Most bloggers are technically terrible writers.
Did I get your attention? If I didn’t grab your interest then I haven’t done my job as a writer. Sure, using a harsh (and basically untrue) statement like that is gimmicky as hell, but, it’s not a bad trick if I don’t overuse it. That punchy single sentence is what is referred to as a one-line hook lead and it is just one of the seven types of leads I am going to talk about in this week’s post.
For those of you who think you aren’t familiar with leads, you actually are. Lead is just the fancy writer-speak word for the introduction to a nonfiction article; your leading sentence. There are many types of leads and many combinations of those types. The type you use will depend upon the purpose of the article, the intended audience and the response for which you are aiming from your readers.
Even if you don’t know it, you are all familiar with at least one specific type of lead: the journalistic lead. A journalistic lead tries its best to hit as many of the five Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why) as possible in the first sentence or two. The reasons for this are twofold: (1)the reader can quickly learn the basics of the story without being led through some sort of mysterious maze and (2) the editor can cut as much of the story as necessary for space later without necessitating any sort of rewrite.
Journalistic leads are generally not the best fit for blog articles. Although you will occasionally want to cover the five Ws right off the bat, it is almost always better to allow your story more of a feature-y feel instead of the hard-hitting pointedness of a news story. As bloggers, we are not often news-breakers. This means that we rarely find use for a journalistic lead and so I am not going to include it in my top seven.
Some types of writing do not require leads: novels, some short stories and other works of fiction rarely have need for a lead. Books are much longer than blog posts or other nonfiction articles so there is more time available for building a story. You can sustain suspense and slowly reveal “the point” because readers have settled in for a long read.
With short nonfiction, like blog posts, you have a very short amount of time to grab your reader and hold on tight. Whether or not you are able to do this is entirely dependent upon the lead that you construct. For this reason, the lead is the most important part of an article. If you can’t get readers through the first few sentences, then the rest of the page is irrelevant.
As I mentioned before, there are many common lead types. However, I am only going to share with you the seven that I have found most useful as a blogger.
A comparison lead is exactly what you’d think: it is simply the comparison of one situation, object, etc. to another. We all know that technology changes every day. You go to bed with the coolest iPod on the planet, but when you wake up it’s passe because it doesn’t have a touch screen. For this reason, a comparison lead lends itself very well to a blog post.
Example: My officemate has a shiny red Motorola Q that makes my Blackberry 7100i look about as high-tech as a block of stone and a chisel. (True story. I am very jealous.)
This one is also very straightforward in definition, but it is often misused or overused. Take a look through your archives and come up with a rough estimate of the percentage of posts that begin with a question. If it is more than 5% then this article is definitely for you. A question lead, when overused or abused is simply a copout for finding the right way to “tell.”
When you are using a question lead, avoid rhetorical questions like: “Are you tired of hearing about the Google pagerank update?” Used correctly and thoughtfully, a question can be a very strong lead. By starting out with a question, you can immediately engage your readers’ by challenging them to think of an answer.
Example: Could you survive a week alone in the wilderness?
If you can find numbers related to your article that are surprising or help tell the story, it can be a great way to get things going. By using a list of numbers to start off your article, you run the risk of scaring off people or boring them to death. Make sure that when you use this lead the numbers are relevant and interesting.
Example: Forty-two percent of college graduates never read a book again.
Blogs started out as personal diaries and some of them are still written in the same conversational style. My writing style often has the feeling of verbally addressing an audience. With readers used to this format, it’s really no surprise that an anecdotal lead can work very well. The personable nature of a storytelling introduction makes the piece feel more intimate than if you were to start with facts or figures.
Example: Sunday afternoon was windy and rainy so it was the perfect time to plug in the electric blanket and catch up on some much-neglected reading. Just as I got perfectly situated in my chair, Sadie decided it was time for her to get her snuggle on as well. The problem is, Sadie requires an active snuggle; one that involves a good deal of petting and scratching, actions that don’t really allow for concentrated reading.
- One-Line Hook
This is the type of lead I used to kick off this article. The one-line hook is one of the most difficult types of leads to write effectively because you have so few words with which to work. Your goal, with a single sentence, is to evoke a strong enough response in your reader to make them stick around for the whole story. One-line hooks work very well for bloggers because our readers often have short attention spans and more than enough other blogs to read. With a one-line hook, you throw your lead out there, wait until you feel the bite and then yank that pole up to ensure that the reader is good and caught. That might be a bit too gruesome a metaphor in our politically correct times, but you get the point.
Example: Most bloggers are technically terrible writers.
A carefully chosen quotation can be just the powerful punch an article needs to really get going. Like Question Leads, Quotation Leads are often overused and should only be used when they are the best choice for the particular story. If you are writing about a particular person, a quotation lead would be a great fit.
