Friday, October 14, 2011

Finding Private Clients

If you are an online writer, you may have found success publishing your work on writing sites or offering your services to others by selling your work under a "work for hire" agreement. Unfortunately, the changes in Google are making it more difficult to earn a living wage from writing sites alone. You've probably already heard other writers talking about Private Clients and wonder where on earth they find these clients. The answer is simpler than you may think -- but it requires both preparation and patience.

Getting Ready to Seek Private Clients

  • Evaluate Your Skills. Think carefully about your strengths. Can you change your writing style to fit the needs of various clients? Do you have good research skills? Are you skilled in instructional or educational writing? Does your voice speak to your audience? Perhaps, a rapid turn-around time is your selling point.
  • Decide What Kind of Writing You Prefer. You may find more success if you focus on one or two areas, such as gardening, parenting or Eco-friendly -- but don't overlook the value of writing on a wide range of topics. You can always tailor your samples to the needs of the client. Covering a range of topics may open more doors -- but try to keep it to the things you actually enjoy writing about.
  • Decide on Your Rates. These don't need to be set in stone, but you do need to have an idea of what you expect to earn from your writing. Remember, if you don't know what you want, you won't recognize it when you find it.
  • Gather Writing Samples. Choose one or two of your best articles for each category you would like to write in. Links to websites work well for an online portfolio or digital submissions, but a hard copy with printed versions of your work is a must for those face-to-face meetings with prospective clients.
  • Develop a Portfolio. A notebook with printed articles -- inside plastic sleeves, of course -- allows you to show prospective clients samples of your work.
  • Digital Portfolio and Author Site. This allows you send private clients to your site at their convenience. Include samples, or links to your work, an author bio and other related information. Include testimonies from actual customers, if possible. You can easily begin with a free site, like a wordpress blog, but buying your own url adds to your professional image.
  • Get Business Cards. You might not think you need business cards, but when you find yourself in the grocery store and a prospective client comes you way, a business card -- complete with the address to your online portfolio -- assures the client you are a professional and take your work seriously. If you choose to make your own business cards, pay attention to detail, double check spelling and grammar and print them on high-quality card stock. Your business card makes a statement about you as a writer. Make sure the message it sends is professional and conveys who you are as a writer.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Social Networking for Online Writers: Are Twitter and Facebook the Answer?

I've been thinking about social networks for a while now -- Twitter and Facebook being at the top of my list. I've tried them both out to see how well they work for promoting my writing. To be totally honest with you, I haven't seen much of a return on my investment. What I have seen, is tons of people trying to sell me ebooks and reports that are guaranteed to teach me how to how to use Twitter or Facebook to build a following that will be eager to click on my links. Some even claim to make thousands of dollars a day just by posting a few simple links.

My question is: If these people know how to make thousands or millions of dollars with a few minutes work, why are they wasting their time and effort writing books to teach me how?  

Oh, we both know the answer. They are making money off the hopes and dreams of people just like you and me who are all too eager to believe that with a "secret formula" we will be on our way to guaranteed success.

There may be formulas out there -- such as setting goals and working to achieve them -- but I'll leave those conversation to my blog In the Direction of Dreams. If you are interested in that sort of thing feel free to stop by and check out the resources for attaining your goals by changing your thinking.

I just published an article about Social Networking for Promoting your online writing, so I won't repeat myself here. If you are interested in reading about how and why it works -- or doesn't -- you can read that in Social Networking: Twitter and Facebook as Promotional Tools for Writers  (or Tweeting Away Your Time). 

Your views and experience may differ from mine and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Feel free to leave your comments on the article (Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the comment box.) or on this post.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Since I started writing online over four years ago, I've listened to other writers talk about producing "high quality work" and I have come to the conclusion that, like beauty, "quality is in the eye of the beholder."

I like to think I produce quality work, but I'm not naive enough to think that everyone shares that opinion of my writing. To some, much of my writing may simply be drivel that is best left in the recesses of my mind. You see, I dabble with all sorts of writing that appeals to a range of readers from my paranormal blog to my Goals and Gratitude Blog. I take risks and have fun with what I do. But, I have long given up the notion of being a perfectionist. I make mistakes, and that's okay -- at least in my blogs. I like to think it makes me appear more human. I also write for clients who expect flawless work written in specific formats and adhering to stringent guidelines. I can do that, too -- but its not as much fun.

Some writers measure the quality of their work by the amount of money they earn, confusing the money value of their work on some sites with its quality.  I know that sounds odd, but I think its true. As online writers we are all too quick to equate our earnings with our success and often overlook that there is more to online writing than making money.

Others assume they are producing quality work if their topic is popular. It may attract a lot of viewers and if you write for revenue share or earn money from page views, it may be profitable -- but that shouldn't be confused with "quality writing."

So, that brings me to the question: What is quality writing? Is it flawless writing that meets all the standards of grammatical construction and states its case in clear, concise language? Is it writing that draws the most readers? Or, could it be that quality writing is something different altogether?
I have come to the conclusion that quality writing is more than construction, more than popularity and more than the money it earns. I can't speak for anyone else, but I can share with you my ideas of what makes quality writing.
  • Meets minimum standards of grammar and construction. A missed comma or two isn't going to kill anyone. Simple direct language is fine, but sentence fragments, run-on sentences and gross errors of tense and subject/verb agreement are not.
  • Spelling is accurate. Anyone can look up a word in the dictionary. Work riddled with misspellings is the sign of a lazy writer.
  • Provides the reader with new information or provokes thought.
  • Goes beyond what the reader wants or expects to provide the reader with what he needs, regardless of if he is aware of the need.
  • Backs up information and avoids vague references.
  • Does not present opinion as fact.
Please feel free to add your ideas on what makes quality writing in the comments. I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.~H.G.Wells

As writers, dealing with copy editors is an everyday occurrence, but that doesn't mean its always easy. Sometimes, well-meaning criticism from an editor is enough to shake the confidence of any writer--but you can avoid damage to your writer's ego.

  • Accept that you are not perfect. We all make errors, we all have bad days and no one produces their best work every day. Accept that as part of your role as a writer.
  • Don't take it personally. Editors respond to the written word, offering advice and guidance to improve your craft. Resist the urge to take it personally.
  • Realize that however harsh the criticism may be, it's just the opinion of one person. 
  • Walk away if edits seem difficult. Time and space have a way of lessening the sting of overly harsh editing. 
  • Find humor in the situation. Go ahead. Laugh at your mistakes. Poke fun at your funky editor--although I don't recommend sharing your new found humor with the editor. 
More quotes about writers and their perilous relationship with editors.
If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.  ~Toni Morrison. Find more quotes about writers and their perilous relationship with editors.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Google Stings Online Writers Yet Again

I don't know what Google has against online writers, but I'm beginning to think its personal. Not only are page views taking a hit from Google's game of musical algorithms, Google has decided to remove some of its tools, as well. If you do your research to find search volume and estimated CPC, you probably already know that that information has been removed from the AdWords Keyword Tool.

Honestly, I might not have noticed for a while, but you see, this came just as Demand Media announced that the eHow's WCP program is shut down. Offers were emailed to contributors for their body of work and writers have the choice to sell out or remove their articles.

This, of course, set off a mad rush to the Google Adword Tool, as writers frantically tried to decide if they should sell or if a little tweaking and republishing somewhere else was in order.

