I have been writing for WeekendNotes for a little under two years, and it has been a massive learning curve from my early articles with a tentative writer's voice and uninspired titles.
But while you can't ever be certain what will be a runaway success, here are some sure-fire ways to ensure that your article hits the top of the lists
1. A Clever Title
The basics of writing haven't changed although the technology has
It doesn't matter how brilliant your article is if no one clicks on it.
While there are certain SEO rules for the main title [your main title must be the name of the restaurant, movie or event you are reviewing], the introduction of the subtitle category last year opened up a wealth of opportunities for witty puns and clever quips that make readers want to know more. This is your chance to shine.
Email titles are another way to test reader responses to your article, and you should spend time going back over past articles you have published to find out what titles worked and what bombed.
Some of the most popular titles include attention grabbing phrases:
a. Let readers know they are getting good value for their time with 'Best of…' and 'Top ten…' or 'Top five…' lists
b. Be provocative by including words like nude/sex/illegal
c. Appeal to the hip pocket with 'Free/cheap'.
Your reader needs to know they will either be informed or entertained, and your title should reflect this.
Even if you are writing about a mundane topic, you can use the sub-title to make it more appealing.
To find out the most popular articles click here
: you can learn a lot from the most successful writers.
2. Twist your topic
While there is definitely a place for well-written reviews of restaurants and books and informative pieces on upcoming events, by thinking outside the box you can turn an ordinary place into an extraordinary article.
Why write a story on ordinary beaches when you can write about nude beaches
Why write about the fact that One Direction is coming to Australia when you can explain how to meet and greet
this unfathomably popular band.
By twisting your thinking, you can turn an ordinary topic into a stratospherically successful article (Natasha's One Direction article has had over 74,000 readers, which is something for all of us to aspire to).
Find the 'hook', the unique angle which compels readers to click on your article.
But be original.
3. Ask a question
WeekendNotes readers are trawling through our site because they are looking to have a question answered: What shall I do this weekend? Where shall we go for dinner? What is on next month?
Articles that ask a question are incredibly successful because readers assume that the answer will be contained within. Where is the best breakfast? What is the best value Asian restaurant? Where can I take my date when I only have $50?
These articles are useful for readers because the writer has already done the work for them
[so make sure you do your research properly before writing one of these articles].
You cannot duplicate 'question' articles, so check by using the search function on your city homepage that a similar question doesn't already exist.
4. Make it scannable
Online research suggests that over three quarters of online readers merely scan articles, and do not read. Every. Word. You. Write.
This means using dot points, sub-headings, lists and different typeface.
Most people reading this article will only read the bold sections, but that is fine because they will still take away the most important information.
5. Make sure your writing is impeccable
Purists will think this should be number one on the list, but if you can't get people to click on your article, you can write like George Bernard Shaw and no one will ever know.
Once you have them in, you need to keep them. Poor grammar and spelling mistakes are the quickest way to get a reader to click away and never return.
Proof your work. Read it out loud before submitting and then double check your preview copy.
If you want to write a top article you must be a credible writer. A good editor score will push your article up the lists and into email newsletters. An award will also boost your readership.
6. Find your voice
Your writer's voice is your individual writing style, and it can take a while to find what works for you. Some people are chatty, some are dry, some writers like to use descriptive language, others are detached.
Your voice is unique, and readers will come to recognise it, even when you are writing different types of articles.
I like to throw in a few jokes and can be self-deprecating at times. My mum thinks I am funny. But what works for me, might not work for everyone.
To find your voice I recommend that you start writing about topics you know well and feel comfortable with.
Are you a poor student? Then start by writing about how to have a good night out in your town on less than $20. Are you a chocolate lover? Write an article on the best chocolate desserts or cooking classes in your city. Exercise freak? What are you sitting at a computer for? Go out and find the best gyms and cycle paths in your town.
7. Include eye-catching pictures
We eat with our eyes, so if you are reviewing a café or restaurant make sure you take quality pictures of the food. If the best picture you have is a poorly framed image of a half-eaten burger in dim light then consider using a picture from the website. If your image looks uninspired, no one will care about what you have to say.
8. Tell a story
If you connect with your readers and make an emotional connection, they are more likely to act on your article.
Do you want them to go to a particular show? Avoid a particular restaurant? Donate to a specific cause? Don't bore your readers with a dry list of information, be personable. If you excite them, they are more likely to respond to your article with action.
A practical example.
One of my most successful series of articles has been about giving to charities in the Australian major capitals
. I hear you yawning, but surprisingly, they have proven popular.
For a start, I gave it an unusual title
. What sort of charity doesn't need money? My subtitle 'How to Give When You Have Nothing to Give' lets readers know that even if they are poor students living on Maggi noodles, then perhaps there is still a way they can help others.
By twisting the topic and looking at charities that did not seek cash donations, it opened up a range of opportunities for people to donate things they had at home: bras, books, prescription glasses, mobile phones etc. The article not only helped the charities, but potentially helped readers
by offering them a chance to declutter their lives in a way that was ethical and responsible. Win win.
The article did not explicitly ask a question, but it certainly answered one
: How can people donate to charity if they don't have a lot of spare cash? It turns out there are plenty of ways people can help.
By breaking the article into sections and bolding the items that could be donated, readers could quickly scan the article looking for the information they needed
. Someone who had a bike and some prescription glasses to donate would be able to find the information at a glance.
Although I didn't have pictures of the charities, I found images of children that incorporated the items of interest: a two year old wearing one of mum's bras, a baby wearing an appalling outfit, a toddler using an old telephone. Add some witty captions and it made an otherwise dry article into something people don't mind reading.
There was a lot of positive response to the articles (I wrote one for Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne). People offered suggestions of other worthy charities, or asked where they could donate other items. People were compelled to act, which was the ultimate goal of writing the article.
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