How to Write an Article That Draws
Thousands of New Readers

image of cheering concert crowd

Imagine you woke up this morning and wrote an article.

Just another article like all the articles you’ve been writing. Except something is different about this one.

Tons of folks are clicking on this article. They’re reading it and forwarding it to friends. They’re signing up to your newsletter in droves. The numbers go into the hundreds, then into the thousands, then into the tens of thousands.

What was it about that single article that created such a surge of traffic?

This exact scenario happened to us. The article was on headlines. We wrote about three specific steps to create pretty awesome headlines.

After giving the article ten minutes of reading time, you’d be able to write a pretty good headline. Better still, you’d know when you got the headline wrong, and when you got it right.

The power of the article wasn’t in the prose

The power was in the three psychological principles we brought into play.

  1. Empowerment
  2. Specific steps
  3. Minefield warnings


Giving your readers the power of new knowledge is the most important thing your articles can do. Empower your reader with a new skill they didn’t have ten minutes ago, and they’ll not only be grateful — they’ll want to get more of what you have to offer.

Empowering articles are like a magic potion. Drink down what it has to say and you walk away stronger, smarter, and more powerful.

Why wouldn’t you get excited and sign up for more of what this article writer has to offer? Why wouldn’t you share it with your friends?

Specific steps

You’ve read how-to articles before. Most of them are like foam on your cappuccino — just fluff.

They seemingly draw you in to tell you ‘five ways to do something’ but each step goes off on a different tangent. After your reader is finished, he still doesn’t feel like he can take action.

Give your article a sequence.

  1. Start here, do this.
  2. Then do this.
  3. Then this.

Step by step, teach how to do something from start to finish. Give your article specific steps in sequence, and you’ve just boosted the power of that magic potion.

Minefield warnings

Telling your client exactly what to do doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be able to execute those steps without tripping up. You have to show them where they might stumble into a trap — we like to think of it as navigating the minefield.

Where they’re likely to get it wrong. Where others have got it wrong before. By showing them potential pitfalls, you continue to empower your reader by giving them the power to anticipate problems before they happen.

It’s like having x-ray vision. You’re creating something amazingly powerful.

What happens next?

When you write an article that hits all of those points, you’ll find that your readers start signing up for your newsletter, forwarding the article to their friends and clients, and tweeting the heck out of the article link.

Why? What makes this article something that people want to pass on?

When you wrote the article, your readers felt empowered by the information, and they felt grateful enough that they signed up for your newsletter or your RSS feed. They may have even bought products, services, or pricey workshops because of how empowered you made them feel.

They wanted more of that feeling.

When your readers pass on the article to others, they get all of those rewards too, just as if they’d written the article themselves. They’re passing on the gift of empowerment — and getting rewarded just like you did, with grateful clients who want to work more with someone who can give them that heady feeling.

But will those tens of thousands of readers show up tomorrow?

Not unless you work to leverage your article.

We not only published it on our own website and blog, but we also repackaged it as a PDF (which is given away free). Over time clients, bloggers, and other readers have read it and passed it on.

Make your article available in lots of different formats and promote it as much as possible. If you’ve followed our three steps and it’s a truly empowering article, pretty soon your readers will be doing the promoting for you.

Don’t rely on a fluke

Occasionally, someone gets lucky and writes a great article that goes viral without any strategy behind it at all.

You may indeed get up one day and write a great article by fluke. But flukes are not a strategy. Use the three steps outlined above and use them as often as you can.

And then watch as the trickle of new readers turns to a flood.

And the flood into an unending deluge.

About the Author: Sean D’Souza offers a great free article on ‘Why Headlines Fail’ when you subscribe to his Psychotactics Newsletter. Be sure to check out his blog, too.

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Reader Comments (69)

  1. says

    I haven’t written a clear “how-to” article in quite a while. Thanks for the reminder. I’m going to get on it today.

  2. says

    Like it, applied it, and am probably doing something else wrong. There are two other things I feel may be useful to add

    1) It takes time to get good, and learn a new skill. Persistence is the key
    2) The best post in the world is worthless without followup. Don’t rest on producing one good blog per year. Keep at it!

  3. says

    I LOVE this post. It’s a great reminder about what may seem obvious, but w/some great pointers that we may not have thought about or sometimes forget. It’s simplified nicely so we can put it to work right away… thanks so much for the reminders!

    Thank you!!!!


  4. says

    I’m very new to blogging – and this article is a fantastic “how to” for blogging. Also went to some older posts – good advice there too.


