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A Few Things I Learned about Writing for the Web

From time to time I get the opportunity to help out a few newbies by reviewing an article or two and offering advice. I preface this by saying that I’m no expert when it comes to writing on the web. It’s just that I’ve been around the block a time or two so I get a chance to share what I’ve learned.

When it comes to writing for the web, I find new writers are often concerned about their lack of SEO knowledge or their discomfort in using Titlekeywords repeatedly. Knowing SEO and utilizing keywords is very important in web writing, but I think there are a few other things that are just as important, such as:

Staying True to the Article Title

Writing about what you say you’re going to write about is pretty basic, but sometimes writers come up with a title and then write on a topic adjacent to the title. They sort of beat around the bush and get real close to discussing the topic as advertised, but don’t truly deliver.

A subset of staying true to the article title is…

Staying True to the Sub Headings

Sub headings work not only for SEO, but they also help the reader scan through the article to the section that advertises the information the reader is looking for. The subheading is sort of a landmark to let the reader know they’re very close to finding their answer.

If the information under the subheading doesn’t deliver, the reader becomes frustrated, clicks away and performs yet another Google search to find the answer. You want readers to stay on your articles as long as possible (possibly clicking on one of your ads or affiliate links).Fluff photo by: Jon Doc http://www.sxc.hu/photo/329749

Too Much Fluff

There are fluff pieces and then there are fluff pieces. In my world, a fluff piece is an entertaining, interesting and somewhat amusing article that keeps the reader interested, but doesn’t offer a lot of hard hitting information. If you look through NJFM, you’ll find quite a few fluff pieces.

There’s nothing wrong with fluff pieces as long as you appropriately title your fluff and the reader isn’t blindsided with fluff when she is expecting something else.

A fluff piece that is supposed to be informative and filled with meat is a horse of a different color. Advertising an article about “How to Get Rid of Basement Mold” and providing a fluff piece on what mold looks like, how ugly it is, why it’s not good for you and why it’s difficult to sell a house with a mold problem does not answer the question of how to get rid of it.

I often find fluff pieces from new writers who have hands on experience on the subject matter but prefer to write off the cuff rather than Meatproviding a few cold, hard facts. Sometimes new writers get sidetracked by trying to “sound like a writer” that they often lose focus and end up with a wordy fluff piece.

Readers like their fluff articles fluffy and their meat articles meaty. Making the mistake of adding meat to fluff isn’t so bad, but replacing meat with fluff is a big no-no.

The Law of Giving (“…for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7)

The majority of us want to make money online. We write articles that are surrounded by AdSense ads, sponsor banners and affiliate links in an attempt to earn residual income from our writing. Some topics receive more page views while others have more lucrative ads. As time goes on, writers learn which subjects are money makers and which ones are popular.

That said, as an online writer what you give comes back to you several fold. When you provide an informative or entertaining reader-focused piece (reader-focused is the operative word here), you get something in return. What do you get in return? Well, it could be job offers, writing assignments, reader loyalty. You could get ad clicks and residual income. You could even get Stumbled, Tweeted or Facebooked.

You never really know what you’ll get in return.  There is one thing I do know for sure; a satisfied reader will do your marketing for you allowing you Goodie Bagto do what you like to do most…write.

My Online Writing Philosophy

Send your reader away with something; it could be information, a laugh or a thought. If you have children and have either attended or thrown a party for your child, you know that every kiddie party has the obligatory goodie bags. No child can leave a party without one.

As a writer, never let your reader leave without a goodie bag.

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Tiffany September 14, 2010, 12:49 pm

    Excellent reminders when it comes to writing online. Although I don’t do much freelance writing anymore, I think this applies to everything you write online, including for your own sites.

    I always get frustrated when I click on an article or blog post that has a title I would like to know more about and then the article doesn’t even come close to talking about what the title says. There is a right way and a wrong way to use interesting titles and use them for SEO purposes. Just make sure that your article has at least something to do with your title or else you will definitely lose some readers!

  • Christina Crowe ( @CashCampfire ) September 14, 2010, 8:55 pm

    When I was starting out, I would struggle with creating very “meaty” articles for content websites. I was so used to writing fiction and short stories that didn’t require research or cold, hard facts.

