For book/ebook authors, publishers, & self-publishers
The most effective strategy that I've used to date to promote myself online, establish my expertise, and develop a following has been to write at least one quality "how to" article weekly and get that submitted to online article banks and directories. I love writing these "how to" articles in a tips format, i.e. 7 Secrets to...or 5 Strategies to Help You...or How You Can Do (something) in 6 Easy Steps. Why? Because people browse the Internet for fr*ee information, and the easiest way to convey that information is a step-by-step "how to" article providing a number of tips to help someone accomplish a task.
I find "how to" articles the easiest format for a website visitor to read, as the numbered or bullet format enables the reader to quickly scan your points, and then return to those that interest her for a more comprehensive review. Quite frankly, they're also the easiest to write.
Here's how I write my "how to" articles. In fact, I wrote this article in this very fashion.
1. Determine a topic. What would be most valuable to your readers this week? Is there an issue or a problem that you've recently helped a client solve? A common question you routinely answer for people via email? A current event that ties in perfectly to your service? Remember, you don't have to tell everything you know in the article -- you only have to hit the most relevant points and provide enough content so that the reader believes the article to be of value.
2. Write down 5-7 "talking points". These talking points are a 5-7 word description of each of the points I'll be making in the article. As you can see in this article, I've succinctly described each talking point at the beginning of each of the numbered segments. How do I determine my number? That's easy -- it's completely based on the number of points I wish to make in an article. If I can only come up with 5, then it's 5. Sometimes I have much to say and end up with 10, or occasionally even as many as 15. However, my average is somewhere between 6-10 points per article.
3. Fill in your talking points. Here is where you elaborate with a bit more information about each of your talking points. Don't let this step overwhelm you, even though it is the one that will take the most time. Just visualize yourself speaking to a client about a particular point and simply write in the same way that you would talk. Don't try and imitate someone else's style -- just be yourself. If you speak better than you write, you might find it helpful to record what you're saying and have it transcribed and edited. For recording, you can use Audacity.com, which is a free recording software, or use a telephone bridgeline service that records calls, like TheBasementVentures.com, and then search on freelance sites for a reliable transcriptionist.
4. Create an opening paragraph. After completing the number points in my article, I then create 1-2 opening paragraphs that lead into my topic and tell the readers what I plan to tell them. Usually I tell a short story about what has led me to write this article based on either my experiences or those of my clients. The more you personalize this and make it your own, the better rapport you develop with your readers and the better they get to know you.
5. Write a closing paragraph. Just as in a speech, your closing paragraph should summarize what you've said in your article. Some article banks will not accept an article without a closing paragraph when you use the tips format, so wrap up your article in 1-2 concluding sentences.
6. Create a title. This is when I go and do a bit of research on Google and try out article titles to see what else is out there and to assess if I'm using popular search keywords in my title. The general formula that I use for my article titles is a number and a problem that most of my target market has or a number and a solution to a problem that they have. Make sure the terms you use in your title are ones commonly used and referred to by your target market.
7. Proofread and publish the article. After you complete the article, walk away for 30 minutes and then return to proofread your article. If copy editing isn't in your skill set, have a friend or colleague or your assistant proofread your article, checking for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Then, have your assistant set up the article for distribution through an article submission service or individually to article banks.
Don't let the thought of writing an article completely overwhelm you. If you follow these simple steps, you'll discover that you can write an article much more quickly than you might have imagined. In just a few short months, you'll have the makings of a growing bank of expert articles for your target market.
P.S. It took me about 1.15 hours to complete this article. :)