We've gone over how to get prepared to write: having a plan, finding great topics, using tools to enhance your productivity, and tips for researching. So, now we're ready to start writing! This post is about learning how to increase your writing skills so that your articles are not only written quickly, but they are of topnotch quality.
If you search the web, you will find many articles written by marketers that have keywords, and may even be somewhat comprehensive, but they read like a machine put them together, and not a human being. While this may be great for search engine results, in the final analysis, it is people who will be reading your articles who will decide whether to come back to your site or not based on your content. And as all good Internet marketers know, it's far easier to sell to existing and loyal customers than it is to generate a new customer.
In the same way, if you know how to retain your existing readership with quality content, you won't constantly have to mine the Internet for new people to visit your site. And, you will begin to build a personal relationship with these people that is the beginning stages of building your contact list so that you can start to market your products to them too.
Even though we know what makes a good topic now, and how to brainstorm to make multiple interesting titles, we still have to know how to put all our information together so that the articles grab the readers and literally pulls them into your content, and by default your website. There really is no mystery to it. And, in the next few pages, that mystery will be revealed in a simple and easy to follow path that helps you whip out articles that are not only search engine friendly, but people friendly too.
The key to a great article is the first sentence. That's often known as "the hook." You want that first sentence to be a big giant hook that comes out into the audience and grabs them by the seat of their pants to get them engaged with the topic. Sometimes the hook is a few sentences long, but rarely over three sentences. If your reader is not hooked within the first three sentences, typically you've lost their interest. They may skim the rest of your article reading titles, and bullets, but they won't be as involved as when the hook grabs them and sends their imagination whirling through your fantasy world.
Thus, the beginning of an article is the second most important piece of an online article, next to the title. You want something that is refreshing, alive, and interesting enough to hold your reader's attention. It should be able to swoop in and just weave them into the story in a very personal and engaging fashion. For that, we will offer six different ways that are highly engaging to most readers and that you can use to develop fascinating and provocative articles, from the first few sentences.
Pose a Question
Questions lead the reader into an interaction. Asking a question begs for an answer and lubricates the reader's mind to get involved and at least imagine what a possible answer might be. For instance, say you were writing about the financial meltdown, wouldn't a good question be something that the reader can relate to? So, you might say: "Do you know how Wall Street's melt down affects your pocketbook?" Obviously, you've targeted the audience that might most want to read your article and you've also helped them to realize that they may need to be more informed with relationship to their personal finances. The more the question engages a response from your audience, the more likely they will read the next sentence and more.
This strategy isn't just great for medical or health articles. It can also be good for human interest and scientific articles. Any stunning statistic that grabs the reader and makes them think is a great way to start an article. For instance, say you are writing articles for the elderly population, people getting to retire. You might start the article with a relevant stunning statistic like: "One in four people in the United States have failed to save enough to retire by the age of 65." If you happen to be reading this and you are wondering if you have enough money to retire, that statistic will grab a hold of your collar and practically obligate you to read the article.
This is where your research really pays off. If you followed the instructions to put your research in one folder, you probably highlighted some memorable quotes that now you can use to hook your reader into your articles. It's okay to do this as long as you give credit to the original author. You will also want to keep track of where you found it, if the source is offline and you just added it to your research file manually.
At any rate, just like all great books have hooks that become memorable quotes, memorable quotes also make unforgettable hooks. So, as long as you give credit to an author and source, you will be able to use their imagination and creativity to spice up the beginnings of your articles. For instance, maybe you are writing some stories about the stock market and want to bring people into it more. You could open your article with:
Plato said: "The greatest wealth is to live content with little." But, that doesn't mean any us like the idea of seeing our stocks take a nosedive.
So, find ways to weave in quotes to the hook and you'll have an excellent jumping off point to gather attention and give your articles a little timeless wisdom.
If you want to really get a reader involved, you can start a small conversation relevant to the article. Say, the article is about the advances in breast cancer treatments. You might start a small dialogue with a patient finding out the lump is cancerous, and the emotional impact of that revelation. That will definitely pull a reader into the story and help to set the stage for the rest of your article.
Create a Drama
This strategy is to stage a drama that engages the reader into a startling situation. It should be relevant to the topic of your article, but it can be anything you decide to imagine and invent, or a true-to-life story. So, say you are trying to write about GPS systems. You can start with a little story of someone driving into a strange town in the middle of the night, being low on gas, and trying to find a hospital where their daughter is giving birth. It doesn't have to be really terrible, just something that startles the reader who might see themselves within a similar situation and can get their emotions involved too.
Tell A Good Story
This is similar to staging a drama except that is less startling and more descriptive. People love a good story, but you have to set the scene first. So, you will start my creating a great environment from where to tell your story, and that story will end up being the topic of your article.
