A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Compelling Article Introduction

 
 

writing

 

Wouldn’t it be great if every single person who clicked on one of your articles read it from start to finish, unable to pull their eyes away from the screen?

 

I think we both know the answer to that question.

 

To achieve this goal, however, you must master the art of writing intriguing introductions.

 

Wait a second, you’re thinking. Writing introductions? Isn’t that kind of a small detail of a 2,000-word article?

 

Your article intro is not a small detail.

 

The introduction to your article is often the difference between engaging readers and having a bounce rate high enough to make a click-baiter cringe.

 

Think about it. If you don’t grab your readers right away, you’ll lose them.

 

You went through all that work of writing a killer article, right? You worked hard at it. You spent a lot of time on it. You did a ton of research.

 

But if your introduction sucks, your efforts will be all for nothing.

 

You lost before you even got started!

 

If you want to write great content, improve the success of your marketing campaigns, and increase the loyalty of your fans, you must master writing introductions.

 

Let me show you how.

 

1. Master the opening line

 

To have a strong introduction, you need to open with a strong first sentence.

 

The millisecond your reader hits the page, they have an extremely high likelihood of leaving the page.

 

image08

 

Data says so.

 

The first sentence has one single purpose: to entice the reader to read the next sentence. In doing so, it sets the tone for the rest of the article, hooking the reader in, one step at a time.

 

If you fail at this, you readers won’t scroll.

 
This is a histogram showing how far people scroll through Slate article pages. Each bar represents the share of people who stopped scrolling at a particular spot in the article. (An article is assumed to be around 2000 pixels long; if the top of your browser window gets to the 2000-pixel mark, you're counted as scrolling 100 percent through the article. The X axis goes to 120 percent because on most pages, there's usually stuff below the 2000-pixel mark, like the comments section.) This graph only includes people who spent any time engaging with the page at all--users who

 

This is a histogram showing how far people scroll through Slate article pages. Each bar represents the share of people who stopped scrolling at a particular spot in the article. (An article is assumed to be around 2000 pixels long; if the top of your browser window gets to the 2000-pixel mark, you’re counted as scrolling 100% through the article. The X axis goes to 120% because on most pages, there’s usually stuff below the 2000-pixel mark, like the comments section.) This graph only includes people who spent any time engaging with the page at all (users who “bounced” from the page immediately after landing on it are not represented.) The graph shows that many Slate readers do not scroll at all. That’s the spike at the 0% mark, representing about 5% of readers. Most visitors scroll about halfway through a typical Slate story. The spike near the end is an anomaly caused by pages containing photos and videos-on those pages, people scroll through the whole page.

 
 

And if they don’t scroll, they won’t engage.

 

Check out this article by Dilbert author Scott Adams to see how the first sentence is done.

 

image10

 

He writes this:

 

I went from being a bad writer to a good writer after taking a one-day course in “business writing.”

 
 

That’s a great opening line.

 

Why? Because it makes me want to know more!

 
 
    • How did he become a good writer?
 
    • What did he learn?
 
    • Could I benefit from it too?
 
 

Adams nailed it. He drew us in by making us ask questions.

 

If you don’t know how to craft an intriguing first sentence, the remaining 980 words of your article will be a complete waste.

 

Luckily for you, with a few simple tricks, writing a phenomenal first sentence can be quite easy.

 

The first thing to keep in mind is that you want to keep the first sentence short. This makes it easy for the reader to digest the first bits of information and prevents them from losing interest quickly.

 

But there is more to it than that.

 

You have to make sure that the first sentence grabs the reader’s attention and holds it for the rest of the article.

 

Here are a couple of tried-and-true tactics that make for super compelling first lines.

 

Ask the reader a question

 

This is an easy way to get the reader’s attention and get them engaged without a whole lot of effort on your part.

 

For example, if you are writing an article on quitting your job and starting your own company, you could open with the question: “Did you know that almost 70% of Americans report being actively disengaged from their careers?”