Much to my surprise, when I clicked to set the columns, this option was gone. At first, this threw me into a loop as the realization that writers no longer had access to the value of keywords began to sink in. A whirlwind of emotions swirled as I tried to make sense of this disturbing change of events. But, I'm feeling a bit better about it today. 

It occurred to me that if writers don't know the value of keywords, then the practice of choosing keywords and creating a superficial article around those words may actually stop. That's good news for all of us, unless, of course you were the person pumping out superficial articles centered on high paying keywords. If you are, you probably aren't going to like what I have to say.

As writing sites, aka content farms, scramble to meet Google's new quality standards, their tactics of obtaining content must change. This just may mean new opportunities for those who have already established their skill at producing quality content. Why? It's simple, really. Those who have been busy honing the craft of sculpting superficial content around a series of keywords--and accepting mere pennies for their efforts--don't know how to produce the type of quality that is likely to save content farms from being buried under the rubble.

That's where we come in. To save themselves, writing sites need the help of experienced online writers who can and do produce the quality they seek. This may mean increased opportunities and income for those who can rise above the changes and meet the new demands for online content. For those who can't, the prospects aren't looking so good.

So instead of worrying about how the changes to the Google algorithm will effect your online work, take some time and consider what you have to offer to the changing face of online writing. Look for opportunities to use your skills in productive ways as you adapt to changes that just may prove to be beneficial in the long run.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A to Z blogging Challenge: W, X, Y and Z

W, X, Y and Z mark the end of the A to Z  Blogging Challenge. No I'm not proud to cheat my way from A to Z, but sometimes a writer has to do whatever it takes to work her way through an article--whether she feels like it or not. Ordinarily, I'd take more time and would never hand a client a piece of shoddy work--but, well, I'm already late and I want to talk about Google and online writing again. See you in my next post.

A to Z Blogging Challenge : UV is for Ultraviolet Rays

UV is for Ultraviolet Rays. Most of us think of UV rays as a bad thing, but the truth is we need them. Without UV rays, we wouldn't receive the Vitamin D we need from the sun and we'd all be suffering from Seasonal Effective Disorder. With proper caution those rays will lift your mood and make for a much brighter day.. something online writers need a lot of right now. More about the antics of Google in another post--in case you haven't noticed, I have an alphabet to finish!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: T is for Time

T is for Time

Time. That elusive quality in which we are immersed, yet cannot be seen or felt. Physicists assure me that we all have been aloted the same amount of time--that each day contains exactly 86,400 seconds. Why then does time speed up and slow down according to some unseen clock from within?

Why does time pass in flash when I am writing and slow to a standstill when I am waiting for my writing to be reviewed?

As writers, we have a unique relationship with time. We travel forward and backward with each penned word--entering the future or delving into the past. We are time travelers shifting freely from era to era. Why then does it feel as though there is never enough time?

A to Z Blogging Challenge: S is for Sometimes . . .

S is for Sometimes you need to surprise yourself. We become so accustomed to planning out what we should write, to laying the ground work for articles or blog posts that we forget that sometimes our greatest work comes from a place deep within that doesn't require a map. If you are anything like I am, and I assume you are if you are reading this, you may have fallen prey to "following the formula"--whatever your particular formula may be--and sometimes forget there are other ways to write.

Predictable is good when it comes to providing exactly what the client wants or meeting the particular need of the reader, but it isn't always inspired. Sometimes, going with your inspiration leads you to new areas you hadn't thought about.

Although I don't recommend writing everything on a whim, I have found that several of my articles that were written "off the top of my head" have faired much better that those I slaved over to get just right. It could be coincidence, of course, but I prefer to think that listening to my inner voice is the reason for their success.

Last night, I was talking to a writer friend who was working on a serious list for List My Five about the best degrees for online writers. On a whim, I wrote one too, but mine turned out a little differently than hers. The Top Five Degrees for Online Writers summed up my thoughts at the moment.

It's not great literature and not even great writing, but sometimes you need to surprise yourself with something different, just to keep the creative juices flowing.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: R is for Relaxation

R is for Relaxation

Many online writers become so caught up in writing for new sites, finding new gigs and simply trying to become successful that they forget the value of relaxation. I don't mean laying around all day doing nothing. I mean relaxation that renews the soul and rejuvenates the mind.

Purposeful relaxation can inspire you to reach new heights in your writing, for it is in these moments that insights come and thoughts gel.

Make time for relaxation. For me that means quiet time in the garden or long walks in nature. It means watching the sunset or the sunrise, star gazing or sitting quietly beside the babbling brook. 

It may mean different things to you, but the bottom line is; relaxation is the fuel that ignites the writer's flame.  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Q is for Quit Worrying About It

Q is for Quit Worrying about everyone else.

When you write online there is a tendency to measure your success according to how well others are doing, but this is wrought with difficulties. There will always be those who manage to produce mediocre work but seem to fall into opportunities that bring them success. If you compare yourself to them, you will always find disappointment-- so quit worrying about it.

There are also those who would have you believe they are wildly successful who really aren't. Many are hesitant to say this ... but ... They LIE. I know it's not politically correct for me to say that, but it's the truth. People lie about how much money they make and about the number of page views they receive. 

Unless you know the writer personally, or have personally seen their earnings, you have no way to know if what they are telling you is the truth. So, quit worrying about it.

A to Z Blogging Challenge: P is for Popularity Contest

P is for Popularity Contest
If you are in the habit of writing for one or two sites and frequent the forums of those site, you may have noticed that "some people" are a bit more popular that others. In some cases, this may be because they are skilled writers and are genuinely interested in helping others, but most of them aren't. Many are self-appointed experts who think that being popular is a reflection of their writing ability. These people are still in high school--at least on an emotional level--and will drag you into their drama if you let them.

Writing isn't about being popular. It isn't even about being liked. Don't get sucked into an online clique--unless of course, that's what you are looking for.

If you are looking for help and support from other writers, choose your online friends carefully and guard against turning it into a popularity contest.

O is for Oops

Apparently, following  the alphabet is a bit more difficult that I anticipated -- but then it gives me the opportunity to address those moments when "we writers" make careless errors.  We all do it. Sometimes it goes unnoticed and other times it turns into a major issue, but it happens. If you are writing professionally, chances are you have an amazing editor that catches your errors for you.

If you don't have an editor, enlist the help of another writer -- or a grammar Nazi  if grammar is your weak point-- to read your work for you to catch those pesky errors that evade the writer's eyes.

If that isn't an option, set your work aside and review it the next day for errors.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: M is for Making it Matter

M is for Making it Matter

Over the past few years, I've seen many a writer become so wrapped up in making money from what they write that they have lost sight of why they started writing in the first place. I'm not naive enough to think that making money from what you write isn't important. It is. At least for those of us who choose to make a living from our writing. But, it shouldn't be the only reason we write.

Consider for a moment why you chose to be a writer in the first place.

Why do you write? For some the answer may be to educate or to inform, for others it may be to bring enlightenment to the world, for still others it may be to silence the voice that cries out in the silence of the night. Consider that reason and get in the habit of making it matter.

Focus on your reason for being a writer today and strive to serve that inner drive in a way that really matters. If you are in the habit of writing "content" that a client requests, you may have lost touch with your inner voice.

