Category Archives: Online Writing Tips

Building a Writing Calendar

A writing calendar, or publishing calendar, if you prefer, is a good way to stay on track with your writing. Just sitting down at a set time and coming up with a topic to write about is like asking a comedian to “be funny” right on the spot. It’s a lot easier if you plan for it and know it’s coming. Most people who will tell you that they are a comedian have a joke already memorized for when you inevitably ask them, “Can you say something funny, right now?

A writing calendar works the same way. Instead of sitting down and trying to instantly come up with a good topic for your parenting blog on the spot, you instead check you calendar and see what you were going to write about today.

It doesn’t take much for a writer to start writing. Sometimes nothing more than the title is enough of a prompt. For those ideas you have with a little more nuance, feel free to jot down a few lines of text to get yourself going in the right direction.

What kind of calendar you use is a matter of preference. Some people prefer an electronic calendar. A mobile based calendar means you always have it with you to tweak or add items to. An online calendar can give you the same benefits. A prefer a big paper calendar that I can quickly jot notes on while in mid-project, and that I can stick Post-It notes to when I need to add, or flesh out ideas.

Whatever kind of calendar you use, the key is to actually USE IT. That means not only putting items on it to be written, but READING those ideas and then writing about them. It can be all to easy to add an endless list of “to be written articles,” only to completely forget to look at your calendar when it is actually time to write.

Take a look around your mobile device’s app store, or wander into the office supply store and take a look at planners and calendars. Pick one you like, and start using it today.

 

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Google Wonder-Wheel Missing

What happened to WonderWheel on Google search?

For those of you webmasters and bloggers who like using Google’s WonderWheel tool, there was an unexpected surprise that came with the new Google Instant search rollout. It seems that Google thinks that the functionality of Wonder Wheel is handled by the ever changing search results and suggestions that appear on Google.com when you search using Google Instant search functionality. Unfortunately, that is hardly the case.

google-wonder-wheel-missing The Google WonderWheel tool was a great way to not only find useful and relevant information on the web, but also for web developers and professional writers looking for ways to make money writing online to figure out how OTHER PEOPLE might search for the information being written. For example, if I were writing an article about how to make homemade snowshoes, I might search for something like “homemade snowshoes,” but maybe that is not how most people would search for the same topic. Maybe most people would actually search for something like “handmade snowshoes” or “make your own snowshoes” or maybe even “building snowshoes.” Any of those searches could be made by someone looking for the same information.

Unfortunately, despite all of its success and acclaim, the Google search engine is really nothing more than a text pattern matcher combined with a link counter. If your text does not match what is being searched for, your article will not show up in those searches, no matter how great your content might be.

Again, using the example above, if I titled my article Homemade Snowshoes Made Simple with my H1 tag and used a title tag of Snowshoes Homemade, the article would never show up in any Google searches for “handmade snowshoes,” unless there were virtually no other webpages on the entire Internet about making your own snowshoes.

In other words, as a writer looking to earn money writing online, it is critical that your articles contain the phrases used by searches in order to generate high-ranking web content that drives search engine traffic to your webpages. In fact, it is so important, that as a professional writer, I frequently use misspellings, incorrect grammar, or redundant phrases, deliberately in order to be sure that what others type into Google will match something in my well-written web content. Then, I try elsewhere to apologize and point out that it was done intentionally so that potential freelance writing clients who are trying to judge my work know that it is not just sloppy writing, but rather that Google makes you write poorly in order to succeed.

The Google WonderWheel tool helped with this problem by allowing a web searcher to type in a search, and then by clicking on Wonder Wheel in the sidebar under More Tools, see a graphical tree of other related search queries. The new Google Instant search feature does that part just fine. What is missing is that with Google Wonder Wheel you could click on the bubble with the related search term and get a new Wonder-Wheel that showed a tree of search queries related to the clicked keywords. In this way, I could have entered “homemade snowshoes,” saw that “handmade snowshoes” was a possible related search keyphrase and then clicked on it to see what search phrases might be related to handmade snowshoes as well.

(Did you see that? I used three different ways of writing wonderwheel so that people who search with a space or hyphen can still find this article online by searching.”)

Turn Google WonderWheel Back On

Fortunately, it is possible to turn Google WonderWheel back on. To re-enable Wonder Wheel, you have to go into Google search settings and turn off Instant Search. Doing that takes you back to the old search interface, which includes the Wonder-Wheel tool.

Unfortunately, since Instant Search looks like the future of Google Search, there is no telling how long this functionality might be left on. Hopefully, Google decides that there is certainly no harm in keeping the WonderWheel tool in the sidebar even if Instant Search is enabled. After all, users who find that the new Instant search feature meets their needs will simply not click on WonderWheel, while those of us who depend on the tool to help correct some of Google Search’s inadequacies can continue to use it.

I wonder if there is an online petition somewhere?

Do you use Google WonderWheel? How have you reacted to WonderWheel being removed from Google due to Instant Search?

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How Good Are Google Search Result Rankings?

ranking Everywhere you turn people tell you the same thing about search engines; Google is the best search engine. Google is certainly the biggest search engine company. Depending upon whose numbers you want to believe, Google’s search market share is a whopping 71% or more. Google processes hundreds of millions of search queries every day and uses so many servers, computers, routers, and networking equipment that it recently got into the power business. But, does that make Google the best search engine? How good are its search results?