 

Why does this work?

 

It has to do with the brain’s “limbic reward system.”

 

The Limbic Reward System lights up when curiosity is piqued.

 

When this system is activated, dopamine is released. And dopamine gives us a sense of reward and pleasure.

 

When we are intrigued by a question, i.e., experience a sense of curiosity, the limbic reward system lights up. And that’s why we want to keep reading-it’s rewarding to satisfy curiosity.

 

Writer Olga Khazan asks a question that’s on everyone’s mind, causing the reader to be instantly interested.

 

image13

 

We want to know the answer to that question, so we keep reading.

 

That’s why a question is a great opening line. You can even use the question as the article title.

 

Tell a story

 

The brain also lights up when it encounters a story.

 

According to the theory of neural coupling, certain portions of the brain are activated when a reader thinks about the same mental and physical activity that a character in a story is doing.

 

image03

 

James Clear usually starts his blog articles with a story, often a true story.

 

image12

 

The story makes his readers interested in the article and keeps them reading to the very end.

 

Use a shocking quote

 

Another great way to start your article is to use an attention-grabbing quote.

 

Let’s say you are writing an article on world travel. A great way to introduce the article would be with the quote from Helen Keller:

 

“Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

 
 

Tell the reader to imagine

 

Sparking the imagination is an instant way to draw the reader into the experience of the article.

 

Notice how this article from Wired For Story begins:

 

image11

 

The reader tries to obey the imperative by imagining. This effort compels the reader to read further, drawing them into the article.

 

Writers for The Atlantic are experts at their craft. This writer does the same thing-asking the reader to imagine.

 

image01

 

Share an interesting fact

 

In a day and age when the Internet is so rife with crappy information and fraudulent “gurus,” people are skeptical. They have every reason to be.

 

Opening your article with a relevant fact or statistic is a great way to establish trust and authority from the first sentence and let readers know you’ve done your research.

 

2. Have something unique to say

 

Okay, so you’ve crafted an excellent first sentence, and you have your reader’s interest.

 

Now what?

 

Now, you have to hold that interest by having something interesting and uncommon to say.

 

Very few people take the time and energy to regularly produce new, thought-provoking content. If you do, you’ll set yourself apart from the herd in a big way.

 

Forget re-purposing of old articles or rewriting stuff from other people’s websites. If you want to have the reader’s respect and attention, you have to say something they’ve never heard before.

 

Unfortunately, a lot of the stuff you read today has been regurgitated 28 times before.

 

Let’s imagine you run a travel blog. Based on my advice, you write a number of 3,000-word comprehensive “How-To Guides.”

 

Whenever a reader opens your guide on financing their first around the world trip, they’ll expect to read all about airline rewards programs, frugality, and credit card points.

 

And that information is great, but it is also very generic.

 

A better introduction would be something like this:

 

How would you like to save up enough money in the next 6 months to spend all of 2017 traveling the world?

 

That would be pretty epic, right?

 

Well, this is entirely possible, and in today’s article, I am going to show you how you can do this.

 

It’s not by skipping your morning latte or spending thousands of dollars with your credit cards on a few hundred miles either.

 

I am going to show you how you can create a life of mobility and freedom by leveraging the skills you already have, tactically selecting your destinations, and using a little known tax secret that will save you thousands of dollars!

 

Sound good? Let’s get to it.

 
 

It’s hard to be different. I realize that.

 

Sometimes, in order to create unique stuff, we simply have to work harder, think longer, and research more than our competition.

 

Here are some ways you can develop that unique voice in your article introduction:

 
 
    • Share a personal story or fact. You’re the only you there is. You can share a story or experience no one else can. One way to tell such a story is to write, “If you know me…”
 
    • Get your emotions in it. People have an emotional reaction to emotions. When we convey our emotions in our writing, people tend to respond. Besides, emotion is also a unique and personal thing. How do you communicate this in an introduction? Easy: “Want to know how I feel about it? I feel….”
 
