Whether you like it or not, writing is a key skill for any internet marketer. The most successful affiliates and internet millionaires are often the ones who have got writing for the web down to a fine art, crafting compelling articles and sales copy. And while you can use services like upwork.com to outsource your writing, or use PLR (private label rights) articles (you can have a look at the Affilorama lesson on Upwork and PLR articles here), investment in improving your writing skills will only ever pay off down the road.
This is by no means a complete guide, but rather some starting tips or techniques for how to write for the web.
Research – Know your topic!
This sounds obvious, but the number of people who attempt to write about stuff they don't understand astounds me! Good writers are informed writers. We're not talking about becoming experts here, just a solid grounding in the topic. Sites like Wikipedia are great for getting a subject overview (remember this information isn't always 100%!). A few good hours of Google searching is a must. Use their new “Wonder Wheel” (click on the “show options” tab above your search results) to generate mind-map like structures of related search terms to help you explore the different facets of a topic.
When I need to write about a completely new subjects, I set aside at least 3 or 4 hours of solid reading (doesn't have to be all at once!) to learn about the topic. You don't have to do this every time you write something. You’ll find the knowledge you gain from one good stint of reading can be used to write multiple articles. Take particular note of the style of writing and the kinds of pages that show up in your search results. This will be the kind of content you want to emulate when you start writing. Note I said emulate not copy! Be very careful to avoid plagiarism. Not only is there potential for legal consequences, but Google will slap you silly if they notice you have plagiarized content on your site.
Start with a title
Forget about trying to outline your entire piece of writing first; when writing for the web I like to start with a title . What this does is ensure you are crystal clear about the direction of the article from the beginning, making it much easier to write fluently and stick to the point.
Bear in mind that people surfing the web spend mere seconds on any given page, so don't try to accomplish too much in a single article. It's better to explore one or two core ideas rather than branch into multiple sub topics. Five hundred to eight hundred words is typically considered the optimum for web articles, and while that sounds like a lot, you’ll be surprised at how hard it is to say anything good in such a small amount of space!
If you find yourself going off on a tangent in your writing, don't ever delete it! Copy and paste it into a new document and leave it for another time. Good words and ideas are precious, and having a collection of small snippets of writing can be very useful for future articles.
Don't think, just write
Easy to say, hard to do – but “just writing” is possibly one of the best writing techniques I've ever known. Little is more intimidating than a blank sheet of paper or a blank document on your computer, so it's important to get something down rather than critique every sentence as you write it. Once you have a grounding in your topic and a good title as a starting point, stop thinking and start writing. Don't worry whether you're writing is good or not. At this stage you're just focusing on getting out a first draft. (Just Google what the noted writer Ernest Hemingway said about first drafts for a rather un-inspirational quote on the subject.) Even if your writing is really bad to start with, you’ll find it easier to tidy up a bad draft than spend hour upon hour painstakingly perfecting each sentence. More often than not you'll discover that 10% to 20% of what you've written isn’t actually too bad anyway. By taking these good parts and expanding them, you can turn that 20% good content into 50% good content, and then that 50% into 90%!
Another technique that I have had a lot of success with is writing two separate drafts from scratch. I write a complete first draft, print it out and then delete it off my computer. I put the first draft in a draw and write a second draft without looking at the first. By deleting the first draft, you force yourself to approach the piece from the start, except this time you're brain's already warmed up and your thoughts are more organized! Once I've done a second draft I'll take my first out and mine it for any particularly good sentences that I want to keep – but I typically find that my second piece of writing is significantly better than my first.
It gets easier!
Some of these techniques may seem really time consuming, but the good news is you don’t need to use them all for every article you write. If you're writing 20 or 30 articles for a site you'll likely find that after the first two articles or so you get into a kind of 'flow' and the words just start coming.
Writing's like anything – practice makes perfect. While there are some naturally gifted writers, anyone can teach themselves to write good basic content that people (and search engines) will enjoy.
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Otherwise, let me know what you think! Are there any other tricks you use when you find it difficult to write? Or have you just tried everything and you still can't churn anything out? Let me know!