How to become a freelance web content writer

Google’s insatiable appetite for quality, informative content means that web content writers are more in-demand than ever before. The cream of the crop can, with the right determination, contacts and skills, make a decent living and enjoy a great work/life balance, but it’s a tough gig to begin with. If you want to get into this industry, whether you’re changing profession, or graduating from university, how do you get started?

Ensure your basic writing skills are up to scratch

Contrary to popular belief, freelance web content writers don’t necessarily need to have a degree; however, as the Study.com career guide points out, they “often have a bachelor’s degree in English, journalism or communications.” These study paths will inevitably give you an excellent grounding in the skills seen as indispensable for any budding freelancer to hold.

Being able to spell correctly and write in a comprehensible and engaging manner is obviously a pre-requisite, although, as highlighted by Victoria Delano these are basic traits desired in any writer. To really set yourself apart as a freelance web copywriter, you should also be able to “critically analyse content… and find inconsistencies in your writing” and “conduct thorough research and analyse the facts you learn”, determining which are most salient to the piece you’re writing. If you’re confident in your ability to do all of this, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Learn to market yourself

As a content writer, you’re going to be “creating… valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action [for the client]”, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s official definition of content marketing. It is vital then, that to attract business, you practise what you preach.

Establish a web presence, so potential clients can find you. Your site should list the writing services you offer (clients will be looking for varying forms of content, so be sure you know the difference between blog posts and articles, for example, and communicate this effectively) but, most importantly, it should also include a blog. For Mariah Coz of Femtrepeneur, “Having a blog is like having a collection of writing samples (a portfolio) that can attract potential gigs and clients.” Try to find a niche subject to write about, rather than covering as much ground as possible; it is easier for you to come across as knowledgeable and informative on one or two smaller topics, and gain work through this, than it is to blag your way through an issue you don’t fully understand.

Finally, adopt the tried and tested tactics of content marketers by guest-posting for bigger blogs in your niche. As Coz points out, this is “mutually beneficial” for you and the site: they get good quality content, for free, or for a small fee, while “you (potentially) get paid to write… get lots more exposure for your own blog and experience working with others and sticking to a schedule.”

Develop a wider understanding and skillset

While you may be confident in your abilities as a writer, and have a strong website and blog to back your skills up, there are thousands upon thousands of people out there who feel the same. In order to differentiate yourself in a competitive market, you need what Sherry Gray of Entrepreneuer refers to as “a full toolkit of marketable skills.”

This could include:

Technical knowledge – including the ability to design and code your own website, or simply being able to upload and optimise posts in a client’s Content Management System.

Familiarity with a range of social media platforms – on which you could build both your own and your clients’ following.

A wider insight into the marketing industry and the broad goals of the business you’re writing for – Gray suggests showing evidence of your ability to research keywords and buyer personas, for example.

The best content writers are polymaths: they’re marketers, SEO specialists, accomplished coders and social media masters all rolled into one package, so ensure that you can offer potential clients more than just the clichéd “carefully crafted copy” hawked by everyone else.

Keep yourself busy – and don’t give up!

By its very nature, copywriting is an inconsistent line of work, especially when you’re first starting out, seeking regular clients. Carol Tice underlines how important it is not to give up, saying “you can’t be a writer unless you are willing to put it out there and face rejection. You have to be willing to hear “no” and not crumple up in a ball and cry yourself to sleep.” Literature is littered with examples of writers, including J.K Rowling and Booker Prize winner Marlon James, who only became famous after years of persistence.

Fortunately, the internet is full of freelancing websites, which allow freelance web content writers to pick up work as and when they need it and build relationships with clients. Contently allows writers to easily assemble a portfolio and then use this to pitch for work.

When you work for yourself, time is money, so spend it wisely. Bear in mind the following advice of Laura Kay, writing for the Guardian’s Careers section: “If you don’t go looking for work, spending your days shooting off emails and writing pitches, then it is very unlikely the work will come to you.”

Conclusion

Becoming a successful web content writer is about much more than being able to write. You need to be able to communicate to a range of audiences in a succinct and effective manner and, of course, you have to find a unique way to market your own services and skills in order to attract business in the first place. You also need a number of personal qualities, including self-motivation, initiative and the ability to interpret clients’ instructions. If you can nail all of the above, congratulations: you’ll benefit from being your own boss, working your own hours and never having to negotiate the rush hour traffic or pull a sickie again!

