According to Time, that’s how long the average human’s attention span is these days.
For content marketers, that means grabbing someone’s attention is a lot of work and you have less time than ever to do it. This requires more than a little bit of strategic thinking.
How do you claim your readers’ attention? Is it even possible?
The truth is, you still have the chance to do it, but that chance is slimmer than ever.
It all comes down to your introduction and the first few sentences.
But no pressure! 😉
To help you craft that picture-perfect intro, here’s everything you need to know about crafting killer blog intros in the modern world.
Why Are Your Blog Intros So Important?
In a world of rapidly shrinking attention spans, the intro serves a critical purpose: it hooks the reader like bait hooks a hungry fish.
Today, people are accustomed to making split-second decisions about people, places, topics, and yes, online content. They swipe right or left, so to speak, without giving much thought to anything beyond how the thing in question makes them feel at first glance.
This can easily be bad news for your online content because it means that anything that doesn’t jump off the page as interesting, exciting, funny, or relevant is liable to get slashed. What’s more, your intros are some of the most high-visibility pieces of your content.
While most people will at least glance at your intro, not everyone will take the time to read your entire body copy, which means that the intro is the perfect and one of the few places to grab those readers you so desperately want.
Finally, the intro sets the tone for the rest of your content. If it’s boring, everything else is likely to follow suit. If it’s exciting and compelling, you can bet the rest of the content will be, too.
By using your intro to show your readers you understand them and want to provide material they love, you can boost their confidence in you while also branding yourself as an engaging and worthwhile writer. Even a strong headline isn’t enough to do this. Many a blog had a strong headline and a weak intro and lost readers as a result.
The Death of the Weak Word
Writing a compelling lede is a lot like writing an impactful haiku or a great tweet: it takes technique.
One of the most essential techniques you can learn to overhaul your introduction is how to kill weak words.
Source: Neil Patel
While this seems simple, it’s the foundation of great opening paragraphs.
Think about it: if your intros are filled with weak, flabby words, they won’t be impactful, and if they’re not impactful, your readers won’t stick around.
For your introductions to succeed, weak words need to be chopped out and replaced with more exciting and emotive alternatives.
Thanks in large part to the dismal nature of the human attention span and the fact that introductions can’t, by nature, ramble on forever, there isn’t a lot of room to include bulky, pointless, or weak words. This means that killing them is essential.
At the end of the day, learning how to trim the fat in your writing, and especially in your introduction, is the only way to create strong content that reflects well on your brand.
Include weak words, and you’ll sink, cut them, and you’ll float to the top of your readers’ minds.
Example of a Strong Vs. Weak Blog Intro
Let’s put a strong blog intro vs. weak side by side to truly impact you on why studying how to write a great blog intro is so very crucial.
Can you spot which one is “strong” as you review these two blog intros, pulled from the web?
The first was from GoDotMedia, the second from SmartBlogger.com.
Can you see at a glance which one you personally like better?
It probably took you less than 8 seconds to make that decision. At a glance, there is one that sticks out far more powerfully.
Let’s explore how you can write powerful intros for your blogs, all the time, without fail. Ready?
How to Write Killer Blog Intros 101: 10 Fundamental Tips for Greatness
Writing great blog intros is a little bit like becoming a weightlifter – you have to work up to it and learn the right steps along the way. Here are ten foolproof tricks to get you there.
1. Embrace The Process Of Self-Editing
Quick: what’s your favorite novel? Okay, now how many drafts of that book do you think its author penned? When it comes to great writing, self-editing is essential.
Even the best writer needs to go back through his or her writing, again and again, to ensure it shines, and anyone who doesn’t embrace this process is likely to fall short.
Hemingway is famous for having said “I rewrote the first part of A Farewell to Arms at least fifty times…the first draft of anything is s&*t.”
With this in mind, don’t expect the first version of your introduction to also be the last version of your headline. To succeed in this business, you must master the process of self-editing, especially when it comes to your most critical piece of content – the first few paragraphs.
2. Practice, Practice, Practice
Great introductions are formulaic, which is both good and bad news. It’s good because formulas are, by definition, things that can be memorized and learned. It’s bad because it means you’ll have to put in the work required to master it.
Luckily, practicing your introduction writing skills and learning which tricks help churn out the best ones is something everyone can master.
3. Minimize Modifiers
“really,” “very,” and “literally” are “fluff”
These are words that don’t belong in your introductions, or anywhere in your content!
The more you can cut these out, the more impactful your headlines will be.
Instead of using these low-impact filler words, use a replacement verb that’s more powerful and compelling than the one that came before it.
4. Test Your Headlines
Did you know that there are a series of online tools that you can use to improve your headlines, which, in turn, improves your introduction?
Options like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer and AMI’s Headline Tool both allow you to input your headline and analyze it for its concentration of common, emotional, and uncommon words.
