Monday, August 16, 2010

New Post

The Writing Tutorials page has a new post discussing overviews and introductory paragraphs that is chock full of information.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Freelance Writing 101: What's in a Pen Name?

What's in a Pen Name? Your pen name is your brand. It is your byline, your web presence. I use my real name, but many people are not comfortable doing this. If you are not comfortable using your real name in your freelance writing career you will need to choose a pen name. Just about all sites and clients will allow you to use a pen name to protect your privacy.

So, how do you choose a pen name? Choose something you like. For example, what is a name you have always wished your parents would have named you? Use that and then choose a real-sounding last name to go along with it. You can also choose a middle initial if you'd like. If you like the name Victoria your pen name could be something like "Victoria Hemming or "Victoria M. Hemming".

It is incredibly important that your pen name be a real-sounding name. Names like "partygurl216" or "yellowboy" will not be taken seriously by potential clients. Think about it. If you were looking to hire some writers to write articles for you who would you take more seriously "Victoria Hemming" or "partygurl216"? All clients are far more likely to choose Victoria Hemming regardless of partygurl216's skill and experience because partygurl 216 is not professional.

Your MySpace handle (unless it is your real name or sounds like one) is not an appropriate pen name. My MySpace handle is SpeedyTurtle. While I think that is very, very cool, I know it is not professional at all.
Single names, while not really unprofessional, are often not taken as seriously as a first name and a last name.

So, when you are creating your pen name keep all of this in mind. Ask yourself, "would I take this name seriously?" "Can I live with this pen name for a long time?" and most importantly "Is my pen name professional?"
Here are some pen name variations that are a great choice (using Victoria L. Hemming as an example):

Victoria L. Hemming
Victoria Hemming
V.L. Hemming
V. Hemming
V. Leigh Hemming (assuming the "L" stands for "Leigh")

When you are choosing a pen name, be sure to choose wisely. Your pen name can greatly impact your freelance writing career. You have to decide what's more important: a catchy name or being taken seriously. I say this because many people do not realize how important their pen name is to their freelance writing career. So if you do not want to use your real name feel free to be creative, but be sure to keep it real-sounding and professional.

If you ever need any help choosing a professional pen name please feel free to contact me anytime.

Happy Writing!

Freelance Writing 101: Why You Should Cite Sources in Your Articles

Why should I cite my sources in my articles? I see this question all of the time. First, AC wants you to cite sources 99% of the time. Many other writing sites and clients also require, or strongly recommend, it.

Adding Credibility to Your Articles Through Citing Sources
Second, citing sources adds credibility to your article as long as the source is credible. For example, if you were writing an article about the symptoms of multiple sclerosis sites such as the Mayo Clinic, University Medical Centers, Hospitals, and WebMD are credible sources. can also be used because all medical information is medically reviewed. However, personal blogs and Wikipedia, or any Wiki sites for that matter, are not credible. Citing Wikipedia makes your article less credible and there is a chance that the information on this site will not be accurate. I've found inaccurate information on Wikipedia before and unfortunately the inaccurate information was medical information that could lead to a person becoming seriously ill.

Verify Your Facts Through Citing Sources
Third, even if you are an expert, it does not hurt to take five minutes to verify your facts. As a nurse, a medical writer, and a patient, I have a lot of medical knowledge, however, I ALWAYS take five minutes to verify all information in my medical articles. Sometimes, the smallest inaccuracy could kill someone or make them very sick. Once you verify your facts, use the site you used to verify them as your resource.

I know that when I read an article, I always look for solid, credible references. This is especially true with medical information. When it comes to medical articles, if there is no sources listed, or if non-credible sites such as Wikipedia or blogs are listed as sources, I immediately click away from that article. If I cannot trust the information, there is no point in reading it.

We are all experts at something, be it medicine, cars, gardening, parenting, etc. But, taking a few minutes to verify our sources and list them goes a long way in making sure we are writing the best possible articles that we can.

Citing Sources in Articles:
Your sources must be cited at the end of each article. Simply put the header "Resources", "References", or "Sources" at the end of the article. I prefer it to be bolded, but it doesn't have to. If you are using a website, just place the link that goes directly to the page you used under your heading. For example, if you used the Mayo Clinic as a reference, do not just use the Mayo Clinic's main site address, but the link to the exact article you used.

When I am citing any other type of resource, such as a book or a magazine, I like to use APA. Of course, you do not have to, but I feel APA is the best for citing non-internet resources. For information on how to properly use APA format to cite sources check out Purdue APA Style and Citing Information

These are the basics when it comes to how, why, and when to cite sources in your articles. If anyone would like to add anything or ask questions please contact me anytime.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Introduction to Search Engine Optimization (SEO): An SEO Tutorial

So just what is SEO? Why does it matter and why do I have to learn it? These are the questions I asked myself when I began my web-writing career. Breaking into the freelance writing business, and finding success, is hard enough, now I have to learn things? Yes, yes you do. But, it won't take you long to learn SEO if you write often and practice these web-writing elements. As you read through this SEO tutorial please keep any and all questions in mind because I am making myself available to all of you for questions and concerns. Please send all of these to and put “SEO/LSI help” in the subject line so I know to get to the email asap.

This is just the introductory article on SEO and web-writing. This article discusses the things to help you get started. However, the info in this article is exactly what you need to get started. It is difficult to absorb a 100-page article all at once, so I am breaking this topic down into a multi-article series so that it is easier for you and me. I can add more of the little details and you can take the time to learn as you go. Please subscribe to this blog so that you are notified each time a new installment, and other exciting web-writing info and writing gigs, are posted.

