You know that writing articles is a sound, cost effective way of building your reputation, and getting more inbound leads to your website. You’ve got a couple of ideas of things you could write, but still, there’s something holding you back. And it’s the big one. How do you actually do it?
This blog was originally going to be called ‘How to write a brilliant article,’ but I realised that I’d be adding to the pressures holding you back if I threw being brilliant into the mix. So this is a guide to how to write a good enough article, because that’s all you need. Here’s everything you need to know to get you started – a quick checklist to structure your writing and keep it on track. All you need to do is roll your sleeves up, and get writing.
1. Know who you’re writing for.
It helps with relevance, tone and focus. Keep this real person in mind throughout the process – what questions do they have? What issues can you solve for them?
2. Be useful.
Choose a subject and angle that will help your readers with a real problem, and they’re more likely to want to read it.
3. Keep it focused.
The temptation when you start writing is to try and get everything into your article. All those ideas buzzing around suddenly pour out onto paper, and you find you’ve written something that dashes from A to B via L, Z, P and Q. Tighten your focus, and write clearly about one thing. Save your other ideas for the next one.
4. Use simple words.
It’s not dumbing down to make your writing easy to read, it’s kind to your reader. Pick the shorter word over the more longer one. Make it easy to read, and easy for people to share with friends and colleagues.
5. Beginning, middle and end.
a) Start with a clear introduction – who are you writing for, and why? Set up the question you’re going to answer, or the problem you’re going to solve.
b) Answer it. Structure your thoughts, step by step. Imagine taking the reader with you – you’re guiding them on a journey. Changing track suddenly is like chucking them out of a moving car, so keep things moving smoothly
c) Sum it up. Readers like to know they’ve finished. And they all lived happily ever after isn’t necessary, but it’s a good idea to reiterate your main point again at the end. Add a call to action if you’d like your readers to get in touch. Add a question if you want to keep the conversation going.
6. Basic grammar and spelling matter.
I’m all for freedom of expression and playing with words, but the articles on your website need to demonstrate that you can communicate clearly. If your spelling is a bit wonky, ask a friend to read through and check before you press ‘publish’. Spell check will only pick up mis-spelt words, not mis-substituted ones. Even if you’re confident about your writing skills, getting a friend or colleague to check is still a good idea.
7. Think about headlines.
Your headline is your hook to pull readers in, so give it some thought. (Article on writing headlines for you here)
8. Break it down.
Busy web readers skim using headers to pull them through. Break your writing down with signposts that sum up your points throughout your article.
9. Size matters.
Around 500-700 words works for us as a good length for a website article – room for some useful detail, not so long it’s a chore to read. No longer than it takes to drink a cup of tea is a good rule of thumb.
And that’s all there is to it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, the important thing is to start. (It might make you feel better to know that Sonja and I are both a bit embarrassed about our early blogging efforts – I fell into the trap of trying to say too much, Sonja slipped up on trying to be too clever.) Once you start writing, it will get easier. The more you write the better you get. And once you start seeing results, it will become more rewarding.
So, now there’s no excuse. What are you waiting for?