They also evaluate length, impact, and wordiness to help you craft your best headlines yet. Once you’ve nailed a great headline, you can use that momentum to carry you through a stellar opening paragraph, as well.
5. Conduct Multiple Rounds Of Edits
If you’re only editing your intro once, or not editing it at all, you’re falling into dangerous territory. For your intro to be impactful and compelling, you need to put in the elbow grease required to make it shine.
This means at least two rounds of edits, separated by at least six hours. Don’t ever publish a blog without this. The two rounds might seem overkill, but they serve an important purpose.
The second round of edits allows you to see things you missed the first time, and identify different areas for improvement in your intros.
6. Keep Your Opening Sentences One Line
Look back at the opening sentences of this blog.
Source: Neil Patel
See how the first sentences live on their own line?
That’s a great tactic because it’s visually impactful and simple enough to root its way into the reader’s brain.
Continue this all the way down to your first headline, where it makes sense to.
The shorter your first (and first few after that) sentence is, the punchier it will be, and the more likely your readers are to remember it.
7. Get Weird
Okay, you don’t have to be weird for the sake of being weird, but if you can say something unusual (while still being relevant and professional), do it!
Take a tip from Kafka’s Metamorphosis, here, which is widely considered to have one of the best opening lines of all time,
“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”
This opening line has been studied in colleges down around the world, and the words that compile this one sentence are tremendously powerful. What’s more, variations abound, because the book wasn’t even originally in English – it’s been loved across multiple countries. (Guardian)
Who, pray tell, is going to stop reading after that?
The more unique you can be in your opening lines, the better chance you have of hooking your reader and keeping them interested.
8. Don’t Repeat Yourself
At this point in your content, you’re still so close to the title that one of the worst things you can do is repeat it.
For example, if your title is “10 Ways to Make Money and Be Successful,” your opening line should not be “Everyone wants to make money and be successful.”
Not only is this repetitive, but it’s also insulting to the reader’s intelligence. According to HubSpot, it’s much wiser to assume the reader has already read the title, and move on with a statement that reinforces or adds to it.
9. Write In The Second Person
Second person is the most personal type of voice to use in your online blog writing.
To grab your reader right off the bat, and show them that you understand what it’s like to be in their shoes, use the word “you” as you write.
Source: Right Attitudes
This will showcase to your readers not only that you’re creating content with them in mind, but also that you care about them and have developed the content to be useful and relevant to them. When it comes to intros, that’s an attractive place to start from.
10. Follow A Structure
I mentioned earlier that great intros are formulaic, and they are.
As a general rule, you should dedicate two sentences to the topic of the article (“This article is about X”), two sentences to why it matters (“This affects you because Y”) and at least one sentence addressing a pain point, outcome, or lesson the content will cover.
While there’s some flexibility in how you structure these components, being sure to include them is essential for great intros.
BONUS: 4 Industry Secrets to Create Stellar Intros
Curious how you, too, can create great intros?
Here are four secrets used by the pros.
1. Talk Directly To Your Reader
I know, I know. You’ve heard this before.
But I’m proposing something different. I’m not proposing you just write to one person; I’m proposing you talk to your reader as if he or she was a real person standing directly in front of you.
This adds a whole new level of engagement to your piece and makes it much more impactful and exciting. Talk to your reader like a friend and show them, in your intro, how much you care about helping them find the answers they need.
2. Play On Emotion
To make your introductions more compelling, use them as a place to play on your readers’ emotions. Strong descriptors are an excellent way to do this, as are intros that show that you understand the reader’s experience. Here’s an example:
“We’ve all been there. You sit down at your computer to start a new day of work, but your screen stays black. You start to panic. What’s going to happen to your documents? While computer issues like this are frightening, they’re so common, and they’re more troubling now that we rely on our devices for everything from work to socialization.”
This paragraph elicits emotion from the reader, and will likely encourage them to keep reading, as a result.
3. Break It Up
The best intros don’t confront readers with a huge block of text. Instead, they use short, 2-4 sentence paragraphs to keep the reader engaged and pull them through the content.
We do this all the time on The Write Blog posts:
This intro uses short, sweet sentences to make the text seem more accessible and inviting to the reader.
4. Spend At Least As Much Time, If Not More, Editing The Intro As You Did The Whole Piece
The more efficiently you can edit your intro, the better. Spend a significant chunk of time going back through it to make it shine. Many professionals recommend that you give your intro at least three rounds of editing, since it’s such a critical piece of your content.
As you go back through it, look for weak words and phrases and anything that is fluffy, not emotive, or not as powerful as it should be. If you’re not sure, read it out loud and look for places where you stumble or hesitate, which probably need work. Bonus points for passing it along for a friend or family member to read, as well.
In Defense of a Great Blog Intro
A blog without a shockingly good introduction is just a sad shell of a thing.
By taking the time to create an introduction that will knock your readers’ socks off, you can improve your content, boost your engagement rates, and earn yourself more readers, both now and in the future.
Take that plunge!
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