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Writing Quality Content is a Key Skill for any Internet Marketer

This is by no means a complete guide, but rather some starting tips or techniques for how to write for the web.

Research – Know your topic!

This sounds obvious, but the number of people who attempt to write about stuff they don’t understand astounds me! Good writers are informed writers. We’re not talking about becoming experts here, just a solid grounding in the topic. Sites like Wikipedia are great for getting a subject overview (remember this information isn’t always 100%!). A few good hours of Google searching is a must. Use their new “Wonder Wheel” (click on the “show options” tab above your search results) to generate mind-map like structures of related search terms to help you explore the different facets of a topic.

When I need to write about a completely new subject, I set aside at least 3 or 4 hours of solid reading (doesn’t have to be all at once!) to learn about the topic. You don’t have to do this every time you write something. You’ll find the knowledge you gain from one good stint of reading can be used to write multiple articles. Take particular note of the style of writing and the kinds of pages that show up in your search results. This will be the kind of content you want to emulate when you start writing. Note I said emulate not copy! Be very careful to avoid plagiarism. Not only is there potential for legal consequences, but Google will slap you silly if they notice you have plagiarized content on your site.

Start with the title

Forget about trying to outline your entire piece of writing first; when writing for the web I like to start with a title . What this does is ensure you are crystal clear about the direction of the article from the beginning, making it much easier to write fluently and stick to the point.

Bear in mind that people surfing the web spend mere seconds on any given page, so don’t try to accomplish too much in a single article. It’s better to explore one or two core ideas rather than branch into multiple sub topics. Five hundred to eight hundred words is typically considered the optimum for web articles, and while that sounds like a lot, you’ll be surprised at how hard it is to say anything good in such a small amount of space!

If you find yourself going off on a tangent in your writing, don’t ever delete it! Copy and paste it into a new document and leave it for another time. Good words and ideas are precious, and having a collection of small snippets of writing can be very useful for future articles.

Don’t think, just write

Easy to say, hard to do – but “just writing” is possibly one of the best writing techniques I’ve ever known. Little is more intimidating than a blank sheet of paper or a blank document on your computer, so it’s important to get something down rather than critique every sentence as you write it. Once you have a grounding in your topic and a good title as a starting point, stop thinking and start writing. Don’t worry whether you’re writing is good or not. At this stage you’re just focusing on getting out a first draft. (Just Google what the noted writer Ernest Hemingway said about first drafts for a rather un-inspirational quote on the subject.) Even if your writing is really bad to start with, you’ll find it easier to tidy up a bad draft than spend hour upon hour painstakingly perfecting each sentence. More often than not you’ll discover that 10% to 20% of what you’ve written isn’t actually too bad anyway. By taking these good parts and expanding them, you can turn that 20% good content into 50% good content, and then that 50% into 90%!

Another technique that I have had a lot of success with is writing two separate drafts from scratch. I write a complete first draft, print it out and then delete it off my computer. I put the first draft in a draw and write a second draft without looking at the first. By deleting the first draft, you force yourself to approach the piece from the start, except this time you’re brain’s already warmed up and your thoughts are more organized! Once I’ve done a second draft I’ll take my first out and mine it for any particularly good sentences that I want to keep – but I typically find that my second piece of writing is significantly better than my first.

It gets easier!

Some of these techniques may seem really time consuming, but the good news is you don’t need to use them all for every article you write. If you’re writing 20 or 30 articles for a site you’ll likely find that after the first two articles or so you get into a kind of ‘flow’ and the words just start coming.

Writing’s like anything – practice makes perfect. While there are some naturally gifted writers, anyone can teach themselves to write good basic content that people (and search engines) will enjoy.

… if all you can think off is “But I’m not a writer!” You can pay someone to write your articles for you.

There are a number of websites that connect publishers (like you) with freelance writers. One popular site is Elance! Just post a project and writers (“Elancers”) will “bid” for the job, offering to write X number of articles for Y dollars per article. At the bottom end of the scale you can spend around $5 per article. Typically, the more you spend, the higher the quality of the writing…

Enjoy your writing!

Heide Holtz

SmarterSites.net

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10 SEO Rules for Your Blog or Website

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a vital component of any website.

As a web designer or blogger, it’s important you understand how SEO works. Here are ten easy rules that will immediately improve the SEO on all of your web sites.

You may also be interested in how to get free advertising on google.

Rule Zero: Do Not Cheat. Period.

