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SEO, Art, Money or Passion: Why Do You Write Online?

Updated on October 29, 2015
NateB11 profile image

I have been writing online since 2012, and since then have studied SEO, marketing and keyword research to drive traffic to my work.

I started writing web articles back in April of 2012. The common advice to Internet writers, since I started this endeavor, has always been, "write what you know, write about your passion"; et cetera and so on.

Does the advice hold water? In four words, for me, the answer to that question is: No..it..does..not.

At some point, you have to decide why you write online: For fun, for art, for money.

You have to decide if you want to devote significant time and energy to something that might not garner any returns. Or, you might ponder whether your time is better spent doing something that keeps some food on the table.

My Experience

When I started writing online, wittingly or not, I followed that old (and, to me, outdated) advice about writing about what you know, writing about your passions. Guess what? That brought me no traffic to my articles.

One subject I am most knowledgeable about is martial arts. I originally began training in martial arts when I was young and have acquired a lot of knowledge about it. Turns out, nobody is hopping on the Internet looking for subjects about martial arts.

I had to really think about that. I wrote in-depth and well-organized, decent, articles about martial arts and they attracted very little traffic.

Then I realized something. All of the time I trained in martial arts, I was into actually doing martial arts, not reading about it online. No doubt every other martial artist out there is basically like me. He or she does martial arts, doesn't surf the Net to read about it.

My suspicions were confirmed after doing some actual (took me awhile) keyword research and doubly confirmed when I read this article on CopyBlogger. Guess what? Writing about my "passion" and "knowledge" will get me no traffic. Unless I get really passionate about sparring gear, which I'm not.

So, lesson learned is: You can profit from your passion if your passion is popular. Otherwise, no. Writing about your passion will allow you to build a huge volume of web articles that gather dust and die in Internet obscurity.

Sorry, folks, those are the facts.

Another topic which I'm even more passionate about is philosophy. Not standard philosophy like you study in college; not Kant or Nietzsche or Schopenhauer. I am interested in human consciousness, how our minds actually operate and its effect on the world; in a certain way that requires depth of understanding but not academic regimentation.

Talk about not getting traffic. Who in the world would search for something like that on the Net?

I'm into Hip Hop music. Entertainment is notorious for getting not much in return on the Internet. So, that's also out.

So, I had to decide what it was I wanted to do.

Interests or Passions

I really can't remember where I read it, but I read a blog written by a guy who makes money on the Internet. He said he'd long ago discarded that philosophy about writing about your passions and decided to write about his interests. His rationale was that as soon as you write about your passions on the Net, you start to ruin your passion because it becomes work. I agree with that. But there's another more significant reason why you might want to flip from passions to interests when considering subject matter to write about on the Net.

That reason is that your interests might be more popular than your passions. In my case, that is certainly true. The best I could do with martial arts would be to write product reviews for martial arts products. Which is an option. Many experienced Internet writers agree that the main way to make money online is through affiliate marketing. This is an option I'm considering for my martial arts blog. Writing in-depth informative articles for it is becoming counter-productive, though. I mean, all that time and energy writing those articles, which mostly get no traffic, could be spent writing on subjects that people search for online.

So, this means you have to start with keyword research. This is an SEO basic and is necessary if you want to get noticed online. I suppose you can just write "for yourself" but you can do that with a notepad and pen. If you must put your writings that are "for yourself" online, have at it. But I don't see the point.

Or maybe you're charismatic and develop quite the following online. I guess that works. But I'm not into it. I don't want to be anyone's guru nor do I think it's cool to collect fans. Seems like a lot of work and catering, when keyword research would garner at least as much traffic that is easier to sustain in the long haul. I'm not an economist, but it seems to fly in the face of the law of diminishing returns, to just constantly work for the attention of your following; putting more into it, getting less out of it. Which is my main point. It's like the job that goes nowhere, after awhile you're working to sustain yourself and never getting ahead. Who wants to live like that?

