Monday, March 28, 2011

Internet Writers Walk a Fine Line

As all of my readers know, I love the idea of making money with my internet writing. I've been a professional writer for over 20 years and that is what I do. I also love helping other internet writers make money with their internet writing. It is my way of "giving back" to those who helped me get where I am today. However, there are certain causes and issues that are close to my heart. As a "niche-less gut writer," I write about those causes and issues. I make money off the internet article I write about them.

"How do you justify taking advantage and exploiting of the victims of the Westboro Baptist Church by writing about them and making money off them?" an email I received recently asked.

Excellent question. I am writing about their horrible encounters with the Westboro Baptist Church. I am making money off those encounters. How can I justify that? It is a fine line that internet writers (and all writers) walk. The purpose of writing is to educate, inform and entertain. And, of course, to make money - for those of us who write professionally.

That question has made me pause and consider my true motives for writing about the Westboro Baptist Church as well as other issues and causes that make up my writing portfolio. Is making money off the pain and suffering of others my main objective when I write about the causes and issues I feel strongly about? If it isn't my main objective, how heavily does the money weigh in my decision to write about them? Thankfully, I didn't have to ponder those questions too long. I know my heart and I know my motives.

Truth be told, I made a huge mistake in writing about the Westboro Baptist Church. I never really considered the money I would be making. I got mad. I thought about what they were doing and I got even madder. My anger at those "failed humans" completely overrode the business side of my brain. I knew I would page views. I knew that people would be reading my articles, but that is where it ended. I wanted the truth to be told and so I wrote.

I am going to continue to make mistakes when I write about the Westboro Baptist Church. I'm going with my gut and with my heart. I won't go back and tweak the keywords which is what a good internet writer would do. Whatever travels from my brain down through my arms and fingers onto the screen is what will be published.

That, too, is a fine line I must walk. I know that when I write straight from the heart that is shows on the screen (or page) and there is nothing I can do about that. Those "straight from the heart articles" usually do better than my others. I call that "accidental and unintentional money."

I suppose I could stop writing about things I feel passionately about to maintain some sense of integrity as a writer. If I did that, I would no longer write about politics, animals, my family, the elderly, my faith...The list would be never ending. I would become a "fluff writer" without any substance. That is when I feel I would lose all sense of integrity as a writer. I make no apologies for writing about those topics. Whether money is made off those internet articles is not the reason I write about them. I write about them because I'd go (even more) insane if I didn't. 

This blog has been about making money as an internet writer. I am also ashamed to say that. Not once have I addressed the emotional side of writing. It has been all about writing for money. I truly apologize for that. I have left out the real reason that real writers write. That real reason is because we have a thought or a feeling we can't get out until we put it into words.

Despite the fine line between writing from the heart and making money off those causes and issues, that is what we must do as internet writers. Writing fluff is fine; there are reasons to write internet articles like that. Writing those heartfelt internet articles and making money off of them is also fine. We must each find our own moral compass and go where it leads.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Make Your Own Breaks as an Internet Writer

As internet writers, we do all we can to get our internet articles read by as many people as possible. We add our links every place we can think of. We tweet them. We post them to Facebook. We add them to similar work by other internet writers. Sometimes, it feels like we aren't getting anywhere. Seeing I don't believe really believe in luck, I am a firm believer we must make our own breaks as internet writer. Sometimes, those breaks we make come from the most unlikely places. This is an example of how I stepped out on a limb (and maybe "into it") and made my own break...

On March 4th, I wrote and published "The Westboro Baptist Church is Right" on Associated Content. Don't panic and think I've "gone to the dark side." Remember, I write teasers. I wanted as many people to know the truth about the Westboro Baptist Church as possible. I was getting page views, but I wanted more. What internet writer doesn't?

Just for fun or maybe from boredom, I decided to tweet the link to that particular article to Margie J. Phelps. I added "Thought you and your church would like this one! The Westboro Baptist Church is Right." I was expecting a nasty response from her and nothing more. I was so wrong about that!

For the record, Margie J. Phelps is the daughter of Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church. The Westboro Baptist Church is that group of hate-spreading wackos from Topeka, Kansas that protest funerals all over the country. They hate everything, except themselves and their hatred.

She didn't respond to me directly. Instead, Margie J. Phelps retweeted my link, adding "best" to it. Obviously, she never read it. I quickly retweeted her retweet of my original tweet (that is a mouthful!), in case she caught her mistake. I also sent a "thank you tweet" for retweeting me.

After all the hate tweets had almost calmed down, some were even deleted and apologies sent out, I had another idea. I started sending Margie J. Phelps retweet to news organizations around the country. I sent it to MSNBC, FOX News and CNN. I even created a CNN iReport, telling the story of Margie J. Phelps major mistake on Twitter.

