What does it take to create a great article?

It’s no secret that a stream of fresh content should be part of your business’ marketing mix. If you consistently post high-quality articles online, you’ll attract more leads to your website as the search engines appreciate it. It’s a way to establish yourself as an authority, create awareness for your brand, and your audience will enjoy all the valuable tips and info you provide. If they share it on social media, it’ll extend your reach even further.

Writing a good blog post or article takes time, and it requires certain skills. Everyone can write, but not everyone is a writer. If you’ve ever attempted to write an in-depth article for your website or a platform such as LinkedIn, you’ll have a fair idea of what’s involved.

Don’t be discouraged if it takes you a full day to get it right. Even for a seasoned copywriter it’s not unusual to spend 8-10 hours to create and promote a well-researched, balanced, and original 1600+ word story.

If you are running a business, you probably can’t afford the time to create all that content yourself. That’s where a copywriter can help you out. It’s common to outsource content creation but if you consider this, please make sure to find someone professional who excels at crafting your brain dumps into well-structured and easy to read stories.

Some articles can be done and dusted in about four hours, but others take a lot longer to create. I know this because I have 20+ years’ experience as a writer and since I’ve worked as a journalist for many years, I write a lot faster than most people. Just yesterday, I wrote a blog post for a tech company which took me all day. The material was somewhat dry and I didn’t have much background info either, but it was okay as I don’t mind a little challenge.

I’ll keep an eye on the clock for this one, just to prove my point that a good-size blog post takes time. Right now it is 7.53am on Wednesday, June 24, 2020.

How long it will take you to create it depends on:

  1. The topic and how much research it requires

In my experience, it doesn’t make a huge difference if you write about something you do every day or if it’s a topic you’re not overly familiar with. This time I’m writing about writing, but I’ve written hundreds of stories about things I know little about such as property law, pest control on farms, mineral makeup, deer hunting, recruitment, health and safety training, sports massage, art, sports, life coaching, and so on. Gathering ideas and information for your article and structuring the text so it’s easy to read takes time either way.

Unless you write about your own personal experience, like a travel blog, your skincare routine or a case study about some epic work you’ve done and want to showcase, you will need to find a certain amount of reference material. That’ll mean making good use of Google and reading (but definitely not copy/pasting) stories that are already out there. Allow a good chunk of time for that research.

What you are writing about has probably already been covered many times over, but you can still stand out if you give it an original spin and add your own personal flair. Just make sure it is relevant to your audience, and that you keep SEO in mind as well. Keywords and key phrases are still important to weave into your text, and there are some amazing keyword research tools online that can help your organic traffic grow. Use them for better results!

2. The word count

Although the ideal length for an online article in 2020 according to Google is around 1600 words, which takes an average reader 7 minutes, the word count of a great blog post varies. Anything between 700 and 3000 is fine, just don’t ramble on about things just to get to that amount. It’s much more important that your information is relevant, and that you don’t repeat yourself.

Yes, you can challenge popular opinion or show how passionate you are. Please do! Just make sure you keep things as unique and original as possible and edit all the crap out in the end. Your readers won’t share your articles or return to your page ever again if your posts are average or in other ways not up to scratch. It’s quality over quantity. Always!

  3. The imagery you use

No one likes to scroll along on a page with nothing but text, so you’ll need to make your article stand out with stunning imagery. I’d highly recommend for you to use a great local photographer, but it all depends on your needs and your budget. Original is always best, but there are other options.   

I have found the most stunning images on unsplash.com which is an amazing source of photographs, powered by creators from all over the globe. Please note that if you use stock photos, you risk seeing that same image elsewhere. You may even spot it on a competitor’s website, which is what happened to me with the photo below. Using stock photos will save you lots of time and guarantees quality, and unsplash and similar sources are free to use for anyone.

If you already have an extensive photo library available, you’ll still need to find the right images to go with your articles. Imagine you are writing a blog post about a travel destination and then scrolling through the thousands of photos you took while there. It’ll take a while. The selection, cropping, retouching, and resizing of your images also takes time.

