Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Writing, and Hubpages
While there are numerous guides to creating articles on HubPages, there is none quite like this one.
In this article, I have listed my method for attracting hub-readers from around the country. While my meaningless ramblings are slightly delusional, the aren't without merit. Throughout this page, there are several tools and techniques that center around writing meaningful articles on HubPages. There's a lot of writing advice out there, but this writing advice comes from a slightly experienced, and slightly insane writer. Welcome to my five step process...
Step One of my Delusional Writing Advice: Gather your Thoughts
I know you have them. You must, or you wouldn't be reading this. Sometimes, the voices in your head are good, especially lightly sprinkled with a bit of whimsical nonsense.
I digress.. On to the point:
Part of writing well is thinking well. In order to write a great article, you must be passionate about the subject; you must be excited about what you write about. For now, don't worry if the subject will have mass appeal, or if it's going to get critical acclaim, or if it's going to win the next Nobel Peace Prize - all of that doesn't matter.
What matters is this: That you have something that you're passionate about that you want to share with others.
Before one can even begin the writing process, one has to know what they are writing about. It's fine to have a vague idea of something, but vague ideas are just that; vague. Make your thoughts concrete. Pick a subject that you're passionate about. When one is passionate about a particular subject, they are more likely to be a specialist in that subject.
In other words, if you were to write about a subject simply because you think it's popular, but you don't have any interest in it, the reader will see right through it. There will be a sense of automated writing to your article; it will be dry and bland. On the other hand, if you pick a subject that you're highly interested in, then your excitement will show through in what you write. Your audience will feel your excitement, and will respond in kind.
To summarize: Know what you're passionate about and use this to your advantage.
Step Two of my Whimsical Writing Advice: Do your Research
Ok, so you've got a great idea swirling around in that mushy gray matter hidden under your cranium - great! - now what?
Do your research. No, you don't have to go bury yourself in a pile of old dusty books, nor do you have to extrapolate some foreign secret from a coded message - save that kind of research for the Indiana Jones "wanna-be's." However, you do have to have a firm foundation in which to build your article from.
Think back to your days in grade school. Remember that old blue-haired English teacher that would fall asleep in mid-sentence? Ok, yeah, neither do I, but at some point you were taught the five w's: Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why. You were taught this for a reason.
In order to have a successful article, one must answer these basic questions.
Who are you writing about? Who is your intended audience? What are you writing about? What is the main subject? What about this particular subject is going to interest your audience? Where do the events take place? Where are you going to publish your article? When do the events take place? How do things happen/work? How does this article have an impact on the reader? Why are you writing the article? Why does it matter? Why would a reader be interested in the article?
You get the point. Without a firm understanding of what you're writing about you'll quickly lose your reader. People read for two main reasons: 1.) To get information, or 2.) for enjoyment. When someone reads an article and they don't get one of those two things, typically they feel disappointed.
In general, especially when writing a factual article, one needs to have twice as much information than one will use. In op-ed pieces, this isn't nearly as critical, but one still must do enough research to be able to make his/her point clearly.
To summarize: Know what you're writing about before you start writing.
Step Three of my Insanity-Filled Writing Advice: Research Keywords
I know, you're probably wondering when you'll actually get to start writing. Have patience little grasshopper, we're almost to that point. There's one more thing that you should do before you start writing that next world-changing article you've been thinking about.
Again, and I can not stress this enough, words are meant to be read. If they wern't then none of us would be here. But, in order for your article to be read, people have to find it.
Think about it, how many articles are published on the internet each day? How many are published about the very same topic you're writing about? Thousands? Millions? There's an educated guess out there somewhere, but good luck in finding it.
The thing is, you want your article to be found. You want those words that you've labored so hard on to be read. How do you do that? It's simple, but complex at the same time.
I won't go into a lot of detail here, as there have been countless articles written about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) that explains things a lot better than a mere amateur such as myself could. However, I will share with you the steps that I take in order to find the best keywords for my articles.
- After I've done my research, I look through my notes to guess at what keywords would be most popular. Using notepad, I make a generic list of those keywords. I'm not looking for individual words though, I'm looking for two to four word phrases.
- Next, I mosey on over to Google and use their Keyword Tool. (Yes, click on the blue text, it's a link that will take you there. Finish reading the article first though, you might miss out on something insignificant.) With notepad open, copy and past one phrase at a time into the keyword tool, type in their random letters, and click the little button. It'll give you a list of how well that phrase ranks in the Google search engine, as well as the advertiser competition.
- Again, using notepad, I copy over the keywords (phrases) that rank somewhere in the middle. In other words, if a keyword has too many hits, the competition for that particular phrase is fierce. It's better to find a keyword that has a little competition, but not enough to where it's buried so deep that nobody can find it. Phrases that are three or four words work best.
- Finally, I'll go to Google and type in those keywords, just to see how the top ranking sites are doing. I'll pick the top three or four sites and really study their content, looking for additional keywords that I can use in my own article. Again, I'll jot (type?) them down in notepad for later use.
Sure, it may seem like a lot of work so far, but most of this is fairly simple. Coming up with an idea and doing the research is something that most everyone already does without much thought. Things get complicated in learning how to optimize your site/article for the web. Still, without SEO, articles remain buried on page 152, and face it, who really goes through that many pages to find one article?
Learn all you can about SEO. Remember, the point of writing an article is for that article to be read. People have to find that article first, and that's where taking the time to properly research keywords is important.
To summarize: Look for keywords and phrases that will boost your article to the top of the search engine list.
