Part 15: Content Plans And Quality Articles
Enda McLarnon describes how to write your way to success in his Beginner’s Guide
- How to get organised
- Different article formats
- How to write each type of article
If you follow what I’m about to show you, then your life as a website owner will become a great deal easier. This is referred to as a ‘Content Plan’ – or, as I prefer to call it, ‘getting organised’. When you start to build out a website, it’s very easy to quickly lose track of everything, and to have files on your machine all over the place.
If you can discipline yourself right from the start, then the entire process works much more easily. Be warned, however – I’m a bit of an organisation freak and have to be tidy and organised all the time. Long-term, though, it saves me hours of work and frustration.
Set up a folder on your desktop and give it a name such as ‘My Website Project‘. Within that folder, create a set of subfolders:
This will help you to find everything quickly and easily and will save a lot of time. When you write a page for your website, you can then save it into the Pages folder. You can save all your images in the Images folder; the posts in the Posts folder and so on. It’s also a good idea to create another two subfolders in the Posts folder, one for product reviews and one for informational articles. When I find a list of keywords for articles I want to write, I copy them down and save those in the Keywords folder.
I also create an overall content plan using a spreadsheet and that becomes my main focus when building my website. There’s a sample of this below. I use Microsoft Excel, but if you don’t have that, then the equivalents on Google Docs and Open Office are free. The spreadsheet is a great way of listing down your articles and keeping track of them.
It’s also a good way to ensure you have the right component parts in your article. I include the number of images, videos, and internal and external links. I’ll cover that aspect of it later, but for now, just create the spreadsheet to track your articles and save it in your new folder. This will be a great resource as you build out your website.
Writing Quality Articles
Back in Feature 8 of this case study, I explained how to find great articles for your website. Now you have those written, you’re almost ready to publish them and get some great content onto your website. First, though, I want to cover what I think makes a great article for a website. Here are the different types of article:
- Information articles
- Product reviews
- Comparison articles
- Industry-news articles
So, for my website, I’ll write information articles such as ‘How To Use A French Press’ or ‘How To Use A Manual Grinder’. I’ll also write product reviews of the various grinders available in the UK market, and include lists and tables in many of my articles, as they’re great content to have on your website. I’ll also add tutorial-style articles if, for example, I’m showing someone how to use a particular coffee machine.
Likewise, if I’m comparing two popular coffee machines, I’ll use the head-to-head comparison format. In those articles, I’ll use lists and tables where appropriate. The type of articles you can write will very much depend on the topic you’ve chosen. If I had a website about cement mixers, I could easily include building-industry news on my website relating to cement mixtures. Variety is a good thing: you want to avoid simply filling your website with product reviews containing Affiliate Links to Amazon. That looks spammy, both to visitors and to search engines. Always include a variety of content.
The Golden Rules Of Article Writing
- Never plagiarise or copy anyone else’s content. Some unethical people steal other people’s hard work and it is despicable. Aside from that, search engines will not rank it and if it is reported, they will remove it. Never go down that route, as your website will suffer and not recover
- Write your own unique and interesting content. Don’t be afraid to state your own opinion and thoughts. After all, it’s your website and if people like what they read, they’ll be back
- Many new writers ask how many words an article should have. There is no right answer – you need to write an article covering what you’re writing about. The number of words doesn’t matter at all; just don’t waffle about unrelated matters
- Include media in your articles, such as images and video. They help break up written content and make it a lot more interesting for visitors
- Post regularly to your website. I publish two or three articles a week, but some weeks that may just be one. When I’m on holiday, I don’t publish any. Just add content as regularly as you can.
The Most Important Article Types
Information articles and product reviews will make up 90 per cent of your content. In feature 8, I suggested writing 80 per cent information articles and 20 per cent product reviews as a general guideline, though this could stretch to 70/30. Often when starting a new website, I may even go 50/50 between information and product reviews, just to get started. The reason is you never want the search engines or visitors to think your website is nothing but a ‘thin Affiliate website’ packed full of links. The search engines don’t like those – neither do visitors.
If you build a website with nothing but product reviews, it won’t work. I’ve built sites like that and while they did make sales, they no longer work and don’t get ranked. The search engines are getting better at identifying websites of this kind and penalise them. Therefore, it is vitally important that you have a good balance of posts and pages on your website, with the majority of them free from Affiliate Links. I’d recommend you start off writing around five informational articles and one product review. Then repeat that for your next batch of articles.
As you start to build out your website, you can add more product reviews – but always try and maintain a balance. Let’s have a closer look at how to write both a good informational article and a good product review.
Typically, these are ‘How To…’ articles, or a more general style of feature. On my website, for example, I could write about the different regions where coffee beans are grown. I could also write about how coffee is made, the roasting process and a wealth of other topics. You should never put Affiliate Links into these articles. However, it is a good idea to include links to product reviews, where they seem appropriate.
As an example, I could write about how coffee beans are roasted, and then link to a product review of a coffee roaster. Those are internal links on your website – these are a good thing, and can also lead the customer to a related product page, where there will be a product review that contains Affiliate Links. The informational article is essentially about answering a question a visitor may have, or providing some useful and entertaining reading.
