There will be many lasting effects of the global coronavirus pandemic of 2020, but one of the most significant changes to the economy will be the sharp increase in employees who work from home. According to research from leading Stanford academics, the United States alone has seen a drastic increase in working from home, with 42% of all workers performing job duties from the comfort of their own living quarters. This leads to the inevitable question: what are the best ways to make money online in 2020, 2021, and the coming years? If you have a knack for your native language, one of the most promising arenas to ply your trade is in content writing.
Content writing is a special niche, and it’s unlike other forms of writing. While your history of straight-As on college papers and your prolific fiction writing certainly will help, writing content for the internet is its own specialty. Below, we’ll go into the ins and outs of content writing, as well as how you can make it your new job in 2021.
Essential Features of Well-Written Content
When it comes down to the bare bones, just about all forms of writing on the internet (at least, those that aren’t social media posts) can be split into two categories:
You might have heard the term copy or copywriting in phrases like “ad copy” or “sales copy.” That should give a good idea of its purpose. Copy is writing that is meant to snag the reader and move them toward a specific goal. Usually, that is sales, but it can also be clicks, shares, or other actions.
On the other hand, content is writing that delivers a sought-after experience to the reader. For example, content writing more accurately describes something like an article on cryptocurrency or a company’s FAQ page. It answers the questions that the user has when they visit the webpage.
So what does good text look like?
Optimization 101: Keywords
Keywords are the specific words or phrases that are included in your writing because they match the search terms users enter into search engines like Google. For example, if you’re writing a page on home sales, you might have keywords like “homes,” “sales,” “housing market,” or similar terms, followed by the location you’re targeting.
When someone enters a search into Google, the company’s bots crawl through millions of webpages to find relevant instances of those keywords and terms related to them. That means having a healthy abundance of keywords in your content is necessary to grab the attention of the bots (and thus bring the webpage to more consumers’ eyes).
However, the trick is not to “keyword stuff.” We’ve all read online content that was very clearly written just for search engines rather than humans. A common symptom of this writing disease is having the same words or terms “stuffed” into a short space, like a sentence or paragraph. In fact, Google works to correct this issue by flagging these webpages as irrelevant. That’s because just having a bunch of keywords doesn’t actually mean you’re answering the question that the user needs an answer for.
That leads us to another important element of online content writing: providing useful information that addresses the user’s concerns. The Content Marketing Institute defines this as understanding user intent. You need to ask yourself questions about why the visitors to the webpage are there. What has drawn them in? What are they trying to accomplish? Those questions should inform how you write your content.
Some of the most common user intentions include:
- they want to learn about a topic (i.e. a search for “how to cure a migraine”)
- they want to access some internet location (i.e. a search for “podcast merch site”)
- they want to purchase something (i.e. a search for “where can I buy comic books online”)
The way that you might answer those questions goes a long way toward defining the success of your content. Examples of content titles structured to answer these intentions include:
- 3 Ways to Get Rid of a Serious Migraine Headache
- Best Sites to Get Your Favorite Podcast Merchandise
- A Reader’s Guide to Purchasing Comic Books Online
Do your research and write meaningful articles about the topics trending with internet users, making sure that they will come away with the information they’re looking for after reading it.
Finally, you need to emphasize readability in your web writing. Not many people enjoy scrolling through endless paragraphs of text. Instead, it’s best practice to break up the text with white space (i.e. short paragraphs), bullet points, numbered lists, images, headers, etc.
It’s also a good idea to put certain ideas in bold so that users’ eyes are attracted to them. In this way, content writing can also feel quite a bit like design work. The actual form the words take on the page is important to ensure that users don’t simply click onto the website and then click away.
Getting Paid to Write Content
Once you have a good grasp of online content writing, it’s time to sign up with a company that pays writers. You can always freelance for several clients, but keep in mind that pay structures work differently depending on where you get your business. For instance, common online writing companies pay their writers:
- once per month
It’s always important to know when you are getting paid, as well as at what rate. Depending on your experience and credentials, you can get paid anywhere from $32,000 to $71,000 per year, according to PayScale.
Common ways to enter into the content writing job market include working as a freelancer through websites like Fiverr, connecting with a specific company like Blue Pen Articles as a freelance writer, or becoming a full-time content writer for an online marketing agency. The possibilities are as varied as you can imagine, and you are only limited by the amount of work you want to put into this career.