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How to Write Irresistible Blog Intros

This guest post is by Andrea Wren from Butterflyist.com,

Did you know that I like to have sex on roller coasters? Yes, there’s nothing that does it for me more than wondering if my partner will puke at the point of, um, no return. Okay I’m fibbing. I can’t even imagine how difficult big dipper hanky panky would be, but I got you listening, didn’t I?

While I was being a little devious, and you’re now going to be a tiny bit disappointed that I’m not going to talk about my fetish for fairground frolics, I’ve demonstrated two things:

  • A strong hook in the introductory paragraph of your post is crucial to grab the reader’s interest.
  • Your hook should be linked to what you’re actually writing about, otherwise the reader will feel like they’ve been duped once they continue.

But then, seeing as the title already told you what this post was going to be about, I can be excused. You knew I wasn’t going to be talking about my fictional amusement park passions, so I haven’t hoodwinked you after all!

But I did gain attention.

First impressions…

They count, don’t they? Unlike networking events or dinner parties, where we may be forced to stay making small-talk with a person we’ve decided we don’t like, when we’re reading blogs, we have a choice. And we don’t have to stick around. Once you’ve got your title, you have to think carefully about the all-important first impression that will follow.

So how do you write a winning intro that will make your reader read on?

Find a relevant hook

This is key. A “hook” has that name for a reason—it’s designed to capture the reader as an angler would a fish. You lay the bait with your title, and then your hook (the first sentence or two of the opening paragraph) should snatch hard enough that even the wriggliest of wrigglers won’t get loose.

How outlandish you can afford to be (a la the tabloid press) depends on the context of the writing, and how confident a writer you are. But even the most conservative of business blog posts can be strongly hooked.

Whether you begin with humor or with a serious quote, a good hook will intrigue the reader, or challenge them, and draw them into finding out where your opening gambit leads.

Therefore, it’s useful to start with a curious or unusual fact connected to the post, a question, or something that tests the reader’s beliefs. You could even try all three. For instance:

“In a new report, small businesses say they cannot afford to employ women of child-bearing age who may require maternity pay-outs. Should financially struggling SMEs be entitled to refuse to recruit women in certain age groups?”

Controversy, of course, often works well. And juicy revelations can do the trick too. Here are three other tips to make note of:

1. Set the scene

Your hook could potentially be the first paragraph in itself, depending on how succinct you are. But within the introduction, the reader should know what the post will be about.

Setting the scene is about defining reader expectations—he or she needs to assess whether the time they are about to invest in reading your post will be worth it.

In the above example of a hook, the writer might go on to say which report their information comes from, what their own position is (you will generally be shown which way the writer leans from the start, but a clever writer will make it seem that they could have their mind changed), and which arguments they are going to tackle in the rest of the piece.

You give the reader the gist, without giving it all away in the first few sentences.

2. Cut the waffle

So you’ve got the hook, and you’ve set the scene. Now read over your introduction aloud.

If it trails off around the houses and then does a few thousand miles across the world and back before it makes its point, your reader will be away with the fairies before you know it.

Like with the continuing blog post, all writing in the intro should serve some purpose. It should make the reader laugh, offer a fact, provide an opinion, make a challenge, concisely explain something, or ask a question. If it does none of these things, get rid of it.

No reader wants to wade through the ramblings of your mind if they aren’t going to lead somewhere, or if you’ve already said it. You need to convince the reader you have a good story. Waffling will not do this.

Don’t say anything that doesn’t need saying.

3. After a strong beginning…

With a good hook and a pithy opening to your article, your reader should, we hope, commit to finding out what else you have to talk about.

Writing compelling introductions takes practice, but it goes without saying that this is only the beginning. You then have to keep your audience enraptured throughout.

However, that’s another blog post waiting to be written.

Andrea Wren is an experienced freelance journalist, travel writer and blogger based in the UK. She blogs at Butterflyist.com, a site which inspires people to have the confidence to push their comfort zones and see the world. Here you can also get her free eBook ‘Travel More, Work Less and Live Life’. Find Andrea on Twitter via @thebutterflyist

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Comments

  1. Mario Monk says:

    I have noticed, if googling for something, I rarely read first one or few paragraphs.
    But that is, probably, true for search traffic only. Catching intro is extremely important for rss, newsletter and social visitors.

  2. John SBP says:

    I’ve noticed that the first sentence is especially critical in pulling in visitors from search engines, since they often see only the first sentence or two in the search results when the keywords match your post title.

  3. Stephen says:

    Great reminder Andrea! I think it is almost like we need to take the reader away for their present context “in front of their computer” to a “tropical paradise”. To get them to listen. Thanks for the input!

    • Butterflyist says:

      You’re welcome Stephen. And my desk is such a mess it really helps if a blog post can take me to a ‘tropical paradise’, haha!

