Writing

How to Write an Article That Brings Thousands of Readers (Step-by-Step Guide)

Posted: October 19, 2022
Word count: 2,824 (10 min)

Writing online has an extremely low barrier to entry. Anyone who is literate can write articles and publish them online.

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Tomas Laurinavicius

Co-founder & Chief Editor, Best Writing

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The internet is flooded with low-quality articles. Breaking through the noise to reach your target audience can be a formidable challenge.

That’s why we want to discuss how to write an article that brings in thousands of readers.

Are you serious about building a loyal following? Let's get started.

Step 1: Understand Your Target Audience

Want to write articles that resonate with people?

Then you need to first make sure that you understand your target audience.

Why Is Understanding Your Readers So Essential?

Understanding your target audience allows you to:

  1. Establish an emotional connection with your readers by empathizing with them.
  2. Provide effective solutions to the problems that they are struggling with.
  3. Choose an appropriate tone.

You need to get all these three elements right because they determine the article’s quality.

What Do You Need to Know About Your Readers?

Here are some of the questions that you should ask about your target audience:

  • Who are your readers?
  • What do your readers value?
  • What do your readers want to achieve?
  • What are your readers struggling with?
  • How do your readers perceive themselves?

You also want to pay attention to the phrases, metaphors, jargon, etc. your readers use so that you could speak to your target audience in their own language.

What Can You Do To Understand Your Readers Better?

Here are three ways to understand your readers better:

1. Go where your readers hang out online and observe the conversations happening there. This could mean following popular hashtags, subscribing to subreddits, registering on online forums, joining paid communities, etc.

You can even take this to the next level with text analysis. It’s a machine learning technique that enables you to sift through vast quantities of data and extract actionable insights from it.

For example, you could use text analytics software to analyze all tweets that feature a particular hashtag, which might not be humanly possible to do manually.

2. Consume the content that your readers consume. This could mean reading the same blogs, listening to the same podcasts, subscribing to the same YouTube channels, etc.

3. Talk to your readers one-on-one. Ask potential readers to have a 15-minute Skype call with you so that you could pick their brains. Everyone wants to be heard, so getting people to agree to this might be easier than you think.

Won’t All This Take Too Much Time?

Proper customer research is extremely time-consuming.

(And make no mistake, if you want to make a living as a writer, learning everything you can about your readers is customer research).

That’s why we recommend:

  1. Picking a niche.
  2. Sticking to that niche.

That way, the benefits of customer research will compound over time, which will simplify your writing process, enable you to consistently create quality content, and give you an advantage over other writers.

Step 2: Pick a Target Keyword for Your Article

Okay, so now that you have conducted extensive customer research, you should have a pretty good idea of what topics your readers are most interested in.

But you shouldn’t start writing just yet...

What Is SEO Content?

Blog content can be divided into two broad categories:

  • SEO content that is designed to rank on the first page of Google’s search results for a specific keyword and generate organic search traffic.
  • Content that is designed to provide value to the existing readers without the intention of generating organic search traffic.

Joshua Hardwick, the head of content at Ahrefs, gives this example of the latter:

“You might think that all content is SEO content, but that’s not the case. For example, we have a lot of studies on our blog, and most of them get little or no organic traffic. Does this mean those posts failed?Not at all. We published these posts to bring new insights to the SEO community—not to rank in Google.”

Ahrefs’ case studies get little organic search traffic but provide a ton of value to the existing readers. Source: Ahrefs.

Before you begin writing an article, you need to decide whether you want it to be SEO content or something that provides unique value to existing readers.

Why You Need to Focus On SEO Content

When you are just starting out as a blogger, your first priority should be to grow your organic search traffic through SEO content. Focusing on your existing readers doesn’t make much sense when the only person reading your blog is your grandma.

So shelve all those creative essay ideas for now. You need to build your readership first!

How To Choose a Target Keyword

SEO writing should always start with keyword research.

There are plenty of free keyword research tools out there but we recommend Ahrefs.

Ahrefs is arguably the most powerful SEO tool out there. Source: Ahrefs.

Their plans start at $99/month with a 7-day trial that only costs $7.

A week is more than enough time to create a content plan for the next three months - all you need is 12 promising keywords if you intend to publish one article per week.

You can learn the basics of keyword research in just 10 minutes by watching this video:

Of course, if you can afford it, you might want to continue using Ahrefs after the 7-day trial because its functionality goes way beyond keyword research.

