You know advice is solid when it never expires.
Every few months I find myself pulling out a one-page handout from 2011 to send to a client or friend that’s starting to blog. So far, I haven’t made any major changes to the handout. I’ve quibbled with a few words here and there, but the core points remain the same – they’re timeless.
So if you’re setting out on a new adventure to write an online article or blog post, I’ve got four tips to help you craft a piece that will snag and keep a reader’s attention.
1. Give your article a magnetic headline.
Your headline is your first opportunity to sell your article to readers. If it’s not attractive, no one will click on the link to read your entire article.
A few surefire headline winners courtesy of Copyblogger:
- Here is a Method that is Helping [blank] do [blank]
- Get Rid of [problem] Once and For All
- Have a/Build a [blank] You Can Be Proud Of
- What Everybody Ought to Know About [blank]
- How To Do [blank]
- 7 Tips For [blank]
- 5 Ways To [blank]
- Question conventional thinking (ex. Is the World Really Round?)
Specific numbers in headlines and actionable items never fail to get attention. Also, don’t be afraid to use questions in your headlines. Besides piquing curiosity, many people type questions into search engines.
2. Start strong.
The opening paragraph, next to the headline, is the most important thing. You’re still convincing the reader that your article is worth reading. Write with the purpose of persuading your reader to read the next sentence.
You’ll want your main point to go in the opening paragraph—that way it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle in case the reader only has time to scan the article. It will also convince the reader that you will deliver on your headline.
3. Make your content scanable.
We’re in a constant battle for attention. People have other things on their mind when they start reading your piece, and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to find the information they are looking for.
To make your content scanable:
- Keep paragraphs short.
- Utilize bullets or numbered lists.
- Break up your article into different sections with sub-headings.
- Bold or italicize key quotes or points.
4. Stay focused.
Don’t go off on tangents. Readers will close the browser tab if you do.
If you find yourself wandering into another topic, make a note to focus on that subject in your next post. You can’t take a deep dive in every topic you touch upon in one article nor do readers expect it.