Tag Archives: Blogging

Skills That Pay The Bills: Copywriting, SEO, and Blogging

a typical office day

Hello, intrepid readers. We are going to shift gears a bit in this post and address an issue that is always near and dear to my heart: money. This is not to say that I am obsessed with wealth, but I certainly enjoy being able to live comfortably and enjoy my hobbies, which as a geek can include expensive gadgets, video games, and lots of media. So how does a writer in the modern era get paid?

Copywriting

Copywriting (also known as business writing) is the art and science of creating text that informs, attracts, and sells, all at the same time. To write good copy, you not only have to be a good writer, but you have to understand your audiences and what will drive their purchasing. Your goal is to sell something, and in order to do that you have to understand how your readers will react not just to the content of your words, but their appearance and tone.

Necessary skills:

  • Write in many tones and voices, from warm and friendly to cold and technical. You must get over the notion that you are selling your art and thus must maintain your own authentic voice. While this is true for fiction, poetry, and other creative writing, copywriters must be able to catch the tone and voice that will most effectively represent their client’s interests. Read, listen to, and watch advertisements of all kinds and you will hear many different voices; practice writing in all of them.
  • Understand visual cues. Words are visual, and by purposefully arranging how they meet the eyes  you can make certain impressions without changing a bit of your content. By creating symmetry and asymmetry in your copy (lining up your text and formatting it such that the lines “lead” the eyes of the reader to each important phrase) you can emphasize certain points over others, line up “question and answer” blocks around explanatory copy, and create a general impression of casualness, formality, friendliness, or whatever impression is needed.
  • Be a good researcher. Clients will vary, and you will often need to be able to learn a great deal about a given industry, company, product, or service with very little notice. Make sure you have resources bookmarked and ready to do research on just about anything. This includes niche sites, academic sites, and government sites; Wikipedia, for all its glory, just won’t cut it.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Writing in the online world requires at least a basic understanding of the principles of SEO, including keyword research, competition evaluation, and link-building. Understand, it will seldom be your job to define and entire SEO strategy for a client, but in order to create good online content you have to know how to make sure it can be found and will compete against other similar content.

Necessary Skills:

  • Understand the principles of search. Search is a weird field, in concept and in practice. In theory, it’s just math; search engines index content and use various algorithms to return that content in reply to corresponding searches. And if language, meaning, and knowledge were a simple affair, that would be enough, but they aren’t. We categorize things, use synonyms and conditionals, come up with neologisms (new words), and generally make things very complicated (and very interesting). We teach the search engines what words mean, and in turn the search engines teach us how to ask for what we are looking for. I can’t even begin to cover the necessary knowledge to really understand search, but I will list several resources for learning the basics of search and SEO theory at the end of this post.
  • Learn how to use keywords and keyword phrases without sounding forced. Learn how to research commonly searched keywords and phrases and pepper your writing with them appropriately. Don’t stuff them, don’t use keywords unrelated to the content, and don’t just reuse the same one over and over; use synonyms and related terms.
  • Produce quality content. Realize that keyword use is just part of the battle, what we call a “necessary but insufficient condition”. You have to use well-chosen keywords, but quality content that will attract links and traffic is the rest of the equation.
  • Be generous. Link out often to other blogs and sources, and always make sure your anchor text (the text that you make the link) is actually associated with the content you link to. Try to go for deep links (links to pages inside a website rather than to the frontpage) and when you reference ideas or content from other sources, make sure to credit them.

Blogging

Blogging is big business…for a few. This money comes from advertising, direct sales, and the attraction of jobs. The decision of how to monetize your blog comes down to how much traffic you get and what your niche is. thePuckWrites is monetized by being a sort of virtual resume…I blog about how I do things so that others can learn how to do them, which showcases my knowledge and writing, while making sure a few select pieces of writing are available to show my range, plus a resume and a contact form. Since my blog is set up this way, I attract both writers who want to learn and employers who want to hire. You might also consider blogging for hire…companies may pay you to blog regularly for them, or you could join a blog network or multi-user blog that pays per post like BrightHub. These kinds of jobs can vary a great deal in price, so make sure you are getting paid what you are worth.

Necessary Skills:

  • Picking a good niche. I know a lot of bloggers, and some of them blog about things that no one would ever want to read about regularly. Some industries and subjects, no matter how necessary for society and life, will not draw an audience. Pick a niche you know about, but pick an interesting niche you know about; you might sell toilet paper, but no one wants to read about toilet paper, whether it is making, selling, or using it.
  • Writing for a wide audience. Don’t be a snob. Use language that everyone will understand and if you must use special jargon, explain what you mean without being condescending. Remember, most people do not write for a living and thus it is not their job to know all the $0.50 words. You are not special, better, or smarter because you know what deontological means or can use gerund properly in a sentence, you are just specially trained in your job like others are specially trained in their own. Don’t be an ass.
  • Discipline. You need to update regularly, research new posts, and promote your work. Quite frankly, it can be a huge pain. Depending on your revenue model, you might need to update as often as several times a day. Good scheduling and productivity is a must.

Resources

Copywriting

SEO

Blogging

What Else?

These are my skills that pay the bills, what are yours?

What is the “New Media”?

When people ask what I do, I tell them I’m a writer. Then they ask what I write, and I say I mostly write online. They then look at me quizzically, like they understand the words but don’t comprehend their meaning. They always ask, “like what?”

Like what?

Like the internet isn’t mostly text, and that the text and content they interact with daily doesn’t have to be written by someone. Like all the content, from the longest essay to the smallest lolcat didn’t have to be created by someone.

Now, I know that inside, deep inside, in the cockles of their hearts, they know all of this. I also realize that this is just an updated version of the treatment writers, artists, and thinkers have always gotten about what they do. This is normal.

What bothers me is when writers, people who should know better, still don’t get it. They just ask if I ever plan to do any “real” writing. As if what I do here and else less real than other writing.lolcat

When I have these conversations, I try to make my point.

me: Do you read?

them: Yes, of course.

me: Do you mean for news, entertainment, and information?

them: Yes.

me: Do you read about those things in newspapers, magazines, and books?

them: Oh, no, I do all that online.

Now, if this were a story, I would go silent and wait a beat, then they would go “Ohhh” with a look that showed their comprehension. Like the professional tale-spinner I am, I try to do this in real life, but it never works. They just wait for me to go on, and I stand there looking increasingly stupid.

The point is, what is this that we do? What is the “new media”? What is so different about writing for the new media that I made my blog about it? Is it the same as writing in other mediums? Well, obviously I would say no. I would say that the “new media” is a developing form of art in itself, a platform for literature and creativity impossible before the internet. It’s a new game with new rules.

So, the new media is all forms of media that exist through the internet primarily or only. Web-shows and podcasts, fanfilms and blogs, videos and playlists. The odds are that you probably have already contributed to the new media by talking on forums or commenting on articles, and never even realized it. We are all a part of this online creation. We exist in it and we help create it.

If you want to make writing your career, you have a choice to make. You can go the route of writers of prior generations and hack away at your novel and snail-mail it off to publishers, waiting for editors to get around to your corner of the slush-pile. Or you can get online, go into business for yourself, and pursue writing in the new media. Whichever it is, you need to be able to write, but to write in the new media you need some other skills and tricks as well.

For the next few posts, I am going to talk about the craft of writing itself, and how writing for the new media is different than writing for print. I have some topics I plan on covering, but I want to put out a call for questions from other writers and people getting started:

Do any of you have any questions or issues you would like to discuss?