Article Writing – 6 Steps to Writing Great Online Articles
When it comes to article writing, creating a high quality article for online publishing may appear a fairly easy task, until you actually have to do it. It turns out that writing for an online audience is quite a bit different from writing a school term paper, a business report, or even a novel or short story. If you can learn to do it well, writing for an online audience can be a very productive pursuit. Plenty of people make a full-time living doing so.
Find Great Topics to Write About
We all need some inspiration when it comes to article writing. We sit down with all the best intentions in the world, but once we have cracked our knuckles and are ready to start pounding upon our trusty keyboard, that great idea that we thought we had for our next article all of a sudden does not feel like such a good idea anymore. What now? Maybe the article wasn’t for a personal website or blog but for a client instead. This means that, on top of losing that great idea we had, we are now on a schedule as well! But where can we find some great ideas or topics to write about? Never fear, as there are ways and means around everything – as long as you know where to look. Below are just a few ideas to help you search for that hot topic when you most need it.
If you have an idea of the general niche you are to be writing about, try visiting some blogs or websites of a similar theme. When you are on these sites, check out the comments left by visitors on the various posts. The more comments you notice on a particular post, the more popular or thought provoking you know the post must have been (spam comments notwithstanding, obviously). What is the topic of this post? What is it trying to convey? Could you take a relevant point from this post and create an insightful article from it? Indeed, was there a certain comment that tweaked your interest – did it contain something you could write about? You see, with just this tip alone, the scope is huge when it comes to unearthing those hot topics.
Are you into social media? If so, Twitter is a great place to find some really hot topics. Out of all the social media sites available today, Twitter is probably the fastest growing of them all. It is a wonderful source of up-to-date information – so much so that, more often than not, you will learn the latest news happenings via Twitter before it makes it through to the rest of the internet or mainstream news media such as TV, radio, or newspapers. To this end, on the left hand side of the Twitter screen is a ‘trending’ box. This is the place that all the hottest topics currently on Twitter are located; just this little area is a goldmine of ideas.
Finally, one of the best methods of garnering ideas for an article topic is through good-old Google. Open up a Google search page and start typing in a query (your general niche). As you type, you will notice that Google starts automatically suggesting ideas as you go along. These lists can cover everything related to the particular niche topic you have queried. Try it – it is fascinating to see.
These are just a couple of pointers for you and barely scratch the surface when it comes to looking for great topics to write. It does, though, give you an idea of the sort of things you can do when stuck for a good topic to write about. Just use your imagination, and the sky is the limit.
Article Writing – Write for the Audience
When you set out to write an article or piece of content for your website or blog (or indeed, for a client), make sure you do so with one aim in mind – to satisfy your human readers. What do I mean by this statement? Well, many, many article writers still make the mistake of writing their articles with just search engine optimisation (SEO) in mind. Here’s the deal though – search engine algorithms have evolved tremendously over the last few years (see the Penguin and Panda algorithm updates) and what once was considered to be the norm (i.e. writing with a specific keyword density in mind, placing keywords in specific areas of the article, etc., etc.), is now very much outdated. Think about it – search engines really do want to present the very best search results to their users; this means results being as related as possible to the query that was input into the search box by the user. Search engines will not present a result based solely on the keyword density, or whether the main keyword has been presented as near to the beginning or as near to the end of the article – results will be presented in a way that these search engines feel can benefit the user most.
Bearing the above in mind then, it would make sense to write an article as naturally as possible, letting it flow smoothly and allowing the reader to effortlessly devour the information contained therein. In other words, write an article that speaks directly to your audience, one that offers value in relation to the topic covered. At the end of the day, content that is deemed useful will engage the person reading it and will therefore meet the reader’s requirements (the reason for reading the article in the first place).
On top of all this, surely an article writer will find it much easier to write naturally rather than write something specifically with SEO in mind. When you are looking to write a piece to be proud of, the last thing you want to be doing when the creative juices are flowing is stressing over keyword placements and density and other such distractions. Any experienced content writer will tell you that they cannot produce their best work if they are weighed down with outdated SEO related issues.
So when you sit down to write an article for your blog, website, or client, focus on the topic at hand and make sure you write the article for the reader – not for some search engine bot!
How to Write Your First Online Article
Now you have decided to give web articles a go for the first time, you might have some additional questions about how to actually get started. Every writer has his or her own way of doing things, but there is plenty of good advice that can help those just starting out. Once you become accustomed to writing online articles, you will then find your own way of doing things. Below we have listed a couple of tips when it comes to writing your first article.
If you do not have a specific topic to write about then there is no point in starting to type – you will just waffle. Some experienced writers do this as a way of generating ideas, but this will be too slow and ineffective for the beginner writer. In the section titled Find Great Topics to Write About, we listed some great ways to generate ideas. At least one of these methods should ensure that you write something that people will be interested in reading about. Later, when you become skilled, you can write about those topics that you feel passionate about and this will be your best writing.