As an example, say you are writing about home builders. You might start by setting the scene as a potential home buyer as follows:
The first one we went to see smelled like dog urine and cigarettes. The second one looked like a mini-gingerbread house from the curb, and we were finally excited to step through the threshold for the first time, only to be greeted by walls painted a bright flamingo pink. We almost despaired of finding our new home, until the realtor took us to the new Glendale community at Riverside Park, built by Pulte homes.
How To Leave Them Satisfied In The End
Just important as the beginning of articles are the endings. Is your reader satisfied that you delivered what you promised when you started the article. Was it sufficiently engaging and interesting to make them feel as if it was worthwhile? In this section we'll give you five different ways to wrap up your articles so that your reader leaves feeling satisfied.
Wrap Up the Loose Ends
If you told a story or began a drama, don't forget to finish the story to the reader's satisfaction. Don't leave them hanging wondering what happened to the main character in the little story or drama. If you do that, they will not trust you the next time one of your articles come up. In a way, you'll have proven you are more of a tease than a full-fledged author. So, always remember to wrap up those loose ends.
Always Draw a Conclusion
Say you decided to ask a question and use that as a basis to describe an experiment that you employed to solve that question. Don't just describe the results, but actually draw conclusions in a very straightforward fashion. The reader may or may not agree with your conclusions, but the other option is to leave them hanging and ready to draw their own conclusions. If you are trying to sell an idea and you don't draw the conclusions for them, you may end up finding they draw a totally different conclusion or don't have the initiative to do it themselves.
In fact, when an Internet marketer refuses to draw the conclusion that the buyer should buy their product, the sales prospect will normally not draw that conclusion themselves. All Internet marketers know that, even after an especially powerful sales ad, you must ask for the sale. If you don't draw the conclusion that they should buy this product, they won't either.
Be the "Next Step" Planner
Maybe the article was an introduction to a vastly complex subject. Where should the reader go next to find out more? Maybe the structure of the article was informative or a review. Do you know what the reader is expecting next? Maybe they want more "how-to" or a place where they can go and purchase the reviewed product. Always anticipate what the reader might want at the end of your article and offer it to them. It will make them eternally grateful to you.
Keep an Eye on Trends
Just like the New Year's psychic predictions are popular, people really desire to be told by experts what's on the horizon for them. This is particularly true of informative articles that are giving a broad general sweep of an industry trend, people in the spotlight, or current events. So, if you know of new trends that are coming down the pike for the future that relate to your story, it can make a perfect way to end a story and give the reader a satisfying dessert with their meal.
Become the "Closer"
If the article has one main point that you want to emphasize above all others, you can do a review of all potential comparisons and options, and then focus the ending on that main point. It's a way to close the deal in a way that guides the reader into what their final conclusion should be regarding the topic they just read.
Connect With Your Readers
Part of what makes people want to click on your links is good content and another is the way that content looks and feels in a visual way. There are things you can do to click with your readers, so that they will click on your links in return. Some of that is learning how to use your keywords and phrases in natural sounding ways. Another way is to always promote yourself and your website in appropriate areas in interesting ways. And lastly, make sure that when you write, that you pay attention to the layout of your article. Often, if the article is not visually appealing, it can be a huge turn-off - no matter how interesting and enlivening the content happens to be.
Always Act Natural
Let's face it, when you use Google keywords or phrases in your articles, you are going to sound a little stiff. Some phrases sound so unnatural that it can be jarring for the reader of that article. While many Internet marketers don't pay enough attention to this detail, it can affect the amount of readers they retain and thus the audience they have to market. Especially, if they are following a format to write keyword articles, the final result can be grinding to the inner ear.
So, what is a person to do if they want to use good SEO tactics and include their keyword or phrase around 2% of the time, with it showing up at least twice in the first paragraph? What if on top of that your formula says that this keyword phrase should show up in headings and subheadings too? It really does grind down your creativity and the style of your writing when you have such rigid writing guidelines.
Luckily, if you understand the Google search engine algorithm, you can still use keyword phrases and make them sound natural, even when they're not. All you have to remember is that punctuation is allowed and that Google will ignore stop words like: a, the, for, an, at, be, and so on. So, if you end up with a keyword phrase that appears to be sound completely unnatural, try to get it into a more natural structure using punctuation or stop words.
Let's take a look at an example to understand how to use punctuation with awkward keyword phrases. How about the following: Raleigh real estate markets. If you use this over and over in your article, it will be obvious that you are coding. However, if you add punctuation, you can in use in with various sentences that won't sound unnatural in the least.
I live in Austin, Texas. The job market is booming!
Another way to use the same keyword phrase could be:
Why would anyone want to move to Austin? Unemployment rates are at record lows, there are jobs to spare!
Finally, you can even punctuate near the end of the phrase:
If you are interested in Raleigh real estate, markets for homes have never been better.
