Are Your Readers Actually Reading Your Articles?
When writing articles for use online there are a number of technical things you can do to help your words stand out from the crowd, and many of these have been covered in this and other blogs, but one thing, in particular, you should always do is remember that whilst you are planning and optimising your article for use online – it will ultimately be read by a human being.
As we sit down in front of our computer to plan and write our online article, armed with our tips for getting it noticed, be it a news release, editorial, or blog post, it can sometimes be easy to forget that the intended readers of the article are actually real people like you and me.
1. Forgetting your reader is a major problem when building your online reputation
Gaining a reputation for producing interesting, insightful, and thought provoking articles can be a highly rewarding experience particularly if you build relationships with your readers at the same time. However, getting your article in front of your intended readers is one of the biggest challenges you will face online simply because there is already so much information out there and more information being produced every day.
As an example, take something fairly recent such as speculation regarding a potential Apple iPad 2, and type that into Google. Search for “iPad 2” returns over 10 million results, add “rumours” to the search and it comes down to 339,000. Even with those few results the chances of your proud new article entitled “5 Interesting rumours about the iPad 2” being read are pretty small.
It is vital to ensure your article is in its “fittest condition” when publishing so as to ensure it has the best chance of being seen, indexed, and ranked by the search engines. At the planning stage of each article you could utilise a step by step list to aid in ensuring you organise and structure your article correctly for use online, for example:
- You may need to research a specific keyword to use – to ensure your article gets found by those looking for it
- You may want to add secondary, supporting, key phrases – to increase the chance of reaching your readers
- Planning where to place keywords for maximum effect – you should write for the article not for the keyword
- Considering the effect of keyword density – ensuring you don’t overdo it
- Identify supporting articles for further reading – and to backup the things you are saying
- Quoting people, using images, and citing references accurately – and gaining permission where necessary
- Utilising anchor text to linked articles and images – to help the search engines give your content to those who are looking for it
- Consideration of the article title and headline – to catch the attention of the skimmer and to ensure the title matches the article
- Article positioning so as to attract maximum attention – is it the right time to publish your article or would tomorrow have a better chance?
All these aspects are very important during the planning stages of the article however should you aim your article for the sole purpose of gaining a targeted level of web based traffic you may be surprised to find that you have attracted readership you didn’t expect – and you may even be penalised by the search engines – particularly if you have fell into the trap of overstuffing keywords.
When starting out it can be tempting to get caught up in the web visitor numbers game and try to constantly increase the number of people reading your articles however you are likely to gain much more satisfaction by reaching those who are actually interested in what you have to say – otherwise you may as well write your message on a billboard and walk up and down the high street.
2. Ensure your article doesn’t get overtaken by a rigid step by step task list
Whilst we talk about a planning check list it is also vital to try and better understand your expected audience before you start the writing process for your article in order to allow your writing to truly reflect your intended message in a way that people want to read it. Also, don’t write robotically from a check list – it should be fluid and natural. By all means, use your check list as a guide but don’t let it run the show.
If necessary, take a step back from writing and reflect on the site you are writing for in order to consider the reader expectation:
- What message do you have for your readers?
- What are your readers already likely to know?
- Does the site you are publishing your article “fit” your article content?
- What kind of people are your visitors and what are their motivations for reading your article?
- What are your visitors expecting to get from reading what you have to say?
Understanding you readers is an on-going job but once you have started to gain a deeper understanding of your target audience you can be better prepared for the writing process and it can be a short leap from understanding your audience to connecting with them. If you do make that leap you will likely enjoy retaining more of your readers for future articles.
3. Attention grabbing headlines are only part of the picture
How often do you skim? Do you do it every day? When looking for few things to read we often type something into a search engine then look down the results list for interesting article titles to tempt us into clicking through. If your article title contains a question that the reader might be able to answer, often without even realising it, then this may work against you. For example, take an article titled “Do you like Jam?” – have you already decided upon your answer? If so, you may not bother clicking through even though the article may be particularly insightful.
A whole area of study has grown up around grabbing reader attention through effective article titles but remember that sometimes it’s the ones that break the mould that get noticed. Let’s take the iPad 2 idea again as an example. Many article title recommendations might suggest using a title in the form “10 incredible things…” – type “iPad 2 10 things” into Google and it returns 62,800 search results.
An article title and teaser text may grab the attention of the skimmer but if the a
rticle behind it doesn’t match up then you may be doing damage to your online reputation. A good tip is to always write the title of your article “after” the article is finished – that way it has the best chance of matching up.
It may take a little longer to write an article that will really engage your audience but if you put in the effort to better understand your audience you will end up with a far more successful piece of writing. If people, when reading your article, are more absorbed by your work they are far more likely to return to your site and become interested in other work you produce.