How to use the PAS Copywriting Formula to write Blog Intros

PAS copywriting formula

(“It’s 10 am in the morning, you sit at your home office desk, all set and ready to type. You stretch your fingers, take a sip of coffee and switch on your laptop. You have to complete this 2000 word blog post within 2 days. You write the first 3 sentences – delete, delete, delete. You try again – delete.

You just can’t seem to get past the headline.”

“You’re starting to accept your lack of creativity, which is making you feel inferior to other writers who create high quality content at the drop of a hat. You finally get around to writing something but that inferiority reflects in your writing which reads sloppy and flat”.

“In this article, I will show you step-by-step how to get past the headline and write amazing blog intros using a simple copywriting formula”.)

“Breakthrough Advertising” author Eugene Schwartz said, “breakthrough advertising is about building larger mice – and then building a terrifying fear of them in your customers”. Fear is one of the oldest rules in the book. That’s why it has been used to write copy for as long as copy existed.

It sounds unethical because people have lots of fears. Yet if your intentions are sincere and your product is good, leveraging fear to make people feel uncomfortable with the status quo is smart.

Fear is discomfort, and it makes people uneasy. It forces us to move. Fear of pain, fear of missing out, rejection, failure, sickness, losing money, and many more are things that we do not like to face. And when we’re confronted with these fears, our flight and fight system gets activated. We may want a way out so badly that we adopt whatever solution is presented.

This is what the PAS copywriting formula is about. And today you’re going to learn how to create captivating hooks using the PAS formula.

What is the PAS formula?

A lot of copywriters use tested and trusted copywriting formulas when creating copy that’s expected to drive sales. You’ve probably heard about the AIDA copywriting formula where:

A – Attention (Get attention with a catchy headline)

I – Interest (Share interesting facts and uses of your product)

D – Desire (Use descriptive sentences to increase desire)

A – Action (Add a call to action)

PAS is another formula used to connect with readers emotionally and drive immediate action. It stands for:

P – Problem or Pain (Understand the main problem they face and describe this to them)

A – Agitate (Agitate the problem by showing them what happens if the problem persists)

S – Solve (Present a solution to the problem with an easy to follow CTA).

We’ll talk more on PAS copywriting in a couple moments, but first let’s examine why having an intriguing blog introduction is so important for SEO.

The importance of dwell time in SEO

Dwell time is an indicator of the quality of your content. It is the amount of time people spend on any page on your website. The more time people are spending on a page, the higher its quality and relevance to a particular search query. Dwell time is one of Google’s ranking signals.

It’s measured by dividing the total time spent on the site (in seconds) by the total number of visits or sessions.

The “Average Session Duration” tab in Google Analytics can help you determine how long visitors stay on a website on average.

Of course, the customary thing to do to improve dwell time is to pay attention to searcher intent. The idea is to find out what people want to know about a topic by researching competing pages that rank high.

The most often ignored part is that a weak intro will lower your dwell time. You need to give people a strong reason to stay on your page, and scroll down to read the rest of your content. You’ll do this with an attention-grabbing intro.

How to write compelling intros using the PAS copywriting formula

Describe the problem vividly

Whenever you’re writing anything, you should have a clear idea of who you’re writing it for. If you already have concrete buyer personas, you should know this. If you don’t know whom you’re writing to, you probably wouldn’t understand the problem you’re trying to solve for them or how this problem affects them.

You should not, however, give a shallow description of the problem. You want to make the problem as clear and relatable as possible. You’ll need to understand the problem in-depth to be able to describe it vividly.

Use the 5W2H technique to state the facts of the problem.

problem agitate solve questions

I’ll show you a problem agitate solve example using this blog post. If I were to rewrite this post’s introduction, I would list the following:

Who – Content marketer

Where – her desk

What – has to complete a piece of writing within the week but can’t seem to get past the headline

When – 10 am

Why – writer’s block or creative block

“It’s 10 am in the morning, you sit at your home office desk, all set and ready to type. You stretch your fingers, take a sip of coffee and switch on your laptop. You have to complete this 2000 word blog post within 2 days. You write the first 3 sentences – delete, delete, delete. You try again – delete.

You just can’t seem to get past the headline.”

I’ve adequately clarified the problem here – writer’s block. But there are some cases where you need to figure out the root cause of the problem.

Get to the bottom of the issue

Since the goal of the PAS framework is to identify and solve a problem for your audience, you must understand how to look past symptoms, diagnose a situation and present the main issue. This also helps you understand the problem better, so that you can present a reliable solution. For this, use a system called the 5 Whys:

It was developed by Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System. He recommends asking why up to five times to understand the root cause of a problem.

For example, if product sales decrease for an ecommerce skin care product, here’s how to use the 5 Whys to get to the root cause:

  • Why did new sales decrease? Low number of new buyers
  • Why aren’t we seeing more new buyers? Our Facebook ads aren’t generating enough high quality leads
  • Why isn’t our Facebook ad generating high quality leads? We need an efficient lead qualification and nurturing system

At three “whys” we can identify the real problem and then present a solution that works. Also, the problem we’d describe here wouldn’t be the problem of decreasing sales (too generic), but rather low quality Facebook leads.

