You spend an insane amount of time hunched over your keyboard, punching those keys. You write your heart out, search for the perfect image that will compliment your article, rummage through your brain for a genius opening line, for an ending that will surely inspire and motivate your readers.
Now, it’s time to hit the Publish button.
Your baby is ready to be shared with the world.
Or is it?
Well, here’s how you can know for sure if your article is ready to be published on the web.
1. The Headline: Does It Entice the Reader?
Few readers will read a post if the headline doesn’t at least make them curious in some way.
The headline can make or break your post.
A great shortcut is to think of the headline not just as a way to describe what your article is about but to entice the reader.
In other words, the headline is not about the article, but about the reader, because whenever someone stumbles upon your post, they want to know whether or not your article is worth reading.
“What’s in it for me?” they ask themselves as they try to figure it out.
That being said, you should be able to notice a couple of things about your headline:
- It should state a potential benefit for the reader (whether directly or indirectly)
- It should let the reader know how much mental energy and time is required (this is one of the reasons listicles are so popular — a reader can easily deduce how much time they have to invest to read the list.)
- It should use a combination of powerful words that are meant to provide the reader with a strong incentive to click on the article
That being said, these are all shoulds, not musts, so you can usually get away with using any 2 or them, or if done right, just one element.
But one thing to always keep in mind is the fact that the headline is not about your article, is about capturing the attention of readers.
2. The Introduction: Does It Expand Upon the Promise Made in the Headline?
I’ll be honest with you. There’s an art to writing compelling introductions, which translates to, “no one knows what they’re doing.”
A shortcut for this is to see if you can delete the first paragraph of your post. Does it still make sense?
You need a better introduction.
Also, if you give away too much information, no one will want to read the rest of your article. If, on the other hand, you try to be too vague, you will confuse anyone brave enough to click on your article.
The opening of a blog post should not just be concrete but it should expand on the promise made in the headline.
It also helps if you think of the emotional undertone of your piece. It has to set the mood, not act as a summary of what your readers are about to read.
Keep in mind the emotional undertone of your article as you write your introduction.
What do you want your readers to feel?
3. Formatting: Does It Enhance the Experience?
A rule of thumb when it comes to formatting: does it enhance the reading experience?
That’s about it.
Formatting is not meant to make your article look cute, but to make it so that even those readers with incredibly short attention spans, the readers who are just skimming through your articles will want to pause and read.
Formatting your post properly is crucial.
Subtitles, bullet points, short paragraphs, bold-faced text — all of these act as a sort of signposts, directing the reader towards the most relevant content.
4. Is the Article As Clear and Concise As Possible?
We’re not talking about the number of words here, we’re talking about how many of those words belong.
Each sentence should move the action towards its inevitable conclusion.
Clarity, on the other hand, means being aware of the following:
- Who is supposed to read your article?
- Why should they read it?
- What do you want them to do after they read your article?
Answer these 3 questions and you get a sense of what your angle is, and how to best write your article into existence.
Ideally, you will come up with a list of topics or steps. These ideas should be then presented in such a way as to create a coherent article.
This is clarity.
If you struggle with this part, then it’s best to spend a few minutes thinking about your article.
What’s the main idea?
What’s the goal of your article?
At the end of this stage, your article should:
- Be addressed to a specific audience, to provide them with information relevant to them. As an example, if I were to write an article about networking, a side-note about headlines would feel redundant.
- Have a logical structure. Do not complicate your blog post for the sake of impressing people. Test each paragraph. Does it belong in your article? Does the rest of the article still make sense if you were to delete this paragraph?
- Provide evidence to support your main idea. Whether we’re talking about statistics, interviews, quotes from others in your niche.
- Tell a story. Stories resonate strongly with people, never be afraid to use them in your blog posts. A simple how-to or step-by-step guide often tells the story of overcoming a certain struggle. (My 0 to 5,000 followers guide tells the story of going from 0 to 5,000 readers.)
An article that does not provide these elements is considered boring or confusing or both.
Everything from paragraph length to word choice determines the success of your article.
5. Does Your Article Deliver on the Promise You’ve Made in the Headline?
This is one of the most underrated traits of a great article.
Be honest in your assessment, because people loathe nothing more than a clickbait headline that promises them one thing, and fails to deliver.
To be on the safe side, your goal should always be to over-deliver on the promise you’ve made in the headline.
Don’t offer your readers a bad experience similar to going on a date with someone who constantly tells them how great they are, only to slowly but surely disappoint them throughout the night.
If you want to be on the safe side, don’t over-promise in your headline. Wild claims make people curious, and they will click on your article, but they will stop reading as soon as they figure out that you’re not going to deliver.
If you break this promise, you will have lost a lot of readers, or at least make them much more cautious when stumbling upon your articles.
6. The Ending: Not Too Soon, Not Too Late
I love Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings trilogy, but I’ve always thought it took an awful lot to just end…
Your ending is your opportunity to let your readers know what you want them to do, provide them with a few actionable steps or clear takeaways.
If it takes you more than a couple paragraphs to end an article, odds are you’re either not even close to sharing all the ideas you have to share or you are just writing for the sake of writing.
So, next time you sit down to write your article, keep these rules in mind.
Then, after you wrote your article, after you’ve edited and formatted your article, you can go through this checklist:
- Is the headline written to provide a strong incentive?
- Is the introduction compelling? Does it set the emotional undertone of your article?
- Does the rest of your blog post as clear and concise as possible?
- Does your formatting enhance the reading experience?
- Does your ending let the readers know what’s expected of them upon reading your article?
One thing to keep in mind as you go through this checklist: always ask yourself, “what’s a stranger getting out of the experience of reading my article?”
Whether it’s entertainment, inspiration, or information you seek to provide, you’ve got to be clear about it.