Step #3: Figure Out How To Make Your Article Better Than the Competition

Once you have your target keyword, it’s time to do competitive research:

  1. Read the articles that are currently ranking on the first page of Google for that keyword.
  2. Figure out how you can make your article better than all of them.

Think about it this way:

Why would Google give you a spot on the first page if your content isn’t any better than the stuff that’s already ranking?

Here are some ideas on how to write articles that are better than anything else that is out there:

Make your article more comprehensive. Provide step-by-step instructions, answer common objections, add an FAQ section, etc.

Keep in mind that the average word count of the top 10 search results is evenly distributed, which suggests that merely increasing the word count of your article is unlikely to help with the ranking.

So don’t pad your article with fluff just to increase the article’s length!

Increasing your article’s length won’t necessarily help it rank higher on Google. Source: Backlinko.

Provide real-life examples. Search for relevant case studies, then summarize them in your article. It’s best if the person in the case study belongs to your target audience.

Back up your claims with supporting evidence. Search for relevant data, cite it in your article, and link back to primary sources aka the original research. Make sure that the data you are using is no more than three years old.

Add expert quotes. Search for expert quotes on the topic, add them to your article, link to primary sources (e.g. if you are citing a quote from a book, link to the book). Quotes from people that your target audience is familiar with work the best.

Share actionable tips. Avoid giving vague advice such as “just be yourself”, “eat less, exercise more”, “follow your passion”, etc. Focus on actionable advice, such as step-by-step instructions, word-for-word scripts, 30-day plans, etc. This is especially important if you are writing a how to article. For example, in his article “Guest Blogging in 2021: How I Wrote 80+ Guest Posts in 1 Year”, Adam Enfroy shares the exact email template that he used to land guest posts.

Share personal experiences. Do you have relevant experience? Consider sharing it in your article. What did you do and what were the results? Be as specific as you can. Your target audience wants to know all the details!

Find a unique angle. Obviously, you don’t want to be contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian, but challenging the conventional wisdom when it makes sense can help you make your article more memorable.

Step 4: Create an Outline for Your Article

When you have solid writing skills, the actual writing is the easy part.

What’s hard is figuring out the best way to present your central idea, major points, and supporting evidence in a way that makes sense.

So prepare a detailed outline before you begin writing.

Here’s what it should cover:

  • Subheadlines.
  • A list of key points for each section.
  • All the examples, statistics, and quotes that you intend to use.

Note that the higher the word count, the more important it is to have an outline. You can wing a 500-word article, but you can’t wing a 5000-word one.

However, we recommend preparing outlines even for short pieces to establish the habit of thinking things through before writing articles.

Step 5: Write the First Draft of Your Article

Now that you have an outline ready, it’s time to start writing your article.

We recommend using the Pomodoro technique:

  1. Set a timer for 25 minutes. Write for the whole 25 minutes. No distractions allowed.
  2. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Take a break. It’s best to use this time to stretch, do some calisthenics, get a glass of water, etc. Get away from your computer.

This 30-minute time block that consists of 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of rest is called a Pomodoro.

You can use this video to complete a 4-hour writing session of eight Pomodoros:

Also, if you find yourself suffering from writer’s block, you might want to remind yourself that your goal is to simply get the rough draft done.

Keep in mind that even if that rough draft is terrible, you can always whip it into shape in the editing process.

Step 6: Optimize Your Article

Now it’s time to optimize your article so that it would have the best shot at ranking on the first page of Google.

The most popular tool for this is Clearscope.

It gives you:

  • A word count target.
  • A reading level target.
  • A list of keywords that you should use + the optimal frequency for each keyword.

All that is based on the competing articles that are already ranking on the first page of Google.

It’s a great tool, but it’s also pricy, with plans starting at $170/month for up to 20 pieces of content.

A more affordable alternative is Surfer—its pricing starts at just $49/month.

This app provides more detailed suggestions than Clearscope, but it’s less polished and its guidelines seem to be less accurate.

Clearscope can help you write articles that rank on the first page of Google. Source: Clearscope.

Keep in mind that no matter what software you decide to use to optimize your article, you still need to exercise common sense. Your target audience is humans, not search engines—so don’t turn your article into a keyword salad!

Step 7: Edit Your Article

And now it’s time for editing...