  5. says

    Excellent points Sean, I really liked the reminder to empower the reader. That, coupled with the listed specific steps for action have worked very well for me, and it does seem to create a sense of concreteness to an article. Thanks for making me look at it a little more directly.

  6. says

    Great advice. A blog that goes viral is one that fills a need. The more you understand your audience and their needs, the easier it will be to give them valuable content – something Copyblogger does very well.

  7. says


    You’ve done it again. You really take some serious thought and care into the posts your develop on your blog, and this guest post is no exception.

    After writing close to 800 articles and 300+ emails to my subsribers, I have yet to see a formula that spells it out, to-the-point, the way you do here.

    I am printing this out and taping your 3 psychological steps next to my monitor. Great work.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  8. says

    “Minefield Warnings” … great imagery there. That’s a portion that most people leave out when writing their how to or other instructional type posts.

    The great thing is that these steps can be integrated into other types of posts besides instructional as well.

  9. says

    Hey Sean, I love it when I read an article that gives me tips that I can immediately implement. For me, what sticks out is how you explain the value in teaching the readers something, laying out the steps/staying on topic (which I have failed with in the past), and then warning them about potential pitfalls they might face.

    I feel like a better writer already :)


  10. says

    Greetings Sean,

    Great Stuff~As a sixteen-year Feng Shui (the way of wind and water) consultant, my focus is to empower the Universe and allow it flow on the behalf of my client via there home/worspace. Your profound article will be forwarded to one because your blog-enviroment certainly integrates and enhances great good energy. Your step-by-step insights are inspiring!

    Oh yes, the power of the written word via the Mark Twain link highlights universal and eternal wisdom. These insights alone powers up a person’s life journey creating harmony. Thank you for enlightening us and amen to making us feel stronger and indeed smarter.

    Be Inspired,

  11. says

    This is all about giving value to your audience. Showing them step by step solutions, that you found out after you faced a problem, so that your audience don’t have to go through that problem. Thank you for a great post, which reminds, if you give value, it always comes back many fold.

  12. says

    It’s nice to see a blog that likes to give information back to the reader, a nice way to keep readers coming back. I’ll be checking in more frequently now for sure.

  13. says

    Maybe this is the reason why I don’t have too many followers and new readers xD

    Thanks for the tips. The post left me thinking how I could put the steps into practice with a vegan cooking blog :) (which is not as obvious and easy as it seems :S)

  14. says

    Nice post Sean.

    I am particular to the second principle: Specific steps.

    Telling your reader what to do in each step gives them simple and clear direction. No fluff; just simple and to the point directions work well for many. You’re right. Some won’t get it with directions, but showing them will get them on the right track.

  15. says

    Where’s a link to the article on “three specific steps to create pretty awesome headlines”

    Great article. It stimulated me to actually write on those three points. Now I want to see what you said about the three steps for headlines!

  16. Bill says

    Thanks for the poke. I’m in the process of writing what started out to be detailed instructions, but I’ve started getting lazy and skipping a few minor steps.

    Your post comes at a good time for me. Kinda like a slap in the back of the head or worse, like a boot in the butt. Great write up, Thanks!

  17. says

    You never fail to come up with amazing posts that are useful to just about everyone who does any kind of work online. This is a great guide to get some ideas flowing.

  18. says

    Have yet to do a really strong “how to” article on my site, but this certainly helps to crank the heat up. Great advice, particularly keeping in mind that you should give the reader some sort of power they did not have 10 minutes before.


  19. says

    After reading this, I might head over to my company’s blog and redo a few posts. Because we’re a new startup with user-generated content, it’s important that users know how to do what they need to do (in our case, post special announcements). However, as you note, it’s easy to let the message of what needs to be done get muddled by all that *could* be done. It’s “need” versus “could,” and the difference will determine success.

    I think I’ll revisit a few of our how-to-do-____ posts and make things clearer. Thanks for another great post! :)

  20. says

    Superb article. Thanks for a concise and articulate on elements that are so important but overlooked in writing.

  21. says

    Classic Sean — short, sweet, simple, but powerful. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    (I am not implying that Sean is short, by the way! :) I have no idea one way or another, but he certainly writes tall.)

  22. says

    Setting goals to every article/blogpost we publish is really good thing! The base for every good article is a good content and the above specifications will definitely help in boosting it!

  23. says

    Great reminders – an excellent tutorial on how to create an article that is useful and can be put to practice immediately by readers.

