A few months ago I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, a book that examines how first impressions have a powerful effect on us on a subconscious level.
Or in other words, we do judge a book by its cover.
Now, let’s think about your article. The one you just published.
When it went live, it was shared on your blog. Of course. But it was also made part of a network within a network.
It became instantly accessible to anyone who has the resources to connect to the internet. It was indexed by search engines, and it was set for discovery by content curators and aggregators.
In the digital world, people see your article in the context of thousands and thousands of other articles that are being shared at the same time, about the same topic, or aggregated by the same outlet or publication.
Now, one thing you should know is that at least 8 out of 10 people who see your article will scroll past it. They will spend less than a few seconds trying to figure out if your article is worth reading or not.
What are they looking for?
Well, they want to be hooked. As simple as that.
In other words, you must convince your readers your article is worth reading even before they click to read it. This, of course, is harder than it sounds.
Because most readers are lazy and bored.
Imagine a long line of people standing in line at the grocery store, after a long day at work. Just when everyone else seems to be there.
Be honest. How many times have you given up on waiting in line because what you wanted to buy wasn’t something you absolutely had to have right then and there?
How many times you forgot to place an online order because you didn’t want to go through the trouble of typing in your credit card details or your shipping address?
Therefore, you must hook your readers within the first few seconds of stumbling upon your article.
In most cases, this is what you have at your disposal to hook your readers:
- Subtitle and/or introduction
Sometimes, as is the case with search engine results, you don’t even get that. Instead, you get something like this:
So, how do you hook your readers?
Well, you have to understand the four main questions they ask themselves every time they stumble upon an article.
The Four Big Questions
- Will I get paid?
- Will I get laid?
- Will I get hurt?
- Will I get to eat it?
These are the four main questions people ask themselves when they’re scrolling through their newsfeed.
They want to earn money, become more attractive, find something to eat, or learn about possible dangers.
They also want information, entertainment, and connection.
Let’s think of an example. Personal development is about making you a better person overall, which increases the likelihood of you earning more and becoming more attractive to the opposite gender.
Current affair blogs try to both entertain and try to offer us crucial insights into the dangers of modern day society.
Interior design blogs teach us how to create a stunning house for ourselves, which accidentally improves our overall mood, but also our chances of attracting others.
It sounds like an oversimplification until you understand that it’s not.
This post is about growing an audience, which:
- Increases the chances of you being able to monetize your blog.
- Enables you to connect with like-minded individuals.
- Who knows? You might fall in love with one of your readers.
The Number One Mistake Most Bloggers Make
Most bloggers believe content to be king.
In many ways, it is.
But no one knows this and no one cares.
No one gives a damn if your articles are the best on the web unless you manage to hook them and get them to click on your articles and read past your opening lines.
If content is king, the headline is heir to the throne. You know, the arrogant little brat that gets all the attention and an army of servants and stuff.
Without a great headline, an intriguing introduction, and a fantastic image, you’re not going to get people to read your article.
It’s as simple as that.
Master the headline, and you’re one step closer to making your readers fall in love with you.
- What’s the value? What do you bring to the table? What are you doing for your readers?
- How do you share that value in a way that makes them curious? Think in terms of implicit and explicit, in terms of questions, answers, sharing the obvious benefit from a different angle.
An Image is Worth a Thousand Words, The Right Image is Worth Twice That
We are visual creatures. We look for a visual representation of the world. That’s how we understand things. That’s how we make sense of the world around us. Even the words we read, or the podcasts we listen to, they all build inside our minds a visual element.
It makes sense that the right image, used at the top of your blog post, can dramatically increase the number of people who click to read your article.
Once they click, that’s already a big commitment on their part, and they’re far more likely to read through until the end.
Realizing this made me change the graphics around this blog. No more stock photos.
Yes, it’s a bit more work, but it’s also a lot of fun to create these custom graphics.
You don’t have to do the same, of course, but you do have to acknowledge just how important the featured image is for your article and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Pay extra-attention to the image you use as a featured image for your articles.
Simplicity is Memorable. Sophistication is Not
This is a simple image. Titled, Price vs. value, it was liked and shared and seen by thousands and thousands of people.
Because simplicity is memorable and sharable.
Sophistication, on the other hand, is not.
Next time you sit down to write your headline, your introduction, and add an image, think about keeping it simple.
Simple is memorable. Sophistication is not.
Warning: It Doesn’t Work Unless You Do
Here’s the thing. Hooking your readers is just the first step.
What’s the second step?
You’ve got to deliver on the promise of value you make in your headline, in your introduction. How do you do that? You’ve got to commit to creating blockbuster articles. You’ve got to make it your goal, with each article you write, to write the best article on that topic on the web.
You’re just clickbaiting readers.
And do you know what readers do when clickbaited?
They will never, ever, ever… ever return to your blog.
The magic happens when you not only deliver on the promise you make in your headline, but you over-deliver.
The hook doesn’t work unless you’re willing to do the work it takes to stand out from the crowd.
The road to blogging hell is paved with mediocre content adorned with irresistible headlines. Don’t go down that path. Nothing can save you.