Thursday, July 26, 2007

How to Make Money Writing

…Content for your website…




Is there no end to the writing?

Say what you will about visuals, YouTube, and Flash, the ‘net is still a text-driven medium. We’re still looking for information, and for the most part, that means words. I once heard it say, “A picture may be worth a thousand words, but you still have to get them in the right order.”

This fact, coupled with the way that search engines access information, has led to an explosion of words. “Content, content, content” is the song web gurus are singing. As a result, a lot of sites are out looking for content, and many are willing to pay for you to create it.

Many bloggers have begun to see the value that good writing brings. Well-written articles draw viewers and links. As people come to their site, ads and affiliate links can turn clickthroughs into cash. In addition, for blogs that qualify, sites like Pay-Per-Post can actually turn product reviews and other sorts of bloggery into paying projects. Once you’ve signed up and qualified your blog, you can select writing “opportunities”. Writing up these items (with a link) can bring anywhere from $5 on up, paid by the destination site. For those that are concerned, PPP makes sure that bloggers comply with all full-disclosure rules., on the surface, looks like many other articles directories, except that the interface appears to be a little bit better designed. But, on closer inspection, in the “Marketplace” links, there are a number of topics with a price tag next to them. If you write about the topic, and your article is accepted by that particular publisher, you get paid.

Here’s some helps to get you started as a freelance writer:

  1. Write a lot

If you hated writing in High School, and you struggle with even a basic introductory paragraph for your website, maybe this isn’t the avenue for you. On the other hand, if you like to write, then the best thing for you to do is do a lot of it. Journals, blogs, poems, lists. Write anything.

Not everything you write will be incredible. It doesn’t have to be. Simply the more you write, the better you’ll get at it, and the more ideas you’ll have to draw from.

  1. Read a lot

Ever hear of GIGO? It means “Garbage In – Garbage Out”. How can anyone expect to pull great writing out of their head if they don’t put great writing into it in the first place. I don’t mean you have to dive into the classics, although it’s not a bad idea. You can read the newspapers. Read other bloggers. Harry Potter. Anything. The more you read, the better your ear for “good language” will be, and the better your writing will be.

  1. Write about something you know about

While the world is full of freelance writers who can research topics, do interviews, and compile compelling articles, it’s much better to begin with things you already understand well, especially if you feel a certain amount of energy and passion for issues in that area. Part of what you’re trying to do is to establish yourself as a known and respected name in the subject, so it works much better if you know the subject well.

  1. Write as you speak

I know some people who have a tendency to speak in very friendly ways, but then when they write, turn more formal. In some cases, formality is correct. Academic, technical, and legal writing, for example, require a certain tone to carry the proper authority. On the other hand, when you’re writin’ to the masses, then keep it real, dude…

  1. Get an editor

That doesn’t mean, however, that you should abandon effective grammar, spelling, and punctuation. One of the reasons why those rules exist is to keep things clear. It’s important to have your material read over by someone else. No matter how good you are, you will miss many of your own mistakes.

A good editor will also help you in points of style and overall presentation. I admit, for example, that I have a tendency to get wordy, and blow on and on for endless pages, it seems. An editor can have an impact and say, “This article is only supposed to be 500 words. Cut it back.” Conversely, a good editor might encourage you to split a topic into a multi-article series. In any case, having an outside eye and ear can make your work better.

  1. Find outlets

Hit the web and look for places to place your articles. Look for people that would be interested in them. Look for sites that you could write for, and offer them your services. Offer to write press releases for companies. Get creative and see who might be willing to pay for your creative skills.

  1. Write an article about internet business and submit it to eShop-Talk!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Using the MWR (Most Wanted Response) to Get Action

Why isn’t anyone buying anything?

This is a complaint I hear a lot. People call me and say, “I’m getting traffic to my site, but nobody’s buying!”

Usually, that breaks down into one of two problems. Maybe the traffic that comes to the site isn’t pre-qualified, meaning that the visitors are driven by more general advertising, or ads that don’t make the product of the site clear. In other words, they arrive at the site without a clear idea of what they’re there for. Once they arrive, they see what’s at the site, and then most of them bail. Or, maybe the site itself isn’t designed to convert, meaning that when customers arrive, they’re not impressed, not convinced, or they’re actually turned off.