Image courtesy of Fiona Palmer

Read More

How to increase WordPress blog traffic

WordPress is by far the most used content management system on the planet. An incredible 76.5 million blogs are hosted on the site, with 50,000 added every single day.

Setting up a WordPress blog is the easy part; establishing yourself as an authoritative voice and attracting visitors to your site requires dedication, know-how and, most of all, patience. In this post, I’m going to outline five ways you can increase traffic to your WordPress blog, starting with organic traffic.

Optimise your posts for SEO

There are a number of ways you can optimise your blog posts so they perform as well in the SERPs as possible. As a bare minimum, Pauline Cabrera of TwelveSkip recommends:

• Including a ‘short, unique and relevant’ meta title and description to convey to your audience what your post is all about.
• Setting up Google Authorship so your audience can put a credible face to your name.
• Using a plugin such as YARPP to display relevant content; ideally, you want visitors to stay on your site for as long as possible.
• Making use of the category and tag functions in WordPress – use appropriate tags so those searching for the terms you use in your content can find you more easily.

WordPress is renowned for its selection of free plugins, and there are several you can use to optimise your posts so they’re easier to find. We use Yoast SEO, a particularly handy tool, which allows you to check how search engine friendly your content is, before you actually post it.  The plugin incorporates a traffic light rating system  when analysing your content for things like placement of keywords, number of outbound links and difficulty of reading, and also allows you to easily customise your title and meta description. The more green lights you get, the better optimised your post is.

Content analysis via the Yoast plugin
Content analysis via the Yoast plugin

Regularly share on social media

Social media is vital in showcasing your content to a wider readership. A couple of weeks back we shared 10 ways you can use social media to build your blog audience – tailoring content for specific platforms, using share buttons to allow users to disseminate your posts and automating updates are the key take aways.

Again, there are a number of plugins that can help with this, including Simple Share and Digg Digg.

Don’t just share content once. As Matt Lindley of Verve Search highlights, “companies aren’t sharing their blog content nearly as much as they ought to.” Think about it: you’ve just spent a couple of hours writing content, formatting it in WordPress and tweaking it for SEO. Are you really going to tweet a link to it once at midday and then leave it at that? What about people who aren’t online at that time?

Consider incorporating Derek Halpern’s 80/20 rule. Halpern says “it’s smarter to find another 10,000 people to consume what you’ve already created as opposed to creating more”, so broaden your reach as much as you can by scheduling tweets to appear at different times of the day and finding snippets you can share across LinkedIn and other sites. Garrett Moon of Kissmetrics provides this handy social sharing schedule as a starting point.

Explore guest posting opportunities

This is an effective way of increasing traffic to your blog, and it works both ways: actively search for guest posting opportunities on relevant authority sites and also invite influencers and thought leaders in your industry to write posts for your own blog.

Kristi Hines of Kissmetrics suggests that “there are three main goals for guest blogging.” You want to position yourself as an authoritative figure in your industry, hence the importance of finding a relevant site to post to; you want the readers of the site you’re guesting for to come back to yours for more and you want to get backlinks to your site so Google realises you know what you’re talking about.

Make it clear you accept guest posts from bloggers on your own site by including an open invitation ‘write for us’ page somewhere in your layout. Building relationships with other bloggers allows you to tap into their (hopefully sizeable) social media following, and benefit from a fresh perspective on your blog subject.

Ensure your site is fast and mobile-friendly

This might sound obvious, but that doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels. As Megan Marrs points out, “visitors aren’t going to wait around for your blog to load”; they’ll simply go elsewhere. Similarly, if they’re browsing via mobile, as 80% of web users do, they’ll want a site that reads easily on a smaller screen and doesn’t take ages to load images and videos.

These issues are easily remedied: use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to get an idea of how well your site is performing in terms of speed and install the Jetpack plugin to help create a mobile version of your blog.