    • Share your goals or vision. If you have a guiding goal or vision for life, you can communicate this in your introduction. “That’s one of the reasons I wrote this post. My goal in life is to…”
 
    • Make a promise. A promise is a personal and attention-grabbing thing. Give your readers a promise, and it will secure their loyalty and their interest. “I promise that I’ll do my dead-level best to….”
 
 

Unique isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.

 

3. Keep it simple

 

We live in a world where most people have an attention span of only a few seconds.

 

Apparently, our attention span is getting shorter!

 

image05

 

After a few seconds, we get bored and move on to the next shiny object.

 

If you want your readers to make time in their days to read what you have to say, make sure you present things as simply as possible.

 

Longer articles, of course, deserve longer introductions. But it’s important to respect people’s time and attention. You can’t change what is (people’s short attention spans) by writing a long introduction based on what should be (longer attention spans).

 

Avoid rambling about how great your information is, and just share it already!

 

4. Speak directly to the reader

 

Whenever you are writing educational material for other people, you want to use the word “you” as much (and as naturally) as possible.

 

In this article, I’ve used some variation of the word you more than 100 times. Why? Because I’m talking to you! I want you to know this information. I want you to benefit from it.

 

By emphasizing the word “you” in your article, you show the reader you are directly addressing them and their situation and not just writing a generic article to the general populace.

 

But there’s another side to this. I should refer to myself as well. My goal is to convey a personal feel to this article. After all, it’s me talking to you, right? So it’s only natural that I would refer to myself too.

 

5. Explain what the article is about

 

The point of an introduction is exactly that: to introduce the content that will be presented in an article.

 

I cannot tell you the number of times online articles left me confused even I after I’d read a few of their paragraphs.

 

I couldn’t tell whether the authors were teaching me how to run successful Facebook ads, or telling me a weird story about their childhood.

 

Take a few sentences, and clearly explain what the article is going to cover without giving away too many details.

 

This will build suspense around the subject matter while still letting your audience know what they may be in for.

 

A great example of this comes from the Buffer blog. Notice how the introduction poses a question and then proposes to answer that question.

 

image02

 

Your curiosity stays high, but the introduction sets the stage.

 

6. Explain the importance of the article

 

Once you’ve explained what the article is, now it’s time to explain why people should care.

 

Everyone on the Internet approaches every new piece of information with a simple question: “What’s in it for me?”

 

image09

 

If you want to write introductions that hook the reader and help your content go viral, you have to master the art of explaining what the reader stands to gain from the information you are sharing-the benefits.

 

image00

 

How will it benefit your readers’ lives? How will it solve a problem they are facing? How will it cure a pain they are feeling?

 

If you understand how to quickly and efficiently answer these questions, you’ll keep your readers glued to your article till the last word.

 

Conclusion

 

Few things can make or break your article as easily as an introduction.

 

If you can master the art of the first few paragraphs, you’ll be able to increase reader engagement, improve sales, and earn a reputation as a phenomenal writer.

 

It’s not an easy skill to master, but like many things in Internet marketing, it’s fairly straightforward.

 

If you put in the work, you’ll get results.

 

What tactics do you use to create a compelling article introduction?

 
 

 
 

 

from Quick Sprout https://www.quicksprout.com/2016/07/25/a-step-by-step-guide-to-writing-a-compelling-article-introduction/

 
 

via My Media Pal

 

 

Filed under: Digital Marketing Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Online Strategy, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, SEO Strategy, SEO Tips

Prisma for Android is now live for all in the Google Play Store

Prisma Android The hits just keep on coming for Prisma. Just over a month after launching on iOS and almost immediately capturing the imagination of the Instagramming masses in the process, AI-fueled photo filtering app is Prisma is now live for all Android users. That’s a mere five days after the app first launched in beta on Google’s mobile operating system, through a limited invite… Read More

The New Yorker’s Snapchat is mesmerizing

Https%3a%2f%2fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads%2fcard%2fimage%2f152766%2fnew_yorker

Feed-twFeed-fb

Tapping through my Snapchat stories one afternoon, I was arrested by a rudimentary doodle. “This Week’s Cover” it said in neon scrawl.