Make sure you don’t select images you shouldn’t use (copyright!!!), ask permission when in doubt, and credit the photographer and/or source if you can, even if it states that this is not required. Tag your photos in the back-end of your website and consider adding infographics or videos, too. They may be a little harder to create, but it’s worth it to enhance the overall look and feel of your blog this way. A little creativity is always appreciated.  

4. The editing process  

Referring to one of my favourite quotes of all time by Ernest Hemmingway: “The first draft of anything is shit”, you’ll need to proofread your article carefully and edit ruthlessly. Go through the whole lot with a fine-tooth comb. Take your time to make sure the story is grammatically correct and that there are no typos or double ups.

Take out the fluff and drivel, and any words or phrases that are repetitious (did I just repeat myself?). Next you need to check that your paragraphs and all sections are consistent in size and appearance, and that they follow each other up logically. This may require some restructuring, but that’s all part of the process. You’ll greatly improve the readability of your text.  

If not done already, add a heading and sub-headings, put in links where appropriate, then read it all one more time to make sure everything you want to say is there and that you are happy with the end result. Proofreading is easier when you print out your copy, but I usually don’t bother with it unless I’m writing for a printed publication and I need to check the layout as well. It doesn’t help either that my cheap as printer is always out of ink.

  5. What you do next  

The story is checked, the images are ready to go, so it’s time to put the article on your website and share it on your social channels. There’s little point in just leaving it there in the hope it’ll get found. You’ll need to promote it.

Write a little intro unique to each channel you share it on, including link in bio on Instagram, and send it to everyone in your network in a newsletter. If you have joined any online business groups, see if you can share it there, but read their rules around self-promotion first. Many groups don’t allow it so make sure not to upset the admins.

When all that’s done, don’t forget to ask your readers for comments and honest feedback. It’s hugely valuable to know what people think, even if it’s not what you want to hear, and it opens the door for a conversation.  

How Sweet Orange can help

In January 2019, I wrote another article about blog writing, and I’ve since only written a handful more for my own business. I realise I’m not really practising what I preach here, but I’ve just been too busy writing articles for others. Since Covid-19 has hit, business has been rather slow. One of the few positives I found in this is that I now have time to focus on my business strategy and plan the future for Sweet Orange in a more constructive way.  

I’d love to keep doing what I’ve been doing for the past 7 years as a small business owner, which is creating content for other small businesses and not-for-profits here in New Zealand (and beyond). Many businesses are struggling right now, and marketing budgets have been tightened. I understand that, but I also believe that this is a great time to tell your story and get your business a step or two ahead of the rest with clever (digital) marketing. If you agree, I would love to help you do it!

I realise that if I’d go by my hourly rate, the cost for creating blog posts, features and articles can tick up quickly for my clients. Personally, I’m not a fan of clock watching and often work for a flat fee. Writing is a creative process, and I prefer to let it flow. That’s why I have designed a set pricing structure for this type of content creation which keeps it affordable and my clients know the cost up front. If I take longer than expected, then so be it.

While writing and organising the article above, I’ve taken about an hour out for food and toilet breaks, a phone call with my favourite client, and to make a cup of tea. It’s now 2.49pm which means this 1600+ word blog post has taken me 6 hours to put together. All that’s left to do now is post and share it online. I’ll allow some extra time to monitor and respond to messages and comments if any come in once it’s up and running. 

I’d love to know what you think, if there’s anything you would like to add, shout out. I hope it’s been helpful to you in any way, and thanks for taking the time to read it. Feel free to comment or contact me any time.

~ Martine Pierhagen, content creator and founder of Sweet Orange Ltd

If it is time to tell your story, if you need quality content for your website, marketing materials or publications, contact Sweet Orange today. We’re happy to have a chat and what you’ve just read could be a great conversation starter. Call 021 492 040, email info@sweetorange.co.nz, or send us a message today!

~ With huge thanks to the amazing photographers from around the world that generously upload their work for free sharing on unsplash.com