You’re a writer, a creator, and you write some pretty excellent content! Your work looks great on your blog, or even here on GameSkinny… Just, not enough people are actually reading or linking to your articles.
That’s lame. This handy guide is here to help!
You can get a ton of views on your articles, trust me. But you’ll have to put the work in and be aware of every little edge you might be able to gain. There is no whizz-bang easy way to get more views, no “one simple trick,” and no shortcuts. You aren’t just missing a word or a sentence that will magically get you more views, it’s not a quick fix: there’s a whole mentality and style to writing the best of the best view-growing posts.
This article is for any blogger or writer looking to make it big, but the examples will all be gaming-oriented. GameSkinny is a site where our writers can earn money for writing with our Bounty program.
I’ve been editing at GameSkinny about two years. I’ve worked on, and have seen results from, an average of about 80 articles per week. My experience encapsulates a large sample size, to say the least. I’ve worked with writers who have a handful of views and writers who have millions of views. With grizzled experience under my belt and dashboard analytics twinkling in my eyes, I’m going to lay down some knowledge.
A GameSkinny user’s dashboard.
1. Before You Write, Do Your Homework
Slow down, tiger. Pre-writing legwork is just as important, if not more important, than writing excellent content. If you don’t know what topics are worth writing about, you’re likely wasting your time. You need to look at a map to figure out where you’re going before you start to drive, so to speak.
Before you even put a key press to your word processor, you had better plan out exactly what you are going to write and why. Put in some time researching your topic and the topic’s audience, as well as the community surrounding the topic and what resources they already have access to. In this section, we’ll explore the mindset necessary to find great topics.
A. Is There an Audience? Who is It?
Please, don’t answer ‘gamers!’ You’re smarter than that. Ask yourself some of these specific questions as you try to plan your topic research:
Find a niche to explore and thrive in.
What game or piece of technology are you specifically after? Are other people actually interested in that? If they are, what about that topic will those interested people be looking for? Does the audience already have access to an article like the one you are about to write? If yes, is it any good? If no, is that because no one is looking for that kind of content?
B. “Can I Prove There is an Audience?”
Take some time to look at some free tools like Google Trends, Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Keyword.io, and Ubersuggest (right image). Spend some time in the official forums or subreddits or fan site forums of whatever game or topic you want to pursue: get down in the trenches with your fellow gamers and find out if anyone is going to want to read what you are planning on writing. What are people talking about?
If a popular post on Reddit is asking: “How do I Beat the First Wing of Blackrock Mountain?” Then maybe you should write a guide about that.
You need to find proof that people are out there looking for information about a topic. If you write about something you can’t prove there’s demand for, then don’t be surprised if no one wants to read your article.
Find a niche to thrive in.
Too general to be useful: “I’m writing an article for Minecraft players because I know Minecraft is big!”
Fantastic niche research: “I’m writing an article for Minecraft players who are looking for world seeds with villages in them because there are several popular forum threads asking for good village seed suggestions. I checked Google Trends and the statistics confirm this is a popular search topic.”
Reddit can be a great place to gauge interest in a topic.
C. What is the Best Way to Present This Information?
Before you sit to write, know what you’re about to get into and what kind of formatting you should use. Think about what the information is and how you can most effectively convey it. In terms of formatting and presentation, what does your article NEED in order to solve your reader’s problem? It is paramount that you find the best way to present your information (we’ll touch on this more in the formatting section below).
Here are a few examples:
Bread Recipe: Image of the bread, a bullet list of ingredients, a numbered list of steps, maybe a paragraph or two about the process and theory.
Pokemon Capture Guide: Names and images of each Pokemon, where to find them, when to find (if relevant), and any special notes. A long list or table would work well.
Item Location Guide: A table with items, names of locations, coordinates, possibly some special notes or screenshots if necessary. A small intro and outro would be great for providing context and bookending the table.
How to Get More Views Guide: A few short paragraphs for each section, scannable headings and subheadings, proof of numbers, examples, bullet lists of important items, screenshots of specific concepts where relevant, links to additional resources. Oh, and add a snarky, self-referential example in there somewhere.
