What Gives An Online Article or Post “Quality?” Which Should I Write?

laptop keyboardAre you sometimes stumped by how hard it is to figure out what is the best approach for online writing?  About what makes it the elusive “high quality” you’re told readers want?

If you’re a good writer, you not only research your topic, you research how to best present it.  You also try to learn how to write and format for the type of publishing platform you or your publisher will use. You know that your writing itself is good writing, but what makes it work well for online readers?

The sheer volume of advice available on those subjects is overwhelming.

Advice for writing good online articles is contradictory.

The contradictions are partly because some advice applies primarily to blogs and some applies to standard websites. Oh yes, and some of it applies to standard websites that also have blogs.

So, for example, if your website is a WordPress site, with a focus on blogging, your writing needs are determined by that structure.  But, if you want to do article syndication, your copy has to work as either a feature article or a post.

Fortunately, most people are interested in blog posts these days.  So you could just focus on what makes a good blog post.  And most of the time a long post will work as a feature article as well.  If only you could get a clear idea of what the purpose of a blog is.

There are many contradictory ideas about what blogging is for.

Is it primarily for up-to-date, newsworthy articles?  Can it combine short, newsy articles with evergreen content?  Should it contain advertising?  Is it just a way to sell products with content being secondary or tertiary? Should you have just posts or should you have separate pages that are for special topics articles?

Is blogging closer to an online newsletter and meant to be part of a standard website?

The contradictory advice also results because some of it considers SEO needs, some doesn’t consider SEO needs, and some only focuses on content-as-SEO.

Even if you can resolve the issues of “to-blog-or-not-to-blog” and what a blog is for, you still have the size issues.  And the format issues.

Some people advise that you write long, high-value articles or posts.  They say that it serves your readers best and is also the best way to get promoted in the search engines.  They argue that the long articles are more likely to be noticed and linked to because of their high value.  They claim that long articles are more likely to go viral than short ones.

Others say that articles should be short.  That research shows most readers merely scan for the information they want.  That if you want to give longer articles you should turn them into handouts and have your readers download them.  And that images will help draw better attention, so short articles that are well illustrated are best.

Of course, the short-article-with-images advocates don’t mention that search engines can’t read images. They judge content by keywords, number of words, ratios of keywords to total number of words, words in headlines and many other factors involving words.

So who’s right? What’s the best advice for writing online?

There are many more issues, and much more advice out there.

The seemingly opposing sides all have helpful advice. At various times. In various ways.  But you can cut through that to the basics.

It is important to write enough about your topic to satisfy your readers.  And to know how much is too much.

It is important to know how to format for the best online reading experience — which includes much scanning.  And then be able to draw the reader in.

It is important to have graphics for support.  And infographics are extremely helpful.  But you also need to be careful not to over-do.  If we’re talking about readers, we’re talking about people who are looking for words more than pictures.

It is important to provide new information and new ways of looking at things.

Optimizing your articles for search is essential.

But the most essential of all the advice is to research and identify your reader.  Then write for your reader.

While writing for your reader, adapt your writing to include optimization for online considerations like formats that aid readers who are looking at a backlit screen with their eyes drying out while trying to read paragraphs that might be too long for their ability to focus.

So, you’ll want to break up long text or capture attention with paragraph heads and sub-heads. This actually helps you to adapt to naturally incorporate excellent keywords in those heads and sub-heads to excite both your readers and the search engines.   And it give you a chance to create some color in your writing by choosing attention-getting, web-safe hues for the fonts in your heads and sub-heads.

You may also want to break up text with relevant photos and illustrations, which gives your reader’s eyes a respite, and gives you a chance to get more keywords in by using captions on the images.  (Since a picture is supposedly worth a thousand words, it’s also a way to get your message across more clearly.)

So, good writing and good formatting for your reader is actually good SEO as well.

And, finally, if you make it easy for your readers to read, you make it more likely for them to share.  The more they share, the more readership you can build.

Go write some good articles.

List Articles Are Easy. 107 Writing Prompts For List Articles.

I looked at various list articles online and found what I think are the best ways of starting a list article title.  The title of a list article is an article starter in and of itself.  Once you have your title, you have the outline for the article.

I purposely left out any suggestions for actual topics.  The prompts should do for any subject.  Please ignore the numbers, of course, and replace them with your own.  “5 Proven…” is just as good as “100 Proven…”

If you like this list, you can get a pdf copy of this list from my Productivity Tools collection.

