1) The first paragraph is undoubtedly the most important of your piece. If done successfully, it captures the reader's attention and gives them a roadmap of where the article is going. If done unsuccessfully, it bores the reader, encouraging them to click away.
2) Secondly, I cannot stress enough the importance of the lede in writing an article. Every piece you write should signal what the topic is and what your argument is in the very first paragraph. Failure to do so will lose editors' interest and, most importantly, readers' interest. A lede is what sets the scene and grabs your reader's attention – it is your introduction. The goal of a lede is to hook your audience into your op-ed. The lede should make your piece timely. Be bold, but incontrovertible. Here are a few examples of good ledes:
Use a recent news headline
This Thursday at 3 p.m. the President will announce his decision on whether the United States will honor the Paris Accord on Climate.
Tell a dramatic anecdote
While visiting the biological parents of my adopted daughter from Sri Lanka, I realized that a violent civil war had led to an increase in the number of orphans and homeless children.
Reference popular culture
If you aren't in a covfefe state of mind after reading Trump's last tweet then can you please explain what the covfefe is going on?
Turn conventional wisdom upside down
Every American family dreams of buying a home but Harvard grad, Gerald Höran, says renting is more profitable in the long run.
Celebrate an anniversary
One hundred years after Coke's release of the famous sugary beverage, sales are dropping due to increasing consumer demand for sugarless products.
Cite a major new study
According to a new nationwide poll, woman that eat less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day have a lower risk of hypertension and high blood pressure.
3) Look at the specific guidelines for the outlet that you are trying to publish in. To keep track of all of the different submission guidelines, I made an Excel spreadsheet that lists the word count required, the citation style, the editor's name, and the editor's email address. For example, the Forbes row in my excel sheet says, "Forbes is looking for articles between 850 and 1000 words, citations should be in-text using APA style, the editor's name is Deborah L. Jacobs, and her email address is email@example.com. Mrs. Jacobs always responds with a rejection or acceptance within one week of receiving an email.
4) I also recommend hiring professional editors, such as ACAD WRITE, to read your content for grammar, spelling, and content. What's worse than not getting published, is getting published with content or grammar mistakes that are published online for the whole world to see for ever. If you ask the editor to correct a mistake after your article is published, the editor will feel embarrassed that they didn't catch it first. They will also feel embarrassed that they published an error-laded article, and this will hurt your future changes of publishing in that outlet.
Include a small biography blurb like the bio that I added to the bottom of this article. Include in your bio any books that you have written and an Amazon link to the book. Also, mention your Twitter or social media contact. Do not add any fluffy awards like, "I was voted best real estate agent in Denver in 2014".
This 4-step process is guaranteed to get you published. Also, for new writers that want to hone in on their unique writing gift, I highly encourage the book Joseph M. Williams' Style. I have one more piece of advice, and it may be the most important. Do not give up! If you have a great piece, and Forbes rejects it, just send it to the Wall Street Journal. If WSJ says "no", move on to the next outlet. Finally, some outlets do not notify you when you have been published. If you do not hear back from an editor within two-weeks, you can send a nice email that politely asks for the status of your article. Also, you can google your name and the name of outlet to see if they published your article or not. I have been pleasantly surprised in the past when my article pops up online despite the editor's failure to respond to my emails.