If you want to get thousands of new readers for every article you’ll write in the future, you’re in the right place.
Web publishing has become progressively competitive over the last 4-5 years. There’s more people online now then ever before, yes, but there’s also far more content available online than before. In fact, content growth has easily outstripped the growth of internet users, meaning that as time passes by what you’re writing has a tougher chance of being read by the maximum number of people possible than it would have had, say, an year ago.
So what can we do in the face of growing competition? The good thing about growing competition is that usually, the percentage of quality content decreases as more and more people publish near-trash in a desperate attempt to translate massive amounts of content into trickles of traffic.
Here’s how you can get an edge on them – by preparing your articles the right way.
Squeeze Maximum Leverage From Your Ideas
The core idea that’s powering your article is bigger than just one article. In fact, you can use the same idea to write multiple articles (all expressing different points or angles), use it to start conversations through comments, twitter, facebook, etc, and share it through many different mediums (online and offline).
For example – the core idea behind the article you’re reading is ‘how to drive more traffic to your articles’. How do I intend to maximise it’s potential? For starters, I broke the original article down into a series of articles so I could discuss the topic in depth, and hence you’re seeing Part 1 of that series. Also, all the articles I’m writing here on FWJ may get syndicated elsewhere and get a social media push, which is great leverage to have (and something we’ll discuss in depth later on).
Once the series is complete, I’ll reference it on my Football Media website, where it will directly help our publishers to increase their site traffic. I’ll be making a summarised version of this series available to our 100+ writers on Soccerlens, so they can use it to get more readers.
Then there’s the advantage of having outlets such as facebook fan pages and groups, twitter, mailing lists and forums where a conversation on this topic can be started (or existing conversations participated in) using the ideas in this article (with a link pointing to it, of course). Working with a major publisher has it’s advantages – beyond their immediate traffic, they also have the means to help promote your article elsewhere. But ultimately it’s down to what you do, and you can maximise that leverage by creating compelling content and doing as much as possible from your core idea.
And because we’re talking about a more-or-less timeless article, we can even keep coming back to this in future articles wherever there’s a discussion on building traffic.
What about infographics? We just might do one later on for this topic. What about a presentation? Again, a valuable tool to have that can a) drive traffic back to FWJ if it’s shared around the web and b) usable for further discussions and sharing of the core idea.
What about video tutorials? Could be useful if we’re teaching specific techniques. Podcasts? Might be more beneficial to do a guest appearance on a popular podcast that caters to the writing industry and discuss this idea in depth.
Takeaway: Promote the idea, not the article. That way you have many opportunities and different avenues to promote the idea, and you channel all those efforts to your primary article, resulting in backlinks and long-term traffic.
Exceptions: Sometimes you’re just writing a news article or the point you’re making is a simple one and doesn’t require a lot of coverage. Even in that case you can always come back to reference it in the future and in all likelihood you’ll find related topics where your article would be a suitable reference.
Write With Purpose
You’re a freelance writer, so most of the time you’re given an objective – “this is what you must write about”. But behind that objective lies a purpose – understand what that purpose is and why anyone would want to read this article. If you can grasp the purpose, you can then produce a better article. Writing skills comes in at a distant second place.
For example, you’re asked write about internet streaming. You could do a simple ‘what is internet streaming’ feature, but how would that help? Not only is that boring (and already done), it’s not in tune with what people might be interested in. So you do your research and you realise that you’re better off writing about providing readers with a resource on how they can watch their favourite tv programs and movies online for free. Here you can get creative and depending on the situation, find out which niches attract the most interest in internet streaming, and do multiple articles to cover the whole spectrum.
Many times you’ll get lucky and have an editor / employer who’ll map out the purpose for you. In many other cases that doesn’t happen, so you have to take the time out before you start writing and nail down the problem your article will solve (whether it’s fulfilling an informational need or entertaining readers or whatever the benefit might be).
Takeaway: Write something useful – be clear about your article’s purpose and it will make it easier to promote / get readers interested in it.
As freelance writers we’re often asked to write about subjects we need to do research in before writing, or write for new audiences. It’s easy to copy what other people are doing / writing and put your own spin on it, and it’s relatively easy to do some basic research and add your personal input to make yourself sound more knowledgeable than you are.
The thing is, that’s not going to attract readers anymore. What you want is a hook that draws readers in, compels them to listen to what you have to say. And the most effective way I know of being able to create that hook is to practice total immersion.
Now, a clarification. I’m not talking about immersion journalism or the swimming technique. What I’m talking about (and this isn’t new) is the practice of completely immersing yourself for a limited time in the world of the target niche – be it medical billing, online marketing, weight loss or fixing cars.
The thing about this process is that it’s not a quick fix – you need to set aside time to become a part of a new world, it requires you to think a certain way and will most likely involve research. From a learning perspective, it’s a simpler form of how you learn a new language – by diving into it headfirst, living in that environment until you master it.
An aside on learning languages – the best way to do this is just start thinking in that language. That is, all your internal dialogue, your thoughts, everything – should be in the new language you want to learn. It’s tough but it’s a golden way to learn something new.
You can do this for a long-term project or you can do this for a feature article – of course it might not be time-effective for a short news piece, but even when you’re tasked to write news articles it’s usually about a specific niche, or it has a specific angle to it, and immersing yourself in that niche will help you write better on that topic in the long run.
Takeaway: When you ‘know’ a niche, it’s easier to understand what attracts readers, what creates an emotional reaction, what’s popular, what’s taboo, etc. You could do some research, but it doesn’t have the emotional insight that immersion provides.
Next week we’ll look at article writing itself and how you can structure your content – from headlines to hooks to links to calls to action – to optimize it for attracting more readers.