Category Archives: Writing Tips

My Step-by-Step Process for Creating Incredible Content

creating content that sellsI’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my writing and I love to create content that I can feel proud of – even when my name isn’t on it.

I do a lot of writing for a variety of clients and also for my own niche sites and blogs.  Every website or blog will have a different image or voice.  The first step is to get a feel for that website.  What story is it trying to tell? How do the readers respond?  What works and how can I capitalize on that in the content I am developing?  Is there something that could be improved I can mention to the client?

Analysis is the first important step, next is the nitty gritty.

Tracking Trends

First, I use Google Alerts to stay on top of current trends for my client niches.  This shows what’s trending and what people are likely to be talking about. Staying current provides the authoritative, up to the minute edge that will grow my client’s business.  If they aren’t already doing this I ensure that I am so  I can forward this valuable information or make suggestions.

I don’t believe in just cranking out a piece and getting paid.  I take the extra steps to ensure my clients are putting my skills to the best use.  If I see something trending that looks exciting; I’m not shy about sharing that information.  My client can then decide if they want to run with it or not.

Keyword Analysis

Once topic ideas are generated or a working title is assigned; I use a few different software products and plugins that assess strong keywords and phrases.  Working these into a piece allows potential searchers to find the page.

This initial research also helps show how successful a post or page is likely to be.  Evergreen content is always a good choice, so I try to get a good blend of that and current trends.  Google loves both the stability of evergreen material and up-to-the-minute content, so it’s a balancing act.  The best websites have both.

Outlines and Mind Maps

The next step is to outline the page or post.  I often use mind mapping software for this process.  Freemind is a fantastic free software that makes pre-writing simple.  Use it to generate a workable structure for any content type.

Writing & Citing

Next, it’s time to write the content, ensuring the use of credible sources and tracking them as I go.  Many times content doesn’t require this, but certain topics that Google refers to as “Your money or your life” must be backed up with credible sources.  Websites that ignore this are at risk for deep penalties and no one wants that.

Do you find source citation cumbersome? Fortunately, there are citation websites that make it easy.  Easybib is my favorite because it’s free, fast and does citations in the 3 major formats: MLA, APA and Chicago style.

Proofreading and Editing

Once I’ve compiled the piece and cited my sources, it’s time to check for grammar, spelling and proper title case.  I use Grammarly, which not only find mistakes, but makes recommendations for improvements.  Paper Rater is another fantastic free option.

Creating a Working Title or Headline

My final step is always the title or headline.  What is going to grab the readers attention? The sheer amount of information overload on the net makes this the most important step in the process.  A title must do two things: tell the reader what the piece is about and make them want to read it.  This is, by far, the hardest part of the job for a content developer.

Formatting, Uploading and Other Extras

Ok, the content is developed, everything is proofread and it has a great headline.  Now what?

Most clients take the original files and have their webmaster upload and format the content.

Smaller businesses that use WordPress sometimes want their content uploaded directly to the platform by the author.  This is simple enough and I am happy to do it.  I even use their plugins to generate the meta descriptions, rich snippets etc. if needed.

Photos & Visual Content

Every client has different needs. Some of my clients need help seeking out good images to use for their posts and copy.  I’m happy to source images and to rework them in Photoshop.

I like good shareable pins.  These days, everything is visual, so posts without featured images don’t do as well.  Most of my clients have separate editors and graphics people, but smaller businesses may need help in that regard and so I try to be open to meeting the varying needs of different clients.

Sharing to Social Media

Again, most clients will have social media managers that handle this, however, I have done social media work as an extra service.

Some smaller clients have confided to me that it can be nice to have one person who can handle the multiple aspects of content development.

It’s less work for them to track everything and having one “go to” person simplifies life when you have questions or concerns.

Other Considerations

As a freelancer, it’s important to ask what a potential client needs if they aren’t sure.  Prices quoted vary depending on the depth of the task and amount of work required.  For example a simple blog post, content only will be less expensive than developing content with extra requirements.

This is why I have a free quote feature on my website.  It helps ensure that I and my potential clients have a full understanding of one another’s needs and what to expect.  It’s vital for a strong working relationship.

So, there you have it, a brief overview of what I do to ensure the content I develop is top-notch and my clients are satisfied.  If you are a fellow freelancer feel free to mention anything else I should add that I might have missed!

