The writing market is so saturated with writers. Newbie writers intermingling with experienced writers, authors making a side-buck or two with professional journalists tinkling around with social media sites and blogs. We’re all out there.
And honestly speaking, trying to find the right writer for a project can be a daunting task these days.
If I posted a writing project on a freelancing website right now, within minutes, throngs of people would bid for it by the second. Message after message, bid after bid, bit by bit my weariness will set in. I now know what working in HR feels like.
So, if you asked me what makes a good writer stand out, I’d say authority. Are you thinking about how to get from here to there? Great, let’s explore the ideas.
Be Authoritative, Don’t Try to Sound Like Someone Else
One thing that differentiates you and another writer out there is your own personal style and experience. No one else on the planet has EXACTLY what you have so, never lose that.
You can hint at a recent regret, pose a question relevant to your work or life, or sound just like yourself when you’re talking. This point alone makes you stand out and if someone likes it, they’ll think you’re a keeper.
So, keep your personality if it is already working. There isn’t a point to write like Agatha Christie or William Shakespeare if you’re not them.
HOWEVER, even with that said, if you’re writing SEO articles, sometimes you might inadvertently start writing like someone else. It happens. So, run the article through copyscape or other tools before publishing it. Just to be sure.
I really hope this point sticks.
There are tools out there to help you check if your article is SEO-driven enough (or too much) and to see if it is propped up against top-ranking pages floating around on the internet.
But quality content alone isn’t enough. Google’s algorithm uses countless ranking signals to determine if a webpage is relevant for a search query. And various search filters (like Panda) aim specifically at preventing poor-quality content from showing up.Bruce Clay
I find it not just frustrating but also infuriating, sometimes, that whenever I meet with people who need content written for their blogs, SEO-geared articles for their websites or need a good writer to pad up their product pages, I encounter tiny pockets of resistance.
Many companies have their minds trained on finding someone who is able to sit down in their office, in front of THEIR computer, just to know that work is being done.
We’re living in the internet age. Work is being done, literally, ALL…the time no matter where you are. Ideas are always rattling around in our brain cages.
I actually do a fair amount of research, writing and editing on my smartphone when I am bored. It’s not the most efficient way to do it (my poor eyes) but that’s the way things CAN be done.
I’ve been freelancing for the past 19 years and there are so many things technology can do to improve our working lives and I simply don’t see a reason NOT to capitalize on the technology.
Having employees you can count on is fab, don’t get me wrong but here’s what I see when I go to someone’s office. Half the time, I see servile employees standing around outside having a water cooler talk, taking longer cigarette breaks, are on their smartphones or doing anything other than work. When you’re trying to gain traction, this can bring the wheels of the wagon to a halt.
I don’t have a problem with full-time writers. They do incredibly well when they’re in a good place and with a good team. The problem with it is that it’s harder for someone to inspire them open, and motivated them.
In an open world, writers are more inclined to find inspiration for awesome stuff when they can navigate new environments, explore strange situations, and unheard-of circumstances. If writers are given more opportunities to explore, they tend to be able to read the tea leaves and find out what works.
A large part of writing articles is relating your own experiences, thoughts, and ideas so that the readers are swept up in a wave of creative euphoria.
Although not impossible, it’s harder to do that in a cubicle.
So, the bottom line is, shower more. Please refer to the image below.
Many companies, maybe even yours, rely on contract workers, a full-time in-house writing staff who are already on the saddle, and outsourced writers to deliver projects on time. I understand this makes things more efficient for your business; I get that.
One thing missing from all of this is…an editor, a content manager, or a creative director. Someone who changes the direction and steers the wheel. A good editor or content manager will know when, what, where to focus the SEO on, and how to produce content that people enjoy sharing.
I’m talking about a broad range of content – be it videos, slideshows, powerpoint presentations, blogs or articles.
You’re paying the writers to come up with something that will translate into tangible results. It will be analyzed, scrutinized, pummeled, ground and shredded and then put back together again in the form of analytics.
Are your in-house writers better at writing product descriptions and sales pitches? Do that. Do you have a writer you really like that you seem to be seeing a lot more of on social media and would like to hire that person to produce more solid content for your magazines and newsletters? Do that too. And if you have a handful of reliable, professional, and knowledgeable writers who are also adept at SEO, keep them.
Led by a good content manager, creative director or editor, they can work the magic into your company’s brand and image.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, nearly half the B2C companies they studied used contract workers. You can find out more about the numbers in their 2018 B2C Content Marketing findings.
It says a lot about finding and trusting people who are not handcuffed to their 4×4 cubicle.