Step outside that role today. Breathe deeply and consider what you really have to say to the world. Infuse that purpose in everything you write today.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: N is for Never Say Never

N is for Never Say Never

As an online writer it is easy to get lulled into the habit of sticking with the "tried and true" or to assume that if something doesn't work the first time it will never work. We all know that to find success online we need to keep our options open and be willing to try new sites and new approaches--yet somehow we always fall back on what is familiar.

I've tried Squidoo for a few lenses and although I've had some success with gaining readers, the money hasn't followed. This has led me to draw the conclusion that I will Never make a go of it on Squidoo. Today, I decided to forget my resolve to stay clear and to try a few stand-alone lenses to see what happens.

It isn't like it cost me anything--other than a few hours of my time--but truth be told, they were my play hours. I actually had a little fun putting together a quick lens. Feel free to stop by Healthy Brain Tips: It's Only a Thought.

And remember to Never Say Never to an opportunity just because it didn't work out in the past. People and circumstances change. What may have seemed a waste of your efforts in the past just may prove to be a big success now.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: M is for Money

M is for Money. Let's face it. If you are an online writer looking for tips to become more successful online, money pays a big  part in your decisions. Although how much money you make may not be a good indication of how skilled you are as a writer, it does reflect how skilled you are in the business of writing.

Over the past few years, I've discovered some amazing things about writers and their money. Some aren't going to like me for what I have to say, but I would be remiss if I didn't warn new writers of this tiny quirk. Writers lie. Especially when it comes to money. Many would have you believe they are wildly successful and raking in the money for their work, when they really aren't. 

Maybe it stems from those who see writing online as a hobby and really think a few dollars a month is making a lot of money.  Maybe it stems from the belief that if you see and present yourself as successful others will see you that way too. Maybe it stems from the belief that no one will know the difference so embellishing is okay. I really don't know. But I have seen writers who wouldn't dream of lying about nearly anything else, lie about the money they make.

Guard against measuring yourself against the money claim to make with their writing. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Loosen Up a Little

Writing can be serious business, but when it becomes so serious that you no longer have fun with your writing, its a sign you need to Loosen Up a Little. Find a fun project to do, write a silly article, cast caution to the wind and stop worrying about the grammar Nazi's out there who fill find your misplaced comma.

I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't do your best and you shouldn't take the time to proofread your work. I'm just suggesting that you stop obsessing over it. Give yourself permission to Loosen up a Little today and see what happens.

A to Z Blogging Challenge: K is for Know Your Audience

K is for Know Your Audience

We've all been told how important it is to Know your audience, but some new writers make the mistake of thinking they have "one" audience and that everything they write should be geared towards this imagined audience. This simply isn't true. Each piece, unless you are writing a column or a blog geared toward a specific group of people, has its own audience. I write on a variety of topics from gardening to the paranormal. Each niche has its own audience.

Its okay to write for multiple audiences, in fact, it can be a lot of fun. Just keep in mind the audience you are writing for at the moment and gear your work to meet their interests and their needs.

A to Z Blogging Challenge: J is for Judge Not ...

J is for Judge Not

As a writer it is easy to fall into the habit of judging yourself against the accomplishments of others. It's easy to think that others are more successful than you are. Sometimes that comes from not being able to view yourself clearly--sometimes it comes from other writers inflating their worth and implying that they are a bit more successful than they really are--or misinterpretations along the way. What I might call a booming revenue share base, you may consider mere pennies.

Guard against judging your work and your accomplishments against some real or imagined success of others.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: I is for Inspiration

I is for Inspiration
Sometimes, inspiration comes when we least expect it. Other times we need to help it along. I've devoted a blog to inspirational quotes, a personal reflection and expressions of gratitude called In the Direction of Dreams.

This blog's focus is the power of gratitude in activating the law of attraction in your life and working toward reaching your goals. If you find yourself needing a bit of inspiration or simply encouragement to work toward you goals, stop by In the Direction of Dreams.

A to Z Blogging Challenge: H is for Help a New Writer

H is for Help a new writer.

It's easy to forget that the world of online writing can be confusing to the new writer--from choosing a site to publish their work to mastering the templates for submitting their work. Being ready and willing to help them out goes a long where toward their success.

If you are a new writer, or new to online writing, check out my free lessons listed on the right of this blog. I hope you find them helpful.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: G is for Goals

G is for Goals

Some of you may be aware that my writing goals for the year include writing more about the things I love and am passionate about and less for the almighty dollar. That shouldn't be confused with writing to earn a living. Obviously there are needs to be met and money to earn--but I am in control of how I do that. 

So often, online writers get caught up in the rush for page views and revenue share, following the direction of the current winds, that they forget why they started writing in the first place. This year, my  goal is to write less because I think it will be popular and more about things that I know are important to people's lives.

That's not to say I won't continue to fulfill assignments and do my best to meet the needs of the client--but that work will be carefully scheduled and done during "office hours". That work will pay my bills. But, I will also schedule time for my other writing, as it fuels the writer within.

Setting goals to include both your high-paying work and work that you are passionate about helps maintain balance in your life as a writer. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: F is for Fun

F is for Fun

Writing should be fun, at least some of the time. Sure, there are times when you simply need to bite the bullet and give the client what he wants, but when you forget to take the time to have fun with your writing, everyone suffers.

I've already written on this topic, so I won't repeat it here. You can read all about why writing for fun is important in 10 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Writing for Fun.

I'd love to hear what you think about today's topic.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

E is for Engage Your Reader: A to Z Blogging Challenge

E is for Engage Your Reader

If you are new to online writing, you've probably heard a lot about the value of engaging your reader and may even be wondering exactly what that means. Many new writers mistakenly think engaging the reader means giving a call to action. Sometimes, a call to action is needed to engage the reader, but that isn't always the case.

According to Merriam-Webster,  Engage is defined as:
5. a : to hold the attention of : engross <her work engages her completely> b : to induce to participate <engaged the shy boy in conversation>

Your job as a writer is to hold the attention of the reader or induce them to participate. So how does a reader participate?  Readers participate when they connect to with your work. They participate when they entertain your ideas and thoughts or when they make connections to things in their own lives.

Tips to Engage Readers

  • Write in the language they understand. Readers don't engage with pretentious words and jargon (unless of course that is the language of your audience)--they engage when the language  is easy to understand.
  • Add personal experience. Readers engage with writing that springs from personal experience. It builds a bond between the reader and the writer, at least for a moment. Never under-estimate the power of personal experience to engage readers.
  • Keep it relevant. Personal experience is a powerful tool to engage readers, but when you wander off to stories of Great Aunt Edna's false teeth, readers tend to disengage.
  • Give them something to think about. Even that article about cleaning the bathtub has room for thought. Present your information so it allows the reader to draw their own conclusions instead of telling them what they should think.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: D is for Don't Get Discouraged with Writer's Block

D is for Don't Get Discouraged with Writer's Block

As writers, we all know the effect getting discouraged has on our writing. When writer's block strikes, as it sometimes will, cultivate the habit of walking away before you get discouraged. Every writer has his own way of dealing with writer's block, but here are a few that have worked for others.
  • Go for a walk. There is something about combining physical activity with the world of nature that frees both the mind and soul.
  • Take a hot bath. Relaxing the muscles often brings about relief for writer's block.
  • Watch a movie. Focusing your attention on someone else's story often does wonders for freeing your own.
  • Play. Take some time to play.

