How to Write an Article (the Complete Guide)

Did you just launch your new website and want to fill it with content? Or would you like to work as an article writer and you’re asking yourself, how do I write an article that actually gets results? 

In both cases, you want to know how to write an article. 

This is a step-by-step guide that shows you how to come up with article ideas, get started with writing, and edit after writing. The guide is intended for online articles, but most points also apply to offline, print articles. Also, note that the difference between an article and a blog post is marginal, so most recommendations also apply to blog posts. 

Because it’s crucial that your article ranks in Google, we also cover some basics about search engine optimization (SEO). For more detailed information, I recommend you reading our 25 Point Blog Post Checklist for SEO.

1. Come up with a topic and a focus keyword

Before you start writing, you have to decide what you want to write about. That should be obvious. But what makes a good idea for an article?

Writing an article takes a lot of time and effort. Your articles should help you to generate traffic to your website. One of the most important factors that decide how much traffic you get is Google ranking.

Ideally, you want your article to rank for a high volume keyword. If 10.000 people per month type a specific keyword into Google and your article is the first to come up, many people will click on it and thereby land on your website.

When it comes to ranking, you should not only consider the search volume but also how difficult it is to rank for this keyword. A huge search volume is useless when your article appears on page number 256 of the search results.

It’s best to use a keyword research tool to find out the keyword difficulty (KD). We recommend Ahrefs because it provides you with accurate keyword data and many other functions that help you rank in Google.

There are two main ways to come up with article ideas:

  1. You have some ideas in mind; then you use a keyword research tool to find out if there are good keywords for these topics.
  2. You do a keyword search, come up with a list of suitable keywords and then decide which ones to cover in an article.

The focus keyword reflects the topic of your article. It can consist of one or two words or multiple words. As an example, the focus keyword of this article is “how to write an article.”

If you struggle to find good ideas, I recommend you read my article about how to find blog topics.

2. Find the search intent behind the keyword

When typing keywords into Google, you have a problem that you want to solve. You might want to learn more about a particular topic, you have a specific question, or you are looking for products to buy. The content of your article has to match the user’s search intent behind the keyword.

“How to” keywords make it easy: They phrase a question, and your article should answer this question. When someone searches for “best Italian restaurant in town,” the person doesn’t want to know what an Italian restaurant is, but how to find the best one.

Google knows this and will display local Italian restaurants with the best reviews. Also, rating websites like Tripadvisor make it to the top search results because they deliver the information the user is looking for: A short review about the best Italian restaurants, explaining why they are the best ones.

Because Google has, in most cases, a good idea about the search intent behind keywords, googling the keyword you want to rank for is always a good idea.

3. Find out how long your article needs to be

How long your article should be, depends on the topic and the competition. Some topics can be covered comprehensively in a short article. There is always the possibility to write more, but more is not always better. Again, keep the search intent in mind.

If the keywords indicate that the user looks for a simple, short answer, it’s better to keep it short. A long, detailed article would instead repel those readers. Take as an example: “How many strings does a guitar have.” This is a very basic question, and the person typing this into Google expects a short, simple answer. He or she doesn’t want to read a 1000-word article to find out.

But many topics are worth covering in detail. Someone who searches for “How to find the best electric bass guitar” would be thankful for a long, comprehensive article that answers all his questions. For these kinds of topics, you need to find out how long your article should at least be to have a realistic chance to rank for it. Googling your focus keyword is the easiest way to find out. Just check how long the top-ranking articles are and write one that is at least that long.

When you notice that your article is getting much longer than planned, decide if the added points are that important. If they truly add value, keep them. Check if they are highly related to the topic. If not, you can always cover them in a separate article.

4. Read competing articles

Take a close look at the articles that rank for your focus keyword. See if you can find good ideas in there and take some notes. This is not about copying your competition. It’s about getting inspired to make your article better.

5. Research the topic

Do deep research about the topic you want to write about. And simply googling your focus keyword and reading the top-ranking articles does not count as research. Ideally, you should already be knowledgeable about the topic.

The less you know, the more research you have to do. But even if you already know the subject in and out, check if there is new information available. For instance, when you write about CBD oil for anxiety, you may already know that CBD oil can help with anxiety and why. But there may still be a new study that you don’t know about. Covering the latest research that your competition hasn’t written about gives you a leading edge.

6. Brainstorm information to include

Once you know what you want to write about and gathered all the important information, you should do some brainstorming about what you want to cover in the article. There may be many points, likely, you won’t keep all of them. But writing them all down helps you to make sure that you don’t forget any vital information.

7. Come up with unique ideas

When you’re done with brainstorming, make sure that you have ideas with unique content that you cannot find anywhere else. If your article summarizes the top 5 ranking articles, you’re not providing value to your readers.

