Headlines, Leads, and Opening Sentences

Headlines, Leads, and Opening Sentences

Why Pay Attention to Them and How to Write Them

Did you know that internet users these days only have an average attention span of 4 seconds? That’s it. All you get is 4 quick seconds in which you have to capture the user’s attention with your content. This audience behavior applies to all kinds of content across all platforms; videos are getting shorter, writing is done in snapshots, and pictures need to say a lot in a glance. Either way, those 4 precious seconds are all a content creator gets to hook the user. If you want users to continue reading for longer written content, it all starts at the top.

What we mean by the top is the beginning of your content. The headline, opening sentences, and leads are the first parts, and very often the only parts, your reader will read, so you have to make them fantastic. Below we will individually discuss everything to know about these three sections of your content, including how to write them to your advantage. 

What Are Headlines?

A headline is a collection of words that sit at the top of an article. These words are few and describe the nature of the article that they are heading. Headlines quickly convey to a potential reader what the article is about, so the reader knows if they will be interested in reading it further. They have to be short, snappy, and relevant to be effective.

Headlines are essentially a small window into the article. They are a way to inform readers and also a way to entice them into reading further.

Why Are They Important?

Looking at headline preferences across gender groups, we can see that females were even more predisposed to “number” headlines than males. Interestingly, across all the questions we asked, this was the only one in which we saw any significant difference among demographic groups:

Like we mentioned earlier, internet users these days have an extremely short attention span, so you need to hook them as quickly as possible. However, headlines aren’t just a way to entice your reader. They are also a way to inform them of the content below. They need to be concise, straightforward, and catchy to inform the reader effectively and prompt them to read further.

Headlines and subheadings also greatly influence the rank on Google’s SERPs and can be used for SEO strategies. Keyword importance is higher for headlines and subheadings as compared to the rest of the content.

How to Write Them

Your headline needs to be short but informative. Make sure your headline isn’t written obscurely; it needs to reflect the article’s subject. It is better to write out a few different headlines for your content before deciding on the right one. Besides this, you need to make it catchy. Headlines can be written in the form of questions or written to give a solution to a problem that the reader is potentially facing. They can be straightforward and informative, depending on the type of content you are writing.

What Are Leads?

Leads are a few sentences featured at the top of your content that touch on the answers of “who, what, when, where, and how” without divulging all the information. They are used as a way to set the scene for the content ahead and give the readers a preview of what they can expect. There are two types of leads, a summary lead, and a descriptive lead.

The former version of a lead is heavily featured in news stories and reports. It condenses the article’s content into a summary without actually filling in the details, prompting readers to keep reading to find out more.

The latter version of a lead is more creative that is used for blog posts and stories to entice the reader to keep reading. These types of leads can be posed as a question or give detail about the upcoming sentences without conveying the backstory. These types of leads get the reader excited to learn more.

Why Are They Important?

Leads are a way to set the tone for your entire piece. They give your content direction and give your reader a view of what they can expect to find in your content. Whichever type of lead you choose to write will determine your reader’s expectations, so choose wisely. It is your insurance to the reader that you will provide them with the information that they are seeking. Not all content features a lead, but including one is advised for garnering your reader’s attention.

How to Write Them

To write an effective lead, you need to write out a detailed outline of your content. Once you have an outline, you will be able to answer the questions mentioned above. Now, you don’t want to give everything away in your lead, so touch on the answers without mentioning any details, so the reader keeps going. If you choose to go for a descriptive lead, answer the curiosity in the following sentences; don’t make your reader search for the answers.

What Are Opening Sentences?

Just like leads, opening sentences are the first few sentences of your content. However, opening lines need to be thought of as small leads at the beginning of every paragraph of your written content. The opening sentence can be used as a quick summary or as an exciting line to keep the reader going every step of the way. They are usually described as the first few lines of written content, but in reality, they are much more than that. They are the writer’s way of ensuring that your piece keeps the reader engaged throughout, and they also create an easy way for quick readers to get the gist of your content without reading thoroughly.

This second point might seem counterintuitive, but it could work in your favor. Instead of losing readers in the first paragraph of your content without them understanding or learning anything from your piece, they can skim through the content and get your point across, albeit without some details.

Why Are They Important?

Opening sentences to your content and for every paragraph are super important because people tend to lose interest as they read further. The sad truth is that only 80% of users that clicked your content will go as far as the first paragraph, 70% to the second, and that number drops to 30% for your fourth paragraph. Opening sentences placed strategically and thoughtfully at the top of each paragraph can help change these numbers for your content.

How to Write Them

Opening sentences act as a hook for readers. They need to be creative, thoughtful and purposefully written. Once your reader gets excited by an opening sentence, they are much more likely to keep reading.

We hope this helps you better your content writing skills!

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