If you walked into a room full of genius scientists with PHDs, do you think you could outsmart them all? No. Google has hundreds of rooms full of genius scientists with PHDs, and their job is to work 60 hours a week to make sure you can’t fool Google. You can’t outsmart them. Ever. Ignore any advice on trying to cheat the system and focus on making great web sites with great content, and your sites will show up fine in searches.

Rule One: Stick to Your Keywords

Pick a few keywords or phrases that describe your site. Use them, and words related to them, whenever it’s natural to do so. Repeating them uselessly is no good (rule Zero), use them in sentences, headlines, and links.

Rule Two: Content is King

Users don’t search for design, they search for content. If your site doesn’t have content people want, no one will look at it.

Every page on your site should follow the Inverted Pyramid. Each page should lead with a relevant H1 tag with one of your keywords, and the first paragraph of text should be a summary of the rest of the page.

Rule Three: Clean Code is Searchable Code

Build your sites in a text editor, and write clean, human-readable HTML. The HTML should follow the conceptual structure of the page, navigation first, followed by the H1 tag, then the first paragraph, etc. Try to use descriptive tags when possible. Use UL for lists, P for paragraphs, H tags for heads and subheads, and STRONG for bolded text. Don’t overuse Divs.

Your site can still be artistic and cool, that’s what CSS is for.

Rule Four: The Home Page is the Most Important Page

Your home page is the key to your site being found by search engines. It should summarize the rest of the site, and give a clear, compelling reason for a user to look at the other pages in the site.

Rule Five: Links Have Meaning

Search engines pay a lot of attention to the links on your site, and the words used in those links. Never use “click here” or “see more” for a link. The link text should describe where the link will take the user, such as “more examples of CSS web design” or “learn how we can improve your SEO.”

The more relevant the links on a page, the more findable the page becomes. Don’t go overboard, and don’t link to anything irrelevant. If your page is focused on minimalist web design, a link to the Design MeltDown page on minimalism will boost your SEO. A link to a hilarious picture of a cat will not.

Rule Six: Title Tags for the Win

Every page in your site should have a title with the site name and a short description of the page. About 60 letters total. Include a keyword. Remember that the page title is what appears in search results, it should give users a clear reason to click on it.

Your navigation links should have title attributes that match the titles of your pages. This looks like <a title=”name of page” href=”link”>. It’s a small thing, but it will give you a significant SEO improvement.

Rule Seven: Alt Tags Matter

Every image on your site should have an alt tag. Especially images that are relevant to the page. If your page is focused on CSS tricks, labelling a screenshot “example of rounded CSS corners” will improve your page’s findability. Labelling it “screenshot” or “image” will do the opposite.

Rule Eight: Ignore Most Meta Tags

A long time ago meta tags were the secret to SEO. Those days are gone. The only meta tag that really matters now is the description tag. Search engines may use it to provide the text under the link to your page in their results. Make sure it describes the page in a way that explains why a user searching for your content would want to look at your page.

Rule Nine: Have a Site Map

Make sure you have a site map. This is an xml file that describes the structure of your page. Make one, and give it to Google.

Rule Ten: Design for Humans

Search engines are designed to find what humans want. That means the best way to make your site findable is to design it for humans. Your job as a designer is to solve a problem, not make art, prove a point, serve your ego or break a boundry. In this case, your problem is to provide your users with a site that is easy to use and full of what they’re looking for. If you can do that, the search engines will find you.

Have you got any more tips for SEO tips? Feel free to share them here.

Heide Holtz

http://SmarterSites.net

http://SmarterSites.WordPress.com

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Elance Online Work Index: The Need For Killer Content

One of the larger overarching trends we’ve noticed since the inception of the Elance Online Work Index several months ago was the steadily rising increase in the need for written content in a number of forms.

The data speaks for itself. Article Writing has moved up three out of the past four months all the way to the number two spot, while Web Content has maintained a footing in the top 10 for the past four months. Online Writing, Content Writing, Copywriting, and Academic Writing have hung around in the top 50 for the past four months as well.

But why the sudden gold rush for high-quality written content? As someone who obviously spends a lot of time stringing a few words together in an online fashion, I can break down the sudden thirst for internet content in three main points:

1. Community Building: Having a noticeable presence online is almost as important as having a noticeable presence in the real world. Publishing online content in the form of blogs, newsletters, and more gives your customers, patrons, and readers a humanizing perspective of your business and also provides a channel for you to build a relationship with current and prospective customers. Online content also offers something for your client base to discuss with each other, creating a buzz that can reach even farthest corners of the web.

Read the rest of this entry »

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