Q&A: How Do You Write A Good Introduction To A Blog?
A good blog post is like a shark.
This goes for all kinds of writing but is especially true of blog posts.
Have you ever tried to read a post that’s just a bunch of facts listed one after the other? I have. And if you’re anything like me, it was probably next to impossible to follow and you didn’t remember any of it when you were done. By contrast, a good story can hook us right from the beginning, we keep reading, unable to put it down, and when we finally finish, we’re thinking about it for hours, maybe even days after we finish reading it.
The structure of a good blog post is the shape of a shark in profile, starting at the mouth (the introduction) and traveling gradually up the back (build-up) until the climactic rise of the dorsal fin (story’s climax), the strong drop and the gradual tapering to the tail (resolution).
To write a good introduction to a blog post, you want to focus on that bite. Without a strong bite, your shark and your blog post will both wither and die, unable to bite onto your reader’s attention. Your blog post could contain the answer to all of life’s great mysteries, but without a compelling introduction, no one will ever read that far in and all your writing will have been a giant waste of time.
The World Wide Web is full of billions of pages, all vying for the reader’s attention. Readers know this. Readers don’t like to waste their time and so if they can’t find what they’re looking for in the first few sentences, they’re going to click off your page and back to Google. The average reader will click away in as little as five seconds, and most won’t spend more than 30 seconds if the information isn’t laid out clearly and in an exciting and readable way.
To nail that bite, you have to know exactly what you’re trying to say, convey it early, and deliver. You need to build trust with your audience and get them to ask questions that you will answer. And you need to tell a good story.
What’s the point?
Know what you’re trying to say. Then say it.
It’s very important that you know exactly what the point of your blog post is before you share it with the world. If you don’t know why you’re writing it, or what you’re trying to say, your reader will struggle to understand what they’re supposed to take away from it.
In school, you were probably taught that a good essay needs a thesis statement in the introduction. This is a good practice in all writing, from newspaper articles to blog posts to dissertations. Your blog post introduction should include a sentence where you lay out exactly the point you will be trying to convey through the rest of the post. Then follow through and use the rest of your post to support your point.
Of course, this isn’t tenth-grade English class and you’re not writing a five-paragraph essay. But if you are writing a blog post entitled “How to Raise Chickens in a Suburban Setting”, your introduction should clearly state that you are going to be writing about raising chickens in the suburbs. And the rest of the post should answer that theme.
Chickens aren’t just for the farm anymore. With our ultimate guide to raising chickens in the suburbs, taking care of these birds is easier than you think!
This example sentence explains exactly what the point of this article will be and how it’s relevant to the reader.
Yes, just one thing. Don’t try to cram too much content into a single post. If you really feel like there are too many topics to discuss around a particular theme, consider making it a series. A single post should be about a single topic.
Stay on message, answer the big question, and stick to your thesis statement.
There is one more tip we can take from more formal writing, like essays, and that is to use the introduction to tell the reader what they’ll be reading about. You’ve told them what the topic is. Now you can give an overview of the details you will discuss. This will help them determine whether the information you’re sharing is valuable to them.
There is a lot to consider when starting out. We’ll guide you through each step, starting with what kind of chickens you might consider, how many hens you should get to start out, and what to do if you get a rooster in the bunch. Housing requirements and care and feeding are just as important. We even have some tips on how to check if your town is chicken friendly and where to find resources for your new birds.
If a reader can get this rundown of information from the introduction, they’re more likely to see how the post can be valuable to them and read on to the end.
Demonstrating value is the key to online success: how does this blog post (or any other shareable content) add value to the reader? If you can demonstrate that value early in the introduction to your post, your reader is less likely to click away before getting to the good stuff.
Add a dash of mystery
Demonstrating value is, however, only the first part of the equation. What will really compel the audience to read on is questioning them or getting them to question you. A little mystery for them to solve will go a long way in engaging the reader.
The introduction is the perfect place to start the questions. The trick is to write in such a way that you create the reader’s “why”.
Why did your reader come to your blog? Sometimes, this process can be very straightforward. If your reader searched Google for “how to fix a broken fence” and you run a home improvement blog with a post entitled “How to Fix a Broken Fence”, you’ve already demonstrated that you will be able to answer their question just from the title. All you have to do is follow through.
But the power of questions can take on a much more nuanced approach, and nailing this will really elevate your writing.
Why should anybody care?
Not every blog post is going to be interesting to every reader. Hopefully, you’ve targeted the right readers for your site. But even still, a big part of writing an introduction is convincing the reader why they should care. We often see this tactic at play in journalism, where it is not enough to explain just the facts of an event. Why does it matter? What impact will it have? Why should anyone read this? If you can ask and answer these questions about your own blog post, you can convince the reader to want to know more about a topic they might not have even heard of before seeing your post. If you can get the reader to start asking questions in their head, and then you demonstrate that you will be providing those answers, then the bond between reader and writer is at its strongest.
What’s important here is that there needs to be a sense of mystery, you need to pique the reader’s curiosity, and you have to do it right away in the introduction of your blog post. Remember, the average person will spend less than ten seconds on your website before deciding if it’s worth their time.
There are six things you need to keep in mind if you’re randomly dropped off in a foreign country with nothing but a water bottle and a handful of the local currency.
This example immediately gets the reader to ask questions and want to know what happens next: Did this really happen? What happened to get you to that point in the first place? And please, I need to know what those six things are! The reader did not care about those six things two minutes ago, but after such a mysterious opening line, they are basically guaranteed to keep reading.
