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Conquer the kingdom of content with this proven checklist

In 2014 we published over 4000 news posts and 6000 event posts. We also sent out over 680 newsletters. If content is king, going from three Equiem Portals to 20 in less than a year truly ended up in an epic Game of Thrones-like bloody battle.

But, as in all tough times, this clash of kings led to many lessons for the content team. We learnt a lot about what works. We also discovered what to avoid. You think The Red Wedding was bad? You didn't see us on our knees begging for mercy while multiple exclamation marks repeatedly stabbed us right through the heart.

We don't want to see anyone else go through that. Instead, here's a proven outline on how to write the perfect article for a busy audience.

THE HEADING

Keep it informative, catchy, concise and engaging.

The Aim

Headings can be tricky but the basic idea is to hook a reader’s attention. What’s the most interesting part of the story? What’s going to make the reader click through? Evoke curiosity where possible. The readership of an online article can vary by up to 500%, based on the headline alone.

Tips and Tricks

People scan headlines and tend to look only at the first three and last three words within the headline.

Leveraging emotions within headlines is a great way to get more people to read your post.

Call the reader to act with direct action words. Create a sense of urgency… now!

Sound like a human, not a robot. Inject personality wherever you can.

Remember that people are most interested in solutions, health, lists, free stuff, exclusives… and themselves!

Never Ever

Write a title in all caps

Use multiple exclamation marks!!!

THE INTRODUCTION

In very simple terms, the introduction is the “who, what, where, why and when” of the post, written seductively in one breath.

The Aim

Why do you read the articles you do? Because you want to find out more about the story, once you read the headline and precede. Once a headline grabs you – the introduction summarises what you are about to read.

Tips and Tricks

Take the key benefits from the body and combine into one enticing summary of what they can expect to read in the body.

Get to the point, and stick to the facts – use your words wisely.

Make the reader realise “What’s in it for me?”.

Never Ever

Trick a reader – the introduction has to be authentic and as short as possible.

Try to be clever or overcomplicated for the sake of it – stick to the facts.

THE BODY

Who? What? Where? When? And why?

The Aim

The body is the main part of an article. The rest – the headline, the precede, and call to action – are just the supporting parts. It’s where all the benefits and promises of the headline and the precede – and the final call to action – are emanated. While your headline and introduction are the lines that convince your reader to read your content, the body of your article is where you need to keep them interested.

Tips and Tricks

Stick to one line break between each paragraph.

Always use italics for the names and titles of books, films, TV series, albums, songs, paintings, ships, etc.

Use the hyperlink tool for any links. Avoid showing the link, either simply highlight the relevant text or use a more interesting variation of 'click here'.

Use formatting to allow readers to scan quickly – subheads and bulleted lists are always good.

The best ‘stories’ are the shortest (and clearest) – always make sure the post says everything it needs to, though.

A typical article is written in a hierarchy – the most important stuff at the top, and less important information filters to the bottom.

If there are several key messages/important points, adding headers can be a simple way to make content more digestible.

Use larger headings to break up the post, and make sure fine details are always neatly put at the bottom.

Most importantly, tell the reader a story. Preferably one in which you outline their problems and like a hero, present them with the perfect solution.

Never Ever

Copy and paste from another publication, especially if you don’t credit them.

Post or schedule something without reading it over first. Always check it over at least once before you publish or send.

Leave a post unformatted.

Post or schedule an article without checking that the links work.

THE CALL TO ACTION

Tell the reader what they need to do next.

The Aim

In marketing terms, a call to action (CTA) is an instruction to an audience to provoke an immediate response, usually using an imperative verb such as "call now", "find out more", "visit a store today" or "upgrade to awesome".

Tips and Tricks

Don’t make them guess anything. Spell. It. Out

Take them to the next step of their “journey”.

Create a sense of urgency.

Action words and phrases compel the reader to perform a task – “book now”, “learn more”, “order now”, “read more”.

Be as clear and concise as possible – if readers are confused, they won’t act.

Keep it simple – make it as easy as possible for the user to get what they want.

Think of it from their point of view – something that seems obvious to you might not be to them.

Answer their questions before they have a chance to ask.

Never Ever

Promise something you can’t deliver.

Confuse the reader by being too clever, funny, or cryptic.

Assume they’ll automatically understand. You know what they say about ass-uming things...

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