I was never a particularly good writer in school despite getting okay grades.
The thing was I didn’t realize I wasn’t that great of a writer until I showed up to college.
My first semester I enrolled in a writing class. My first essay garnered me a C+. I was shocked. While I never thought of myself as a great writer, I thought my effort was worth a B or higher.
I visited my professor to find out where I went wrong.
I’ll never forget that meeting. In fact, she was one of the most instrumental teachers I ever had.
She stepped me through that first essay and pointed out all the problems. There were many.
I wanted to improve. She suggested I get additional help with a campus writing center. I did that. I also consulted the professor throughout the semester.
When the smoke cleared by the end of the semester, I earned an A-. I worked harder than I ever had for any grade.
While I still was not a gifted writer, I had improved.
Throughout my remaining college years and beyond I never planned to earn a living as a writer.
Yet here I am earning a living with the written word.
Here’s the good news. I’m still not a gifted writer. I’ll never be a great writer, but I’m good enough. If you’ve read several posts on this blog you’ve no doubt spotted grammar errors, spelling mistakes, run-on-sentences, punctuation blunders, clumsy wording, disjointed prose, etc. The same mistakes are found on all my sites.
Despite that, I own money-making sites.
Through all the mistakes, I’m able to communicate information people want.
My strength lies not in prose, but in knowing what information to include and to produce it quickly.
The following is my method for publishing decent articles quickly.
Table of Contents
- 12 Steps to Writing Awesome Articles Fast
- Step 1: Topic research
- Step 2: Outline the article
- Step 3: Generate more sub-topics via keyword research tools
- Step 4: Check related searches in Google
- Step 5: Organize all headings
- Step 6: Write the Introduction
- Step 7: Write the meat of the article
- Step : 8 Add images and/or videos
- Step 9: Add content enhancers (if applicable)
- Step 10: Carefully assess the title
- Step 11: Proofread and edit it
- Step 12: Publish it
- Jon, you call that fast? That’s a few hours worth of work
- How long did this article take me to write?
12 Steps to Writing Awesome Articles Fast
Step 1: Topic research
Topic and keyword research can fill books. I’m not going to go in detail in this post. The point is you need a topic that will fulfil a goal. For website publishers that goal is usually website traffic from some source. If it’s traffic from search, you need to cover a topic / keyword(s) that people search for. If it’s social media, it must be a topic and title that resonates with your audience.
Finding a topic/keyword doesn’t take too long for one article if you’re familiar with your niche. On the other hand you can spend days compiling long lists. I tend to do it in batches so I always have a list to choose from (which is also handy to have to assign to guest posters).
For this article, the example keyword phrase is “road bike vs mountain bike”.
The keyword phrase “road bike vs mountain bike” gets 1,200 monthly searches with keyword difficulty 10 in Ahrefs.
Step 2: Outline the article
For any sizeable article, I outline it first. I jot down as many relevant headings (sub-topics) as I can. I don’t worry about order or precise wording. I simply jot down in the WordPress editor the main points I want to cover.
Usually I come up with a good number off the top of my head. Granted, I’ve had a lot of practice doing this, but it’s really just a brain storming session.
Time: 10 minutes.
Example headings in an article for “road bike vs mountain bike”:
- What is a road bike?: this would require an extensive write up – purposes, materials, design, etc.
- What is a mountain bike?: this would require an extensive write up as well.
- Road bike pros and cons: the 2 pros and cons sections would be the longest and should be covered via multiple topics such as speed, weight, price, comfort, durability, hills, terrain options, etc.
- Mountain bike pros and cons
- How much do road bikes cost?
- How much do mountain bikes cost?
- Road bike alternatives
- Mountain bike alternatives
Step 3: Generate more sub-topics via keyword research tools
I use Ahrefs for a lot of keyword research. In Ahrefs, I input my main keyword and look for all other options that generate. I sift through the list and add any relevant sub-topics as headings.
NOTE: During this process, I often find more stand-alone article topics which I take note of. In some cases, I must decide whether to add the sub-topic as part of my longer article or as a stand-alone article.
Time: 10 minutes
Example using “road bike vs mountain bike”:
For this example, Ahrefs didn’t generate any decent sub-topics for that phrase, but I did get a lot of additional keywords that could be stand-alone articles such as:
- Hybrid vs mountain bike: 350 search volume / keyword difficulty 0
- BMX vs mountain bike: 200 search volume/ KD 0
But, I’m not giving up quite yet. I insert “mountain bike” into Ahrefs to see what’s generated. The results provide several sub-topics to include such as:
- Mountain bike brands
- Mountain bike sizing
The list is long. I’d comb through it looking for any additional sub-topics for both “mountain bike” and “road bike“.
By this point I have a fairly thorough outline, but because I like to be thorough through the lens of the Google search engine, I include content that covers related searches in Google for my main keywords.
