Getting published has never been easier – yet, has never been more difficult at the same time. There is more content on the web than there is in print, and ebooks are almost read more than hard copies are. As the medium shifts, so must writers adapt – and writing (more often called blogging) in the digital age is a far cry from what we imagine Hemingway and Faulkner did.
With just a tiny bit of resourcefulness, everyone can set up a blog, while not everyone has the means to get their words printed on actual paper. However – setting up a blog is not enough. With such a plethora of text written on every topic imaginable, there is no guarantee your thoughts will draw in more than one reader. Here’s what you can do to make the transition from paper to screen.
Mind the Format
What once worked for Tolstoy will not quite work for your blog. Online readers don’t really have time to waste – they have not sat down in front of the fireplace with your book – they are browsing the web on their way to work. The first way to grab their attention is to format your text according to online standards.
Every good piece of writing needs an awesome title, and there are countless philosophies on how to write one. Whichever school of thought you decide to go with, remember that a clickbait title is not enough to get you viral, and that whatever your title is, it needs to at least in some way reflect what you will be discussing below.
Even if you originally write your piece in large chunks – you’ll need to space it out afterwards. No reader will want to go through a huge pile of text – you need to make your writing skimmable, and not seem frightening. 500 words in two paragraphs will seem much more intimidating than 700 words evenly broken up.
Where there’s a title, there need to be subtitles – the more the merrier. Well, not quite, but spacing your content with subheadings is imperative. They’d also need to reflect what you are talking about, and you can let your imagination run wild – a good subheading is just as important as a catchy title.
500 words is still somewhat of a norm in the world of blogging. However, Google has lately started favoring longer content, so don’t be afraid to write a more detailed piece. Don’t write for the word count – if what you are saying has substance, it won’t matter how many words it has taken. 450 words of quality content will outrank 600 words of gibberish any day of the week.
Content with your Content?
Honestly – you can either write or you can’t. It’s that simple. Honing your craft is one thing, but if you have nothing to say, well, then you don’t. There is really only one piece of advice I can give you about content that I think is truly a game changer: read. Read everything, anything, at any time. Don’t shy away from popular fiction, the top of the bestseller list, nor from the most obscure titles you can find. As Philip Pullman puts it nicely: I have stolen ideas from every book I have ever read.
Once you publish your work online, there is no way of knowing how far it may get. In order not to make a fool of yourself, check every fact you write. And then check it once more, just to be on the safe side. Make sure your own sources are reliable – you don’t need to be giving any ammunition to the haters thriving on other’s misery.
You’ll also need to find your voice – that something that makes you stand out from every other blogger in your niche. This doesn’t mean you need to invent something never seen before, just that you need to be yourself, whoever that self may be.
With so many blogs on the Internet, you may think you can safely borrow an idea or two from someone else, no harm in that, right? Well – no. Plagiarism is plagiarism, online or offline. The only decent thing to do is to cite and properly quote the person whom you are taking ideas from. Just imagine if someone took your best words and turned them into their own. Not a pleasant feeling in your gut, right?
When writing for the web, you’ll also need to learn a bit about SEO – i.e. search engine optimisation. These three words will help you reach the audience you want, and help Googlers find you. Without it, you will be just another invisible piece of content out there, which no one sees, and no one ever will.
The first thing you need to do is keyword research – either before you start writing, or after the piece is already completed. Keywords are going to help you optimize your text properly, and will give you an SEO boost.
You can use different tools to do your research, and find a bunch of useful resources to help you do this manual labor. These guys from an SEO agency in New York have a great blog that will help you understand the industry a bit better, and help you get noticed.
Tags are yet another important piece of the SEO puzzle, which you can use to further optimize your content to Google’s liking. H tags are a must – remember to keep them uniform across all pages. You’ll also need to think about meta descriptions and tags, as well as ALT tags for your images, if you use them. And you should – a text without an image does not sit well with the online crowd.