Writing articles for the web is a great way to promote your website, showcase your expertise, and create a group of loyal readers (over time, if your information is good, readers will likely become customers or referral sources). Plus, if you have aspirations for monetizing your blog or website, articles are a great way to build traffic.
Writing for the web is different than writing for a print publication. Your online audience wants information or advice: they aren't flipping through a magazine and reading an article that happened to look interesting. Web readers are using search engines to seek out specific answers to their questions. They want this information quickly, in a format that's easy to digest.
If you want to make an impression with your online articles, try these tips:
Where you publish your article is key to your success as an article writer. If I wrote an article about grooming a Golden Retriever, for instance, I wouldn't post it in Biznik or other business-related websites. However, this type of article would be perfect on a blog for Golden Retriever owners.
When you're writing an article, keep your reading audience in mind. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who's going to read my article?
- Who will my article help?
- What websites will my reader likely visit?
- What blogs would my reader find helpful?
- Which e-newsletters would a reader subscribe to?
- What keywords would my reader use to search for this type of information? (A reader for the article I described above might search "golden retriever grooming.")
After you've answered the questions, do a basic search using the keywords you brainstormed to find websites that meet your criteria. Try a blog search engine like Technorati to find blogs that relate to your topic and offer to be a guest writer. Use an Ezine database like BestEzines.com to locate email newsletters that already reach your target audience. If you can't find a place to publish, consider starting your own blog or newsletter.
Now that you know who you're writing for and where you might publish, you can set about writing a helpful, information packed article.
Create irresistible headlines.
If you want people to see your article, you need a title that entices them to keep reading. Online, readers skim for essential information: they're short on time and want answers to their questions. You only have a few seconds to capture potential readers. A great headline is a must.
To create a great title, keep your audience in mind. Remember the keywords you brainstormed? Use them in your headline. For instance: "How to Groom Your Golden Retriever in Less than 10 Minutes."
There are a few types of headlines that traditionally capture reader's interest:
- A question: Asking your readers a question will get them to pause and think. Even better, they will want to know the answer and be compelled to continue reading. For instance, if you're a success coach, an effective question-headline might be: "Are you sabotaging your own success?"
- How-to: Because your audience is looking for answers, a how-to title is sure to meet their needs. When you can show readers how to meet their goals, they're going to keep reading. How-to titles might include: "How to Double Your Website Traffic in Five Days," or "How to Keep Loyal Customers."
- Commands: The title I used for this article is a command--"Write Articles for the Web That Get Read." In this case, you're taking the most important result from your article and turning it into a title. From this article, I hope you'll be able to write articles for the web that will get readers. Other command titles: "Lose weight today," "Stop smoking in two weeks," and "Get 15 More Referrals this Month."
A great title will get people to read your article. Your content and format will keep them interested.
Format for readability.
On the web, your content needs to be easy to digest: readers are just a click away from abandoning your article. The point? Format your content so it's easy on the eyes and conducive to skimming.
- White space. If you're paragraphs get too long, readers will lose interest. It's not because what you're saying isn't interesting or helpful, it's just easy to get lost when you factor in scrolling. Plus, the eyes need a break every once in a while. To keep readers from leaving, keep your paragraphs relatively short or vary the length. Instead of indenting at the beginning of a paragraph, use an entire line break between sections.
- Lists. Using a list is helpful for two reasons: you're providing a ton of information in a not-too-wordy format while creating a great form of link bait (search engines and bloggers love lists).
- Bolding. The eye is attracted to things that stand out. If you want to highlight important sections or points in your article, use the bold function to help the words stand out. Remember, readers are usually scanning online: bolding draws attention to main ideas, lists, or sections while breaking the monotony of plain text. Just don't bold everything!
Clever formatting only works if you provide the "meat and potatoes:"
When it comes down to it, great articles provide quality, specific information for readers. Some "experts" argue that you shouldn't provide a lot of information in articles, that you should only give general advice in hopes readers will seek you out for help. I tend to disagree.
In my opinion, the best articles, and my favorite experts, give tons of good information and actionable advice. They answer my questions and motivate me to follow through on the tips and advice they give.
To ensure quality content, include the following:
- Specific Examples: Perhaps you have an experience, testimonial, or case study that illustrates a point. By showing an example, you help people learn and show how your advice can be applied in the real world.
- Resources: Let's say you're writing an article about social networking. You would want to include links to the sites you recommend. If you're writing an article about finances, you might include the names of books on the subject or additional articles for your readers to follow-up on. Offering additional resources (besides yourself) is a good practice: it increases your credibility while truly being of service to readers.
- Tools: If you can offer your readers tools to move them forward, your article will be remembered. For instance, a CPA might offer a tax worksheet, a relationship expert could offer a quiz: "is your relationship strong?" Questions and exercises ensure your article has a practical application.
Writing articles and publishing online is an excellent way to reach out to potential clients, position yourself as an expert in your industry, and promote your business. With these tips, you'll master the art of writing online (remember, it's different than print), and move your business to the next level of success. Happy writing!