How to Start an Article; Writing Captivating Introductions

Imagine knowing the perfect introduction that hypnotizes your visitors to read from start to finish, for every article you write?

Is there any other superpower as good as this?

Publishers would be looking for you and brands will pamper you endlessly just to have you on their marketing team.

Why?

Because in today’s world, getting and maintaining people’s attention is the most valuable asset ever.

Meanwhile, human’s average attention span has dropped below that of a goldfish.

So, if you can master the ability to grasp at least 50% of your readers’ attention enough to read halfway through your articles, we can as well classify you as a genius.

This fete is achievable.

Four and a half decades ago, Martin Conroy, the then advertising executive of the Wall Street Journal, created the Greatest Sales Letter which sold $2 billion worth of subscriptions for 28 years.

The fundamental feature of this letter which contributed to the wild and enduring success was its compelling introduction which hooks you in and keeps you reading till the very end.

It starts with an exciting story of two men who graduated from the same college with the same achievements and dreams but who later had different success outcome, then breaks into the main agenda leaving you in suspense.

So you keep reading line after line, hoping you don’t miss the part where he tells you what happened to the men that resulted in their different outcomes.

By the time you approach the end, Martin convinces you to buy the subscription before clearing the suspense.

I read the letter, and for sure I didn’t want to stop. I believe most if not all, people who came across the note at that time felt the same.

We all desire to keep our readers hooked until we sell the message. Yet writers never focus on the introduction.

Studies have shown that introductions determine whether a reader will spend an additional second on your blog or bounce back to google and look for more helpful content.

According to a study on webpage user retention projected by a Weibull distribution graph, most users often leave a webpage within the first 20 seconds.

Weibull graph for blog page engagement
Weibull graph for blog page engagement

In these 20 seconds, three things are in play; web design, title and introduction. The design attracts, and the title captivates, but the introduction retains the interest or attention.

You need your readers to be interested and ready to read through your article, whether it’s a long article or a short piece.

If you’re looking for the priceless tips of writing such hypnotizing introductions, then this is your lucky day.

In this article, I will reveal to you the most effective strategies of writing captivating introductions, giving you good examples for each.

These simple tips are tried and tested but are only as good as you practise them. So hit the road running as soon as you finish reading this article.

1. Initiate Imagination

I started this article by inducing an imagination in you.

One that would excite you based on what you were looking for when you stumbled upon this piece.

As you imagined having the power to write perfect introductions, you were slowly drawn into the article.

The imaginations in your head compelled you to read this far because you are looking for answers; tips for writing captivating introductions.

And you have just discovered one of the tips.

Imaginations have the same impact on our brains as reality. Which is why motivational speakers preach that thoughts determine our reality.

So next time you find yourself wondering about the introduction, use a statement that makes your reader imagine.

For instance, make them imagine having succeeded in life before giving tips on what they need to achieve that success.

Or try inducing an imagination that contrasts the current reality and ask what they think would have happened if the former was the actual truth.

Writers for The Atlantic have perfected this tactic.

As reader to imagine
As reader to imagine

Just make sure the induced fantasy is in line with the topic.

You cannot ask a reader seeking weight loss information to imagine the best cars from Japan.

If used correctly, imaginations can captivate a reader long enough to get them through the first few paragraphs.

Because it creates a particular interest in the article; a reader engages the mind to not only fantasize but also understand your message and make sense out of it.

And you don’t have to start with the word ‘imagine’; play with words and make it more interesting as

Using imaginations to start article
Creative ways to ask your reader to imagine

2. Ask a Question

Why would you ask your readers’ questions when they are seeking answers?

Well, because you want to get their attention and engage them effortlessly.

How does this work, you ask?

Our brains have a set of structures that deal with emotions and memory, which is called the limbic system.

When it’s activated, it releases dopamine which gives us a sense of pleasure or reward.

And one sure way this system is activated is when asked a question. As curious animals, we desire to know more.

Consequently, a curious reader will want to read more to learn.

Ta-da! That’s how you captivate their attention.

For instance, Kindra Hall asks an interesting question which first groups a reader into two categories; people who have watched Friends, or people who have not.