Create Stories People Can Relate to
Creating SEO-geared content, I guess, will never go away. As long as Google and search engines continue to command the ship we’re sailing, there will always be a need for SEO content writers.
But reader retention for such articles is really low. No matter how meticulously written the article is, if it is geared towards SEO, at some point, another SEO writer will know who wrote it and why it was written.
It’s like a lizard seeing another lizard in the middle of the desert – like hey, ya’ not fooling me, brutha…
You need to be clear about who you hire because his or her wealth of experience, knowledge, and information may differ from yours. Maybe that’s why I would argue that a company should have an SEO writer who isn’t its content producer or video scriptwriter at the same time.
I’ll just lay it all out for you right here.
It used to take me a day to produce five to ten SEO articles. Now, it takes me DAYS to come up a piquant piece, something people may want to digest and read! Sometimes, the draft sits in that darn folder for weeks, or months, on end not seeing the light of day.
It’s harder to tell a story or pour your heart out on screen or paper because people hold back. Everyone’s afraid, and yes, I AM afraid. I am afraid that this is all going to come back to me 10 years down the road and it will probably bite me where I don’t want it to bite me.
But the most viral things on the internet are raw. It can make you proud till the day you die or it can embarrass you to the end of the Universe. You can’t tell.
I just need 2 examples from my personal blog to explain what I am talking about.
This is a screenshot from my Blogspot account for top posts. The first one, Maid Side-Kick and the second, Dear China. This account has been around since forever and I have never promoted it and don’t intend to. This is my internet graveyard, my e-Gravestone.
Kidding aside, I wrote both during very raw moments in my life. Maid Side-Kick was written after I sent my house assistant who helped me raise my two youngsters while I worked my ass off. I held back my tears of sadness all 45 minutes of the way to the airport to send her back to Indonesia and then bawled like a baby the other 45 minutes back.
I wrote Dear China a short while after MH370 disappeared from the skies, not found to this very day. It goes without saying, it’s sad.
For both posts, I had nothing in my head but everything in my heart. I spent only approximately 15 minutes on each one of them and didn’t even bother to spell check or edit. I wrote it, hit it, and ran with it. I had zilch plan in motion.
Don’t think about the numbers and focus on why some posts resonate with you and why some don’t, you’ll see why the raw, emotional ones are the ones that tend to go viral. And if you’re wondering if I am proud of either one of them, the answer is a resounding NO. are you nuts?!
I can’t remember the sheer number of times I thought better and wanted to take the posts down because they were too personal and it exposed me to too many elements. As horrific as it is to see the posts being read by others, there is comfort in knowing that maybe, just maybe, the posts are hitting some chords with people. Maybe it’s helping someone. Maybe they’re restoring faith in people.
I don’t know. So, the best thing I can do is do what I do best – continue writing. And hope.
To Be Good at Writing, Write
Please don’t take this the wrong way because I am not saying I am a fantastic writer. I do reasonably well most days and suck on others.
But to be good at writing, you need to put pen to paper. Whether you feel like it or not, facing a writer’s block or not, WRITE. One of the biggest reasons people become super efficient at writing is that they make it a habit.
And read. Never stop reading. Even if it’s something mundane on the internet. Dive into a topic you’re curious about.
John Grisham didn’t become a sensation because he sat there THINKING about writing. He sat there on his laurels and wrote. He created stories because he had the discipline and there were thoughts and ideas swimming in his head.
That’s what we need.
I saw this really good list of ‘How to Be a Good Writer’ on Medium and I completely, wholeheartedly, agree with it. One takeaway from it is that you must read a book or watch TV like a writer.
On the surface, it looks like you’re passively sitting there reading something someone wrote or watching a movie about a world that does not exist. Little do they know, your head is churning about how all of that came about.
Realize that someone actually sat there in front of their computer to come up with stuff like that.
Stephen King says in his book On Writing that if you don’t have the time to read, then you don’t have the time or tools to write. He’s right. Make it a habit to carry a book with you. Keep one in your bathroom. Learn to read in sips instead of gulps so that not having hours to indulge won’t keep you from reading at all. And when you read, read like a writer. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Read craft books. Read fiction that does what you want your stories to do. Figure out what works, what doesn’t, and — most important — whyShaunta Grimes
Becoming an Authority with Balanced SEO Writing
Maybe your company does not have the cash flow to hire different teams of people for different functions. That’s perfectly fine as well, as long as he or she knows the purpose of the article or content and the direction to drive it toward.
You’re lucky if you have someone like that on your team. So, if it’s working, don’t let him or her go. It’s hard to find writers like that these days.
