You've heard it time and time again: if you want to get your name out there, write articles and allow them to be freely reproduced (with a resource box pointing back to you, of course). Largely, that is true. Well-written articles can:
- help you build your profile as an expert
- draw traffic to your website, and
- help you to build a database of potential clients through associated e-courses or a newsletter.
So far you probably haven't heard anything you didn't already know. What YOU are likely to be struggling with is the process of actually writing the article. Sure, you can come up with the content - but how do you really grab those readers? How do you keep their attention all the way through? And most importantly, how do you make them want to come back for more?
Let's assume that you understand the basics of constructing and editing an article (it has a beginning, middle, and an end and you know how to check the grammar and spelling.) Most of us can manage that. But if you're not content with simply "getting something out there" - if you want to WIN readers - then you need to start thinking about what they want to know, rather than what you want to tell them.
Put your readers first - every time. Give them what they want, and they'll be queuing up to read anything you produce. Give them something bland (or worse, blatantly self-serving) and they'll blast by you so fast you'll be spinning in the back draft.
The following four steps will give you a blueprint for writing articles that captivate your readers - whatever the topic.
== 1. Find Out What Your Readers Really Want ==
Sometimes you'll know what they want because you're an expert in the field, and understand the problems. If you don't know the subject area well, you'll have to do more research. Look for forums on your topic and see what people are discussing. What are the problems that need solving? Can you provide an answer? ("If they have a headache, give them an aspirin.")
== 2. Start With An Attention-Grabber ==
Spend time working on your opening. Try to avoid trite questions like "Have you ever wondered why so many people find it difficult to lose weight?" Firstly, it's dull. Secondly, it's not targeting the person reading the article - what do they care about the difficulties "many people" have with losing weight? They only care about THEIR weight problem!
Try to come up with an opening paragraph that gives the reader that warm "Hey, this is about me!" feeling right away. Better still; try to generate a rush of excitement - "This could be the answer I've been looking for..."
Example: "The diet gurus make it all sound so easy: to lose weight, all you have to do is expend more energy than you take in. Huh! If it were that simple, the "Big People" stores would be out of business in a heartbeat. Luckily for those of us who are tired of diets, gyms and dull group meetings, there is a back-to-basics way to tackle this. A way that won't cost you a fortune or leave you feeling deprived."
== 3. Write As You Speak... Then Edit! ==
The sample opening above also illustrates the importance of the tone you use in your article. You need 'meat' in each article, of course, to make it worth reading - but make sure it's not indigestible!
You're better off writing your article in a natural, relaxed style that's akin to normal conversation. It doesn't matter if the first draft is a little too informal - you can fix that when you edit. Naturally you don't want to irritate your readers with a too-breezy style, but too-formal is worse. Readers may want facts, tips, and strategies, but they hope to be entertained, too! Let your personality shine through.
== 4. End On A High ==
What's one of the biggest problems with most articles? They fizzle out! Writers often don't know how to end on an upbeat note. They either just stop dead or they come up with a trite ending like: "So what are you waiting for? Get started today!"
The beginning and the end of your article are the two parts that make the biggest impression. Start by creating a feeling of anticipation... and leave them feeling satisfied (or excited) when you finish.
If you are offering advice to help them solve a problem (like obesity) gives your readers a reason to feel optimistic and good about them. Don't make rash promises... but do offer hope. If you are giving hints on marketing or business, sum up the benefits of acting on your tips. You can also experiment with using a pithy/humorous quote, or giving readers a specific action to get them started. Be creative - and don't rush it.
Here's a final tip: create an article-writing cheat-sheet for yourself. Divide it into beginnings/middles/ends and add more useful strategies as you think of them. (For example, using the tips in this article, you might write: ENDINGS - end on a high, offer hope, use funny quote, suggest action to get started.)
Do this, and you'll be steadily cranking out articles that everyone wants to publish!