Ask Questions
Questions are good for introductions

If you are in the former category, you are curious to find out how the four friends squeezing a new couch through a staircase relates to restaurants and the pandemic.

If you are in the latter category, you have two things you’re curious about; watching The Friends series and finding out how squeezing a new couch through a staircase relates to restaurants and the pandemic.

Either way, you are curious to find out the relationship between the two seemingly distant issues.

So, what do you do? You read further.

One of my favourite bloggers, Neil Patel, introduces an article with a series of questions which instantly capture your attention and build upon your curiosity; a perfect example of the power of questions.

Questions for Introductions
Questions build curiosity

This approach is interesting. First, it stops you on your tracks and makes you realize that the term ‘remarketing’ is not common.

Then he introduces another term ‘retargeting’ which might seem synonymous and asks you if you know the difference.

In a few short sentences, Neil creates a pent up curiosity-cloud that compels you to want to read to the end, because you not only want to know what ‘remarketing’ is but also want to understand ‘retargeting’.

One strategy I’ve found instrumental when using questions to start articles is asking questions that are related but different from the query that brought the reader to your blog.

It makes them more curious as they have more untapped knowledge to acquire.

3. Make it Storytime

Storytelling is a powerful way not only to communicate but also capture the attention of your audience.

First, stories synchronize the brains of both the listener and storyteller; neurons in the listener’s brain fire in the same pattern as those in the speaker’s brain, a process known as Neural Coupling.

Secondly, whenever we hear a story, we have a high tendency of being immersed in the world of the story.

Our emotions are engaged, and we tend to empathize with the speaker. The technical term for this is Narrative transport.

Lastly, stories tend to ‘light up’ more parts of our brains than factual information.

Now, with this kind of power, a well-told story at the beginning of an article gives you the perfect opportunity to captivate your audience.

Such a story would put a reader’s brain in sync with yours, immerse them emotionally into your content and excite the brain in many ways.

Ever wondered why people love to gossip?

Personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations. These kind of conversations are more immersive and exciting hence tend to get so much attention.

Which is why you should strive to engage your readers into some fascinating and emotion-inducing stories occasionally.

James Clear, a New York Bestseller writer and consultant on habits, decision making and continuous improvement is fond of storytelling as a way of starting his articles such as this;

Using stories for introductions
Introduction stories can captivate readers

To create compelling stories, you must keep in mind the elements of great storytelling as proposed by Aristotle centuries ago.

These elements include plot, character, theme, diction, melody, décor, and spectacle in that order.

The bottom line is, keep your focus on the audience, not your characters, plot or yourself and ensure your audience can create a connection to the characters of the story; empathy.

It compels them to continue reading.

Emmanuel Thomas, the author of The Power of Thinking Inside the Box, start this article on strengthening personal and professional identity by giving your story which many readers would relate to thus compelling them to want to know more.

Start introduction with story
Personal Stories are engaging and captivating

4. ‘Brag’ a little and give a promise

This might seem ironic. We generally don’t like braggadocios people.

Yet in most cases, we would give anything to have or achieve what they brag about. So, in short, we don’t like it when people brag about something and don’t tell us how they got it.

You can exploit this characteristic by first stating your achievement at the beginning of an article.

Let’s use this example:

In 9 months, I grew my YouTube channel from 1,000 subscribers to 1 million.

As soon as this statement hits the mind, the Reticular Activating System, which is responsible for filtering out unnecessary information so that you can focus on the important stuff gets into action.

It sifts through the unlimited data in your mind and presents you with the pieces vital for you. Meanwhile, it seeks information that validates your belief which in this case is the idea that you can grow your YouTube channel by a thousandfold.

And where is this information it’s seeking? On the article.

Now, after you have bragged a little, the next most logical thing to do is to promise your readers that you will give them the secret to your achievement.

So the full introduction would be something like this;

In 9 months, I grew my YouTube channel from 1,000 subscribers to 1 million. In this article, I will show you how I did it in 6 simple steps.

A reader will be naturally compelled to read more not only to satisfy the curiosity as we discussed earlier but also in response to their RAS seeking information to validate the belief they subconsciously acquired.

Here’s a good illustration of this priceless tactic.