I was far from being finished. I wrote a follow-up article on Associated Content. This particular article was entitled "Westboro Baptist Church Member Makes Major Mistake on Twitter." It outlined the mistake made by "Mensa Margie."

My page views were increasing. After tweeting Margie J. Phelps and creating the CNN iReport, "The Westboro Baptist Church is Right" page views more than tripled in one night. They have been steadily increasing since then.

For those of you who know how tenacious I can be, you will not be the least bit surprised to learn I wasn't finished. I continued sending out all my links to all my Westboro Baptist Church articles to anyone and everyone I could think of. I was a woman on a mission - a multi-purpose mission. First, I wanted to spread the truth about the hate-spewing Westboro Baptist Church. Secondly, I wanted to increase my page views.

I wrote an additional article for Associated Content - "Is Westboro Baptist Church Avoiding Oklahoma?" Seeing I had to be relatively nice about the situation with the Westboro Baptist Church, I was not satisfied with the "nice" slant I had to use. The series of articles I was writing, that I'm still writing, were too politically correct for me.. I wanted to find a way to really "let it rip" and share what was really in my heart. That is when I was struck by what I consider a brainstorm...

I created a highly focused blog on Blogger that is devoted to my true feelings about the Westboro Baptist Church. I carefully created a URL that would be well-searched - "The Westboro Baptist Church." I entitled the blog "Westboro Baptist Church News." I wasn't too crazy about add the word "the" to my URL, but just "Westboro Baptist Church" was already taken.

Since this whole thing started, I haven't felt this energized to write in quite while. As you can tell I haven't been posting here as much as I should be. I haven't felt like it. My brief hospital stay didn't help matters either. I had been neglecting all of my blogs and my writing other places as well. With my failing health, it was easy to stop writing as much as I should have.

I've always known that I write my best when I am mad and something came along that "charged my battery." I created my own break. Not only are my page views increasing and I'm sharing the truth about the Westboro Baptist Church, I have my passion for writing back.

I want to encourage all of you to make your own breaks. Try new things. Mix it up. Step out on a limb and do something you never thought you would or could do. It certainly worked for me. I may not get rich with my Westboro Baptist  Church articles, but I am writing. With a smile on my face and ideas flowing. That is what all writers should be doing!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Promoting Your Internet Articles with Twitter Just Got Easier

Promoting your internetwork isn't always easy, but I came across a handy a little tool that will make it a bit easier. This is especially true for those who use Twitter. When is the most opportune time to tweet? Knowing that can keep you glued to Twitter, trying to use charts and graphs so you can tweet your internet articles at the best times. No more.  I just found When To Tweet!

This little jewel is wonderful. I don't even have to explain how to use it. If you can spell and type your Twitter name in the only space available on the page, you can do this. It is truly that simple. That isn't entirely true, you also have to click on "When should I tweet?" to get the results. Type in your Twitter name and click on "When should I tweet?" and wait for the results. The more followers you have, the longer it takes. I have quite a few followers and it took less than a minute.

I did find one problem with it. It is in GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). But, I've solved that problem. My readers in the United States need to visit this map of the United States and then click on the state where they live. For my international readers, visit the same site (different page), select your city/country and GMT will be converted for you.  I've written "-6 hours" on a Post-It Note and stuck it to my computer screen. I'm in the central time zone - for those of you who do not want to check out the GMT converter page.

I would love to say I found this great tool on my own, but I didn't it. A Facebook friend posted it and I am running with it! Remember to check back with the When To Tweet tool often because it will change as you add followers and your followers' patterns change. Despite this, it is a great guide to knowing when is the best time for you to get the most out of your tweets.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Big Changes for Internet Writers: Google's New Algorithm

I would love to say that Google's new algorithm hasn't changed anything for me and other writers. That would be excellent news for all of us. Unfortunately, it has changed things. As internet writers we must learn to adapt to Google's new algorithm and all of the changes it has brought about.

This changes in the way that Google is indexing and ranking internet articles were meant to cut the spam and poor content that many writing sites are publishing from their search engine. This makes sense. Google wants those who use their search engine to find only the best information. Like me, they are preaching "quality over quantity."

Unfortunately, quality writers who produce quality internet articles are finding it harder to be indexed and ranked with Google. Because we write for those writing sites, our page views and our earnings are down. Google is not using their vast resources to go after "hacks" on those writing sites, but the all the content those sites publish.

