You only get one chance to make a first impression on your website or blog — which means you need an introduction that stands out. But what do you say? How do you say it? Should it be long? Short? Funny? Serious?
For many of us, the stress of creating a great introduction drives the dreaded cursor feedback loop: Blink. Blink. Blink. The cursor-on-a-blank-screen sits, waiting for your brilliance but you just can’t find the words. It’s something that all writers — amateur or professional, aspiring or experienced — know and dread. And of all times for it to occur, it seems to plague us the most when trying to write an introduction.
I mean, you already have a blog post you want to write. Can’t you just dive in and write it? Why all the focus on getting the introduction right?
Here’s the thing: Intros set the stage. They establish the tone and let visitors know what to expect.
And it’s not all bad — introductions don’t have to be long or complex. In fact, most people prefer them to be quite quick. They also don’t have to be so difficult.
Let’s break down exactly how to write an introduction that’s short, effective, and relatively painless. And if you’re ever having trouble churning out those intros, come back here and re-read this formula to lift yourself out of that writing rut.
How to Write an Introduction
Grab the reader’s attention. Present the reason for the post’s existence. Explain how the post will help address the problem that brought your reader to it.
How to Write an Introduction
Writing an introduction that captures your audience can help your website traffic (and ultimately, your business) grow better, but doing it right is just as important. Here’s how to write an introduction in three simple steps.
To write an introduction, be mindful of what it’s supposed to achieve. The main goals here are to draw in your reader — a relative stranger, most of the time — and concisely let her know what the article is about. Generally, that consists of three key components:
Step 1) Grab the reader’s attention. That looks different for every piece of writing, but we’ve provided some suggestions below.
Step 2) Present the reason for the post’s existence.
Step 3) Explain how the post will help address the problem that brought your reader to it.
As a lover of all things meta, I will, of course, use this post’s introduction as an example of how to write an intro. It contains different components that create the above introduction “formula,” which you can refer to that when you get stuck with your own.
Below, we’ve gone into more detail on each component.
Writing an Introduction Paragraph
1. Grab the reader’s attention.
There are a few ways to hook your reader from the start. You can be empathetic (“Don’t you hate it when…?”), or tell a story, so the reader immediately feels some emotional resonance with the piece. You could tell a joke (“Ha! This is fun. Let’s read more of this.”). You could shock the reader with a crazy fact or stat (“Whoa. That’s crazy. I must know more!”).
For this intro, I went the “empathetic” route.
Writer’s block stinks. Blank screens and taunting cursors — the worst. Who’s with me?
2. Present the reason for the post’s existence.
Your post needs to have a purpose. The purpose of this post is to address a specific problem — the pain in the butt that is writing intros. But, we have to do it, and therein lies the approach to something important: making writing introductions easier.
Just because you know the purpose of your post, doesn’t mean the reader does — not yet, anyway. It’s your job to validate your post’s importance and give your audience a reason to keep reading.
3. Explain how the post will help address the problem.
Now that the reader is presented with a problem that he or she can relate to — and obviously wants a solution — it’s time to let the audience know what the post will provide, and quickly.
In other words, the introduction should set expectations. Take this post, for example. I don’t want the reader to dive in and expect to see a list of reasons why introductions are important. I want you to expect to read about what makes a good introduction.
But if I hadn’t clarified that in the introduction, you might have expected the former. After all, be honest — did you skim over or forget the title of this post already? That’s okay. That’s why we tell the reader exactly what the post will provide, and why it’s valuable.
Of course, there are other valid ways to write introductions for your marketing content — don’t feel the need to follow this formula for every single piece of content, as some are more casual than others. But, this guide should help provide a solid framework to follow if you’re just getting started, or if it’s just one of those days when the words aren’t flowing.
What makes a good introduction?
While format is fundamental to consistently capture visitor attention, it’s also worth considering stylistic frameworks that can help boost engagement from the first moment users land on your site. These include:
1. Telling a compelling story.
Great stories sell books — and they’re also a fantastic way to open a website blog. Storytelling is part of the human experience and if your intro can tee up a solid story, visitors are more likely to keep reading past the first paragraph.
The caveat? Don’t give it all away up-front. Not only should intros be kept short, but the idea is to have people read all the way through to the end. Instead, start with a great hook about something interesting that happened — “The one time I…”, “It all started when…”
2. Cultivating empathy.
We’re also naturally predisposed to empathy, especially when we can relate to what someone else is saying on a personal level.
