Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Learn the Basics of Writing for the Internet Audience—Part One Keywords

Learn the basics of writing for the Internet audience and you'll never lack for writing assignments.

Pretty strong statement, but in this day and time it's one you can count on. Look at an anonymous business owner with me and I think you'll see what I mean. We'll call him Joe and he's a plumber.

He's a smart business owner and named his business, ABC Plumbing. He chose carefully because with that name, he had a good chance of being the first listing in the directory under plumbers. That was ten years ago and that ad in the telephone directory kept him supplied with customers while it made him visible around the community. But as time went by, fewer people looked at the Yellow Pages when they needed a plumber. Instead they looked online.

Well Joe is a with-it sort of guy, and he had a website built. It wasn't fancy, but it did the job, just like the old ad in the directory. Actually the two looked a lot alike. But Joe began to see his traffic and customer base diminish. This was due to the fact that when someone searched on the Internet for a plumber in his area, his website didn't come up first. In fact, it didn't come up until page three of the search.

He did some research and found that he needed to add some things to his site to come up higher in the search engine. He came face-to-face with the new acronym SEO. Search Engine Optimization became his key to getting the name out about his business. So he started a blog and began tweaking the information on his site. But all this began to eat into the time he spent running a business.

At this point, the light bulb came on. Joe realized he was a plumber, not a writer. And this is where we come in. We can provide valuable services to businesses small and large. We can do what we do best—write—while allowing them to get on with business.

On with the Basics
The first term you need to become familiar with is Keywords.
A keyword is like a label. It's a short way—although almost always more than one word in length—to state the purpose of your article. Articles can have several keyword groups or only one. I only have one main keyword group for this article and it's Writing for the Internet. You'll see this keyword in the labels following this post. You'll also see some related keywords, Internet, Internet Audience, Learn the Basics of Writing for the Internet, How to use Keywords Effectively. 

I use groups of words because the point of the keywords is to direct the searcher to your website. You want your keywords to match, as closely as possible, what someone types into a search engine search box. People rarely type just one word because it gives too many options.

Here are the guidelines for using keywords effectively:

  • Always use the keywords in the title.
  • Repeat the keywords at least once in the first 50 words of your article.
  • Spread the use of the keywords naturally and evenly throughout the rest of the article. (In a 400 word article that would mean using the keywords a minimum of three more times)

Learning how to use keywords effectively can make you invaluable to business owners, and for your own website. Over the next few weeks, every Tuesday, I'll continue this series on Writing for the Internet Audience.

I'd love to hear some of the aspects of this topic you'd like to see covered. Post your questions in the comments section and I'll make sure I cover them.

Don't forget to join the conversation!

You can jump to Part Two of Learn the Basics of Writing for the Internet here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hashtags and Hyperlinks

At first glance, these two topics may seem totally unrelated, but read further and learn how they complement each other. I’ll give you a clue, it has to do with the topic of Search Engine Optimization.

Let’s start with definitions:
A Hashtag is used with Twitter. It’s a #(number sign) followed by a group of letters or words that makes the topic searchable in the Twitter universe.

A Hyperlink (sometimes referred to as a Hotlink or simply a Link) is a group of letters or words that, when you hoover your curser over it, is clickable and opens a new window on the Internet. The first paragraph of this post has a Hyperlink, Search Engine Optimization.

Still curious how these two are linked? Here’s another clue, it has to do with the research you need to do to use each effectively.


It’s important to use hashtags when you tweet—but even more important to use them correctly. It’s important to avoid using more than two or three hashtags per tweet. Otherwise you run the risk of being mistaken for a sales person or a spammer. Because of this, you need to do your research and make certain you’re getting the most out of every one.

When I look for relevant hashtags, I start with the obvious and then do a little fact checking. For instance, when I started targeting military families with tweets I assumed #military would be the hashtag to use.  Fortunately I dug a little deeper. When I checked what tweets that hashtag normally brought up I found it was geared more toward those looking to date a soldier. Definitely NOT the audience I was looking for. It turned out the hashtag I needed was #militaryfamily.

Here are some of the places I research hashtags:


Here are some things you need to know about Hyperlinks.
  • Including them will raise the search engine ranking of your post and subsequently, your site.
  • It’s a way to build credibility by linking to other sites you’ve written for.
  • It’s a way to utilize previous posts and get more traffic on your own blog.
  • They can give your readers more value by linking to valuable site that your readers may not have visited. 