107 List Article Title Suggestions

1.    20 tips for…
2.    10 ways to…
3.    5 amazing…
4.    72 reasons why…
5.    Top 10…
6.    10 best…
7.    100 proven…
8.    30 examples of…
9.    21 coolest…
10.    99 problems…
11.    5 apps that…
12.    7 myths…
13.    10 enduring…
14.    35 instant…
15.    37 evergreen…
16.    13 steps…
17.    3 strategies…
18.    5 tutorials…
19.    8 things you need to…
20.    49 posts that…
21.    2 rituals for…
22.    25 most comfortable…
23.    87 timeless…
24.    52 plans for…
25.    22 experts who…
26.    55 tools…
27.    8 essential…
28.    4 mistakes
29.    9 moms who
30.    3 successful
31.    5 do’s
32.    10 don’ts
33.    15 must-have
34.    22 authoritative
35.    10 endless
36.    8 marketing
37.    3 most dangerous
38.    43 movies that
39.    3 sources for
40.    36 resources
41.    7 scientifically-
42.    5 styles of
43.    42 recipes for
44.    7 doctors who
45.    6 times when
46.    27 habits
47.    3 situations calling for
48.    83 books that
49.    7 ways of looking at
50.    40 facts about
51.    10 things you didn’t know about
52.    4 government policies that
53.    Top three
54.    4 rules
55.    7 secrets for
56.    23 types of
57.    12 free
58.    32 familiar ideas that are wrong
59.    5 things you thought were wrong, but you were wrong
60.    82 profit-making
61.    6 quick-cash
62.    9 methods
63.    3 questions
64.    75 answers
65.    24 disagreements
66.    6 persuasive arguments
67.    9 hidden
68.    77 pinterest-friendly
69.    10 diet-friendly
70.    53 delicious
71.    17 popular
72.    5 simple words
73.    16 musical
74.    84 excuses
75.    20 sexual
76.    32 child-friendly
77.    6 assets
78.    5 traffic-building
79.    24 biggest
80.    19 Inspiring…
81.    10 can’t-miss…
82.    3 wishes…
83.    4 skills…
84.    29 ideas…
85.    8 books…
86.    12 frustrations…
87.    20 friends…
88.    5 kinds of enemies…
89.    21 habits…
90.    5 elements…
91.    14 advertising…
92.    7 factors…
93.    5 newspapers that…
94.    100 tweets that…
95.    75 free…
96.    43 new…
97.    55 powerful…
98.    22 happy…
99.    34 landing pages that…
100.    9 phrases that…
101.    73 profitable…
102.    10 infographics..
103.    8 graphic elements…
104.    3 components…
105.    9 better…
106.    32 faster…
107.    12 cheaper…

If you can think of more, why not contribute to the list in comments?

A “Real Writer”

Disturbed writerSomeone said to me the other day that a “real writer” hates to write and will do anything to avoid it until he has to do it.

He recited several quotes from some famous — and some not-well-known — writers to illustrate his point.  His quotes included:

Dorothy Parker: “I hate writing, I love having written.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

Elizabeth Bishop: “Being a poet is one of the unhealthier jobs–no regular hours, so many temptations!”

Peter De Vries: “I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.”

Gene Fowler: “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” (I think Fowler was just re-writing Hemingway, but I liked his version better.)

Mark Twain: “Never put off ’til tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well”.

William Goldman: “The easiest thing to do on earth is not write.”

Paul Rudnick: “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.”


The point is, writing is hard.  It takes actual self-discipline to sit down and do it. To turn your thoughts into words.  Not just words you understand, but words that most other people can understand.  That they can find educational, helpful, uplifting, inspiring, thought-provoking, angering, motivating, life-shattering or whatever you are attempting to communicate to them.

People who do it might love it or hate it.  But generally, they do it because they have to.  It might be their jobs.  It might be their calling or obsession.  It might be required by their academic activities.

If you know the writers I quoted above, you’ll know that most of them wrote or write primarily fiction or poetry.  (It you don’t know these writers, look them up.)  However, it doesn’t matter whether you write fiction, poetry, plays, musical lyrics, articles, blog posts, a newspaper column, a comic strip, essays for college courses, research papers, emails or business letters.  All writing is creative.  All writing tries to create the most difficult product in the world — communication between human beings.

And, because it’s so hard, most writers find themselves constantly tempted by and falling into temptation to follow distractions rather than write.

But my friend was wrong.  A “real writer” is simply someone who writes.  If you want to be a real writer, fit in some actual writing between your distractions.  Dorothy Parker is probably the most accurate of all those quoted.  Most writers at least love having written.  It’s what makes them continue to do it despite any hostility they have toward the process.

Bonus: As long as I’m writing an article using quotations, and about writing, I think I should include one of my productivity tools: a template for writing articles base on quotations:“And I Quote”…Article Template. Enjoy.