Let’s say you’re running a money-saving advice blog. By starting your post with a few of your own experiences with debt and how it impacted your life, you can cultivate empathy from those in similar positions and simultaneously lend your blog greater authority.
3. Establishing common pain points.
There’s no trait more universally human than complaining. We do it about small things — like the weather — and big things, like challenges at work or home. This creates an opportunity for content creators: Establish common ground with familiar pain points.
Consider a home maintenance and repair blog. You could introduce homeowners communally dislike — such as clogged gutters or peeling paint — quickly discuss why it’s so frustrating, and then assure readers you can offer a viable solution.
4. Crafting a human connection.
If you’re running any type of product or service website, expect natural skepticism from visitors. They know you’re trying to sell something and their guard is naturally up, especially against hyperbolic or superfluous claims.
Here, it’s worth considering calling out a company shortfall — “we’re not the best, but”, “we don’t have all the answers” — and then highlighting what sets you apart from the competition. Done right, you can disarm cynical users with honesty, craft a human connection and encourage them to consider your pitch.
5. Asking interesting questions.
You can never go wrong with questions — so long as they’re interesting. Intros that start with “did you know that…” or “ever wondered why…” are great starters if you have relevant information to share.
This can’t be overstated: If your blog doesn’t (or can’t) answer the question you pose in the introduction, choose a different approach. Nothing frustrates visitors faster than discovering that blog intro and body are a content mismatch.
5 Introduction Examples
Curious about what a great introduction looks like in the wild? Let’s break down five great examples.
Photography site PetaPixel offers news, insights, and advice about all things photo-related. In their post “This Free 2.5 Hour Tutorial Covers All Aspects of Wedding Photography,” PetaPixel uses their introduction to highlight the experience of tutorial creator Taylor Jackson, who shoots “60 to 70 weddings every year.”
This quick-hitter introduction helps establish Jackson’s credibility as an expert and cultivates confidence among readers, in turn encouraging them to read the post and click through to the tutorial.
Apartment Therapy is all about helping visitors organize, clean, and streamline their apartment space, while also highlighting specific product categories. In their recent post “This Unique Tray is What Your Living Room is Missing,” the site uses one of the techniques mentioned above: Pain points.
“Even maximalists can’t stand clutter,” reads the first intro line. “The reality is that nobody likes to open a cabinet only to be faced with a messy avalanche of knick-knacks and accessories.” By establishing common grounds for complaint, the blog helps set up the benefits of the product it’s trying to sell.
Greatist is a health and wellness blog that offers advice and tips for readers. Their recent starter toolkit post — “Stop Using Your Shoe as a Hammer: 17 Items for Your Starter Tool Kit” helps cultivate a connection with a simple introductory line: “You don’t have to be a DIY pro to need a tool kit around.”
By highlighting the near-universal need for a simple, streamlined toolkit, the site sets up readers to continue on and discover which tools are critical for starter kits.
Educational advice site The Friendly Teacher opens her “10 Tips for Organizing Your Classroom at the End of the Year” with a simple question: “What do teachers do in the summer?”
The answer is easy: Relax. But as the post points out, leaving classrooms in a state of disrepair only makes more work for the following year — and she’s here to help with 10 simple tips for pre-summer cleanup. The introduction works because it helps put readers in the right frame of mind — a relaxing summer — and then offers actionable tips to reach that goal.
BloggingTips.com is exactly what you’d expect: A site dedicated to useful blogging tips that help improve your site. In their recent post, “How To Choose A Blog Name – A New Blogger’s Guide to Selecting a Domain Name And URL”, they don’t waste any time getting to the point of their introduction, noting that, “Once you’ve decided to launch a blog – whether for personal or business purposes – one of the first decisions you have to make involves your domain name selection.”
The biggest benefit of this introduction? Brevity. It gets right to the point. If you’ve got a blog, you need a domain name. This is a great approach when the subject matter you’re tackling is relevant and useful but not inherently compelling: Rather than trying to force a connection or create a convoluted narrative, straight and to the point works best.
Let’s Get Started
Feeling inspired? Good. Next time you find yourself face-to-face with the dreaded blinking cursor, use these resources and compelling examples to find motivation and write simpler, smarter, and stronger introductions.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.