 

This simple snap was everything I didn’t know I needed in my life.

 
 

Since then, The New Yorker‘s Snapchat stories have become an obsession for me, a singular piece of high art among a cluttered tweenscape of brands and celebrities.

 

 

New Yorker cover editor Françoise Mouly introduces and explains one of the magazine’s recent covers (left); the view from the publication’s Manhattan offices (right).

Image: Screenshot, the new yorker/snapchat Read more…

More about Snapchat Stories, New Yorker, Snapchat, Social Media, and Apps Software

 

 

100% Fun

shutterstock_393282955 If 2016 taught us anything it’s that the internet isn’t fun anymore. It’s not that a soulless network of computers interconnected via TCP/IP was ever supposed to be fun. It’s that eventually fun overlaid itself on that network and created a world where nearly everyone could interact without fear. Kids grew up in a world where it was easier to talk to someone in… Read More

10 Landing Page Tactics That Will Turn Casual Visitors into Converting Customers

 
 

money

 

When was the last time you took a long hard look at your landing pages?

 

On paper, landing page optimization seems easy enough. In fact, you’re probably following some sort of formula to design your landing pages.

 

Follow a few basic principles, capture the attention of your visitors, put to rest any doubts they may have, urge them to purchase, and let the money pour in.

 

Right?

 

In reality, it’s not this easy.

 

My experience with landing pages has taught me that it’s hard work to design the perfect landing page.

 

There are principles to follow, sure. But there’s also a lot of information you need to gain before you can design that killer landing page.

 
 
    • What are your customers thinking?
 
    • How did they find your landing page?
 
    • What headline is going to grab their attention?
 
    • What device are they using?
 
    • What pain are they experiencing?
 
    • What’s going to make them convert?
 
 

That final question-what’s going to make them convert?-is the most important one.

 

You want to know what I really care about when it comes to landing pages?

 

Conversions.

 

I just want more conversions.

 

You probably do too. According to the studies, “only about 22 percent of businesses are satisfied with their conversion rates.”

 

Let me get to the point. Here are 10 landing page tactics I’ve had immense success with and that can help convert even casual visitors into customers. 

 

1. Keep it minimal

 

The “less is more” idea rings true throughout many aspects of marketing.

 

Science and research have shown that this minimalist mindset and strategy lead to breakthroughs in life and business.

 

What Minimalism is really about is reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff-the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities-that don’t bring value to your life.

 

What’s true in life is true in digital marketing too.

 

Tommy Walker’s expert article, “Why ‘Simple’ Websites Are Scientifically Better” tells exactly why and how the mind responds to a simple, minimalist website.

 

Your landing page is no exception.

 

The simpler, the better.

 

Saturate your landing page with a lot of unnecessary extras, and you’ll be sure to distract and confuse your visitors.

 

One area where marketers often go wrong is having multiple offers. In fact, 48% of landing pages contain multiple offers.

 

However, multiple offers can decrease conversions by 266%!

 

That means you need to keep things relatively sparse and avoid giving your visitors a cognitive overload.

 

Take a look at this example from Vimeo:

 

image02

 

Bold and beautiful, right?

 

This landing page for Vimeo Business wants you to do one thing and one thing only: Get Vimeo Business.

 

There is no doubt in your mind what your next action should be.

 
 
    • If you are the wallet-out-ready-to-buy customer, you’ll click the green CTA.
 
    • If you’re the I-need-to-do-a-little-more-research kind of customer, you’ll watch the video or scroll down.
 
 

Either way, Vimeo’s got you hooked.

