CEM’s 3 Rules to Creating the Best Blog Introductions

Imagine taking a road trip without knowing the destination. Starting a recipe without learning the ingredients. Your first day at a new job without a clue as to what you’re supposed to do. You’d feel lost, confused, and anxious, right? This is what a blog post without a great introduction does to readers – but readers can bounce from a blog that leaves them in the dark.

Don’t be that blogger. Learn to bring your A-game when writing blog introductions to keep your audience on the page. Blow the lid off the ordinary and expected, hook the reader with stirring prose, and set the stage for your masterpiece – without stretching your intro past the breaking point.

Why It’s Important to Start Strong in Your Blog Posts

Capturing and keeping reader attention is an uphill battle. Readers have busy schedules, buzzing minds, and short attention spans. You typically have just a few seconds to prove to readers that your blog post is worth their time. In fact, the average amount of time a reader spends on a “lengthy blog post” is just 10 seconds. Your introduction is your make-or-break point – the factor that can decide if the visitor will stay on the page or bounce.

Eye-tracking research consistently shows that readers first read across the uppermost area of content, in a horizontal line; otherwise known as the top bar in the traditional “F-shaped” reading pattern. This is your one, and perhaps only, opportunity to grab your reader’s attention. After the initial skimming of the top bar, a reader’s eyes move vertically down the page and then scan another, shorter horizontal line, if you still have the reader’s attention. The bottom line is that the first lines in a blog post receive more attention than any other lines of text.

3 Rules to Creating the Best Blog Intros

The introduction to your post might be all your reader sees of a blog post, article, or other online content. It doesn’t matter how much time you put into creating the rest of your post if the reader doesn’t make it past the introduction. It’s critical to create an intro that snags reader attention right from the start and that makes visitors need to see what’s next. It’s a careful balance in which you must give readers just enough to pique their interest, but not so much that they don’t need to keep reading.

Rule #1: Less Is More

In our experience, we’ve learned that for the vast majority of readers, less is more in introductions. The user searched for a keyword or phrase and wants an answer. The user knows most writers don’t divulge the meat of the article until further down the page, and he or she may even skip the intro entirely. This doesn’t make the introduction any less important, however. Your intro must be attention-grabbing and speak to the main information the user is on the page to discover. Take this effective example from a law blog post:

Image Source: Screen capture taken 14 Feb 2018 https://jnylaw.com/reckless-stunt-bikers-roadways/

Here’s what this introduction does right:

Starts with a question. Starting with a question immediately encourages the reader to read for the answer, instead of reading a single sentence and bouncing.

Keeps it short and sweet. Arguably, the intro on this blog post is just two sentences long – the question and its answer.

Grabs attention. The question-and-answer setup is unique and intriguing, and it shows readers that the article offers valuable information the reader might not know.

The blog post begins with a simple question – “What is worse than a California motorcycle accident?” The reader might assume nothing is worse or perhaps the answer is something like, “A deadly motorcycle accident.” Instead, the blog keeps readers on their toes with an unexpected answer: “A California motorcycle accident that was entirely preventable.” The intro grabs attention and makes you want to keep reading to learn what other insights the post might divulge.

Rule #2: Eliminate Weak Words

Weak words are the bane of an introduction’s existence. See them as Public Enemy No. 1 when writing your blog posts. Weak words equate to filler, fluff, and any other negative content writing words you can imagine. They have no place anywhere in a blog post, but especially should not make an appearance in your all-important intro, where every word counts. Neil Patel wrote an excellent post on “8 Weak Words You Need to Edit Out of Your Next Blog Post” that is appropriately succinct. The weak words according to Patel are:

  • Stuff/things
  • Really/very
  • Think/believe/feel
  • Is/am/are/was
  • Better/almost
  • Amazing
  • Maybe/perhaps/always
  • Just/literally

Removing weak language from your introduction can make a world of difference in its tone and poignancy. At CEM, writers and editors undergo a tough content marketing boot camp before we can complete any client assignments. The boot camp not only gives specific training on writing intros, but it also includes a long list of fluff/filler words to eliminate from posts. All CEM writers have access to this list to use until we naturally learn to avoid weak words. (Fun fact: editors also receive training to change boring introductions in the editing stage.)

Rule #3: Tantalize Your Audience With Sensory Words

Webster University’s top tips for writing great introductions includes the words “thoughtful,” “imaginative,” and “scintillating.” As a content writer who must read anywhere from 10 to 50 blog posts and articles per shift, I do agree. The posts that capture my attention the most are the ones that start with storytelling.

I’m certainly not alone in this preference – storytelling as the “best content marketing strategy” has turned into a buzzword in marketing, with good reason. Readers love a good hook, and there’s no better way to write one than with storytelling. Here’s an example I personally love, from the (brilliant) administrator of the Yosemite National Park Instagram profile:

Image Source:
Screen capture taken 14 Feb 2018
https://www.instagram.com/yosemitenps/?hl=en

While this isn’t the introduction of a blog post, it’s a wonderful example of showing instead of telling in writing. The caption uses illustrative language and descriptive words to paint a picture for readers. It follows the rules for making writing jump off the page and captures the reader’s imagination. Give your intros a storytelling flare to keep your reader’s eyes on the article longer than the eight-second attention span attributed to them. Use descriptive language in your social media posts as well and watch for an increase in user engagement.

Your blog post’s introduction is the appetizer that sets the tone for the rest of the piece. It’s the few sentences that earn the greatest amount of attention from readers. Make them count with CEM’s top three rules for writing extraordinary introductions.

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Devin Pallone

Devin is a long-time writer who truly loves the craft. She holds a Master of Liberal Arts degree from the University of South Florida, where she focused her studies on creative writing. Her adventurous spirit recently took her from Florida to California, where she spends her free time exploring the coast and getting new writing inspiration. She enjoys coming up with creative content, writing lifestyle blogs, and helping small and local businesses thrive.

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