Five Steps for an Effective Article

When you’re planning an article, sometimes it can be hard to know exactly where and how to start. Rather than stare at an empty Word document, take a piece of paper and write out the following headings:

  • Audience
  • Tone
  • Links
  • Research
  • Content

Links and images may not always be relevant, but it’s good practice to include them when you can for SEO purposes. Together, these five points will help clarify what you need to write – and because you’re not starting with worrying about the content, it’s easier to begin. Take notes on the headings and you'll see your article take shape.

A Word document, empty

Audience

The first thing to figure out is who your audience is, and what level of expertise do they have about your topic. If you’re writing about coding for a programmer, you need to be thinking of completely different details than if you’re writing for a student doing a basic project in Java.

If you’re writing for a mixed audience, you should consider using headings to guide people towards the section of the article that will be useful to them.

Tone

Now that you know who you’re writing for, you need to think about how best to speak to them. Do you need to use technical language, and if you do, should you explain the terms first? Your audience plays into this: if they’re already likely to be familiar with your topic, then you can get straight to the point. If you’re writing for beginners or people outside the industry, you might need to consider including a glossary or links to further information.

Links

It’s important to choose reputable sources for your links. You may look more authoritative if you can link to other articles, but if you link to sites associated with spam, your page ranking on search engines will suffer. If you link to any sources that are factually wrong, then readers won’t trust you.

Additionally, if you create a strong link network, people may link back to you and drive traffic to your page. It’s important that these links are genuine because search engines look out for link network behaviour and de-rank sites accordingly.

Google Web Analytics Console

Research

You can probably write about anything if you do enough research first, but make sure you look for reputable sources. For example, Wikipedia is a bad bet: it’s crowdsourced, meaning anyone can edit the articles, and there’s no guarantee they’re correct. However, a good trick is to read the Wikipedia page and then check the sources. A well-written entry will have good sources, and you can check those out for more in-depth information – and good pages to link to from your article.

Content

What do you absolutely need to include? Write yourself a quick bullet point list of the key things you need the reader to take away from the article. Jot down some ideas for images, too: images can add interest, serve as examples, and be another way people find your article. If you can create a diagram for it or take some screenshots, that’s a great thing to add.

Now you’re ready...

If you’ve got all of that planned out, then you have everything you need for your article. Once you’ve written it, make sure you check your spelling and grammar before you upload it anywhere: avoiding silly mistakes is easier than regaining credibility once you’ve made them!

Nicole Walters
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