Interact with your audience

Whether you’re responding to comments on a post on your own blog, offering your insight on another blogger’s piece or replying to a tweet, people like to know that their voice is being heard and their opinion addressed. Actively invite comments at the end of your posts and follow Moz’s tips on ‘comment marketing.’ As this post suggests, “participation can yield awareness and branding to the blog’s audience”, while “comments with links, especially those that are well-written and enticing will result in visits.” You should also participate on online question and answer sites, such as Quora and StackExchange: again, well-written answers to users’ questions will, at the very least, introduce your name to a new audience, but hopefully users will appreciate the insight you give and will click on to your blog for more.

Increasing traffic to your WordPress blog isn’t an exact science, and your level of success will largely depend on your industry and the level of competition. Keep coming up with quality, relevant content, apply the tips above and you should start to see results improve sooner rather than later.

Image courtesy of Cristian Labarca.

Read More

How often should I update my blog?

A good company blog has many benefits, from increasing traffic to building your site’s authority in your field. The general consensus is that the more often a company posts, the more traffic they gain, but is there such a thing as blogging too often? Do the rules change for different companies of varying sizes? Here are seven things to bear in mind when considering how often you should update your company’s blog.

1. Think about what the aim of the blog is

First and foremost, think about what you want to achieve with your blog. You may be a small start-up looking to attract your first customers, or a more established SME looking to cement yourself as an industry thought leader. Clearly outlining the purpose for creating a blog will help to determine how often you should update it.

2. It’s simple; blogging more means more traffic

The results gained from HubSpot’s well-known and often referenced blogging frequency report on how often companies should blog are difficult to ignore; generally, companies that blogged more enjoyed more traffic, whether they were a fledgling start-up, a mid-weight SME or a global business.

Not only do regular updates keep you at the forefront of your target audience’s minds, old content can continue to generate leads, and creates more opportunities for you to be found online.

3. Know when enough is enough

It’s important to know when to stop blogging. Although lots of fresh content is good, too much may actually discourage audience engagement, or switch them off when they tire of being bombarded with content.

Think about the size of your company, and use this to decide how often you should post. Larger companies tend to blog more often, at a minimum of once a day. This is because they have a much larger audience, so if one post doesn’t appeal to one reader then another one will; there will always be someone reading every post. However, smaller companies don’t always have such a large audience, so this approach may not work for them.

Update your blog regularly, but if you don’t feel like your company needs to post on a daily basis, perhaps post once or twice a week instead.

4. Get into a routine that you can maintain

In order to reap the rewards of having a blog, commitment is needed to update it regularly. This begins by getting into a routine, which will help you to set aside specific time to work on the blog without allowing other company commitments to take over.

Observe your analytics to find out when your site receives the most engagement, and time your posts around that. Then realistically consider how often you can post new content, and start as you mean to go on. Don’t set a target you know you will find difficult to achieve, as this will make blogging feel like a burden.

When you have chosen the most suitable time to update your blog, make sure to keep posting at that time as readers will come to expect the delivery of new content. Ensure your blog remains updated, otherwise regular readers may be discouraged from returning to your site.

 

Updating-your-blog-frequency

5. Keep up the hard work

Results don’t happen overnight, so don’t make the mistake of expecting too much straightaway. It could take weeks, maybe months of regular blogging before the level of traffic on your site increases, but it will be worth the extra effort.

6. Quality and quantity

Even though you should post regularly, you should only update your blog when you have quality content to publish. A lack of insightful posts could drive readers away in search of something more meaningful elsewhere.

Make sure to spend time researching your subject matter, and checking the content multiple times. Something as simple as spelling mistakes or a few misplaced commas will make your blog seem less professional and tarnishing your image.

7. Review and improve

Always refer back to analytics after posting so you know whether your strategy is working. You may find that you’re experiencing less engagement or less traction than desired, so you may want to scale back your number of posts. Or, you may find that lots more people are reading your blog than expected, so it therefore makes sense to produce more content to keep up with demand. Tailor future posts in accordance with the data to maximise traction and engagement. Striking the right balance is essential.

Takeouts:

– Always have a clear idea about what you want your blog to achieve, and maintain a steady routine when posting.
– Think about the size of your company and use this to decide how often you should post; larger companies tend to produce more content to keep up with a higher demand.
– Whatever happens, always ensure your content is of the highest quality, and offers something genuinely insightful that your audience can use.
– Persevere if improvement in traction and engagement levels is gradual rather than instant.
– Always pay attention to your metrics, as these provide all the information you will need to know when to post, and how often.

