December 18, 2017

Five webpage leads to try

And three to avoid

It’s been proven in the lab. Feature leads:

webpage leads to try

Lead the way Write a webpage lead that grabs attention and gets the story started. Image by Redd Angelo

  • Increase readers by 300% and reading by 520% (Groove HQ)
  • Boost social media shares (Reuters Institute)
  • Enhance readership, understanding, engagement, interest, satisfaction and more (The Poynter Institute, The Readership Institute, the American Society of News Editors and the Newspaper Association of America)

At the same time, mobile web visitors get visibly angry at websites that waste their time.

The solution: a snappy feature lead that grabs attention, reveals a concrete detail about the topic — and does it all in 25 words or less.

Five webpage leads to try

Here are five types of webpage leads that work.

1. Use two, not five, Ws. For this approach, you answer the reader’s two most burning questions: “What happened? Why should I care?” or “What is it? Why should I care?”

Fill your appointment book and get some buzz for your clinic with our spay/neuter blitz grants.
— PetSmartCharities.org

2. Snappy synthesis. Steal this newsy lead approach from The New York Times:

Russia has a new enemy: the currency markets.
The New York Times
From Aging to Zumba, Saint Luke’s Health System sponsors hundreds of classes, screenings and events in Kansas City.
— SaintLukesHealthSystem.org
Location is everything: Some cities have too many homeless dogs and puppies; others have too few.
— PetSmartCharities.org

3. Stakeholder benefits. For this approach, try this formula:

X (users) who have struggled with Y (problem) will now be able to Z (benefit), thanks to A (product or service).

Notice how much more newsworthy and interesting this lead is than the traditional product page lead, which is dated, formulaic and — let’s face it — dull.

The 2,000 commuters who now spend an hour each day driving from Sunrise Beach to Osage Beach will soon be able to make the trip in 15 minutes.
The reason: a new, $24 million bridge that Community Transport Corp. will build this summer.

4. Data point. Grab attention with a startling statistic that sets the stage for the story.

Today, more than 40% of fourth-grade children read below the basic level for their grade.
— Visa Reading Is Fundamental program

5. Illustration. Show, don’t tell, through example.

Is your brother-in-law bidding on an XYZ contract? Does your husband work for the competition? Is your neighbor applying for a job in your department?
— Company intranet conflicts of interest page

Three webpage leads to avoid

Avoid webpage leads that are:

1. Abstractions. Don’t tell instead of show:

In agriculture and the general economy, change can happen fast, and when it does, the ripples are often felt in the value of collateral.

I call these “Yup!” leads, as in, “Yup! I’m sure that’s true. I just don’t want to know any more about it.”

Instead, draw readers in with a concrete detail that grabs attention and illustrates the point of the story.

2. Background. Don’t drown readers in history, definitions or context:

The 18th installment of the Heartland Monitor Poll explores how average Americans feel about the state of childhood in our country today. The Heartland Monitor program is a way for XYZ to reach out to local communities and take a quarterly temperature check on what the middle class thinks about the issues that are important to them. XYZ’s most important role is to protect middle class families, and we believe that our employees represent the very communities that XYZ is fighting to protect. It is for these reasons that XYZ invests in programs like Heartland Monitor. Heartland Monitor polling not only allows XYZ to make a direct connection with Americans who are our customers and consumers, but the quarterly reports are used to demonstrate for lawmakers in Washington why they should turn their attention to local communities and focus on issues that are important to the middle class.

Move the “But-this-is-part-of-a-bigger-story section to the third paragraph, where it belongs.

3. Blah-blah text. Welcomes, introductions and other types of blah-blah copy cause visitors to bypass your lead, according to the authors of How People Read on the Web.

Welcome to our site. We hope you will find our new and improved design helpful.

What type of lead will get your webpage read instead of skipped?

  • Writing For the Web and Mobile in Chicago

    People devote 86% of their time and attention to the upper two-thirds of a mobile screen, according to a study by Briggsby.

    Chicago Writing For the Web and Mobile workshopAt Writing For the Web and Mobile — a two-day digital writing Master Class on June 12-13, 2018 in Chicago — you’ll learn to reach them where their eyes are.

    Specifically, you'll learn to:

    • Organize your webpage using the temple structure. Designed for the web, it's the most effective way to help visitors find what they're looking for online.
    • Choose from 5 types of web leads that work. And learn 3 common approaches to avoid.
    • Tear down obstacles to reading your webpage by passing The Palm Test.
    • Get found and clicked. Help Google and humans figure out what your piece is about with 6 quick tricks.
    • Pass the 80/20 test. Put your key messages where readers will be 84% more likely to find them.

    Learn more about the Master Class.

    Register for Writing For the Web and Mobile Workshop in Chicago.


    Browse all upcoming Master Classes.

    Would you like to hold an in-house Writing For the Web and Mobile workshop? Contact Ann directly.

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