I want to zero in on how hyperlinks can raise our search engine ranking.

Most people don’t know that the words hyperlinked in your post are also searchable by search engines. This means you need to choose the words you link carefully because you don’t want to waste them.

Do you see the link between Hyperlinks and Hashtags now? As I said, it’s in the research. Both involve topics trending on the web. If you find a popular Hashtag, make a note of it. Then, when you have a related post, use that topic as a part of your hyperlink.

Here’s an Example:
Look again at the hyperlink in the first paragraph. I could have made the word Topic the link. It would have made sense, after all I was referring to a topic. But how often do people do a Google search for the word topic? Not very often. So I linked to a much more interesting set of words, SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION.

Also, this topic, #SEO is trending on Twitter, telling me I’ll attract new followers by using this hashtag when I tweet about my post.

This type of multitasking will help you get more mileage out of your research time and give you the added benefit of tying your blog posts directly to your Twitter updates.

Now it’s your turn, be sure to post your questions in the comment section and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Weekend Worship—The Appearance of a Radical Life

Boys at the Pool!
When our boys were small we moved to a neighborhood with a community pool and we spent many happy summers there. But one summer I remember meeting a new neighbor. This neighbor was a young father with twin boys. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him in the pool—complete with large tattoos and body piercing. I had the urge to draw my boys close and protect them from this scary stranger. I’m glad I didn’t act on this first impression. As I watched him play with his boys and saw the love he lavished on them, it was obvious he was a good dad. Over the years, he became a welcome addition to the neighborhood

I’d conveniently forgotten the entire episode until the a few summers ago, when our oldest son and his wife came to live for a few months. Our son had just received his honorable discharge from the Marine Corps and I was so excited he’d be able to spend some time there, introducing his wife to the neighborhood where he’d grown up and getting used to being a civilian again.

His first day at the pool I got there before him. I settled into a deck chair, chatting with several neighbors and catching up on the winter’s happenings. As I chatted, I noticed several people turn away to stop and stare. I glanced at the entrance and was excited to see it was my son, soon others in the neighborhood would be able to welcome him home.

The Appearance of a Radical Life
As I watched though, the reception wasn’t what I expected. You see, while my son was in the military he’d acquired some body art. His tattoos weren't objectionable—several are Christian in their messages—but they are tattoos. I was immediately transported back to my reaction so many years ago—but this time the scary man was my son. I immediately rushed to his side and re-introduced him to neighbors who didn’t recognize him. The atmosphere changed and he was welcomed back with all the joy I could have hoped.

But the experience stayed with me.

I asked God what He wanted me to take away from this and these are the thoughts I’ve had:
  • Tattoos: What difference could I make if I was so marked by the love of God that people stopped and stared?
  • Piercing: How would my life change if my heart was truly pierced for Him?
  • Long Hair: What would happen if people could visibly see that I’m covered by God’s grace?
  • Chains: How I wish the world could see the chains that no longer bind me.

Kind of makes you think—at least it did me.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Life Lessons—The Write Stuff

No, it's not deja vu. This post did show up yesterday. My dad had a heart attack the middle of the night, Wednesday night. In my scramble to get everything posted, I inadvertently scheduled two posts the same day. So this one is appearing again today...on the correct day. Sorry for the confusion. And yes, Dad is doing well, still in the hospital, but on the mend.

A guest post by Reba J. Hoffman

In life, sometimes it seems the bad outweighs the good
I know. You’ve gone through enough of life to last you through eternity. Sometimes it seems like you’re cursed because the bad seems to far outweigh the good. The photo album in your heart is filled with hardship, frustration, discouragement and yes, even tragedy.

What you may not realize is that those experiences fill you with what it takes to write a winning novel. It’s true. I wrote in one of my books that true wisdom is forged on the anvil of suffering. All that stuff you’ve endured throughout your life has gained you precious golden nuggets of truth and wisdom that will provide depth and substance to your characters. For those who write non-fiction, that same wealth will help you sow into others’ lives for years to come.

This depth of wisdom woven into the tapestry of your book will change the life of the reader. It will also change your life for having poured out all that you are into the page. You are the only one who has gone through what you have from your vantage point: inside your own emotions. Only you can bring that out in characters, scenes and chapters.