Agitate – Rub some salt into the wound

Next, make the situation look more unpleasant. Literally ask your ideal buyer: what does he/she stand to lose?

This is where the reader feels a need to solve the problem as fast as possible. If you do a good job here, they can’t wait to hear the solution. But if you overdo this part, you’ll either scare people away or repel them.

Aggravating the problem is all about leveraging the fear of the worst case scenario – negative what ifs.

For example, for this article’s intro

  • What if the problem continued every time?
  • She might miss the deadline.
  • What if she wrote a sloppy piece that no one wants to read?

I could aggravate the problem based on any of these. Let’s use the 3rd one.

“You’re starting to accept your lack of creativity, which is making you feel inferior to other writers who create high quality content at the drop of a hat. You finally get around to writing something but that inferiority reflects in your writing which reads sloppy and flat”

At this point, my solution would appear to be the best thing since sliced bread.

Solve the problem

Now you can tell them about your solution. The way you present this would be different, depending on your use cases. For example, for landing pages you need to provide an outcome (proof). For blog intros, you should state succinctly how your post will help them solve the problem (with or without proof).

“In this article, I will show you step-by-step how to get past the headline and write engaging blog intros using a simple copywriting formula”.

The reason why the PAS copywriting formula works so well is because it provides context for your solution. Your readers trust you because you understand their problem in depth. You’ve also shown them the worst case scenarios – the fearful outcomes. And now you’re presenting them with a way out. Context is so powerful. It literally makes the difference when you’re writing sales-oriented copy.

Another reason PAS copywriting works is because it shows that you empathize with your audience’s problem. Empathy fosters trust. It creates an emotional bond. You’re telling your readers, “I’ve been there”, or “I understand how this feels”. And that shared experience makes your content or copy powerful.

Outcome – Tell them what to expect (proof)

The most effective way to show the outcome is to provide proof. Brian Dean does this with almost all his blog intros. He offers proof to show that these aren’t just random ideas, but ones he has implemented for his own business.

Brian Dean blog intro example

Even after reading your solution, some people may not be convinced. The outcome (proof) is what convinces them.

For your blog intros, you may not always include proof. But for use cases like landing pages and about pages, it is essential to add proof to your solution. Your outcome may also include additional benefits where applicable.

Writing hack: Write your blog introduction last

Your introduction is the most important paragraph in your post. It’s where you either win readers or lose them. And so it’s easy for many writers to waste time obsessing over writing a stellar intro.

The problem is you may waste a lot of time when you start with the intro. Once you’ve done your research, you want to dive into the blog’s content and pour out everything you know. This will give you a bird’s eye view of what you’ve written about. And you’ll find it much easier to write a fitting intro.

This is why expert writers recommend writing the blog introduction last – unless you have a more efficient system. This hack is not only used in online writing, but even for fiction writing, essays, emails, resumes etc.

While writing your post, you could get a burst of inspiration for your intro, write it out as a placeholder. Then return to it once you’re done with the rest of the post.

PAS formula in action

For content ideation

One of the less commonly known ways to use the PAS formula for content marketing is content ideation. I stumbled across this while researching for this post.

The idea is to brainstorm content ideas around each stage of the PAS formula. Make sure to use keywords that connect to each of these stages in your content.

So let’s take the problem of writer’s block as an example:

1. Identify the problem:

What is writer’s block? Is it normal?

2. Aggravate the problem:

10 signs you’re struggling with writer’s block

3. Introduce the solution:

A 4- step formula to beating writer’s block

4. Outcome:

How I overcame writer’s block using a simple technique

For social media (problem + solution)

You can use the PAS formula to introduce a product or a piece of content on social media. You need to know however that attention spans are short on social media.

Hence you want to keep it as short as possible. One way to use the PAS formula is to remove the A. This means that you state the problem as clearly as you can, then introduce the solution. That’s exactly why this Facebook post works.

PAS copywriting example

You can use this formula for social media ads, Twitter, Instagram, and more.

For opt-in pages

Ramit Sethi uses the PAS copywriting formula in this opt-in page. He begins by stating the problem in broad terms. Note that he uses the word, “we” instead of “you” to create commonality while describing the problem. The PAS formula will help you empathize with readers and thus win their trust.

Ramit Sethi PAS copywriting example

For blog intro

This article on Smartblogger uses the PAS formula for its intro. Note how the writer spends time describing the problem. Although he doesn’t use “agitation”, the intro is still a catchy one. Check around for other blog post introduction examples that use PAS copywriting.

PAS formula for blog introductions

For landing page

Pro copywriter, Brian Clark of Copybloggers used the PAS formula while introducing his new site monitoring service.

Pas formula example 1

For emails

PAS can be used for both sales and marketing emails as this example from Snov shows. The PAS formula is one of the most common email copywriting formulas

PAS copywriting example emails

Conclusion

The blog introduction is the most important paragraph on your blog. It either keeps them reading or sends them back to the Google search results. Start using the PAS copywriting formula to create better blog intros. And don’t stop there. Experiment with the PAS formula, using it in your emails, social media. This is one of the best ways to get proficient at writing excellent copy and content.


Agnes is a B2B content marketer and SEO specialist helping SAAS and B2B marketing agencies in real estate get more traffic and exposure since 2015

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