Okay, let's get started. First and foremost, keyphrases are necessary and single keywords mean nothing. Let's look at a few examples:

If you were writing an article on the treatment of lupus, using just “lupus” is going to bring up just about everything with “lupus” as a keyword. Sure, your article will be on Google, but probably on page 20 or higher. Now, if you want searchers who are searching specifically for “lupus treatments” to actually find your article you want to be specific. Here are some great examples for this topic:

“treating lupus”

“how is lupus treated”

“lupus treatments”

“treatments for lupus”

If you are writing an article on a specific drug treatment for lupus, your article keyphrase should reflect this. Good examples include:

“drug treatments for lupus”

“treating lupus with drugs”

“medications that treat lupus”

“treating lupus with medications”

“corticosteroids to treat lupus”

“treating lupus with corticosteroids”

Now, let's take it a step further and use more than one similar keyphrases for our lupus article. For example, all of the following keywords can be worked into one article, (however I recommend just choosing two because more than two will make it very difficult to work them in naturally):

“treating lupus”

“how is lupus treated”

“lupus treatments”

“treatments for lupus”

“How is Lupus Treated” is your title and you can work one other keyphrase into the article. I also recommend using the title keyphrase in the first paragraph. Questions can be hard to work in, but I have a trick for this. Write your 3-5 sentence intro paragraph and the last sentence will be something like: “So the big question is, how is lupus treated?” See, it fits great!

The following can also be used in one article (choosing only two that are most similar, of course):

“drug treatments for lupus”

“treating lupus with drugs”

“medications that treat lupus”

“treating lupus with medications”

“corticosteroids to treat lupus”

“treating lupus with corticosteroids”

For example, the first two can be used in one article, the last two can be used in an article, and the middle two, though they can also be used on their own, can be added to any of the other keyphrase sets on this topic.

Okay, we covered keyphrase basics so now let's talk about where to use them in your articles. First, never “stuff” and article with keyphrases. The article will be very difficult to read and if you “stuff” too much you may find yourself in hot water with the sites and clients you write for, and Google may punish you as well. Subheads work well, but that's a completely different article that I will publish very soon here on the blog. So let's just talk about getting those keyphrases in naturally and evenly. I am going to break this down so that each section of the article is covered. Doing this will prevent you from having to analyze every article for keyword density too! So that will save you some time.

Title: Keyphrase must absolutely be in the title. And, as close to the beginning as possible.

Example: “Drug Treatments for Lupus: What Drugs are Used to Treat Lupus?”

Note: See the main keyword is right at the beginning. I was also able to sneak in another one without it being/sounding forced or “stuffed”. You will not be able to get two keyphrases is all titles and it is not necessary, but if you can do it, naturally, go for it. Right now, just concentrate on getting your main keyphrase as close to the beginning as the title as possible without the title sounding awkward.

Article Description (Abstract): This must contain your main keyphrase since your keyphrase will tell your readers exactly what your article is about. This should ideally consist of 2-3 sentences and your keyphrase should be in the first sentence. Keep in mind that not all sites require this in articles, but most do.

Example: There are so many possible drug treatments for lupus. There is a lot of information to learn and remember, but this article will break it down and make it easy for you.

Notes: Keyphrase is in first sentence. Description tells you exactly what the article is about.

First Paragraph: You must get the main keyphrase in here and preferably in the first or second sentence. I actually recommend getting the keyphrase in twice and if the paragraph is at least four sentences (which is ideal) it should be no problem getting it in twice while keeping the flow natural. Now, you can use two different keyphrases in the first paragraph as well, just try and always get the main keyphrase in first.

Example: There are several drug treatments for lupus. Arming yourself with the information on these drugs can make choosing the right one, and coping with any side effects, much easier for you and your doctor. You and your doctor will have to decide on the right corticosteroid, immunosuppressant, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, and possibly some other drugs to help keep your condition as under control as possible. Read on to learn more about the drugs used to treat lupus.

Notes: See how I worked in two different keyphrases for this article? I worked them in in such a way that the paragraph still reads naturally.

Body of Article: Work in your main keyphrase twice in the body of the article. You are probably thinking “only twice”? Yes, that's it. You can choose to use subheads to do this or you can naturally work it into the paragraphs. Also, work in your secondary keyphrase at least once. If you can get it in twice that's great, but once is sufficient

Concluding Paragraph: Just work in your main keyphrase once in the concluding paragraph.

So to break it down:

Title: Main keyphrase x1 and as close to the beginning as possible.

Article Description: Main keyphrase x1.

Body of Article: Main keyphrase x2. Secondary keyphrase x1, x2 if possible.

Concluding Paragraph: Main keyphrase x1.

Those are the basics of SEO. Learn them, use them in your writing. You will notice an increase in page views when proper SEO is used.

Would you like me to look over an article for you and give you an SEO critique? If so, send the article (not as an attachment and not just a link, just copy/paste into the email) to the email address listed above and put "SEO critique" in the subject line. It may take up to 48 hours for an article critique. I typically charge for SEO consulting, but I do it for free for my blog readers :)

Now, this is just the first installment. I am currently working on an introductory LSI article as well. This web-writing series is going to be big and I will be posting new ones, along with short tips/tricks/advice blurbs, very often. Be sure to check back often, or just subscribe so you will get an email every time I post something new!