The conductor raises his baton. A hush falls over the audience. And then – the "downbeat", the opening bars of the music, sets the mood for the concerto to come. The equivalent in blog writing? The opening sentence of each blog post.
I thought about opening sentences and downbeats when reading the first sentence of a recent Indianapolis Business Journal article about potholes:
"Alignment shops and dentists started celebrating last September." IBJ reporter Chris O’Malley goes on to explain, "That’s when contractors hired by the city began milling worn-out asphalt on downtown streets."
As a freelance SEO copywriter, of course, I want to use keyword phrases in the title and first sentences of each blog post to help search engines match my content with the search terms online readers used. Blogging, after all, has an element of "science" to it as well as art. Diane Corriette of Mindsetofablogger.com uses the 80/20 rule, with keywords in the title and opening sentence at least 80% of the time.
But search engine optimization aside, the press release aspect of writing for business
dictates that the first ten words of any post be effective in engaging interest. And, when it comes to writing in general, Ruth Belena of Helium.com takes this idea one step further: "The importance of an opening sentence," says Belena, "is so great that many writers wait until they have completed a book, or finished a piece of writing before they focus on the first few lines. Some writers spend more time," she adds, "writing, reviewing, and revising an opening sentence than on the rest of their writing."
So how can blog writing for business make the most effective use of all this advice about amazing opening sentences? The Happy Freelancer says opening sentences can:
- Raise questions in readers’ minds
- Illustrate a provocative scene
- Connect with readers
In doing corporate blogging training, I think I can use the IBJ opener to add a fourth item to the list: Startle readers. (What on earth do dentists and alignment shops have in common?)
Naturally, blog content writers are going to be upbeat about their own businesses. And naturally, companies are going to use their blog posts as part of their marketing strategy and tactics development.
But, in offering business blogging assistance, my Say It For You question has to be:
Do your blog posts begin with a "downbeat"?