    Now, putting meat on my articles comes naturally to me. I’ve had tons of practice over the years and try to keep most of my articles for various content companies to the point and free of fluff. However, to satisfy my desire to get creative, I still use fluff in my blog articles in addition to the facts. It just makes my posts so much more enjoyable to read… and I enjoy writing them a lot more as well.

    This is a great article, and it provides a pleasant reminder that you should always focus your content on the reader and what the reader wants. Using fluff to get creative and descriptive is fine, as long as it’s not overdone and doesn’t get in the way of the facts (what the reader is really there for).

    Loved the goodie bag analogy.

  • Living in DC September 14, 2010, 9:54 pm

    Yes, I like my fluff articles fluffy 🙂 You make great points in this article. I’m not a professional writer, so all these tips are very helpful for me. Thank you!!

  • Reena September 14, 2010, 10:24 pm

    Excellent information, Felicia. Although I don’t comment, I’m a regular reader here. This post had something that touched my soul…

  • Tashana September 15, 2010, 3:05 pm

    As usual Felicia you are right on target. So much of what you say is what I struggle with as a writer. Since my first mind always moves towards education to fill any gaps, I tend to run to some “how to” site whenever I hit a road block.

    What’s funny is that I already know how to do it. I just need someone to confirm it for me. Crazy I know, and the most frustrating part is that it’s a major time waster and often times I find myself growing bored with the topic and not finishing at all.

    I think they call that procrastination. I wish there was some magic pill out there that forced you to sit, write and complete everything – effectively. But alas, there is no such pill – trust me I’ve searched high and low :-).

    I guess for now I’ll stick with trying to fight off the temptation to quit and boredom in hopes that one day I will win :-).

    I applaud and thank you for your insight, your faithfulness and most of all your consistency.

  • Alina Bradford September 15, 2010, 5:07 pm

    Excellent advice. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’d also like to add that writers new to web writing should be patient. I don’t know how many writers I’ve seen only dedicate a week or two and then give up. It’s not that easy folks!

  • Judith P September 15, 2010, 5:32 pm

    Thank you again Felicia for another thoughtful subject. I have to be honest, being a new writer it wasn’t something I thought about. I was a good girl though; I went through my articles of late and I don’t think I did too bad but it is something I will keep an eye on. I will have to work on the sub headings though. SEO I’m still struggling with but I’ll keep at it. My earnings have gone up this month so I figure I’m learning something. Your articles and advice are much appreciated.

  • SuthrnGrl September 15, 2010, 10:15 pm

    This article was excellent. I just completed an article for DS before reading your article. I looked over realized i did what you said not to. I added fluff. I started off good but somehow just got off track. I guess i was in such a hurry to post i did not really give it time simmer. If it gets rejected I know what i will add. Thanks for sharing

  • Edward G Gordon September 16, 2010, 4:45 am

    Hi Felicia,

    Great post. You mention that good SEO and keyword use in articles is a large part of online writing these days.I think that we may all be off base with this idea. I have done a lot of research over the last month (seomoz to the van)into keyword density-stuffing and article SEO. I uncovered some interesting data.

    I have come to the conclusion that outside of having the keyword for your topic in your title and subtitle and perhaps once or twice in your article body, keyword SEO is largely of no great benefit.

    I think that your main point about having a well structured article has a far greater relevance in the longer term as once good articles are found, readers will return to them time and time again. Your own blog here is the perfect example. It’s the quality factor that is the key to success not SEO.

    I think anyone, newbie or not, should be concerned more with topic than pinging the search engines. I know that this may be naive of me but in the long run if we as writers don’t subscribe to writing good quality and informative or at least entertaining articles, how can we expect the general public to be interested in reading them.

    Perhaps I am wrong but I do think that we spend far more time optimizing for the search engines than writing for our readership.
    What do you think?

    • Felicia September 16, 2010, 7:07 am

      Edward, I hear what you’re saying, and I agree. I think where people go wrong is when they make more out of SEO than what it should be.

      As you have observed, I infrequently employ SEO practices here at NJFM. When I first started this blog, I pretty much wrote about stuff that might help other people if they ‘happened upon’ this blog. I didn’t try to market it, SEO it or social network it.

