Q&A: How Do I Create an Article Set?

From the Mailbag: The Questions and Answers of Article Writers and Content Marketers Shared Just Like You!

Whether you didn’t know to ask, were too busy to ask, or didn’t think it was important enough to ask, you know there’s a huge benefit to listening in to the responses of other people’s questions. It’s one of the reasons talk shows have been such a huge hit: We can learn from the experiences of others and gain expert advice to apply to our own lives.

With this benefit in mind, I’m excited to introduce a new series that will post our Expert Authors writing and content marketing questions and we’ll answer them – in great depth – right here for you. So let’s stop killing time and get to it!

Janice from New Zealand writes:

I recently wrote an article that was too long on its own, so I separated it into two articles. When I submitted them, I received a reply that they were not considered suitable for publication because they were not complete on their own. How do I create an article set so each article stands on its own, but it also connects to the other article?

Accidental Article Sets

What Janice is describing is what we refer to as an Accidental Article Set. For example:

You intend to write one article between 500-700 words and then find yourself on a writing roll that produces 1,500-2,000 words. It’s a fantastic article that’s jam-packed with relevant and informative tips and insights, but it’s overly long for your audience. One solution is to split the article in half, give the other half a new title, an introduction, and conclusion to form an article set.

How to Turn One Lengthy Article into an Article Set

1. Find the Natural Break in the Article

In order for an article to be successfully sliced into two, the reader must gain the full benefit of one article without having read the other(s). To do this, you need to find the natural break in your article. Let’s dissect Janice’s article to show this.

Janice’s first draft, which we’ll call “Method XYZ: Why You Should Do It and Best Practices,” was broken up into 6 sections that resemble a frequently used style in article writing.

  • The Hook: Introduction
  • The Thing: What Is It?
  • The Benefit: Why Should You Do It?
  • The Method(s): How to Do It?
  • The Conclusion: Call-to-Action
  • The Resource Box: Relevant Information About the Author & Links

This format easily lends itself to the creation of an article set because there are natural breaks:

“Method XYZ: What it Is and How it Can Help You”

  • The Hook: Introduction
  • The Thing: What Is It?
  • The Benefit: Why Should You Do It?
  • The Conclusion: Call-to-Action (Link to Next Article in the Series)
  • The Resource Box: Relevant Information About the Author & Links

“Method XYZ: Best Practices to Get the Most Benefit”

  • The Hook: Introduction (Quick Recap of What it Is and the Benefit)
  • The Method(s): How to Do It?
  • The Conclusion: Call-to-Action (Link to the Previous Article in the Series)
  • The Resource Box: Relevant Information About the Author & Links

Remember to ask yourself: “Does the reader have to look at my other articles in this series to get the benefit?” If the answer is yes, then the article does not stand alone and it’s not ready for submission. Ensure the article stands alone to amplify the power of your article set by providing so much benefit that the reader seeks out more articles written by you.

2. Ensure the Title Delivers on the Promise

Let’s say I wrote an article titled “5 Critical Action Steps to Article Writing Success” and each step bloomed into 400-500 words. That’s potentially well over 2,000-2,500 words. So I decide to split the article off after each step (while ensuring that each article body stands alone).

Examples of Titles That Don’t Deliver

If I’m like many writers, I may try to tack on a “Step I” or “Part I” for an easy title fix, like in the following titles:

  • 5 Critical Action Steps to Article Writing Success: Step I
  • Critical Action Steps to Article Writing Success: Step I

The above titles present a problem for prospective readers and publishers:

In the first title, the article doesn’t deliver the 4 steps beyond step 1, so the title does not deliver on its promise of “5 Critical Action Steps.”

In both titles, simply tagging a Step I, Step II, etc. on each article title doesn’t quite work either because it implies the article is incomplete. If the reader finds the article at Step III, then they will either have to dig around for Steps I and II to catch up or will continue on to Steps IV and V and decide whether it’s worth it to back track to I or II later. More likely, they will move on to an article that’s more accessible to them without having to skip ahead or move backward.

In either case, if you are concerned about improving your ability to be syndicated (getting picked up by ezines, website publishers, or content curators), accessibility is just as important. Frankly, an article series will rarely get picked up and distributed by publishers because they are looking for specific content. Not everything in your series might be relevant to them and pragmatically, they are allotted 25 articles per year to syndicate from EzineArticles.com on their website or in their newsletters. They are unlikely to seek out all 5 articles in your series because that’s a huge gamble with their audience and it would leave them with only 20 articles left to share for the rest of the year.

Examples of Titles That Do Deliver

  • Critical Action Step to Create Article Writing Success: Objective Prewriting
  • Critical Action Step to Create Article Writing Success: Plan and Outline
  • Critical Action Step to Create Article Writing Success: Write with Abandon
  • Critical Action Step to Create Article Writing Success: Edit Mercilessly
  • Critical Action Step to Create Article Writing Success: Proofread Critically

Notice a common theme of these titles? It’s a series of article titles that are distributor friendly because they don’t have numbers! Instead of using phrases like “Part 1 of 3” to identify your articles in a series, use a phrase that’s engaging and descriptive.