Are you a business seeking content development? Contact me now for a free quote.  I’m currently for hire and accepting new clients!

A Guide to Writing a Great Hook

writing great hooksDo you fear your content is not delivering results? How do you ensure your writing can grab a reader’s attention and  hold it long enough to get your message across?

It’s all in the “hook”. Master it and your readership and conversions will increase – guaranteed.  Writing a great hook is the most important writing skill there is.

A hook is useful in all forms of writing. It consists of the first sentence or two which tell a reader to “drop everything and pay attention to this!” Of course, the hook accomplishes this indirectly by evoking emotion, asking a question or instigating an action.  Hook writing is also an excellent way to customize search engine results and make people click through to your content.

The first step to developing a hook that works – know your audience. For example, a blog post is more informal and conversational, but if you are writing a marketing proposal for a major corporation; you would obviously want to avoid being too casual.

Next is understanding the goal of your piece. Are you solving a problem? Sharing information? Trying to get people to buy something? Your goals also determine the type of hook to develop.

Once you know the goal of your piece and your audience; you can create a hook that speaks to your customer.

Solving Problems

If your article provides a solution, immediately state the problem and invoke feelings of empathy for the reader. Let them know you understand just what the problem is and how it feels to have that challenge. This develops an immediate connection and sense of trust.

Example:  Do you have problems falling or staying asleep? Does your mind race uncontrollably, keeping you from being able to relax and enjoy a restorative sleep? You’re not alone, according to XYZ study from the Institute of Sleep Research, millions of people struggle with insomnia caused by stress.  Fortunately, SleepEasy has been designed to help relieve the anxiety that keeps you lying awake, watching the minutes tick by.  Wouldn’t it be great to fall asleep peacefully and stay that way until morning? With SleepEasy, you can be well-rested by tomorrow.

The hook above appeals to your reader’s emotions, lays out the problems, cites an expert source and names a solution all in the opening paragraph.  It also appeals to the chronic impatience of most people by stating this problem can be solved today.

If your piece is informational? Sometimes opening with a question is best. Ask your reader something thought-provoking.  Your reader likely has ideas in mind already, but will want to see how their notions align with yours. Questions pique curiosity and draw people in.  We all have an innate desire to see if our line of thinking matches others.

  • “Have you ever wondered why…?”
  • “Do you ever feel..?”
  • “How do you handle …?”
  • “Have you considered…?”
  • “Did you know…?”

The questions above all pique curiosity.  Once you have done that, then state what your piece is about.

Use Captivating Words

Use captivating words and for Heaven’s sakes don’t be boring…. “In today’s article I will discuss..” zzzzzzzzzzzz Don’t make it about you! ALWAYS write for your reader – no matter what type of writing you do!

Make that intro pop.  Solve a problem, ask a question, pique natural curiosity.  If it suits your brand, start with a controversial statement (not recommended for most, but it does make people read!)

So, there you have the basic components of what makes a great hook. Practice makes perfect and this is one skill you want to hone.  It will benefit you in every aspect of your career, from marketing yourself, to pitching queries to editors and more.

Did I miss anything? What are your tips for creating great hooks?

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A Simple Foolproof Tip to Persuade Your Readers

persuade readers tips

Need a foolproof way to grab your reader’s attention? It can be easy to get lost in a sea of other writing, so little things like trigger words make all the difference.

Here are a few words to use more because it will ensure that your readers are more compelled to act – whether that means buying products you are endorsing, or simply reading more of your work.

Your words should incite emotion: 

Empower and Overcome – are two great words to encourage others to resolve a problem for example.

Learn to trigger empathy.  Express frustration with “tired” or “exhausting” – things people can relate to when faced with stressful situations.  These should be followed up with the very solutions your post or product provides.

Make your readers take action with words like “now” or “hurry” – see how those words evoke a sense of urgency? This is known as a call to action.

Appeal to the laziness in all of us with words like “Easy” and “Quick”.

Tap into your reader’s natural sense of curiosity with great headlines and opening hooks.  There is a reason “click bait” works.

Of course, there is a lot more to the science of choosing the right words. The good news? You can learn this art in-depth and improve your writing by reading this hub: How to Write Words That Captivate Your Readers

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Use These 10 Simple Tips Now to Instantly Improve Your Online Writing

10 writing tips to improve writingEver feel like you’re drowning in an ocean of information overload and that no matter how hard you work, you just can’t seem to get your articles or blog posts on the radar?