C is for Connect with Other Writers

As an online writer, you probably deal with friends and family members who simply don't understand what you do all day. They may even think you are "playing on your computer" while the rest of the world rushes off to work. Other writers understand your frustration and can ease the isolation you experience from writing from home--but that's not the only reason to Connect with Other Writers.

When you Connect with Other Writers you can . . .
  • Learn from their success.
  • Share writing resources.
  • Find writing leads.
  • Offer your support.
  • Share ideas.

B is for Be Ready: A to Z Blogging Challenge

B is for Be Ready

As an online writer it is vital to Be Ready when opportunity knocks. Sometimes, opportunity comes bursting through the front door and announces, "I'm here!" But other times it sneaks in the back door with hardly a squeak. As a writer, you need to be ready to seize opportunity when it arrives.

  • Write every day whether you have a paying gig or not. Writing keeps the juices flowing and keeps the mind focused.
  • Try new writing styles. Skilled writers don't rely on only one style. They try out new voices, play with new topics and explore new ideas. 
  • Explore your options. Just because you currently write for one writing site doesn't mean you can't write for others, too. 

Why Online Writers Should Aim for Their Best

Some of you may beware of the bloggers A to Z Challenge for the month of April. Quite simply, by joining the challenge you commit to posting with a topic or image from A to Z on everyday except Sunday through the month of April. Even though its already 4 days into the month, I decided to join today. If you are interested you can check it out on Tossing It Out or click on the Graphic to the right.

A is for Aim for Your Best

As an online writer its easy to get lulled into thinking that producing your best work really isn't necessary. Throwing a quick article together might seem like a harmless act, particularly if you are pressed for time. After all, we all know that what sells on the Internet isn't always quality. We've all met the wildly successful writer who writes pure drivel, but somehow manages to bring in readers. There are a number of reasons for that, but I won't go into it, now. The focus of today's post is you and aiming for your personal best.

Let's take a look at the benefits when you always Aim for Your Best.

  • Builds pride in your work. When you aim for your best, you produce work that you can be proud of.
  • Builds your portfolio. Aiming for your best adds quality pieces to your portfolio.
  • No worries. When you always aim for best, you don't need to worry that something will come back to haunt you someday when you apply for that dream position.
  • Keeps you honest. Aiming for your best in everything you write keeps you honest. It's at lot like handing in the shoddy piece of homework. If you get away with it once, it just gets easier from there and before you know it, you've lost your edge.
  • Builds your writing skills. Your work may not always be perfect, but when you aim for your best with every piece, you are continually building your writing skills.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chasing Page Views and Ad Clicks: Is it Worth It?

As an online writer you may have already discovered that the thrill of chasing page views and ad clicks dies long before you are in a position to retire. You may experience disappointment with your success and wonder if its even worth continuing. Believe me when I say we have all been there.

That first moment when you realize that "following all the rules" for online writing simply gets you in the door--but doesn't guarantee success--is the worst. It is then that we must face the uncomfortable truth that we have "sold out" to make the almighty dollar without even realizing it.

In our zeal to bring in readers, to build residual income or to be recognized by our peers, we often forget the reason we began writing in the first place. For some, it is easy. For them writing isn't about sharing a message or baring the soul--its about earning a living with a skill that comes easy for them. For those unfortunate souls, writing is merely the means to the end. Writing is a way to earn money online.

Finding Balance
But, for those of us who seek something more, the road is not as smooth. But there are ways to reap the rewards of both worlds and keep your writer's soul intact. I like to think of it two different kinds of writing. One is for money. I do that writing for specific clients. I set my hours, I put in my time and I consider it work. Writing for money pays my bills.

I always reserve time for writing for fun. That writing belongs to me. It has my voice. Its in my style and it expresses who I really am as writer. Sometimes, it is keyword-rich and aimed to a specific audience or written on a highly searched topic. Sometimes, it is obscure aimed at a small audience who I'd like to share with. Sometimes, it is a personal rambling that satisfies no one but me. But it is always mine, untouched by the obsessive chase for page views and ad clicks.

If you find yourself in the uncomfortable position where you question whether the chase for page views and ad clicks is worth your efforts, it doesn't mean its time to call it quits. It simply means its time to set some boundries on how much you give to the craft of making money online with your writing and how much you reserve for only you. 
  • Start a blog about something you really care about. It doesn't matter if it is lame or unpopular. Its your blog and it isn't meant to earn money, although it can if you choose to monetize it. I must caution you though, that as soon as the ads go up, your thoughts will shift and you will suddenly find yourself chasing page views and ad clicks. If you want to avoid that pressure. Don't monetize it. Create other blogs for money--but keep one blog for you that doesn't require censoring or isn't tainted by the almighty dollar. My blog In Due Time has never been monetized, it isn't about making money and it provides me with a place to write without concerns about page views and ad clicks.
  • Take risks. If you publish on sites that allow you to choose your own topics, learn to take risks. Write some articles just for fun or to share your views with the world. Don't worry that it might not bring in thousands of readers or earn hundreds in revenue share. Write them because they are fun. Write in your voice and your style. You may be surprised by the responses you get. My blog In the Direction of Dreams is a collection of inspirational quotes followed by a brief reflection and expression of gratitude. It's not searchable. It isn't SEO'd--but it is personal. I am constantly amazed by the readers it draws in and the reactions it gets.
  • Have fun. Writing can be hard work, but it can also be fun. Get in the habit of having fun with what your write on a daily basis.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Does Publishing Often Increase Overall Page Views or Ad Revenue?

Many online writers will tell you that the secret to success on nearly writing site is to publish often--but I've always been a bit leery of this advice. I have always assumed that producing one or two quality pieces a week outweighs publishing quick easy pieces everyday. I've decided to put it a test.

Some of you may be aware that I also write for Yahoo! Contributor Network, formerly Associated Content. I've done well there, but I wouldn't exactly call it a great success story. It's fun and I get to write whatever I want and make a few dollars in the process. My real earnings from my writing come from other sources.

As part of their featured contributor program there, I published in both gardening and education and averaged 8 or 10 articles a month. Sometimes they were successful and sometimes they weren't.

A series of events, namely having written many lists for List My Five that have failed to take off and bring in any sort of real money, started me thinking about my options. I decided that instead of allowing my efforts to go unrewarded I would use those lists as a outline for a more in-depth articles and publish them on Yahoo! Contributor Network.

Not only would I be putting my work to good use, it would give me the opportunity to test the theory that publishing often brings in more overall readers than just those who visit the newly published article.

Its too soon to tell how this will impact my overall page views at Yahoo! Contributor Network. I can say that shortly after I decided to publish often, an old article got linked to another site and I've seen a dramatic increase in page views. It is likely a coincidence as the article is seasonal, but I'll hold out on forming an opinion for a while.

If you are interested in the results of this test, check back often. I'll try to update my progress once a week.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Should Online Writers Follow the Page Views or Follow Their Heart?

Many online writers begin with hopes of making it big, but their dreams are soon dashed by a lack of page views or making mere pennies for their efforts. The reaction of new writers typically falls into two groups. Those who give up and those who give in. I was one of those who gave in. 

Now, you may wonder exactly what I mean by that.  It's simple really, I choose the path of chasing page views and doing everything I could to draw readers to my articles. I did my research, watched what other writers did and learned a thing or two about SEO and keywords.

I started making more revenue from my writing and my page views increased and that was good enough for me--for a while.