  4. Kimmo says:

    What a great article Andrea. The words “Strong Intro Hook” are now proudly positioned on a Post-It note right above my monitor. Thank you!

  5. Jon Morrow (editor over at Copyblogger) once said that every online reader sits poised with their mouse on that back button just waiting for a reason to leave. It’s all down to your headline and opening to get them to stop hovering and keep reading.

    You’ve shared some really great tips on making the intro work hard. Thanks!

    • Butterflyist says:

      Belinda, yes, I think that’s right about having your finger poised on the back button! I just realised I was doing it. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  6. Okto says:

    Interesting articles. You have describe useful step by step guidance to make a stand-out post.

    In my experience I find it difficult to always write step by step, so sometime I make it backwards. I just wrote what’s in my head at that time. After I finish it then I try to find the good intros, the hook and irresistible title.

    Sometimes inspirations comes lately, but don’t wait to write your idea at the first chances right?

  7. Raul Amoros says:

    Nice! I have been doing this unconsciously.. but now I will be more aware… thanks for the tip.

  8. Philos says:

    I can some points that can help me blog better.

    Happy blogging Andrea.

  9. george says:

    i’m a newbie, good advices, thanks

  10. “I can’t even imagine how difficult big dipper hanky panky would be, but I got you listening, didn’t I?”

    Honestly, I stopped reading the article at that point. This happens rarely.

  11. Jean Gogolin says:

    Yesterday I started a post with a bit of dialogue. Not so good for SEO perhaps (though the headline was), but a good strong hook! This is one of those things that stays with you if you’ve ever been a reporter or magazine writer.

  12. Guy Hogan says:

    I’m very aware that this is an area of blogging that I need to work on. Thanks for the timely reminder.

  13. Mike says:

    You’ve outlined some good points for us to use in our blogs. Introductions are very important but not everyone knows how to craft one well. We should be striving further to be able to master that very process of getting our hooks into people and then trying to suck them into the posts further.

  14. Marryann says:

    Ok so I’m curious about the whole sex on a roller coaster thing…how exactly would that work???? Seriously though, thank you for this article. I am definitely going to remember it when I am writing my next post. Hopefully, I’ll be able to employ some of your hook, line, sinker suggestions to bring in some more readers to my blog.

  15. Tim Barnes says:

    Thanks for the reminder. I am usually pretty good with hooks. My biggest weakness is with headlines. I do not like hype. However, I also have a tendancy to be lazy. I can read my prior posts and know when I actually took the time it takes for a good post and when I just threw up crap. I have learned the importance of proofreading for spelling and grammar mistakes. I need to be more consistent proofreading for good writing skills. What is funny is that in college, when all that was at stake was a letter grade, I was more maticulous. Now that actual money is at stake, I am not as consistent as I should be.

    • Butterflyist says:

      I have to work on headlines too Tim. I think it’s because I’ve mainly been a writer in the print press, and therefore the editorial team tend to write the headlines. I’ve never bothered to spend much time on them. Now I’m really trying to hone my skills there!

  16. Yes, you caught my attention and then left me flat but it was a good way to press your point home. The first few lines a post are what usually take the bulk of my time, even more than the title. It is what determines whether the reader will keep reading or move on to more interesting fare. Thanks for the reminder.

  17. “Warm up on your own time.” Think I must share that quote – learned from a college professor – at least once a week via tweets and comments. Another trick to the strong beginning, flip it for the end. Many of us build a story and actually hit the point after a while, so starting at the end and working backwards is another tactic, depending on the post. FWIW.

  18. Hooker says:

    This article encourages me because my blog is meant to be satirical and humorous. This affords me a lot of leeway when it comes to getting a reader’s attention.

    I find that once you make someone laugh or think in a different way, their interest will be peaked for a time well after their initial visit to a site. I find that is true for myself as well.

  19. Paul says:

    these are great tips. it’s one of those… common sense things… but because people don’t stop and think to do that it often gets overlooked :)

  20. Great post and I will be sure to apply these tips when I next blog :-)

  21. Jens Larsson says:

    Thanks for the article, thats really cool stuff :) I like your website in general, I start visiting it more and more, keep those good articles coming. Just a little suggestion, as a kasino big fan myself, just wanted to suggest you to come up with some material on this subject if you can. Would be really useful for me and for other readers of your website I think :) Thanks a lot for the author!

  22. E. Palencsar says:

    Thanks for the insight. I am new to blogging and need all the help I can get. Your information about having a hook in the intro will not be forgotten.

  23. I also think that your metadescription (the 20 words or so that show up in a search) should include a hook to get people to click through.

  24. Kevin Stone says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I’ve worked hard to come up with a compelling “hook” for my readers. I also believe one should put a lot of thought into the title of their post.

    Make the title attention grabbing and put one of your best points in the first few sentences of your post!

    Great post!