Did you know that when we read something, our brain does not distinguish between reading about it and it actually happening?
The exact same parts of the brain are stimulated, whether you are sitting down at your computer reading about how to write an online article others would want to read, or you are actively engaged in putting that article together. Imagine the sparks of electricity firing off across all areas of your brain at this moment in time, like having your own internal multi-coloured firework display.
When we read something, we make a photograph of it in our mind, particularly if there is a vivid visual description of what we are reading about. This is a really good way in which to engage someone’s attention, particularly if you also head up your article with an attention grabbing headline in bold.
Lists are a great way to get bite-sized pieces of information across to readers, whose limited attention spans require that you get them hooked in the first 8-10 seconds. For example:
Lists are really good ways to take advantage of that short attention span… remember that we mentioned this about 10 seconds ago? Because we take in a lot of information at one glance, there has to be something out of the ordinary, a novelty item that is going to catch our attention and lead us to read on further.
Any article needs to start off with a great title and first paragraph to provide the hook in which to reel in the reader. Make sure you do your homework, so come up with an interesting factoid about the topic you are writing about. Paint a picture in around 4 sentences if possible so you encourage the reader to want to find out more.
It is also really important to make sure that what you have stated is factual and can be backed up if requested, by reference to an article, a research project or a verified quote, as you have to maintain credibility.
Getting across information and facts does not have to be a chore but you do have to know what you are writing about. This means not just understanding the information you have researched or synthesised into manageable chunks for the reader to digest, but the context in which the topic is set.
This involves finding out about who the article is aimed at, who the client is that has requested the information (if applicable), knowing the sector in which they operate and how the information you are putting across can enhance their company, products and services.
Content is very important because the requirement of producing short articles peppered with key words across the piece like sugar strands on a cupcake is changing. Content-rich information, well written and presented with the appropriate links where possible, is the article of choice for the Google crawlers.
Generally, around 800 to 1000 words is the ideal word count for a well-informed piece of work. This gives the opportunity to take the reader on a short journey allowing them time to read, digest and move on to the next section, so make your article a visual breather by adding in subheadings to the main piece.
The body of the article has to focus on the topic in hand and keep the article flowing. If writing about a product or a service, give a brief description of the characteristics or features of the items that are available. This is where you can offer information, advice or any other relevant material to help those receiving the information to make an informed choice.
Short descriptions of how the service or goods can save the reader time and/or money, along with other relevant facts or pertinent statistics that offer useful and actionable advice is key. If you can give real life examples and case studies relevant to the country in which the article is based, this will add to the content and give meaning to the reader.
This point links to the research that is done prior to sitting down and producing the article. If writing for a specific audience, then ensure that the language and terminology is appropriate for the reader. There will be times when you will need to use some jargon, but use those sparingly and make sure there is an explanation included. Be aware of the global readership, so check out the relevant terms used in the country of origin, along with the different national organisations, groups or trading companies linked to the article.
If you are writing an article for a specific website, make sure you read their guidelines. If their publishing guidelines ask for articles written in the third person, then stick to this, and above all ensure that all content is grammatically correct and well written.
End the article appropriately, in a way that makes sense and completes what you are trying to say. Always proofread before you hit the send button, and ask yourself if you have fulfilled the criteria set out in the headline. Remember that with every article, you are aiming to leave the reader with a clear picture of what you are trying to say, not a negative experience.