Are you loosing readers in your first 50 words?

Bird-Writing good blog leads in 50 wordsWhat do you lead your blog posts with?

I once attended a news writing class where the lecturer only cared about 2 things: what the newspapers had written about that day, and how we could start of in 50 words or less, a story about a recent event on campus.

It had to be under 50 words, and it had to spark interest.

From attending class, I quickly learned to develop a thick skin about my writing and welcome criticism.

Who cares about the bird?

News writers know a great many things about good writing. They know, for example,  the only point of the first paragraph, called the lead, is to spark interest. And the job of the first paragraphs is to lead to the second, which would explain more on the story. So only the most important human-interest aspects of the story lead their writing, and the details are painted in later.

Example: An otherwise mundane story about say a firefighter who had to rescue Mrs. Teshire’s cat, named Lucy that got stuck in a tree that had a rare Galapagos bird nesting, yesterday at 5 p.m. on Grand Avenue could lead:

“The rare Galapagos bird, one among 1000 of its species in the world, was discovered yesterday in attempts to rescue a cat that got stuck in the tree it called home, along Grand Avenue.”

This opener sparks interest by telling you, the reader that a rare bird was accidentally discovered in your town. Questions like, “Who’s cat? Why did it get stuck? Is the bird safe?” might pop into your mind after reading this lead, which means you would read on.

The writer could then paint in details about the event in a few of the next paragraphs, then switch to information or news about the bird, or the reasons why its going extinct, or any other related information.

Do your blog post leads spark interest?

News writing is all storytelling, because it explains things that have already happened. Leads in news writing aim to answer the: who, what, when, where, and why should I care, but only starting off with elements that tempt them to read more.

If you have subscribers to your blog, then sometimes the first mention of your posts is through their e-mails, if a reader clicks on a title, then the lead is what makes them decide if it’s worth reading. So what do you entice your readers with?

Wether you write to entertain, inform, or inspire, the next time you are starting a post think of the headline, then tailor the first 50 words to make your readers stick around to read the rest. Paint a scenario, and then give them solutions, give an anecdote that ties off to the story, or just start by answering the “Why should I care?” and reel them in.

The point of the headline is to get clicks; the point of the first 50 words is to get readers to read the story.

 

Have a better idea for the lead in the example above? in 50 words or less, post it in the comments field below!

Image credit: Flickr-phalinn

This post is part of a series that will get published every Monday on Content Marketing or Blogging, follow me via Twitter or E-mail to receive your daily copy of helpful small business online marketing strategies.

Daisy Quaker is a freelance internet marketing consultant, specializing in social media strategy, content marketing, e-mail marketing and internet marketing strategy, find her on Twitter and tell her what strategies work for your business.

What TMZ and HuffPo can Teach Us About Irresistible Headlines

Whether you succumb to reading gossip on TMZ, or favor more newsworthy articles on Huffington Post, there are common tactics used by writers on both ends for irresistible headlines that can capture readers for your small business website or blog.

Image of Paparazzi Cameras-Headline tips from TMZ and Huffington PostThese tactics re-work basic headline formulas in ways that readers can’t resist. These formulas are used everywhere from the magazines at the check out counter, to the newsletters in your inbox, or just posts on your favorite website. Attention grabbing headlines catch our interest and entice us to read a the story even if it’s just a quick skim.

Is your content not getting the clicks it deserves? Tweaking your headline can be the boost your posts need.

So what headline tips can we learn from a gossip website, and a news site? Take a look at the some I found on both sites, and how they work with basic headline methods.

Arouse curiosity

Shake up the status quo, with a “Why”. If a reader is curious, then they will want to know more. And if they want to know more ,then they will click and read atlas the first paragraphs.Observe the use of the basic “Why” Headline

TMZ:
Why Jamaicans HATE ‘Cool Runnings’
HuffPo:
Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus
Why Promising to Save the Middle Class May Just Not Be Enough!

The why headline is an easy grab of attention because it arouses a casual browser’s interest.  ‘Cool Runnings’, the Disney movie based on a Jamaican bobsled team, is a popular feel good story on persistence. A  common point of view, would be Jamaicans would like the movie, so a title that puts a different spin on that is bound to get clicks. Huffington Post’s headline also puts a spin on a common held belief about evangelicals and their relationship with a religious figure.

Give headlines a teaser of whats to come

A basic numbered lists work really well in telling the reader what to expect. Compare the power between “Get a better body” to “5 Minutes to a better body” Numbers can work in a variety of situations from checklists, to ideas, tips, and tricks.

