How New Writers Can Keep Readers Engaged With Their Articles
Articles need nurturing. Maintenance of content is vital to the success of an online writing business. I'll explain how to keep readers focused on your content and improve search engine traffic.
How Do Readers Feel About Your Writing?
The most important thing to consider is how your readers respond to your writing.
- Do they find it useful?
- Does it provide the answer they were expecting?
- Did you deliver on your promise based on your title?
- Does it hold your reader's attention all the way through by staying focused on what the title says?
These points are the most crucial to remember whenever you are writing something new. If you fail with any one of them, it can have a drastic negative impact on the success of your content.
How to Keep Your Reader's Attention
An article needs to provide instant answers. The rest of the article can elaborate further. The idea behind that is that if you get them hooked, they will stay for more, and they will finish reading the entire article.
Remember, you need to give people what they expected. You need to do it fast! Stay focused, and eliminate useless words. Proofread several times.
I always find myself making improvements each time I read my own articles a year or so later. It keeps getting better and better.
Avoid Mistakes That Frustrate Readers
Useful and easy-to-read content is essential. If a reader realizes they are getting something worthwhile from your article, they will keep reading to the end.
Pay attention to your writing from a reader’s point of view and honestly answer these questions:
- Are you rambling on?
- Are you going off on tangents?
- Are you unclear about things?
- Are you failing to make your point?
Any of these things can cause a reader to become frustrated and leave. You want to focus on keeping their attention.
Use Short but Purposeful Paragraphs
Short paragraphs are easier to comprehend. Make sure your page does not look intimidating. Spacing between paragraphs helps avoid eye strain and makes it easier to read.
There is also another side-effect of having your paragraphs too cluttered. If a reader sees no spaces between paragraphs, they tend to feel that there is too much to read, and they click away before reading the first sentence.
Separate your thoughts into blocks of text using individual text capsules and use helpful subtitles for each section.
You might also find it helpful to separate various thoughts into numbered or bulleted paragraphs. Anything that makes it easier for the reader to comprehend what you're talking about is what you need to do. Always keep that in mind.
Don't Attract the Wrong Readers
It's important to avoid words that may be used by search engines as incorrect keywords. That will attract people who were searching for something that's not related. Once they stumble on your page and see that it's not what they want, they leave in a hurry.
If too many people click away quickly, search engines take this to mean that your article had nothing of value. Search engines monitor how long visitors stay on a web page. They use that information to improve their response to keyword queries. That affects your ranking.
If readers stay for a long time, then your content must be useful and meaningful. Therefore, you get some extra points in your ranking and get more traffic sent your way.
Therefore, if I see a short duration, I examine the article to discover why I might have lost my readers so fast. Then I make improvements. Sometimes what's required is to add more content focused on the subject.
An Easy Way to Add Valuable Content
Google loves it when you keep your content fresh with new ideas.
Here's something that I do. When I update an article, I look through the comments for ideas.
Some comments contain questions and answers that are relevant to other reader's issues. However, they tend to get lost in the endless flow of comments.
The most valuable questions people ask and the answers I give would be more useful if included in the body of the article. So I remove them from the comments, edit them to improve their purpose, and add them in a new capsule in a location where it makes the most sense.
While at it, I do two other things:
- I improve the wording of the questions and correct any grammar or spelling errors.
- I modify the original question with SEO in mind, and I rework my original answer with proper keywords so that it attracts Google search.
Proper Spelling and Grammar Is Crucial
Poorly constructed sentences, poor grammar, and misspellings all negatively affect your ranking.
One error I see some people make is the incorrect spelling of "alot" – There is no such word in English. The correct notation is with two words: "a lot".
I see that mistake made a lot. I bet if you allot more time to spell checking, you’ll do better with ranking. Ahh, did you catch that? The word “allot” with two L's is a valid word with an entirely different meaning.
I also find many people confusing "there” and “their” and “they’re.” There are times when they're not paying attention to their spelling.
Use a spell checker before you publish, and proofread several times. The text capsule in HubPages has a built-in spell checker. Click the "abc" icon to run a check on that capsule's text.
We all make mistakes. I have found the most profound mistakes I’ve made when I proofread my new articles before publishing. We need to check our work carefully before considering it worthy for the public.
Repeat Proofreading Several Times
When we proofread our material, we tend to see what we thought rather than what we typed. I always find that amazing, but it goes to show how important it is to have someone else proof it for us.
I find it works well to proofread once again many months later. I guess that works because we tend to see the words in a different light—as if we’re reading it for the first time.
