What tell-tale intro elements are a red flag a piece of writing isn't worth your time? I write commercially but am conscious that my online pieces often have a lower-than-hoped-for time on site.

My gut feeling is that my intros aren't as strong as they could be and it's putting readers off. For the sake of my reputation I don't want to share my work exactly, but will share 3 blogs with different 'levels' of intro strength, with my own being like one of them.

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    Welcome to Writing.SE! Questions asking for writing critiques are off-topic here, but it is allowed to include samples of your writing to illustrate a specific problem, which is what you're doing here. So I'm not sure how specific we can be with regards to the articles you've linked, but we can definitely address your core question of how to compose a strong intro that won't put readers off.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 16:46
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    For me, simply associating the word "blog" with a piece of writing means that I won't read it.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 17:15
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    By "blog" you mean "blog post" or the entire blog?
    – Alexander
    Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 20:44
  • I feel that this kind of open-ended question – "what doesn't work?" – doesn't fit the Stack Exchange format, which requires questions to be worded so that a definitive answer is possible. Please read How to Ask, and in particular the guidelines for great subjective questions and our founder's blog post Real questions have answers. :-) Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 5:04

3 Answers 3


Obviously it's hard to be exhaustive here but let's examine a couple of key factors using some highlights (and some lowlights) from the links you provided.

Repetitively repeated repetition

Hammering on the same words or phrases over and over again - it's horrible to read and to be honest it reminds me of bad SEO content from the late 1990's. An example from the first link ("8 marketing mistakes businesses make"):

At Patch we’ve seen, prevented and solved the same common marketing mistakes for over ten years. When it comes to starting a new business, marketing can be a minefield: we’ve shared the most common mistakes new businesses make and how you can avoid them yourself.

That's the opening paragraph and it appears to almost be an exercise in finding as many different combinations of the words "marketing", "mistakes", and "business" as is humanly possible in two sentences. As such it spends a long time telling the reader very little of value - 90% of it being repetition of the title and the reader already knows that.

While not really something in the control of the writer per se the truly terrible design/layout for that blog (specifically the repetition of the title) makes this situation significantly worse. As it means that by the time you get to the end of that opening paragraph you've read the word "marketing", "mistakes", and "new business" 6 times each.

At that point if I were actually looking for information on the topic I'm already out and moving on. There might be worthwhile information buried in that article but everything is screaming that the article has nothing substantive to say - or they'd have started saying it by now.

Which brings me on to...

Get to the point

If you've got useful content, let it do the talking for you - don't get in it's way with fluff. It's like those recipe blogs where you have to skim past 800 words of how the blogger's life lead to them the recipe, how their adorable golden retriever Woofy knocked over the food they had prepared for their kid's birthday party and how they needed something fast and my, how fast their kids are growing up and isn't it precious..blah..blah..blah..

Looking instead to our second link ("10 Useful Strategies For Birdwatching Beginners") the intro "fluff" is minimal and it get's straight to the list, what's more it offers something up first that's both non-obvious and useful:

  1. Purchase a good field guide.

Don’t choose the encyclopaedia of birds in hardback because you will need certainly to carry the field guide with you. A pocket sized book that identifies all the main species and has good illustrations is right. When joining the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) you are able to receive a fantastic field guide as a free of charge gift.

As someone who's done (essentially) zero bird-watching I read that and go "huh.. that's a good tip, don't weigh myself down, and there's a good suggestion of what to do and where to do it". Bam.. they've already given me some useful knowledge! Now I'm inclined to read further and see what else I could learn.

Contrast this with our third link ("9 WEDDING PLANNER’S PREDICTIONS FOR WEDDINGS IN 2021") and you have to wade all the way to the sixth paragraph to even start getting what the article title promises. It takes so long to get the "predictions" that by the time the reader gets there they'll be out of date! Seriously, while I pulled the 800 words of fluff figure out of the air earlier I counted this one - and it has 262 words before it gets to the article's content, and that is way, way way too much.

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    Re fluff and list articles: I always scroll right past the intro to item #1 on the list. There's never anything useful there. They could write lorem ipsum for all I would care.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 8:28

Facts that I can search for bring me to your blog. Good writing can make me come back to see what else you have to say.

Things that make me leave a blog page:

  1. Slathered in ads.
  2. Uses distracting blinking, moving, wiggling, unrelated stock photos.
  3. "May we track your entire private life" cookie acceptance pages. Assume people don't want to be tracked, and leave them the heck alone.
  4. Disorganized.
  5. Bad grammar, spelling, or punctuation.
  6. The information I'm looking for and that the title or introduction claims is there isn't there at all or is so obfuscated I can't be bothered to root it out.
  7. Poor style, boring prose (if reading for entertainment.)
  8. Well written article that isn't about what I was looking for (usually because I used the wrong search terms or got something funky back from google.)
  • Make your title clear what the page is about.
  • Give me a short, accurate tag line from which I can tell what to expect in the post.
  • Anecdotes connected to the content are fine, but make sure they are on topic and that the actual content of the post is easy to recognize.
  • Provide links to the sources you used (manuals, research papers, other news sources, books, online resources, etc.)

