It's been said that the purpose of all writing is to merely persuade the reader to proceed to the next sentence. Considering the importance of first impressions, this puts a lot of pressure on a writer to absolutely nail the opening paragraph of any piece.
If you don't captivate your audience and draw them in within the first 100 words or so, it's likely that they won't bother to finish your blog post or article regardless of how amazing or well-researched it may be. With so much on the line, a lead paragraph should be planned out carefully before one even begins.
You can think of an opening paragraph much like you'd think of a sales pitch. Imagine that you're giving a presentation to secure a business loan at a bank. What you say in the first few sentences will color how your audience perceives what follows. You need to be both concise and captivating right off the bat to coax readers into digesting the second paragraph. Setting the right tone is of paramount importance in these vital first sentences.
If possible, answer the 5 Ws right away and use an active voice rather than a passive one to provoke a response from your readers.
SEO Implications of a Strong Opening Paragraph
As with every aspect of a solidly constructed blog piece or article, the first paragraph can have a great impact on the SEO strength of the publication. An opening paragraph is often used for the meta description tags and the makeup of the Rich Snippets for your piece.
In addition to getting right to the point, you'll want to incorporate major keywords and keyword phrases in your first few sentences. This will ensure that your content is indexed properly and can help it to rank higher in the SERPs so as to attract wider readership online.
The Art of Holding Back
The main thesis of your article should be more or less summarized in the title and first sentence. From there, you'll need to use the rest of the first paragraph to expand on your central idea and clarify it. No matter what happens, don't give your audience a reason to stop reading after the first sentence and paragraph. In other words, don't give away the game before you've gotten started. Your first paragraph should set the table, so to speak, without serving up the whole buffet. Just make sure that your teaser ultimately delivers on its promise.
Know Your Audience and Cater To It
Another consideration that affects how you approach a first paragraph when crafting a dynamite screed is your target and probable audiences. You'll need to consider who is most likely to be attracted to a particular headline en masse and what voice will be most appealing to them.
Some articles and audiences demand that you jump right into the topic at hand. Other types of writing are better suited to a softer, "warm-up" paragraph that eases the transition into weightier subject matter. Matching your tone with your audience is tricky, but well worth putting some effort into.
Practice Makes Perfect
You can't ever be too careful when storyboarding your writing from the ground up. The opening paragraph is the linchpin of any memorable publication. It's impossible to strike gold on every occasion, which is why analytics data gathered by tools like Google Analytics, Piwik and Open Web Analytics is crucial.
Testing the impact of every article you pen will help you to find your own magic formula for opening paragraphs. Long story short, perfecting the Art of 1st Paragraphs will benefit you greatly no matter what niche you operate in and hope to dominate.