March 22nd, 2022

Copycat's Anatomy #8: The Art of the Introduction

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Written by Rebecca van Laer

At Copycat, we’re always in the process of creating new professional development resources for working and aspiring copywriters. The below blog post is adapted from our in-house manual on all things copy-related, Copycat’s Anatomy.

The Art of the Introduction

At Copycat, the introductions to our SEO blog posts are short and sweet.

How short? Six to nine lines is usually a good target length.

That may seem like too little space to get in all the information you want. But since blog posts are generally around 1500 words, you have another 1350 to cover background information, history, pros and cons, and anything else that’s too lengthy to pack into six lines.

In this guide, we’ll explain the perils of long introductions and give you the tools to write concise introductions that captivate readers. Let’s dive in!

The Problem With Long Introductions

Imagine a scenario—you’re back in high school English, about to write an essay on the role of the fool in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. You start off your essay like this:

Throughout the history of humankind, man has looked to literature to understand that life’s struggles don’t always have to be taken seriously. 16th century poet and playwright William Shakespeare is known for his many works of literature that reflect on big questions about life, death, and love. Twelfth Night, written around 1601, is a play about the twelfth night after Christmas day.


Can you imagine your instructor’s commentary?

Personally, we’d write get to the point!

While some forms of nonfiction—for example, personal essays—leave room for meandering and exploring, this is not the case in SEO blog posts. There are numerous reasons to cut to the chase:

  • Building trust with the reader – Vague generalizations, fluff, and irrelevant details all frustrate your audience—they arrived at your post via a search engine with a specific problem or question in mind, and the longer you take to answer it, the more likely they are to go back to the search results for a more direct blog post.
  • Ranking as a Google snippet – You know how Google often answers the questions you search with a short paragraph excerpted from a web source? Your article’s first heading is often a common search query, and if the intro that follows provides a clear explanation, it could potentially be excerpted as a Google snippet.
  • Leaving yourself room to elaborate – Find yourself writing at length about the benefits of fermented foods and the myriad methods for fermentation in your article on “What is Kombucha?” If you return to those topics in the body of your blog post, it may feel like you’re repeating yourself.

So, how do you do it? Let us help.

How to Write an Introduction

An introduction is sometimes defined as an inverted triangle, beginning with general information and getting to a specific point. But this begs the question, how general? Follow these best practices for SEO blog posts:

  • Invite the reader in – When it comes to copywriting, we suggest starting with 2-3 sentences that focus on the situation of the person who has found your blog post via Google.
  • Explain the topic from a high level – If the title of your article starts with a question or an implied question, answer the query as directly as possible. Otherwise, foreshadow the complexity of the topic.
  • Preview what you’ll cover in the article – Maybe you’ve already answered the question in a couple of lines. Try out a sentence that previews the structure of your article. This works well for complex topics, too!

Of course, this might look a little bit different for a technical client than a lifestyle client. Next, we’ll take a closer look at each kind of intro.

Technical Introductions

A technical topic might be totally unfamiliar. The good news? If your audience is searching for the topic, they may not know much either. And the goal isn’t to completely embody the brand’s authority in its most discipline or industry-specific voice and jargon. Just as with any other blog post, your aim is to educate and engage your reader. 

While you do want to deduce the audience and their basic level of knowledge, you can also use their uncertainty as a jumping off point.

For technical clients, try the following strategies:

  1. Start with relevant data, history, or definitions.
  2. Raise questions that you’ll answer later in the article
  3. Start with the main problem surrounding the article topic
  4. Preview background information that’s relevant to the question

Example topic: What is Nearshoring?

For decades, offshoring has provided an attractive way to outsource parts of your business, from customer service to manufacturing and beyond. But with shifting labor laws and global migration, it’s natural to wonder if there’s a more efficient solution.

Nearshoring is the process of outsourcing parts of your business to nearby geographic locales.

In this article, we’ll cover the process and benefits of moving offshored or internal processes to nearshore providers.

Lifestyle Introductions

When you’re writing for a lifestyle client, you don’t need to dive into technical data. While it’s still important to imagine the specific target audience and their situation, it’s equally important to think about the brand you’re writing for. 

What is their voice? How does their product solve the reader’s problem? How can you introduce this solution in a fun and appropriate way off-the-bat?

To achieve these goals:

  1. Start with an anecdote, metaphor, or question that can be returned to throughout the piece.
    Imagine why the reader might have searched for this topic. Then, address them directly to draw them into the topic at hand. (See example below.)
  2. If it suits the client’s voice, include jokes, puns, pop culture references, or any other device that would draw the reader in.
  3. Let them know this article will address their burning questions and solve their problem. 

Example topic: Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms 

Shiitake, lion’s mane, reishi, oh my! Today’s superfood marketplace contains a number of mushrooms that boast impressive accolades. It’s only natural to be curious about what’s behind the hype. What are the specific benefits of reishi mushrooms?

Whether your goal is boosting your immune system, finding more focus, or de-stressing at the end of the long day, reishi mushrooms may be the supplement that’s missing from your wellness routine. In this short guide, we’ll cover the benefits of resihis and the best ways to imbibe these powerful fungi.

The Curse of the Double Intro

We’ve talked about the dos of introductions. Now, on to a big don’t—don’t write two intros in one article!

A double intro occurs when both the introduction and the first body paragraph:

  • Introduce a narrative scenario or otherwise invite the reader in
  • Explain the same topic from a high level
  • Define the same term

You’ve probably written a double intro if your first H2 is very similar to your article title. But in other cases, your self-edit read-through will reveal one of the other above red flags.

Key takeaway? After your introduction, it’s time to dive directly into the meat of the topic!

Copycat: Delivering Bite-Sized Intros with Big Flavor

A yummy sandwich is all about the bread-to-filling ratio. Too much bread and it’s too difficult to sink your teeth into the good stuff—so it’s all for naught, no matter how much hot sauce you stuff in.

Copy is much the same. Your introduction and conclusion frame the reader’s experience of the information. Digestible intros are literally the bread (if not the butter) of your article.

Want more tips on copywriting best practices? Check out the “Copycat’s Anatomy” post on our blogs or get in touch with hr@copycatcopywriters.com

Sources:

Mangools. Ranking as a Google snippet. https://mangools.com/blog/google-featured-snippets-guide/

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