Jeff Childs | Advise & Consult, Inc. | November 27, 2018
In today’s online world, more effective online writing is paramount in maximizing your efforts in not only writing articles, but to have those articles found online. As a publisher of a nationwide construction defect and insurance dispute blog with about 12,000 readers I look at hundreds of headlines and read tens of articles each week looking for the best articles from around the country that will be of interest and benefit to our readers. Our readers primarily consist of attorneys and insurance professionals dealing with construction defect and/or insurance dispute cases.
As I scan emails, websites and notifications I look for what catches the eye and will not waste my time or the time of our readers. Our blog is a curation of articles on topics that our readers would be interested in at some point and can be a great resource for when research is needed on a specific topic. We are all busy and have a hundred other things to see or do and a headline only has a fraction of a second to get the attention of potential readers.
One of the main purposes of writing articles is to attract attention – something that won’t happen very easily if the headline doesn’t attract readers. The headline is the first and easiest factor for more effective online writing. I often see headlines that are just two or three words and gives the reader no real indication of what the article is about. Other headlines I see are 20-30 words long and are pretty much a paragraph in and of itself. They may give the reader more of an idea of what to expect if they read the article, but still is not effective as a headline – especially as we talk more about online factors.
In the online world a headline must include a strong actionable keyword, should be grammatically correct, politically correct and about 50 characters long – or at least have the keyword in the first 50 characters. Once you determine what your keyword is make sure that you use that exact same keyword in the first one or two lines of your first paragraph. More on keywords in a minute.
Some other ways to use your headline to attract more readers is to use timely events, recent cases, specific location, and use name recognition when applicable. Topics that can incorporate even more reasons for the reader to stop scrolling and give them a reason to read – just don’t let them overwhelm the main purpose of your article.
Readers are also drawn to usage of lists, specific cautions or instruction, and if your article is going to be too long – look at breaking it up into a series – it gives the readers something to look forward to and lets them know that this topic is important enough to expand on it. We, as humans, don’t have a long attention span and an article that just goes on and on, will only turn off a reader, so a few shorter articles spaced over a few weeks is better than one really long article.
Once you have your headline (maybe you even write it after the article) and have a clear actionable keyword make sure that keyword is used in your article. I have read many articles that give you the keyword in the headline but isn’t seen in the article or is changed to an abbreviation, tense, or some other change. Often an article will have more than one keyword, but the main keyword should be used between 1-2.5% and used throughout the article. Overuse is called keyword stuffing and is frowned upon by not only readers but also the search engines trying to inventory and catalog your article. If, for some reason, your article does need a keyword used more than the recommended amount – then change a few of the uses to commonly used abbreviations or acronyms. While some of the changes aren’t dramatic enough to confuse the readers, it will confuse the spiders that are looking at your headlines and articles.
Your keyword should also be one of which online readers will search for. If your keyword is so general or so specific that readers won’t search for it or know what to search for your article will not get online traffic through the search engines. If your keyword isn’t searchable online – is it important enough of a keyword to write an article on. An article needs to be at least 300 words and not too much longer than 1,000 words so that the search engines (spiders) will look at your article and give it the attention that your article deserves rather than marked down by not playing by Googles rules.
These factors all matter – not only to your human readers – but to the spiders that read your articles. There are hundreds of spiders that look all over the internet trying to inventory all of the websites and content. These spiders look at websites that add more content to them than more static websites. They look at the code that is created as you put your article online and if you don’t emphasize the headlines and sub-headlines, your keyword usage is confusing or not used properly, back links and other metadata factors not in proper alignment to the algorithms set by the spiders.
This is all known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and can be very complex and many companies do just this as it is always changing and can need very specific conformity or your efforts will be ineffective or even in some cases detrimental to the ranking of your website and the web pages associated with it. It is much more complex that we are able to delve into in this article.
As we mentioned with headlines – if your headline is over the recommended 50 characters – it will be cut off by search engines and make it more difficult for your potential readers to not only find it, but then know if they want to read it if your keyword isn’t shown in that space. It is essential that you write your articles more effectively for your human readers, but it is just as essential to keep in mind what the spiders want, what they look at, and how if effects who will be able to read your article. After all, if only you and your mom read your article then why write and article, and if your article can’t be found easily online, then you don’t have an article – and then what would be the point?