Whatever you're selling, writing articles to distribute freely amongst webmasters is one of the best ways of getting yourself and your service known.
Although I know nothing much about cheese, for example, I'm sure there are all sorts of ways an article could be angled. Cheese comparisons, the way various cheeses are made, where they originate from, recipes for cheese based meals are all ideas that immediately spring to mind. Some subjects will be easier to find angles for, others more difficult, but everything can be written about.
Well written articles give the reader a good impression of your business. I know I'd be much happier buying cheese from somebody I "knew" had the ability to make educated recommendations than somebody who knew nothing. Convince the reader that you're educated in your subject. That way, when they have to choose between buying from you or your competitor, your name will be the first to spring to mind.
But what constitutes a good article? Let's see.
* The Number One Rule - DO NOT PLAGIARISE
While it's ok to use other material as a source of research, it is not ok to take somebody else's work and simply re-writing it. Not only is it not ok, it's illegal and, if caught, you can be prosecuted.
Don't imagine that because the Net is huge, you won't be caught. Writers have software that can help them locate their material and if they find anything that's too similar to their own work, they may become suspicious. And quite rightly so, too.
* Use Your Introduction
The average web visitor will spend 7 seconds looking for the information they want. If they don't find it, they'll hit the back button.
Make your article leap out and grab them. Have those first sentences pull them in and make the rest of the article scannable. A quick glance down the page should tell them whether the information they want is likely to be there.
Use sub-headings and bullet lists. Keep paragraphs short and use bold text to make important information stand out.
* Strike The Right Balance
It isn't always easy to know exactly how much to write but in general, try not to be too wordy whilst giving the reader the necessary information along with a smattering of your personality.
A list of dull fact probably won't be read but neither will an article that drones on about the history of Amsterdam when the reader really wants to know about Edam cheese!
* Write Articles, Not Adverts
People want information. Anything that looks remotely like an advert will make them suspicious. Think of your own reactions. Do you trust advertisers to tell you the truth about their products? I certainly don't!
Keep your article informative, perhaps humorous, and interesting. If you must mention your company, do it either in the opening paragraph or wait until the concluding paragraph where you might write something like "After 8 years in the cheese making industry, I know only too well just how important the rich, oaken taste is to the truth connoisseur..." This lets the reader know that you really know your cheese and leads them to look for more information, in your author bio, about your business.
Subtlety is the key!
* Keep It Simple!
When you're an expert on your subject it's very easy to use jargon that others won't necessarily understand. Even if they do, they'd still be happier if you'd used an everyday word that they're comfortable with.
New writers often make the mistake of believing that big words will impress the reader. Who said readers want to be impressed by your vocabulary? It's your knowledge they're interested in, and the simpler your language, the easier it is for them to identify the facts and educate themselves.
When you have a choice, go with the simple word.
One word of warning, though. Don't be repetitive. If you find yourself using the same "little" word over and over, then you need to start looking for alternatives which may mean using some of those fancy words I've just said you should drop.
Nothing's ever cast in stone!
* Proofread and Edit Your Work
If your article isn't properly written, don't bother to distribute it. Nobody will take you seriously if you can't spell or use your apostrophes properly.
While the spell check facility of your word processor is useful, you can't depend on entirely on it. "Can eye have too deserts next weak, please?" would slip through the checker because the individual words are correctly spelled. That doesn't make them right, though, does it?
If your spelling and grammar's a little rusty, use the web's resources to help polish your skills. My personal recommendations are:
Dictionary.com - http://www.dictionary.com
Guide To Grammar & Writing - http://cctc.commnet.edu/grammar/
When you've finished writing, go through your work with a fine toothed comb and find every mistake. Then go through it again. Try to keep the writing tight by getting rid of any unnecessary padding.
Proofreading and editing are just as important and the actual writing and can often take just as long.
* Make Use of Your Resource Box
Free articles are used on the understanding that the author's resource box is to remain intact. This is a short informative piece at the end of the article that tells the reader more about the author. Look at the bottom of this article for an example. These are sometimes called "author bios".
Your resource box is where you advertise your service. Something like:
"Camen Bert has 7 years experience in the cheese making industry and has her own home-made for sale at www.somecheesedomain.com. Visit her store buy speciality cheeses as well as find lots more cheese related information."
Hopefully, if the reader wants to know more, he'll follow the link to read further articles (some of which you'll have used exclusively on your site) and while he's there he'll have a wander around the shop. If he sees what he likes, BINGO! A new customer!
* Be Patient
It takes time to build up a reputation as an expert but if you syndicate your articles to enough websites, people will eventually start to recognise your name and even think of it (or your company name) whenever they think cheese.
Obviously, cheese has been used as an example in this article - the product could just as easily have been car tyres, wedding dresses or fishing rods. The product isn't important - how you market it is!
Sharon Jacobsen is a freelance writer living in South Cheshire, England. She's been writing for as long as she can remember and is happy to help others learn from her own experience. To contact Sharon, or learn more about her work, please visit http://www.sharon-jacobsen.co.uk