Web writing is a good gig. I make $30 an hour writing at home. And although I sometimes wish my only companion during the workday were not run on electricity, I like my job. I wake up most mornings excited about what I am doing.
Steps to Getting Started Writing for the Web
For those of you who would like to write for the web, here are some things I did to land a job that you should be able to do also:
1. Get general writing experience. I wrote a little food column and a few feature articles for our local paper. This is a paper where the most interesting sections are the obituary and the arrest reports, so it doesn’t need to be the Washington Post.
2. Learn everything you can about search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is what needs to be done to have the search engines like a Web site, i.e., give it high ranking. The book I read was Search Engine Optimization for Dummies by Peter Kent. Although anything published on computers is generally obsolete by the time it is published, this book is still relevant and will give you a good idea what SEO is about. I would start with the book and then look on the net for additional, updated information.
3. Learn how to write for the Web. In addition to writing in a way that attracts the search engines, Web content writers need to write for the impatient folks who will surf the net. All of the information you need to learn how to so this is on the internet. It can mostly be boiled down to the following: a) surfers scan and don’t read; b) use bullets, lists, and bold to set off the important points (and the key words for SEO); c) keep it short (between 250 and 600 words) and relevant; d) surfers want information not a lot of marketing mumbo-jumbo; e) write short paragraphs; and f) use headings, preferably with key words in them.
4. Learn Basic HTML/XHTML. The content you write for the Web is coded with HTML/XHTML. If you are going to be the one to actually add the content to the Web site, you will most likely be using a content management tool (CTM). These usually require the user to manually code in some HTML/XHTML. I would suggest going through a book that will take you through the process of writing XHTML. You will also need a book for a reference, which may or may not be the same book you used to learn the basics. There are also tutorials at www.w3schools.com that are good. In fact, you may want to start there and see how it goes.
5. Write the content for a Web site, even if you don’t get paid. You have to start somewhere. Ask non-profit organizations, relatives, and friends if they would like you to write Web content for them.
6. If possible, write for an industry you are familiar with. If you know the industry, you will have a better chance getting a job writing for the industry. The more experience and/or education in an area the better.
7. Write a sample Web page to send with your resume. When you send out your resume, include a sample Web page, preferably one relevant to the industry. For my Web page, I researched a topic for a couple of hours on the Web and then wrote the page using everything I had learned about Web writing and SEO. Throughout the sample Web page, I made notes in red explaining what I was doing. For example, “[Note: The search engines give more weight to bulleted items.]” or “[Note: Important key words should be used at the top of the page, preferably in the page title.].” This is, I think, the best way to let people know you have a firm grasp of writing for the Web and SEO.
Sample Web-writing Page
I hope this has been helpful to some of you. I have built a page on the Web site I am working on to give you an idea how to write a sample web page. The page is a food poisoning attorney/lawyer page, and it can be found at www.pritzkerlaw.com/Food_Poisoning_Attorney. Look for the following and think about where you would make your notes in red:
• Key words in page title (in light orange)
• Key words in headings for SEO
• Headings for easy scanning
• Bullets to set apart important information
• Content-rich links (no “click here” links)
• Content-rich links for scanning purposes
• The words “free consultation” in bold to make sure someone who is scanning the page will see them.
The Web site is still a work in progress. I have to work around a bad content management tool that doesn’t write valid code, doesn’t give me access to the key word meta content (an SEO issue), and unduly limits the length of my description meta content (another SEO issue). I also have to use caution when writing because, in addition to copyright and other legal issues, we have to consider legal ethics. Also, Fred Pritzker, the excellent lawyer I am working for, wants the site to be a legal resource and not obnoxiously over-sell him. I am still learning how to balance everything. For example, the page I sent you to above is quite heavy on marketing. Most pages, however, are actually a bit too long and are almost purely informational (See, for example, www.pritzkerlaw.com/ecoli).