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Actually writing an article for your OnlySky column is 90% of the job. But after the writing is done comes a series of steps to create the final appearance and bring many, many eyeballs to your work. This brief tutorial will walk you through the steps that make it happen.

1. Title it and write it

Open a post window. Whenever you are logged in to your WordPress account, you’ll see this in the top menu:

Hover over + New and select Post from the dropdown. A post window will open. Looks like this:

Type your intriguing title (In sentence case like this, Not in Title Case Like This) over the words Add title. Begin typing your post directly on the words Type / to choose a block. Refer to the Style Guide for a thousand tips about titling and writing your post.

To link to another article, select several words of your text that relate to the link, as I did above with Refer to the Style Guide. I did not add a word like so (Refer to the Style Guide [LINK]), and I definitely didn’t paste in a bare URL, oy (Refer to the Style Guide https://www.styleguide.com). Don’t link to any single word—find a nice juicy phrase that Google can read and understand the context of the link.

Here’s how to place the link:

  • Highlight your chosen phrase
  • Click the link icon near the top of the post
  • A box appears. IF the URL is on a different site, (1) Put the URL in the top field, (2) flip the switch that says “Open in a new tab,” (3) click the middle URL, then hit ENTER:

If you are linking to an OnlySky story, don’t set to open in a new tab. Just paste the URL and click the middle.

Do not insert an image into the text. That will be done in the next step using magic.

Every OS article (including this one) begins with a “drop cap,” that large initial letter on the first paragraph. Put your cursor in the first paragraph; click the three dots by the word Typography in the right rail; select Drop cap from the dropdown; flip the switch:

You have now written your post.

2. Set category and tags

Categories are like the table of contents for our site. They designate broad topics within which our articles fall. They also form our site structure, so even though you have the ability to do so, please do not add categories.

Tags are like a book’s index, designating a much more detailed, granular, searchable listing of specific topics mentioned in the articles. You may add tags as needed, but do so judiciously: too many tags can make our site harder to index by the Googlebots, which in turn degrades out search visibility.

At the top of the right sidebar of your post are two tabs: Page and Block. Choose Page:

Scroll down to find a field marked Categories. FIRST, scroll through the checkboxes to find and uncheck General. Then find and check 1-3 categories appropriate to your piece. Finally, if you chose more than one, choose the Primary category (the one that will appear above the title) in the dropdown below the category list.

Now scroll down a bit more to Tags. Start typing the topics your article covers, as many as you wish (as long as they are sensible).

Now is a good time to click Save as draft at the top.

3. Choose and crop a compelling featured image

(Part 13 of the OS Content Style Guide includes tips for selecting a compelling image)

OnlySky columnists use just Four Safe Sites for images: Unsplash, Pexels, Pixabay, and Gratisography. These Four Safe Sites are chosen because it is impossible to screw up the image credit and get sued because, unlike most sites, nothing whatsoever is required of you. Many other sites (like Flickr) have images that can be used by anyone but include a Simon Says of some kind—must be a non-commercial site (which we are not), must include photographer credit and a link to the license, etc etc. These are almost always done incorrectly by writers, and a lawyer who does nothing else all day will eat your liver. So use the Four Safe Sites.

Some of the content on the Four Safe Sites is sponsored by other companies. If you select an image and it asks for your credit card, retrace your steps out of the forest. You will eventually learn to spot these in advance.

Download your chosen image to your computer. Double click to open it. Find the menu item to resize (Mac is Tools >> Adjust size. Several options for Windows). Set the width to 1200px, then crop the height to 675px. Featured image is always exactly 1200x675px.

In the right rail, with the Page tab selected, scroll down to a block called Featured image:

Click on “Set featured image.” This opens our Media Library. In the upper left are two tabs. Click on Upload files:

Follow the steps to upload your image. Once it’s in the Media Library, you’ll see some fields on the right:

  • Under Alt Text, put the article’s title, followed by a description of the image.
  • Under Title, put the article’s title.
  • Under Caption, put the name of the site where you found the image.
  • Finish by clicking Set featured image.

The image will not appear in your post window. Be not afraid! If you left the blue radio button next to Default, the image will appear atop the published post. This is the aforementioned magic.

4. Prime the SEO (search engine optimization)

This quick and easy process makes it easier for Google search to recognize the relevance of your post when people are searching for related topics.