There are many ways to make a text unique, and it depends on the kind of article. If you’re an expert on the topic, you can give an expert opinion with unique insights. When it’s an informational article, try to find information you cannot find anywhere else.

And even if there’s no additional information, you can still provide value. For instance, by explaining a complex problem better than anyone else does. Or by illustrating a point with a story. There are many ways, be creative!

8. Write an outline

Before you start writing, write an outline to give the article some structure. It is not set in stone, and you can change it while writing. But it makes the writing process much more manageable.

No matter what kind of article you write, it should always have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

Further, each article should answer three questions in the following order:

  1. What (is it about)?
  2. Why (is it important)?
  3. How (to implement it)?

Answering these three questions gives your article a logical flow.

First, you have to let your readers know what the article is about. When you write about something that not everybody is familiar with, you’ll also have to explain what it is and give background information. For instance, when you write an article about magnesium, you should first mention that it is an essential mineral and review its role in the body.

The next step is then to explain why it’s important and why people should care. You would mention how common a magnesium deficiency is and what symptoms it causes. 

In the last step, you would address the how and tell your readers how they can prevent a magnesium deficiency.

In how much detail you answer each of these questions is very individual and depends on the kind of article you write. When you write a “How to …” article, like the one you are currently reading, answering the “How” is the main part. Readers looking for “How to do something” already know what it is and why it’s important. So you can briefly answer the first two questions in the introduction and then spend the rest of the article answering the “How.”

But you can also have articles focusing on the “Why.” After briefly answering the “What,” you explain in detail why it is important. The “How” can then be a simple call to action, leading the reader to an article addressing the “How” or to a product that is solving the problem.

If you wrote about the detrimental health consequences of eating too much sugar, this would answer the question, “Why too much sugar is bad for you.” After your readers are convinced that too much sugar is very unhealthy, you can end the article with a call to action to your article about how to eat less sugar.

The What, Why and How questions can serve as a template that you can apply to any article.

9. Follow the rule of one

Following the rule of one is probably the most important advice when writing an article, and most writers don’t follow it. Yet, articles that fulfill this rule are the most successful ones. So when you apply it, you write better articles than most others.

The rule sounds simple but is not easy to follow. It means that you should dedicate the content to one single topic and don’t deviate from it. For instance, in the article you are currently reading, I stick to advice about how to write an article. I don’t tell you how to write an ebook.

You might think that many people who write articles also write ebooks, and this information might be of interest to them. This might be true. But it’s also true that people who don’t know how to get started with an article are probably not ready to write an ebook yet. That’s why I don’t include any advice about ebook writing and instead would link to an article about how to write an ebook.

You have to put yourself into the shoes of your readers. Keep the search intent of your focus keyword in mind. Someone who types these words into Google is looking for specific information. By deviating from it, you risk boring your readers and losing them.

That’s the last thing you want. And the good thing when writing online articles is that linking to other articles is very easy. So if you are not 100% sure if the information is of interest to all article readers, leave it out and simply link to the content with further information.

10. Avoid the curse of knowledge

It’s good to write about something you’re knowledgeable about. In the end, you have something to tell and to teach.

But when you write about a topic that you are very familiar with, you quickly fall into the trap of the curse of knowledge.

This can have two negative consequences, and you should avoid both like the plague.

  1. You tell your readers everything you know about the topic, or even worth, everything that is even loosely related to it

This is related to the rule of one. Many writers throw too much information at their readers, mostly because they want to demonstrate how much they know about a certain topic. They think that this signals credibility. What it really does is deviating from the subject and boring your readers.

  1. You don’t write in a way that your audience easily understands

The second danger is that you are using words your audience isn’t familiar with and assume your readers know something they don’t. Simply because you know so much about a certain topic, you cannot imagine how it is not knowing it. As an author, this problem can be very hard to spot. This is why editing is so important (see point 20)

But you’re losing people that way. Your readers might think that you’re smart, but they will nevertheless stop reading your content because they either find it not interesting or because they don’t understand it.

11. Include references from reliable sources

You should try to provide sources for the information you include. This makes you look credible and also gives your readers the chance to find out more. How many references you have to provide largely depends on the kind of article and the topic.

When you write about a personal experience, you won’t have to provide many sources, and even not mentioning any might be fine. When you write about how CBD oil can help with anxiety, you certainly want to link to some scientific studies proving your point.

12. Link to further information

No matter how long your article is, there is always more information about this topic. An easy way to provide value to your reader is to link to useful information. This can be to another article on your website or an external source.

Linking internally to other articles is also a valuable tool to stick to the point. When you catch yourself covering something that is not directly related to the topic, write a separate article about it and link to it.

