One of the things that I have wanted to do since starting The Affluent Blogger is offer help for people who would like to become better writers. Today, I’d like to discuss my process of writing content for the Web. While I wouldn’t go far as to say that my method is better or more “right” than anyone else’s, I think that an outline of my online writing process is something that newcomers might find helpful. I firmly believe that quality is far more important than quantity, and one great article a day will do more for your website in the long run than 20 mediocre ones. However, once you have this method ingrained in your mind, don’t be surprised if you can really pump out a lot of great website content every day.
For some, I think that the most difficult aspect of online writing is simply deciding what to write about. One thing that I highly recommend is writing notes constantly. I jot my ideas down everywhere, and periodically enter them in Microsoft OneNote, using a different notebook tab to keep my thoughts categorized. I have a tab in OneNote for ideas for future domain names and websites, and tabs containing my ideas for each of my existing websites. Stickies on Mac OS X and Sticky Notes on Windows are also great applications for ideas that you want to get down right away. Whatever you use, record all of your ideas, no matter how random and undeveloped — the simple act of writing or typing an idea gets you thinking about it. You will continue to develop the idea subconsciously, even as you actively work on other things.
What about those times when you don’t have any ideas, though? For this situation, I have a few suggestions, and the first is to spend plenty of time reading. Whatever the topic or niche of your website is, keeping up with the latest news and events is the key to remaining an expert in that field. RSS is a great way to do this, because it allows you to scan information from a great many sources in a short amount of time. I subscribe to a host of RSS feeds, and I scan the headlines each day and delete everything that doesn’t grab me. This takes a few minutes and leaves me with a few really interesting articles, which I’ll open and read. By the time I’m done reading, I’ll likely have at least one news item that I think will interest my readers, and that I think I can provide some insight or commentary on. I don’t recommend simply publishing an article restating a news item; don’t write about it unless you can bring something unique to the table.
Google Analytics can be a great help for finding topics for online writing. If your website already has a decent volume of content, you will probably find upon checking Google Analytics that some people who find your website are searching for topics similar to — but not quite the same as — content that you have already published. Google Webmaster Central can also be useful for this. If someone sees your website when searching for a topic that you haven’t written about yet, you will be very likely to rank well on Google when you do write about it.
Operating multiple websites can be so helpful in avoiding writer’s block. If you run several websites, each on a different topic, then you can be reasonably certain that you will always have an idea for new content to add to one of them. Try taking things a step further than that by using a different pen name for each website, and developing a different character for each pen name. You might be surprised by how liberating this can feel and how it can really invigorate your creativity.
I don’t personally go crazy with SEO tricks. I know that a lot of people do, but I prefer to focus on the content because I believe that good content always finds its way to the top. However, the title of an article is a very important SEO aspect because search engines give extra weight when the keywords searched for are in the title and URL of the article — configure your permalinks in WordPress for this. The title should contain the words that someone would be most likely to search for if they wanted to find your article. If you aren’t sure, put a few variations of your title’s keyword phrase into the Google Keyword Tool to find out which variation most people search for. In most cases, that is the variation that you should use for your title.
People read online by scanning, and you’re going to have to accept the fact that much of the time, people won’t read the entire article. If you are writing a lengthy piece, break the article up into subheadings and paragraphs. If you start the article by writing the title and subheadings, then you have created an outline that you can use to help keep your thoughts organized. When you publish the article, the subheadings will make it much easier for your readers to digest the information. I would rarely suggest structuring a long article without subheadings, and never, ever use only one long paragraph.
There is a delicate balance between using the right keywords to make sure that people can find your content through the search engines, and trying to jam a keyword phrase into an article so many times that it compromises the content and makes it come off looking like spam. Nobody wants to read junk, so you should always write the best possible content first, and let the keywords fit in naturally.
People don’t read every word of an article, and they get bored quickly. Every sentence should add value to the article. If it doesn’t, take it out. I am a naturally wordy person, and writing economically is a constant challenge for me. I always make it a point during the proofreading process to look for sentences that I can remove to make the article more information-rich. For long articles, I don’t suggest writing a conclusion paragraph — in my opinion, people never read them. A conclusion is warranted if the article is a product review, however.
This dovetails a bit into what I just mentioned about getting into character. Your website has a voice, and you should always remember to use that voice when you write. Is your website formal or casual? Are you simply presenting information, or are you speaking directly to the reader? Is your “character” male or female? Older or younger? Find the most appropriate voice for your audience, and use it at all times.
WordPress has a built-in preview function that shows you what an article will look like before you publish it — use it every time, and read the article from start to finish. I always find corrections to make that I wouldn’t have noticed if I had done my proofreading in the WordPress post editing screen.
It is a good idea to run your article through a text analysis tool. Textalyser is the best one that I have found so far. At this point, you are taking a look at the keyword density of your article. Although I do believe that online writing should focus on the content rather than the keywords, a complete lack of relevant keywords will mean that no one will be able to find your article. If none of the top keywords are relevant to the content of your article, consider tweaking.