November 28, 2007

Clearing the Fog: Seeking Clarity in My Reading and Writing

This morning there was fog. Not only fog (so thick I could barely see the back yard when I was feeding the animals) in the atmosphere, but in my head. I have some kind of allergy thing going on.

The other day I embarked on another reciprocal reading group on Associated Content. This group brought some new writers into my list of favorites on AC. I enjoy reading and peruse many blogs and other content throughout the Internet on a semi-daily basis. Doing this gives me insight into what others are reading, writing, and interested in.

In gaining that insight, I'm more interested in honing my craft. I know on this blog I am wordy sometimes. I am trying to pare it down.

Back to the reading group. Of the articles I read most were fantastic, well written, and made me feel tingly. There were a couple that left me empty and questioning why I even clicked the title to read it. Those were free of transitional and connective words and phrases. Is that how it's supposed to be? When I read them I felt I was reading a technical guide. They lacked personality, as if a robot threw out a bunch of words and made sentences out of them.

I remember in my Creative Writing course work the professor would chant: detail, detail, detail. Now I have to work to eliminate wordy expressions and tweak my articles to no end. Edit, edit, and edit some more. I'm getting better. However, old habits die hard.

When I read I usually scan. That's something I learned from speed reading techniques and a program I took in high school. It's an effective method for reading a lot in a short amount of time. Now, don't get me wrong, I slow the pace for books, poetry, and readings that I want to get more out of or read between the lines.

I read an interesting article on how people read on the Internet. It's actually been studied and tested. We scan in an F pattern. We read the first sentence, the first words of the block in the first paragraph, and scan through for keywords or phrases that bring the content to make sense. The article is F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content from Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox.

This really the basis for speed reading. With the Web, we have become a world of speed readers. Ouch! I better work on fine tuning my writing.

November 26, 2007

So That's How You Do It...Changing My Skin

I hope everybody had a wonderful holiday. I sure did. After I recovered from my Turkey Coma, I began decorating the house for Christmas. Since I was on a roll, I decided to make a few changes here too.

Changing the backgrounds for your pages is not hard at all. For my Blogger blog, as you can see, I use Pyzam. You should check them out. They have a variety of backgrounds, not only for Blogger but for many customizable sites.

One problem I have come across with Pyzam, once you upload your new template code to the custom html, you are left with having to re-do all of your widgets--it only inserts the posts, archives, and 'about me' automatically.

Here's my solution to that: I've found that if I open a blank document, copy and paste all my little widget html codes to the page (labeling each one and leaving plenty of spaces between), then I have the html all in one spot. I don't have to jump from site to site to get my codes back. I'm sure there are coders out there that will roll their eyes at that and say, "why don't you just do..." Well, I only know basic html so I can't.

For my me page I use a little different process. Check out my eBay marketing tools article to see what I do to get it that way.

Change is good! I hope you like the new page.

November 20, 2007

Tag! You're It: Deciphering Tags

What the heck is a tag? Since I began, I've been using keywords as tags. Apparently, I was wrong, kind of. For Search Engine Optimization (SEO) you must choose your tag wisely.

Tags categorize your posts. Hmmmm. So tags are "labels" on Blogger. Tags are determined by me (the poster) and not the search engine. Tags can be any word or simple phrase to describe your work.

From what I've been learning about the tag phenomenon, search engines crawl sites that have been pinged (yet another funny term, pinging occurs when your site or blog has a new entry). Certain tags are more popular and will rank higher in search engines, especially if your content has a certian percentage of keywords related to the tag. The higher your stuff is ranked, the more hits you will get, thus your popularity will increase. This is the basis of SEO.

To get an idea of popular tags visit sites like Delicious, Digg, and Technorati (there are lots of social bookmarking sites to choose from). They have a list of the most popular tags for their site. If you join the site you can get even more information and peruse the stuff that has been bookmarked.

When you hit the right tag, you are bound to gain rank. When you rank high, you will be read. When you are read, you will become popular. When you are popular, you...Well everybody knows about popularity.

Now I'm getting it. I need to write about topics that can be umbrellaed under the popular tags. Doing that should make my work at Associated Content produce higher payouts and gain popularity. Easier said than done, this tagging thing should be inspiring, I'll let you know how it goes.

Some sites I've been learning this SEO stuff from:

November 19, 2007

Click, Click, Writing Tips

As I click through the Web, learning about various sites I register with, I am compelled to make it work to my advantage. Whether the information is useful or not I feel that I need to find something lest I wasted my precious clicking time.

Last week I registered with several sites in the hope of gaining information, click throughs for my articles, and commonality. BlogCatalog was one of the sites I registered with. Today I discovered that my blog was accepted and is now officially registered with the ranks!

This morning I began looking at other BlogCatalog blogs and joining neighborhoods. I found a slew of other writing blogs. After weeding through those that are just selling their latest work or offering a product to make you a better writer (those especially tic me off), I did find some great resources.

One blog Perspectives On Writing, by Linda Jo Martin, was particularly intriguing to me. I love the layout of the blog. I went through several of her articles and found one I wanted to bookmark here for reference and reminder. Twelve Tips For Writing Better Articles offers advice on spicing up dull articles.

I don't think my articles are dull; but I'm jaded because they are my own work. That being said, I liked Ms. Martins advice especially injecting humor, personifying inanimate objects, and writing with enthusiasm.

When I think about articles that I have read, I recall those that made me laugh out loud with ease. Laughing makes you feel good. It can warm even the coldest soul. So I need to remind myself to put some laughter out there and add some humor to my work.

On personifying, I wrote a piece about my first car once. I have no idea where it is now; but I remember my professor commenting on it and reading it aloud to the class. The point of the story: my car was my best friend, my guide, he influenced me to travel on the right path. I aced the paper.

Martin's final tip is on enthusiasm. If you are not enthusiastic about it, how can you expect your reader to be? Hone in on what makes you enthusiastic about a subject and make that your topic.

On my clicking journey I found an interesting writer's resource called Writer Beware. This is a site with links to various scams out there and works to prevent writer fraud and scamming. I know this is a little off topic but I wanted to remind myself to write a real post about it, so I'm throwing it in here.

November 16, 2007

Where's My Branding Iron?

(Today I've been working on a few marketing and promotion things. I registered this blog with BlogCatalog, Jiglu, and BlogRush. I have to thank a fellow Associated Content producer for her help and the links to get me there, so "Thank you Momie Tullottes!" (Give her name a click to read her terrific work))

What exactly is branding? Do I have a brand? I'm not marketing anything aside from my content, can I call that a brand? When I first heard about this I thought, "what?" So I'm here to say I have read a lot about it. What I gather it's all about what you're selling. The better your brand (content) the better your sales (page views), as applied to my work at Associated Content.

From "Bringing Sexy Back: The Eight Steps to Content Marketing Bliss" by Joe Pulizzi I gathered a bit of information and applied it to my own version of branding. He lists 8 steps and from those I pulled out what I wanted to use.

While weeding though this article, I began to get discouraged because I don't target my AC articles to one group (niche). Then I thought, wait a minute, I may be targeting several audiences, some may consider that a pitfall, why not work it to my advantage. After all you are Eclectic Muse.

In step 7 Mr. Pulizzi says, "Start out with niche content and build from there." Well I can't very well do that since I don't necessarily have a niche. But I can concentrate on delivering "focused...valuable content."

There are several great ideas that can be drawn from this article. I took step 3 "invest in design" and personalized this blog to reflect the season, added personal information, and added widgets and links. I also took the strategy over to my eBay page and changed it to include links back to my articles, my blog, and a few other ventures I have taken on.

Do I understand branding? No. But I know it relates to marketing. Am I a brand? Well, I'm not yet. But I'm learning.

November 15, 2007

Keywords, Keywords? Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are!

Here we go again. I am still working on this keyword thing. I figure the more adept I become at creating articles with keywords that the search engines like, the better my page views will become. Of course I want to keep my articles in form where they don't sound like I'm just spitting out a bunch of keywords.

So we've already reviewed some keyword search tools I've learned about (here). Well, I've got a couple more for you. There are actually three and they are all on one website. The main one is a keyword search tool and there are two other tools for assistance in organizing and brainstorming. Be prepared because this is a download site. I downloaded the tools and my computer hasn't exploded yet. The site is Good Keywords. There is also a little beginner's guide to keywords ebook there to help you out if you need it.

I also found an article post that was pretty tip full: Part 4: Choosing good keywords. The website is useful for more than just keywords, and that's why I'm pooling it in. There's spidering, seo, web design, html, and a lot more. It's called Website Helpers.

Now if you want to get the skinny on what people are searching for, you should check out Google Trends and Yahoo Buzz. These two, I should really say, steer you more into article ideas but they are useful.

Applying all of this to my own stuff is just going to be a piece of cake! Right? I know, I've still got a lot to learn. But you've got to have the tools to guide you.

Knowing and doing are two different things. Some say that keywords should just come naturally. Well I've found that to be the case in some instances. But if you choose a keyword that isn't searched then you are dead in the water. If you over use it then you are spamming.

Talk about a catch 22!

November 14, 2007

Breaking Barriers: Promotion

If you've been reading my blog, then you know I've been in a quandary about promotion and how to really make it work. This week I chose to try something new and join one of the reader groups exchanging page views with other Associated Content producers.

I embarked on a 10 for 10. What a challenge! I had to read 10 articles, and comment on them, of each of the posters signing in for the task.

This was not as easy as it seems. As it turned out only 6 others were up for the task. I put my nose to the grind stone and read each one of those 60 articles, commented as promised, and received my returned favor page views--which boosted my totals up to where I needed to be for the next bonus.

All in all I enjoyed it. I actually learned a lot from the other producers. I also came up with an idea for an article from my reading--a bonus!

I have heard that reciprocal reading groups don't work and are not worth a drop in the bucket for what you get out of them. That may very well be, but what about the topic generation you can achieve from it? What about the promotion aspects? What about the fact that you are adding another reader to your list?

Sure it's just a matter of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." But, isn't that what makes the world go round?

November 9, 2007

Writing Ideas to Bust Writer's Block

In this post I want to dive into the issue of writer's block. I've read that writer's block doesn't really exist--it's just a ploy our writing mind comes up with to avoid the chore for a time. That last part I made up. Could it be as simple as procrastination? Apathy? A case of the "I don't wanna"? How about all of the above?

I know I have periods that I don't write. In fact, I had that 10 plus year hiatus from writing while I worked a j-o-b. Now you're learning, along with me, how I'm getting back into the swing of things.

So back to writing ideas, after all it is the title of my post. I came across an article on about.com with "Creative Writing Exercises" to get your writing when you come up blank. Let's see, there's freewriting, writing secrets, picture writing, dictionary writing, and keeping an idea box. All good ways to get you writing when you're working with a tabula rasa.

Another posting I found was "Words, Words, Words: Dealing with Writer's Block," which is a blog post entry. Pretty fun way of putting all together with my favorite being the "keep writing" section. The author goes into telling you to write no matter what even if it's phrases like "tumpty-tumpty-tee." I laughed because I've thought similar stuff but never actually wrote it out.

The last option I've got for you (and me) is "Hack your way out of writer's block." Great ideas and some funny stuff like "talk to a monkey" where you should actually tell a cardboard or stuffed monkey what you're trying to say.

For those that have the time the last post, "Hack your way...", came from a site called 43 folders. Lurking about in there you can un-bury a lot of good information. I've only just started sifting through, but I think I may come up with a few more posts before I'm done.

My inspiration is seeking inspiration through others. One word or phrase can put an entire idea into motion.

November 6, 2007

Taking Advantage of Promotion Information

Since I started my quest to becoming a work at home mom, I have come across a lot of great information. I've posted some blogs on web writing, promotion, seo optimization, and keyword tools. I want to mention a blog I came across recently: Chris Garrett's blog

Now, the blog is not necessarily geared toward writing per se; it guides you in promotion, writing content to draw in and help readers, and lots of how-to information. I subscribed because I liked the first blog entry I read about promotion. Now I am updated whenever a new post is published.

Just to lure you in too, check out this article: 35 Guaranteed Ways To Increase Your RSS Subscribers. The article offers real tips and information not just fluff. I like that even though I tend to generate a lot of fluff in my stuff.

That being said this is my personal inspiration blog. I may get fluffy every once in a while so don't mind me if I go "off topic" because that is how I am inspired.

November 5, 2007

Page Views

Those writers submitting articles for Associated Content and other paid to write websites are faced with the task of generating page views. How do you go about promoting your stuff to keep your page views up to snuff?

Personally, I email my articles to friends, friends of friends, and family; I get a fair amount of page views from that. Another tactic I have been utilizing is bookmarking sites. I think in the beginning that helped a lot but it seems to have fallen off a bit. I have hit a clout of 4 and have seemed to stalemate there.

I've also been reading other writer's submissions. This is actually what I want to talk about most here. I have subscribed to several great authors and have been reading everything they submit.

I try to comment where and when I can but if I comment on every article I'll be using up my writing commenting and possibly develop carpel tunnel syndrome. I see others that show they were there by putting a !, *, ., :), or some sort of symbol. I don't particularly like that. I prefer to read up and make a comment on the last article I read. Sometimes I mention the other articles if I think about it before I hit the post button.

What do other's think about this? We are essentially trading page views. Is it offensive to just leave some sort of punctuation mark and move on?

Another author I read wrote in her profile that she does not always comment but does read everything. Perhaps that's the way to go. Then again, how do we know she read?

I think my subscribers have caught on to my methods--that I read and only comment on the top article--at least I hope they have. Those that I subscribe to should know that I get those publishing messages and usually three times a week I read their articles. I am only human. I comment as I feel urged to do so. If I have nothing to add or say I say something like "nice article!" Know that I am reading because you guys have some great stuff and it helps me to generate ideas for future articles.

Today I find myself inspired by writers wearing their hearts on their sleeves. This is something that you will have to interpret for yourself.

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