In blogging for business, the last thing you’d want to be is “downbeat”. (One dictionary definition of “downbeat” is pessimistic, gloomy, negative, and fatalistic.). On the other hand, “downbeat” might be the very effect I want to achieve in order set the mood for my blog post. (The word “downbeat” is a musical term referring to the opening bars of the music, in which the composer sets the mood for the concerto to come.)
The equivalent in blog writing of an orchestra’s downbeat (the conductor’s baton is raised while a hush falls over the audience, then comes down to start the music) is the opening sentence of each post.
From a search engine optimization standpoint, of course, I want to use keyword phrases in the title and in the first sentence, because that helps search engines match my content with the search terms online readers use. Even more important, though, it’s imperative to make the first ten words of any post count.
“Great opening sentences are critical when you’re writing for the internet, where readers have the attention span of fruit flies,” John Hargrave of Mediashower.com says, citing a survey done by Microsoft of more than 2 billion page views, and found that users spend ten seconds on an average Web page On the other hand, the longer you retain them, researchers learned, the more likely they are to stay. At Media Shower, Hargrave says, “we train our writers to spend more time on the opening sentence than any other part of the article.”
Wayne Schmidt agrees. “Whether a story’s fifty words long or a hundred thousand, the most important passage is the opening paragraph. In the few seconds it takes to read it, most readers decide if finishing the tale is worth their time.” Start with a sentence that makes the reader ask a question, Schmidt suggests. (People hate unanswered questions.) It doesn’t have to be a literal question, just something that piques the reader’s curiosity.
Another approach for the “downbeat” is a “tease”, Michael Pollack suggests, withholding a key piece of information till later in the piece so the reader is compelled to keep reading. “What if I said that every TV network, movie, blog, book, and other forms of media use this same tactic?” Writing something that goes against the status quo or conflicts with conventional wisdom is another way to get attention, Pollack points out.
In business blogs, it’s downright important to keep the downbeat upbeat!