D. Research: What’s Out There Already?
If you want to write about a specific game or topic, the first thing you should do is open Google and search for it. What comes up? Whatever you find should give a good idea of what the competition is: you should look to be better, offer more value, and have better formatting than the top links.
Whatever you are about to write, open up the current best piece of content about that topic. Got it open? Good. Now write a better article than that. If your content isn’t better than what’s already out there, why would anyone read a new, less-good article? Think about it from the reader’s perspective.
Let’s continue our Minecraft example from earlier:
“…I checked Google Trends and the statistics confirm this is a popular search topic. There is currently only one article out there with a ton of great village seeds, but it’s poorly formatted and has no screenshots of the seed worlds. These gamers aren’t going to want to load up the seed just to see what it looks like: so, my article will have excellent screenshots, even if I have to take them myself. This extra effort will make my article better than the other articles currently out there.”
E. What do You KNOW Gets Views?
Don’t reinvent the wheel before you prove that you can ride your first bike. Start with something basic, standard, that you know will get views. If you can get a couple thousand views off of something you know works, then you can start venturing into more creative territory with confidence.
But, trust me, you aren’t above writing a Top Ten List until you’ve got at least one successfully under your belt.
Let’s think about what tends to work. None of these should be a surprise:
- How-tos, guides, and tutorials
Here are some things that do not tend to get many views:
- News, announcements, and updates
- Speculation and opinion pieces
- Articles tied to a recent event or announcement
- Reviews (sorry!)
This is not say those types of content aren’t great – they are! A happy content-oriented site or blog needs a healthy mix of different types of content. But if you are gunning for views, and nothing but views, maybe skip that review until you have a larger following.
As a total rebuttal to myself, I wanted to briefly talk about when and how it IS ok to write these things that typically don’t get a ton of views. Each has value other than pure views – and that’s important to consider.
- News, announcements, and updates are very easy to write and make for perfect opportunities to quickly practice your ability to present information clearly. Don’t underestimate how much you can learn here!
- Also, if you do manage to scoop news first, that could be huge.
- Speculation and opinion pieces are generally low-impact for all but well-known pundits. But, occasional well-written pieces that shake up the conversation can hit big.
- There is still a place for hard-hitting, event-specific journalism.. but success stories are few and far between. You are really going to need suprise everyone.
- Reviews have a lot to teach us about providing just the necessary amount of context and summary. They also teach us a lot about analysis and screenshots (more important than you’d think)!
2. Awesome Content is a Requirement
Ok, you’ve gone through the first part of the process: you have a good topic that you know people are looking for. Hot damn, this audience is going to be so stoked about it! Now you need to actually write it. And write it well (that means you need to proofread).
This isn’t a middle school paper that you can submit at the last second and pray you get a C+ on; if you want to get views, then you had better be bringing your A++ game. We aren’t trying to appease an elderly English teacher, we’re trying to write an article that will knock a skeptical Redditor’s socks off.
Besides great writing, a great article is going to need a few key things to get a lot of views:
- We’ll need an excellent headline
- We’ll definitely need excellent formatting
- We’ll need to solve whatever problem our reader is looking to solve
- We’ll need to write something that we’d share with a friend even if we didn’t write it ourselves.
Let’s go over each of these points, one by one. Each point is equally important and deserves consideration! If you have selected a great topic and you nail each of these four things, you will totally rock your reader’s world. And, importantly, you will start to see your dashboard numbers climb.
A. If You Don’t Have a Killer Headline, No One Will Click on the Article in the First Place
I know, I know – big surprise, huh?
Be clear, be direct, and be deliberate. Use your headline to make sure your reader knows exactly what your article is going to be about from the get-go. Don’t try to be clever with your headlines; give away the “punchline” right away in the headline and allow the rest of the article to flesh out all the details.
There is a lot of science behind writing the best headlines and what that means, what words to use, and so forth. I’m not going to go into that, but there are some great resources for those who search. There are a lot of impressive statistics – but there is one, singular lesson you need to know about writing a good headline:
If I don’t know what an article is about, I’m not going to click on it. And I certainly won’t be looking for it.
If you are reading this article, that means something about the headline resonated with you. You were looking for information about getting more views, or at least you thought this article might add some value to your life. But when you made the choice to click on this article, you hadn’t read it: you had only read the headline.
