Are you blogging? If so, how much attention are you paying to your headline? Are you burying your main point? Your headline and first paragraph are the most important writing you do because they determine if your readers continue reading.

Suppose your potential clients are receiving your blog as an RSS Feed. All they will see is your headline. When they look at it, they will ask: “What’s in it for me to read on?” Suppose your potential client  clicks on the link to your blog and reads your first paragraph. They will ask again: “What is in it for me to read further?”

So what does this mean? You have to write a compelling headline and first paragraph to persuade your clients to read further.

When I wrote my monthly column for Roads and Bridges magazine, I did not appreciate it when the editor changed my headline. In many instances the editor thought plays on words, or being cute, would capture the readers’ attention.

Instead of letting you look at a few blog posts and decide whether the lawyer writer has captured their readers attention, I thought I would take a couple of headlines and first paragraphs of my Roads and Bridges columns and let you decide.

The first is a column the editor titled: Bridge Project Marred in Contract Misrepresentations. While I think the headline could have been better, I do believe bridge builders would want to read on. I think my first paragraph was pretty effective. Here is what I said:

“Do you clearly understand the contract requirements that affect the work prior to bid? Sometimes knowing what your obligations are should cause you not to bid. Unfortunately, some contractors just have to bid anyway. That was what happened in D.C. McClain, Inc. v. Arlington County, 452 S.E.2d 659 (Va. 1995).”

What made that first paragraph effective? I believe more than anything else, it was my use of the word “you” and asking a question for the reader to answer.

Now let’s look at one that I did not do as well. In this column, the editor chose Over Done as the title. While that is cute, it is not compelling. In the column I discussed a really important case for contractors, but here is how I began the column.

Long ago, there was no requirement to have a differing site condition or significant change in the character of the work clause in the state standard specifications. As some contractors know, Congress left a loophole under which states could “opt out” of having the clauses, and some states have done so.

While everything I said was true, contractor readers do not want a history lesson. They want to know how the new case impacts them and what they need to do. I did not get to those points until later in the column. So, I buried the lead, to use the journalism phrase.

How effective are your headlines? Will your potential clients want to read further? How effective is your first paragraph? Are you burying your lead by giving history lessons? If so, your potential clients may never get to your main point.

Want to learn more about creating a blog that will attract new clients and benefit your existing clients?  Take a look at my latest Practical Lawyer column: Practical Tips To Make Your Blog More Valuable. Also, consider coming to visit me in Dallas, where we can spend a Saturday morning (or another morning), working on your blog posts.