There was one web page in 1991. Today there are billions. The junk pages aside – of which there are many – most are competing for people’s attention – including your audience. So it’s important you stand out and win over your readers – especially after getting them to land on your page in the first place. You do this by writing a good intro. Here’s how.
1. Start with a hook
There is an awful lot riding on your first sentence. Do it well and you’re looking at your audience committing their valuable time to engaging with the rest of your content. Do it badly and you can kiss your readers goodbye.
To keep them interested, you need to grab their attention with a hook. A hook is just a compelling, unusual and novel way of saying something that piques the interest of your audience – so much so that they can’t resist reading on.
You can do this in many ways. You can pose a question, use a startling stat or say something controversial (in a good way). Here are some examples:
- When ChatGPT dropped at the end of November, the internet lost its mind. Google is dead. Goodbye writers. Students rejoice. – Melt Digital
- Want to learn how to write high-converting copy for landing pages? – ClickFunnels
- Starting an online business is the single best way to create freedom in your life—freedom over your time, your money, your work environment, and more. – Ahrefs
- It was a really great tote: off-white, canvas, large enough to stow a sizable cache of millennial staples, like chipotle paste, and coconut water, and, yes, avocados. – Esquire
2. Highlight the problem
Your content exists for a reason – and no, it’s not to game Google. Your content is there to help your audience overcome a problem. To provide an answer to a query. To give them what they’re looking for.
Highlighting the problem your audience faces is important for two reasons. One, it assures them they’re in the right place. And two, it shows that you’re attentive and empathetic to their needs – and that makes you more likeable and trustworthy.
You can either highlight a problem directly – literally saying that this is the problem – or in a more creative and roundabout way, where you’re addressing the problem with, for instance, stats or analogies. Some examples include:
- The problem with these words is that they’re no good to anyone – not you, your business, your readers or your customers. – Melt Digital
- While opportunities for traditional networking have fallen, how can leaders ensure innovation, performance and transformation outcomes do not suffer? – Deloitte
- Today’s knowledge workers spend about 60% of their time on “work about work”—such as unnecessary meetings, status checks, and searching for information—according to the Anatomy of Work Index 2021. – Asana
3. Set the scene
Your introduction needs to set the scene and indicate what can be expected if your audience commits to reading more. You can think of this as being a both a summary and a teaser, where you give enough detail to overcome any doubts but not enough to satisfy their curiosity.
What you’re doing here is confirming that they’re in the right place, that the information is what they need and that if they do continue to read more than just the opening few lines, they’ll be rewarded with insights, knowledge and/or tools that the intro alone cannot provide.
Check out the following to get a better idea of what that looks like in practice:
- There are any number of benefits to conducting keyword research at scale – in this post we’ll introduce the concept and start to look at some of the big ones. – Melt Digital
- In this fourth and final instalment of our series looking at how different aspects of storytelling can inform and inspire us as editors, we’ll be looking at the complex dance between subverting and satisfying audience expectations, why the audience must inform your editing choices, and why audiences aren’t always accurate barometers of a film’s merits. – Frame.io
- Fortunately, we’ve curated the best content marketing plans to help you write a concrete plan that’s rooted in data and produces results. But first, we’ll discuss what a marketing plan is and how some of the best marketing plans include strategies that serve their respective businesses. – HubSpot
4. Keep it short
An introduction should be short, sharp and to the point to ensure that you keep your audience engaged and interested enough to move on to the next paragraph, if not to the very end (and all without skipping a word on their journey there).
That’s because intros can only ever give readers so much information. They’re not designed to be comprehensive. It’s in the content that follows where you expand, elaborate and provide your audience with a fuller picture.
While there’s no fixed word count for an introduction, you won’t go far wrong with 50–100 words. At 50 words, you can be brilliantly terse. At 100, you can add in more detail but still keep things crisp. The following do just that:
- You would think that getting capital letters right would be easy, right? Alas not. Online copy is littered with capitalisation gaffes, whether it’s mentioning someone’s job title or referring to a particular part of a country. The short story is that a lot of people don’t really know how to use them. This short guide will put that right. – Melt Digital
- I’m probably not alone in dreaming about having an assistant to help me out with posting on social media. Someone to bounce ideas off, someone to help me write updates, even someone to translate my posts. I’ve imagined this assistant styling my posts in specific ways to help me boost my engagement on social and grow my audience online. This dream has been pure fantasy … until today. – Buffer
- If you haven’t yet heard of the transformational potential of GPT-3, you are about to have your mind blown. GPT-3 is essentially the first artificial intelligence that can pass the Turing Test and write copy that is highly convincing as human. It can write about any topic and can be directed to write in any voice, style, or tone. The best way to think about it is that GPT-3 is essentially a professional-level copywriter that has the collective knowledge of the entire internet. – Semrush
5. Talk directly to your audience
Marketing is at its best when audiences feel engaged, as if they’re being talked to directly. If you’re talking at them, the opposite is true – it feels less like a conversation. It’s also less personal.
Missing that mark in your intro is a recipe for disaster as you’re risking cutting short the interaction with your content.
The simplest way of talking directly to your audience is to write as if you’re chatting to them. It’s as easy as using words like “you” and “your” instead of, for example, “customers” and “clients”. Check out the following for inspiration:
- If you’re an ecommerce brand that has yet to embrace ML, you’re not alone – take up of the technology is still in its infancy. And that means you still have time to get ahead of the competition. And no, it doesn’t involve ChatGPT. We recently hosted a webinar on this, covering all the essentials, from what ML is to why it matters. Here are 6 key takeaways from our event. – Melt Digital
- Do you feel like your Facebook Ads budget is just a shot in the dark? Do you ever wonder if there’s a more strategic way to calculate and set it? You’re not alone in wondering how much to spend on Facebook ads. – Hootsuite
- Want to grow your business? Learning how to delegate is a must. Here’s how to empower your team so you can focus on scaling. – Trello
A good intro is critical. It’s the difference between winning over your audience and losing their interest; solving their problems and frustrating them; and leaving an impression and being instantly forgettable. Follow these five tips for your intros and you can be confident that you’re heading in the right direction.
Oh, and that original web page? Here it is. And yes, Tim Berners-Lee himself put it together.
Not sure whether your intros need rethinking? No problem. We can let you know whether they’re hitting or missing the mark. And if the latter, we can help rewrite them, too. Get in touch here to discuss further.