If you develop content for websites or write a blog; you depend on people sharing your work to grow your brand and business.

In order to grab readers and hold their attention, it’s important to remember a few key concepts that are less about what you write, but more about how you present yourself and your work!

It’s hard to gain followers, get social shares and to compete with the millions of other articles out there. Here’s how to get an edge!

1. Have passion for your subject.

Share a few personal stories as they relate to the topic.

Let’s say you just love to knit. It’s a hobby you know well and have learned through trial and error. You decide that a niche blog might help your business.

Your passion and expertise matter and they need to SHINE through your writing. Fortunately, when we are passionate about a topic, that enthusiasm  shines through like a beacon.

2. Illustrate what you are talking about!

If you write tutorials, don’t just share a still shot here and there with lengthy explanations. Pull out that iPhone and do a few short videos. Clarify your point, make your content more digestible for your readers and improve SEO all in one shot.

3. Look at your page.

Don’t just edit the writing, look at the layout. Are the paragraphs short enough to be easily viewed? Long walls of text are hard on the eyes, particularly on mobile devices.

Do you break up your text with bullet points, the periodic call out or even tables to break everything up into easily digestible chunks?

4. Vary your sentence lengths and read your work aloud before posting.

It helps immensely if readers find your writing to be engaging. A large part of readability is the rhythm of sentence structures. Short sentences are great. They should be used alongside longer sentences like this to create a more melodic flow. Short sentences are ok. They can start to sound choppy. Be sure to break them up. (can you hear the difference in your head as you are reading?)

5. Use a good image to make your content more likely to be shared.

Infographics and eye-catching title images get shared on social media and bring  increased traffic.   I also write for the  HubPages network of sites.

All of my articles have great title graphics. Top-notch content, coupled with strong images have brought me more than 3 million page views.

Approximately 60% of that traffic is from Pinterest.  Flipboard is another up and comer that generates great traffic to my articles because of strong images.

6. Write for your reader – not yourself.

When you are writing online content; you are there to entertain, answer a question or solve a problem for your reader. If your reader is unsatisfied, it doesn’t matter how well you write; you will fail.

Readers expect a lot from you as a writer.  Deliver it – or die.

7. Expand your horizons!

I am currently moving out of my comfort zones and learning to develop online courses that use video to supplement my texts/lectures.

It’s a big stretch for me, but with challenge comes growth. As an online writer; you want to reach as many as possible. Find different venues to do this.

You’re not tech savvy? Learn WordPress anyway and develop your niche blogs on your own terms.  Do you find social media intimidating? Pick one or two platforms and master them – far easier than trying to keep up with 20 different platforms.

8. Allow your work to be critiqued by other writers and accept the critiques with grace.

I see writers on many forums who ask for help, but then refute every helpful tip they are given. If you remain defensive, you can’t be objective enough to be successful.

I wish I had been more open to asking for critique when I was new to writing. That being said, unless it is asked for, don’t be a critic! Unsolicited opinions are not necessary.

9. Share, but do NOT spam.

One great way to get your work seen by like minds is to join social media groups on Facebook and Google+. Be sure when you join that you are a full participant and not merely there for self-promotion.

Share good works that others have written and they will be more inclined to reciprocate. If you find your work is rarely or never shared; it may be time ask for a critique.

People are picky about what they share since it can be seen as a reflection of them to their peers. Would you share something ugly or rife with grammatical and spelling errors?

10. Let your personality shine through your work, but don’t make it all about “I”.

When you address your readers, it should be addressed to them. That doesn’t mean you can’t interject personal stories here and there to highlight a point. Do this, but don’t overdo it.

Your reader isn’t there for your autobiography; they are there to learn something or be entertained. If your anecdotes are not educational, remove them from the piece. The harsh truth is as a reader, I want to learn to make those muffins, not hear about your kids or your pets.

So, there you have it.  Ten tips that are guaranteed to improve the quality of your content.  Do you have any to add?  Feel free to comment.

Want to learn more about great blogging, content writing and freelancing?  Follow me on Facebook for all the latest and even some bonus tips and inspiration!

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