Friday, October 30, 2009

How to Write a Great Article for the Internet

Article writing is one of the best ways to get your knowledge out and provide you with great free exposure for your business or your website.

Here are seven simple tips and some examples that will teach you how to write a great article for the Internet:

1) Create a catchy title
Your article's title can be a make or break for readers. A short, attention-grabbing title will pique reader interest and draw them in. Be sure that your title remains relevant to the topic you are writing about.

2) Keep it short
People are reading your article because they want information on the topic at hand. Get right into the meat of the article after a brief introduction. Effective Internet articles tend to be relatively short as people are turned off by seeing too many words on their screens. An ideal article for contains approximately 500-1500 words.

3) Keep it simple and straightforward
Keep in mind your main purpose for writing the article to express your points as clearly as possible. Use language that is easy to understand and conversational in tone. Maintain a clear and organized structure throughout the article, and ALWAYS proofread and edit your article before submitting it.

4) Include a beginning, middle, and end
Every good article has a clear beginning, middle, and end. The beginning should be a short introduction about main focus of your article. The middle, or body, should contain the meat of the article: all of the important facts, ideas, instructions, etc. And an article should always end with a conclusion that wraps up or briefly restates your main points.

5) Write what you know
Be sure to pick a topic that you are knowledgeable about. It is much easier to write about something you are familiar and comfortable with, and your expertise will shine through in your writing. Plus, you will enjoy the writing process!

6) Teach something new or at least teach it in a new way
What point is there in sharing information that has already been brought to the table countless times? Teach your readers something new. Your knowledge is unique: Let your readers see this. If it's a popular topic, try to put a fresh spin on it or explore an area of your topic that is not commonly written about.

7) Include a short bio
Give yourself credit for your work by writing a brief bio. State who you are and what makes you an expert on your topic. You can also use this section to include links back to your website or contact information.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dos and Don'ts: Online copywriting

Consumers interact differently with copy on the Web than they do with traditional marketing media. Transferring copy from a printed brochure online is not a recipe for success. Web copy must embrace online consumer behavior and be relevant to the audience's needs.

Don't: Forget to listen

Make sure you are creating a dialogue, not a monologue. Give the audience a part to play. Be attentive. With every reaction and interaction, they're telling you something about themselves. If you haven't given them anything relevant or a way to engage/respond, you'll lose them fast. Use this information to lead them through click by click. Are they looking for cold, hard facts? Do they want to be entertained? Make the information accessible, easy to understand and interactive. Listen and learn.

Do: Optimize your copy for people in addition to search engines

Sure, having searchable words and targeted keywords is crucial if you want the search engines to find you, but you don't want to lose your readers in the process. Selling is about connecting with people and building relationships. Your words are your virtual handshake, extending to those who probably trust a stranger more than they trust your brand. What you write needs to inform, educate and entertain, but it also needs to connect and build trust. Your readers want to know that you get what's going on in their lives and that you actually care about them. So get to know who they are. And then write the way they speak. People instinctively trust those who speak like they do. Keep it conversational, concise and simple. Big words may impress, but your job is to communicate and engage. Avoid words that sound like you're selling something because it will just sound like you're selling something. And the only thing that will build is resentment.

Don't: Try to retrofit a static piece of offline copy into an interactive medium

You're now speaking to an impatient online reader or, more appropriately, an impatient online scanner. Gone is the luxury of the beautifully crafted setup. On the Web, your reader wants the conclusion up front. Think the "inverted pyramid" approach to writing copy. Every word has to hold their attention and move them toward whatever it is they're looking for. Headlines have to be meaningful rather than clever. One idea per paragraph is a good rule of thumb. Speaking of which, stay away from clichés. Include searchable words and targeted keywords so the search engines will find you. Of course, there are rules in the offline world that also apply to the Web. Know who your target is and convince them of what the product can do for their life rather than how many cool features it has to offer. And when you have figured out that magnificent amalgamation of the traditional and the technological, don't let a typo be the thing they remember.

Do: Try writing your next line of copy in 140 characters or less

If you look back four to five years ago, people interacted with Web copy in a somewhat passive way. They would navigate to a Web site or see a banner and then take action – hopefully click and buy. Today we are consuming digital content in a completely different way; one that is short, dynamic and increasingly personalized. The task in front of us as digital copywriters to get our complex and sometimes long-winded thoughts condensed into smaller segments. To start, the approach needs to maintain some fundamentals like understanding the audience, being concise and most importantly bringing a sense of humanity into your work. When constructing the line, script or piece of Web content, remember the consumer is time-starved and success lies is in making each word count in the Facebook and Twitter world.

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