Quality of Google Search Results Page Rankings

Answering the question of how good Google’s searches are is not straightforward. There are numerous factors that can go into ranking websites and webpages as the best search result, or the number 38 search result. Which ones to include and how much weight each search ranking factor should be given is a matter of opinion. Some may claim that larger, better known, results should rank highest, while others would claim that the democratization of information is exactly what makes the Internet so powerful, therefore, no preference should be given to “mainstream” websites or their pages.

However, examining Google’s search results with human eyes often provides some insight into how well the company is doing when it ranks websites in the top ten search results. (UPDATE: The guys over at Search Engine Journal published a different look at what I was getting at here.)

Check out my freelance financial writer page.

Google tracks the preferences and history of most users. It uses this data to “personalize” the search results for that person. For example, if you often search for something like denver sightseeing, a search for something like tourist attractions may be skewed toward attractions in Denver, even though denver was not included in that particular search. Furthermore, if you often visit a specific website, especially by clicking on its links from searches, that site may be pumped up to a higher position in future searchers.

Many writers seeking to earn money writing online fall victim to this trap. Since they logically visit their own websites more frequently than others, they are likely to rank higher in most searches performed by the website author. Unfortunately, this often leads new writers into believing that they rank much higher than they really do for a particular search.

Always perform any searches that you want to use to see how things look to everyone else in your browser’s privacy mode. Google Incognito mode is useful for seeing unpersonalized search results and is my personal favorite, because it does not shut down your regular browsing session to go private.

Once you have launched a private browsing session, type in a few Google searches that you think would be productive ways of finding valuable information. Obviously, two word searches are difficult because there can be so much interpretation. Try better searches with three or four words. For an example, try “LCD versus Plasma”. Then try “LCD vs Plasma”.

google-search-results-quality-comparison

Despite Google’s insistence that it handles synonyms for you in searches, the differences between the results when using “versus” instead of “vs” are very different. This is technically an abbreviation, not a synonym, but the point remains that what results you get for your searches depends very much on EXACTLY what you search for. That is why writing to multiple keywords is so important.

You’ll notice throughout this site (and even in this article) I make an effort to link back for both “earn money writing online” AND “make money writing online” because it really does matter.

When you are out there writing content for yourself or your clients and building powerful backlinks to your best stuff, be sure to do the same. Otherwise, the best search engine in the world might not rank you as high as you deserve based on one tiny little word.

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Amazon Associates Cuts Off Colorado Affiliates Over New Sales Tax Law

MC900189265[1] A new Colorado law to force Amazon to collect sales taxes resulted in Amazon Associates being terminated in Colorado.

The law was crafted to get around a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states that a retailer need collect state imposed taxes on sales only if the retailer has a significant enough physical presence in the state, or a “nexus” of business in the state. Since Colorado can not directly compel Amazon to collect sales taxes, the state instead passed a law deliberately making it nuisance to do business with residents of Colorado.

Technically, whenever a person makes an online purchase, they still owe the sales tax due on that purchase even if the online vendor does not collect the tax directly. The customer is legally obligated to voluntarily forward the appropriate sales tax payment directly to the state, which, of course, never happens. The new Colorado sales tax law states that for any sales made via Colorado residents who participate in the Amazon Associates program to customers whose purchases are shipped to a Colorado address, Amazon must mail a letter to the customer stating the amount of sales tax the customer owes.

Colorado Sales Tax Law Designed To “Get Around” The Constitution

What makes this new Colorado law so slimy and underhanded is how disingenuous it is. Both the State of Colorado and Amazon know that sending these letters will not result in any significant increase in the amount of sales taxes collected by the state. In fact, the only real effect of the legally required letters will be to waste more paper, and increase the cost of doing business in Colorado for Amazon. The legislation’s supporters hoped the law would be such a burden that Amazon would choose to just collect the sales taxes for the state instead. In other words, the legislature deliberately passed a law that they didn’t want anyone to follow in order to make companies do something that the state cannot legally force them to do. It’s a trick worthy of the sneakiest con artist.

The law is also decidedly self-serving since it only compels online retailers to notify residents of how much state sales tax they owe. There is no requirement to notify residents of any city or local taxes that they might owe on their purchases!

Of course, Amazon has no intention of implementing such a burdensome procedure. To track which sales were made via Colorado based Amazon affiliates, and then match those sales to shipping addresses in Colorado, and then to mail those residents letters telling them how much state sales tax they owed, would be a big logistical challenge, even if the company did want to comply with the law.

Instead, Amazon responded the same way it has in the past, by terminating the participation of Colorado residents in the Amazon Associates program, just like it did in Rhode Island and North Carolina. (A similar law in New York was challenged with a lawsuit. Presumably, Amazon would end its New York program if they lose the lawsuit.) Colorado lawmakers seemed surprised or dismissive of the program termination in their state, calling it a publicity stunt. Apparently, these legislators can’t be bothered to research the laws they are passing before they vote on them or they would have seen what happened in the other states that did the same thing.

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