Online content writing has grown to become a very lucrative means of income for freelance writers. As the Internet continues to expand, more and more blogs and websites appear. As a result, more quality, unique content is needed to fill them. While some bloggers or website owners may provide their own content, others may choose to outsource this work to online content writers and professional freelancers. Whether you have your own website or have chosen a career as a freelancer, it is vital that you know the difference between simply writing a blog post or article to take up space and writing a fantastic article or blog post that will gain the attention of search engines, bring in traffic, and keep readers interested.
The fact is, not everyone can write. Sadly, some think simply putting a few words down on a page qualifies as writing. Many would-be writers jump on the freelance writing wagon thinking it will be an easy source of income. Maybe your high school English teacher praised your creative mind or you supplied a few articles for the school paper. While this is a great place to start, there is much more to writing than correctly putting a few sentences together or painting a pretty picture with words. Even if you have the necessary skills to write well, keep in mind there is always room for improvement.
Online Content Writing
The advancing world of the Internet has changed the way writers must approach composing an article. Professional freelance web content writers must have the necessary skills to write an effective, engaging article that not only gains and maintains the attention of the reader, but also grabs the attention of the search engines. This means effectively using SEO skills designed to attract search engines like Google and achieve a high ranking in search engine results. Effective use of SEO should be accomplished while still implementing the skills required to write a unique, interesting article that is free from grammatical and spelling errors, pleasing to the eye, informative and accurate, and holds the attention of the reader. Does this sound like a lot to ask from a freelance writer? Writing an article for the Internet certainly requires a different approach than writing for a print publication, but it most definitely is not easier. Those who think there is nothing to writing for the web may be surprised to learn there is actually much more to online freelance writing than they first believed.
Five Tips for Freelance Web Writers
Even if you have written for print publications in the past, writing for the web is a whole new ballgame. Following are a few tips for the beginning online freelance writer:
- Learn to Research
One key to making a good income with online content writing is being able to accurately research a topic quickly and thoroughly. Don’t rush, however. Make certain you are covering all bases and researching only the best sources. The speed with which you research will come in time. First, learn how to search reliable sources. Once you have learned how to find reliable research sources, you will discover that your research time has been cut in half. Generally speaking, someone’s blog or website is not a reliable source of information. One of the worst things you can do as a freelance writer is provide false facts and inaccurate information. Just because so and so’s blog states something as fact, it does not make it so. Research thoroughly and make certain all of the information you provide is accurate and not simply someone else’s opinion or misinformed idea. For example, if you are writing an article on the effects and treatments of migraine headaches, an average blog or little-known website is not really the best place to gather your information. Reliable resources such as WebMD or the Mayo Clinic are where you should turn for facts. Reliable, trustworthy sources include:
- Government websites
- Educational websites
- Reputable websites
- Keep it Simple
When it comes to formatting, keep it simple. As mentioned earlier, readers scanning the Internet for information want to find useful, relevant facts presented in a simple format that is easy to read and quickly scan. Quality web content takes this into consideration and provides readers with well-written, researched information presented in a simple, easy-to-read format. Even the most thought out, well-researched, and well-written article appears dull and boring if it is simply presented as a solid block of text. Make it simple for readers to quickly spot the information they are searching for by providing the following:
- Numbered or bulleted lists
- Keep it Interesting and Informative
In addition to writing an article that meets SEO standards, you must also be capable of producing well-written articles that not only grab the attention of your readers, but also keep their attention while providing accurate, informative content. In the fast-paced world of the Internet, an article must not only grab a reader’s immediate attention, it must also retain that attention throughout. Don’t drift from the topic or provide information that is not relevant or useful to the reader. If the information you provide in your article is not informative or requires the reader to jump to another page to get the information they are looking for, your viewers are not likely to stick around long before moving on to the next search result. In a nutshell:
- Don’t tell a story.
- Don’t use fluff.
- Don’t send the reader away.
- Keep it Relevant
People searching the web for information want immediate gratification. They don’t want to wade through a couple of paragraphs of irrelevant content before getting to the answer. Get straight to the point and stick to the facts. This is one of the primary areas where writing for the web differs greatly from writing for print publications. When someone picks up a book or magazine, they expect to read stories or introductory paragraphs leading up to the topic. Articles written for use on the Internet, however, should immediately address the topic and let the reader know they have found what they were searching for. Since the majority of people browsing the web will only spend a few seconds scanning the article for pertinent information before they decide to stop and read it, it is important to get straight to the point from the very beginning. Once the main focus of the article has been stated, expand on the topic in a matter-of-fact way that allows readers to easily locate the information they are looking for. In summary:
- Grab the reader’s attention.
- Get straight to the point.
- Stick to the facts.
- Learn Search Engine Optimization Skills
Most clients want online freelance writers who are knowledgeable about SEO strategies. They want a writer who can produce quality, unique SEO content capable of helping their website or blog achieve high ranking with search engines. If you intend to write web content and be successful at online freelance writing, it is essential that you familiarize yourself with the basics of SEO strategies. These include:
- Link building
- Quality content
Search Engine Optimization
The last tip above may just be the most important. It is essential that a freelance content writer know and understand the basics of SEO in order to be successful and present quality material that will keep clients coming back. Basic SEO strategies include three essential elements:
- Keywords, Keywords, Keywords
In case you haven’t guessed, keywords play an extremely important role in SEO practices. Essentially, the element of keywords in strategic SEO writing can be broken down into three parts:
- Keyword choice
- Keyword placement
- Keyword density
After determining the topic of your article or blog post, decide what words or phrases someone searching for information on the topic might type in the search bar. Target these words and phrases in your article. Some terms will draw in more traffic than others. A keyword tool such as Google’s Keyword Planner can help you determine exactly which words and phrases are most likely to draw the most traffic.
