If your content isn’t getting the eyeballs it deserves, a weak intro may be to blame. Here are 7 tips for writing an intriguing intro that hooks readers in and gets their fingers scrolling (all the way down to your call to action).
You’ve just written a compelling piece of content. It’s insightful, valuable and is well-aligned with your product or service. Fist pump!
Now all you need is for people to read far enough to follow your call to action.
Whether that is filling in a contact form, downloading a resource, or reading about your product or service, there should always be a clear purpose for your piece of content.
But what happens if your readers don’t get that far?
All that time writing your well-researched, informative content for nothing? Having under-performing content is disappointing, frustrating and ultimately feels like time and money down the drain.
The reality is that 80% of readers will only read your headline. And as for the remaining 20%? You still have to work bloody hard to hook them in.
And it starts with a captivating intro.
Two elements of a captivating intro
I read the other day that 55% of readers will spend a paltry 15 seconds or less on your content. That means you have around 35 words or a mere two sentences to engage or lose your reader.
There are two basic things your intro needs to do to get people scrolling.
- Build intrigue
Pique your readers interest in some way. Share a stat that will shock them, hit a pain point, get their heads nodding along by showing them you know what they’re going through.
- Provide a main takeaway
Give your readers a good idea of what they’re going to get in return for their time spent reading your content (but don’t give all your secrets away straight up).
These might seem like opposite sides of the same coin. But nail the balance between piquing attention and giving a clear picture of what you reader will get in return for their time is a winning combination for any intro.
Here are 7 simple fixes that can instantly transform your intro, driving your readers to scroll on to the good stuff (hopefully all the way down to your call to action).
1. Write your introduction last
If you’ve opened a blank document staring down a blinking cursor, trying to start your article. STOP. You’re doing it the hard way.
Very few writers I know start at the top of a document and work their way down. For me, it’s a sure fire way to bring on a severe case of writers block. Most start with a structure, a few rough subheadings, some vague sentences under each, gradually fleshing it out as they go.
Without exception, I write the middle or bulk of my content and then come back to the intro.
You’ll probably find your article evolves along the way. Many times I think I know the “hook” or angle of an article from the start, and then once it’s written, I find it’s actually something different.
Once your article is in good shape, let it marinade a little in your mind. Then take a step back and find the crux of the issue it’s solving for your customers. You might be surprised to find it’s different to what you originally thought.
Full disclosure… I wrote eight different versions of the intro for this article before I settled on this one. And I probably spent the most time on my intro, even though it’s only 200 words.
2. Hit a pain point
Good content is all about solving your customers’ problems. But most people have 99 (if not more) of them. So stating exactly which problem you’re helping with needs to be crystal clear up front.
Don’t just ask a question like “do you find figuring out your superannuation hard?” Try to make this feel personal.
Like you were chatting with a friend about it.
Imagine yourself in your customer’s shoes, what would it feel like to experience their problem first-hand?
In my intro I highlighted the fact that when people ignore your content it’s disheartening and frustrating. By empathising with your reader, you start to build a connection, which inspires trust, which then spurs action.
3. Lead with benefits
Getting your readers to choose your content over the millions of other options is a battle. You’re up against a multitude of distractions, each one more shinier and dopamine filling than the next.
Why should people choose your content over Trump’s latest twitter rant or a video of a water skiing squirrel?
This relates to my previous point of addressing a pain point. Now take this one step further by showing them the benefit they’ll get from reading your article.
Let’s say you’re writing an article on navigating the CRM landscape.
The pain point may be that choosing a CRM is confusing. So you’re going to unpack it for them so they can choose one easily and quickly. But don’t stop there.
Highlight the benefit as well i.e. by reading your article people can choose a CRM quickly, meaning they can start bringing in leads sooner.
4. Make it snappy
As already pointed out, you typically have 15 seconds to hook your readers in.
Get to the point. Quickly!
This is not the time to make your readers work hard, even if your topic is technical or complex. If they have a clear picture of what they’re going to get from you, they’ll put in the hard yards to digest your content later.
Aim to keep your intro around the 100-200 word mark. And if you’re targeting SEO keywords in your content, make sure your keyword is included in the first 100 words.
5. Be human
Make sure you’ve got some of yourself in your intro. People have a pretty fine-tuned BS radar and usually reward you for being you. Bonus points for being funny and likeable.
This is definitely tougher when you’re in the B2B world dealing with Executives who want to portray a super serious veneer. I feel your pain having worked in the B2B content space for a while.
In this case, it’s about education. Show them what other B2B brands are doing that is a bit more playful and relatable. Hubspot, Salesforce and Copyblogger all work hard to deliver content in easy to read, funny, personal ways. Even if you are on the conservative (read: boring) end of the corporate spectrum, you can still do this. MYOB do a surprisingly good job of making accounting (yawn) fresh and interesting.
Another way to make your content feel more human is to have it written from a person rather than your brand. Include a short bio at the end with a photo, this will instantly make your content more relatable. IBM’s Think Blog is a great example of this, as is Google’s content hub, The Keyword.
6. Use short sentences
Appeal to all the skimmers out there. Using shorter sentences, especially in your intro, allows people to digest your content more easily. And although my high-school English teacher would kill me for saying this, don’t be afraid to use short paragraphs. Even one or two-word paragraphs.
They work wonders for guiding your readers along.
I’ve been hooked like this many times.
It’s like a wave.
Carrying your reader’s eye down and down.
Until they reach your first subheading.
Another way to appeal to the skimmers is to bold relevant words. But be sure to use these strategically and sparingly or risk “bold blindness”.
7. Summarise your article in one sentence at the very top
Another tactic that works really well is to summarise the crux of your article in a bold italic sentence at the top. Just like I did at the top of this article. It kind of acts like a second headline, giving people an instant idea of what you’re going to deliver and what they’re going to get from your article.
There you have it, seven ways to spare you from the blinking cursor, speed up your writing and write an intro that will hook your readers in faster than Rex Hunt can say “Yibbida Yibbida”.
Need help writing an intro snappier than a hormonal teenager? Find out how I can help you.