When I am looking for information, I will open an absolute boat load of pages in separate tabs, then I skim through them.

Each page gets a quick once over - Title, tag line, first paragraph, skim down the page to see if there's a clearly recognizable section with factual information. Anything that doesn't pass that quick look gets closed - within seconds.

The quick skim weeds out the crap, then I go through and take a closer look at the content of the remaining pages.

I skim the content, looking for anything related to the subject I am interested in. I read through any passages that look related. If I make it down the page without finding what I need, the page gets closed and on to the next.

At the end, I'll have some few pages that seem to contain what I'm looking for. I read those pages in more detail. Some pages get dropped at this point because they're not what I'm after - they aren't bad, just something else than what I need.

Once I find that your blog post has what I need, I'll do whatever it was that I needed your information for - how to do something, fact I needed for background on something I'm doing, how something works, etc.

Sometimes that means I stop reading and turn to the workbench to do something, other times that means switching to the program I was writing or debugging to carry on with the task at hand.

I may actually pay some attention to the text around the facts. I might actually take the time to read your anecdotes.

It's almost guaranteed that I won't stop to write a comment. Most comments are inconsequential non-sense, anyway. How many really useful comments have you ever actually seen on a blog post? I don't bother slapping down insincere, effusive thanks.

Besides which, I was doing something when I hit the need to search for and read your page. As soon as I've found what I needed, go back to what I was doing.

I say all of that as a person who makes use of information from blogs, and as someone who writes a blog. I am (as a blog writer) disappointed at just how few people interact with me in a meaningful way. On the other hand, I (as a blog reader) know why I don't interact with the writers of the blog post I read.

A blog post is first and foremost a source of information. It will be shredded and reduced to its facts on first contact.

It takes a really well written article to make me take a look at what else the blog author has posted. That's "well written" as in "good style, good grammar (spelling, punctuation,etc.,) informative, accurate, and entertaining."


When reading a blog or article through the screen of a smartphone or phone, our eyes and brains synchronize and carefully study the headings, table of contents pages. After one or two pages, if the text is not interesting, we stop reading. Therefore, your articles may be great, but due to weak or insufficiently interesting introductions, people may simply not reach the article itself, considering it uninteresting in advance.

On average, your Headline is read by five times more people than your text. Most people find content through search or social media. Most likely, they make their reading decision based on the title. This makes the headline the most important piece of content. And you should learn how to write catchy headlines that grab attention and encourage reading.

A few tips:

  1. Find the most popular blogs on the internet and see how they write titles. Tim Ferris doesn't call himself an internet marketer, but he knows exactly how to write headlines that attract readers (for example, here's a great headline: “Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 Pounds Of Muscle In 4 Weeks”)
  2. Use templates. Most headings are usually written with proven formulas. Learn more about them and use them.
  3. Use the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer. Not sure if your headline is good? Check it out with this free tool.

Write a good introduction.

The headline is there to get the reader to read the first sentence. Next, with the help of the introduction, you need to hook them and make them read the entire post. Therefore, if you have a long boring introduction or it reads like a scientific work, it's time to change something. Tell us that you have found a solution to the problem. You can also talk a little about the solution, while maintaining the intrigue. Give the reader something to make them want to read on.

It's important to create content that people want to share. Make sure it's worthy of mention. Questions that make it much easier to know if the content is really good enough:

  • Is the article unique?
  • Are there ideas, opinions or points of view in the article that no one else has spoken about?
  • Will people cite or link to your article?
  • Will people share and talk about the article?
  • If you can confidently answer “yes” to all the questions, then great!
  • If not, go back and revise the article. You can always add uniqueness with data, conduct a survey and conduct an experiment.

Make posts easy to read.

Nobody likes to read. Everyone just wants information. If people could immediately upload it to their brains, they would do so. So your job as a writer is to help them start reading. As renowned copywriter Bond Halbert said, "Good writing and easy to read." To do this, you need to learn how to edit the text so that it is easy to read. The best book on this subject that I know is the book on Bond Halbert's editing. (The cover says about advertising, but the methods are applicable to any text).

Here are some tips from the book that I use in my writing:

  • Use short paragraphs. Bond calls this "free your eyes." Large chunks of text repel the reader, while short paragraphs invite reading. Tools like Hemingway can help you with this.
  • Split long sentences. People usually read the text to themselves. Therefore, long sentences are difficult to follow. Break them up at the junctions where the words “and”, “because” and “which” are used.
  • Insert multimedia. Videos, pictures, GIFs, etc. They will help illustrate your statement without words. Format your text. Bold, italic, quotes, and lists will help break up text and reinforce specific statements.
  • Read the text in your voice. This will help you understand where the text "stumbles" or is simply boring.

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