Once you have determined which keywords to target in your article, you must strategically place them within the text. In general, keyword should be used evenly throughout the article. Most SEO experts agree that the first occurrence of your primary keyword should occur in the first and last paragraph of your article. Any other instances of the keyword should be dispersed evenly throughout and used in a variety of places. For example, if your primary keyword is “Freelance writer,” the term should be used in the first couple of sentences and the last couple of sentences. If you have determined the keyword phrase should be used five times in the article, you might also place it once in a heading or subheading, again in a list, and the final time within the text of a paragraph. Each instance of the word or phrase should be placed a fairly even distance from the others. For example, it is not a good practice to place the same keyword phrase in sentences back to back.
A specific keyword density is required to attract the attention of search engines and achieve high rankings in search engine search results. Keyword density is determined by the amount of times a keyword is used within a text in comparison to the total amount of words in the text. Major search engines will punish content that uses keyword stuffing in an attempt to fool them, so it is important not to overuse your selected keywords and phrases. Most SEO experts suggest a keyword density of one to three percent. Keyword density can be determined by dividing the amount of times you have used a keyword by the amount of total words in the text. Multiply this total by 100. Of course, if you are using a keyword phrase, treat the complete phrase as one word. A number of free keyword density tools are also available online.
- Link Building
Link building is another important aspect of SEO writing. The way a website ranks in the search engines can be greatly affected by the number of links used in the content to connect the web page to other sites. These links should always be from trusted, reliable sources. Proper link building within an article can be an effective way of achieving high rankings with the search engines.
- Quality, Unique Content
Keywords and link building may play an important role in the creation of SEO content, but they mean very little if the quality of writing is poor. Those browsing the Internet quickly scan a page when they arrive at it. If they land on a page with poorly written content that contains poor grammar, bad spelling, or confusing sentence structure, they are not likely to have much confidence in the creditability of the content or the website and will likely move on to another source of information with well-written, researched information. Quality links and accurate placement of keywords means very little if the information you provide is poorly written, lacking in interest, or filled with inaccurate facts.
In addition to being well-written and researched, an article should be unique. Google has really come down on this aspect of SEO writing in recent years in an effort to prevent website scraping, content theft, and straight out plagiarism. People seem to disagree somewhat on what a unique article is. It seems some think an article is unique as long as it passes through a plagiarism checker. However, a professional online freelance writer knows that a truly unique article must not only use a variety of word choices, but must also present the information in a way that differs from what is already out there. Simply rewriting someone’s article and changing a few words here and there so it passes through a duplicate content checker does not qualify as a unique article. Google and other search engines frown upon this method of attempting to fool them and will penalize a website if article spinning or a similar method is used.
Now that you understand the importance of implementing SEO strategies in your writing, you may wonder why these strategies are important. You are probably already aware that it has to do with achieving high rankings in search engine results, but exactly how does that work? To explain it a little better, let’s take a look at the most popular Internet search engine.
If you have been writing content for the internet for any length of time, chances are you have heard a lot about Google’s algorithms. But what are they, and why are they important to the article you’re writing? In short, Google’s algorithms are what determines how websites rank in its search results pages. When someone types a question or term in the search engine bar, Google uses algorithms that determine what results are sent back to the user. Google currently uses more than 200 of these algorithms to provide it with clues as to what the user is looking for. While Google’s complete algorithm formula is not made public, we do know that these signals include things like keyword choice and density, freshness of content, and links connecting a website to other sites.
One of the most recent large changes to Google’s search results algorithm occurred with the introduction of Google Panda in February 2011. This change was introduced in an effort to penalize low-quality websites and boost the ranking of high-quality websites. Not long after Google rolled out Panda, it provided a section in its blog listing 23 areas that address the question, “What counts as a high-quality site?”
Google Panda was designed to affect the search engine ranking of an entire website instead of just certain pages on that website. Google warns that it only takes one or two pages of duplicated or poor quality content to bring down traffic on a website. It recommends that pages with this type of content be restructured and rewritten, removed, or blocked from search engine indexing.
Google will penalize websites for a number of reasons and knock them down in the search engine results. Some reasons a website will be knocked down in Google rankings include, but are not limited to:
Links from sites in other languages
Links to suspicious sites
Too many outbound links
Too few outbound links
While most of these are self-explanatory, some might question what qualifies as low-quality content. Matt Cutts, head of web spam at Google, warns that poorly written, non-specific, or general content that does little to differentiate itself from what is already out there will likely not rank well in Google search engine results. Professional freelancers should only provide original, well-written content.
Resources For Web Writers
Freelance web writers may find a number of useful tools scattered across the Internet that can greatly assist with ensuring their content is fresh, unique, and up to standards. Following are just a few great resources on the web for writers:
Copyscape Plagiarism Checker – Copyscape allows you to paste your written content into a search box to search the web for content similar to yours.
Google Keyword Planner – Google’s Keyword Planner is a great way to do keyword research and discover what keywords should be used in your article.
AP Stylebook – The majority of web content is generally written in AP style. This online style guide is a must-have resource for any online freelance writer.
Purdue Owl – A great resource for checking grammar and sentence structure rules you may be fuzzy on.
Social Media – If you have trouble coming up with popular topics to write about, take a scroll through a social media website and see what people are talking about. What is the hot topic of the week? What do people seem to be most concerned about?
EasyBib – This is an essential resource if you need to cite resources for an academic paper or informative article.
Writing for the web requires skills that go beyond simply placing a few thoughts on the page or even presenting a well-written piece of work. Qualified and experienced freelance web writers know how to effectively write a blog, article, or other piece of web content that will not only attract and maintain the attention of the reader, but perform well in search engine results as well.