      Blogs, are a lot different than placing articles on sites like Suite, HubPages or other content sites. Blogs develop a following because people like the subject matter and then share links with other folks. Although I get a lot of my traffic from search engines (about 65%), my non search engine traffic is growing larger. Hopefully my non search engine traffic will eventually out pace my search engine traffic.

      Content sites, on the other hand, rely heavily on search engine for traffic. Yes, there are backlinks and word of mouth and social networking, but if you analyze where the traffic comes from, you’ll see that most of it comes from search engines. On such sites, the better the article is search engine optimized, the better the chances of being found and read.

      Where folks run into trouble is when they mystify SEO. Yes there are tricks, but if, as you said, you use keywords in the title, sub headings and sprinkled naturally within the article, you stand a pretty good chance of being found. Keep in mind, however, that an article on a similar topic with stellar SEO skills and a lot of backlinks may place above yours in the search results.

      Personally, I write from the heart and then go back and swap out keywords here or there. I probably should spend more time than I do optimizing my articles, but I don’t. I find that folks get to my articles using search terms that I would have never considered, so why limit the article’s reach?

      While we can’t control how the search engine algorithms weigh certain SEO factors, we can control the quality of our writing. So the long and the short of it is, yes. Edward, I agree with you. Sorry for getting so long winded in my agreement. 🙂

  • Edward G Gordon September 16, 2010, 9:41 am


    I think you’ve hit a home run with this one Felicia. I like the point you’ve made about the distinction between blogging and article writing. It’s probably a very important point to remember especially when you are looking to get back-links and raise your profile. I have a feeling that this is a topic that will be kicked around for a while.

    Just a question off topic. What would you consider the minimum number of articles required to earn about $500 a week? When I ask this I mean on average, I know that different sites pay more or less and that different articles earn more than others. It’s just that I came across an article on the hubpages that made me wonder.


    • Felicia September 16, 2010, 12:00 pm

      Edward, I can’t answer your question.

      I have one article that earns an average of $100 plus a week and others that earn nothing. So, I could say that it takes 5 articles that earn $100 a week to earn $500 or 50,000 articles that earn a penny each.

      The one thing you’ll learn online is that average varies depending on the individual, the site, the topic, SEO, etc., etc., etc.

  • Elizabeth September 16, 2010, 10:18 am

    Great tips as always Felicia. I particularly like the “no fluff” policy. I have a tendency to wander into the fluff territory from time to time. haha

  • Grandma September 16, 2010, 10:40 am

    Wow, Felicia, this is a wonderful post and great comments! You deserve 10 grand a month! Nice tips.

  • Digital Readers September 16, 2010, 4:48 pm

    I still keep making some of the simplest mistakes in my writing and will be looking at an article I wrote six months ago and see something I will want to change for SEO purposes.

    Sometimes the smallest change can make a difference in your article and how its received by readers and search engines.

    I have been reading your blog now for over a year and I keep coming back although I don’t comment as often as I used to.

    Keep up the great work Ms F and take care

  • Rachel @ Pen Meets Wallet September 17, 2010, 1:48 pm

    Great post and excellent insight on web writing. I love that you have an ‘online’ writing philosophy!

  • Maria (WriterGig) September 17, 2010, 3:30 pm

    My kids love their birthday party goodie bags .. they get to take with them some of the fun of the party. As bloggers, we can let our readers take away something good before they leave. I like the analogy. 🙂

  • Crystal September 17, 2010, 7:21 pm

    Great info, Felicia – thanks for sharing. And thanks also to all the commenters – I always come away with useful info from your posts and from the thoughtful discussion that follows. NJFM is hands-down my favorite!

  • Kristi September 18, 2010, 2:22 pm

    A few days ago, I was thinking the exact same thing when I was reading through my blog posts – some were really informative and others were a bit fluffy. Now, I make it a point to provide readers with real value so that they get more “goodie bags” so they’ll keep coming back to my party.

  • Deanna September 19, 2010, 2:43 pm

    Excellent reminder on why we are writers. Yes, SEO and earning money may be the goal but sharing useful information is really what writing articles is all about. 🙂

  • Julie-Inspired to Write September 19, 2010, 4:26 pm

    Thanks Felicia.

    I occasionally have fluff too. I think it is a good way for writers to see who you are and how you think. Gives them insight.

    Good advice – good way to look at it – always think of your readers and leaving them with a goodie bag! I always come away with a goodie bag from your site!

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