B. If Your Formatting Is Bad, People Will Click Away
Most people will scan an article before they decide to read it. You may have scanned this article, or maybe you are scanning right now!
If you squint at formatting, you should be able to see major sections.
[Credit: Baker Bettie]
Anyone who spends time online has an incredible amount of content thrown at them every day; we just can’t read every word of every article we click. It’s just a fact of the information age. We will click on an article and immediately scan to decide whether or not that article is worth our time or has the information we want. Good formatting can help someone determine an article’s usefulness, quickly.
This means we NEED to consider readers’ scanning habits when we write.
If you haven’t noticed, this article is broken into easy-to-digest sections of a few short paragraphs each. The sections are clearly defined with headings and subheadings, and there are numbers and letters for each section to help you navigate. This article is designed, intentionally, to cater to people who scan articles.
We can improve our formatting by using visual landmarks. I have a whole article and video about visual landmarks and formatting, but here are some quick pointers:
- Use headings and subheadings
- Bulleted and numbered lists are great
- Images, gifs, and videos can draw attention
- Embedded media like Tweets, polls, and widgets give readers interactive stimulation
- Readers are, by nature, scanners
- A wall of text can be a death knell
If you have a great topic, and a great headline, then you’ll get people to your page. But, if you don’t have excellent formatting jiu-jitsu up your sleeves, then your article will struggle to keep those hard-earned viewers. If people like your content and the formatting keeps them around, they’ll tell others about the article, they’ll return to the article and they’ll be infinitely more likely to click on your other articles.
C. Your Reader Has a Problem, Help Them Solve It
Think. What do you use Google for most often? Ok, ok, besides spell-checking?
Most likely, you use Google to find answers to your questions! “How do I make bread?” “What’s in a margarita?” “What are some cool Minecraft seeds?” “What’s the most expensive video game ever made?” “How tall is the Empire State Building?”
Maybe they aren’t exactly questions, but you might be looking for something pretty specific when you search for things like: “cool Mario tattoos,” or “Clash of Clans townhall level 6 defense,” or “cheap gaming desk,” and so on.
Stop and consider: what words do you put into your Google searches?
Whatever the case may be, your reader is looking for something specific and wants to find it. They don’t want to muck around too long with your intro, they don’t care enough to dig through dense paragraphs, and they will leave the article within 10 seconds if they can’t confirm that your article is worth their time.
Be clear, be direct, openly state the main points of your article, and help your reader solve whatever problem they have.
D. Golden Rule: “Would I Share This If I Didn’t Write It?”
I’ve talked about this Golden Rule before, it’s a pretty big deal! If you want other people to share your article, you need to make sure your article is something you’d share even if you didn’t write it yourself.
Now, don’t cop out and say “Well, I don’t share articles, so this doesn’t apply to me,” or something like that. The key to this point is pride; you should be creating content that you are proud to show off.
This concept is often called “eating your own dog food” and that roughly translates to: if you only had one article about this topic, would you pick yours or someone else’s? Would you, be bluntly honest, use that cheap gaming desk guide you wrote if you need a new desk? Or would you look elsewhere? Think about your content from your readers’ perspective. If you don’t think your article is the #1 source you would want, then your reader won’t think so either.
3. The “Extras” Are Required
Once you have your killer article, a perfect headline, flawless formatting, and an article that even the most scrupulous internet-dweller would love, then there are a few extra tidbits and lesser-known technical tricks to help your articles achieve new heights.
We’re talking about the “extra” bits, the “optional” things, and the “extra credit” tasks of article publishing. These are things that are not necessary to publish a full article, but will help your fledgling article’s chances significantly.
Each of the following items affects things on more than just your article. We’re talking about also how your article ranks in Google (SEO), what your site looks like in a thumbnail, how a reader might find you through tags, and how you link internally on-site and between articles.
A. Use Interesting Header Images/Videos
Not only will header media look great at the top of an article, it will look even better outside of an article; that header image will end up being your thumbnail. Having a great header image is like having a great headline: it’s the only visual of your article that your reader sees before click on it.
Your header image is the visual representation of the article!
