Denny and Sue eloped.
“We met at a New Year’s Eve party. The clock hit midnight, we turned towards each other and that was it.”
Three months later, after a whirlwind trip to Berlin, their fate was sealed – the Emmett-Thompsons returned to the UK, ready to start their new life together.
But it turns out, falling in love and getting married was the easy bit. Having moved straight out of university into rented accommodation, they are both first-time buyers, lost in a maze of mortgage jargon and very big decisions.
Luckily, we’re here to help. Our guide breaks down everything that Denny and Sue – and you – need to know about getting a mortgage, from deposits to interest rates, so stepping onto the property ladder isn’t the difficult climb it can sometimes seem like, when you’re looking up from the bottom rung.
This isn’t a post about mortgages
And, though they sound very romantic, Denny and Sue aren’t a real couple. But did you keep reading? And would you have kept reading if you wanted to learn about mortgages?
A bit of context: I wanted to write a post about writing effective introductions, and so, naturally, I did some research to find out what other content marketers are saying about them. And while there are some top tips out there, I found myself getting a bit bored of reading about how to write something so that a reader doesn’t get bored.
This makes sense, as I am a tech-reliant Canadian, and according to a recent study by Microsoft, tech-reliant Canadians have an average attention span of about 8 seconds – less than that of a goldfish.
Despite what you may think, you’re probably not all that different from a tech-reliant Canadian, and therefore it’s possible that your attention span is in the goldfish-region, too. I’m surprised I haven’t lost you already.
Writing an engaging intro is important; point proven.
With that in mind, we’d better crack on. Instead of writing about introductions, let’s read a few. I’m sticking with the theme of mortgages. Why? Because they’re:
- A relatively dry topic
- An important topic (74,000 average monthly searches for ‘mortgages’)
- A rather limited topic when it comes to creative flexibility
I’ve borrowed some of Google’s top results for ‘guide to getting a mortgage’ to see what works – and doesn’t work – when introducing a post, so you get more than a blank stare from us goldfish out there.
Baiting the hook: I know you, and I can help you
As Google’s top result, thisismoney.co.uk must be doing something right with this intro. So what is it about this post that would make Denny and Sue read on?
- It stimulates fear (or at least an emotional response) by using emotive language such as shock, overwhelming, be prepared and, the clincher, a huge factor as to whether or not your offer on a new home will be accepted (dun, dun, dun!). By knowing who the audience is (eager first-time buyers) and what they want (to do everything right), you can convince them that you understand them.
- It casts out a lifeline: After telling readers that, if they want to realise their dream of a little patch of earth to call their own, they need to be armed with as much information as possible, reassurance is offered in the form of the very post they’ve landed on: We explain what new buyers need to know – simple, instant relief.
This formula seems to be a running theme in the mortgage guide world:
“Taking out a mortgage is likely to be the biggest financial commitment you’ll ever make, so it’s vital you find the best deal you can. There’s plenty you can do to improve your chances of getting your mortgage application accepted – follow our top 10 tips to ensure you get the mortgage you want.”
- It recognises intent: In a similar style to the previous example, this intro makes it clear that it’s aware of the context of the situation by acknowledging how the reader is probably feeling about the biggest financial commitment you’ll ever make.
- It offers a specific solution: After establishing an awareness of the reader’s intentions, it quickly explains how sticking around to learn more from this very post will fulfil their needs. With the added promise of being short and digestible (reflected in the tone of the intro itself), the reader knows exactly what to expect, and that there’s a good chance they’ll learn what they need to know, if they read on.
I’d argue that 9/10 of the top results follow a similar structure: acknowledge the reader’s concerns using relatable language and follow up by establishing that this post is the sought-after solution. By keeping sentences brief and communicating in a conversational yet authoritative tone, I’d wager that 90% of the top results are exactly what Denny and Sue are looking for.
It’s a simple equation: hook + summary = goldfish caught.
Dodgy worms: How not to write an intro about mortgages
“For most people buying a property the biggest ongoing cost is the mortgage – simply a loan secured against a property. You can’t sell the property without paying off the mortgage first and if you don’t keep up the repayments the lender can repossess the property.
“Because of the credit crunch, it is vital that you secure a mortgage with a lender before starting the searching process. This way, when you find the right property, you will avoid being beaten to it by another buyer and you will also be in a much stronger negotiating position.”
Did you skim? Did you swim to the bottom of your fishbowl and hide?
Rightmove is an authoritative site and because the information in this guide is relevant, Google ranks it highly. But for once, it’s not all about Google. I’m thinking of Denny and Sue – how would they feel if they stumbled upon this?
From a reader’s perspective, it’s easy to pick out what went wrong here:
- You lost me at ‘hello’: If Denny and Sue are apprehensive about the topic in the first place, starting with terms like secured, repayments, lender and repossess is probably going to scare them off. Failing to understand who the audience is and beginning with unappealing language means reader attention is likely to drift elsewhere, towards a juicier, more compassionate worm.
- Where are you taking me? This intro fails to offer any context or indication of where it is taking the reader. Instead, we’re thrust in to the uncertain world of credit crunches and negotiating positions without being told how this post is going to help us figure out what the heck they mean and how to approach them.
Fish food for thought
So who are Denny and Sue? What makes them laugh? What crushes their souls?
The first step to take is to ask yourself – who is my audience? From there, you can figure out their intent and attitude.
Once you’ve nailed that, you’ve got the opportunity to decide how to speak to them and answer their needs. If the context allows, use creative language to maintain engagement with anecdotes, humour, even poetry – as long as it suits attitude and intent. For less flexible content, direct sentences and pertinent data will keep a reader absorbed.
The key is to use the formula and match your language to the reader’s mood to demonstrate why your words are relevant to them.