But,  I soon found myself writing about topics that really didn't interest me, or at least topics that didn't fuel my passion. I was making money online with my writing, but something was missing. That elusive thing that compelled me to write in the first place was gone.

I knew I had to make some changes, but I wasn't sure how. It was then that I noticed that some of my most successful articles were those that I wrote on a whim. They weren't those that took the most research, they weren't the best SEO'd, they weren't even the most popular topics. They were those that brought out my passion for the topic.

I'm not going to lie to you. I still do my research and I still strive to write about topics that will be highly searched and I still use high paying keywords when I'm writing for revenue share. It does, after all, make sense. But, I also write some articles on a whim about things I am passionate about. Sometimes they are very successful at bringing in readers and earning the proverbial dollar, sometimes they aren't. But, they allow me the pleasure of writing about things that are important to me--and that brings me personal success as a writer.

I'm not suggesting that you throw caution to the wind and ignore SEO by just writing anything that comes to mind. SEO is important to being found on the Internet. Keywords and search volume is important. What I'm suggesting is that you lighten up a bit and step outside the prescribed method of writing successfully for a online audience and enjoy the process of writing.

These are some of the ways I have discovered to do that.
  • Start a Blog ~Although monetizing your blog is an option, not everyone chooses that route. One of my favorites is not monetized. I find it keeps me focused on the content of the blog and allows me to share my passion without concerns about page views and keywords. 
  • Write About Your Interests~ Writing about topics you know will be popular is fine, but mix it up a bit with topics you find interesting. You may be surprised to discover a niche that you never guessed would be popular. Even if you don't, you'll enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you are writing with passion.
  • Take Risks~ The truth is, to a great degree, we never know what will be popular with readers. Get in the habit of taking a risk with some of your work. The worst that can happen is that no one reads it.
  • Have Fun~I'm a firm believer that writing should be fun. When we lose that playful quality, we lose a little of our self  as a writer. Choose fun topics to keep your writer's spirit alive.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Should New Online Writers Settle for Low Pay?

Many new writers make the mistake of accepting a dollar or two for their work thinking that at least they are making something for their effort and are often encouraged to do so by other writers. I disagree. The price you are willing to accept for your writing services now determines your long range success in several ways.

  • Psychological Impact
What you accept for a fee for your online writing effects your perception of your worth. If you begin with the idea that you aren't good enough to earn more, your self-concept will happily oblige. The messages you send yourself about your writing skills, your ability and your worth as a writer determine your success. You subconscious mind has the marvelous ability to accept whatever you tell it is true, by sending it the message that you are only worth a dollar or two, you create  a vision of your success as a writer. For more insight into the effect your thinking has on your success in life, visit my blog In the Directions of Dreams.

  • No Incentive to Improve Your Writing Skills
When you accept low paying gigs, you are typically competing with writers who lack the skill and sophistication to move on to more challenging work. When you compare yourself to them, you may begin to believe that your writing skills are advanced. This lulls you into thinking that you do not need to work on improving your craft and halts your growth as a writer. Without growth, your success as an online writer is questionable.

  • The Writing Market
Let' face it. There are many out there who lack the skills or commitment to write their own web copy and they want you to do it for them for nothing . Your hard work makes money for them. They may pretend it is all they can afford -- but they are really laughing all the way to the bank. These people take advantage of new writers who have no concept of their worth. The overall effect is lower rates for all writers because there is always someone willing to do it for a minimal fee.

So What's the Alternative?

You are probably thinking that you don't have any alternatives. That without experience and references you won't be able to earn more than a dollar or two from your writing. If you are like some writers, you may even develop the attitude that $2 is more than you had yesterday so it's worth the taking the low pay and working your way up. There is some value in that, but the truth is--many writers don't work their way up. They get stuck in the same place making the same wage because they have convinced themselves its all they deserve, or because they fail to develop the skills necessary to grow as writer. Don't let that happen to you.

Two simple alternatives come to mind. 
  1. Start a blog about something you are passionate about. You can certainly monetize the blog with Adsense or another ad program and probably make more than a dollar or two on your posts -- but at this point the money isn't the big issue. Gaining writing experience is. 
  2. Write for revenue share. When you write for revenue share, you retain all rights to your work and are typically free to remove it if you wish. This keeps you in control of what and when you publish and allows you to edit your work as you gain experience.You will likely make more than a dollar or two for your work over time without giving up your rights to the work.
We'll talk further about setting your rates as a freelance or online writer in the next post -- but for now, concentrate on gaining experience and avoid being taken advantage of. You are a writer for a reason. Don't compromise your career as writer by accepting the first gig that comes along.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Do Links to Quality References Improve Google Ranking?

Many online writers hesitate to reference their sources for fear that it gives the impression they relied too heavily on the ideas of some one else--but they've got references all wrong. Providing quality references to your work builds your credibility as writer and gives the reader further information. However, that's not all it does. Linking your work to credible sources in the reference section or in the text of your article provides Google with a path to follow.

When Google follows the path to a reputable site and discovers that the information on the site is similar to yours, you get a the perk of being associated with the site. It's not quite as powerful as getting backlinks from the site itself, but many insist that it  boosts the value of your work. Vaughn's Summaries notes this practice in his chart of actions that effect the SEO of your site or article, but do keep in mind that the chart was developed before the new Google Algorithm was implemented.

Although there are some that will argue that the quality of your outgoing links has no positive effect on the ranking of your blog--while poor quality is likely to hurt you--the absence of those links appears to be a determining factor in the new algorithm.

Google repeatedly announced its intentions to penalize content farms, yet its new algorithm came as a blow to many writing communities.To the surprise of many, Demand Medias' eHow did not suffer the negative impact of Google's Farmer Update and them asking why. The answer may be more obvious than you think. Demand Media requires links to quality references with a preference for edu and gov sites.

As online writers, we would do well to follow suit providing quality links to our work whenever possible--not only do we provide the reader with further information we just may gain favor with Google, as well.

*Finding reputable references is quick and easy with

Monday, February 28, 2011

Online Writers Adapt to the Changing Face of Online Writing

The face of online writing has changed. There is no denying it. Your success depends on your ability to adapt to new rules and a new playing field, but that doesn't mean you are doomed. Your readers have not gone away and are still eager to read what you have to say, but they may be having a bit of difficulty finding you.

As a writer, you have already developed the skills to meet the challenges of an online audience. You know that to succeed as an online writer, you must provide what the reader needs and wants. Maybe you didn't count on Google changing the rules and sending all your hard work down the drain in the blink of an eye.

Maybe you didn't anticipate the need to learn a new skill set to get your voice out there. Maybe you thought you finally had it all under control and the road to success was paved with page views and residual income for years to come.

The recent algorithm change may be discouraging or encouraging depending on where you write and the impact this has had on your work. If you find yourself discouraged, you are not alone--but writers don't stop writing because the publishing field changes. When things get tough, writers get tougher.

You didn't get where you are today by being fearful. You got here with hard work and dedication to your craft. Use those skills and that determination to rise above this seeming obstacle to find success in the face of a changing online world.

Now is the time to consider "What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail?"(Robert Schuller). Consider that for a moment and it will lead you in the direction you need to go.

Are there writing projects you've been wanting to start that could lead you in a new direction now? Are there private clients you can contact? Is there a website waiting to be built? Is it time to establish yourself as an expert in a particular field?