Books are often born out of the author's own trials
I challenge you to read any book filled with depth and richness and I guarantee you the author has suffered in life. So, if you’ve gone through the worst sort of trials and tribulations, consider yourself blessed. You’ve been investing life and multiplying your wealth of wisdom and worth.

Life has some pretty rugged terrain
If you’re facing a challenge today, or maybe even what seems like an impossible cliff to pull yourself up and over, ask yourself what you can gain from it. Even the worst of circumstances has goodie in it. Grab it with a grip that cannot be broken. Guard it with your life and with your emotions. Store it in the vaults of your heart and soul. You’ll have it when the moment calls for it.

Life has pretty rugged terrain with its ups and downs but the wisdom you gain becomes trekking poles, pulling you up the slopes and keeping your balance on the narrow trails. And the journey you write about will pull others to the summit of their own Everest. Embrace that truth and you’ll go far in your quest of being a writer. You have what it takes to be successful. You have the Write Stuff!

Reba J. Hoffman

Reba J. Hoffman is the founder and president of Magellan Life Coaching (www.magellanlifecoaching.com).  She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Counseling and is a natural encourager. She serves as Member Care Coach for My Book Therapy and is the author of Dare to Dream, A Writer’s Journal. You can connect with Reba through her motivational blog, Finding True North, or by email at reba@magellanlifecoaching.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @RebaJHoffman.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thursday Review—The Easy Way to Make a Blog Button for Your Site

Today I'd like to share a fun addition to your blog. Besides being cool, it's also a great way to let others advertise your site for you. Where does the fun begin?

With a Blog Button, of course!

This is mine. (You can also see it in the sidebar on the left) 

The Write Conversation

The key to a blog button is to have the code listed so someone else can copy it and add it to their site. Although you do have to generate a little bit of HTML code, it's not as hard as you may think.
  • The first thing you'll need is an image that represents you or your blog. This image needs to be fairly small, so it can fit on a sidebar. Once you have your picture picked out, use your photo program (I used my Microsoft Office Picture Manager, but you can also use iPhoto for Apple) to resize it. Mine is resized to about 160 x 147 pixels. This is the email - small predefined selection in my program.
  • Once you have the image resized, you'll also need this picture to hosted somewhere on the Internet so others can access it. Don't panic, this isn't hard, I'll walk you through it. 
If you have a WordPress, Typepad or Blogger site, go into the compose window and paste the picture in there. Then save the post as a DRAFT. Don't publish it and don't accidentally erase it or you button won't work. I titled mine Blog Button pics to help me remember. Minimize this window because you'll be returning to it in a moment.

Now open a blank document  and copy the following code into it.
*Special Note: Because this is live HTML code, I had to use a jpeg of the text, instead of typing it into this document.
Once you have it copied into your blank document—no need to highlight the text, I did that just so you would know what parts to change—you'll need to customize it for your site. 
  • First replace all the Blue highlighted text with the Title of your blog (mine says The Write Conversation).
  • Next replace the Pink highlighted text with the EXACT URL of your blog. The best way to get this is to open a window and go to the main page of your blog. Copy the URL and paste it into your code document in place of what's there.
  • Now you need to go back to the draft post where you pasted your image. Change the draft mode to HTML and copy the address of the picture. It's easy to find, it begins with HTTP and ends with JPEG. Once you have that copied you'll need to paste it into TWO places in your code document. You'll want to replace the text highlighted in Yellow. 
  • Finally you need to check your code. Each of the replacements you made should be INSIDE quotation marks. Once you've checked everything, your code should be complete and ready to copy and paste into your sidebar using the HTML gadget (or widget).

Now I'd like for you to check back in after you generate a button of your own. Please leave a comment and I'll visit your blog and collect your button. I'll put everyone's buttons in a special list on my sidebar for others to see.

Also be sure to leave any questions you have and I'll do my best to answer them.

Don't forget to join the conversation!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Free Today Only—Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle

Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home
Today only, I'm happy to announce the Kindle ebook version is available FREE on Amazon here.

Saying goodbye to a loved one leaving for war is a gut-wrenching proposition. But for those left behind it’s also the start of their own battle. This collection of devotions is written to help those left behind. Our oldest son went straight from high school to Marine Corps boot camp to Iraq, where he served as an infantry Marine. I know firsthand, the fear and helplessness that affects those close to a soldier at war. I also know that somehow, God can bring comfort and peace to a situation that seems hopeless.