State success stories at introduction
Success stories appeal to most readers

When somebody comes reads the introduction, they involuntary fall into the trap of seeking information.

The achievement has already been recorded; that it is possible to have several job-offers from highly reputable companies, and you can negotiate an insane salary from all of them. 

They already know the outcome, what remains is the process; the meat of the story.

The process of reaching to the point of getting multiple job offers, negotiating with the companies and settling on the most lucrative of all.

The promise essentially keeps the attention that the ‘brag’ has captured.

Alexis Schroeder, the founder of Fitnancials.com, makes use of this tactic by telling her success story first before promising to reveal the steps she took to achieve all that while in her final year of in college.

Personal Success Stories are more trustworthy
Personal Success Stories are more trustworthy thus captivating

She writes;

About a year ago, I was making an average of $1,000 per month on my blog.

March 2018, I hit $10,000 in blogging income.

Why is this a great opening line? Because it makes you want to know more. How did she do it? What lessons did she learn? Can I achieve the same success?

She draws you in by making you ask questions which takes all your attention as you continue reading.

Many successful people use this strategy when telling their stories, and it has proven very useful, especially in the motivation industry, which in the USA amounts to at least $10 Billion.

5. Share an interesting fact or statistics.

Facts are fascinating, especially statistical statements.

In my view, they tend to do two things.

First, they give an exact logical representation of data which in turn induces a visual idea of what somebody is describing.

Consider this statement

1 out of 9 people in the world don’t have access to safe and clean drinking water

First, the logical idea of this statement would process very fast in your mind, and you’ll almost conclude that it’s a tiny number of people.

That is until you do a little brainwork and realize that ratio represents almost 1 billion people, precisely 840 million people. That’s 2.6 times the population of the USA.

Now, that not as tiny as you thought, is it?

Secondly, in the spirit of curiosity that is human nature, we enjoy learning new things, especially when presented in bit sizes that are quick to process.

So when you present information in the form of statistical or generally factual manner, a reader is likely to enjoy the newly acquired knowledge which activates the reward system of the brain.

Consequently, they feel compelled to read more to cement the newly acquired information.

On top of all this, using factual statements offers an excellent means of establishing trust and authority. It shows you have done considerable research before writing the piece, which increases the chance that your ideas are correct.

Who doesn’t like learning from the experts?

This example from Failory.com not only uses statistical facts to introduce the article but also employs questions which raise curiosity before giving a promise to reveal details behind the startling facts.

Facts capture attention
Facts capture attention

And it doesn’t stop there.

You can be a little more creative than that, like leveraging stats by referencing past stats and creating an expectation of improvement in current times.

For instance;

In the past five years, e-commerce sales have grown consistently at a rate of 5%. This year, based on sales reports in the first three months, the growth rate is likely to double.

This introduction already establishes you as an authority in the topic based on the research conducted and presented.

A visitor wishes to read further because they are curious to find out more meaning from these statistics and perhaps learn something that would be of benefit to them.

Being creative and mixing it up

While all these strategies work effectively in retaining the attention of your readers, they can only work for you if you know how to use them.

You cannot overuse either of them and expect improved user engagement. It would be best if you struck a balance.

Mixing it up, for instance, makes the introduction more interesting and engaging because it activated the different emotions and thought that come as a result of each tactic used.

Also, remember you are not limited to these strategies; they are just a few of the most common. You are only limited by your creativity.

I find this example particularly interesting.

Creative ways to write article introductions
Creative ways to write article introductions

It’s quite hilarious besides creating a wow moment.

Did you know Google generates 3.5 Billion searches every day?

Meanwhile, as you figure out how to captivate your audience in the introduction, don’t forget to optimize your content for Google. Failing to do so negates your work because your content won’t be discoverable in the first place.

Rules of Powerful introductions

The strategies are in your fingertips. Now let’s talk about the rules.

These rules are not cast in stone, but more often than not, if broken, you will lose; readers will not read and engage with your content as much as you’d expect.

1. Write short introductions.

Short and Precise Introductions
Short and Precise Introductions

An introduction should captivate your audience, not overwhelm them.

Short sentences are perfect for this reason; they are quick to skim through and easy to understand.

That’s why you want to drop a few your punch lines in the introduction; enough to capture attention and build up curiosity.

