10 Tips for Making Money as a Keyword Writer
In 2001, I decided to become a profitable writer. Armed with a talent for stringing words together, but no practical knowledge of the industry, I stumbled into keyword and content-mill writing before I learned most authors scorned this practice. By the time I realized I was doing the freelance equivalent of crossing a picket line, I was making money—good money.
I’ve since expanded my repertoire to include many different kinds of writing, editing, and coaching assignments, but when the phone isn’t ringing and the job boards are slow, I still go back to my favorite keyword and content-mill sites to make ends meet.
Writing for content mills fixed my geriatric car several times, bought my cats their favorite brands of food and toys, and even took me on a two-week Hawaiian cruise.
Photo right: Debra’s cat, Archilles
There is money to be made on content sites; the key to success is learning to use the sites without allowing yourself to be used by the sites. These tips will help you get started.
1. Find the best flat rates you can get. Income-share content sites may promise you the sun and the moon, but most people end up writing dozens of articles and making only a few dollars...or cents. I’d rather take a low, guaranteed, flat rate than waste time writing pieces that may never earn a dime.
2. Write for several content sites at once. Unfortunately, it’s all too common to attempt to log onto your favorite keyword site, only to find it has vanished into Internet purgatory. If this happens to you, make sure you have other sites lined up that will welcome your work.
3. Write for sites that allow you to cherry-pick your assignments. Some content sites set a high minimum number of articles you must write each day or insist on assigning random content to you. These sites take up a lot more of your time and energy than they’re worth.
4. Select topics you know well. This means you’ll spend less time on research and earn a better hourly wage.
5. Choose sites that allow you to miss deadlines and “release” assignments without penalty. That way, if a private client requires your attention, a better-paying gig comes along, or the article just isn’t working out, you can jettison your content-mill assignment. Of course, as a reliable professional, you will use this option sparingly.
6. Practice good time management. It doesn’t make sense to spend hours on an article that will only pay a few dollars. Set aside a couple of hours for your keyword writing each session, and try to produce at least 10 to 12 articles during that time.
7. Turn in solid work. You don’t have to write like William Shakespeare, but your submitted assignments should follow the requested format and be free of spelling and grammar errors. Otherwise, your work may be rejected or returned to you for revision. Neither of these outcomes represents an effective use of your time. On the other hand, if clients come to know you as a reliable professional, they will sometimes steer you to other markets and better-paying opportunities.
8. Don’t compromise your values. To their credit, most keyword sites prohibit questionable content, but there may be times when a content mill asks you to write an article that is blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, or that promotes illegal activities such as street drug use or child abuse. The final decision is up to you, of course; you still have to face yourself in the mirror and decide whether or not you are proud of the work you have put into the world.
9. Re-evaluate your keyword sites on a regular basis. Have there been recent changes in payment and policy to your benefit or detriment? Do you still enjoy writing for the site? Are there better opportunities out there? You don’t necessarily want to burn any bridges, but don’t be shy about cutting down on your work for one site and putting the lion’s share of your time and energy into another, more promising site.
10. Spread your wings. Keyword writing is a good way to get started in the business and learn the basics of writing, but it can get old after a while. Always be on the lookout for other opportunities such as working for private clients, writing a book, or submitting material to a magazine or e-zine for publication.
Contrary to popular opinion, keyword writing can be profitable. It was also a great way for me to perfect my spelling, grammar, and time management skills, and find confidence in myself as a writer.
The Evolution of Keyword Writing
Keywords are the words people enter into search engines to find your articles. When I first started doing keyword writing, writers were expected to pack assigned keywords into the articles as many times as humanly possible. Often, the end result didn’t even make much sense. “If you want to lose weight, here are some of the top ten ways to lose weight, feel better, look better, and lose weight.”
The people programming the search engines got smarter. If the program detected “keyword stuffing” or overuse of the keyword, the search engines would downgrade the article.
There’s a vigorous debate going on in the keyword community about what constitutes a useful keyword density (or number of times your keywords appear in comparison with other words in the article). Google is somewhat secretive about its keyword thresholds, but it’s commonly thought that any keyword density over two percent will lead to an article being downgraded. Yahoo! and MSN accept slightly higher keyword densities—around five percent.
Typically, keyword writers today use the keyword in the article title, once in the first paragraph, once or twice in the body of the article, depending on how long the article is, and perhaps once in the closing paragraph. Never sacrifice clarity or flow just for the sake of sticking in a keyword.
If you’re new to keyword writing and want to get a feel for the keyword densities in your articles, one useful free Internet tool is Live Keyword Analysis. Simply enter the keywords you are targeting and cut and paste the body of your article into the box provided. The program will give you the ratio of keywords to other words in your article.
If you need help finding keywords readers might use to locate your article, another useful free tool is the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Type a word or phrase that describes your article into the box in the upper left-hand corner and click on “Search.” The results will show phrases people use to search for the subject about which you are writing.
Give It a Try!
If you’d like to give keyword writing a try, here are a few sites to consider:
Debra Stang is a writer, editor, and writing coach who continues to make a portion of her income from keyword sites and content mills. Her blog, Confessions of a Keyword Concubine, is available on her website http://www.debrastang.net. You can also follow Debra on Facebook.
© 2010 WOW! Women On Writing