In marketing, the first paragraph is almost as important as the title. Marketers have long known that the first paragraph is key in getting the prospect's attention. If you get the attention, they read on. A fatal first paragraph is one that kills the readers interest so they stop reading.
OK, so it is an exaggeration to say it is fatal to not have a good first paragraph. But is it important.
Technology has made this more important than ever because people are dealing with many more messages. This means they read the lead-ins faster and skip more quickly those that do not interest. Google has demanded that the title be what people are searching for or you will not be found. One step in SEO is to use titles that are Google friendly. The problem with this is what is good for Google may not be good for people. There is a struggle - do I title this to be found on Google, or with something my regular returning readers will like.
On my blog, I tend to switch between "person" titles and "google" titles. Eg - I recently reviewed a book - Rippling and titled the blog with a Google title thinking more people would search for that than some title about changing the world one person at a time. But my blog Limit Computer Time for Good Time Management was just titled for my regular readers since it is an unlikely search phrase.
But the first paragraph can be good for both.
Technology also shortens the first paragraph rule to the first 18 words! Why? Most email readers display about 18 words without the reader clicking to open the email (It depends how the user sets up their screen/system). Google searches display an average of 26 words. The number of words we have to get attention is shorter today than ever before. Even Twitter at 140 Characters is about 30 words so 18 or 26 words is short! Technology means we have to get people to physically click to get the rest of our message.
So what are some tricks to "getting opened" and making the first 18 words count?
1 - Eliminate all throw-away words. For example, the old fashioned way of doing a press release was to use precious words with things like date and location. Introducing yourself is also not likely a good use of the first 18 words.
2 - Take time to carefully consider the first 18 words. Work them, re-write, edit, test, etc. Spend the time to make them count. They are likely the most important part of the message. All parts of the message are not equal in importance so spend the time where it counts.
3 - Think about the title. If you are sending an email, then titling for people (not Google) makes sense. You can change the title on the web site for Google and use the "person" friendly title as the first words and still get the good message in the first 26 characters.
4 - Use words that sell. Research the powerful selling words like save, free, you, love, limited etc.
5 - Pique curiosity (my title on this blog entry was intended to do that). People are natually curious - appeal to that.
6 - Appeal to a need they have. Marketing 101 still applies. Speak to what the prospect needs or wants. Speak to their fears and aspirations.
Focus on the first 18 words for greater "opening" success.