Most blog introductions on the internet suck. They’re too long, don’t say anything valuable and waste what little time I don’t actually have. And the problem seems to be getting worse, with content marketers and bloggers emulating each other — and experts — in all the wrong ways, and no one really follows good advice on how to write an introduction.
Neil Patel himself can stretch an intro past its breaking point — even when he’s writing on the topic of introduction best practices.
We love you Mr. Patel — no one breaks down the complex world of online marketing into digestible chunks quite like you — but here’s where you went wrong writing an introduction in your post titled “The Ultimate Guide to Writing Blog Post Introductions.” (Note, though, that we concur with all the deets about intros in the body content.)
1. Not getting immediately down to the business of the post.
We count approximately 350 words of intro copy in that post that jump from statistics on content marketing to Mr. Patel’s credentials. For average readers, that’s one to three minutes of reading before getting to the stuff that matters. According to Nielsen Normal Group, the average user spends less than a minute on a page, and they typically only have time to read a quarter of the content there.
Effective introductions set the stage and hook the reader as efficiently as possible.
For mobile users, it’s around eight swipes to get to the meat of Neil’s post (I tested this myself). It might not seem like much, but mobile users are busy, fickle and easily distracted. How many swipes does it take before a mobile user starts playing match 3 apps again? I bet it’s less than eight for many people.
Yes, introductions should set the stage and hook the reader. But the most effective writing does that as quickly and efficiently as possible. If users can’t get past your intro because of a lack of time or focus, they won’t get to the purpose of your post or your CTAs.
2. Too many tangential statistics that belong in the body, not the intro.
I’m all for staging a truly solid statistic in an intro. An attention-catching data point catches reader attention. But let’s look at the statistics in Neil’s intro.
He leads with the Copyblogger stat that 8 out of 10 people read the title. It’s an attempt to say, “Yes, headlines are critical for attracting readers, but they don’t keep them reading.” But why not just say that? A single sentence could replace 50 words and a stat that isn’t necessary. If Neil Patel says headlines are important, we, at least, are willing to buy into the point without backup data.
A bit later, Neil uses a FactBrowser stat about the importance of content marketing for brands. It’s used to transition from the importance of content to the need for a strong introduction. We think the entire paragraph could be red-penned (sorry, Neil), because anyone reading this post is already looking for information on how to improve their content marketing. The reader doesn’t need to be convinced of the value of content — they need to know how to make their content more valuable.
Yes, introductions might need to give a reason for the copy or let readers know exactly what they’re about to receive. But it’s easy to fall out of scope in the intro, which can confuse, bore or frustrate audiences before they get to the actual information.
3. Legitimizing content by bringing up reader support or your own credentials.
Finally, Neil ends with two paragraphs that attempt to legitimize the post itself. Readers and clients actually want this information, he tells us. He also vaguely alludes to his expertise on the subject.
Here’s the deal with both of these: in this content, they are wholly unnecessary. While some posts might require such information, Neil Patel doesn’t have to prove he should be writing a post about content marketing before he gets on with said post. Even if Neil Patel isn’t a known name in your office (if you’re involve in online branding in any way, though, it should be), his site does a stellar job of establishing his credentials at a glance.
Neil also doesn’t need to tell us that someone else asked for this information to make it more valuable. For audiences in this industry, if someone like Neil Patel is writing about it, it’s important. Besides, your content should be strong enough that its importance stands on its own.
How to Write an Introduction: Do as Neil Says, Not as He Does (and Run Your Own Tests)
Obviously, Neil’s actual notes in the article about how to write intros are really good. He just doesn’t always follow his own advice. And there might be a good reason why: good advice isn’t always the right advice for the situation at hand.
Yes, you always need a hook. But no content marketer should ever emulate another or take expert advice without testing. Start with foundations, such as our advice above and Neil’s notes on intros, and test content to find out what works in your niche and with your audience. Maybe intros as long as the Mississippi river do resonate with your audience, but we’re still willing to bet most readers prefer introductions short and full of sauce (where sauce is actual value, and not a bunch of random flavor thrown in without reason).