It’s all very well writing a piece that took you a couple of hours to put together. The big question is “Will people read it,” and if so, how many.
In order to be read, you need to interest or entertain people. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. However, if you take the following steps, you should be pretty much on your way.
Write What People Want to Read
You might be deeply interested in why some flowers have a spikey stem and others are not, but unless you’re publishing in a botanical magazine, most people will pass your article by.
You have to look at what other people are reading, and then you have to write something on that topic – only it has to come from a different slant, and it has to have better or new information.
Search algorithms are set up to only look for the articles on similar topics that have the most views. They also check to see if the reader bounced. If 99% of your readers ‘bounced,’ your article is not going to surface.
Bouncing means that the reader looked at your article for a second or two and then passed. Perhaps your headline was good enough to draw them, but then they read the first paragraph, and they were gone with the wind.
Do not Delay Gratification
There are certain publications that use creative non-fiction for their articles – The New Yorker and San Diego Reader. I’m amazed that people read these publications, but they do. The difference in style between AP (Associated Press Style) and CMS (Chicago Manual Style) is that creative non-fiction keeps the reader hanging to get to the point of the headline. Newspaper style (AP and CMS) put the most important information in the first paragraph and the least important in the last paragraph.
There’s a lot of competition on the web for readers. You want to hook your reader immediately, and the way to do that is put your most powerful information right at the top. Naturally, you still keep the article interesting enough to read, but once your reader is invested, they will mostly continue to read.
That’s difficult to do with creative non-fiction. I don’t think I’ve ever finished reading an article in either magazine ever. I just get bored. I want the meat, and I want the meat now!
The Title Must Tell Your Reader What the Article is About
There was a time when you could rely on curiosity making the reader click on your article. Forget it. People are too busy. They want to be entertained or they want to find some information, and they don’t want to have to read through an article in order to find out what it’s about.
Also, if you haven’t learnt how SEO keywords and longtail keywords work, then it’s time you did. You need to incorporate them into your title.
A longtail keyword is a phrase that people key into the browser. Whenever you search for something, you can scroll down and you will see a bunch of related searches. You use those as subtitles in your article. For instance, I just searched for climate change, and this is what came up.
Doing that ensures that Google (and other search engines) send you traffic for your article.
Write Succinctly – No Waffle or Purple Prose
Some people certainly write elegantly. They use lovely words and by the time one has reached the 18th word in their 36-word sentence, one is wondering more about the construction of the sentence than the content of the article.
Don’t be tempted.
Keep your writing simple and enable all people to be able to understand it quickly. Writing simply can be elegant as well. Ernest Hemingway was a master at it.
The Most Important Hook of All
If you’re a writer, you must be a thinker.
Readers don’t want to read about emotions – negative or positive (unless it’s necessary to the plot). Readers want action and information. And the more dense your piece with solid facts (I take it you are writing non-fiction), the more likely your reader will go on reading.
Readers want to read what hasn’t been written before. They want to be given food for thought. So, for instance, my article might be “Why I’m not a feminist” because women are supposed to be feminists. I’m still writing on the topic, but I’m writing something different. I would have to follow up, of course, with solid reasoning otherwise I will lose my reader.
That Important Picture!
If you’re writing on the web, it’s vital that your article is headed by a jaw-dropping, fantastic picture. That’s because people are drawn visually. It’s also because when people link to your article, it is your picture that will come up, and that picture often decides whether people are going to click on the link.
Please feel free to follow me on Medium. While I’m not a writing coach, I have been published for 60 years on three continents and earned my living as a full-time writer. Occasionally I write articles on how to write well.