Your article thumbnail will show up in home pages, suggested article sidebars, and most forms of social media. A header image or video might not always feel necessary, but it will really make a difference.
B. Use Tags That Serve Your Reader
Ashley S already has a wonderful article on GS about building an audience through tagging, so I’ll be brief on this one. An effective tag will help shepherd readers to and from similar topics. Tags don’t have quite as much to do with SEO as we once thought, but they are still important: tags serve as mini-directories for related articles. If a reader is interested in your topic, they will likely be looking for similar articles; this is exactly what tags are for.
On GameSkinny, and many other sites, tags dictate what sorts of articles will show up in the Related Articles sidebar.
C. Brush Up on Your SEO
Search Engine Optimization is a bit intimidating and, to some, it might appear to be voodoo witchcraft. SEO is a complex topic that we simply can’t get into too much detail right now, but suffice it to say: if you use certain keywords and focus on building authentic backlinks, shares, and overall ‘internet reputation’ (or ‘street cred’, depending on how you look it), then your posts will be much more trusted by search engines. And, since most traffic tends to come from searches, aiming for a high page rank very good thing.
Here are a few resources that I like to refer novices to for SEO basics:
- Beginner’s Guide to SEO from MOZ
- Intro to SEO for Writers from About.com
- Writing SEO Pages by Jeff Goins
- SEO 101 for Writers & Publishers from SearchEngineJournal
Researching SEO-friendly keywords in Keyword Planner
D. Write a Useful Meta Description (Skinny)
A good meta description, we call this the ‘skinny’ on GameSkinny, can make a huge difference by doing a few things:
- Meta descriptions will show up in Google search results (SEO)
- They will also show up in the top of your post
- They will summarize useful parts of your article
- BUT it will not simply repeat what your headline says
A good meta description will be a sort of secondary headline: what else can you say to convince a reader that this article is what they are looking for? Meta descriptions take up an area of prime real estate both on and off your posts; getting it right is very valuable.
The same meta description in search, in article, and in GameSkinny’s editor.
E. Provide Image Alt-Text/Image Description
As of right now, Google can’t actually know what an image is about unless there is text attached to it. If you search for ‘Master Chief’, a search engine doesn’t actually know what that looks like – but that search engine will look for words like ‘Halo’, ‘Spartan’, and ‘Master Chief’ that are attached to images, and it will make a guess based on the associated alt-text.
So, the easiest way to clue a search engine in? Write an image description or alt-text with relevant keywords by modifying the image’s properties. It’s pretty simple to do and can make a huge difference.
Once that’s done, your article will have a greater chance of coming up in Google searches and image searches.
One day, we’ll have advanced Machine Learning programs that don’t need image descriptions and alt-text to identify images – but, until then, make sure you are taking the time to optimize your visual content for search engine robots.
If you want to learn more about writing SEO-friendly alt-text, I recommend this article.
F. Link to Other On-Site Sources First, Off-Site Sources Second
This is one of the biggest mistakes that I see people consistently make.
If you are going to provide links for your reader (and that’s a great idea!) provide your own links first and wherever possible. If a reader is interested in learning more about a topic, then let them indulge that interest – just don’t send them to another site! The more a reader spends on your own site, the better. This is so important that we actually built our own Existing Content Finder tool for GameSkinny just to make this easier for our writers.
On a site like GameSkinny, where there are hundreds of active writers, there’s bound to be an article or piece of coverage relevant to what you want to link to.
If there isn’t anything on your own site to link to, use this priority list:
- Write the desired article yourself, then link to it
- Look to friends, fellow on-site writers, and trusted blogs for links
- If all else fails, find reputable links elsewhere
But, regardless, try to find something to link to that you’ve written before looking elsewhere. Keep it all ‘in the family’ and promote your own content, or promote your contacts’ content (they might repay the favor later, which is awesome).
Again, be sure that the first link in your article is to another article on your site, if possible. Don’t send your readers off-site with your first link; they might not come back.
4. Share! Avoid the “Field of Dreams Trap”
Too many people take to heart the iconic line from Field of Dreams (1989): “If you build it, they will come.”
