Every day, multitudes of eager new writers strive to make money writing articles on the web but don’t know how to start. This article will show 25 steps on how to write for websites and succeed. These steps were distilled from many articles, forum posts, books and trial and error experiences in my own writing.
1. Research popular subjects for articles and make a working list of topics. It’s very useful to have an ongoing list with a dozen or more upcoming topics to write about. Some days you just want to write without spending an hour first picking out a subject. Look for ways to link any related future articles together or ways to break broader topics apart into smaller more targeted articles.
2. Pick a popular article topic from the list to write about, one that might attract the type of readers that would buy something from ads placed on your article page, blog or website. Topics relating to finances, health, relationships or product reviews do best.
3. Research key words for the chosen article topic. Sign up for Google Adwords to use their free keyword tool, if you haven’t already. Pick low competition keywords with between 4,000 - 22,000 in monthly global searches. Create a list of five major keyword phrases and some long-tail keyword phrases to use in the article.
4. Research the facts on the article topic and take lots of notes, bookmarking the links to sites from where you did your research. I take notes in Google Docs or in MacJournal. You could use Microsoft OneNote on the PC or Scrivener on the Mac or any number of other programs. I create a unique folder for each article’s research in the browser bookmark section to put the links used during the research phase.
5. Create five potential titles for the article and mix in your main keyword phrase. Choose the best title to catch the reader’s interest. Most reader’s first decision to continue or not with your article is based on how titillating the article title is. Would you rather read an article named “Fertilizer Choices” or one named “Manure or Peat - Only One is Good for Your Garden” for an article title?
6. Pick out some pictures that have a free use license for your article. You can find these on morgueFile, WikiMedia or a host of other sites. Don't use Google image search as most of those pictures are copyrighted. Take some pictures with your own camera, if the subject is at hand. You need at least one image near the top of the article. You are writing for the web and everyone expects imagery. If visitors see a plain text article, they will be predisposed to think it is dull and likely leave the page.
Pictures get indexed separately on Google and add to you backlink count. My biggest hitter for traffic on one of my websites was a picture of a can opener! It ranked second on the Google image page for the text “canopener”. The article was about software tools but that experience hammered home the importance of using images for backlinks.
7. Craft the opening paragraph. This is second only to the title in importance. You have to capture the reader’s interest completely in the first line or two of the article. Consider several choices for the opening line and spend some time on this. Make sure you get your main keyword phrase in the first line and 1-2 more keywords in the first paragraph if you can. Also, consider that a lot of article sites use part of the first paragraph of the article as the short description in their article directories.
8. Create the rest of the first draft. Keep paragraphs short and use some bulleted lists. Most web surfers scan articles and will be drawn to short thoughts and lists. Tables are a pain to set up but work effectively to hold a reader’s interest. Any simplification of knowledge transfer from you to the reader helps keep them on your page. Articles in the 600-1200 word range are optimum to instill confidence in the reader that you are an authority yet not bore them with too much information. Yes, this article itself is over 1500 words and I broke my own rule (I had a lot to convey).
9. Create an intro blurb, if needed, for any article site that may need one. It is equal in importance to the opening paragraph of the article. Some sites will just let you use part of the first paragraph of your article. Some won’t.
10. Proof and correct the entire article. On the first pass look for obvious misspellings, typos and extra spaces or no spaces between sentences.
11. Proof and correct it again. Look for grammar errors in tense, contractions and commas. Look for more misspellings, idea flow issues and wordiness.
12. Go away for a while to clear your mind. You could take a break or work on a different article.
13. Proof and correct some more, concentrating on grammar, wordiness and idea flow again. Weed out excess anecdotal stories or flowery adjectives.
14. Keep proofing until there is nothing left that needs changing or until you find yourself changing something that is equally as good as it was before you changed it. For me, this means a total of 10-15 passes through the article. Professional reading articles will help your credibility, so it’s worth the extra proofreading time.
15. Upload the article to your blog or article publishing site. I tend to use Select All, Control-C and Control-V to get the article pasted from my offline editor in to the online editor. Bringing it over in plain text is best.
16. Do the final formatting online, since uploaded content from a word processor gets reformatted unpredictably from site to site. I tend to use a word processor that is only fancy enough to spellcheck. Upload your images and place them in the article in the optimum locations.
17. Add external outgoing links on pictures and keywords to your Amazon affiliate store items, if you have them. Add any other external links if they are allowed, applying them as textual links in the content body. Only do links that are relevant to the reader to reinforce the information in the article. Bear in mind that the reader may wander off to these links and not come back, so add them sparingly. Some writers leave a list of reference links at the bottom of the article.
18. Add crosslinks to other articles on the same website that have related content. This strengthens the importance of your main article page for the search engines. Ideally, these would be other articles that you also wrote but it’s still worthwhile to link to articles that are written by other writers.
19. Do one final proofreading online. Double check paragraph spacings, best use of headers and bold text, then do a final check on grammar and spelling. If you can, check your outbound links to see that they work OK.
20. Hit the publish button.
21. Once the article is live, double check that the links all work and that it looks OK with the top web browsers. At least check with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome which account for 93% of the browser market as of early 2011. If you can, also view your article with the Safari and Opera browsers. Most cross-browser issues relate to formatting and rendering of images so focus on those aspects when checking.
22. Add data about this newest article to you master article spreadsheet, where you keep track of all the article names, site links where they are published, article keywords and all the places from where you will be backlinking to this article. This will be a handy reference for the next steps, so you have all the pertinent information at hand.
23. Go promote the new article on sites like Facebook, Twitter, SheToldMe and StumbleUpon, along with any other favorite sites you use for creating backlink juice. Facebook will let you create a fanpage for a niche website where you can at least post to that wall without irritating your friends and relatives. If you have an established reputation answering questions and helping others on a do-follow forum that is relevant to the topic of your article, work in a plug for your article there.
24. Go back and edit your older articles that are on related topics to your newest article, to crosslink them to the new article that you just wrote.
25. As a follow-up, be sure to come back periodically and check for reader comments on your articles. Respond to them in a thoughtful and considerate manner. Someone may actually have a useful comment on an error in the article that you will want to correct.
I owe thanks to all the writers at InfoBarrel who elaborated, in the site’s forum, on different aspects of writing online. It is an ongoing learning process to keep up with all the best methods for backlinking, doing good search engine optimization and learning how to please the readers with desirable content.