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5 Ways To Start A Blog Post

blogging tips

Some call this an “introduction”.

Journalists and copywriters call it a “lead” (the old school ones call it a “lede”).

Readers (or victims) of mediocre content call it “the filler before the meat of the actual post”.

Whatever you want to call it, the first few lines of your blog post are your best chance to make a strong first impression, to build momentum, and to show your audience that your article was worth clicking through to read.

Your introduction:

  • Sets the tone you’re going to use
  • Establishes the type of value contained in your post
  • Hooks your readers (and hopefully keeps them)
  • Packs a punch thanks to the “primacy effect

As important as it is to prove to your audience that your content is worth reading from the get-go, introductions don't always get the attention they deserve.

How NOT to Start  

First, let’s talk about some of the things you should generally avoid doing at the start of your blog post:

  • AVOID relying on cliches (unless you're taking them in a different direction)
  • AVOID plugging your product right off the bat (do I need to say this?)
  • AVOID rambling on and testing your audience’s patience
  • AVOID making a big, intimidating block of text the first thing your readers see

Here’s what it would look like to you, the reader, if I did these things all at once:

“By now you know that Content is King. That’s why our product, which is first-rate and best in its class, lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec sit amet dui egestas, malesuada elit sit amet, pulvinar felis. Nam ullamcorper convallis ligula quis rhoncus. Phasellus vitae neque velit. Vivamus sodales nisi vel purus vulputate imperdiet. Suspendisse efficitur tellus lectus, ac facilisis diam volutpat eu.”

This is true whether you're writing copy or content. That’s why it’s important to be relevant, considerate, and, above all, interesting to your readers.

Naturally, your introduction will be most effective if it meshes well with your headline. Set your audience’s expectations with your headline and ensure you cater to them with your hook.

So let’s take a look at some of the ways you can approach the start of your next blog post.

Set the scene with the 5 Ws

Journalists often take this approach to the introduction, and if you’re covering a news story or an event you might want to follow suit as well.

Answer as many pertinent questions as you can in your introduction to set the scene before you dive into the details:

Who is this about?

What happened?

When did it happen?

Where did it happen?

Why did it happen?

See a pattern? This approach is effective when you’re covering something that happened and need to establish context—to set the scene—before you can dive into the meat of your subject or explore the deeper narrative.    

See it in action

Headline: Content Marketing World Wrap-up by Hana Abaza

Introduction: "Earlier this week, content marketers everywhere got together either physically or virtually for Content Marketing World. Not to be left behind, we packed up our team of Uberflippers and made our way to Cleveland, Ohio to see the godfather of content himself and his carefully selected entourage of speakers, panelists and content marketing experts."

Lead with a need

Readers often click through to your content with the intention of fulfilling a need— either a pre-existing one or one that you’ve incited in them with your headline.

Since a lot of top of the funnel content is about solving problems, you can encourage readers along with an introduction that serves to agitate the problem further.

One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is with cold, hard facts that establish the reality that highlights the importance of your content. 

This approach works well when your post offers value through utility. Stress the problem to emphasize the value of the actionable advice you have to offer.

See it in action

Headline: 9 Marketing Automation Hacks Powered by Zapier by Francois Mathieu

Introduction: "In order to get stuff done, most marketers must use over 100 tools on a regular basis. It’s not much of an issue when the tools integrate with each other, but when they don’t it makes their life miserable. With so many marketing tools out there, developers can’t possibly integrate them all. Enter Zapier, the app that brings them all together. "

Turn your reader's world upside down

It’s no secret that controversy sells.

Likewise, controversy also gets read. In articles that  refute commonly held beliefs, you can look your audience in the eye—err, screen?— from the start and tell them what they’re doing is wrong.

If you really want to incite a discussion, lay bare your perspective at the forefront of your post. Don't pull your punches either. 

See it in action

Headline: The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO by Matt Cutts

Introduction: “Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.”

Hook ‘em with an analogy

Analogies are dangerously effective in content marketing. Dangerous because they run the risk of drowning out your actual argument; effective because they add another layer of intrigue and differentiate your content. 

But done right, they make for a powerful hook because readers are inclined to see how the writer will extend the analogy. In fact, depending on the nature of your topic, you might even want to carry the analogy throughout your entire post.

See it in action

Headline: Your Content Marketing Vehicle Is Missing A Wheel by Yoav Schwartz

Introduction: "As a content marketer, you've always relied on your trusty three-wheeler to get your job done. Oh, you didn't realize you owned a tricycle? Well, analogically, you certainly do."

Begin in medias res

In medias res (latin) translates to "in the middle of things." And if you don’t know where to start, it might be good to skip the "beginning" entirely and start in the middle of the action or, better yet, the future consequences

If readers  click through your headline expecting a typical beginning, you can throw them a curve ball by starting in an unexpected way.  It's a good way to cut the fluff and get right to what your audience cares about.

See it in action

Headline: Too Long; Didn't Read: How to Save Your Blog From Content Shock (this tactic is my personal favorite)

Introduction: "So long, writers and bloggers! Two  of 2014’s biggest content marketing conversations allude to the waning popularity of “text-heavy” content like blog posts and articles." 

The Importance of Starting Strong

While some of these approaches might overlap when executed, and there's plenty of other angles for you to explore, the important thing is to seize the opportunity afforded by this valuable, frequently visited piece of blog post real estate—your introduction.

In writing, just like other elements of marketing, the tactics you develop are the result of regular experimentation. I've seen writers successfully start with a movie quote, borrow someone else's authority or briefly tell a relevant personal story to captivate their audience.

I've even seen better results in my own work by simply giving my leading sentence it's own line and space to breathe. 

But remember: just like a poor headline can cripple the potential of a stellar blog post, a weak introduction can scare away readers before you have the chance to get a meaningful word in.

Now, as for how to end with a bang? Well, that's another blog post for another time.