Think outside the box, today, and brainstorm ways to find success as a writer that depends less of specific online platforms and more on your specific skill set. Who knows, Google may have done online writers a favor as it forces us to push forward into unknown areas that may prove to be the secret to lasting success.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Surviving the New Google Algorithm

Positioning yourself well as a writer is always important, but recent changes to Google's algorithm just made it even more important for those online writers who earn a living by publishing their work on writing sites. 

Check out this article for no-nonsense ways you can begin today to improve your chances of success as an online writer.

Ways Online Writers Can Succeed with the New Google Algorithm

As online writers scramble to make sense of the new Google algorithm that plummeted page views for writers across the Internet, one thing becomes obvious. The face of online writing has changed and writers need to adapt to that change quickly--unless they want to go down with the ship. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What Does Google's New Algorithm Mean to Online Writers?

If you are like most online writers this morning your thoughts are probably filled with Google's unveiling of its new algorithm. Reports across the Internet reveal that many writing sites took a big hit in ratings and dropped drastically in ranking on Google. Until now, many held the "wait and see" approach not fully believing that Google would really go through with its threats to bury the little guy--but for now, at least, it appears they did.

The reason? According to Google--to improve the reader's experience--to weed out inferior sites--to give the reader the most relevant information. A few quick searches brought me lots of commercial sites and few informational sites. I won't get into the implications of that in this post, as it goes a bit beyond the direction I want to take.

I want to focus on is what this means for the online writer. We all know that it means quick change is necessary, but few of us know exactly what we need to do to keep up with the change. Just when we thought we had it all figured out and were beginning to get a grasp on SEO the proverbial rug has been pulled out from under us.

Until the dust settles, it is anyone's guess where this will all lead--but as writers many of us cannot afford to sit back and wait. So what do we do?
  • Keep Writing --slacking off now will only compound the issue.
  • Explore Your Options--take the time to look at what sites are ranking well with the new algorithm.
  • Maintain Quality--this may be more important than ever.
  • Find a Niche-- the fewer competing articles there are out there, the better your chances of reaching the top. Some reports indicate that those with niche articles have faired better since the change.
  • Seek Out Private Clients--although always important, now might be the time to align yourself with work for private clients to offset the reduced earning you are likely experience from writing sites.
** I'd love to hear what you think. Please share your comments and ideas in the comment section.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Is BidVertiser Worth Using as an Alternative to AdSense?

You may have noticed that I have removed my BidVertiser ads from this blog. Although BidVertiser provides contextual ads and allows you to block ads you do not want to appear on your site, as new ads are added, you must block them, too. For someone who has the time and wishes to monitor the ads closely this may be a good option, but for myself it doesn't work.

I noticed some pop-ups and pop-unders that detracted from the goal of this blog and simply did not wish to monitor it throughout the day to prevent ads that I did not want on my blog. Under different circumstances, I might have continued with BidVertiser

I apologize to you, the reader, if you were subjected to annoying talking ads or other popups. Rest assured, I have removed them from the blog.

I have left my original post about BidVertiser intact, as it may meet the needs of some online writers, as it is certainly up to personal preference whether one chooses to use BidVertiser or not.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Alternatives to Adsense: BidVertiser

If you’ve had the unfortunate experience of losing your AdSense account, you are probably wondering what alternatives to AdSense are available to make money on your blog.  Although AdSense may be the best known, there are other alternatives.

BidVertiser is an alternative to AdSense that provides contextual ads similar to AdSense. Like AdSense, BidVertiser allows you to create the look and feel you want in your ads by customizing the ad design and colors. Both graphic and text ads can be designed to meet your needs and standard sizes are available. BidVertiser also allows you to determine which ads will appear on your site by simply blocking ads you do not want to see.

By titling the ad block, you can easily track which ads perform best on your blog and make important decisions about ad placement and content.

Sign up is free and your first ads will appear within minutes. Payout for checks is $100, but is only $10 if you choose to use paypal. As an alternative to AdSense, BidVertiser provides a similar service that is quick and easy to use. I am currently trying BidVertiser. I am pleased with the look and feel of the ads and the find the site easy to navigate and understand. It is too early to tell how well the ads perform and the revenue they generate, but if you have lost your AdSense account (which seems to be a fairly common occurrence-- even when you have done nothing wrong) and are looking for an alternative, BidVertiser may provide the answer.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Increasing Traffic to Your Blog: Part Two: Promotion

If you have read Part One of Increasing Traffic to Your Blog you have already taken care of the basics of choosing an topic you are passionate about, selecting an attractive design and adding quality content--and are now ready to start promoting your blog.  Using effective promoting techniques to gain targeted traffic not only increases traffic, it builds repeat readers as well.

Increase Your Blog Traffic: Evaluate Your Audience
Before you can target your audience, you need to know who they are. If you haven't done so already, take the time to create a profile of your audience. Many new bloggers assume that the world is their audience and that a few well-placed links will draw in traffic. They are wrong. Your audience consists of those who want and need the service you provide. You answer their questions and solve their problems. Consider who these people are and where you will find them.

Increase Your Blog Traffic by Joining Online Communities
Join forums or communities where your readers socialize. Get involved, answer questions and offer assistance. Follow the rules of the community and avoid "selling your blog" to members. Add a link to your blog in the signature, if allowed, or add it to your profile.  When members see that you provide valuable information, they are likely to follow the link to your blog.

Increase Your Blog Traffic with Social Networking
Take advantage of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to get the word out about your blog, but don't forget to interact with others as well. When readers see you as involved, they are more likely to follow your links and read your blog.

Add links to bookmarking sites with a thoughtful description of your blog.

Increase Your Blog Traffic by Answering Questions
Visit Yahoo Answers and provide detailed answers to user's questions and add your blog link for further information.

Increasing traffic to your blog takes work and patience. There is not magic bullet--although there are plenty of people out there who are eager to take your money in exchange for promises of unlimited traffic. Use caution and common sense. Choose a topic that others are interested in, provide quality content that solves problems and answers your readers questions, and follow good SEO techniques and your traffic will increase naturally.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Avoid Keyword Stuffing and Still Rank High in Searches

**Tip of the Day**

Take advantage of the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to find words that Google recognizes as similar to your keywords and use them in your blog posts, articles and blog tags. Not only do they help you rank higher in search engine results (SERP), when used effectively your content flows naturally. Avoid repeating the same keywords repeatedly in the same paragraph or in short posts. This creates difficult-to-read text and may even get you penalized for keyword stuffing. Think smart. Write smart. Get your work noticed by using the tools Google provides.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Increasing Traffic to Your Blog: Part One: Setting the Stage

One of the most common questions asked by online writers and bloggers is “How do I increase traffic to my blog or article?” There are many people out there eager to sell you this information or to sell you a program claiming it will increase traffic with little effort on your part. Although effortlessly gaining blog traffic is every writer’s dream, it is just that—a dream.

Increasing traffic to your blog or articles requires work—at least if you want to maintain that traffic. We have all experienced the occasional boon of web traffic that disappears as soon as it appears. This is often the result of a random link placed on a popular site. Unfortunately, spur-of-the-moment links disappear and people move on quickly. Depending on that rogue link is a bit like playing the lottery. When you hit, you may hit big--but if you hold out hoping to hit the jackpot, you are likely to be disappointed.

Building traffic to your blog begins long before promoting your blog. It begins with your blog design and content.