Here’s how you do that. Enter the phrase in Google. Scroll down to “Searches related to road bike vs mountain bike”. Here’s a screenshot:
Bingo. There’s some real gems there for sub-topics to include in the comparison such as:
- Riding a mountain bike on the road
- Calories burned for each type of bike
- Best option for commuting
Time: 3 minutes.
Step 5: Organize all headings
Next I tidy up the outline. I create my main h2 headings and sub-headings (h3, h4, etc.). I also ensure heading wording is the way I want it.
I’d keep the main headings set out in Step 2 above and then plug in the additional sub-topics discovered.
Time: 10 minutes
Step 6: Write the Introduction
For my more important articles, I like to add a really good introduction. My favorite type of introduction is something personal; a personal experience whether entertaining, informative, funny, etc. related to the topic.
An example of this is the introduction to this article where I discuss my college writing experience.
I write it in the first person.
Once in a while I’ll do the introduction last if no inspiration comes to me at this stage.
While I don’t always add a personal touch to my introductions, I do so whenever I can. I recommend you do the same.
Example introduction for road bike vs mountain bike:
In grade 7 I received an incredible yellow mountain bike for my birthday. Mountain bikes were a fairly new type of bike back then. I was super excited about it, especially the 21 gears and the ability to rip through trails.
I was staying at a friend’s house overnight. I left my new bike in his garage. When we woke the next day, we rushed out the house to biking. Lo and behold, my brand new shiny yellow mountain bike was gone. It had been stolen. I was devastated.
Fortunately home insurance covered it. While the insurance was getting processed, another friend really got into cycling with road bikes. He cycled everywhere. I was impressed. With an insurance check coming for my stolen bike, I was torn, do I get a mountain bike or join my friend on long cycling tours and get a road bike. Choosing between a road bike vs. a mountain bike was a very tough decision.
Time: 15 minutes
Step 7: Write the meat of the article
Once my outline and intro are done, I write the meat of the article. An article comparing two fairly technical types of products requires some research as well as my personal experiences. This would take a decent while to do right.
Time: 120 minutes (many articles don’t take this long at this stage, but it does vary from 30 to 180+ minutes).
Step : 8 Add images and/or videos
At a minimum you would want an image of both types of bicycles. However, it would be good to have close-ups of key differences.
Other articles may require only one image if not very visual. Other article are enhanced with many articles. Each image should enhance the article somewhat.
NOTE: For some gallery style articles, I’ll get the photos first and then write the text since the photos are the main focus of the content.
Time: 3 to 30 minutes
Step 9: Add content enhancers (if applicable)
There are many ways to enhance text and images. I set out 21 of them here.
The time varies greatly because some content enhancers take a while to create while others a couple of minutes.
Time: 2 to 60 minutes
Step 10: Carefully assess the title
The title “Road Bike vs. Mountain Bike” should be jazzed up a bit. Examples include:
- Road Bike vs. Mountain Bike: Which is Best?
- Road Bike vs. Mountain Bike: It’s an Easy Decision
- Road Bike vs. Mountain Bike: It’s a No-Brainer
- Road Bike vs. Mountain Bike: Take the Quiz
I would opt for the last one and include a quiz in the article. I’d place the quiz fairly high up in the article since it’s mentioned in the title. Because it’s in the title, people visiting will expect to see a quiz straight away.
Time to brainstorm titles: 10 minutes
Step 11: Proofread and edit it
I’m not the most diligent proofreader. It’s something I should do more carefully, but I don’t like doing it so I get lazy with this step. However, for important articles, I do read it slowly one time. Inevitably I edit it a fair amount.
Time: 15 to 30 minutes
Step 12: Publish it
Time: 1 second
Total Time: 105 to 355 minutes
Please note the time allotments for each step are estimates. In some cases a step may go faster while other steps take longer. Moreover, epic content with custom graphics, research and the whole nine yards will take much longer than 355 minutes.
On the flip side, a short Q&A might only take 20 minutes. It does vary, but the process above and corresponding time estimates can result in a solid 1,000 to 2,500 word article.
Jon, you call that fast? That’s a few hours worth of work
You might be thinking that the few hours it takes to do all the above is long, but it’s not. A few hours for an informative article is fast. This is a fairly technical article with decent monthly search volume so it should be done well. Writing a solid article takes time.
If you want to crank out articles in 15 minutes, go for it. Unless there’s zero competition, it’s hard to produce a good enough article that will rank well in search engines in the long run.
I’m not saying there aren’t instances where content takes only 15 to 30 minutes. I do that too, but they’re usually fairly short and I don’t expect they’ll pull in all that much traffic on the long run. It may be a simple Q&A or a news piece which only needs 300 words. Yes, short articles can do fine, but when tackling a meatier topics and keywords such road bike vs. mountain bike, you need to put a few hours into it at a minimum.
How long did this article take me to write?
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.