Huff Po:
7 Reasons Why Diamonds are a Waste of Money

The beauty of it is the writer can talk about a variety of things from the shady history of diamond trade, to newer more precious stones, to how common diamond rings are, to a review of increasing divorce rates and the myth of everlasting love. It works because it sparks interest, and gives a hint.

Pose a challenge in the headline

Ask a question. This basic tactic arouses a reader’s curiosity and make them want to know more. A greatly phrased question can entice the reader to get answers to the question through the story.

TMZ:
“Can Rob Lowe Save ‘Two And A Half Men?’
HuffPo:
Is Cheating Contagious?

Both questions make a reader wonder and challenges them to answer the question, and the only way to know is by reading the continent.

Surprise the reader with the unexpected

In this instance use celebrity names, figures, shows, or a familiar subject with a twist. TMZ is a celebrity gossip site, so the use of celebrity names in unexpected situations is rampant. But even if it is not a tabloid scandal, headlines  about subjects we are already aware of gets more clicks when used in a surprising way.

TMZ:
Michael Phelps — Gold Medal Loser in Real Estate

HuffPo:
What Arranged Marriages Taught Me About Love
What Steve Jobs Taught Me About Stepfamilies
7 Life Lessons You Can Learn From ‘Star Trek’

These headlines take a subject that is commonly known or understood and puts a different spin or context. Arranged marriages are not traditionally seen as loving, and Steve Jobs, the admired innovator, is an unlikely source for inspiration on family bonding. Michael Phelps has been anything but a looser at the Olympics, so putting the unexpected link sparks curiosity.

Inspiration can come from many places, re-working your headlines with these tricks could help make your content stand out and earn you more readers and social media shares.

Image credit: Flickr-practicalowl

This post is part of a series that will get published every Monday on Content Marketing or Blogging, follow me via Twitter or E-mail and never miss a copy of helpful small business online marketing strategies.

Daisy Quaker is a freelance internet marketing consultant, specializing in social media, content marketing, e-mail marketing and internet marketing strategy. Find her on Twitter and tell her what strategies work for your business.

Content Marketing: How to Turn Strangers into Customers

This post is part of a series on content marketing, which will be published every Monday.

Content Marketing-Small Business Marketing TacticSo you have a website that’s up and running for your small business and you want to build traffic, or you have some products or services you want to sell online and want a marketing plan that drives visitors to your site. Maybe  you’re just looking for a way to build a voice for your business, and create a brand online.

This is where content marketing comes in. What is content marketing?  It is basically a term applied to selling your products or services by first building trust with your audience by giving them free information, or valuable tools and resources catered around your service, to create a trust and bond with customers. As a result when you do sell, you have an audience ready to pay attention.

Sound weird?

It is a different way to build awareness about your company and products where unlike a TV or radio ad, where the audience just tolerates your message, you build a real interest and make your site a destination to solve their problems. Because of that, people become active listeners about your services and pay attention to your message.

The beauty in content marketing is that you build an audience that is responsive to your offerings so that you spring to mind when they are looking for services.

Why you should apply content marketing to your business

It’s free

Or relatively low-cost. A small business owner can spend a lot of money pouring into an advertisement that runs on tv/radio for a short period, or they can build a responsive audience through a successful content marketing strategy, that might mean a blog or newsletter service.

Builds an audience that listens

Content marketing works in a field of marketing called permission marketing. Unlike traditional advertising methods such as TV or radio ads, people give you their attention, instead of your message being seen as a disturbance. Your business builds that connection with customers that money can’t buy, so that if they are shopping around for services they know where to go.

Long term impact

Content marketing can help your business in the long run, especially for small businesses looking to grow. By building an audience that listens, shares and tells friends and family about this site, you grow in e-mail subscriptions or just site visits. This interest can outrun any interest built from TV or Radio advertising.

How to get started in content marketing

Write what you know

It’s the advice given to writers everywhere. But don’t write boring puff pieces about your business. Write information that is useful, and applicable to your audience. The idea is if you produce free, valuable content for your customers they will give you their attention and in the long-run their loyalty.

The posts or articles can vary with the interests and needs of your audience, whether its business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B).

If you already have a mailing list for your customers, then a great way to build initial traffic consider starting a newsletter that starts articles that continue on your blog.

And if blogging is not your cup of tea, consider creating more interactions through social media sites such as Facebook or Pinterest by sharing helpful articles or news that people will find useful and engaging with your audience through those channels.

Got a question? Or need some help getting started? Contact me, and I can answer it through e-mail or in a future post, I’m all about making your life easier.