How to write “must-read” articles

Creating great content can help to build traffic because it can lead people wanting to link to your site, and to them wanting to share your content by Liking it or Tweeting about it etc. It can also lead to people becoming regular visitors because they’re interested in what you have to offer.

The above can, in turn, improve your position in the SERPs, but for me that’s more of a by-product than the goal itself.

Content, of course, consists of a variety of items – articles, infographics, videos, photos, etc. Today, I’m going to start with article writing and some ideas about how you can make the most of it.

What to write about – getting ideas

Sometimes people find it hard to come up with ideas for a topic to write about. There are probably countless ways to overcome this type of writer’s block, but I have a couple of main ones I use.

For starters, any time I come across something interesting and relevant to the website’s subject, then I make a note of it. That way, when the time comes to actually write something, I have a whole stack of potential subject ideas ready and waiting for me. All I have to do is choose one and get on with it.

Another way to get ideas of things to write about is to scour the news stories for your subject area. You can also look on forums and prominent blogs in the niche. Find out what the buzz is and write about that. You can curate the content so you’re not actually starting from scratch. Do be sure to add your own opinions and editorial comment if your intention is to create a useful piece of work. Besides, your readers are likely to find your article more interesting if you add a little of your own personality.

Having decided on the subject you’re going to write about, some people would say that the next step is to do some keyword research to see what phrases people are searching for. Others argue that keyword research is a waste of time unless you’re chasing search engine traffic. Personally, I’d say it’s worth having a look at the popular keywords in the niche but probably not worth spending too much time doing it.

You also need to decide on the purpose of the article. It could be to inform the reader by adding to their knowledge of the subject. It could be to help the reader to solve a problem. It could be to persuade the reader to your way of thinking about something. Perhaps your aim is to entertain the reader. You may wish to achieve more than one of these objectives in one article.

How to structure an article – the components

Each article should normally consist of the following:

  • Title
  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion

Some articles may also include a “Further reading” section at the end or as a side bar. For blog posts mostly I just include further reading as links within the body of the text. It really depends on the house style of the publication you’re writing for.

Title

This should be designed to appeal to the reader and to inform them what the article is about. There’s a good chance that it’s the headline which will lead the visitor to decide whether or not they want to read your article in the first place. Some people advocate using keyword-rich headings but that seems to be a hangover from the old days of writing to please the search engines rather than the visitor, so it doesn’t seem like such a good strategy nowadays.

If you can’t think of a good title or headline straight away, don’t worry. You can start with a simple label if nothing else, but you do need to have something to guide you in writing the article. As the article itself takes shape, you should find it easier to improve the title. Remember that first of all the title must grab the reader’s attention. Ideally it should charm, amuse, or intrigue too.

Introduction

The main purposes of the introduction are to carry on from the title by keeping the reader’s attention, to give them a taster of where the article is heading, and to persuade them to keep reading. You want to entice the reader into continuing.

Body

Here the traditional advice is: unity, coherence and emphasis.

  • Unity means that the main theme is threaded through the article and only relevant items are included.
  • Coherence is taking the relevant material and placing it in a sensible order to guide the reader though the content and thus aid his understanding of the subject.
  • Emphasis means making sure that the main theme is clearly identified throughout the article.

A properly structured article should flow well. If you’ve done your research properly, an effective and appropriate order should suggest itself, where each thought leads smoothly on to the next.

Use paragraphs to organise your article so that there’s one main thought for each paragraph. This may mean that some of your paragraphs are very short, but that doesn’t matter.

On the other hand, you may be left with some very long paragraphs, in which case you need to think about breaking them down sensibly into shorter ones. If you really can’t reduce a paragraph to fewer than four or five sentences, treat it as a mini-article: give it a good punchy first sentence as an introduction and wrap it up tidily with a strong final sentence.

Each paragraph should contribute something to the topic. (If you go on any interesting digressions, put them into parentheses.)

Conclusion

This is where you bring your article to an end and the reader should be satisfied that you have achieved what you set out to do in the article.  Make sure that the ending grows out of the content of the article itself and doesn’t look as though you’ve stuck it on as an afterthought.

There are several types of endings. These include summing up the argument of the article, a look to the future, and a call to action.  Your ending could include any or all of these. (There are other ways to end articles, but these are the most usual for our purpose here.)

Get writing!

That’s the mechanics of how to write an article, anyway. Obviously I can’t tell you what subjects to write about as that’ll be down to the individual reader. But now that you’ve got a framework to build your article on, the best thing I can advise you to do is to give it a go. Like anything else, the more you do it, the better you’ll get at doing it. Good luck!

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