn. I don't think I'll ever get lazy about it because I enjoy the process that much.
Craig McBreen You've got the spirit that sometimes ebbs and flows among bloggers who've been around a while, but the ones that are most successful find a way to be worth reading no matter what!
THIS is why I can't blog daily. I take it this seriously, have this kind of commitment when I publish. I want to be worth reading, worth sharing, worth subscribing to and have someone go 'hey, let's hire her' every single post. I know it's unrealistic, that a blog is more than the sum of a few posts. But it's something I consider as I try to write better.
I read posts of lists, big names and major blog sites; sometimes it's a lot of good content, but equally there's a lot of 'meh.' Seriously, I have a draft of a few A LIST bloggers with quippy posts - and I can trace back what they wrote, connect it to an older post of mine that shared much the same thing. I'll never write it b/c it's too link bait, too trading on the name/status of someone else. But it underscores so much of what's going on - is it fluff? is it just the same debates, over and over, echoing around ye olde chamber?
IDK back to the headline and lead; we've discussed it before and there have been times I've flipped it, then beginning and the end. Sometimes reversing the bookends actually make a stronger point. Then there's the SEO headline, vs. what'll get clicked, blah blah. Always food for thought, FWIW.
3HatsComm Never in this post did I say it would be easy, did I? Heh heh. It really is unrealistic, but if unrealistic is what you're using as a bar, I'd say we should all do the same thing, because it turns out a gem each time.
I have to quell that link-back, link-around, link-bait impulse every single time I see one like that, and it drives me nuts the fact that I'm not quite mercenary enough that I feel like I could get away with it, lol.
ShakirahDawud IDK I'm smart, I read other smart writers, and I write some decent stuff. Trying to see past the b.s., just get my stuff read and remember, it's very hard to come up w/ something truly new isn't it? Yup, not easy. ;-)
Good advice. I think it helps if you read and respond to others before you publish your blog post. I think of alternate headlines either several hours after I write the post, or I think of a great headline and save it as a draft so I can come up with the post later.
Tinu Your second method is my main go-to. I seem to think in little bites at a time, so I need the headline to sit there while I figure out a way to elaborate on it.
Great observation! After you've been around for a while (right bdorman264 !?) you can become a bit lax and lazy. Not a good idea, I agree. We have to remember that every post may be the FIRST post for some reader(s). The early-day excitement has worn off so I think the challenges is in finding a way to keep that excitement alive.
I'm not very good with headlines, and never have been. But I've not thought a lot about the first lines and will now.
Thanks for the heads-up! :-)
Lori bdorman264 Oh, you and Bill are the old folks on the mountain for sure! But seriously, it's definitely happened to me, where I look back at a headline and go, "What would make ANYone want to click to read this???" And I still have a backlog of posts to "fix" in that way.
ShakirahDawud bdorman264 That's a good question to ask! I just changed a first-line today after reading this ;-) Are you really going back to fix headlines and first lines? That sounds cumbersome!
Lori bdorman264 I have every intention of doing at least the headline changes; but it has to do with the fact that I didn't know anything at all about SEO...
ShakirahDawud bdorman264 Yeah, I learned a little SEO. Sometimes I use it and at other times I can't. I find it's hard to balance all the elements. Besides, as I've said, headlines are not my long suit! Good for you in going back to fix them!
Great points Shakirah. One major consideration that affects some of my titles is SEO. I will often use a less "catchy" headline in order to include a targeted phrase. I try to find a balance -- some posts I just go for the "grab" but sometimes I rely on traffic down the road at the expense of more clickthroughs after publication.
adamtoporek Somehow I left SEO out of this discussion, but that's actually part of the "catchiness" factor, definitely. It's something I get lazy with on my own blog, too, because I want "clever" but people searching are usually not searching for my "clever" phrase. So SEO is another part of keeping headlines and first lines sharp. Thank you for this add.