Building a loyal audience on publishing platforms requires more than typing out a few paragraphs on a topic and publishing them as a post. There are a number of simple, but easily-overlooked things that you can do to make your content more engaging and effective, without needing a techie’s help. Below are 10 points to review before publishing.
1. If It’s Bad, Kill It.
This is some simple yet not often-used writing advice from none other than Stephen King. Many people still don’t understand the most basic principle of the Internet: what you post online might end up staying online forever. The moment you publish something, people will link to it, quote it, and screenshot it. If you’re about to post something that you suspect you might regret later, fix it first, or don’t post at all.
2. Verify Voice, Structure, and Formatting
Before you publish your post for the world to see, you’ll want to double check your work. After all, you’ve already put so much time and effort into researching and writing the post – it’s always worth it to take an extra few minutes to make sure you’re getting your point across properly. First check the post’s “voice”, the tone and style of the writing. Does the text come across as something that will appeal to your target audience? Does it match your brand? Is it appropriate for the subject matter? If the answer to any of these questions is uncertain, you probably still have some work to do. Next, make sure that everything is in the right place, and that all of the formatting is correct. Sometimes bolding, heading, and justifying text can make all the difference in how neat your article looks.
3. Follow a Headline Formula
In order to write great headlines, you need to follow a 3-step formula:
- Make it engaging.
- Make it descriptive.
- Make it short.
You need all three of these steps in order to create headlines that will grab attention and persuade readers to click on your post. If a headline is punchy, concise, and gives a good idea of what the article is about, then you’ve succeeded.
4. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
Be on the lookout for any typos, missing words, and/or words used incorrectly. Mistakes like these can reflect poorly on your brand and convey a lack of professionalism and dedication to creating quality content. You’ll want to take plenty of time to proofread, and try different techniques so you’re certain you don’t miss anything. Reread your post and share it with friends, family, and colleagues to help catch any mistakes. Use spelling and grammar checkers. If you’re breaking important news, publish first, then edit.
5. Shorten Permalink
Trimming a link requires a little effort, but goes a long way. Rather than letting the URL of your post be automatically programmed by the publishing platform, clean it up by customizing with a short phrase or topic of your story. It will make the URL clean and easy to share. It will also enable you to edit the headline down the road. I try to stick with two words, if possible. Always customize your permalink before clicking ‘publish’ and never afterwards.
6. Excel at Linking
Incorporating links to other articles and sites is helpful to your readers, and shows that your brand is well versed on the topic. Just remember that you need to stick to two principles when linking: (1) Link with purpose and (2) don’t participate in link schemes.
Link with Purpose
The purpose of a link is to recommend and connect to a website, blog, online article or social media mention that would be useful to your readers. When you provide a hyperlink to another site, readers expect the link to:
- Give credit where credit is due. The point is not just to mention your source but also provide a link so your readers can see the evidence for themselves.
- Provide context. Links refer your readers to further explanation, background or detail on the subject of your post.
If your links don’t serve these purposes, don’t put them in.
When you link somewhere for perceived SEO or monetary benefits rather than the purposes listed above, you are participating in a link scheme. Link schemes violate Google guidelines, and will thus get you penalized in the search engine results.
Examples of link schemes include:
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.
- Article marketing or guest posting containing links with optimized anchor text in articles. Example: “There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.”
You can find more information about Google’s rules regarding link schemes here.
7. Add Multimedia
No one likes to read through huge chunks of text. Keep things interesting by adding media. You can get creative with what you insert in your post. Options include images, videos, screenshots, charts, drawings, infographics, GIFs, and more. It’s a fact that people enjoy visual things. Posts that are visually appealing are more likely to grab readers attention and increase the likelihood that they’ll share the post. Try to plan ahead for article images. If you see one that looks like it’d be great for an article on a certain subject, be sure to save it in a designated folder. Also, try to remember that while high quality stock images are nice, original pictures are far better.
8. Know Your Market
Think about your audience and when they’re online. Are your readers located in the US, UK, or all over the world? Think about days of the week and think about the time difference between you and them. Typically, more people are online right before work, around lunch time, and early evening right after work. The beginning of the week is a better time to post than the end or weekend, since most people are generally celebrating their days off. This doesn’t apply to breaking news. If you’re debuting a story, you need to publish as soon as possible regardless of the time. Another thing to remember is context and trends (subscribe). For example, if an unfortunate event occurred on a day you planned to post a cheerful article, wait to post it. Publishing at such a time may make you look insensitive and clueless.
9. Keep Readers Reading
Once a visitor has finished reading one of your articles, you don’t want them to click away from your site. You want them to stick around and check out your other content. In order to catch their attention and persuade them to keep reading your other posts, be sure to link to them. Link when you have other posts that are related to the topic you’re covering.
10. Create a Call to Action
You always want to inspire your readers to engage with your content. Whether that’s by subscribing, connecting with you on social media, or even just sharing your post, there’s no better place to politely ask for it than at the end of your article.
With these quick and handy tips, you’ll be able to improve the quality of your posts in no time. I hope you found them helpful. If you’d like to read more useful posts about blogging, SEO, social media, online marketing, and design, subscribe at the top or check back soon.
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It’s your turn now. Does the guidance above make sense to you? Do you know any other editorial tactics that I missed? Please share your feedback via comments.