 

Why? Because this is a minimalist landing page with zero clutter, zero friction, and zero hurdles to conversion.

 

By avoiding complication and excessive choice, you will help your visitors to maintain better focus, which is a surefire way to boost conversions.

 

2. Use the five-second rule

 

The pop-it-in-the-microwave culture we live in means one thing for landing pages.

 

Stuff happens fast.

 

Instant engagement is essential, and you need to get straight to the point.

 

That’s why I like to treat it as if I’ve got only five seconds to capture the attention of my visitors.

 

How do you achieve this?

 

This goes back to my first point about taking a minimalist approach. Often a snazzy headline, an image, and a CTA are all it takes.

 

Also, keep key benefits above the fold so that visitors can be persuaded to buy without having to scroll down.

 

Craig Tomlin, a usability expert, explains why five seconds matter:

 

The reason five seconds is so important is because of research studies which demonstrate that visitors to websites take a very short amount of time (in some cases a  fraction of a second, as little as 50 milliseconds) to judge the quality of a website.

 
 

What about those “research studies?”

 

Take a look:

 

image08

 

Let me reiterate:

 

It takes five seconds or less for a user to decide whether or not they like your website.

 

Whether or not you realize it, you’ve proven the power of the five-second rule when you look at landing pages.

 

For example, let’s say you saw this ad in your SERP.

 

image14

 

What happens next?

 

You see this page:

 

image13

 

It took me 1.86 seconds to read the headline, subheadline, and CTA. (I timed it.)

 

Do I like it or not?

 

Keep in mind, I’m being subtly influenced by the color of the website, the image behind the text, and the negative space surrounding the information.

 

In less than five seconds, I’ve decided whether or not I like this page and whether or not I’m going to click on the CTA “get started now.”

 

That’s the power of the five-second rule.

 

3. Make load time lightning fast

 

As I mentioned in one of my posts on Quick Sprout, for every second delay in page response, there is a 7% decrease in conversion rate.

 

This ties into the five-second rule: visitors should be able to get the gist of what you’re offering and understand the inherent benefits of it within five seconds.

 

If your landing page is cumbersome and slow to load, scale back your content, and do whatever it takes to speed it up.

 

To test your website’s speed, use Google PageSpeed insights. All you need to do is plug in your website URL, and get a quick score.

 

image01

 

4. Ditch carousels and sliders

 

You could make the argument that these look cool from an aesthetic standpoint.

 

Maybe that’s why so many marketers think that it’s a good move to use carousels/sliders above the fold on a landing page.

 

But in reality, this can be a deathblow to your conversion rates.

 

To prove this point, the University of Notre Dame tested a slider on its homepage and found that approximately 1% of visitors clicked on a feature:

 

image00

 

Not exactly ideal, is it?

 

When users see something, they will click on it. If that “something” keeps changing, the likelihood that they will click on it drops.

 

image11

 

The bottom line here is that such elements only add to the “busyness” of a landing page and detract from its value.

 

Decide what your landing page should display-instead of a slider or carousel-and stick with that.

 

5. Use plenty of white space

 

Today’s average visitor is a skimmer and scanner.

 

They don’t want to get bogged down with lengthy paragraphs and bulky blocks of text.

 

In fact, “a study found that good use of white space between paragraphs and in the left and right margins increases comprehension by almost 20 percent. Readers find it easier to focus on and process generously spaced content.”

 

You can make it easier for visitors to navigate their way through your landing page by following this principle.

 

Notice how Buffer uses white space on its landing page:

 

image15

 

If I were to cram all that content together, it would take up a tiny corner of the page.

 

There’s not a lot of stuff. The white space on the page makes it easy for my brain to analyze the information and decide what to do next. The result? I’m more likely to make the right decision-the decision to convert.

 

Apple is famous for its use of white space. Its branding, product design, and even its store layout is founded on the importance of negative space/white space.

 

Its MacBook landing page shows the use of white space:

 

image16

 

Take a page from Apple’s playbook, and use more white space.