Let’s take a look at the latter circumstance today.

What’s it for?

One of the big problems that can cause this problem is that when the visitor arrives at a site, they’re hit with a lot of confusing options. Click here for this, click there for that! What’s a shopper to do?

That shows what is often an underlying problem in the site (or maybe even in the business), that being that the site owner doesn’t really know what he/she wants the customer to do. There are so many options. Click in and buy something, sign up for the mailing list, enter a contest, read the content, etc…

Let’s look at an example. How about Go ahead. Click on the link. I’ll be right here when you get back.

There are lots of things you can do at Google. You can find pictures and video clips, you can look at maps, or groups. You can set up your own Google account. You can find out about how to advertise on Google. Still, right smack in the middle, right under the big colorful log is the search bar. These other things may be cool, and they sure want you to check them out, but most of all, they want you to do a web search. That is their “Most Wanted Response” (MWR).

The MWR?

Of all the things you could do at Google, the one that they want you to focus on the most is basic web searching. Why? I don’t know for sure, but I’ll bet it has something to do with their core function and their ability to easily sell ads.

You can easily identify their MWR because it’s by far the most prominent feature on their site. Are other features ignored? No, they just don’t take up as much “prime screen real estate” as searching, their MWR.

By way of contrast, take a look at See if it’s as easy to identify their MWR. I’ll wait…

The difference is pretty staggering, isn’t it? Guess which one is the #1 used search engine? That’s right—Google is. By a long shot.

How do I do that?

Well, first it takes some thinking and deciding. Step one is to brainstorm out all of the possible responses someone can have to your main page. Let me throw out some examples:

  1. Read some of your content articles
  2. Shop through your catalog
  3. Buy a product
  4. Sign up for your contest or your newsletter
  5. Tell a friend about the site
  6. Leave the site to go somewhere else
  7. And many more and more ideas…

After you’ve spent a while thinking of all the possibilities, then take some time to prioritize them. Sometimes, the most obvious one might not necessarily be your main one. For example, someone might assume that “Buy a Product” should be the clear choice. But what if you want to establish a mailing list for the long haul, or establish yourself as an authority in your field first? Both are valid business strategies. In the first case, you’d choose the contest or the newsletter, and in the second, the articles and content.

Once those points are prioritized, you’ll be easily able to see which one is your Most Wanted Response

Then rewrite and revise

Once that’s determined, then it’s time to re-assess your main page. The MWR should get the biggest focus, the most screen real estate, and the highest listing in your navigation buttons. It should draw the most attention.

Don’t ignore the other possibilities, though. You still put them on the site, but with less and less focus. Some of the responses might be so trivial that you might not even place them on the main page.

Don’t ignore the sub-pages, either. Include prominent links to your MWR in the subpages as well.

With a clear and compelling focus on your Most Wanted Response, you’re sure to get more people engaging it!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Where's the Beef?

A long time ago, a national hamburger chain made a big impact on pop culture when they made a commercial that starred two old grandmothers. They stood in line at a generic burger house, bought their burgers, and opened the bun searching for the patty. One of them looks up with an ornery scowl and says, “Where’s the Beef?!”

Lately, as I’ve been surfing the ‘net, looking for things on my own, I’ve been led to ask myself that same question. I mean, I’m looking for something, and I’m not finding it. I do a search, and it takes me to a site that’s sort of about that subject, but all it has is links, none of which are really close to what I’m looking for. Or it takes me to a forum posting or a blog, where someone comments on what I’m looking for, but I still can’t find anything that really IS what I’m looking for.

Where’s the Beef?

It all starts with a person, wanting to know something. He’s the “Seeker”. And somewhere in the great ‘net “out there” is the information that he’s looking for. That’s the “Destination”. In between the seeker and the destination, there are layers and layers of intercessory sites. Some of them are there, presumably, to help the seeker find his destination. Others, it seem, are there to distract him from it, or to hide it from him entirely.