Save up other punchlines for later, because that’s what they will be looking forward to.

Also, short sentences increase the readability score, an important factor in SEO.

2. Don’t reiterate the Title.

I’m not too fond of repetitions.

I don’t know if you too do, especially when they are word for word.

The beauty of a ‘full’ language like English is the ability to say the same thing in numerous different ways without distorting the meaning.

An introduction is not the best place to repeat the title. Instead, it’s the best place to reinforce the title and set the stage for the rest of the post.

However, having the keyword within the introduction, especially in guide type articles, is an excellent boost to SEO.

3. Be careful with storytelling

First, you want to make sure the story you’ll tell at the beginning of the article will be short and straightforward. Short to avoid digressing and simple to get the message home effortlessly.

Secondly, make sure you finish the introduction with a curiosity bomb. In short, don’t reveal the conclusion of your story yet.

Leave it for later; when the audience is deep into the article or close to the end.

Stories can be very tricky to implement. If told wrongly, they can increase your bounce rate.

4. Make use of “You.”

Addressing the reader directly
Addressing the reader directly

We love talking about ourselves. In fact, 40% of our conversations are self-centred.

I know, it feels good.

But you know what feels more fantastic? When somebody is talking to you positively about you.

And that’s what you need to leverage on when writing captivating introductions for your blog posts. It would be best if you addressed the reader directly using “you”.

This fundamental trick establishes a great connection with your reader because it shows you empathize with their life story.  

5. Introduce, address reader and promote the article.

Three thing you need to do within the first few paragraphs of your introduction

First, it’s an introduction, so you must introduce the article to your reader. Articulate what they should expect from the article.

Secondly, address the reader. Talk to the reader as if they were beside you. Please take note of the problem or challenge they are going through that led them to your article.

This way, they understand that you’re on their side, and your mission is to help them.

Lastly, make it clear why the article is crucial to them, why they need it. Why reading to the very end would benefit them tremendously.

Don’t be afraid to mention that. For instance you can state;

In this article, you will find out 7 reasons why your business might fail. Only by understanding all these reasons will you know what exactly must be done to salvage your business.

This not only informs them what to expect but also prepares them to read through to the end so that they can truly benefit.

Measuring the impact of your introductions

You have implemented all the strategies and rules of writing captivating introductions.

Now, what next?

Measure user engagement using Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is one of the essential tools for any blogger, and the best part, it’s completely free.

Not only does it show the statistics for your blog traffic, but it also indicates user engagement which tells you what’s working and what’s not working.

Typically there are three parameters you should be looking at when reviewing the performance of your articles

1. Bounce rate

Google Analytics bounce rate
Bounce Rate

(Go to Audience > Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages)

The bounce rate of a page is the percentage of times users leave a site from the same page they landed on.

A higher bounce rate could mean the user didn’t find what they were looking for or were displeased with the content.

If you notice a high bounce rate in any of your blog posts, then you need to review the introduction and improve it to be more engaging and likely to captivate readers.

2. Session Duration and average time on Page

(Go to Audience > Behavior > Engagement > Session Duration)

Session Duration is the amount of time people spend on your articles.

If users are spending more time on a page, it generally means they are happy with the content.

This goes hand in hand with the average time on page.

A high average time on a site with considerably low page views would mean that readers are reading and consuming your content.

3. Scrolling Metrics

This is a more advanced metric to measure, which requires you to integrate Scroll Depth Plugin to find out how much readers are scrolling through your article.

However, it would give the most accurate information on how captivating your content is.

The recent Google Analytics Update has brought a new feature (Scroll) which tends to serve this purpose.

New Google Analytics Scroll Feature
Scroll Feature

(Go to Engagement > Events > Scroll)

It merely shows the percentage of scroll events overall events on your pages.

The lower the scroll rate is, the lower the user engagement is.

For more ways to measure the engagement of your audience, check out this guide by Neil Patel.

Final Words

Every day over 4.4 million blog posts are published on the internet.

For your content to stand out in this avalanche of content, you must ensure every part of it is valuable and of high quality.

And it all starts with the introduction.

Give it the power to captivate and retain the attention of your readers. That’s the only way you’ll make it in this business.

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