If you're interested in building a career as a professional writer, it's important to understand the basics of writing effectively online.
Tips for Writing Effectively Online
Traditionally, making a living as a freelance writer meant writing magazine and newspaper articles or sales copy for large corporations. While these opportunities do still exist today, an increasing number of job opportunities for freelance writers involve online communication.
Although the basic principles of proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, and language usage hold true regardless of where your work is published, effective online writing does have a few unique traits. If you're interested in making money writing online, it's helpful to keep in mind the following tips:
- Keep it simple. People online are looking for easily accessible information. They don't want to read wordy, complex, academic jargon. Use short sentences and short paragraphs. If you're interested in writing effectively online, get to the point as soon as possible.
- Break up your text. People tend to skim for information online, so headings and subheadings should be used as tools to make it easier for readers to find what they need. For this reason, descriptive headings are preferable to those which are clever puns or word plays.
- Remember your audience. Online content has the potential to theoretically reach millions of people, but that doesn't mean your audience is everyone. Think about the age, gender, educational background, and other demographic characteristics of your target audience as you're writing in order to better provide the information they need. For example, a mother of young children searching for fashion tips has an entirely different set of expectations than a teenager looking for advice on selecting a cute prom dress.
- Consider the total package. The Internet is a dynamic forum for communication. While an article in a newspaper is static, an article on a Web site can take advantage of video clips, audio, interactive quizzes, slideshows, and other multimedia technologies. Consider how the addition of these elements can enhance the point you are trying to convey.
Search Engine Optimization for Writers
Search Engine Optimization, also known as SEO, refers to the process of creating a Web site that will rank as high as possible for a specific set of keywords. While this is an area of expertise in itself, understanding the basics of SEO is useful for any freelancer who plans on writing effectively online.
- Keywords should be used throughout your article, but you want to avoid "stuffing" your text with the keyword phrase so many times that your writing sounds forced. Opinions regarding the number of times you should use a particular keyword vary, but most expects believe a keyword density of 2-5% is appropriate.
- Use long-tail keywords to reinforce your main message. Long-tail keywords are specific phrases that are targeted to the message you want to convey. While it's very hard for a company to rank highly for the generic phrase such as "family vacations," it's much easier to rank well for a specific targeted phrase such as "affordable family vacations in California."
- Don't automatically assume you know what keywords to use for a particular topic. You may think "Christmas presents" is the most natural term to use, only to discover that people are in fact searching for "Christmas gifts" at a much higher rate. Take the time to research keywords before you begin writing. Google Adwords Keyword Tool, Word Tracker Free Keyword Suggestion Tool, and Keyword Discovery are three free tools you can use.
To learn more about effective online communication, LoveToKnow Freelance Writing recommends reviewing the following helpful reference books:
- Killer Web Content: Make the Sale, Deliver the Service, Build the Brand by Gerry McGovern
- Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works by Janice Redish
- Developing Online Content: The Principles of Writing and Editing for the Web by Irene Hammerich and Claire Harrison