Elements of a Stellar Article
Authors often ask if there is a surefire way of writing a successful article. While there is no perfect equation for creating a hit, we have found that, by including certain elements, you can vastly improve an article's chances of attracting significant traffic. This guide will discuss each of those elements in detail.
The 8 Elements of a Stellar Article
To give your article the best-possible shot at success, we recommend the following:
- Comprehensiveness: Write at least 1,000 words of informative, articulate, helpful content. Include a lot of relevant questions and answers that your readers will find useful.
- A Straightforward Title: Write a concise and descriptive title that closely matches what someone might type into a search engine.
- Logical Formatting That Is Easy to Scan: Break the page up into logical, topical sections with clean, conversational subtitles to make it easier for readers to scan and skip around. Use multiple text capsules, numbering, bullet points, and tables to break the text into bite-size pieces of information.
- Conversational Subtitles: Subtitles should state exactly what the paragraph below it will be about. Use as many subtitles as possible to break up the text, and make them conversational and descriptive.
- High-Quality Photos (Ideally Your Own): Include multiple high-resolution, properly-attributed photos that are relevant to the topic. Some articles, like ones that contain step-by-step instructions, will require more photos than others to be truly excellent.
- A Compelling Author Bio: The Author Bio is the first thing that readers see when they land on your page. Build trust right away by concisely describing your personal experience, expertise, or passion for the subject matter you are writing about.
- A Succinct and Descriptive Summary: Write a succinct and compelling summary that explains what the article will cover. It should contain the phrases someone might type into Google when searching for the topic of your article.
- Clearly Demonstrated Knowledge: Include personal experience with or genuine enthusiasm for the topic. A personal touch makes your writing substantially more relatable and trustworthy! Are you a real estate agent writing about your home-buying tips? Tell readers you're an expert. Are you an avid reader writing a review of your favorite mystery book? Tell readers about your passion for the genre. A good way to include this element is to simply explain why you are writing the article.
Let's have a look at the elements listed above in greater detail:
1. Write a Comprehensive Article
Successful articles are visited by a high number of readers for a reason: they're filled with useful, interesting, quality information—and lots of it.
Include Relevant Questions and Answers
Concrete, useful, and relevant information adds a great deal of utility to an article and will keep readers with you for longer. Think of questions that readers may ask about your topic. Incorporate these questions into your article by writing them as subtitles and answering them the paragraph. The more details and specifics you can give, the more helpful your answer will be. If there are questions and answers that might interrupt the flow of the article, you can create a separate FAQ section at the bottom.
Research Your Competition
Look up your topic in a search engine using likely or common keywords that someone might include in a search. What do all of the articles on the first page offer that your article does not? Pick out all of the useful information you can find to make your article the most comprehensive page on the web for its topic.
Aim to Write at Least 1,000 words
Writing at least 1,000 words will help to ensure that you get as close to covering your topic as possible. While it's great to dive deeply into the subject of your article, never resort to filler text, fluff, personal conjecture, or off-topic rambling. It's better to write an informative and concise 800-word article that completely covers its topic than a rambling 2,000-word article on the same subject that digresses frequently. You're shooting for a refined and informative body of text supported by great media. Whenever possible, include specific, concrete information such as names, times, dates, prices, numbers, statistics, and references to studies.
2. A Straightforward Title
Titles bring traffic, so take some time to craft an excellent one! Excellent titles are titles that accurately reflect what your article is going to cover, and should be written in a conversational tone. Use words that closely match what someone might type into Google if they were searching for the topic. For example, if your article is about how to jump-start a motorcycle, your title could be or include the phrase “how to jump start a motorcycle.”
Titles should also be concise. Use this title tool provided by Moz to check whether your title will get shortened. Trim it down if it’s too long.
3. Logical Formatting That Is Easy to Scan
Your readers don’t typically have the leisure of reading every word from start to finish. Long chunks of text also look overwhelming, and readers may hit the back button if it takes them too long to find the answer to their question.
Here are the best practices for creating attractive, easy-to-scan formatting:
Get to the Point
Readers want to find information quickly, so try to keep tangential thoughts to a minimum. If you have interesting facts you want to highlight, use a Callout capsule to make the information pop!
Keep the Introduction Short and Sweet
The introduction serves as a brief summary of what your article will cover before you jump into the details. You can include one to two brief sentences about your personal experience or expertise, but keep it short and sweet.
Use Multiple Text Capsules With Descriptive Subtitles
The vast majority of visitors to your articles have a very short attention span and will be happiest if you make it easy for them to skip around and find the information they’re looking for. For a great reader experience, use multiple Text capsules and give each capsule a subtitle that describes exactly what the capsule is going to talk about.
Use Numbered Lists, Bullet Points, and Tables
Lists and tables break information into bite-size pieces that are easy to scan. We encourage you to include them whenever they may be relevant. Lists are great for creating a Table of Contents that introduces and summarizes an article’s main points, and tables are excellent for contrasting different types of information, compiling prices, sharing timetables, and summarizing data.