Thus, you can use the keyword phrase and punctuate it to make it sound more natural. However, when Google crawls your article, it will strip the punctuation and it will see that Raleigh real estate markets is the keyword that is given most weight and it will also assign it more weight in their algorithm.
Ever Heard of "Stop" Words?
How about using the same keyword phrase with stop words? Now you can write the following and it will be equivalent to using Raleigh real estate markets as a keyword phrase:
Look to Austin for job markets that are booming!
The Austin Job Market, a massively booming industry!
It's all the same to Google, but it makes a world of difference to your readership.
There's no reason you can't toot your own horn, particularly if you are doing article directory marketing. That's when you write articles to put up on other people's directories to drive traffic to your site. Many of these sites don't allow you promote your products or site within the article text, but they do give you a resource box at the end where you can typically promote yourself, your website, and some other link. Just be careful not to send people to a sales page, if the guidelines say that's not allowed. Many of these article directory sites are getting very stringent about allowing marketers to use their site to promote their products, so you will have to add an intermediary page from the resource box back to your sales page, in some cases - like a link to a blog or website page which isn't promotional but has links to your promotions. To be sure, read the guidelines before you add information to your resource box to see what is allowed.
When you promote yourself, don't just say: "For more information, go to my website..." Most people reading that know it's a plug to end up at some marketing page. So, instead, you need to be a little crafty with your resource box. You might try the following leads to get people to click into the link in your resource box and capture traffic from the article directories you post within:
Before you go, did you know [link here]...
To learn more about this topic, go to [link here]...
Psst! There's an additional secret you should know [link here]...
Want a free report on how the top way to do [link here]?
Let me ask a quick question, do you know [insert title of article linking back to webpage here]...
As you can see, this is not the typical way to grab someone's attention and that's why it tends to work.
Another way to promote your site, that you can see a little of in the above example, is to give away promotional incentives for clicking into your site or for registering to your mail list. The free promotional incentive works best if it is some info product like a free report that you can deliver automatically to people who click into your site where you have a download button. This gets them to your site and delivers the product without you having to engage them manually. So, anything that can be easily downloaded from your website works. That can include articles, videos, music downloads, and even software. Just be clear in the resource box that they are going to get a freebie for clicking on the link you provide and you will see your response rate shoot upwards.
Care About Aesthetics
Finally, layout is very important. Your articles have to be visually appealing for them to be intellectually or socially appealing. You can write the best copy ever, but if it is displayed in one large chunk of text with no formatting or even paragraph spacing, there will be very few people willing to even attempt to read it. The reason for that is that the text on your computer can be a strain to read, unlike the text on a page in a book. And, even in books, you will see attempts to make the text visually appealing with some sort of guidelines. Well, you have to incorporate guidelines to make your web copy attractive too, except in this case, what you don't write is more important (in some cases) than what you do write.
We're not talking about adding all kinds of colors or unusual fonts to make your page pretty. In fact, one color and one font is the best way to keep your readers from feeling too strained as they read your text online. What we are suggesting is that you make the article layout easy on the eyes by adding white space and different formatting to draw in the reader, and not overwhelm them.
When you think about the way people read online articles these days, you know that people naturally skim text and then decide whether to read the entire article or not. They just don't have the time or patience to sit through a huge article, otherwise, they'd just buy a book and sit down to have a good read. Online, people are looking for instant information and that means that the layout becomes highly important. It should be visually appealing and easy enough to read and highlight your main points so that when readers skim the article, they know which sections to read, or whether to they want to read the entire article or not. To conform to those standards, you need to include white space to isolate and highlight different headings and also you need to use special formatting to keep the eyes dancing through the page as it skims along the main points.
For that, you want the following:
Bold title - Bold the title so that it's easily picked up within a listing of other articles. It draws the immediate attention of someone who is looking at titles only to decide whether to read or not.
Capitalize key words - If you really want to draw attention to specific words in the title, just capitalize all of the word. Just be careful not to overuse this formatting as it can look like you are shouting to the reader.
Break up paragraphs - In real word writing, you don't change paragraphs until the topic changes. This is not appropriate to online writing where the eye tends to tire from reading the screen much more easily. Instead, break up paragraphs into short chunks. Some online marketers will even go as far as to insert a new paragraph every three to fine lines of text.
Add subheadings - Even if you break up the paragraphs, that doesn't make it easy enough for people skimming it to know what each one is about. So, add subheadings that quickly give the skimmer a synopsis of what's in those paragraphs, that way they can choose to read it or not.
Add bullets and lists - Bullets and lists help to break up text and provide a quick encapsulation of relevant points. Always include subheadings in them so that the skimmer can pick the bullets of interest to them.
As you can see, you can even combine these elements to give them more emphasis, as in the list above. We not only created a bulleted list, but we added subheadings, and bolded the subheadings to give them special emphasis. What comes out is a list that is easily skimmed and then evaluated for the most important topics to the reader.