This book is a compilation of true stories of how others dealt with the fear that stalked them through their soldier’s deployments, as well as devotions designed to point the reader to the true source of strength, God. 

If you don't own a Kindle device you can still get the book. Download the FREE Kindle software to your computer, tablet or mobile device from here.

I'd love your help to spread the word today. To thank you for your help, anyone who leaves a comment letting me know you've spread the word will be entered into a drawing for a free PRINT version of the book.

Don't forget to join the conversation!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Excellence in Blogging—6 Easy Tips to Take Your Blog to the Next Level

Competition in the blogosphere is fierce. To stand out above the rest, we must raise our blogging to a new level of excellence.
There are approximately 181 million blogs in existence today. Add to that the additional competition from other social media outlets and you have to be on your game to make it out of the slush pile.
But what makes a good blog great?
Today I’ll share some of those things, and you may be surprised at how simple they are to incorporate in your site.
1. Laser-sharp focus. Now more than ever it’s critical to focus your blog. If you can’t define the target of your blog in one or two sentences you need to refine your goal. If you’re curious, the focus of this blog is helping writers reach the world through excellence, connections and technology. 

2. Easy-to-read format. This includes everything from fonts that don’t strain the reader’s eyes to well-organized layout.

3. Regular posting schedule. We all want people to come back regularly to read our blogs. How can we reasonably expect that from our audience when we don’t deliver regular content? 

4. Images and videos. We have become a visual society. Because of that, people enjoy a blog that’s illustrated with pictures and videos. Be sure, though, you’re using images legally and not infringing on copyright. Not certain? Here’s a post to get you started on Copyright 101 for Bloggers.

5. Well-crafted posts. It’s vital that we provide well written and edited pieces. This isn’t difficult with only a few extra minutes of work. Not sure where to start? Here are 5 Easy Steps to Edit Your Blog

6. Sustainable passion. This may be harder to pinpoint from the readers view, but as a blogger you’ll need it to stay on track. Blogging is hard work. There are days you get busy, and days you run dry. During the tough times, it’s the passion that will sustain you, giving you the will and the want-to to continue.
Making it as a top-notch blogger in today’s social media climate may seem unlikely, but with just a little bit of focus and passion you can rise above the rest!
Now it’s your turn. What are some things you look for in the blogs you follow? What are some things that will keep you from coming back to a blog?
Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Life Lessons—Emotionally Involved

Guest post by Reba Hoffman

As writers, you spend a whole lot of time creating characters and walking with them through all sorts of trials. The same thing that makes a compelling story for the reader can cause all sorts of challenges for you the writer. Why? Because you are emotionally involved.

The more time you spend with your characters, the more of yourself you have invested in them. And, because you experience their tragedies with them, your emotions can be affected.

It’s a great thing—even necessary—that you are so connected with those you create and write about. It’s what makes you a great writer. But, it also places you in a place of emotional vulnerability. Here’s how it may show up.

Feeling blue or even depressed after writing a negative emotional scene. You may react just like if your best friend suffered the same scenario as your characters. Remind yourself it’s only fiction.

Feeling fear if your character is being stalked or if they are attacked. Prove to yourself you are safe by walking around your environment that is free from those who would want to harm you.

Feeling abandoned by your characters when you write “The End”. As crazy as it sounds, just as readers feel a sense of loss at the end of a really good book, so can the author. The best way to overcome this is to immediately start developing your next book.

These and other emotions are common to writers. If you’re not expecting them, they can sideline you. But if you understand what’s happening, you can combat them. You’ll be able to write a compelling story with amazing characters without suffering emotional fallout yourself.

The deep emotions that you experience are just one of the incredible gifts you have that will make your character resonate. And your readers will throw down the greenbacks to purchase your books. Due care with your own emotions will keep you healthy and writing for years to come.

Have you ever felt gripped by emotions while writing? Why not share it here?

Reba J. Hoffman is the founder and president of Magellan Life Coaching (www.magellanlifecoaching.com).  She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Counseling and is a natural encourager. She serves as Member Care Coach for My Book Therapy and is the author of Dare to Dream, A Writer’s Journal. You can connect with Reba through her motivational blog, Finding True North, or by email at reba@magellanlifecoaching.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @RebaJHoffman.