Writing Articles For Your Website
Whether you use a post or a page to display your content, the content itself is an article varying in length from a snippet ( a paragraph of text, such as a short description, a quote, a small comment on a news item, an excerpt or a lead in to a longer article with a link); to a short to medium length article (around 300-500 words); to a “pillar” article (a lengthy article with definitions, resources and links, or a full tutorial on a specific topic with video and illustrations).
Your topic and your readers should define the type and length of most of the articles you will want to write for your website. You will also want to write a few articles that are carefully optimized for your websites main keywords.
It’s quite true that most people are aware of their limitations and believe they are not a writer, but this is only a slight obstacle to making and maintaining a website.
If you can talk – you can write. You can have a friend interview you and tape the interview. Then have someone transcribe and edit the interview into articles.
There is even software you can get that will transcribe an audio into text. If you are going this route, use a video, then you’ll be able to cut any really good segments of the interview to use as videos on your website.
Even if you are inarticulate, you can employ someone to help you write the main articles you need. Or employ someone else to add news articles if you need them. There are hundreds of freelancers looking for jobs.
However I agree that not having the time or inclination to write, is a limitation you need to consider and overcome if you intend to make an updating website. So factor this into your costs before you make any decisions to start a website. For a simple brochure or business card website however, it’s not a problem.
Reading Articles on a Computer Screen
When writing articles for the web you need to make some small adjustments to the way you write, to make it easy for readers to read your articles on a computer screen. The majority of readers will have short attention spans and large blocks of text will often only be skimmed at best.
To allow for this, write in short sentences, subtitle each paragraph with an interesting headline or paragraph description, use bullet points and block quotes to keep it interesting and use small pictures as a visual magnet to hold people’s interest. Pictures draw the eye and the mind then follows the text!
- Write in short sentences
- Subtitle each paragraph
- Use bullet points and lists
- Feature something in a block quote
- Use small images to draw the eye
For longer articles, subtitles are very important so readers can skim through what they wish to the parts of the article that they are really interested in.
Readers will often scroll down reading all the subtitles and any footer information such as a PS at the bottom, scroll back up and read a paragraph that interests them, and finally if they are still interested, return to the top and read through the whole article, skimming only the content they have already read.
Write as you might speak to a friend, create your own conversational style, and don’t be afraid to be opinionated (within reason). Your writing style should be light and easy, like a friendly teacher having a chat with an eager student.
Don’t use business speak or make your article too formal, unless your audience expects this. If they do expect it, use exact figures where possible, not generic and insipid statements and guessed approximations. Use specific facts and figures, and cite your sources for these. This heightens the credibility of your article because it makes it authoritative.
Emphasizing Article Phrases
The use of highlight, bold, italic and underline elements can also draw the eye to specific phrases.
Emphasizing phrases shouldn’t be used too much or the article starts to look messy, spammy, more sales oriented and therefore less credible. ALL CAPITALS can also be used, and exclamation points and question marks.
Why ask a question?
Because punctuation elements also draw the eye!
Emphasis of text can be an extremely effective technique to draw a reader into your text, if emphasis is used sparingly; with relevance and with care to draw attention to something useful, funny or of great value.
Tip: Small pictures have a similar effect – to draw the eye to something. It may take more time to insert pictures and format text but I think you’ll agree that it makes a page look inviting and interesting.
What Content Should My Article’s Have?
No formatting, pictures or text emphasis can rescue an article that doesn’t have good content. Content is King!
If your article helps someone, they will read it. They may boomark it. They may refer someone to it. They may decide to call you. They may purchase from you. They may comment on the article.
If your article tells them nothing but is just a bunch of words on a page that wasted their time. They will close the window and go somewhere else.
So don’t waste your time and theirs on writing articles that state the obvious. Leave that for those people making websites to display advertising on and don’t begrudge them the 2c they make when someone clicks away from their site on a Google ad.
To get that – you must give.
You must also ask for what you want them to do. I haven’t met a psychic website reader yet and I don’t expect to in my lifetime.
It is impossible to give a specific answer to what content YOU will need. It will depend on the type of website you are creating and what you want people to do when they read your content.
In general you need content that says what you do (eg. About), and what you want (eg. Contact Us) and this content should be in a sidebar, so it’s obvious to every visitor.
Then you need content in your articles that can be indexed by search engines so you get traffic. This article content needs to be interesting, useful, perhaps humorous, perhaps feature rich, and it needs to benefit your visitor in some way, keep them reading and give them an incentive to act.
Types of Articles For Websites
There are several proven templates for useful articles to add to a website.
- News item with your opinion or comments
- Answering one, or several related, frequently asked questions
- A Numbered List of Resources with your review of them
- Articles with a Numbered List of Tips
- Full blown Tutorial or How To for a specific action
These are the five most common article templates and these ideas can be used to stimulate you as a writer so you can adapt their format to a great article you can publish on your website.
So check the newspaper, read websites in your industry, be aware of your own trades news and comment on it. Keep in touch with current events and don’t be shy about commenting on a book you’ve read or a movie you’ve seen.
Find out what people are confused about or need help with and write articles that help them solve their problems. Go to chat rooms and message boards, forums and blogs and make a comment or answer a question if you can, and drop a link to your website while you’re there. Then write articles that answers the best questions you found there.
Can you write an article relating your topic to a season, a holiday, or an upcoming celebration? Use seasonal fluctuations to your advantage when you are brainstorming article ideas. You could even make your own seasonal calendar. For example if you are selling products in Australia you could highlight February as the month for staying COOL and review air conditioners, snow holidays, and pool installation. ( I’m in the middle of a heatwave as I write this and it’s over 40 degrees, so these things are certainly on my mind!)
Research and Resource Websites
If your general knowledge isn’t so great, you have the internet at your disposal to find out facts and research articles, there are many great websites to get information from. Just ensure you cite the source of quotes or rewrite the information in your own words, so you don’t get pulled up for plagiarism.
- Wikipedia – www.en.wikipedia.org: The free online encyclopaedia is fully open source meaning reprinting is fine within guidelines, and it has millions of articles.
- How Stuff Works – www.howstuffworks.com: A searchable website that explains “how stuff works”; about science, health, entertainment, cars, home improvement, finances, computers… etc etc.
- Fact Monster – www.factmonster.com: Another searchable database with an online encyclopedia, atlas, almanac and dictionary .
- Ref Desk.com – www.refdesk.com: This site indexes and reviews online resources and will lead you to many quality informational websites. There is a facts index, a “fast facts” section, and links to other online reference resources like almanacs, calculators, encyclopaedias and even genealogy databases.
So pick up a pen or open a text or Word document, turn on an audio recorder or get someone to video you, or hire a writer. Get it done! Don’t procrastinate, get on the phone now and start organizing it, or write in a time block in your calendar for it. Who knows you might discover you really enjoy it!
P.S. This is a “pillar” article, a long tutorial that shows examples and pictures, with resources and tips. It took me about 6 hours to write and format it ready for publication.
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