Great for summarizing price comparisons
Summarizes the ideas of an article
Excellent for comparing different things
Great for step-by-step instructions
Great for organizing movie/place/store info
Creates a logical order
The Table Capsule can compare various points much more efficiently than a simple Text Capsule.
Break It Up!
4. Conversational Subtitles
Use as many subtitles as possible to break up the text and facilitate scanning. Make subtitles concise, conversational, and descriptive. They should state exactly what the paragraph(s) below it will be about.
Subtitles should also follow a logical hierarchy. In the Text Capsule toolbar, you will find a drop-down menu with options for Heading 2 and Heading 3. Heading 2 is higher up in the hierarchy and Heading 3 is typically used to highlight supporting information under a Heading 2 subtitle. This Owlcation article demonstrates the best way to write and use subtitles.
5. High-Quality, Original Photos
Photos play a huge role in an article. Choosing the right photos as well as including a sufficient number of photos engages your readers for longer periods of time and can impact your article's success.
Use Original Photos Whenever Possible
You don't have to have a good camera or be a professional photographer! If the photos you take on your phone help to get your message across or do a good job of illustrating a project or process, use them! Your readers will appreciate the visual information and authenticity because original photos demonstrate that you are enough of an expert to have your own images (i.e. you have done the project, visited the place, read the book, or owned the product you are writing about).
If You Must Use Others' Photos, Properly Attribute Them!
Stolen, watermarked, or improperly cited photos are a sign of an author's inexperience and can drastically reduce the quality of an article. It should also go without saying that stealing or improperly attributing a Creative Commons photo violates copyright law. For advice on where to find Creative Commons and Public Domain photos, as well as tips on proper attribution, visit our Learning Center guide on legal image use.
Use High-Quality Photos
Your photos don't need to be of professional quality, but we recommend using only photos that are crisp and clear. Pixelated and very blurry images are against our rules. We also don't recommend using stock photos as they can come across as spammy.
Use Relevant Photos
The photos you include in your article should be on topic and add to your article's message. Select them carefully. A few meaningful photos are always better than a bunch of random images.
Some Topics Need More Photos Than Others
An article that gives step-by-step instructions is likely to need a lot of photos. Your readers will want to see each step to make sure that they are following the instructions correctly and that they will get the appropriate result. An article on how to do a math problem, on the other hand, may not easily lend itself to images. Include at least one relevant photo in every article, but keep in mind that some articles can still be great with just one photo while others will require more.
6. A Compelling Author Bio
Aside from the title, your author bio is the first thing that readers see when they land on your page. This is your opportunity to prove to your audience why you are qualified to write about the topic. Concisely state your interest, experience, and/or expertise. If you are writing a “Your Money or Your Life” topic—a topic that could adversely affect someone’s health or financial stability—the author bio is crucial. Without an appropriate bio, readers will have no reason to believe your content is accurate and will hit the back button before they even start reading!
7. A Succinct and Descriptive Summary
Every single article you write should have a custom summary that you can enter in the Summary box below the title while in edit mode.
The summary should offer a succinct and polished statement of what your article covers. Whatever you write should give potential readers a good reason to stop by and read, so choose your words carefully, and don't let grammar mistakes go by unnoticed!
Add a Summary Under Your Title While in Edit Mode
8. Clearly Demonstrated Knowledge
In addition to providing a trustworthy bio, it helps to demonstrate passion, experience, and expertise within the article. You can demonstrate these in a number of ways:
- Original Photos: Have you made the recipe or used the product? Include photos you’ve taken yourself to show readers your hands-on experience.
- State Your Experience/Expertise in the Introduction: Inject a personal touch by describing your experience or your expertise with the topic. If you are a professional pool cleaner, for example, you can say, “I’ve used this very method with my clients, and I always get great results.” If you’ve tried a weight-loss diet, briefly describe your results.
- Use “I” Statements Throughout the Article: You can introduce some personal experience by injecting your own opinion throughout the article. For example, if you are reviewing a collection of headphones, tell readers exactly what you love or don’t love about each product. If writing about a recipe, give some personal tips, such as “I don’t recommend replacing sugar with syrup here because the cookie will fall apart too easily.” A personal touch really hooks the reader and makes your content more relatable and trustworthy!
What about you?
Do you usually include polls or quizzes in your articles?
Our Secret Extra Tip: Update Your Article to Keep Up With the Competition
Including the elements above in your article will give it a huge leg up when it comes to getting significant long-term traffic. That said, going back and updating your article several months after publishing it can also significantly influence its shot at success. If you have the data to update the article yourself, you can look to see what queries your article is getting traffic for and expand your answers to those queries.
However, if you prefer to leave your article alone and spend time writing new articles on the topics you love, the HubPages Editing Team will do all of the updating for you to help you find even more success. Happy writing!