Example: “Every writer I know has trouble writing.” – Joseph Heller
I have seen a lot of controversial leads in the past couple of weeks referring to Google. A controversial lead is used to make the reader feel surprise at what the writing is imparting. This type of persuasion tactic shows the reader why they should react a certain way rather than just telling them: “Hey you, Be shocked!” It is subtle enough to help the reader feel that he/she is in control of their emotions and is an effective way of avoiding a condescending tone when you are attempting to get your readers to feel a certain way about something.
Example: Scores of sex offenders in Anderson, South Carolina, will be corralled for Halloween tonight in a move authorities say is needed to keep kids safe as they trick or treat. (From CNN.com, October 31, 2007)
As a writer, you hear a lot about “style” and “voice.” This can be confusing when you also hear that you need to switch things up to keep people interested. When it comes to leads, you are definitely in a situation where you need to switch it up. It is fine to love Question Leads with all your heart, but if you commit to a monogamous relationship with them your writing will become boring, tired, too predictable.
As you learn different types of leads, you will become more adept at choosing the right lead for a story. If you use a different type of lead for each article you write in a week, that doesn’t mean you are lacking style. It doesn’t mean that you haven’t found your voice. What it means is that you are educated enough as a blogger to have many choices when it comes to the most critical section of an article: the beginning.
Why Doing this Works Better than Asking for Business Referrals
After I released my flagship eBook – How to Retire to a Life of Island Hopping through Smart Blogging – I noticed something neat. My sales increased 12 fold the day I published a guest post for a highly successful blogger.
Seeing this spike clued me in to the quickest, easiest way to increase business: help people for free. Being generous improves skills, increases exposure and expands your business. Greater traffic and profits follow generous bloggers because helping people for free helps you be skilled and see, two qualities in every prospering blogger who reaps sweet blogging profits.
A large set of bloggers goes in another direction. Some ask for business referrals from trusted blogging buddies to drum up business. Feel free to take this route but know referral fishing is an ineffective way to drive profits because of two clear reasons:
- referral-seeking seems to be time-wasting
- referral-seeking rarely inspires trusted bloggers to take clear, business-building action, for you
I know 20 plus web developers. A few trusted blogging web developer buddies have reached out to me, seeking referrals. Two issues arise:
- the referral seeker has no idea if I know bloggers needing web development; non-targeted campaign
- I already know 20 plus developers, trusted buddies all, so I could never choose one to refer to someone if 20 seem qualified
Top Bloggers Become Ruthlessly Effective with their Time
Versus seeking referral business by asking blogging buddies if they know someone requiring your service, spend 20 minutes to write and publish a quality guest post for a blogger in your business niche. Instead of pitching 1 human, show off your web development skills for free, via a guest post, for 1,000 people. Do you see what I mean? Leverage. Do not ask for business. Serve for business. Although time needs pass and generosity needs inclusion in blogging business-building, helping for free is the quickest, simplest way to increase blogging business because you reach large, targeted audiences of clients with your attention and energy versus asking 1 person for business in non-targeted, ineffective fashion.
12 Times Daily Sales
I recall the day vividly, 5 years ago. I created and launched Blogging From Paradise. Before writing 100 plus eBooks, I wrote one. I did drive some sales through my blog but guest posting woke me up; why not leverage my presence and grow business by helping people for free, via different platforms? Eye-opener for me. Instead of asking, I gave. How easy? Giving freely is the easiest way to get freely. I observed a 12 times daily sales eBook increase for good reason that day: helping people generously through sites other than your blog is a simple way to grow your blogging business.
The simplest, direct, effective way to grow your business is to help people for free. Asking for referrals leads to a client or customer here and there, but full time bloggers are not in the “here and there” business as far as growing your venture. Pro bloggers drive steady profits through their blog by being generous on their blog and on other platforms.
Be helpful for free. Publish posts. Submit guest posts. Run a podcast. Broadcast live on Facebook. Help people for free to help people for pay. Versus untargeted referral-seeking, this is the effective way to grow your blogging business from a generous, genuine energy.
Why Does It Take Time to Be a Successful Blogger?
Successful bloggers implore you: it takes time to succeed.
I advise following your fun, helping people generously, trusting the process and seeing the blogging journey through. I mention in my eBook how time saving tips make your journey easier. But in the same regard, this journey takes time. Impatient bloggers weed themselves out. Generous, patient, persistent bloggers succeed. Sometimes, successful bloggers realize not the time element and how it works, and never explain in detail why it takes time to succeed. Why do you need to be patient? Why does it take time to succeed? I uncovered 3 reasons why it takes time to be a successful blogger.
1: It Takes Time to Practice a Skill So You Become Really Good At It
Today, I can write 10 to 20 blog posts daily if I so desired. I could easily create 20 videos daily.
