Best Practices (How To Make Great Content)
If you are new to writing, or at least new to writing articles for websites, you may not know exactly what to do or how to produce exceptional content.
To help you be an amazing writer, on any website, we have compiled a few best practices that work anywhere.
Whether you’re a seasoned writer or if this is your first rodeo, we hope these tips and tricks will improve your content writing abilities and naturally provide your post more views.
The Big Dozen, Plus One More
- It’s important that you only submit high quality, unique, and on topic content
- Always re-read your content to find spelling, grammar, and formating errors
- Write to fix your reader’s needs, don’t just write fluff for word count
- Write in your own style and be empathetic to your reader’s wants and needs
- Break up blocks of text with headers, lists, and images
- Write to inform and teach the reader, not just to get a link or promote yourself
- Provide closely related images in your articles, don’t just use any image
- Include related videos only if they will enhance your message and articles
- Only include 1-3 links, and make sure they are to high quality sites
- Don’t ever use affiliate links, iframes, or ad codes. These are big No-No’s
- Don’t write a post just to feature a specific product or to promote yourself
- Posts with videos should provide additional info, not just a summary of the video
+1. Write a rough draft, walk away, then come back and polish it into a great article
Images are important. They help express the story to the reader and they also greatly increase shares on social sites, and our own website needs them for thumbnails and sliders.
All articles will need at least one image before they can be published, and your images should be closely related to the subject of your article. If you want, you can also include 2-6 other supporting images throughout the post.
Most sites will have an ideal image size that works best with their theme. Our ideal image size is 687×387 for headers (the top image) and 735×1100+ for vertical images that Pinterest loves.
Don’t ever use 18+ images with sexuality or nudity, excessive violence or blood, or racism and bigotry.
Most websites have a minimum word count (ours is listed here under Basic Guidelines) but you should try to do more than the minimum. Word counts around 1,000+ are considered an average article size.
High word count article always outrank and outperform shorter articles. They will typically receive much more natural shares and views and will be featured more often. In a study of over 1 Million Google search results by Backlink.io, the average word count of a Google first page result is 1,890 words.
On the other hand, trying to fill up a low count article with “fluff” and filler words will just dilute your message. You should have a reason to write that many words.
If your article is short try expanding it by writing about another closely related topic. For example, if you’re writing a post about the best ways to start a fire but you’ve covered the basics and still need more words, talk about starting a fire in snowy or rainy conditions, or different tools you could use to start a fire.
You can use a free tool such as WordCounter.net to see exactly how many words your article has.
What To Write About
Most websites will have a list of topics that they are currently accepting, ours is listed here under Current Opportunities. If you’re not sure it’s always better to ask before you spend four hours writing something that no one needs or that might not be published for months.
Once you know the general topic, for example “survival tips”, you can look at your own life experiences and personal knowledge for something more narrowed down, like “how to start a fire in the rain”.
If you draw a blank, try googling the general topic and look for ideas. Another great place to look is question and answer sites, such as Quora or Yahoo Answers. Look for questions people are asking about the topic and try to answer them in your article. You can do the same thing with popular forums on your topic or in Facebook groups.
One way to find online sources to learn more about your topic, or to see what others have said about it, or to find inspiration from (but never to copy word for word) is to do some basic searching on Google for the topic and its related keywords.
A great article that highlights the process that many (if not most) writers use is Our EXACT 7 Steps to Reverse Engineer Enormously Popular Content.
Another way to create great content is to write “pillar content” or “skyscraper content”. Essentially you find link-worthy content and then make something even better. You do this by one-uping the old article.
One-up the old article and set yourself up to be the new authority on the subject by increasing the length, quality, and depth of information in your article. Use better images, videos, or other media to drive you points home.
No matter how you like to write, your underlying goal should always be to provide something unique and honestly your own. It should entertain and empathize with the reader and help them fix, or provide information about, a need they have.
You should never set out to copy someone else’s articles, or even their paragraphs. Using other works to learn from or to draw inspiration from is fine but stealing their articles word for word isn’t OK.
If you’re the writer you only have to worry about on-page SEO, the website owner should take care of the rest (but you can, and should, always share and link to your articles to build more backlinks to them).
Doing a few minutes of basic keyword research will go a long way to getting a steady flow of traffic to your article. Define a keyword about your topic before you start writing. Search your topic and come up with a main keyword.
For example, searching “survival tips” shows me that “wilderness survival tips” is a much wanted topic, so that will be my main keyword and my article title might be “top 10 wilderness survival tips”.
At a minimum you should search your topic and look for Google provided suggestions in the search bar and at the bottom of the page. Use these as your additional keywords for H2 and H3 tags and to pepper into paragraphs throughout the articles. You could also do more in-depth and serious keyword research using Google’s Keyword Planner tool.
Searching “wilderness survival tips” gives me many other keywords and topics that I can research and write about, such as “wilderness survival shelter” and “wilderness survival skills”.
These additional keywords could be H2 or H3 header tags and have several supporting paragraphs full of great information about them.
SEO is a very deep subject, but with the above tips you can go a long way in guest posts.
For more information check out On-Page SEO: Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Page & Infographic.
You can also overdo keywords. Keyword density is measured by the percentage of your keyword or phrase to the amount of words in your article. For example, if the phrase “wilderness survival tips” appears 10 times in a 1,000 word article it will have a keyword density of 1% (1% of 1,000 = 10).
You’ve gone too far if…
- More than 2% of your total word count is a single keyword
- If you have multiple keywords that are above 2% density
- If your sentences include weird keyword phrases that break standard grammar
This will lead to major penalties for your article in search results and it might not be published by editors who check these things.
Some More Great Tips
1. Write in your own style, your own “voice”.
2. Try to use multiple images of varying size: wide images for the site headers and Facebook/Twitter, and tall images for Pinterest (see our sample guest post for examples and sizes for our site).
Our Post Formatting
This part is somewhat specific to us, but other websites almost always have a format to follow, so make sure you ask before posting to new sites.
Website owners spend a lot of time perfecting their post formats, so they can typically provide advice on how to lay out your posts for the best results. Plus they usually like new posts to match the rest of the site.
We have a standard post format (example) and we ask all writers to adhere as close to it as reasonably possible, especially for the first 200 words.
Proper formating will make your post great and encourage us to promote it much more than a poorly formatted post!
For Our Guest Posters And Writers
Our most popular posts have a few things in common and we’ve condensed them into a standard format. We have tested post formatting for years, and posts that follow our formatting (see the example post we made for you) will do the best and require the least amount of editing.
As our tests continue and new features are added to the site we will adjust our sample guest post to reflect our best findings, so it’s a good idea to take a quick look at it every now and then.
Your Social Accounts, Social Sharing, And Going Viral
Promoting your article on your own social accounts is a great way to kick off your newly submitted article, even if you don’t have a lot of followers. It builds your credibility, boosts your traffic, and builds more backlinks to your post.
We ask that every author share their published article with their social accounts at least once. This is the first step to getting traffic to a new post and will greatly increase your chances of being featured.
Getting something to go viral can be simple sometimes (and impossible others), but it’s too much detail for this post so check out what the real experts have to say:
We considered that you, a writer and blog poster, will not have full control of everything on a site, so all of the above resources were given with that thought in mind.
Well there you have it. Whether you’re about to write your first or your hundredth post you now have an arsenal of information, tools, and examples at your finger tips.
We’ve saved the best for last. The biggest secret to writing is the simplest: Write often, every week if you can, and write better than you did last week.
“If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot” – Stephen King
If you want to learn more about writing, and more specifically content writing for the web, we highly recommend the book Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley.