Writing for the Web


What a tangled web writers weave when writing for the Internet! If ole Willy (as in Shakespeare) were alive today, would he wince at what he might read if he surfed cyberspace? In fact, given the way in which the craft is morphing online, might the Bard be known as the Bard at all today?

He very well might, although he would have to go to night school at first to learn all the rules. In fact the highly structured discipline of web writing might readily appeal to a man who made his mark with just as highly structured verse at a time when most people could only sign their names with an X.

The first mistake people make when approaching writing for the web for the first time is that “it’s just the same as writing anything else, except it appears on a website.” This couldn’t be further from the truth.

While the subject matter of any good writing always translates into any medium, it is also true that different mediums always require different formats. And in the case of the web, it is good to use the analogy of the Shakespearean sonnet vs. regular speech to understand how to begin to think about writing for the web rather than writing for something else.

Furthermore, while the demands and discipline of the literate set have changed rather drastically, if not all that romantically, since the Bard gave up his quill, not to mention the number of mediums have expanded exponentially, there have been none invented since Shakespeare’s day that remain as quirky, complicated, fascinating and potentially as lucrative as the web.

As a result, as writing has migrated online, many writers, even very good and experienced ones, from every profession, have been left very confused, if not wondering how to adapt. The transition, in many ways, from “traditional” writing, to “online” writing, is often as confusing if not as drastic as the change from Middle English to the modern variety. And requires the discipline of a playwriting sonnet meister to master.

It is often little solace to those struggling to find their sea legs in often choppy surf that there are no tried and true rules for making the successful transition. Yet there are a few basics that seem to hold true for everyone, no matter what medium one transitions from.

1. Writers will find they will be assigned and must use preselected words when they write

These are called Keywords. Keywords are words tied both to what people search for and to advertising. They are often set by a client and/or pre-weighted and therefore pre-chosen on default by a search engine. For those who hate this way of working, life is never fair. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for those who like writing this way) this is unlikely to change in the future. Writing with keywords has become a fact of life online that everyone has adopted.

2. Work with keywords

SEO (or search engine optimization) requires writers to work with both keywords and keyword placement (which deals with both arranging keywords in the text and graphical placement of keywords – which is where both are placed upon the page). For writers who consider this idea constricting (and there are many who do) think of it as a crossword puzzle or a fill in the blanks game of Hangman until familiarity sets in.

3. Compensation for writers is definitely changing

While this may seem a terrifying, writers’ block inducing phenomenon, particularly for writers who are used to performing work-for-hire in a linear fashion, don’t be scared, be happy. The new rules often mean writers will get paid more for their work, if they know how to work within the new paradigm. Specifically, there is more need than ever for good writers right now, and more outlets than ever are looking. Every web page that requires content is also a space for advertising. Highly trafficked sites are looking for ways to attract ever more advertising. And that means they need content before they can place ads. Most of them are willing to spit advertising revenue with writers. However most writers want more assurances than merely ad revenue. This is where the new hybrid payment agreements come in. More and more sites are entering into page/site revenue shares with writers that are some kind of hybrid model comprised of a small amount of cash up front and then a percentage of either overall web or site page views per month or a percentage of the advertising revenue generated by their page views, or even a percentage of the sales generated by the ads on the webpage in which their article appears. Authors need to seek out the best deals on the sites they like writing for or even negotiate new kinds of hybrids. The space is wide open and so are the possibilities. Publishers will work with you if you are a good writer and work with them to bring traffic to the site.

4. The ability to write is never wasted

As much as one writes for others, writers should also take advantage of whatever additional time they have to develop their own blogs. This will also help more established writers continue to gain additional writing revenue that will build on itself as writers can also promote their other work online. Even in the beginning however, a nascent blogger can use this venue to experiment with writing styles, learn about building back links, SEO strategies, keywords, how to use all of these strategies to generate placement, how track the dollars one generates via utilization of Ad sense or Bidvertiser, promoting products as an affiliate marketer, or working with various other services to help monetize their blog. Whatever route or combination one chooses, there are clearly plenty of ways for writers to begin exploring ways to make money with their writing online. In fact, starting with a free blog is often the best way to explore ways to make money via the web while learning how to hone one’s writing style and skills to communicate most effectively via this new medium.

Writing may be one of the most unlikely job skill sets requiring a Web 2.0 upgrade.

Acquiring this skill, however, is one of the best professional investments those who take the time to do so will ever make. Becoming a web writer can take many different forms. One can write articles, post comments, keep a blog, be an affiliate marketer, become a market researcher, or combine these all into some hybrid mixture that is only possible online. Whatever the case, it is increasingly clear that being an online writer is a very smart investment in the ability to secure some kind of independent income if not job security at a time when many are wondering where the next paycheck will come from.

It is also one of the best, most interesting and lucrative green home jobs.