Even if you have a new writer who is still learning the ropes of writing content and articles for your company or blog, accept the challenge of having it being butchered, tweaked, rewritten, edited and then rewritten before it makes the cut. Especially if you’re trying to find the balance between people-focused and SEO-driven content.
To be an authoritative writer, you face the fear of disapproval first. And it’s fine to have people dislike you.
Over the years, thanks to over-saturation, Google might have gone back to basics…or trying to. They are looking for content that’s written by people for people. It’s time for writers to take optimization into our own hands to create better, more targeted content that performs for our brand and company.
Never Make Other Writers Your Competitors, They’re Your Tribe
Connect with other writers online and offline. Make them your allies, friends, assistants, readers, supporters, or fans. If other writers give you a thumbs up, that’s an equivalent of 10 thumbs up from other non-writers. Think about that.
Unlike other businesses, creativity feeds upon the creativity of others of like-mind. And that’s why artists gather together and feed off of one another’s energy and enthusiasm. Without both ingredients, writing can become a chore and a dead-end job.
One thing that stopped me from being proud of what I do today was that I was a lawyer. I studied to be a lawyer and was one in a bank for 4 years. Calling myself a writer, for one, felt like a demotion. And then when everything fell apart, I wondered if I even deserved to even call myself a ‘writer’.
It was a crisis.
To me, then, a writer was someone who was published, an author. I was not. So, when someone asked me what I did for a living, I gave myself a slight demotion by calling myself a ‘blogger’.
NO. If you write for a living and you’re passionate about it, call yourself a writer and be one.
And now, the hard part.
SOP of Editing and SEO-ing your Article Before Publishing
Some people might do it differently but for me, it works best if I get everything off my chest first. Even if they’ve derailed or gone off-point. Once done, the editing process, fluffing up, and SEO kicks in. This is the technical aspect of writing you can’t avoid if you’re writing stuff for the internet.
To differentiate yourself from others, you need to own your own voice. Be patient with yourself (and others) because when your expertise in your particular field is recognized, you’ll be picked up and rank among the top in the market. Yes, even if you’re trying your hand at social media influencing but we’ll touch a little more on that in another article.
If you have a portfolio, show it off. If your clients have nice things to say about working with you, publish it. If there is a long list of qualifications, test results, credentials, speaking engagements, public speaking experience, sales targets (whatever), let others know. These will help people determine if you’re an authoritative figure in your field.
And then SEO that. It could be in the ‘About Me/Us’ page, or if it’s long enough, maybe it deserves its own page? This also answers a very silent but loud question hanging around in your potential client’s mind – why should I trust you?
In this internet day and age, trust is a mind-numbing issue. Google has come up with roundups of sites and pages that did not perform too badly but are nothing special either. They’re middle-ground pages and websites.
So, in order to get out of the coop, you need to get SPECIAL.
One way to BECOME special is by engaging with people in your industry. Talk to people, relate, resonate, share, be unselfish, be courageous, step forward, play nice, talk, write, be human and interact. These are signs that Google can’t see but if you make enough people see it, search engines will too.
So, once you have that sorted out, pull on those boots and let’s trudge through the muddy pool of words.
- Grammar and spell checks
- Editing and keyword placement checks
- Insertion of images (creating or sourcing for)
- Sourcing for quotes, sources and links
- Link in and link out
- META tags
- final, you’re D-O-N-E.
After Publishing the Article, Reach Out
It used to be easier to get your articles published and distributed back in the days. But the days are over. The length and breadth of your article now depend on how good they are and how authoritative people think it is.
For one, we can’t leave out social media because this is the main engine right now. So, hop on whichever social media you are on and get the word out. Don’t be shy. Ask yourself, ‘are you hungry enough?’. If the answer is ‘yes’, shyness will slink away back into its dark corner.
The second thing you can do is to reach out to people in your industry or market. Let them know about your article, share the links (when asked), get on Quora, Linkedin, or Facebook, and be an active participant in as many channels as you think you can milk
You might think nothing of it but over time, you’ll leave behind you a trail of hints that will be picked up by algorithms.
Another thing nagging at me is to reach out to others to ask for help. Asking for help is a biggie for many people because the ego gets in the way. But I’ve seen people succeed in obtaining links from their friends, family, associates, partners, affiliates, fellow bloggers, community members, etc and I know it works.
You don’t have to feel offended if it doesn’t work out. Let the recipient know that there is no obligation whatsoever to oblige you. It’s a simple request for a quickie lookie-here. They are more than welcome to dismiss or ignore you.
And I’ll leave you right here with the last stat hanging. Don’t expect to hit it off big the first time because even if you do, it probably won’t last.
Look at the big picture, map out the road ahead, and trudge on.