“In the flowery meadows of their island they sat singing their sweet songs, and the sailors whose ships were passing could not forbear to go on shore. There were they slain.”
Such begins Circe’s warning to Odysseus in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. Upon that island sat the beautiful, yet deadly maidens known as the Sirens, whose sweet lyrical promises proved irresistible to any sailor who chanced upon their voice.
Yet it was not sensuality that the devilish mermaidens promised. It was knowledge.
Knowledge, not flesh, proved the lure that no man could resist.
Likewise, smart content marketers know that information wrapped in the shroud of entertainment can lure even the most hardy sailor of the social seas.
If you want irresistible content, you need your siren song.
You need to plan it. Organize it. Package it. Deliver it.
And this article is going to help you do that.
1. Simplify Your Topic
There is a little-known secret that very quickly separates the writing of A-list bloggers from the rest of the pack: simplicity.
In fact, one of the most common mistakes made by new bloggers is attempting to cover too much in one article. Every component of your writing needs to reinforce one central idea. This central idea should be able to be communicated simply and concisely. If you cannot sum up what your article is about in a sentence of 10 words or less, then it is too complex.
For example, I can summarize the goal of this article in 8 words: Offer a basic overview for planning an article.
If you’re not simplifying your topic, you’re losing your reader.Click To Tweet
2. Open With A Bang
Once you know what your article is going to be about, you want to find a compelling way to lock your reader’s attention from the very first sentence. The first sentence is what copywriters and journalists refer to as “the lede.”
Your lede needs to be explosive. It needs to generate interest quickly and move your reader down the page in anticipation of what you will say next. It should be short, punchy, and unexpected.
One of the masters of the lede is Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger. Among his tips for a hypnotic opener are suggestions such as:
- Asking A Question
- Anecdotes Or Quotes
- Engaging The Imagination
- Analogies Or Metaphors
- Shocking Statistics
Planning your lede ahead of time also helps prompt your brain when the time comes to sit down and write the article. If the opening line is written and compelling, the remainder of your article begins to flow much more smoothly.
If you don’t grab attention at the beginning, you won’t have it to hold onto later.Click To Tweet
3. Organize Your Thoughts
Now that you know what your topic is about and you have a concept for entering into it, how are you going to support it?
Having a logical thought flow is critical for creating digestible content. This is important in any form of writing, but in writing for the web it becomes essential. Blog readers are savvy, and they know how to scan an article to get the information they want.
If your article is not scannable, you’re losing your audience.Click To Tweet
So take the time to arrange your subheadings in a scannable format. Sometimes, this will need to be a list. Other times, you would do well to craft compelling mini-headlines for your main points.
This is also the time to gather your research. In the planner, there is space for three links under every subheading. Linking out is integral for demonstrating your authority as a well-researched expert in your field. It helps with building industry relationships. Even more, according to Rand Fishkin of Moz, outbound links may also work to increase your organic traffic.
I aim to have at least one link in every subsection, and I will occasionally go as high as three. Taking the time to do the research and include your links dramatically increases the trust of your reader.
4. Be Memorable
For some reason, bloggers will spend hours writing an amazing article only to throw it away on a lousy conclusion.
Your conclusion is the last thing your reader will remember about you. It is the moment where you earn loyalty, drive a response, and capitalize on all the hard work you put into the piece. If your conclusion is anticlimactic, the entire article falls flat.
So take some time to nail your closing sentence. Often, the best closers tie back into the opening. Your conclusion reiterates the main points of your article, and your final line brings the entire experience full circle. It leaves your reader with a satisfied sense of completion, and it fuels your call to action.
So invest the time to make your conclusion count.
Want to linger in your reader’s mind? Make your conclusion powerful.Click To Tweet
5. Now, Get People To Read It
Once you have planned the article, it is time to craft the headline that gets it read.
Headlines are not summaries. They do not exist to tell people what they are going to read. They exist to tell people why they need to read it.
So when you craft a headline, focus on the benefits and give it some punch.
This is arguably the most important line in your article, so take the time to get it right. Come up with a list of several possible concepts, and then narrow it to the top contender. Use that to build your promotional graphics and drive the click.
Your headline is the single most important line in your article. Get it right.Click To Tweet
Odysseus managed to survive the sirens, thanks to the warning from Circes.
He plugged up the ears of his men with wax and lashed himself to the mast. Only when they were past the island and Odysseus stopped fighting his bonds in an effort to follow the deadly song did they release him.
As the legend goes, the sailors ability to resist the Sirens led to the death of the mythic maidens. And that, too, should be a lesson.
Planning your articles so that you deliver the highest quality content strengthens your allure. It makes your content irresistible.
Failing to plan, however, leads those who have encountered you to stop up their ears with wax and resist the power of your song.
So carve out your flowery meadow of the web and hone your voice.
Then lead the weary travelers to your island.
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