  24. says

    I write my articles as if they were ‘sales letters’

    that way I get a ton more interested readers and they actually go through the article and click my desired link at the bottom.

  25. says

    The best advice I ever received about how to write an article that gets lots of readers is this pearl from Henry DeVries of the New Client Marketing Institute. He says, “Pain killers sell better than vitamins.”

    When you offer content that eases pain that readers are desperate to solve, and you will find a ready audience for your how-to tips, and they will want to hear more from you with every article that eases their pain.

    And, they will be one step closer to doing business with you.

    Hurray for that!

  26. says

    Blogging is work. Sometimes we forget that fact. Like work we need to practice our craft. Having guidelines and models to help better connect with our audience is very helpful. Great post.


  27. says

    Thanks for the tips Sean.

    The main reason I create tech How To’s is to help build personal power for my readers. I have to work on including the “landmines” in a way that they don’t overwhelm the reader. Some folks can only take technical instruction in small doses.

  28. says

    Great post, Sean! I am inspired to re-purpose some of my more popular blog posts. What a great idea!

    By the way, your PDF “Why Do Headlines Fail?” is still one of my favorites. I printed it off several months ago and refer to it often.

  29. says

    You know what? This is one I will object to…

    I’ve read so many “how-to” posts and then just clicked “back” and never given it a second thought. Once I get what I want for that specific problem (usually something technical), I’m done and I leave. Lately I’ve been leaving a comment because I feel bad and I want to thank the writer for giving me the info I needed. But I rarely stick around to even view another page, much less subscribe or anything like that.

    Maybe for non-technical stuff this holds, but I think this one doesn’t hold true in most cases.

  30. says

    Good set of points and strategies, Sean. However, I don’t believe in the trickle becoming a flood just because one writes articles following the aforementioned points. It’s quite difficult, practically speaking. It’s over time that the readers will bookmark your link, make it a point to visit them daily, take time to forward them to ‘n’ number of friends, getting indexed properly on Google, and so on.

  31. says

    Hey Sean, I really enjoyed reading the article. I’ve written a lot of articles on my blog, but many of them aren’t exactly how to’s and they don’t reflect on what some of the pitfalls could be. I know that if I read an article that looks at both the good, the bad and the how to it would really impress me because I would trust the person. I just subscribed to your blog a few days ago, but it’s been great stuff so far.

  32. says

    Nice article :)

    Being clear, concise and using positive language are very important in any how-to article. And I agree that pointing out problems which may occur and how to solve them is such a useful tool to draw in your readers.

  33. says

    What I can say, your article is excellent. I am going to use the guidelines and strategies mentioned in this article to write excellent content to my blog. Thans for sharing this valuable info. :)

  34. says

    Wow, thanks a lot Sean for some interesting points! :)

    Ah, imagine if there were more precise and accurate “How to”‘s out there…

  35. says

    Gale, content done right is SEO.

    Given the topic of your blog, I’ll put it this way – duality in this area is just as undesirable as in others. 😉

  36. says

    I completely agree with what Sean has said here. As a writer I think being able to empower someone to do something goes far beyond just telling them what to do. Because the internet is so impersonal, being able to share with someone WHY or HOW to do something will render better results. Great going Sean. Continue empowering us and enlightening everyone with your articles.

  37. says

    When I read what you say about empowerment it was a light-bulb moment for me. I had never before thought about giving people the empowerment of knowledge in an article before, even though I do it all the time in my coaching work.

    Thank you for the guidance.

  38. says

    Specific steps, measures must be in writing! Sometimes often occurred in our minds about something that might happen in the future. This is the projection of where we can determine the direction of our writing and get a big response from readers!

  39. says

    Thanks for the info, will keep this in mind next time I write a blog post or article about our area to be more helpful and informative.

  40. says

    Next time, give examples. You’d think an article on how to write a good article might include that. Great headline though. Brought me in. Left disappointment.

  41. says

    Carolyn, the article you just read is an exact example. A lot of people in the comments picked up on that. Maybe read it again?

  42. says

    I love article marketing and the ability to add great content to the world. I have had a few articles go viral, but thank you for the post. Gave me a few extra things to think about.

  43. says

    Overall, nice article. However, it falls short of providing a specific example or two. When you give readers examples of what you mean by empowerment, it gives them a better understanding of how they may apply this principle in their own work.

  44. says

    This is great. Other than pure content there is a science behind capturing your audience, but whats the best way to find out what your audience wants?

    oh, and if anyone out there can find an audience laying around that needs a blog to look at, let me know…lol

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