10 years ago, I could write 1 blog post weekly and feared doing videos, to where, I never recorded videos as a newbie blogger.
Generous practice plus time made me prolific. Nobody gains skills in 1 day. Humans gain skills practicing 1 craft daily for months, then years. I love basketball. A handful of NBA players disclose how terrible they played after picking up a ball for the first time, 5 or 10 years, prior. Patient, persistent practice and time polished their skills to the point they became successful enough to go pro. Blogging is no different. Successful bloggers practice daily for years before being skilled enough to become a pro.
2: It Takes Time to Gain Big Exposure
Gaining big exposure for success takes time. Every creative act expands your presence a little bit more but those little bits add up over time. New bloggers blind themselves to this concept, believing 1 day and 1 blog post gives them successful exposure enough to make money and gain clout. Nope. Time reveals persistently generous bloggers because getting massive exposure requires months to years of generous, patient, persistent service.
No human can begin blogging at 8 AM as a new blogger and land a Forbes appearance by 12 noon. Nobody knows you. You have no exposure. Humans require time to create and connect in enough spots to gain success promoting exposure. Relax. You are on the way. But allow for time and generosity to leverage your presence. Time is required to be seen in many places.
3: It Takes Time to Uncover and Feel and Release Fears
Do you want to know why I wrote this post? I uncovered this reason a few moments ago. I noticed one income stream yield lesser amounts over the 2 days prior and felt a tiny but palpable surge of fear. Aha! I got you. Feeling fear, I released it and proceeded. I blogged for 10 years. I still feel tiny fears if an income stream yields less money, day to day, based on my expectations. But I needed to face this fear to make more money. New bloggers generally have deep fears concerning money, success and freedom. It takes time to feel and release fears concerning making more than $1 a day until you vibe at the $100, $1000 or $10,000 monthly – or more – level of blogging income.
Time unearths fears for feeling and releasing, to reach the next level of blogging success.
Time is a great blogging ally.
All you need flows to you over time.
Generously create, connect, follow your fun and nudge into fears.
Success is yours.
What Does Your Blogging Network Look Like?
I do nothing on my own.
Everything is a team effort.
As I teach in my blogger networking eBook, the way to increased, ever-expanding blogging success is to look for, grow and tap into a huge, loyal network of blogging friends through the power of generosity. Be generous. Help people. Shout out fellow bloggers. Release expectations. Get super connected. Most of us understand this is how to succeed online; be generous and get connected because 100 is better than 1. 100 friend efforts are far better than your effort alone.
One basic problem arises for most new or struggling bloggers: overcoming the deep fear of networking. For odd reasons, humans cling to pulsating fears concerning reaching out to other human beings. Bloggers fear being rejected, failing, being criticized or giving up credit for their blogging success. Honor that fear. See how far you get on your own steam. Not only that, the agony of micro-managing makes you sick, broke and quite dumb, if you are honest with yourself. How silly of you! Why do everything on your own today? Why not comment genuinely on a few blogs, retweet a few blogger blog posts and mention a few bloggers on your blog? Begin networking. Build a network. Succeed online.
What’s It Look Like?
Be honest, my blogging sweet robbins. What does your network look like? Is it even there? Do you even have a network? Many bloggers publish a post, share it to Twitter and Facebook and sit there, dumbfounded. Do you honestly believe your network just materializes out of thin air? Nope. But if you buy my eBook, follow my 13 steps and build your blogger buddy network by being generous, you can land on famous blogs, earn coin and drive traffic to your blog, too. Everything hinges on your honesty. Admit having only 1, 3 or zero blogging buddies. Truths set you free to network generously and successfully.
How to Grow Your Network
Simple. Be generous. Begin now. Publish a thoughtful, personalized comment below. Be seen. I cannot read all comments but the thousands of people who read blogging tips tend to read comments. Somebody eventually reads your blog comment if you comment genuinely and generously every day on Blogging Tips after reading posts. Someone clicks your link because they love your comment and want to meet you. One visit to your blog later, you may have a blogging buddy, or even a client or customer. Or maybe you have a loyal reader. This is networking 101; be generous, engage people and you build your network.
But do not stop after commenting on Blogging Tips. Branch out. Go wide. Read and comment genuinely on other blogs in your niche. Make more friends. Life gets easier and easier if you have more blogging friends in your corner because these folks inspire you to keep going, plus your friends amplify your presence exponentially.
Be generous and genuine. Reach out to more bloggers every day. Networking is a bit uncomfortable sometimes if you look for immediate returns but gliding through these temporary feelings helps you tap into something special with your blog. Connected bloggers have no issues growing their blogging business because 100 is better than 1. Remember that they next time you try to go lone wolf with your blogging campaign.
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