Let’s look at some of the layers of intercessory sites, and see what they’re all about

  1. Search Engines/Portals

Back in the day, when the ‘net was young, finding things was very difficult. True, with the newly established World Wide Web, you could click from one document to another, and that was cool, but finding the right document in the first place was tricky. Enter Yahoo. It began simply as a system for cataloging websites into a directory tree of categories and subcategories. Search functionality was added soon after.

As search engines grew and became more commercial, they had to have more connections, and so they became true portals. Their main purpose is to help you get somewhere else. Like a doorway, you weren’t expected to stay there, you just passed through. Along the way, they tried to advertise to you.

Generally, we can all accept that the search engines and portals are of value. We all use them to find things, we all use them to help our own sites to be found.

  1. Secondary links and content

These are sites that might provide some content, but whose primary purpose might be to provide linking to other sites. Some specialized directories might fit into this category, as well as sites that are pretty much just made up of reciprocal links. If this kind of page is specific enough, and it matches your searching well enough, it might help you to find something you’re looking for.

However, this also includes the myriad of articles pages and blogs that are full of ineffective content. By that I mean, they were written primarily to count for another site’s link popularity, and they have no real content value of their own. Yes, it’s an article, but if it only overviews an idea and doesn’t help me implement it, how much value is it? Well, it is valuable as a link-getter, but not for someone looking to learn anything.

  1. Social networking sites

Social networking communities like MySpace, and sites for the open sharing of favorites and bookmarks, like and other similar sites have some value. Not so much in the content they contain, but rather for the way they filter other sites for us. Let’s face it. There are too many websites, and too many blogs and opinions to sort through. You’ll never see them all. So, if you discover someone whose opinion you can trust, then you’ll find that his/her website recommendations are probably going to better suit you.

As a webmaster, you want to get your site involved in the social networking thing, and get more (albeit relevant) sites to mark you, so that more of your target audience can find you.

Still, this is yet another layer in between the seeker and the destination. Is it a valuable layer? That depends mostly on the social net the site is listed in. If the site is relevant to the audience in the network, it will be of value to both the seekers and the site. On the other hand, if not, it will simply be more clutter.

  1. Blogs/forums/opinions

“Opinions are like diapers. Every baby’s got one, and they’re usually pretty stinky.”

The ‘net, in particular, is full of opinions. I remember a time about a year ago, I had been hearing about the concept of web 2.0, but I didn’t fully understand it. So, I decided to google it and learn. Normally, that’s a good idea. This time, not so much. I did get lots of results, and as I began checking them out, one at a time, I realized that they were almost all comments on web 2.0. One said that it was the best thing to happen to the web since hyperlinks. Another said it was a myth that only the crazy pursue. But through all the opinion and commentary, nobody told me what it was.

Finally I arrived at a site that gave me the info that I wanted. The lesson to me was while opinions can often be helpful in guiding me to where I want to be, they can also very often be a dark cloud of nothing obscuring that goal from view.

Plus, opinions are opinions, and not facts, and so to really get anything useful out of them, you have to sort through them with a critical ear. Often, readers don’t have time for that.

  1. Affiliate sites

Affiliate programs have lately taken off as a wonderfully powerful way to monetize a content-driven site.

Wow. That’s a lot of buzzwords in one sentence. Let’s restate that. If you have a website that’s full of good, usable information, you can make money off of it by affiliate linking to other sites that have tangible products.

However, what if this site with all the affiliate links doesn’t have any good content, or worse, no content at all, good or bad? What if it’s nothing but affiliate links? Once again, it’s not adding any value, and it simply becomes yet another obstacle in between me and what I’m looking for.

  1. Paid linking sites

I think these are the worst offenders. Here’s the scenario. I sit down at Google because I want to learn about “Underwater Basket Weaving”. I type that in, and hit the search button. It comes back to me with a list of results. One of them attracts my eye, because it says it’s all about Underwater Basket Weaving. I click on it.