By following these steps, you will be well on the way to increasing traffic, encouraging customer engagement and building your site’s authority.

photo credit: mac image via photopin (license)

Read More

10 ways to use social media to build your blog audience

Many bloggers make the mistake of believing that simply writing blog posts is enough to engage their audience. Without promoting them to a captive audience on social media, however, you are missing out on a world of opportunity.

In this post, I’m going to show you 10 easy ways that you can utilise various social media platforms in order to drive traffic to your blog and grow the size of your audience.

1. Learn which social media platform works best for you

Different audiences hang out on different social media platforms. A mature, B2B audience for example, is likely to spend time on LinkedIn, while teenagers are more likely to follow Instagram and Facebook.

Tip: Try sharing your posts on different platforms and measure engagement rates then double down on the platforms that are driving traffic and engagements.



2. Link social media pages directly to your blog, and vice-versa

It might seem logical to link your social media pages to your main website, after all, this is what is most likely to drive leads and conversions. Linking to your blog, however, is a great way to drive people to content they are more likely to share and engage with. Similarly, it makes sense to ensure that people can find your social media pages from your blog.

Tip: Having links to social media right on your blog will allow visitors to find your social media pages easily, so that those already engaged on your blog can also follow you on other platforms.


3. Make content shareable

By making sure that people have the ability to quickly and easily post a link to your blog posts on their social media platforms, you will ensure that they get the maximum amount on traction.



Tip: Make sure that sharing links for all your social media sites are enabled on posts, there are several WordPress widgets for this.




4. Share multiple times

One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is simply sharing posts on social media once. According to this post from Kiss Metrics, sharing posts several times is a great way to ensure that you get the maximum social value out of your blog content.

Tip: To avoid spamming, and losing followers as a result, ensure that each social media update has an entirely different message. You can also experiment with sharing at different times of the day and using Hashtags to appeal to different audiences.

5. Make content tailored to each social media platform

Your blog probably has its own style of content, but that style might not be suited to every social media platform. For example, if you want to promote your blog on Instagram you can only use pictures, for Twitter, only up to 140 characters and images to drive click through. Different platforms also just fit a different styles of content.

Tip: Take a snippet from some of the most compelling copy from your blog post and use this as the copy for Tweets and Facebook updates. Through monitoring click through rates you should be able to determine which types of updates are most likely to get a reaction from your audience.

2-social-sharing-double-traffic
Sharing multiple times is the key to success

6. Automate updates

Finding the time to write blog posts is for most people difficult enough, without having to update a number of social media profiles as well. Don’t worry, because there are services such as Hootsuite and Buffer that can help you to queue up updates for sharing across platforms.

Tip: Test and learn by sharing updates at different times of the day, using different copy each time.

7. Mention influencers

If you have referenced a source in your blog post, be sure to mention them in your social media updates. This will both increase the credibility of your updates and if you are lucky, lead to them sharing with their followers so your post will gain extra traction.

Tip: Use Followerwonk to find influential Twitter accounts and include an @ mention to them in your updates.

8. See what people are sharing

By looking at the type of content people are already sharing on social media you can gain insights into what will work for you.

Obviously, simply copying other people’s content is unlikely to be successful, however, you can usually see patterns and trends in the words and phrases that have been used in titles and you can use this insight to shape your own content and guarantee the best possible chance of exposure.

Tip: Enter a keyword or competitor site info Buzzsumo to see the most shared content in your sector.


9. Use Hashtags

Hashtags are a great way to get your content noticed, so consider adding terms that are relevant to your content. This post, for example, might benefit from Hashtags such as #blogging #socialmediastrategy.

A word of caution, however, it can look unprofessional to overstuff posts with hashtags – and some sites, like Tumblr, only track the first five Hashtags anyway.

Tip: Check hashtags before you use them. The best thing to do is to look through each platform’s trending tags (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all have sections where you can find these), and then try to tailor a few posts to fit those tags.

10. Be consistent, and don’t give up!

The key to success with both blogging and social media is to consistently produce insightful and informative content. Success won’t happen overnight, it takes patience and dedication, but if you follow the tips above you should be off to a great start!

Tip: Put in place a content calendar to help you keep your content production and promotion organised.

Image courtesy of Sean MacEntee

Read More