How to write for online readers: from finding an idea to making your article readable

There’s a good reason why 53% of marketers in the USA say that blogging is going to be their top content marketing priority in 2018. It not only helps brands show off their expertise, build their reputation and gain trust; it also helps increase traffic and boost sales.

Look:

Stats show that the average company that blogs generates 55% more website visitors, and 71% of businesses that blog admit that it has helped them increase their visibility.

Blogging might now sound like a fix to all your problems. But here’s the challenging part:

For one, there are more bloggers today than ever before — over 350 million blogs are now found online.

And two, blog visitors don’t read; they skim or scan. Thus, not only must you stand out in the sea of content, but you also must write for people who don’t read.

Luckily, you’re in the right place. Because in this post we’ll show you how to put together a blog post that draws attention and gets read.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write a blog post:

  1. Find an idea and come up with your unique angle
  2. Build a logical structure
  3. Write a compelling (but short) introduction
  4. Be specific, give details and actionable tips
  5. Make your article readable

Step 1: Find a topic worth writing about

Every blog post starts with an idea. However, deciding what to write about and coming up with an original topic is often a challenge.

With almost 3 million blog posts published every day on every possible topic, how do you think of something fresh and never written about before?

The answer (in most cases) is: you don’t. Instead of coming up with an exclusive topic, you can offer a different angle, your unique experience, or fresh data to an existing one.

Let me explain:

No matter how popular a topic is, it has never been discussed from your or your company’s unique point of view. You have experience other authors don’t, so here — this is your added value.

We are far from being the only ones on the Internet who write about advertising on Facebook, yet we’ve got experience with European startups and small businesses with limited resources.

Trying to spend our customers’ budget most efficiently, we’re often forced to come up with creative ways to invest their money. We test our ideas, draw conclusions and then share our stories with other small businesses who might be struggling with the same challenges.

So, instead of trying to think of a topic others don’t write about, identify something already written about, and look at it from a new perspective.

Your perspective matters. (Image source.)

Here are a few ideas on how to find an idea for your next blog post:

  • Pick a trend that’s relevant to your target audience, then find a way to connect it with your company or product. RedditGoogle TrendsTwitter Trends, and Buzzsumo are awesome places to find the hottest topics in any niche.

A real-life example: Here’s What Happened When I Swapped My Desk Chair for a Yoga Ball

  • Write an opinionated post on a news story from your or your company’s perspective. A bonus point if you can support your opinion with the original data that you’ve collected.

A real-life example: SoundCloud has one last chance to monetize — here’s what it should do

  • See what data your company produces and write a research-based story, interpreting the results and offering data-driven suggestions for the future.

A real-life example: The Odd Work-Break Ratio That’s Great for Productivity

  • Teach readers how to use a tool or service in your niche that you’ve been using at your company. Share what you’ve learned and reveal your best hacks.

A real-life example: How to Create Effective Facebook Ads on a $50 budget

Step 2: Work on the structure and logical flow of information

After you’ve come up an idea for a blog post, the next step is to outline the structure. That is, to organize the questions you want to discuss and information you’ve got in a logical order.

Here’s why structure is crucial and why we often spend the most time on this step:

First of all, a well-organized structure helps people follow your thoughts and understand what you’re saying, and why. By presenting your arguments in a logical order and by making explicit connections between the ideas discussed, you help people follow your thinking and absorb your message.

And secondly, stats show that people skip words and entire sentences, and read less than 20% of words in a written text. A logical structure and thoughtful flow of information help such scanners orient themselves in an article, even if they read only every 6th word you’ve written.

Remember that people online don’t read – they scan. (Image source.)

You can structurize information in a blog post in several ways, which often depends on your topic. Here are the most popular types of writing structures:

  • Sequential structure: used for how-to and step-by-step kinds of articles like this one. The aim is to guide the reader through some process, from start to end. (Think of explaining to someone how to bake a cake.)

A real-life example: Facebook Retargeting Ads: A Step-by-Step Guide to Sending Website Visitors on a Facebook Retargeting Journey

  • Categorical structure: mostly used for listicles or blog posts that list resources. In this structure, all list items are equally important, thus they are usually ordered by other parameters (eg., alphabetically.)

A real-life example: The A to Z Guide to Optimize Your Online Store and Boost Sales In No Time

  • Chronological structure: used for timeline types of blog posts or when telling a story is more important than the end result. In such articles, sections are placed in chronological order.

A real-life example: From 0 to 100,000 users: DeskTime’s 6 years in review

  • Comparative structure: often used for opinionated articles. Such articles in a comparative way discuss a particular topic or issue. For example, the author can discuss and compare policies in different countries, then provide arguments on why some of them are better than others. Such articles usually start with a comparison, followed by discussion and arguments.

A real-life example: Studies Show Better Family Leave Policies Could Increase US Business Revenue

Step 3: Keep your introduction short and get to the point fast

The introduction is the second most important part of your article, right after the headline. That’s where the majority of your readers decide to stay or go, so it must not only be compelling but also straight to the point.