On my website, I could explain in an article for example the difference between a burr grinder and a blade grinder – I could then link to a product review on each of those. The important thing is that the article itself doesn’t have an Affiliate Link in it. Here’s an example of one of my informational articles: Content Plans And Quality Articles
There are no Affiliate Links in the article. It simply provides information for a visitor who wants to know how to make coffee using a French Press. It includes two videos, a number of images, a step-by-step method and some tips. It also includes both external and internal links. The important thing is, if a visitor finds this article, they’ll know how to make coffee using a French Press. They may also be intrigued about the different types of French Presses and grinders available. There are links in there to guide them towards articles covering those.
A Product Review
For many Amazon Associates, this is a tricky area. When writing product reviews, you should, of course, include Affiliate Links – that’s how you’ll make money from your website. Some affiliate marketers refer to these as their ‘money articles’, though it’s not a phrase I like to use. It brings with it the temptation to only write product reviews, and that is a big mistake. Some people also write product reviews which are packed full of Affiliate Links. I’ve seen as many as 15 links on a single product review! That’s also a huge mistake and happens quite a lot.
So the first two things to avoid are: writing too many product reviews, and also including too many links within a single review. Personally, I recommend no more than three Affiliate Links in a single product review. I like to place them at the top, in the middle and at the bottom. Quite often, though, I only use two links. When writing a product review, consider how you can add value to the review. The most common mistake made is going to Amazon and copying what’s there.
A lot of Affiliates merely copy Amazon’s content and paste it onto their website – they may also copy a couple of the reviews and add those as well. They add a few images, include their Affiliate Links, hit the publish button and move on to the next article. Not only is this copying content, but it offers zero value to the visitor – and the search engines will not rank these articles, as they don’t interpret them as new and useful. Your reviews need to contain your own content, thoughts and opinions, and need to offer value to the visitor.
Reviewing A Product You Don’t Own
This is an area of some controversy; different opinions exist on the issue. If you’re writing about a topic, you may own one or two products in that topic area. Let’s say, for example, you had a website on sewing machines. Now, you most likely know about them and will likely own one. You could write quite a detailed review about that, for sure.
However, should you write reviews on other sewing machines? Some say you shouldn’t, as it would be misleading. Other Affiliate marketers say that it’s possible, because you understand the main features and benefits and can make an effective comparison or judgement. In my experience as an Amazon Associate, I have no idea how you could make money from a website if you only recommended products that you own.
On my case-study website, I own a hand grinder, a blade grinder and a burr grinder. I also have two coffee machines, three stove-top espressos, a filter machine, two French Presses and a percolator. It’s unusual to own so many products, but I do love my coffee and I’ve collected them over the years.
If I had a website about pressure washers, then I would only own one product. In my opinion, you can’t own just one product and have one single review on your website if you want to make money.
How Do I Do My Reviews?
Regarding this case-study site, I’m confident I know a lot about grinders and coffee. I also know what a good grinder should have and I can measure that against the standards I know about. In addition, I can read other buyer reviews and then summarise all of those – as long as I include the good and bad points about any product. I can then offer my own opinion based against what I know. In the interests of full disclosure, I also tell my visitors I don’t own a particular product, but based on other buyer reviews, and my own knowledge, that this is my view on the product.
I can also show visitors the best-rated products, the best products by price and also match those to their needs. As long as I’m adding some value and opinion based on fact, and am being open about that, then visitors understand that and appreciate the information.
Writing The Review
Some people recommend using a template for writing reviews. Personally, I don’t like that at all. Different topics need to be handled in a manner specific to the topic. There are, however, some sections I include in all my reviews, as they offer consistency throughout my website. I always start with an introduction of between 100 to 200 words, depending on the product. I like to include a section on the key features and the benefits of those features.
In other words, what makes a certain feature of the product useful for the visitor? I like to include what buyers liked and didn’t like and why, for both cases. I like to do a main review with as many important details as I can think of. Finally, I include a conclusion. You can see a sample of one of my reviews here. This is not a product I own, but I hope I’ve offered a valuable review about it.
A Product You Own
If you own a product, the structure of the review doesn’t really change. You can, of course, state clearly that you own and use the product and also take pictures of it in use. That will always make for a better review, as you have the product in your hands – make a video if you own the product. Even when I own a product under review, I still also use other reviews and opinions, because what I like may not necessarily be to everyone else’s taste.
The title of an article is one of the most important things to get right. Your title should convince readers that of all the results that appear in the search engines, your article is the one they should read. As an example which title is better, consider these two alternative titles:
- How to clean an oven?
- How to clean an oven quickly for shining results?
I think the answer should be obvious; there’s only one I’d pick.
- The key thing is to write your own content. Try as hard as you can to make it useful, helpful and enjoyable to read
- Write informational articles and link them to product reviews. Always be honest with your visitors
- Write good-quality reviews. Never just copy-and-paste content from Amazon or anywhere else. If you don’t own a product, just state that your review is based on the collective opinion of other buyers
- Use eye-catching titles
- Always proofread and spell-check all of your written work.
I would recommend that you go over the articles you’ve already written once again. Check if they read well and will be helpful to visitors. If you’ve written a review, does it add value to a buying decision? Make any changes to those articles that will help improve them and make them more useful for visitors. When doing this, it also helps to think about how you can internally link some of these articles to each other.