Sorry, but you’re not Kevin Costner and that’s just not going to happen with your articles!
It might feel overly-indulgent to share too much of your work, and that’s a really just a cultural thing. We’ve always been instructed to be modest, to avoid hubris, and to not brag about how great we are. However, we need to check this cultural norm at the door if we actually want to get views on our articles.
Tell everyone. Just don’t be a jerk about it.
A. Here Are a Few Great Places to Share
All of the below are excellent places to share your content, but -please- don’t share before doing a little research on each site. For example, if you don’t abide by Reddit’s 9:1 content posting ratio, you might get yourself and GameSkinny banned from a subreddit! Be sure to read the next section for more tips.
- Relevant subreddits (not broad ones, like r/gaming)
- Fan and official topic forums
B. Abide By the Holy 9:1 Ratio on Reddit (and N4G, StumbleUpon, even Others)
According to common Reddiquette practices: if you post 10 links to Reddit, only 1 of those links should be something you wrote/created and 9 should be from other creators. This is the 9:1 ratio. That means you need to be an active member of the community if you want to get the most out of it. No sharing site or forum wants to be abused for views.
Reddit’s “Reddiquette” explains 9:1 ratio.
If you don’t respect the rules of the community you are trying to share with, then don’t expect that community to respect you or your content.
This 9:1 ratio has been pretty regularly adopted by most other sharing sites as a way to curtail people who are just looking for self-promotion. Sharing sites are looking for a healthy balance of content, not just everything that you wrote! If you don’t abide by this 9:1 ratio, many sharing sites will ban you without hesitation, and this may be a black mark on your entire website.
So, please, share carefully!
When it comes to Facebook and Twitter:
For personal social media accounts, we also suggest moderation. Your friends and followers don’t just want an RSS feed of your articles, they want a healthy mix of content types in their feeds.
- Twitter: We suggest the 5-3-2 rule of mixing content and personal status updates. For every 10 posts: 5 of others’ content, 3 of your content, and 2 personal status updates.
- Facebook: The 5-3-2 ratio is still great here, but I’d also suggest a different 4:1 ratio. For every 4 status updates and/or others’ links, 1 link to one of your articles is generally ok. But keep an eye on this – you don’t want your actual friends to unfollow you on Facebook!
C. Use Tools Like Buffer
There are a lot of great, free tools out there for social sharing – take the time to find the ones that work best for you. Good social tools are invaluable and can help you schedule posts, discover social analytics trends, measure interaction, and figure out the best times to be on social media.
Buffer in action on GameSkinny
GameSkinny uses Buffer, Hootsuite, and Tweetdeck on a regular basis for article promotion. These tools have free plugins and extensions that are make them very handy to use.
D. Tell Relevant People On Twitter
If you wrote an article about an indie developer, tell them on Twitter. If you featured a cosplayer in a slideshow, let that cosplayer know. If you wrote an article on journalism internships and you know someone who is looking for a journalism internship, then reach out and inform them that you have a killer article they should read!
Twitter is an awesome resource and the network you build can be invaluable. Every retweet you get can increase your view potential exponentially.
E. Use Images on Facebook and Twitter
Don’t jump the gun and share a link, share an image instead and provide the link next to it. At this point, it is a well-known fact that visual media is better-absorbed than text on social media by enormous degrees of scale.
Share an image and more people will actually see it. Simple as that.
5. Check Out All of GameSkinny’s Other Guides and Tips
Up your writing game with our other writing tips and tricks. We put in a lot of effort into these guides for our writers and we think we’ve got some pretty rad content.
This guide is pretty comprehensive, but it’s not the only resource you have on GameSkinny for improving your writing: we have loads more guides on our main writing tips page. Not only that but we also have a few case studies of specific articles that really took off.
6. Don’t Stop Here!
And don’t just stop at GameSkinny guides! Obviously, we’re going to promote our own content, but be aware that this is not the only article on the internet about getting views. Look up what other sources have to say. One of the best ways to stay ahead in the pageview game is to constantly be looking for more advice, new tips, and updated insights.
There’s a whole wide world of useful tips and tricks out there, this is just your introduction. Take to Google, learn as much as you can, and ride your dashboard stats into the sky!