What can internet writers do to adapt to these changes? I wasn't sure if there was much we could to work with these changes. Boycotting Google isn't going to help much. Throwing in the towel is definitely not an option. There are several things we can do to make sure our earnings do not decline, "drop" and "disappear," as some of my readers have explained has happened to them:
  • Look For Other Writing Websites -Find writing websites that have not been as drastically effected by the new Google algorithm. Do your research and find new websites to write for. Revisit writing websites that you considered before, but decided against. Consider re-applying for writing positions you were turned down to write for in the past.
  • Be More Selective -  Choose carefully which of your current writing sites you write for. Spread yourself a bit thin and write for several different websites. As with most internet writing, trial and error is probably the way to go. See which writing sites will pay off for you. Write for the websites that have haven't been as as hard with the changes in the Google algorithm.
  • Increase Your Quality -If there ever was a time to do your best work, it is now. Use reputable sources. Include links to websites that have the highest quality of information as well as the highest page rank. Although I am not a fan of sending readers away from you own work, I am willing to make this sacrifice to help increase my own ranking, page views and, hopefully, getting indexed on the front page of Google and other search engines.
  • Write More -Increase the amount of quality internet articles you are writing. It is a numbers game, I hate to say. The more internet articles you write, the more chances you have of being indexed on Google. DO NOT sacrifice your quality though! I understand. We are already as much as possible. However, if we could produce just one more quality internet article per day, it could make a difference in our earnings.
  • Find Your Niche - Consider finding your niche. Look for something that you are a wealth of information about, love writing about and others are not writing about. Carve out your niche. This is the area where I will be putting a lot of my effort into. I'm not a niche writer, but I'm working hard to become one. When you (and I) find a specific area of internet writing that others aren't writing much about, the more likely we are to be indexed by Google.
  • Watch Other Writers -  Pay attention to what other internet writers are doing. Which writing sites are they writing for? Which ones are they writing less for or have quit using completely? Read the internet articles that are on the sites that you write for. If you notice problems with the internet articles, follow the sites guidelines and common courtesy to help the writer improve their work. If you are alerted to problems with your internet articles, do not take it personally and do all you can to fix those problems.
  • Hang On Tight -Yes, hang on tight. It is unsure exactly how much the new Google algorithm with change how we "do business," but we have to keep an open mind and keep writing. This isn't the time to throw in the towel. We are writers and that is what we do. For many of us, it isn't just a career - it is who we are. Do not give up your love and passion for internet writing simply because things are getting tough.
  • Stick Together - Internet writers, more than ever, should stick together. We need to share information. Let other internet writers know what is working for us and what isn't. If nothing else, lend a compassionate ear when our internet writer friends tell us things are looking bleak for them.
The only thing constant in life is that it is always changing. We must learn to adapt to those life changes. Just like we must learn to adapt to Google's new algorithm. It isn't the end of the world. We will weather this storm and come out on top. It may not be easy and it may take some time, but we will do what we do best - write quality internet articles that get indexed with Google, get the page views and make our money. I know we can do it

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pen Names and Professionalism

Pen names have been a part of writing for centuries, just as professionalism. Both pen names and professionalism play an important role in internet writing today. With all of the safety concerns involved with the internet, using a pen name is probably a good idea. However, when you choose a pen name, you must maintain the highest level of professionalism - as with every aspect of your internet writing.

Choosing a pen name is much like naming a baby. It will go with you for your entire internet writing career. It will set the tone for how you and your work are perceived by readers and clients alike. You pen name will open or close doors for you as an internet writer.

When you choose a pen name, think like a "real world writer." Your authority as a writer may hinge on your pen name. Would you go to your local bookstore or library and ask for a book about wedding planning written by ClownCollegeGrad1992? Would you consider seeking advice about roses from Buddy Boy? Neither one of those names are professional. They do not demand the respect of your readers and they do not help you sound like an authority on most subjects.

When you choose a pen name, you should choose one and stick with it. Having several different pen names will only complicate branding yourself and your work. It can make promoting your work extremely difficult. Keeping track of "who you are" and your writing style for the different pen names is a waste of time, energy and effort.

You should also consider your readers and your fans when you choose a pen name. How will they be able to find all of your work when you use different names? Will they understand why you use different names? Will they be able to trust you as an internet writer if they learn you use different names?

Once you have narrowed your choices for pen names down to a few, google those names. You will want a pen name that isn't overly used on the internet. When I first started my internet writing career I was writing as Emma Sutton. Several months later, I searched my name and learned there was an English actress with the same name. I knew I wouldn't make it to the first page of search engines competing against her. I added my middle name, Riley, to all of my work and VIOLA! I was no longer competing with an award-winning actress. When you search my name, you will find pages and pages of my work with only limited interruptions by others with my name or a similar name.

If you have already been using several pen names, there is little you can do to change that. If you write for several different niches, it may work for you. I don't recommend it, but it is possible to make it work. You may want to consider choosing one pen name and using it. It will make your internet writing career much simpler.

