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How To Write A 'useful' Article
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Firstly, let's dispel an article myth. It can be called an 'article' if it's under 200 words. Many copywriters would disagree with this statement. If you can say all you need to say in 200 words and convince the reader that the article is useful then hats off to you! However, most copywriting experts would recommend that an article should be 300+ words.
What makes an article useful?
Simple, an article is deemed useful if the audience can glean information from it and make use of that information in a practical way. The most common articles circulating the web are often 'How to' articles, 'Tip Sheet' articles and 'Factual' articles. Why? They're informative, they're engaging and, perhaps not surprisingly, they're more useful than opinion pieces.
3 top tips for writing a useful article
1. Write for the audience not the search engines - Skilled copywriters are able to strike a balance between engaging the audience and satisfying the criteria for search engine prominence. However, priority importance should be given to the reader.
Flooding your article with keywords in order to enhance your search engine ranking puts readers off. They do notice I assure you, and they quickly realise that your agenda is search engine ranking, rather than article quality. Readers do not engage with your article as they deem it useless to them. That may seem harsh, but that's the stark reality.
During my early years as a copywriter I had to learn the hard way. Yes my articles ranked highly on Google however, dig deeper into the data, only 10 or so people were reading them, it left me disappointed.
Tip 1 summary - 'ETA' people... Engage The Audience - Remember the reason you took up writing in the first place, so people would read your stuff.
2. Pursue the unique - Don't rehash and repackage content on a subject that has been covered to the point where people are bored of it. The most useful articles are those that are 'unique' and not reinvented from other material.
A recent client of mine asked me to produce an article on 'donkeys'. I must confess this was going to be a test of my skill; after all I had very little knowledge of donkeys. However, rather than doing a generic article I was bold and wrote from a different perspective. I went to a farm and sat with a donkey 'expert' in the presence of a donkey and I asked the expert to tell me 10 obscure facts that people wouldn't know about donkeys.
Needless to say the client 'loved' the article; they found it engaging and useful, but more importantly, they said that they could not wait for their audience to read it - You want to know an interesting fact about donkeys now don't you?
Well, did you know? Donkeys seek shelter when it rains because
Tip 2 summary - Unique is useful. It requires much more work and research, but the labour for your efforts will be rewarded.
3. Research what's trending - You can write a useful article and relate it to a trending news story. For instance, the big news in the UK at present is the birth of the 'royal baby', George Alexander Louis. If you're a parent you could do a feature article on parenting based on your own experiences. The article offers a genuine perspective on parenting, rather than what parents have to read in books, which seem to give the perception that parenting has a formula.
Following the birth of my first son I wrote an article after about 6 months of being a parent describing my experiences. Before I sent it for widespread publication I sent it to an online forum for parents and asked this question, would you read this? The response from the group alone was overwhelming.
Why did it work? Parenting is always trending. Why? People becomes parents everyday it's a 24/7 operation, therefore it's a topic that will always be covered. Going back to point two, what makes a parenting article unique, that you've written as a parent, is that your experiences will relate to the experience of other parents.
Your tips may help other parents out who think 'I haven't tried that'. Therefore, your article has done its job, not only is it engaging it has become useful. Furthermore, parenting is a topic that can be followed up on with another unique article. For me, the birth of my second son inspired me to write an article on my experience of having two children.
Tip 3 summary - Relating an article to a topic that's trending gives an article wider exposure.
Many other tips exist for writing a useful article and useful articles are what audiences crave. What's my proof you ask? Well, the emergence of sites such as eHow.com and About.com are just two examples of content sites dedicated to providing their audiences with informative, useful content.
What's interesting about them is that they rely on freelance copywriters to contribute content and this content is supplied to hungry consumers all over the world. Thus, proving that useful articles are of more importance to your audience than sales orientated SEO articles.
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