In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Blog, and the Word was Blog. From the ashes of this great phenomenon known as Blogging exploded thousands of human creatures called Bloggers, all scattering to find their place on the new virtual planet known as the Internet. One of these little creatures who managed to find a tiny realm somewhere in the vast corner of this world was me (alias Skye Spitfire) and so began my humble kingdom, Outside the Box!
Like all creations, Outside the Box has had its fair share of ups and downs, but it continues to grow, expanding its empire wherever possible. Often, as I sit back and look upon my domain, I enjoy reports from my messengers, which inform me how OTB has simultaneously entertained, intrigued, affronted and inspired; successfully written missions have invited applause or sometimes downright offended others; rival blogging kingdoms have launched attacks or sought an alliance. But whatever the outcome of each blog post, I am happy to say that every single one has been the result of my own thoughts, opinions and experiences, and it is with pleasure that I reminisce on that fateful day last summer when I decided to execute the idea of sharing my thoughts with the world wide web, all thanks to that humorously controversial dating website, Plenty of Fish.
For those oblivious to this site, Plenty of Fish is one of those dating websites used by millions of users throughout the world. You set up a profile, upload a picture and BAM! The man/woman of your dreams messages you, you exchange pleasantries, meet for coffee and, next thing you know, you’re married with kids and living happily ever after. Of course, in reality, after the ‘uploading-your-picture’ part, the rest is completely false for the majority of users. Having spent the best part of three years on and off this website (the first year fruitlessly searching for someone and being at the brunt of shameless users and their outrageous messages, the second year researching other people’s ‘horror’ stories, and the third subconsciously collecting information that helped me analyse the site) I thought it might be quite entertaining to write about what I had discovered.
But how to do it? Submit an article for a magazine? Who would take it? Write about it on my Facebook page? That would limit my audience. That’s when the idea of blogging came to me. I had always enjoyed writing. I had also always enjoyed voicing my opinions (much to the consternation of those around me); above all, I enjoyed having a readership, and what better way to gain readership than having access to millions of readers throughout the world? So I googled ‘blogging websites’, signed up with Wordpress, wrote some 2000 words entitled, ‘The Truth about Plenty of Fish’ and uploaded the file. The response it received was astounding: comments trickled in, some roaring with approval, others bleating with indignation; a steady stream of hits and followers appeared on a daily basis; the article was quoted in YouTube videos, review websites and various web forums. This blog post also kickstarted my career as a Freelance Writer, where I now work professionally as a Blogger, Content Writer, SEO Specialist, Ghostwriter and Artist Statement Writer. Who would have guessed that a personal review of a dating website could lead to such productive avenues?
As time went on, I followed it up with a diverse collection of blog posts, never limiting myself to one category, but writing about anything that took my interest or a particular experience I might have had. These included posts on the challenges society faces in conventional issues; a disparaging article concerning the sloppy performance of the England football team in 2012 (this post also went viral, with a hit count of 666 on its first day – an ominous number if ever there was one!). There was a post dedicated to my beloved Jack Russell’s untimely passing due to a malignant tumour; reviews of the website, Gumtree, and that remarkable, under-rated role-playing game, Suikoden, also followed. More recently, I wrote about the horrifying, tragic murder of the soldier in Woolwich, which resonated with a number of people and was shared globally on Facebook and Twitter.
Anything that strikes a chord with me is something I will write about and this is what I feel to be the very essence of my writing. I have never been formally trained or educated on how to write; there is merely a love of writing and a desire to share my thoughts with others, not through the bonus of financial gain or positive reviews, but through an aspiration to make myself heard. In an increasingly materialistic world, I am fortunate to be able to indulge in what drives me passionately, rather than profitably; I would urge anyone with a love of writing to do the same, for if you are passionate enough, driven enough and dedicated enough, you will find that writing is one empire you can expand beyond horizons you would never have dreamed of.
In professional terms, one aspect of writing that has required some research is SEO: Search Engine Optimization, which allows your article to be brought to the attention of search engines. Of course, it’s always important to remember how writing for personal pleasure should always take precedence for the ardent writer; it is imperative to frequently update your own personal blog if you embark on a professional voyage that doesn’t coincide with your own individual appetite. After all, you don’t want your whole view of writing to become dulled by writing for a toilet roll company, especially when getting hyped up about toilet rolls proves to be an impossible feat – even the most steadfast writer would soon wilt under having to write 15 SEO articles a month on ‘The Benefits of BogRolls Toilet Rolls’. Whether for yourself or for a company, below I have included the three SEO tips that I believe to be most effective and I hope they will assist you on your very own journey into the world of blogging – so put on your thinking crown, remember to always stay true to yourself and get writing!
1. Use Keywords! SEO articles rely heavily on keywords: for example, if someone is searching for ‘Fun events London’ be sure to include this phrase somewhere in the article, several times. Be careful not to write it out too many times though and make sure it flows with the writing; otherwise it will put the reader off!
2. Connect With The Reader! It may sound obvious, but this is crucial for SEO writing. The readers aren’t stupid; they will be able to tell if there is a mechanical feel to your writing – such as littering keywords all over the place without any substance. Write your article with the same energy as you would if you were sitting with a friend and talking to them over a cup of tea – the result is much more personal and, therefore, effective.
3. Break It Up! Break up your article into paragraphs, along with catchy sub-headings for each one. This makes it easier to read and gives it a more interesting structure. Readers will be engaged, not just via content, but through presentation.
Sarah Brownlee is a freelance journalist and blogger. To read Sarah's blog, visit Outside The Box.