Here’s an example of a link from one article to another.

13. Make it “snackable”

People who read online are often looking for quick information. They don’t sit down for three hours to read about a specific topic as they might do with a book. When they click on a Google search result, they skim through the article to see if it provides the information they are looking for. And even if they decide that the article is worth reading, they don’t want to read large text blocks.

For these reasons, you should

  • Write short paragraphs
  • Use many subheadings (as a rule of thumb, you should have at least one subheading every 300 words)
  • Use bullet points where it makes sense
  • Bold important information
  • Use supporting infographics and pictures
  • Summarize the most important points after a paragraph covering a lot of information
Here’s an example of “snackable” content:

14. Make it an easy read

This point is related to the advice to make the content “snackable.” Furthermore, you should use uncomplicated language. Try to keep your sentences short and simple. Write in an active voice.

And avoid technical terms unless you’re 100% sure that your audience is familiar with them.

How “easy” the content is, depends, of course, on your audience’s background knowledge. To be precise, it should be an easy read for your audience, not necessarily for everyone.

15. Use the language of your audience

When you write an article for medical doctors, your tone and language differ from when you write for laypeople. Always keep your audience in mind and try to adopt their language. This way, your content relates to them, and it is easier to connect to them and build trust.

16. Write a compelling introduction

The introduction should explain why the article is relevant and how it solves the reader’s problems. You should keep it short and come straight to the point. The intro helps readers decide whether the article answers their question and it’s worth reading or whether they should look further.

For this reason, your introduction should raise the reader’s interest, but it should also reflect the content of the article. If you make false promises in your intro, you’ll disappoint your readers, and you risk that they won’t read your content in the future.

Mentioning a statistic, a quote, or an interesting, relevant fact is also an excellent way to start an article.

I personally prefer to write the introduction after writing the body of the article. I may write some notes before writing the article and then write it out later. Once the article is written, you have a clearer picture of the article’s content and how to lead into it.

17. End with a strong conclusion

It is a good idea to write the conclusion last. But when writing the article, you should already know what the conclusion is so that you can build up to it. As for the introduction, you can write down the points you want to mention and write them out later.

There are many different ways to write the conclusion. In many cases, it’s a good idea to summarize the article and emphasize the main takeaway. A call to action is also an excellent way to end an article.

In the end, your article has a purpose, and you want your readers to do something after reading it.

You can guide them to further content, your products or ask them to sign-up for your newsletter, enquire about a product, service, or read an article. These are just a few examples; there are many more!

Here’s an example of a clear call to action for ketogenic meal plans.

18. Remove non-important and redundant information

Some people say that they try to shorten their text by one third once they are done writing. How much you have to shorten your text depends on your writing style. If you tend to write very wordy, include non-relevant information, and even repeat information, you’ll have to shorten a lot. When you already write concisely, removing a little bit here and there will be enough. But in general, shortening your text during the editing process will make your article a better read.

This doesn’t mean that you cannot write long articles. But they should be packed with information. That means that to fill a long article, you need a lot of information. Take this article as an example. It’s 3,500 words +, but it provides 21 useful tips, and every single one is valuable. So, your article should have substance. The worst thing is reading an article that says nothing. It’s a waste of time for your readers (and also a waste of time writing it).

19. Edit, edit, edit

Once you’re done writing, the editing starts. Editing can take as long as the writing itself or even longer. You often find the advice not to edit while writing because writing and editing are two separate processes. I don’t think this applies to everyone and largely depends on your writing style.

When you try to get everything perfect in the first draft, writing takes much longer, but you save time editing. When you write everything down as fast as possible, you’re done writing in no time, but editing will probably take longer than writing.

20. Ask someone for feedback

Having someone to edit your article and to provide feedback will always improve your article. This person will likely notice a few language flaws, even if you are a native speaker and your grammar and writing is very good.

The person can also tell you if the article’s structure makes sense and if the transitions are easy to follow. Most importantly, the editor can tell you whether everything is easy to understand. For this reason, it can be an advantage to have a non-expert. This is especially important when writing for lay people.

21. Make a final grammar check

Once the article went through some rounds of editing, you should do a final grammar check. Grammarly is a popular choice that detects most grammar flaws, suggests synonyms, and also checks punctuation. This is especially important when you’re not a native English speaker. But even if you’re native, a grammar checking program can make the text better.

The bottom line

Writing an article may seem simple, but it involves many steps. It’s not only about the writing; it’s also about finding ideas, doing research, and editing the article. Altogether, they can take more time and effort than the writing itself. 

Outsourcing articles can save you a lot of time and lets you focus on other parts of your business. Writing Studio has expert writers who can take care of all these steps. They know how to write articles that rank in Google and drive high-value traffic to your website.

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