Until you have designed an attractive and effective blog that contains valuable content for the reader, getting blog traffic really shouldn’t be your major concern. Sure, it feels great to know you have readers, but without good content to keep them coming back—it really doesn’t matter.

Let me walk you through the process of designing and building your blog so you will soon be in the position to focus your attention of gaining traffic to your blog.

I won’t pretend to be an expert in web design. I’m not. But, I do know a thing or two about what makes a blog look good. You do too, if you stop and think for a moment. For many bloggers failing to stop and think is their biggest obstacle. Instead of thinking like a reader, they get bogged down thinking about making money from adsense and end up with a blog that screams, “Click me! Click me!” but offers very little valuable information for the reader.

Determine the Focus of your Blog.
Ideally, the topic is something you feel passionate about and can write about comfortably on a regular basis. If you intend to monetize your blog, and I assume you do, the topic should have a good search volume, too. If readers do not search for the information you provide, there will be no traffic to worry about. For tips on using the Google Adwords Tool to determine search volume, see Finding Keywords.

Blog Layout and Templates
Choose a clean, professional template that complements the content of your blog. Although those darling puppies or cute fluttering butterflies may appeal to your senses, if you want to be taken seriously, lose the cute images. Readers form opinions about your blog before they begin to read the content. An attractive blog grabs the reader’s attention and directs them to the page.

Choose a layout for you blog that is easy for readers to navigate. Complicated blogs that require several clicks to access information often frustrate readers and send them elsewhere for the information they seek. Take advantage of page tabs and post archives to direct your reader to the appropriate information.

Color and Font
Select a color scheme that enhances your blog. Loud, bright colors may be your style, but softer colors that are easy on the eye often appeal to readers. Remember the focus of your blog is your content—not your creative flair--unless of course, that is the focus of your blog. Get feedback from other bloggers, view your blog on multiple browsers and take the time to view it objectively. How your blog looks is an important step in creating a blog that will draw traffic.

Before you begin to create content for your blog, jot down ideas for your blog posts. If you can’t come up with ten to 20 topics that pertain to the focus of your blog, consider whether you have chosen the right topic for your blog.

Create content with your reader in mind. Consider what your reader wants and needs and provide it. This is the time to use the best SEO practices, such as choosing the appropriate keywords for your article, creating titles and customizing your urls.

Although it may seem like using more ads will increase your chances of earning money from your blog, this is rarely the case. Two or three well-placed ads that provide a service to the read are more effective than a lot of ads your reader really isn’t interested in. If your blog looks like one big advertisement, readers will see you as out to make money, compromising your credibility.

Once you have set up an attractive blog, created a solid base of content and used the best SEO practices to make that content searchable, you are ready to begin the task of gaining traffic to your blog. Part two of this article will address ways to promote your blog and gain traffic. In the meantime, take the time to tweak your existing blogs, or design new blogs, with your readers in mind, so you will be in a position to promote your blog.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Starting an Adsense Blog to Make Money Blogging Can be Profitable and Fun, Too!

Blogging isn't for everyone. It requires attention and the willingness to change directions, but you can make money blogging and blogging is a great way to build your writing skills in a "non-threatening environment" where you call the shots.

In the beginning, blogging can feel a bit like yelling at the moon and listening for your echo. You know your voice is out is out there, but you are the only one who can hear it. But, that is precisely when you need to cultivate patience and continue blogging whether you see immediate results or not. I think of my blogs as a garden. Planting the seeds is only the beginning. It may be exciting to see it as it begins to sprout and the first readers arrive, but without plenty of TLC, it will soon wither away.

By following a few simple techniques, you can build a solid reader base and healthy blog traffic.

Choosing Your Blog Topic
Choose your blog topic wisely before setting up a blog, especially if you intend to use adsense to monetize it to make money blogging. Although you may find rambling on about the escapades of Aunt Bertha entertaining, unless you are well known, its unlikely to attract the attention of a wide range of readers and may not attract the best ads from adsense. Choose a topic you are passionate about and can write about regularly.

Keyword Research when Setting Up a Blog
Before setting up a blog, research your intended blog topic to determine how many readers actually search for information similar to yours. The Google keyword adwords tool is quick and easy to use and returns valuable information about the popularity of your topic. See my post Finding Keywords for more information on using this tool.

SEO for Adsense Blogs
Optimizing your blog posts may seem counter intuitive—especially if you are looking for a place to simply write from the heart. But, if you want readers to find what you have written, using good SEO techniques is just as important on adsense blog as it is publishing on other sites.

Some bloggers are very successful by researching an assortment of keywords related to their blog topic and tailoring blog posts around those keywords. I personally prefer to research keywords once an idea strikes me.  Instead of looking for the high paying keywords, I use the keyword tool to find a variety of related words that have a good search volume to use in the content of my blog post. Because I’ve already researched the main topic of my blog, I already know what is likely to be successful. Using the keyword tool simply helps me refine my blog posts to appeal to a wide range of readers.

Setting up a Blog
The quality of your blog does matter and should be considered before setting up a blog. Choosing the first template you find and throwing a few words together in the hopes to make money from adsense isn’t enough. Take the time to consider your blog topic and choose a template that complements it. Adding content that directly relates to the blog topic may seem like a no brainer, but you might be surprised by the number of bloggers who jump on the “make money with adsense” band wagon thinking they will make money by slapping a blog together and targeting high paying keywords. It doesn’t work that way. I won’t bore you with the typical chastisements to use proper grammar and spelling as I’ve already covered that in Characteristics of Quality Writing.

Blog Posting
Online writers often ask, “How often do I need to post to my blog.” Although there are no hard and fast rules, most bloggers agree that regular blog posting keeps your readers coming back to see what you have to offer them. How often you post to your blog depends on your topic, reader expectations and your schedule—but three to four times a week appears to be the accepted norm. Some blogs require more frequent posts. My blog “In the Direction of Dreams” does best with daily posts, as it provides an inspirational quote, some reflection on the topic and expressions of gratitude. Other blogs may do well with several posts a week.

Blog Promotion
Don’t be afraid to promote your blog, but use caution. If others see you as simply trying to promote yourself without providing value, they will soon turn away. Join forums or communities centered around your topic. As you interact with members, provide a link to your blog, if it provides more information that may be of interest. Twitter, Facebook and other social promotion sites are a great way to get started, but shouldn’t be a substitute for promoting your blog to others who share your interests.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

SERP and Page Rank: What's the Difference?

If you find the whole idea of page rank and SERP confusing, you are not alone. Many writers unwittingly confuse the two, or simply assume they are the same. They are not.

Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
SERP (Search Engine Results Page) refers to where your particular site (or article) falls in Google as a result of a search. How well your title and url reflect your content, the number of other competing sites and the specific focus and keywords in your work all effect SERP.

SERP changes according to the search term used. Although you may appear in the #1 spot by searching the exact title inside of quotation marks, be aware that unless your title reflects the exact words readers search to find your information, it is unlikely to appear #1 with their search terms.

Many new writers are excited to find their writing ranking well on Google, but fail to understand that unless the term is one that is searched often—it really doesn’t matter. The goal, of course, it to land your work above the fold on the first page of Google with several search terms that are searched often—not #1 with one search term readers seldom use.

