Tag Archives: writing for web

Writing for The Examiner; An Exercise in Stupidity

Okay, I will admit it.  I was appealed to by the idea that I could write on a topic I love – horses – and get regional exposure.  So I signed on to write for The Wilmington Examiner.  I went through the application process and they did a background check on me that would have made a police department blush.  I was found “fit for writing” and given a chance to provide content to them.

I wrote for them from September 16th of 2009 until March of 2010.  Six months ago I stopped writing for them.  I held off posting this because I needed to decide if I was overreacting.  I don’t think I am.

I published close to 3 dozen articles that were well-written, well thought out, contained original content and included interviews with local, regional and national experts.  Then, one morning I received an email from The Examiner “auditor” informing me that an article I posted on natural fly control was not “local”, got  a verbal slap on the wrist and was reminded that I w0uld not get paid for articles that were deemed not local.

When I was done laughing, I sent them a note telling them why I would no longer be writing for them.

If you write for the The Examiner, you really cannot be writing for money.  Local articles earn the writer $1.00.  No that is not a typo – that’s 100 pennies.  The article in question took me several hours to put together.  At my usual writing rate, I would get $200 for 4 hours of work.  By writing this article, I lost $199.00 in income.

Beyond the obvious, if I had been writing for money, why would I have spent 6 months writing solid, appealing articles about horses, horse rescue and horse care to earn a total of $12.34?  I earn 4 times that, per hour, for articles written for three magazines for which I am a regular contributor.

So this is NOT about money.  This is about trying to contribute content about a topic I love so that people who live in the tri-state area (or anywhere in the world since the web isn’t geographically limited) would have yet another resource for solid information and entertaining stories about the equestrian world.  My average page views ran 1210; Wilmington Pets ran at a rate of 1228 and the average for pets, in general was 1457.  I’d say I had a readership.

The article in question covered a topic that a LOT of equestrians are interested in and used experts from several companies/places discussing their respective products.  It was linked to different web sites which should increase traffic to The Examiner’s site and was tagged for SEO.

So, who is the editorial genius that says writing from my desk in Pennsylvania has to be limited to….well, Pennsylvania?  And why?  This article was about flies.  Flies don’t limit themselves to the tri-state area.  They aren’t restricted to ADIs or zip codes.  Last time I checked, flies tend to hang around stables and barns.  And Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland are… duh…in horse country.

If The Examiner wants to incent writers to leave their enterprise, this is the way to do it.  As a former journalist and a frequent contributor to several magazines with readerships in the hundreds of thousands, I find their approach short-sighted and insulting.  I have written my entire life and the product that I produced for their web site was  top drawer.

The operative word in that last sentence is “was.”  I officially resigned and have not written for the Examiner since the email from the auditor.  To their credit, the auditor did send me an apology for the email but the damage was done.  Theirs is a business model that works for them but, not, I would wager for 99% of the writers toiling over articles for this company.  If you are a writer and you are smart, you will save your words for someone who appreciates the effort, literally and figuratively.

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Filed under Copywriting, Equestrian Articles, Freelance Writing, Mid-Atlantic Horse Stories, Writing About Horses, Writing Articles

Writing for the Web – Just The Beginning

Anyone who has written for more than a few years might feel a little intimidated when someone asks, “Do you know how to write for the web?”

It’s writing, right?  I write for a living, right?  What’s the big deal?

Writing for the web is not a big deal; it still requires writers to pay attention to word choice but with an added consideration — making sure what you write is optimized for organic search.

Before you panic, stop and think about it.  When you need background on someone or statistics to round out a writing assignment how do you use search engines?

You put in a string of keywords related to the topic you are looking for and wait for the results to show up on your screen, just like everybody else.

Let’s say you were searching for statistics on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  If you want current data, the timeframe is important.  If you want statistics, you need to include that word, too.  Then you have to direct the search engine to the topic for which you want statistics.  So maybe you would enter this phrase:

2008 statistics prevalence Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

This phrase helps the search engine to know what sites to bring back to you.  Search engines scan millions of pages for those keywords and bring back the sites that match them most closely.  If you don’t choose your words wisely, you could get hundreds of thousands of sites, most of which won’t help you at all.  As specific as this phrase was, it still brought back close to 20,000 results.  The first page of results was spot on — and from reputable organizations like www.birthdefects.org/.

So what does this have to do with writing for the web?

For all the articles that my very directed search brought back, there are probably 10 times that number of relevant articles on the Internet that did NOT get found.  Why not?    The writer forgot to use the keywords that people searching for his or her topic used.  If the keywords that people use to search for information are not included, the search engine is going to skip right over your article.

Two questions probably popped up in your head as you read that last paragraph. 

How do I know how people are searching?  Even if I did know, why would I change a really well written article by stuffing keywords in it?

The first question is easy to answer.  Try using a tool like Google AdWords – https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal – to see how people are searching for this topic.    Select “descriptive words or phrases” then enter your search terms or search terms that you think are related to your topic, into the text box to the right.  Leave Use Synonyms checked and click on the Get Keyword Ideas button.

Google will bring back keywords in the order of highest search volume to lowest.  So, now that you know the keywords that people use to search for information about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, what do you do with them? 

This goes to the second question — if you write an article but don’t optimize it for search engines….they will not come unless they get lucky!  If you want your articles, pages or press releases to be found, you have to use commonly searched key words or phrases in them so search engines can find them.

Using keywords and keyword phrases in your writing is not as hard as it sounds.  If you can find out what the primary keywords are before you write, you can work them in while you are creating.   If you don’t, you can get a handle on how people are searching for your topic after the fact and revise your article to include them.

Either way, knowing how people are searching for the topic you are writing about then using some of the keywords and keyword phrases in your article may help your writing to rise to the top of the search engine results when people search for your topic.  And isn’t that what all writing is really about — getting people to read it?

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Filed under Copywriting, Freelance Writing, Writing for the Web