What I find, however, isn’t a well-written, well-assembled site about Underwater Basket Weaving, but is instead a list of links to other sites, which may or may not be completely unrelated to Underwater Basket Weaving. These sites are listed here, not so much because the relate to my interest, or because they are of value to me, but more because their owners paid to be there. The sites are chosen to be displayed because a computer algorithm decided they were what I was searching form.

Not only is this site in the way of my quest, but it’s also trying to distract me into areas unconnected with my search. Very frustrating.

So Here’s the Beef:

My point in this rant is that the ‘net is chocked full of stuff. Some stuff gives you value, some stuff helps you find the stuff that’s valued, and other stuff just gets in the way. And I’m seeing more and more of the stuff that gets in the way. When I order a burger, I want the beef. And I don’t want to have to search too deep for it. I think I’m not alone in this.

So, as webmasters, it’s our job to provide it. The real stuff. The Beef. The valued information and products. The point is to be one of two things: Either the destination where people arrive and stay, or the transition that is actually valuable and helpful. These are the sites that, in the long run, will be the most successful.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

How to Write a Killer Article, Part 3

How do you start this thing?

One of the most challenging things of writing a good article is to figure out that first line. It’s so critical. Not only does it determine if they’ll start reading or not, but often it determines just how much they’ll read.

That first sentence, that first paragraph has to engage the reader. I’ve done some research and found out some great strategies for starting a killer article off right. I’ve also gone back through the eShopTalk archives and found some excellent examples of each. Let’s look at them and talk them over.

  1. Ask a Question

Many killer articles start with a question to engage the reader. It immediately plugs into the brain and makes them wonder. Here’s one by Debra Dunn. She starts by asking, “Have you been watching Google TV lately? The question very well may be is Google watching you?”

Or in this article about the IVOS - In-Vehicle Operating System: “Tired of being tracked on your home computer? Why not take a drive to get away from it all? You can zip down the highway, and still have access to …wait… your computer system?”

  1. Share an Anecdote or Quote

In my church, I teach the kids in Sunday school. Nothing, I mean, nothing gets them engaged and fascinated like a story. And you know what? Nothing catches an adult like a good story, either.

Here’s an example from one of my articles. I start off passing on a tale that one of my students shared with me about deer hunting. "…He told me of a friend of his that lived near him in Arizona for a number of years. He and this friend loved to go hunting, though they rarely got the chance to go together. Still, they got together socially often, and when they would, my student would admire the trophies on his friend’s wall. Magnificent examples of wildlife, of deer and antelope, the kind a hunter dreams of seeing, even more so of taking…”

Doesn’t that make you want to find out how the story goes, how it turns out? Stories not only catch attention, they keep it.

  1. Invoke the Mind’s Eye

In another one of mine, I capture the reader by engaging their imagination. I create a scene and then shape it into the point of the article. This one is about when an apple falls too far from the tree...

“Imagine that in your back yard, out by the fence, there’s a big apple tree. It’s been growing there for many, many years, and it’s gotten really big. So big, in fact, that many of the branches reach out over the fence. Your next-door neighbor really likes the tree. Partly because it’s big enough to shade most of his backyard as well, and also because every summer, he’s able to pick fresh apples off the branches on his side of the fence…”

  1. Use an Analogy, Metaphor or Simile

Comparisons are a great way to start off. If what you’re talking about is similar to something that’s familiar to your audience, they’ll “get” your message better, and be more interested. Nate Neville caught my attention by referencing the gorilla in this article about MySpace.

  1. Cite a Shocking Statistic

One out of every five articles will lose their readers by the second or third sentence. Is that true? I don’t know. But it sure got your attention for a moment! I’m not saying you should make stuff up, but if you can find statistics that surprise your audience, then that’s a great way to start. It catches that, “I didn’t know that!” part of the reader’s mind.

John, in this article about social networking and word of mouth advertising, said, “’Word of mouth’ advertising is the fastest and most reliable way to get the word out about your business. Why? According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, 76% of people who see your traditional advertising won’t believe you, anyway. They don’t even know you, and yet they assume that you’re lying to them. Who do people believe? Their friends.”