Why Getting Fans on Social Media Might Be a Waste of Your Time

Why do you write online?

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I'm not sure anyone is passionate about how to tie a ponytail or the coolest martial arts shoes. Maybe you are. Then it is possible writing about your passions makes sense. The Internet is run by search engines and search engines are designed to provide people with a service; to help them find information that they are looking for. There are only certain kinds of information people look for on the Internet. They are either trying to figure something out, resolve (as minor as it might be) a challenge or maybe they want to buy something. If you are interested in the practical matter of getting traffic and so not working yourself into the ground for nothing, then you will end up having to explore subject matter that is simply getting searched for and/or exploring your affiliate marketing options for what will sell on the Web.

And those are the facts.

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    • pen promulgates profile image

      Imran Khan 3 months ago from Mumbai, India

      What a practical article!!

    • NateB11 profile image
      Author

      Nathan Bernardo 2 years ago from California, United States of America

      That's a good thought about establishing authority with Google. I might put more into my own sites which are all authority sites. I've heard earning potential is better with your own sites that concentrate on specific subjects.

    • Denmarkguy profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 2 years ago from Port Townsend

      Good points! There really are a LOT of angles to take with writing. I started blogging 15+ years ago, as a way to "explore ideas, with instant feedback." Out of that grew a dual desire: To provide information that either wasn't available (when I needed it) or was poorly presented... and to make people pause and THINK. I started in on article writing because some ideas seemed "freestanding," rather than "serialized" like a blog theme.

      Like you, I am interested in human consciousness and how it develops, and how people who are "seekers" go about finding their inner sense of self and peace. I am also interested in psychology and temperament typing systems... and I tend to write about that. After some 8 years on HubPages, ALL my articles that have been read 10K+ times are in this area... whenever I write "how to" or about "things" I'm lucky to get a few hundred views. So sometimes it's a matter of establishing what Google calls "authority" in a field, as much as anything.

    • NateB11 profile image
      Author

      Nathan Bernardo 2 years ago from California, United States of America

      I think that's what it's all about. Providing an answer to a query. In some form or another. Thanks for stopping by, Sally.

    • NateB11 profile image
      Author

      Nathan Bernardo 2 years ago from California, United States of America

      Thanks, Kevin. Writing on the Net is definitely a learning experience and lots of experimenting ends up paying off. Glad you stopped by.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      NateB11

      Very interesting Hub. If one can provide answers which help solve a problem, even if it is a how to do hub or a crafting tutorial, then I think we one is halfway there. We only have to look at our own search history to find the answer reflected there.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 2 years ago

      That was very, very interesting Nate. I came to that conclusion a while ago when I was not getting traffic and I wondered why. Certain Hubbers told me to keep writing about birds (my passion) but I had not outsiders.

      I stopped that and tested other waters. I looked on G Analytics and saw that I had many other views but no comments so I was starting to follow the right path but it was not complete yet. I voted this up, shared it and pinned it.

      Kevin

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I write mostly about things I'm personally interested in. That, of course, includes things I'm passionate about, though it's not limited to them. But I've found that when I have even quite successful articles (in traffic terms) on subjects I have no passion for, I get little satisfaction from it. My approach is to decide what I want to write about, then try to find ways to make my content SEO-friendly. It is a struggle! But for me personally, to write simply for traffic=money would be a much harder struggle.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      I write due to interest in earning extra pocket money

    • NateB11 profile image
      Author

      Nathan Bernardo 2 years ago from California, United States of America

      You got that right, Bill. There are definitely many angles and possibilities when it comes to writing online. And I'd never say that some of the great writers here that write valuable content should stop doing so, with or without use of SEO, etc. I'm glad I'm part of HP where I am able to discover some amazing writing that I might not have found otherwise. As always, glad you stopped by.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      That about sums it all up. There are so many different angles to take in this writing gig. I just depends on what you are after, and you pointed that out perfectly. The longer I'm at this the more I'm convinced that one size does not fit all. :)