Will you read this article all the way to the end? I certainly hope so, but in reality web users tend not to make it all the way through written content on the web (feel free prove me wrong!)
The reasons why people don't make it to the end of an article online are many and varied.
One of the main reasons is the nature of the web itself, which doesn't exactly encourage deep concentration.
Obviously, there's nothing we as writers can do about that, so our goal has to be to work as well as we can in our chosen medium.
In this guide we'll look at how to write an article people will want to read, and although we'll be focusing on online content, the tips and advice given can easily be used for all kinds of article writing.
How to write an article people will want to read
An article that people want to read will:
- Be targeted at a specific audience
- Be created with a purpose in mind
- Be based on research and/or experience
- Be well laid out and properly structured
- Deliver on expectations
- Feature a strong, truthful title
- Probably feature a call to action of some kind
Let's look at each of these attributes in more depth.
Targeting your article to a specific audience
If you found this guide via a search engine the chances are your query was something like "how to write an article".
And, at a very basic level, this is a kind of audience targeting - essentially I, the writer, was hoping to attract people who want to write articles that are more engaging.
Of course, the issue of targeting is more complex than that.
For example, GoDaddy is an organization that provides tools to help online businesses succeed, people who run online businesses are likely to create their own content, and hence these people may use search terms such as "how to write an article".
So this article was created to reach an audience that might be interested in becoming a GoDaddy customer, and to help them out with a particular issue they're be facing.
Understanding the audience you want to reach is the first step in writing an article they'll want to read.
We don't have the space here to go in depth on understanding your audience, but it's safe to say if you see your audience as "everyone" then your article is doomed to fail.
Even huge international news sites have a target audience (on the most sweeping level think of tabloid vs broadsheet), while if you're writing an essay then your target audience will be the person (or people) who will be marking it.
Some questions to ask when trying to understand your potential audience are:
- What are they interested in?
- What job do they do?
- What problems do they face that my article will seek to help them with?
- What demographics do they fit into?
If you're writing for an audience of more than just a handful of people, it's impractical to answer these questions for each individual.
This is where marketing personas come in.
Marketing personas allow you to build up a generalized image of different parts of your audience and are a great help in all aspects of online marketing.
Creating an article with a purpose in mind
We touched on this in the last section, but deciding on the purpose of your article is important enough to have its own section.
The purpose of your article should be twofold - it should meet the readers' needs and expectations, and to encourage the reader to take some sort of action.
For a newspaper article, the readers' need is to be informed about a specific event, and the action may be something as simple as to ensure the reader continues to subscribe.
For a blog article such as this one the readers' need is to be educated about a certain topic, and the action could include things such as putting what they've learned into practice, or signing up for the GoDaddy newsletter.
Understanding the purpose of your article will make it easier to write something engaging.
Basing your article on experience/research
I've been writing online content for over a decade now, and besides making me feel very old it has given me a wealth of experience to draw on for this article.
Being able to use relevant experience, knowledge and expertise is a great way to show people that your article is worth reading.
For example, if you wanted to learn more about a medical condition which article would you prefer? One written by a qualified GP, or one written by an anonymous author?
It's a no brainer. So make sure you use relevant experience if you have it, and to communicate your experience in something like an author bio.
Of course, experience isn't all that matters - quality research is important too.
This can include reading around a subject (the absolute minimum for academic articles) to conducting original research on an issue.
For example, research by Hubspot shows that 43% of readers skim blog content. That's a great statistic to include in a post like this, and as it's based on research by HubSpot its drawn extra attention to the post that originally included it.
And, of course, don't forget to include links back to the original source of any research you've used.
Laying out and structuring your article
Once you've got a solid idea of what you'll be including in your article, it's time to start thinking about the structure and layout of your article.
A good way to start is by drawing up a rough outline of the article based around the title/headline and subheadings related to the issues you'll be covering.
Make sure that the content of the article flows naturally - the flow of your article will depend on the kind of content you're producing.
For an article like this, you'll likely start with a brief introduction, lay out the points you'll be covering and then address each point in more detail before summarizing.
In a news article, you'd start with the most important fact, before adding further details.
It's also important to remember that the layout of your article includes the formatting.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when writing articles for the web is to avoid large blocks of text.
You'll notice every paragraph in this article has been one line long.
That's because it makes the text easier to read, and allows people scanning the page to pick out key information.
It's also a good idea to include images where possible, although avoid relying too heavily on stock photos.
Headings also break up blocks of text, and including a list of headings you'll be using at the start of the article can help readers find the section that's most relevant to them.
Finally in this section, a word on emphasising text - it can be a good idea to highlight words and phrases that you want people to pay attention to.
However, if you start to emphasize too much text, then it starts to look a bit silly and it rapidly loses the impact it's supposed to have.
Like it has here.
Save emphasis for the most important parts of your article, such as an interesting quote or your call to action (more on those later.)
Delivering on expectations
Hopefully, this article has already provided some helpful pointers on how to write an article people will want to read.
But what if it hadn't? What if you'd clicked on the article and it had started talking about Russian literature, or how to win at table tennis?
Clearly, you'd give up reading the article and head off to find one that covers the topic you're looking to learn about.
Obviously, those are extreme examples, but your article needs to deliver on expectations from the very start right up until the last word.
If you've conducted solid research, structured your article well and given it a good proofread, then delivering on expectations should happen naturally.
But if you're worried about whether your article provides the reader with what they're looking for, why not give it to a friend or colleague so they can offer feedback?
Writing a strong, truthful title/headline
Really, this is part of delivering on expectations, but the title/headline of your piece is so important it justifies its own section.
After all, the headline/title is the first thing a reader will see and will probably determine whether they read your online article.
And there's the issue - it can be tempting to overegg your title/headline to get people to read it.
There's a name for this practice, one that has only negative connotations, and that name is clickbait.
If the title of this article had been "The ultimate guide to making you the world's best article writer" you would have likely given up reading as soon as it became apparent that it was really a collection of tips to help you write better articles.
If the content of your article doesn't follow through on the promises your headline makes, then choose a different headline.
If people feel like a headline has tricked them into reading something, then they'll develop a negative impression of you and/or your brand.
Including a call to action
Not all articles will include a call to action - for example, ending an essay with "please give me a good mark" would just look silly.
In the past, very few news articles would feature a call to action - now with the rise of paywalls, you see them all the time.
Whether your article should feature a call to action depends on its original purpose.
But if you're writing online content, the chances are it makes sense to include some form of call to action.
It could be something as simple as encouraging people to leave a comment or sign up for a newsletter.
It might be something as major as encouraging readers to buy a particular product.
Whatever your call to action is, make sure it's a natural conclusion to your article.
You can learn more about calls to action in this guide.
Did you read every word in this article? Or have you skimmed through to the end?
Whichever camp you fall into, hopefully you've picked up some useful tips that will help you writer better articles in the future.
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