Page Rank
Page rank ranges from 0 to 10 with 10 being the highest-ranking possible. This honor is reserved for Google itself. Page rank number reflects the value Google places on your site. Although the algorithm for earning a high rating remains known only to Google, good SEO practices, the amount of traffic and the quality of the links all contribute to the page rank of a site. Google updates Page rank once approximately every three months, while SERP may change frequently.

Building Page Rank
Producing quality work with fresh content helps to build the page rank of the site, but it doesn’t happen overnight. If you have your own blog or website, have patience. Provide the reader with valuable information, seek links from high ranked sites, use good anchor text and create a site that is easy to navigate and page rank will take care of itself.

Improving SERP
Meanwhile, follow good SEO practices to improve SERP, by using relevant keywords and avoiding keyword stuffing--or attempts to trick the system by adding high paying keywords that don’t relate to your topic. Although it may seem like a great idea at the time, attempting to draw traffic to ads by slipping in a few high paying keywords can (and often does) come back to haunt you, as readers decide to go elsewhere to find the information they seek.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Re-Targeting Advertising: Are Online Writers Ready for the Change?

Just when online writers and bloggers who write for revenue share--or depend on adsense income to support their work--thought they had it all figured out, along comes targeted online advertising and search advertising. No longer will ads appear alongside articles based purely on the content of the article, but may also appear differently depending on the reader. New retargeted advertising is designed to track your behavior as a reader, and consumer, and follow you wherever you go on the Internet. With behavioral targeting, the ads you see are those you are most likely to click on. This, of course is great news to advertisers, as it increases their click-through rate and they ultimately reap the reward of higher sales.

How Targeted Advertising Works
For the consumer, targeted advertising means the ads you see are relevant to your shopping and viewing behavior, providing you with the opportunity to view ads that relate to your lifestyle. Although it may be a bit eerie to be followed by that awesome pair of shoes you just viewed, behavioral marketing is designed to follow your interests and provide you with a more enjoyable surfing experience. When you view a site, a cookie-- coded with that information and stored on your computer-- allows the site to participate in behavioral marketing (retargeting advertising) by following you with the hopes of bringing you back to their site for a purchase.

A Wrench in the Formula
For those who rely on income from adsense or other revenue share advertising from blogs or writing site, this may throw a wrench into the formula, as readers may not see ads that relate to the content of the article. For those who customarily target higher paying keywords in the hope of drawing in high paying ads, this spells bad news with a capital B.  Research and careful word placement may be overridden by the readers search history.
Targeted Advertising and Revenue Share
So, what does that mean to online writers who earns a living from the revenue generated from ads? It’s too early to tell for sure, but it seems logical that a shift in focus will occur—one that may be good news for readers and profitable for writers who produce quality work with their reader in mind. For those who are out to make a quick buck, it may make the process a bit more difficult.

A Shift in Focus: Quality Counts
Targeting high paying keywords may lose its effectiveness, particularly for those who try to integrate keywords with a high CPC rate into content that is not focused on the topic. Although Google has always claimed to value quality content and warned against keyword stuffing or attempts to manipulate search engines, it has never been particularly good at enforcing its own “rules”.  It appears this shift in advertising, which Google itself has made available to its adwords customers, may put the focus back where it has always belonged when it comes to online content—quality.

A Shift in Advertising
As advertisers shift from targeting specific keywords and invest their money in behavioral targeting, content that is well written and provides readers with solutions to their everyday problems is likely to earn the lion’s share of revenue. For those who have taken advantage of SEO techniques purely to draw in readers in the hopes they will click ads, it seems their efforts may go unrewarded.

 The Demand for Content
Certainly, this is good news for the reader, as he may be spared choppy keyword-laden text designed to pull in ads. For writers who focus on providing a quality experience for the reader, the change may increase the demand for their work as sites seek out quality writing instead of reams of low-quality content with the specific goal of targeting profitable ads. For those who now make their living writing keyword-heavy articles designed to draw in ads, targeted advertising may be the beginning of the end.

Keep Your Eye on the Horizon
For now, retargeting advertising is just cresting the horizon. The effects it will have on writers and the demand it will create for content are still unknown, but a shift in focus seems likely. Leverage yourself as a writer by striving to improve your craft and producing quality content now, while keeping your eye to the horizon. Targeted advertisement and behavioral marketing is not likely to go away.

* I'd love to hear you thinking about retargeting advertising and how it will change the face of online content. Please leave your comments to share your views with others.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Finding Your Voice: Let Your Writing Sing

For many writers, voice is difficult to identify because it is often confused with tone or style, but it is more than either of these. Tone refers to the mood of the specific piece of writing and style refers to the way in which you use words to create structure and balance. Your voice is the elusive quality to makes your writing come to life on the page.

Think of your favorite singer. He or she probably has a preferred style of music— from soulful Blues to good old rock-n-roll. He may also prefer a certain tone from uplifting songs of praise to the dark and foreboding.  Others may share the style and tone of his music—yet he possesses the power to create a unique experience for the listener. That power is his voice.

A writing voice is a lot like that.  It embodies more than style and tone. Your writing voice makes connections with your readers and inspires action or elicits emotion. Your voice is the director, while style and tone are merely actors. They can be recast at any time, but your voice cannot.

Finding your voice requires courage and faith. The courage to put a bit of who you are into everything you write and the faith that there are readers who seek what you have to offer. It isn’t always easy, and it is always comfortable—but until you are ready and willing to go beyond the basics of style and tone and add your personal voice to your work, you will never really know what you are capable of as a writer.

Tips for Finding Your Writing Voice

Write from the heart. Whether you are writing fiction or a simple instructional article, when you write from the heart, your natural voice is unveiled. Use your passion to develop a clear voice.

Picture your audience. Write as though your readers are a friend that you want to share your information with. Use language appropriate for the reader and your voice will come shining through.

Read. Read. Read. Think about the ways the author uses her voice to enhance the style and tone of the piece.

Explore. Write on a variety of topics geared to different audiences. Observe how your writing voice affects the outcome.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mini Grammar Lesson: That vs Which

For many of us, the proper use of that and which causes confusion, but the grammar rules for determining when to use that or which are simple.

Use that to introduce restrictive clauses. A restrictive clause is a clause that cannot be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.

  • Writing that is filled with grammatical errors makes the writer appear less knowledgeable.
  • Writing that has not been checked for spelling and grammatical errors is not ready for publication.
  • Articles that have not been proofread should not be submitted.

Removing the restrictive clause in these sentences changes the meaning of the entire sentence.

Use which before a nonrestrictive clause. Nonrestrictive clauses add additional information, but do not alter meaning. Nonrestrictive clauses are often enclosed in parenthesis, and can be removed completely without changing the meaning of the sentence.

  • Free grammar and spelling checkers, which can be found on the Internet, help writers polish their work.
  • Confusion over word choice, which is very common, causes careless errors.
Removing a nonrestrictive clause does not change the meaning of the sentence.

Use who to introduce any clause when the subject is a person.
  • Writers who follow grammar rules produce clean copy. (restrictive clause)
  • Online writers who ignore the importance of keywords and SEO often get frustrated when their writing fails to draw in readers. (restrictive clause)
  • Successful online writers, who take their work seriously, know the importance of good grammar and SEO techniques. (nonrestrictive clause)

Most word processing programs contain a grammar and spelling checker, but if yours does not, you can use free grammar and spelling checkers online to double-check your work. Spelling and grammar checking software is also available for sale, if you prefer to use a program from your computer.