The impact of this one was strengthened by the inclusion of the citation of the source.

Bonus Tip:

Combine two or even three of these elements to make an even stronger impact. Quote a statistic in a question. Make an analogy from a story or an anecdote.

Finally, the next most important part of your article is the closing. A great way to close is to tie back into your opening.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

How to Write a Killer Article, Part 2

In the last article, we talked about finding something to focus on. It’s critical to have that theme, that point for the entire article to hang on.

Now what?

The next step is to figure out what you’re going to say. This can be another very challenging and even frightening part of writing. I do it in two steps: Brainstorming and then organizing. The two steps work together very well in a sort of right brain/left brain kinda way. The creative side of me throws out lots of ideas of what to say, then the structured part of me makes sense of it all. Let’s take a look at those two separately.


An easy and uncomplicated way to brainstorm is to do what I call a “Brain Dump”. Call up a blank page in your word processor, or an empty sheet of paper if you like, and think for a minute about your topic. Then, start writing. When you’re doing a brain dump, you write anything that pops into your head. You don’t care if it even makes sense, or is in any particular order. While you’re thinking about your topic, just spit it from your mind to the page.

You may find yourself branching off here or there. That’s fine, follow it. Go with it and see what sort of things it makes you think of.

Don’t be afraid to do any of this, because at this point you’re not writing your article. It could well be that none of these sentences even end up in your finished product. Hopefully, a lot of the ideas will, though.

Another good brainstorming technique is something I call, “The Best Friend”. This is where you imagine that you’re sitting across your kitchen table from your best friend. You’re relaxing and chatting. You both have a cup of whatever you each like to drink and maybe a bowl of whatever you like to snack on. You start telling him or her about your topic. In your mind, words start flowing out of your mouth.

Write those words.

It might not come out smooth, your grammar may be lousy, and it might be scatterbrained, but what’s important is that the ideas will come out.

I once worked with a man who had real troubles writing. I suggested that he actually sit with a friend, record what he said, and then write it down afterward. Hey, whatever works for you, ya know? These are all ideas, and you can try them and see what you like.

A third suggestion is a little more formal, but can work for some people. That’s simply starting at the top of the page and listing all the things you want to mention in your article. “I’m going to talk about THIS, and cover THAT, and then I’ll mention this OTHER THING…” It doesn’t have to be in order, and it doesn’t have to work yet, but it does help you get thoughts out.

All of these techniques have one major bonus: They all break up that evil “Blank Page” we talked about last time. The page is already covered with writing. It’s not a barrier any more. That can get things flowing and moving forward.


Once you’ve gotten some ideas on your page, the next step is to figure out which ideas to use and some sensible way of presenting them.

Choosing them is fairly simple. You look over all the ideas that you’ve splattered all over the page, and you start to pull some out. Some will jump out at you as if they’re more interesting. Others will be a more important part of the topic you’re trying to cover. Group these all together. I like doing this on the computer because in most major word processors, that’s easy to do. You highlight the text, then click and drag it to where you want it.

If you’re writing an article that explains how to do something, like this one does, organizing it is fairly easy. You start at one point, and lay out the instructions until you get to another part. Chronological steps are the way to go. Other kinds of articles also fit this pattern. If I were sharing a story or an anecdote with a point, I would tell the story from start to finish, then explain the moral.

If the article is more conceptual, then organization can be a little trickier. You might find that you have several ideas to explain that build up to a completed point, your topic. I find it best to work with the easiest, simplest, least complicated idea first, then get gradually more complex until the final point is made. There are other ways to organize the flow of an article. Just pick a sensible order and stick with it. Jumping from here to there within an article can be confusing.

Sometimes, I find it very useful to actually write out a formal outline, with headers and sub headers and points indented and all. Remember those from high school English? Never thought those’d come in handy didja? These help me most when the article is longer or more involved, but sometimes even simple writings can be best set up with an outline. Remember, though, that the purpose of an outline is to help you, so don’t stress about the little outlining rules. Who cares what you capitalized, right?

Now, with the point of the article, and organized ideas, we’ll move on to the actual writing process, next time.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.