When I proofread, I keep the reader in mind. Sometimes when I read something I wrote a while ago, I realize it could be misinterpreted. Worse yet, it could be confusing. An author's work is never done. I’m always refining many of my published articles.
Clean Up Your Comments
Google ranking is based on comments too. When people say things like "nice article" or "good work," I delete those. I do appreciate them, but they are not useful for the general public. Readers who browse comments are looking for information that is meaningful to the subject.
Poor grammar can especially affect ranking. So it's best to delete those even though you might appreciate the reader having left it.
How Readers Questions Can Help You Become a Better Writer
If you get a lot of silly questions from readers in the comments or the Q&A, then you need to consider the possibility that your content is not doing the best it can.
You need to ask yourself:
- Am I missing critical information in the article?
- Am I not clear with the way I explain things?
- Do I attract clueless people?
- Is something else causing the problem that I can improve upon?
This exercise can help you become a better writer. Take advantage of the questions your readers ask to learn what needs to be improved.
Make Visitors Want to Return
Having "Repeat Visitors" is an indication of the usefulness of your article. Google refers to them as loyal readers.
Search engines rank by repeat traffic. Google Analytics reports show how many views are unique and how many are repeat visitors.
If people are coming back, it's an indication that you have content that they found helpful and that they may need to review it again. Therefore, search engines bump up your ranking. That helps you get higher in the search results page (SERPs) and get more organic traffic.
Check the Stats
I review the stats from time to time, and I look for problems such as a short view duration. That means I lost the reader before they got through the article. If I see a correlation with poor traffic, I work on it to make improvements.
View duration and keywords people search for are both displayed under the stats tab on each hub. More precise information is available in your Google Analytics reports.
Use the Information in Your Google Analytics Reports
Keep a close eye on the extensive information available in your Google Analytics reports.
Try to discover what's working that keeps your reader's attention and what brings them back. Then continue to do whatever works.
Your Google Analytics Reports show you where visitors came from, what keywords they used to find you, how long they stayed, and where they went next.
The ideas you get from your Analytics Reports can keep you busy, but it's a worthwhile time spent.
You need to sign up for Google Analytics to get a tracking code. If you haven't already included your Google Analytics code in your HubPages account, you should do that right away. Then let it track for a few weeks to accumulate useful information for your reports.
How to Find Your Analytics Reports
- Click on the "My Account" tab on HubPages
- Click on "Affiliate Settings"
- Click on "Check Your Analytics Statistics"
- Log in to your Analytics Account.
- Click on "View Report" for HubPages.
Then select any report you want...Dashboard, Intelligence, Visitors, Traffic Sources, Content, AdSense, or Goals.
Each report lets you dig deeper into the data. So give yourself time to learn all of it. If you get lost, you can always click back to the Google Analytics Dashboard.
Articles Need to Mature
It takes time for Google to test new articles by sending a few readers at first. The Google bots register the view duration and the return-rate (loyalty) of each reader.
It takes time for this data to accumulate, but if the results are positive, then Google keeps increasing your ranking. Eventually, you get much more traffic.
It is also possible that a subject that is dead for many years can suddenly spring to life due to something that happened in the world.
Eavesdrop on Your Readers in Real-Time
I sometimes eavesdrop on my readers by watching Google Analytics Real-time View. That gives me an idea of what people are doing.
I can see all my articles that are being read at the moment. I can see if readers pop in and out quickly, or if they are actually (possibly) reading. Sure, maybe they left the computer while leaving it on the screen. That's always considered a small piece of the statistics data.
Watching the activity of readers in real-time helps me decide if modifications are needed.
Keep It Manageable
I have to admit that not all of my creations are top-notch. I’ve had my share of articles that didn’t attract any organic traffic (visitors from search). If I can’t improve them, I eventually delete them.
I’ve deleted many of my published articles over the years because they just didn’t perform well enough to warrant my attention.
With continually changing rules imposed by Google, I feel it’s better to keep a manageable number of articles. Otherwise, the task of maintenance gets too cumbersome.
I think keeping it between 200 and 300 is comfortable. Whatever quantity you feel satisfied with is right for you. The key point is quality over quantity.
I see many writers complaining that they have to make changes all the time. Some people have written thousands of articles, and many are out of date with incorrect information. Of course! How can they keep up with it?