The point of a first draft is to get things down on paper. You should do this quickly and not worry about editing – correcting grammar and spelling mistakes, etc. Only when you have put all your thoughts down on paper do you need to go back and polish everything in terms of structure, tone, style, spelling, grammar, etc. The reason for doing things this way is that you do not want to interrupt the flow of ideas. Do not worry; nobody needs to see your first draft.
Use subheadings to break up the text and do not have huge blocks of text; this can be very off-putting for readers and may even cause some to abandon the article, and hence your website or blog, entirely (more on this in the below sections).
The most important thing of all though is enjoy writing and feel proud of the work you create.
The First Paragraph
As anyone in the business will tell you – when it comes to all things on the internet, content is definitely king. However, you cannot just throw a few words together and hope that you come up with something credible that your readers (or your client’s website visitors) will enjoy and relate to. There has to be some structure, some cohesion. Once the topic has been chosen and the research has been conducted, the time has come to start writing. You have to start somewhere, and this start is the first paragraph.
The first paragraph is most definitely king when it comes to the readers – it will either make or break the content as a whole. A badly structured first paragraph will have readers leaving your website in record time.
To start with (and this is extremely important), the first paragraph of any article has to very clearly state what the article is trying to convey. When it comes to articles for the online world, more often than not this will take the form of summarising what the problem at hand is, following that by explaining how the article is going to describe or help with how to deal with this particular problem.
If you manage to convey this as clearly and concisely as possible in your first paragraph, you are then well on your way to completing an engaging piece of content.
The Common Mistakes When Writing Online Articles
You do not have to search hard to find examples of bad writing on the web. We are not just talking about bad grammar and spelling here; we are talking online articles that just make no sense or are difficult to read. When this happens, it will usually be enough to drive readers away. In fact, having just one badly written piece of content on an otherwise professional website can do a lot of damage. In light of this, below we have listed some of the most common mistakes made when writing online articles.
Issues with the Title
The title is misleading. It is understandable that writers want their articles to appear exciting and interesting; this is important for attracting attention. However, many writers go to the extreme and place misleading titles at the head of their writing. This can be a source of irritation for readers who may well feel they have been ‘cheated’ into reading something that would not have otherwise interested them. Titles do need to grab attention; they should not, however, mislead.
Focus on the Reader
The focus of the writing seems to be on impressing the search engines. Most writers appreciate the need to have their content optimised in a specific way; after all, this will ensure that the content does well in the search results, yes? Well, no. The problem starts when SEO efforts start to detract from the readability of the article. As mentioned in one of our previous paragraphs, this is not the way of things anymore. You can still find many blogs and websites with content so stuffed with keywords that they are just unreadable.
Writing about subjects that you do not know much about. It becomes obvious rather quickly when a writer has penned something he or she really knows nothing about or, at the very least, does not understand. Even if the reader knows nothing about the subject themselves, they can still spot when a writer has tried bluff his or her way through the subject. The availability of so much information on the internet means there is really no excuse for not researching subjects properly before writing about them.
Additional Mistakes You Will Want to Avoid with Article Writing
Today there is so much content available online that readers need to be discerning. It is not possible to read every article, so most tend to make their minds about a web article with just a quick glance. Only when seeing the ‘right’ things on the page will the reader be drawn into the content. Unfortunately, many who create web content do not do the right things that convince readers to investigate further; the content might be first rate but the reader will never know because he or she has been put off for some reason. Below we have listed some of the mistakes to be avoided to not drive potential readers away.
- Go easy on the advertisements. Pop-up ads in particularly can be annoying; it is understandable that website owners may want to make a bit of money with some onsite advertisements, but moderation is the key. Unless, of course, the website owner is so famous or well known in their particular niche that readers will want the content no matter how many ads are on the page.
- If there are just large blocks of text on a page then it can look a little intimidating to website visitors; they may conclude that it would just be too much hard work reading it to try to find the information they are looking for. Adding some images to the page not only breaks up the text making it appear more manageable, but it also acts as a hook for the text. Choosing the image carefully will pique the interest of the visitor and make them curious about what it all means.
- Long paragraphs and sentences that go on forever do not do well in web articles. People want snappy writing and do not usually want to read every word on the page. Therefore, the article will be more appealing if it contained short paragraphs, bullet points or lists, and subheadings. Adding quotes to your text while making use of CSS elements can introduce some of the main points of the article. These really do work because they stand out from the rest of the text and can draw the attention of the reader just skimming the page.
Be careful with post titles when thinking about SEO. Writing titles is a real art and it can be difficult to get the balance write between using keywords that will ‘impress’ the search engines and titles that will appeal to human visitors. It is possible to create article titles that will help with SEO while still attracting readers; it is not easy though. Some web writers spend almost as much time fretting over the title as they do on the article itself. One thing is for sure: the wrong title will turn many folk off reading an article.