Step Four of my Long and Tedious Writing Advice: Alright Already, Write the Damn Article!
Yes, you can finally relax a bit and get to writing. I'm not going to tell you what to write, but I will list a few tips that will help your success with the article. In bullet form, here we go...
- Titles matter: Create a "Hook.": You only have three seconds to catch a readers eye (not literally, of course), so make the most of those three seconds. Create a title that makes the reader want to read your article. This applies to your first sentence as well. For example...
- Open with an unusual detail: “Somewhere in Oklahoma, there is over a million dollars worth of hidden treasure.”
- Open with a strong statement: “Thousands die every day because of doctors mistakes, you could be next.”
- Open with a Quotation: "If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” - Jim Rohn
- Open with an Anecdote: Oklahoma's only Civil War naval battle was either a great success, or a tremendous failure.
- Open with a Statistic or Fact: Medical bills account for more than 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies.
- Open with a Question. “If you could save another person’s life, would you?”
- Open with an Exaggeration or Outrageous Statement. “Join the Army, meet interesting people, kill them.”
- Check your punctuation and grammar. Nothing says "I just don't get it" like poorly worded sentences and lack of clear punctuation.
- Check your formatting. Think of a magazine article. All of the text boxes are clearly labeled and legible, the photos are crisp and clean, the advertisements are subtle; these are all things that you are accountable for. Remember, "Content is King." In writing, there is no greater truth than that. Make sure that your reader can clearly see what your main content is, and that they are able to enjoy the experience without being overwhelmed by too many pictures or advertisements.
- Use Keywords. Remember that list you made with notepad? Now's the time to bring that out. Liberally sprinkle your keywords and phrases throughout your article, but be careful - do it in a way that relates to the topic at hand. Don't simply slap those babies in there for no apparent reason, but do it with style. Typically, I find that four or five keywords in an article suffice, but I write for a very targeted audience. Still, I don't like using more than that anyway because it becomes obvious and takes away from the article. The best places that I've found to use keywords are in...
- main titles and headings,
- in picture captions, and..
- in the article summary.
Typically, an article should be between 700 and 1500 words. When you write your article, write it out first in a word processing program. Label your headings as you write, and then simply copy the text over to your internet article. There are two main reasons for doing it this way: 1.) You can keep an eye on how many words your article is, and 2.) the program will automatically check your grammar and punctuation.
Don't forget to add in your affiliate links after your done writing - you do want to make money, right?
Step Five of my Never-Ending Writing Advice: Check Keywords, Edit, and Check again
Immediately after publishing an article, but before submitting it for backlinks, you want to make sure that all you're keywords are lined up like pretty little marshmallows.
I'm thinking of several little marshmallows all lined up on a stick, ready to be turned into those scrumptious delicacies called s'mores. Stay with me on this, we're almost done.
Back to the point, pull out your notepad full of keywords (you did keep that, right?) and double check to make sure that those keywords you selected and the keywords in the article are the same. There are several tools for doing this. At the end of this article, I have left a few links to free SEO tools that I use quite often. For now, I will explain the long way of doing things.
Take the first keyword that you have in Notepad, and in your article, count how many times that phrase appears. If it's less than five, go back and add that keyword in a few more times. Make sure that all of your keywords are listed at least a few times. Once you're satisfied, then you should be good to go...
...for a few days at least.
After you've published your article and created a few backlinks here and there, it's time to go back and see how well the article is doing. Wait at least a week, and then, using your keywords, search for your article in all the major search engines. If you've done everything right, your article should appear within the first couple of pages. If it doesn't, it's time to go back and re-edit your article. Add or change your keywords, if necessary. Keep experimenting until you're happy with your rankings.
Hopefully, through all of my nonsensical ramblings, you've been able to gather together a few helpful tips to guide you along your way. Just remember though, everyone's different. My writing process is mine alone, as the process you come up with will belong only to you. Take what helps you, use it, and disregard the rest.
- Google Keywords Tool - This nifty little tool helps you analyze different keywords and how they rank within Google. In addition, it also suggests other keywords that you may not have thought of.
- SeoQuake - This plugin works for Firefox and Google Chrome. It will analyze your pages for things such as keywords, page rankings, backlinks, etc. If I only had one tool to suggest, this would be it.
- Backlink Checker - This site has a plethora (I love that word) of tools, but I mainly use it to check the sites that are linking back to my hubs.
- Google Analytics - Displays statistics about your hubs in a way that is easy to understand.
Misc. Online Tools:
- Plagiarism Checker - This does exactly what the title suggests; it checks for duplicate material elsewhere on the web. This is a great tool to use after your article is published, especially in searching for overused keywords and phrases that your article may contain.
- Mediafire.com - Site to store large files for sharing within your hubs. Make sure that you only share original content, as sharing copyrighted material could get you into some serious horse-dooky.
- Picnik.com - This is an online photo editing site - great if you have your own photos that you would like to include in your articles.
Free Photos for your Articles:
- Flickr - Under advanced search, click on "Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content." Be sure to check the licensing guidelines - some images require attribution.
- EveryStockPhoto.com - This is a search engine designed to find only free images. All images on this site are licensed under Creative Commons.
- Creative Commons Image Search - Another free image site, although a bit more difficult to use.
- Wikimedia Commons - Another great Creative Commons image site.
In addition, I would recommend installing the Google toolbar. In the toolbar, there's a button labeled "share", and has about 20 social bookmarking/social blog sharing sites that one can submit to.