Linking Article Sets Together

Once all of the articles in the set or series are live, you can go back and update your articles to include the link to the next part in the series and vice versa. Returning to the example of Janice’s article set, she made the article set more accessible to readers by using the following language at the end of her articles:

  • Article I

    Ready for the next step? Discover more in “Method XYZ: Best Practices to Get the Most Benefit” at [the link to her next article]

  • Article II

    Did you miss “Method XYZ: What it Is and How it Can Help You”? No problem! You can view it at [the link to her previous article]

Please note that links to your articles are still considered self-serving and are counted toward your maximum allotment of 2 self-serving links in each article submission. In this example, Janice provided the link to the other article at the very end of her article body and then provided a link to her website in the Resource Box. Also, links are not allowed above the fold, including links to other articles.

When Accidental Article Sets Might Not Work

In a pinch, Accidental Article Sets work. However, some articles are more difficult to split than others. For example:

“20 Ways to Save Money”

In cases like these – where a list of ways, methods, tips, etc. is used – bigger is better. Larger numbers at the beginning of titles tend to take the lead over articles featuring smaller numbers because users like well-packaged information that’s tangible (i.e., in one place). For example, users will be more inclined to click the article titled “20 Ways to Save Money” over “10 Ways to Save Money Part I” and “10 Ways to Save Money Part II” because the former offers more promise to fulfill their needs on one fell swoop.

Other articles it may be difficult (but not impossible) to split include product reviews and instructional articles (e.g., Step-by-Step/How-To/DIY).

Redesign Your Article into a Set or Series

Alternately, (if you’re not pushing up against a deadline and can dedicate a little more time to your article) consider taking a step back: Reassess your approach to the article by narrowing the topic. For example, “20 Ways to Save Money” may appeal to a very broad audience, but it will also compete with a ton of content just like it. To increase your chances of success and rise above the saturation of content available, target specific audience segments and then narrow the topic:

  • 20 Ways to Save Money for College (audience: high-school students and their parents/guardians)
  • 20 Ways to Save Money for Your Wedding (audience: women between the ages of 25-35 and couples)
  • 20 Ways to Save Money for Your Retirement (audience: adults between the ages of 20-40)

And so on and so forth. We might find some common methods to save money between these audiences (such as “skip those daily lattes and put the money in the bank”). However, a college student has a unique set of needs and priorities than a couple saving for their wedding. It’s up to the author to address those priorities and meet those needs in how they present the method.

If you can, plan an article series in advance, but feel free to take advantage of the simplicity an Accidental Article Set offers to increase your exposure and keep readers happy. Just remember: Always deliver on the title and ensure your articles can stand on their own so nothing comes between your readers and a great user experience.

Do you prefer article sets or individual articles? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you and don’t forget to stay tuned for more “From the Mailbag” posts.

13 Comments »


1
Evylyn writes:

Thank you so much for posting this and starting this new series.

I’ve had several article ideas lined up that I’ve been holding off on because of this very issue. They would make a perfect article set, but I wasn’t sure the best way to go about it. The “Examples of Titles That Do Deliver” was particularly useful as it let me know I was already on the right track. Thanks again.

Comment provided February 21, 2014 at 11:29 AM

[Reply]

You’re welcome, Evylyn!

I’m happy we were able to provide you with useful information on a topic you had issues with.

If you have any suggestions for future topics you are struggling with please let us know!

~Vanessa

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2
Laura Longville writes:

Fantastic and practical article. I’m starting on my own article set!

Comment provided February 21, 2014 at 12:41 PM

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3
Mark writes:

Prefer individual articles.

Comment provided February 21, 2014 at 3:37 PM

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4
D.RaghavendraRao writes:

This is the most useful information which helps new copy writers like me to learn and earn. Now I want to start sending an article (copy writing) . Please guide me how to start so that I will send to you an article as soon as possible and also indicate the subject to write copy writing.D.RaghavendraRao

Comment provided February 22, 2014 at 12:31 AM

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5

This post itself is very long: should have been turned into a set. However, it is sweet to read than to write such sets.

Comment provided February 22, 2014 at 2:22 AM

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6
Lance Winslow writes:

I actually end up doing this very thing quite often, and it’s always worked well for me, and it sure helps the article volume as well, which is also an important thing to remember.

Comment provided February 22, 2014 at 4:06 AM

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7
Tammy Dillard writes:

Many times, these types of situations accour when article length excessive increase and condition don’t permit to us publish it all. I would like to go with individual article sets. Thanks, insightful article!

Comment provided February 22, 2014 at 11:53 AM

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8
Mark writes:

I prefer have a single article over a set because of the reason you mentioned you can get lost in between articles.

Comment provided February 23, 2014 at 1:15 AM

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9

I have recently begun writing an e-book about an Islad. I have now split up the e-book, the same way as suggested for articles. When I’m done I would like to write articles in sets that refer to happenings on the Island and my e-books.

Comment provided February 23, 2014 at 8:13 AM

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10
Afzol Ahmed writes:

Very Nice Content and thank you for sharing..

Comment provided March 6, 2014 at 7:31 PM

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11
Susan Dobson writes:

Very informative information. Thank you for sharing it was very helpful

Comment provided March 7, 2014 at 12:34 PM

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12
Scotty Cottell writes:

I want write an article set about my live BUSKING with guitar, so this is helpful information. Thank you!

Comment provided March 12, 2014 at 11:33 AM

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