Below the main window of the post is the Yoast SEO zone:

Four things matter: (1) the smile, (2) the Focus keyphrase, (3) the SEO title, and (4) the Meta description.

The smile (1) will start out red, meaning the post is not yet primed to be found by Google search. Our task is to keep priming until it turns green.

The first step is to choose a focus keyphrase (2). “Phrase” is misleading—it can also be a single word. What you want is a topic-relevant word that recurs several times in the text and hasn’t been used before by OnlySky. For this one I chose “Grinch.” The smile turned to amber.

The SEO title (3) should simply be that little red oval that says “Title.” If the line beneath it is green, your article title is not too long. If it’s red, delete the oval and type a shortened version of your title that earns a green line.

The Meta description (4) is the brief text that appears in social shares and elsewhere. Keep typing until the line turns green.

If the smile is now green, you’re done…but it usually isn’t yet. Click on the SEO analysis below the meta description. A cool panel opens up with tips for turning smiles green:

This one looks decent, but the smile at the top is amber. The first red light suggests adding internal links, so I find a phrase in the text and link to an OnlySky post.

Still amber. God dammit to hell.

The next one suggests putting the keyphrase (“Grinch”) in the first paragraph. Screw that, I like my first paragraph. The third one says to put Grinch in the meta description. I change “him” to “The Grinch”—and the smile turns green!

Turning the SEO smile green is one of the most profoundly satisfying human experiences.

With about 10-20 minutes of effort beyond writing the post itself, and less time every time, you have made it both beautiful and visible to the searching world.

5. Save as Pending

NOW: In the upper right corner of the post window, with the Page tab selected, check the Pending review box, then select Save as Pending review at the very top. This signals to your editor that the post is ready for review and publication.

If it ain’t Saved as Pending, yer editor cain’t see it.

GAUTAMA BUDDHA

If your editor has notes for you, they will put them in the Editorial Comments section at the bottom of the post. This will send an email to you with the suggestions. Go back to the post, make the changes (or argue in the Editorial Comments section), then Save as Pending again.

Note: The editor serves as a proxy for the reader. Changes are made not as a rebuke to your style or judgment but in defense of reader experience, something to which our editors are especially attuned. It can be challenging for writers to assess that experience from the inside. The editor, being outside of your head, is that much closer to the reader. While the writer’s unique voice is valuable, it must be weighed against both the journalistic style of OnlySky and the reader’s experience. Please consider editorial notes in that light.


BELLS & WHISTLES

The steps above are essential to any OS post. What follows are enhancements that can make your work even more professional and effective. Pick and choose the ones you’d like to use. They are:

  1. Subtitle
  2. Article summary box
  3. Subheadings
  4. Pullquotes
  5. Related links
  6. OTOH link
  7. Pinned comment
  8. Audio reading of story

1. Subtitle

Titles should generally be in the 5- to 10-word range. If you have a longer title in mind, or want to further elaborate for the reader, consider adding a subtitle. This is done in the Subtitle box in the right rail while the Page tab is selected. Usually up to 16 words. Type into the box in the right rail marked Article Subtitle:

and it will appear on the article, below the title:

2. Article summary box

A box that summarizes the article or primes the pump to intrigue the reader into reading the whole thing. About 20-50 words is typical. Find the Article Summary box (just below the subtitle box in the right rail). Leave the title field as Overview. In the summary field, type your summary:

The summary will appear in a lovely blue box at the beginning of your story. At 50 words, this example is about the max:

3. Subheadings

If your article is 1,000 words or more, break it up with some subheadings—also in sentence case, just like the title. Put your cursor at the end of the paragraph before the spot where you’d like a subhead. Hit return. Type /heading. Hit return. Type the subhead you want, and Bob’s your uncle.

4. Pullquotes

A pullquote is the large-font spotlighting of an especially impactful quote from within an article. Find and copy that impactful passage from within your article, you know the one—usually a sentence or two at most. Put your cursor at the end of the paragraph before the spot where you’d like a pullquote. Hit return. Type /pullquote. Hit return. Paste the text you copied, hit return, Bob is even more your uncle.

Find and copy that impactful passage from within your article, you know the one—usually a sentence or two at most.

