When I started my Writing for Councils business seven years ago, almost all of my work came via word of mouth. Since then I have been gradually building up the number of enquiries I receive from people who come across me online.
My main strategy is to write one blog article a month, which I share on my website, via LinkedIn and through my e-newsletter. Last year I decided to invest in a course on Writing Articles for Websites and Blogs to improve the quality and effectiveness of my articles.
This article summarises some of the most useful ideas I picked up from that course, which I hope you will also find useful if you would like to gain new clients by writing interesting, relevant articles for your audience.
Choose a specific angle and stick to it
An idea is a broad subject for an article. An angle is a unique, specific approach to telling the story, which should be tailored for your particular audience. For example, when I write articles on my Writing for Councils website, I consider how to apply writing and editing techniques to the types of documents that council staff need to write, and the subjects these people will be writing about.
Once you know what the angle of your article is, write that out on a big piece of paper beside your computer. This is a good way to remind yourself that every line of the article must be relevant to this angle.
Choose short, simple headings
Resist the temptation to write ‘clever’ headings, such as puns. You want search engines to find your article, and you want humans to understand what your article is about. This means it is better to write literal and informative headings. Headings should also be short (around six to eight words).
Using keywords and key phrases in web articles simply means writing like ‘real’ people – aim to use the words your target audience will use when searching for information online.
A wide range of keyword tools are available to find the words that people search every day when looking for information on your subject. The one I use is: ‘Keywords Everywhere’ which can be added as a search bar extension.
Your heading and opening paragraph should include your top two keywords, and variations of them, preferably at the beginning of the sentences. Keywords should also appear in:
- the page URL
- photo captions
- anchor text/hyperlinks.
The introduction is the most important part of your article. That’s because people will use it to decide whether your article is of interest and relevance to them.
Here are five different types of introductions to consider:
- Descriptive – this is a good way to paint a vivid picture of the issue, but be careful to avoid too many adjectives
- Anecdotal – a personal story (with that person’s permission)
- Summary – the benefit of this approach is to quickly get to the point
- Shocker –a striking statement, which can be a quotation, a question, a statistic or a flat statement of fact
- Essay – which can be the writer’s observation of a person or situation (but avoid being boring or preachy).
If you decide on the anecdotal or descriptive introduction, a ‘zoom in and out’ structure will work well. After your specific introduction, you can then zoom out to discuss the general issue. At the end of the section, you can then zoom back to tie the general discussion back to the initial example.
If you are writing a summary introduction, aim to provide answers to the 5 Ws (who, what, where, when and why) as well as ‘how’ in the first one to two paragraphs. After that the pace can slow down to one key fact per paragraph. This summary can then be unpacked bit by bit.
Your last paragraph is also very important. Four types of closing paragraphs to consider are:
- the circular ending (which ties in with the introduction)
- the summary ending (but try to avoid this as it can be boring and repetitive)
- the looking ahead ending (which offers a glimpse into the future or possible direction to take)
- the poetic ending (which can be a metaphor, quotation, or an unexpected observation).
Personal benefits of blog writing
I wish you the best of luck with your own blog writing – may you attract many clients! However, there are also personal benefits of blog writing – it’s a great way to reflect on, and to absorb, what you are learning, and your blogs are likely to become a valuable resource for you to return to over time.
The ideas in this article are based on a NZ Writers College course I completed last year on
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