 

6. Use social proof for leverage

 

It’s pretty undeniable that humans are social creatures by nature, and we’re all influenced by others, at least to some extent.

 

Often, all it takes to convert someone who’s on the fence is a bit of social proof.

 

For instance, you might include a list of some top companies who have used your product/service, along with their logos.

 

I’ve dubbed this term “logo porn.”

 

On Crazy Egg, I display some of the recognizable companies who have used the product.

 

image12

 

This doesn’t take up a lot of space, and visitors can quickly scan your landing page without a lot of effort.

 

Leadpages uses the same approach on its landing page (which, ironically, is about landing pages):

 

image09

 

This can really boost your trustworthiness and reputability in your customers’ eyes.

 

7. Make contact info readily available

 

Putting yourself in the shoes of prospects is critical for increasing conversions.

 

For all they know, you’re some charlatan, snake oil salesman who’s just going to take their money and run.

 

To alleviate their fears, it’s helpful to include your contact info so they can view it without having to click on anything.

 

I Done This, a team productivity tool, displays its contact information at the top of the landing page. If you’re so inclined, you can pick up your phone and give them a call.

 

image05

 

This piece of information lets your page visitors know you’re a legitimate business with an actual physical location, which should put their mind at ease.

 

8. Pepper in testimonials

 

Although this tactic might not seem exactly cutting-edge or game-changing, it can still help conversions.

 

Testimonials (especially with pictures) can really hammer home the value your product/service provides.

 

Quip’s landing page provides a great example of how this works:

 

image04

 

As HubSpot shows, testimonials that display a name, picture, position, and company logo are particularly powerful.

 

image03

 

Sometimes, the testimonials can come from well-known people. Other times, they could come from ordinary people, more aligned with your target customer.

 

I Done This displays some testimonials from both groups of people. (Dan Pink is a well-known author.)

 

image10

 

Testimonials like these can help a casual visitor start thinking about becoming an actual customer.

 

9. Add video

 

Did you know that using videos on landing pages can increase conversions by 86%?

 

That’s not a number to scoff at.

 

I realize that this seems to be at odds with me recommending a minimalist layout, but it’s possible to keep it simple while incorporating video.

 

Take a look at ClickFunnels. Its landing page displays a video that starts playing automatically when I hit the page:

 

image07

 

It’s quirky. It has real people. It has dialogue.

 

I’m hooked.

 

After spending a few minutes of my life watching the video, I’m more likely to convert. Why?

 

Because I spent time watching the video. And because while watching that video, I realized the importance and usefulness of the product.

 

Just keep it relatively brief (five minutes max), and use it as an opportunity to educate and entertain your visitors and create a personal connection.

 

10. Add social share buttons

 

While the debate over just how much of an impact social shares have on SEO continues to rage on, you can’t deny that having plenty of social shares on a landing page can have a positive impact on conversions.

 

This is yet another way to use social proof to your advantage.

 

Conclusion

 

Even those visitors who don’t have any intention of buying when they reach your landing page can be persuaded to take action if you use the techniques I showed you above.

 

Landing page optimization can be complicated. It can be confusing. And it can take a lot of time to get in the mind of your customers and determine how to satisfy their needs.

 

I would never recommend that you shortcut the research, the persona development, and all the hard work that goes into creating a compelling landing page.

 

However, I realize that sometimes you just need a brief guide or a list of tactics like this one.

 

These ten methods will allow you to jump into any marketing situation, create effective landing pages, and convert those casual visitors into customers.

 

Are there any other specific landing page optimization techniques you’ve had success with?

 
 

 
 

 

from Quick Sprout https://www.quicksprout.com/2016/07/22/10-landing-page-tactics-that-will-turn-casual-visitors-into-converting-customers/

 
 

via My Media Pal

 

 

Filed under: Digital Marketing Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Online Strategy, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, SEO Strategy, SEO Tips