Articles for article marketing: write them right and save your reputation

I’m sure you have seen some of the terrible articles that get published on the internet, even now that Google has stopped hunting for meaningless keywords and instead champions “quality content.” But still the junk gets through.

HTWB inverted pyramid for article marketing

The “inverted pyramid” structure for newsworthy articles – this is used by journalists as a way of hooking readers and keeping them going through the whole story.

Here are some tips on generating articles that not only will please Google, but also will gain you respect and loyalty from your target audience and ergo, more business.

Articles are not advertising

If you’ve paid for an ad space in a publication or website, “free editorial” is often part of the package. Be very careful with this; if you want people to read beyond the first sentence, your “editorial”  still needs to be an article, not advertising or brochure copy written in an editorial style. If the publication offers to write the article for you, check it before it’s published to make sure it’s not too sycophantic – don’t fall for flattery, because you can be sure your readers won’t!

Articles are about information

OK, there may be a certain entertainment element but primarily people read the sort publications or websites we’re talking about here, to increase their knowledge. Only use your opinions for an article if you’ve earned the right to express them. Always check facts and figures, because if you get them wrong it reflects badly not only on you but also on the publication.

Readers are only interested in themselves

That means everything you put in your article must be, as far as possible, something that would interest them, not you or your boss. To find out what interests readers you need to research who they are and what makes them tick.

Keeping readers’ interest means giving them value

This means you either have to tell something interesting that they don’t already know, tell them how to do something better, give advice on an issue which you know (from your research) is likely to be of concern to them, etc.

If you can’t give advice, tell a story…

Articles for article marketing: write them right and save your reputation People like real “slice of life” anecdotes as long as they’re relevant. Ditto with case histories, provided that you keep them brief and succinct. If your service or product involves solving people’s problems, don’t just say so – that’s a) advertising and b) boring. Use a real example of how it has solved people’s problems. Use quotes from the people concerned. Bring your article to life.

Length is important

Editors are busy people and if they don’t have to cut or pad out your contribution they’ll love you for it. Find out how many words they want from you and ensure you submit that many (within 20 words or so.) Knowing ahead of time how many words to write helps give you a feel for how much detail you need to include, before you start writing.

Devise a strong theme and stick to it

Assuming that you haven’t been told what to write about by the publication’s editor, decide this on the basis of what you believe will interest readers most and then stick to it firmly. Help yourself to stick to the point by writing out a content skeleton in bullet point form. Then start adding “flesh to the bones” as notes. Only start writing the article when you’ve defined and organized your content to your satisfaction.

Get your “tone of voice” right”

Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of assuming a tone of voice which you think is appropriate for your or your client’s organization’s image, unless it’s identical to the right one for the audience. Read as many back issues of the publication (or existing content of a website) concerned as you can, so you get the feel for their own editorial. Then copy that.

Avoid unfriendly jargon

Particularly in technical publications and websites a certain amount of jargon is OK, because the readership is likely to be familiar with it. However be sure you check this very carefully, and don’t allow any suspect jargon to creep into what you write. Also, don’t take a chance on people not understanding acronyms, abbreviations, etc. If in doubt, spell it out.

Write a snappy headline

Articles for article marketing: write them right and save your reputation Although the publication’s or website’s editor may well change it, making the headline good will help ensure that the final version remains as close to your original as possible. Once again look at back numbers of the publication / existing content of a website for an indication of style and approach. Generally it’s best to keep it simple, direct, try to make it imply a benefit to the reader. Only attempt a “clever” headline (pun, play on catchphrase, etc) if you know you’re really good at it – and that it’s consistent with the rest of the piece.

Particularly if your topic is newsworthy and current, use the “inverted pyramid” approach you can see in the main image above.

Create a sharp summary/intro paragraph

In two or three sentences, summarize the key message of your article and then use that as an introductory paragraph. The editor may not leave it there, but if – as is often the case – s/he uses a trailer for your article on the front/home page, that’s what they’ll use or base it on, anyway. Extra-tip: write this para after you’ve written the article. Don’t try to start with it as you’ll find yourself going into too much detail.

With “how-to” articles, stick to a structure

First set up the topic, then go through your tips on how to do it pretty much in chronological order, and finish off with a short summary or conclusion. Don’t use any detail that isn’t strictly relevant to what your reader needs. However at the same time, be careful you don’t wrongly assume prior knowledge on the part of the reader.

Use quotes to help tell a story

Instead of starting predictably with the background of the case history and how you came to meet the customer, etc., start with a blazing quote from the customer him/herself – “I was up to my knees in water and could see my entire stock being destroyed,” said Jerry Kann, Production Manager of XYZ Clothing Manufacturers. “When you and your pumping crew turned up so quickly I could have kissed you all…” Don’t be afraid to use quotes. As long as they’re real and don’t contain pompous corporate-speak, they’re very powerful.

Edit hard but sensibly

Not many business people have the time to hone their writing by producing umpteen drafts and in any case I believe you can over-edit your work, making it too dry and unspontaneous. If you need to cut out more than, say, 20% don’t try to shorten everything. If you do, you’re bound to strangle some of your good points. Instead ask yourself if all your content is really necessary, and if some points are not strictly required then dump them. If the article is seriously over length and you can’t justify giving it a good haircut, contact the editor and ask if they can run it over two issues in two parts.

Links and self-promotion

By all means use a few relevant links in your article if it is to be published online, but don’t overdo it, and don’t link to more than one or two of your own resources if you don’t want to be sneered at by Google. Save the link to your own site to go into the bio box or paragraph at the end of the article.

More on how to write right:

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via photopin cc
photo credit: UNE Photos via photopin cc
photo credit: Arenamontanus via photopin cc

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  1. Great, thorough list. Thank you!

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