People read about 20% of your post. That’s it! Is your post 1.5K words long? Your readers will skim through it and read about 300 words only. Wow! That’s only two paragraphs… If you want to engage with your audience, you’d better write the perfect introduction—it might be the only thing they read about your post anyway!
The Role of Introductions in Your Blog Posts
Lately we’ve been sharing a few tips and tricks about content creation. For instance, just last week Ruth explained what types of blog posts attract more traffic and Antonio taught you how to craft the perfect title (avoiding the infamous clickbait title). Today, I’d like to focus on blog post introductions—the first and foremost piece of content (after your title, of course) your visitors will read and, hopefully, the only chance you’ll get to capture their attention.
There are several types of introductions, each one with its own style and benefits. If you want to write the perfect introduction, just apply one of the following tips in your next post.
1. Start with an Interesting Fact
Interesting facts are a great way to start your post, because they usually surprise your readers with information they didn’t know. Imagine you start to read a post in our blog with the one of the following facts in its introduction:
- People read about 20% of your blog
- Pigeons can read
- ¿Did you know that ending your texts with a period makes you less sincere and heartless?
Now, wouldn’t you be interested in reading whatever Nelio has to say about those topics? I definitely would! ? ? And that’s why interesting facts are so appealing—they amaze and amuse us, and make us wonder what will come next.
I’d recommend you use facts that are tightly related to your topic, even though it’s not always easy to find them. However, completely unrelated facts (which make your reader wonder “what does it have to do with WordPress?”) are also a great starting point.
2. Share an Anecdote or Tell a (Brief?) Story
Another way to write posts is to become a story teller. Chris Lema is one of the most “famous” story tellers in WordPress… and it looks like it’s working quite well for him ?. Go ahead and take a look at his blog—his stories are fresh and interesting, and you’ll learn a lot just by reading what he says (and how he says it).
Personal stories and anecdotes work great as introductions too. For instance, a few weeks ago I discussed how we can design better user interfaces. My post started like this:
A couple of months ago I was watching some videos on YouTube and I found this interesting video that talked about doors. In the video, there’s a door in the office where the author works and he simply hates it. Why? Because whenever he tries to open it, he gets it wrong! He pulls the door? Sorry, you’re supposed to push it. What about pushing it instead? You’re wrong again; now you have to pull it. You might think that’s stupid—everybody knows how to open a door… but do they?
See? I’m sharing a common anecdote that you can easily relate to: “you’re watching something on the Internet and you find something worth sharing”. This casual introduction makes you feel comfortable and invites you to keep reading.
In general, anecdotes should be:
- about you or something that happened to you. You can, of course, share a quote from somebody else, but it’s usually better if you keep things “personal”,
- funny, interesting, surprising…, and
- related to your content.
3. Forget About Introductions—Start with your Conclusions
When you’re writing a post, it’s normal to write them in the same order that your readers will read it. That is, you’ll start with the introduction, then you’ll write the body of the post itself, and you’ll wrap everything up in the conclusions. However, it’s usually better if you write the introduction once you’re done. Surprised? Don’t be! It actually makes quite sense…
While you’re writing a post, you learn more and more about the subject—you look for external references that support your point of view, you re-write a certain passage that isn’t perfect, you’ve summarized the main ideas in a beautiful conclusion… It’s obvious that, by the end of your post, you know much more about it than when you started. So, isn’t it a good idea to write a catchy introduction now that you have all this knowledge and wisdom with you?
There are two options for writing a “conclusion” as the introduction of a post:
- Summarize the post (without spoilers). For instance: “6 weeks after we merged our blogs, page views are 25% up, and it’s all because of our social networks marketing strategy“. As you can see, the introduction tells you everything you need to know—we improved the metrics of our blog focusing on social networks, but we don’t discuss everything. A reader now has a clear idea of what we’ll talk about and what he’ll learn if he reads the full post.
- Present a “table of contents“. Enumerate the different areas that will be discussed, but don’t present any conclusion. For instance, in a previous post we wrote: “Today it was supposed to be a great day for [us],but thanks to Google it has end up being a nightmare (…) We’ve decided to explain all details [to] (…) let other companies know the bizarre things that can happen during a launch day”. As you can see, we’re not telling you what happened precisely or how we solve it, but you already know everything we’ll talk about just by reading that (tiny) introduction.
4. Ask an Interesting Question
An easy way to appeal your readers’ interest is by asking them something directly. This is a resource we’ve used often in our blog. A couple of recent examples are:
- We wrote a post with the following title: Is It a Success or a Failure to Merge Our Blogs? The question is not in the introduction, I know, but you get the idea.
- Antonio wrote another post with the following introduction: “10 Tricks to Write the Perfect Title”
There’s nothing much to say about such an easy resource. However, I’d like to warn you about one common mistake (which I think we did)—avoid “obvious” questions. For instance, if you’re running an SEO blog, don’t ask your customers “Do you want to increase your traffic?”—of course they do! Why wouldn’t be reading your blog if they weren’t? ? Don’t waster your/their time by asking useless questions with obvious answers.
5. Confront Your Audience
Dealing with controversial themes is a guarantee that your post will succeed (for the good or for the bad). A few days ago, for example, we published a post with a controversial title: When WordPress’ Freedom Kills Your Business. There was an interesting and beautiful discussion in the Facebook group AdvancedWP, where a lot of people contributed with their ideas and points of view.
If you start your posts with a controversial topic, or even if you directly confront your reader (gently, of course), you’ll probably “force” them to read their post and see why their beliefs are in dispute. For instance, an introduction such as “You made the impossible: 1 out of 100 users subscribe to your service. Great, right? Well, it’s not great—you can do better” tells your reader that he’s wrong and that you know how he can do better. He should better keep reading if he wants to improve, shouldn’t he?
There’s plenty of ways to write perfect introductions (more than the ones I discussed today). If you can apply them all in your blog, your posts will look better and they’ll be more interesting and fresher.
In Nelio we’re learning all this stuff as we prepare this series, so don’t be surprised if you start to see better introductions from now on ? But we’re really interested in knowing about your particular experience—do you use these techniques? Do you write your introductions following a different approach? Share your experience with us and let’s become better together ?
Featured Image by Ben Timney.