Your pen name is an important part of you and your internet writing career. Choose carefully, making sure your pen name is professional and will demand the respect you deserve as an internet writer. And, as with all things pertaining to internet writing, have a little fun with it. There is no reason your internet writing career has to be dull or boring.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Page Rank Factors

Internet writers are always seeking a higher page rank. Page rank is the elusive dream that slips through the fingers of many internet writers. With all the internet articles, websites and blogs, it is hard to obtain the page rank we all need to be successful - truly successful, not just making "some money." These are a few factors that determine page rank of your blogs and websites:
  • Internal Links - By using internal links, you can increase your page rank. Link the pages of your blog (or website) together to help with your page rank. This will also help to keep your readers on your work and not elsewhere.
  • External Links - Link your blogs and websites to other blogs and websites. Check into the page rank of the sites you will be linking your work to. The higher the page rank that they have will help increase your page rank. Be careful not to add to many external links. Not only will this take your visitors away from your work, it can also "drain" your page rank - allowing it to leak onto the sites your linking your blogs or websites to.
  • Number of Pages - The number of pages that your blogs and websites have can also increase your page rank. The more the pages you have, the higher your page rank will be. Never add pages only for the sake of increasing your page rank. Your additional pages should always be relevant and contain excellent copy.
Increasing page rank is something that every internet writer should be conscience of and constantly working to increase. It isn't easy because of all the competition on the internet, but it is possible - with hard work and diligence. Keep these factors in mind as you create and update your blogs and websites so you can watch your page rank increase over time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Secret Formula for Internet Writers

"...I am just about desperate here....I have been reading and re-reading your blog. I have been writing online (feverishly) for over 2 years. I get that residual pay takes time. What I don't get is what I am doing wrong....I try writing about timely/popular subjects...excuse me for mostly writing from my heart but that is what I do. Can I not expect to earn money unless I figure out the "secret" formula for success?"

The above is a message I received yesterday from a fellow internet writer. My heart went out to this writer. I've been there, frantically looking for "the secret formula for success."  The one thing I have learned from years of internet writing is that there is not one secret formula. There are several formulas, none of them secret, that must be mixed and matched with each other to fit each individual internet writer and their internet articles. These are just a few of those formulas I've discovered:
  • Write Every Day - Internet writers must write every day. Whether it is published or not, we must produce new content every single day. This is part of honing our craft - improving our work. As internet writers write each day, we must see improvement. Internet writers must learn from their mistakes and not repeat them.
  • The Devil is in the Details - Yes, it is true that the devil is in the details. No one is writing "War and Peace" or "Gone With the Wind" for the internet - it is all short snippets that will fit into our hectic lives and crazy schedules. Despite this, internet writers must weigh the details that will fill their "snippets" and make their concise and clear internet articles even more concise and clear.
  • Original Only - Internet writers must produce original internet articles. We can't being writing duplicate or "almost the same" content as others. With millions of internet writers out there, we must put our unique spin on everything we write. The personality and spirit of the individual internet writer must shine through. The only way I know to do this is to write from the heart. If you aren't writing from the heart, you are missing the boat and the potential of a profitable career of an internet writer.
  • Trial and Error - All writing, especially internet writing, is trial and error. My "writing philosophy" is quite simple: Throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. What works for one internet writer may not work for another internet writer. Yes, there are rules all internet writers should follow. Think of the old Air Supply song..."I know all the rules and I know how to break them and I always know the name of the game." The name of the game is "Making Money" and, as internet writers, we must break some rules to win that game.
  • SEO - Always have SEO on your mind. I have Post-It notes on my edges of my computer screen, reminding me of SEO. Internet writers can't forget that SEO is what gets their internet articles indexed by search engines and increases your page rank. Without both, you will struggle with earning a living as an internet writer.
  • Keywords - As with SEO, internet writers must be mindful of keywords. Use them and use them wisely. Use the keyword tools available to internet writers online. Pay attention to the specific keywords you use and their ratio in your internet articles. Avoid using too many different keywords in individual internet articles. Use trial and error to find the mix that works best for you.
  • Branding - Internet writers must brand themselves and their work. This is key; an internet writer must be remembered by their readers. Develop your specific brand and stick with it. Use that brand to increase your readership. As your readership increases, so will your earnings.
  • Promotion -Internet writers must promote their work! Never count on getting indexed on the first page of major search engines. This does happen and it happens often, but you must promote your work to help the search engines pick up your internet articles. Use Twitter, Facebook, Digg and other forms of social networking sites to increase your page views. The more page views you have, the more like you are to make money.
If I had "the secret formula," I would have it in bottles on shelves everywhere and the internet would be saturated with this formula. The formula would have a pretty bow on it and a nice price tag. I don't formula. Personally, I don't think it exists. You will see so-called formulas all over the place. Many of them will have giant price tags on them. Please don't fall for it. The internet is always evolving and changing; our internet writing should do the same. Because of that, those secret formulas are often outdated and obsolete. What what last year or last week may not work today, tomorrow or in six months. As internet writers, we must learn to adapt and change. We must hone and craft, constantly "putting it out there" for the world to read.