The average attention span is eight seconds. Here are 7 tips for writing great intros to your content to keep your readers engaged and interested.

7 tips for writing intros that don’t fall flat

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Less than eight seconds. That’s about how long an average reader will spend on a page before going somewhere else. Your eight seconds are up. Still with me?

For content marketers, capturing the eyes of an audience with the collective attention span of a goldfish is one of the biggest challenges. Content that starts strong is copy that works well for your content marketing and SEO. By following these seven intro-writing tips, you can be sure that readers are interested in your copy and will want to learn more about your products and/or services.

1. Always think about your audience’s needs

This is one of the biggest tenets of good content marketing.Once you have a good idea of who your target audience is and what they’re looking for, you can write an introduction tailored to their needs.

Are they:

  • Busy CEOs that need just the stats right away?

A short, stat-heavy intro may be your best bet here.

  • Lower-level employees that want a good story that illustrates your industry?

For them, a longer and more detailed intro will probably suffice.

By putting yourself in your reader’s shoes, you can try to get a sense of what they are looking for in an introduction.

2. Remember the context

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Don’t assume your audience knows what this is. Do your research before writing pithy intros.

Just because you can use a certain technique to get someone’s attention doesn’t mean you should. Context is so important. There are many ways to capture a reader’s attention when writing a blog, but likely most of them are not appropriate or relevant for your intended audience.

I see this disconnect happen a lot in IT and tech writing. Sometimes, it can be tempting to mix it up and include pop culture references in the beginning of an article. But, what happens if the reference is lost on half of your readers? The rest of the article could be exactly what they were looking for, but your introduction didn’t make enough of an impact for them to get that far. 

This is especially critical with B2B audiences. An introduction is supposed to help generate both interest in the rest of the article and trust in you as a subject matter exper. Professionalism is key to remember when you write an introduction.

3. Ensure the intro aligns with everything else on the page

The introduction should do just that: Introduce the main topics and themes of the article or page to the reader. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read introductions that failed in this basic tenet.

For example, let’s say you click on a headline promising seven tips for writing better intros, and the intro makes the same promise, and you think you’re going to get what you came for. Then the article only ever talks about why introductions are important. This may be great content, but it’s not what the introduction promised.

Before I write an introduction, I often create a rough outline of what I want to say in a particular article. That way, I know what points I want to bring up in the introduction once it’s time to start writing. My content is stronger, as I am able to sufficiently introduce my core points at the beginning without leading the audience on.

4. Sometimes longer is better

My background is in newspaper reporting, where the inverted pyramid reigns supreme. For those who don’t know, the idea here is that you start off with the most important information and then slowly but surely expand on that throughout the article. The goal here is to write an introduction that is short, sweet and to the point.

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The inverted pyramid is one way to approach your intros and blog writing. Image via aaronturpen.com

 

For some audiences, this approach will make the most sense – think back to that busy CEO. However, for other audiences, you need to have a longer intro to fully explain what you want to talk about and to do so in an interesting way. For some content it makes perfect sense to take more time to get your point across and to capture the reader’s attention. The intro to this very article is proof positive of that.

5. SEO is (still) important

Though hardly anyone would claim that SEO is dead, more recent Google algorithm changes have de-emphasized certain hallmarks like rich keyword placement. While major search engines are seeking to supplement word and phrase-based searches with user intent, keywords and other SEO best practices are still critical. Aim to include keywords in the introduction, but, don’t force keywords into the introduction at the expense of an enjoyable, interesting and relevant read.

6. Headlines and meta descriptions matter too

Chances are good that the first things you’ll notice on website’s content are the headline and the meta description that follows. If you want to really hook someone and get them reading more, it’s critical to nail these two elements.

If you want to learn more about headlines, check out these past Brafton blogs:

As for meta descriptions, I recommend restricting yourself to 150 characters or fewer. Keep it short, sweet, to the point and ideally keyword rich. If you don’t create a unique meta description, then search engines usually use the first words of the article – a.k.a. the intro – as a post’s meta description. So if you don’t write a unique meta description separate from the intro and the rest of the article (which I recommend doing, especially if your intro is more anecdotal in nature), be sure to keep that search engine text in mind when you write an introduction.

7. Check the data

Like most of us at Brafton, I’m a huge analytics data nerd and believe that using it wisely can drastically help your website and your online content. There’s no need to guess what pages or posts readers like best, as the internet allows you to know that for fact.

To learn more about intros, I first look in the analytics data to see what pages kept readers sticking around for the longest amount of time. I reread these articles, noting what I did and did not do in all of them. This last part is more intuitive than scientific, but it helps me get a sense of what it is about certain articles that kept readers interested and engaged. I then use this knowledge to inform how I write introductions and content as a whole.

So, how do you actually write a good intro?

Yes, I realize I’ve spent over 1,100 words at this point providing you with general tips about how to write an introduction that works and why the first words of your articles are so important. I think so long as you keep these seven points front of mind as you write an introduction, you will create an opening that is interesting, relevant and engaging, making readers want to keep reading your work until the end. You’re here now, so I must have done something right.

Matthew Kaplan
Matthew Kaplan is the Section Editor of the Technology desk at Brafton's Chicago office, overseeing the editorial production of all of Brafton's technology and IT clients in the Midwest and on the West Coast. In this role, Matt has written and edited about everything from data center energy efficiency and virtualization to cloud-based unified communications and big data analytics. Matt's previous SEO copywriting and editing experiences include working for local newspapers and a healthy eating website.

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