Think about it:

People today have an attention span of just 8 seconds. That’s hardly enough to read 3–4 medium-length sentences! Very long introductions are therefore a waste of a reader’s attention.

Don’t waste your readers’ attention with long introductions. (Image source.)

Instead of writing long intros, keep them to 5–10 sentences, and use these sentences to tell your readers right away what they need to know.

What you say in your introduction will often depend on the type of your blog post. There are tons of different kinds of blog posts (check out this list for inspiration) — here are some of the most popular ones and what their introductions should include:

  • A how-to guide: the main thing the reader will learn in your guide
  • A listicle: what ideas the reader will find in your list
  • A case study: what’s the main takeaway from the particular case
  • A research-based, data-driven story: your main findings
  • A review: what product(s) you reviewed and your verdict

You get the point: lay your cards on the table right away, and save details and background information for later. Because when a person stumbles upon your blog post, he or she wants to quickly discover if it’ll be interesting and useful for them. And if not — move on.

Step 4: Be specific, give details, and go the extra mile

People may be bouncing from one article to another finding the information they need, but what they really want, is to find a post that answers their questions, all in one place. That’s why the most popular and valued articles on the web are long-form, full of specific examples, details, and actionable tips.

No one needs more vague articles that don’t teach you anything. Seriously, there’s nothing more annoying than reading a piece that promises to tell you how a company made a million dollars, but all it reveals is that the CEO used paid ads.

Are. You. Kidding. ME?

Many brands use paid ads, that’s not what we want to know. We want to know your secret — a step-by-step guide on how exactly you did it, with examples of your ads and concrete tips on targeting!

People appreciate details and actionable tips. But there are more ways you can go the extra mile and please your readers:

  • Links to useful resources where they find more info on something you’ve mentioned in your article.
  • Essential industry terms, abbreviations, and jargon explained in the article, so they don’t have to google them.
  • Instructions with screenshots if you’re teaching your readers to do something.
  • Data from reputable sources that support your claims because online readers trust stats.

And you know what?

Not only will your readers benefit from detailed, long-form articles; so will your business, because Google prefers long articles, too.

The search engine giant is prioritizing in-depth content (ex. 2000 words) over shorter content (ex. 400 words). A longer length signalizes that the particular article is more likely to fully answer a searcher’s query, as well as boosts so-called dwell time.

Dwell time is how much time goes by before the visitor returns to the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). The longer time people spend reading your article, the stronger signal it sends to Google that your content is high quality and deserves to be on the top of the SERP.

And the longer and more useful your content is, the more time people will spend on it. Read more on how to rank higher in SERP.

Step 5: Make your post readable

Let us remind you how people read online content: they don’t.

Only 16% of online visitors read word-by-word. The rest of the 84% either scan (read headlines and view images) or skim the written text (read quickly while scrolling).

In the era of scanners and skimmers, it’s important to make your article readable, and by that we mean — easy to scan through.

There are 3 main things you should focus on to make your blog post readable:

1: Informative and explicit subheads

Clear and descriptive subheads are crucial — they help people grasp the essential information without actually reading the article.

Write your subheads in a way that they answer the heading. That is, if the title is ‘’How to write for online readers’’, each subhead should answer that question.

Remember that not only headlines make an article easier to scan, they also give your content a coherent structure. And as we know, Google loves well-organized and structured content.

2: Simple sentences, short paragraphs, and bullet lists

Long sentences and blocks of text slow down the scanning process, and that turns online readers off. To make your article easier to read, keep your sentences simple and break your piece into short paragraphs, no longer than 5 lines or 2–4 sentences.

Another way to make your content more readable and easier to digest is to break up your information into bullet points. Bullet points also give your piece more white space, and that way stand out, grabbing the reader’s attention.

3: Context-relevant visuals

Visuals are important to visually narrate and guide your reader. A well-placed visual will bring back a potentially wandering eye to the message at hand, break up large blocks of text, and will illustrate your point without forcing your reader to perform the oh-so-arduous task of, well, reading.

Studies also show that visuals help people remember the information they read. It was found that when text is paired with context-relevant images, people retain 6.5x more information than when reading the same text without images.

Final words: the dots on your i’s

When you’ve finished your post, take another look at your headline and make sure it still fits. Sometimes in the writing process, you may move away from your initial idea and end up with a piece that needs another headline.

Writing good and compelling headlines that get clicks is an art per se. Check out this article on how to write catchy headlines, and this guide’s chapter 4 to learn how to optimize them for clicks and Google rankings.

Once that’s done, there comes one more step: proofreading. You can write an amazing, useful article, but ruin your trustworthiness with poor grammar. Ask a friend or colleague to proofread your piece, or check out freelancer databases like FiverrFreelancer or Upwork. If you really can’t find a good proofreader, at least use a writing app like Grammarly that will make sure your post is free of grammar mistakes.

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Now, it’s time for your first blog post. Once it’s published, make sure you share it with us in the comments below!

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