You might say, “why not just delete those articles that are not getting traffic?” It’s more complicated than that. I don’t just go by the number of views. After a year or so, when I see that an article is not getting decent organic traffic, I investigate by reviewing the following steps:
- I review the search strings Google and Bing are reporting that people had used when finding my article. Sometimes I learn about content on which I should elaborate. Sometimes I discover that I’m getting misguided traffic that’s not related to the subject. Google misguided them because of the overuse of a keyword that is not related to the subject.
- I research the entire subject online to see if my competition is getting in the way. Maybe their articles appear in the SERPs higher than mine. In that case, I rework my material to try to improve the search results.
- I repeat proofreading occasionally. Sometimes I find terrible mistakes I’ve made with articles I wrote many years ago. I update them, enhance their quality with the new standards, and then watch to see if it brings them back to life. I always work at improving all my articles. Google loves it when articles have fresh content added—as long as it’s useful and serves the purpose initially promised by the title.
Use Images Correctly
The main image should represent your subject matter. It provides a quick way to show the reader what it's about before they start reading.
All images should help the reader understand the subject. If it's not useful, then it's better to leave it out.
Note that images from "Google Images" may be copyrighted, so follow those links to the actual source and check on the license. Don’t use images from the web that may be copyrighted.
If you use images that are Creative Commons License, then give the proper credit. Creative Commons has rules. Sometimes they require that you display a credit to the originator.
Many image sites indicate how you need to include a credit reference. You can enter that information in the source field of the image capsules when you include them in your article.
Some image sites do not require attribution, such as Pixabay. However, I still like to be courteous to the photographer. Besides, I think it helps maintain authority.
If traffic suddenly slows down on a good article, it might have been copied. I use Google Alerts to monitor for plagiarism by placing a couple of random sentences from my articles into each alert.
In addition, I watch for that little copyright icon (c in a circle) that HubPages places next to any hub that is found elsewhere on the web.
When I find a copy anywhere, I file a takedown notice under the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That’s the correct way to say it. I notice that many people say they sent a DMCA. You’re not sending a copyright act. You’re sending a takedown notice under the provisions of Section 512(c) of the DMCA.
Keep a Log of Changes for Future Reference
HubPages shows a graph over the lifespan of each article. You can click on any source, and the graph displays the results of only that source, such as Google.
When I examine that, sometimes I discover that Google traffic dropped several months ago. That’s useful information. I go to my log of changes that I kept, and I check to see if I did something at that time that might have messed it up, so I know what I need to fix.
It’s helpful to keep a log of changes. It pays off later when you need to review what you did. That is how I do it. I keep two files.
1. A Note File
One is simply a note file listing the hubs where I made changes. Every entry includes the date, the title, and a description of the changes I made. For example, I make a note of what I did, such as:
- Changed title.
- Changed summary.
- Added new content.
- Corrected spelling and/or grammar.
- Removed or added callout capsules.
- Added keywords suggested by Google.
- Moved capsule content from location x to y.
Later, I can review this log and compare it to the traffic changes to discover what worked and what failed.
2. An Excel Spreadsheet
The second file is an excel spreadsheet of all hubs, including hub score, word count, publish date, last change date, and when it was moved to a niche site. It also includes checkmarks to indicate if shared in Pinterest and/or Flipboard.
You can create the initial excel file by clicking “export cvs” and downloading it from your statistics page. I only did that once. Then I simply add to it every time I make changes or publish another article.
That may sound like a lot of work, but the information accumulated from this effort is a goldmine. I find the time spent is worth it based on the increased revenue for the work.
I put as much time into this as I do writing new articles. I’m updating almost every day. I’m always learning something new that Google reacts to from my activity.
To Sum Up
Getting organic traffic takes hard work, beyond just writing articles. Search engines determine that your articles are worthy by the view duration and repeat visitors. Therefore, these are the things you need to focus on achieving.
If you use the methods I described above, you will keep your readers focused on your content and show search engines that you have quality content.
Questions & Answers
I understand about using Excel to keep track of changes I make to my articles on HubPages, but can I also use Notepad? Do you have a separate file for each article?
You can keep your log of update notes any way you feel comfortable. I use both Excel and TextEdit. The latter is the notepad app on the Mac, but you can use any text editor.
You can keep separate files for each article, or combine them in a single log as I do. Again, whatever works for you. The important thing is to keep a record of changes.
The log examples you gave are good. However, you might adjust that over time as you begin to see which items help you keep track of changes better.
For example, I added a column to my Excel spreadsheet for Pinterest. I put a checkmark in that column for every article that I pined. I also used to have a column indicating which articles are still on HubPages. But I eliminated that one since all are now on niche sites.
© 2009 Glenn Stok