(See the little instruction to ADD CITATION? Unless it’s a quote from someone else, do no such thing.)

There is a word for readers who follow a link to our site, read one story, and bounce, possibly never to return. They are casual readers. CRs are 88% of our readers but account for 44% of our page views. Loyal readers pop in 3 times a month and read an average of 2 stories. They are 12% of our readers, but they punch above their weight, accounting for 30% of views. Then there are brand lovers. Though just 1% of our readers, they visit OnlySky daily, read an average of 3 stories each time (91 stories a month), and account for a massive 26% of views.

The best avenue of growth for us is converting casuals to loyals and loyals to lovers by making it easy for them to find (and desire) the next story. A good way to do this is by adding “Related” links in the text of your stories.

At any point in your story, when you cross into a topic you’ve seen covered elsewhere at OnlySky, consider adding a link to that other story. First type a separator ( /sep), then on the next line the words Related: [OTHER TITLE] with a link and centered, then another separator.

Looks like this:


Related: One world, one life: Meet OnlySky


This is a rising-tide-lifts-all-boats situation, including well-served readers and a densely interconnected site.

6. On The Other Hand (OTOH) links

Did you just write an impassioned opinion piece? Be the very model of intellectual integrity by finding an intelligent counterpoint to your position, on or off the site, and linking to it about 2/3 of the way through your piece.

Example: Andrew Fiala wrote a piece advocating nonviolent action in Ukraine’s response to the Russian invasion. Around the same time, Adam Lee wrote a piece suggesting that this was not a time for nonviolent tactics. We inserted the following into Andrew’s piece:

on the other hand
ON THE OTHER HAND | Curated contrary opinions

Adam Lee, There are still monsters: The limits of nonviolence

and this into Adam’s:

on the other hand
ON THE OTHER HAND | Curated contrary opinions

Andrew Fiala, Russian invasion: Does nonviolence have a role to play in Ukraine?

Here’s the recipe:

  • Type ON THE OTHER HAND | Curated contrary opinions as a /heading block, then change to H5
  • On the next line, type author’s name, then article title with link
  • Add /image block for the hand logo (search ‘hand’ in the media library’) and right justify
  • Click the up arrow ^ in the menu at the top of the window to move the hand up in line with the text
  • Select all of the blocks. Click the three dots in the top menu. Select Group
  • Choose Border in the right rail

Or ask your editor for help. Stories including an OTOH link will be paired with the linked story in our new OTOH site section. More exposure for your work.

7. Pinned comment

After your story is saved as pending, click on Preview >> Preview in new tab in the top right menu:

Scroll down to Comments. Leave an open question as a comment to get the conversation started. Mouse over the comment to make three dots appear in the upper right. Select PIN to pin the comment to the top of the thread:

8. Audio reading of story

Creating a recording of your story may seem complicated, but it’s easy and quick.

iPhone
  1. Set up in the deadest possible space (few hard surfaces). A walk-in closet is ideal.
  2. Open VoiceMemo on your iPhone and place the phone on a stable surface.
  3. When ready, click the red Record button and (without too long a pause) say “OnlySky presents: [Title of your story] by [your name]” then read your story in a nice conversational voice. Skip all headings and pullquotes. Don’t get too hung up on small mistakes.
  4. Stop when you’re done without making extraneous sounds.
  5. Press and hold the recording name. Change it to your article title.
  6. Click the three little dots. Click Share. Choose Slack, send to Dale McGowan. He’ll take it from there!
Windows
  1. Set up in the deadest possible space (few hard surfaces). A walk-in closet is ideal.
  2. Launch the application Voice Recorder (or Sound Recorder, depending on version)
  3. Click on the “Record Button” to start recording audio. Without pause, say “OnlySky presents: [Title of your story] by [your name]” then read your story in a nice conversational voice. Skip all headings and pullquotes. Don’t get too hung up on small mistakes.
  4. Once you finish recording, click the “Stop” button. A new window will pop up displaying all available audio recordings.
  5. To play back the recorded audio, press the “Play” button. You can also trim, export, or discard your audio file on this screen.
  6. Share to Dale McGowan in Slack.

Macbooks vary depending on the version. Ask your editor for help.

Staff will add your audio to our Soundcloud account, then embed at the top of your story like so:

It will also appear on our new Listen page.