Archive for May, 2013

SEO and your writing website

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

One of our users recently wrote in with a question about SEO, which basically boiled down to this: How does Google find my website? Moreover, how does Google find my website if the website is created by a third party (like Writer’s Residence) and I don’t have control over the website’s metadata?

SEO is something that every writer should think about (though few writers do) because it’s an important step in optimising your website for marketing purposes. The bottom line is: You want people to find you. Search engines are how people find things. Thus, you want people to find you when they search for (1) your name or (2) keywords associated with the things you write about.

Below I’ve explained (1) how we address this issue, and (2) what writers can do themselves to improve their SEO. I’ve also included links to relevant sections of SEOMoz’s The Beginner’s Guide to SEO, a really useful primer that’s miraculously not boring as sin.

What we do in the back-end

Here’s what we do to help search engines find our users’ webpages:

  • We use ‘title’ tags (the stuff you see in the title bar of your web browser) based on the name you supply on your account
  • We use ‘h1’ tags to describe the main heading of your web page, again based on your name, and one of the first things Google looks at when deciding on a website’s page rank in search results.
  • When you create your website, we “tell” Google you exist so that it indexes your web page from the get-go and makes you immediately findable in search results.

What writers can do to improve their SEO

The most important thing for searchability is CONTENT, and this is something you [should] have complete control over, no matter who creates your website. To that end, there’s loads you can do, but here are a few ways to get started that are most important and easiest to implement:

  • Invest in your own domain name, and pick a domain name that relates to the keyword you want people to find you on (usually your own name, e.g. monicashaw.com).
  • Decide which keywords are most important to your business and use them throughout the content of your website.
  • Link to external and internal pages within your content.
  • Use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc) to create external links to your content
  • Use Google Analytics to track your stats; adjust and adapt your keywords as you learn how and why people find your website. (And yes, Writer’s Residence does have a facility for integrating Google analytics from the Settings page)

Finally, you might find this SEO checklist handy: The Social Media Marketer’s SEO Checklist.

How to use your writing portfolio to apply to different types of writing jobs

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

I just had an email from one of our users with a very good question:

Do you have any advice or blog posts about using a writing portfolio to apply to multiple types of writing jobs?
How should my portfolio reflect this, especially when it comes to the Writing Samples and Home sections?

I know this has been a burning question for me for the last four years since I went freelance, and speaks to a challenge that many of us face, especially when we’re just starting out in the trade.

Almost every pro in the business will tell you that writers should have a “niche”. It’s good advice, but even so, niche writers still write for numerous types of media. For me, my niche is food. Sure, I write food articles for magazines and blogs, but I also do lots of writing work WITH food brands, like copywriting, web development and various other forms of consulting. How can I use one writing portfolio to reflect my vast array of experience, and then use that to apply for specific types of writing jobs?

In the past few years I’ve sent my writing portfolio to a LOT of prospective clients and editors. Some of them even gave me jobs. And enough of them gave me jobs that I actually make a living at it. So here are my top tips to our user – and any writer out there applying to different types of writing jobs – based on my experience. I’d love to hear other people’s ideas on the topic, too, so feel free to add your advice in the comments!

It actually begins with your cover letter.

Whenever you apply for a job, or pitch an editor or new client, you always start with a cover letter, even if it’s just an email expressing interest. This is where you can call out your specific experiences that make you right for the gig, and also where you can point editors to specific parts of your online writing portfolio that contains information relevant to the job. My approach is to write a paragraph or two explaining myself and why I’m writing, then call out some specific samples of which I’m particularly proud. Here’s a typical closing paragraph from a cover letter which I sent to the editor of a food magazine, with a sign-off that has a link to my full writing portfolio in the signature:

I’m a freelance writer with many years experience writing about food and travel, with credits including food magazine, the Daily Telegraph. You can find a collection of recent writings on food and travel in my writing portfolio, including my latest piece from Chef Magazine, at the links below:

http://www.monicashaw.com/samples/categories/food-and-travel
http://www.monicashaw.com/samples/restaurant-websites-2-0

Warmest regards,

Monica
monicashaw.com

Use your home page.

Although you’ll be pointing people in your cover letter to specific parts of your portfolio, you still want to make sure you represent yourself well on the main landing page of your website (having done a bit of hiring myself, I always look at an applicant’s website to see how they present themself overall).  Use the homepage place to summarise your range of experience. Don’t get too verbose – this is meant to be a summary. Freelance writer Carol Tice has done a good job of this on her website. You can see how I’ve tackled this on my own website at monicashaw.com.

Categorize your writing samples.

If you’re pitching an article idea on running for beginners to the editor of Women’s Health magazine, then it probably doesn’t make sense to send them a sample of your scholarly Master’s Thesis on liver glutathione homestasis (or the like). Use categories with your writing samples so that you can link specifically to the samples that are relevant. For example, I occasional write e-learning material for brands wanting to train their staff online, so I have a category for e-learning with related samples that I can use in any cover letters that I send for e-learning jobs.

Bonus feel-good tip:

This is a fast-paced world. People get that. And no one is going to raise an eyebrow if you take on different types of jobs. In fact, it’s expected. And it’s a good thing. It means you’re adaptable. Nothing’s wrong with diversifying your experience – it’s good business. Lots of people understand that, and those are the sort of people you want to work with, anyway! So don’t worry if your writing portfolio conveys a wide variety of experiences. Just make sure you point people to the right place in your portfolio when applying for jobs.