How to get people to read your entire blogpost
By Chris Gillespie, founder of Find A Way Media
Get it started with an empty suitcase
With blogposts, an object at rest remains at rest. Do you know what gets it going?
You have to share enough at the outset to get people interested without giving it all away. Some call this the “empty suitcase” method, where you essentially describe the suitcase without telling the reader what’s in it.
This goes for both your title and your lead. Raise questions, keep the reader guessing, and only hint at what they’ll learn (such as how to get people to read your entire blogpost.)
Pretty simple. But how do we know that it works? Because it’s the de-facto method used by journalists the world around. Here are examples from The Atlantic and The New Yorker:
The New Yorker
These leads leave us wondering what specifically has happened in the news, who Margaret Sanger was, and what Roger Ailes' insights were.
In fact, if you look at enough of these, you start to see some trends.
- Don't give it all away
- Introduce specific names or at least describe their role, “A down and out boxer, a reviled politician …”
- Use precise dates
- Share striking facts
- Surprise you (which is proven to capture attention)
To drive this home, make it part of your morning routine to study the headlines.
And voila! You'll have interest.
If you can get out of your own way, that is.
What makes this method tricky in practice is that most of us were taught in school to write things completely backwards - by starting with the 10,000 ft. view and then coming back to Earth. It makes sense logically, but it’s not very interesting to read.
Just take a peek at a leads that people frequently write on Medium or LinkedIn:
“Sales and marketing need to align because there are numerous mutual benefits.”
“MonMetrics will be sponsoring the Utah Jazz with the Jersey Patch next season.”
“Join Elite Solutions, owner Marc March will be speaking on trended data and how it affects your customers.”
“It can feel frustrating when our ideas fall flat.”
See what we mean? Nothing about those bland admissions withholds any interest. They either tell it all or they're unapproachably philosophical. Instead, become Quinten Tarantino and start in the middle or even the end, with a light jab to the nose. Like this:
The New Yorker
Now you want to know more, right? How’d they steal American humvees? What’s Mosul Dam and why are they headed there? Author Dexter Filkins captures the imagination by offering a lot but withholding even more and with one sentence and you’re hooked.
Perfect that hook and you'll slingshot readers into the body of your blogpost.
Keep that momentum by unrolling the red carpet … slowly
Keep revealing your intrigue as you go along, like you're unrolling a carpet for your audience. Answer their questions, but sew an equal number back in along the way so that they're on a perpetual quest for what the end of it looks like. Here's more from Dexter Filkin's article on Mosul Dam:
Right when the ISIS fighters capture the dam and the story is potentially over, Joe Biden weighs in, and the threat looms even larger. Our interest is again piqued.
But, to pull this off, you need to get your timing right. The most critical part of unrolling the carpet is doing it in as few of words as possible so that your audience flies through it. Don't let them get bogged down or you'll lose them.
Streamline your blogpost by wading back through your jungle of words and testing every one for sturdiness. If you clip it away and the meaning of the piece remains unchanged, toss it out. Keep trimming until it's bare-bones, and then try to cut it down by another 20%.
You will be surprised at how much can be thrown away and when you're forced to think so critically about your word choice, you polish your article to perfection.
Now, how do you know when you're done? When you've got nothing left to say. Don't ramble on, just let it end abruptly when the idea is delivered.
Do all of this - the empty suitcase, the carpet rollout, and the abrupt end - and you'll find that the article is intriguing, snappy, and no longer than your readers want it to be. And that is the key to getting them to read it fully.