You can also literally ask questions in your blog post introduction to quickly engage the reader. If it’s a question they already know the answer to, they feel good for having that knowledge, which makes them feel good about you by association. If it’s something they don’t know the answer to, they have discovered that now they want to know the answer – and lucky for them, you’re here to give it to them. They might not have even realized it was something they needed to know until you asked. A really useful tactic is to use questions to address preconceived notions about your subject that you’re about to smash. Just by using a question instead of sentence, your writing elicits engagement because the reader is hard-wired to answer; this sets you two into a dialogue rather than a one-sided description of facts.
Use questions in your blog post introduction to plant seeds of commonality and to spark curiosity.
Be a friend
Have you ever been on a truly awful first date? Maybe it was a blind date and your friend swore you’d be perfect for each other. Or maybe it was someone who lied left and right on their Tinder profile. Whatever it is, we’ve all been there.
What makes a first date so awful is that two people are sitting across the table judging each other. They can’t help it. People look for common ground, and a first date is all about finding it. People look for common ground subconsciously with every person they meet. Do we dress the same? Do we speak the same? Do we share similar interests? Finding that common ground can lead to a good first date or a good friendship.
All of this is the long way to say point out common ground in your blog post introduction. Show that you are a friend.
We already talked about using questions in your blog post introduction, but we skipped the most obvious type of question: literal, personal questions. You can use personal questions directed at your reader to demonstrate that you share something, that you’re in the same group, that you have common ground and they can trust what you have to say.
Do you struggle with adult acne?
Am I the only one who gets personally offended when Netflix asks if I’m still watching?
How many times have you started learning a new language, only to give up after just a few weeks?
Each of these questions is personal in nature and allows the reader to feel seen. Any of these could be included in the introduction to a blog post and help compel the reader to stick with the piece.
A blog post is not a dissertation. It’s more like a conversation between friends, or at least equals. Don’t use stuffy, overly academic language just to prove you can.
This is where understanding your brand and your audience comes in handy. Staying on-brand is just as important whether you’re writing a blog for a big company or for your personal hobby. A post for a legal site will read very differently from a post on a baseball enthusiast’s blog, but even in the more formal style of a law firm, you can use your blog post as an opportunity to connect with your reader as equals. You have to know what your brand’s voice sounds like and write authentically in that voice.
You also have to know your audience and cater to the people you know are reading. That legal website’s blog posts will look very different if they’re targeted towards other legal professionals, adults seeking legal services, or high school students of civics.
If you’re an established website or blog, site analytics tell you a lot of demographic information about your reader. If you’re just starting out, you can still get that information by identifying the “ideal reader” you think would be interested in your site, and by analyzing the demographic information of people who interact with similar sites, products, and industries. Once you know your audience, write to them. A blog post is not an opportunity to show off how witty you are, or how strong your writing is. It’s a conversation. Talk to the people you know are listening, or who you want to attract.
The important thing here is that this has to happen in your introduction. If you lead with a stuffy introduction, it doesn’t matter how personal you sound in the fourth paragraph. Your reader will never get that far. From word number one, you need to convince your reader that you two are on the same page and that this is a conversation worth having. Make them your friend first.
The power of storytelling
Another thing humans are hard-wired for is storytelling. Seriously, scientists have shown that even children as young as six months old rely on story to make sense of new information. Stories are so much more memorable than dry facts and figures. Use this to your advantage and tell stories to connect with your reader, engage them to read to the end, and inspire them to remember everything you told them.
There are two main ways to incorporate storytelling into your writing. You can weave a good story through the entire piece, referring back to it, and bringing the reader on a journey. Maybe it’s something you only allude to a handful of times, saving the ending for the conclusion of your blog post, or maybe it’s a narrative designed specifically to share the information at hand. Either way, it has to start with a good hook. Like any creative writing professor would tell you, you have to capture your reader’s attention right away.
An even simpler way to incorporate stories into your blog post is to use an anecdote or metaphor right in the introduction. Open the piece on a story that instantly gets the reader excited about what happens next. Just like when a summer blockbuster opens in the middle of a chase scene, you want to use the first few sentences to grab the reader’s attention and forge a connection. This way, if your content doesn’t lend itself that well to narrativization, you have still connected with your reader on the level of story, priming them to understand what you will explain next.
These stories can be personal tales from your own life. We’ve all heard the jokes about the recipes online that start with a short novel on the author’s personal life before laying out the ingredients to make a cake. Maybe that example goes a little overboard, but the simple act of sharing how much the dish means to the author before explaining how to make it can help engage the reader despite the relatively formulaic nature of a recipe. Stories like these also help the reader connect with the writer, not just the content, and if that reader-writer connection is strong and friendly, the reader is more likely to come back to read more.
A Couple More Tips
- No matter what, be sure you get the reader’s attention with the first line. Your blog post introduction needs to BITE.
- You can use facts or quotations to start your post, but be careful about how you do it. Make sure they’re relevant and then use the tips about common ground or story to spice them up. Which is more evocative: Jupiter has a circumference of 279,118 miles? or: It would take you over 178 days to drive all the way around Jupiter?
- Keep your writing short, punchy, and casual.
- Arrange your writing, especially in the introduction, visually. Use formatting and make it easy to read and easier to scan.
Writing your blog post introduction doesn’t have to be hard, but it shouldn’t be simple. By telling a story, being a friend, and asking and answering questions, you can craft an engaging blog post introduction that hooks your reader into reading more. The most important thing to remember is to stick to the point. Think of the introduction as the trailer for the rest of the piece. Make a promise in those first crucial sentences, then spend the rest of the post delivering. And make sure your shark has a strong bite.