Format the Text

When you are writing content for your blog, you need to account for how people read articles online—they tend to skim through the text instead of reading it in its entirety.

That’s why it’s so important to format your article properly:

  • Use H2 text for subheadlines.
  • Use H3 text for sub-sub-headlines.
  • Break up long sentences. Use simple sentence structure.
  • Break up long paragraphs. Aim for 2-3 lines per paragraph.
  • Use bullet points and numbered lists whenever you can.

The purpose of all this is to make your article as skimmable as possible. No one wants to read walls of text.

Proofread the Article Yourself

You want to proofread your article manually at least once before you run it through proofreading software.

When you are proofreading your own writing, it’s best to read aloud - it’s much easier to catch errors that way.

Run the Article Through Grammarly

Grammarly is the most popular proofreading app out there (we also listed 8 alternatives).

Grammarly is the most popular proofreading app out there. Source: Grammarly.

You can copy-paste your text into the app’s editor and get suggestions on spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. These features are all available on the free plan.

There’s also a Chrome extension that enables you to use Grammarly inside Google Docs. It’s super helpful because it allows you to catch errors in real-time.

However, the company has received a ton of criticism over their privacy practices, so you might want to read their privacy policy to learn more about how they log user data.

Step 8: Add Images to Your Article

You should also use images to break up the text.

A good rule of thumb when writing content is to add at least one image per 500 words.

Ideally, you want to use images that are directly relevant to the content of your article, such as screenshots, visualizations of data, etc.

Unsplash offers beautiful free stock photos. Source: Unsplash.

Try to avoid using generic stock photos in your article because they tend to look tacky and out of place in that context.

It’s okay to use a stock photo for your featured image, though.

You can source free photos for blogs from sites like Unsplash and Pexels.

Step 9: Create a Powerful Headline for Your Article

Your article title aka headline is the most important part of your article because it’s your one chance to grab people’s attention.

But there’s no need to waste time reinventing the wheel. You can simply use proven headline formulas.

Jon Morrow, a popular blogger and writing coach, has a free guide called Headline Hacks in which he shares a bunch of formulas that you can swipe.

For example, if you need a headline for a how to article, you can use one of these templates:

Don’t waste time reinventing the wheel. Use proven headline formulas. Source: Headline Hacks.

Step 10: Promote Your Article

You can’t just write articles, publish them, and then sit back and wait.

You need to go out there and actively promote each and every article:

  • Share the article link on your own social media. This could mean posting it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
  • Send the article to influential people in your niche. You need to establish a connection first if you want this to work, though. Don’t just spam complete strangers asking them to share your stuff.
  • Build backlinks to that article. A backlink is a link from another website to your website. Simply creating SEO content is not enough, you also need to build backlinks to it if you want it to rank on Google.

You can also use paid advertising to promote your articles.

For example: When Chris von Wilpert was promoting an article called “Marketing Ideas from Intercom's Multi-Million Dollar SaaS Growth Strategy”, one of the things he did was run ads to it (he spent $688.71 on it).

The article ended up attracting 28,292 visitors in just over 30 days, making it the most popular article ever on Noah Kagan’s OK Dork blog.

Of course, this is an advanced marketing tactic, so you need to be careful if you have never run a paid advertising campaign before. It’s surprisingly easy to burn money on ads when you don’t know what you’re doing!

Noah Kagan offered Chris von Wilpert a six-figure job after this guest post. Source: Rocketship Agency.

Helpful Resources:

FAQs

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about writing articles:

How do you start writing an article?

  1. Pick a target keyword.
  2. Create a detailed outline.
  3. Use the Pomodoro technique to get your first draft done.

How to write a good article?

  1. Research your target audience.
  2. Understand the search intent of the target keyword.
  3. Make sure that your article meets that search intent.

How do you end an article?

It’s best to end your article with a call to action. Ask readers to subscribe to your email newsletter or download your lead magnet.

How to edit an article?

  1. Format the article to make it skimmable: Use H2 subheadlines and H3 sub-sub-headlines, break up long sentences and paragraphs, add at least one image per 500 words, etc.
  2. Proofread the article yourself by reading it out loud.
  3. Run the article through proofreading software such as Grammarly.

How long should an article be?

You should determine the minimum article length by looking at the length of articles that are already ranking on the first page of Google for your target keyword.

Beyond that, your article should be as long as it needs to be for you to cover the topic in a comprehensive manner, but no longer.

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