Online writing requires an entirely new set of skills. If you've written for a print publication, you might assume that moving to the Internet is an easy transition.
But it's not.
The Internet is an evolving and ever-changing place. There's also a lot of competition, from all over the world. If you want to survive, you need to adapt.
As you find your way around, you'll inevitably stumble or wander down some dark alleys. You'll also lose a lot of time in the process. When this happens, you need to quickly pick yourself up, salvage what you can and just keep going.
There are certain things I've learned the hard way. Having this knowledge beforehand would have saved me a lot of trouble.
Here are some of the biggest blunders I've made to date.
The Duplicate Content Penalty
Coming from a journalism background, I assumed that once an article was published, you were free to move it anywhere else, and continue to earn from your work. So, naturally, I was stunned to receive a duplicate content penalty on something I had previously written.
This was not a plagiarized article. It was my very own, a copy of an article that previously appeared in an offline publication. So, I thought I was safe. It had slipped my mind that there was also an online version of this publication, which is what triggered the duplicate copy warning.
However, this will never happen again. That's because I have a much better understanding of how online writing works.
Choosing the Wrong Writing Platform
As I was branching out from one, very well-run revenue-share site, I landed on another. It was brand new. Despite a nagging feeling that something wasn't right, I got swept along in the enthusiasm. Some very experienced, and successful, writers and affiliate marketers had also found this site. They were really excited, so I assumed it had to be good.
What I didn't do was listen to my gut. The rules at this platform were a bit heavy handed, but I convinced myself this was because of high quality-control standards. I had to jump through a lot of hoops to publish. In retrospect, I think this is what kept me there, and brought me back at a later date to add a lot more content. Working so hard to be approved, I didn't want my efforts to be wasted.
My two mistakes were jumping headlong into this site, and not paying attention to an inner voice, which tried to warn me that maybe this wasn't such a good deal, after all.
I'm now in the process of moving the bulk of my articles elsewhere. This is a frustrating and time-consuming process. In order to avoid the dreaded duplicate content penalty, I'm very careful to make sure each article has disappeared from the search engines. I've also had to rewrite a handful of them, with a totally new focus.
Even if I can move all of the text, there's still the matter of finding new photos and replacing Amazon modules.
Take my advice. Avoid having to move your articles at all costs.
Writing Without a Plan
It's tempting to jump in and write about your favorite topics, or writing about anything that pops into your head. But this isn't an efficient use of your time, unless your goal is publishing copy purely for pleasure.
In order to attract readers, and earn an income, you need to write about popular topics. Then, you need to use relevant keywords, so your articles appear when people do an Internet search.
Unless the platform enjoys a lot of organic search engine traffic, you'll need to promote your articles. Even if it does, you'll still need to do the same.
Paying No Attention to Promotion
One of my biggest mistakes was not promoting my work, especially in the beginning of my online writing career.
I'd simply write and wait for visitors to find my article. This worked on one site, but didn't work on any of the others. I've since learned that promotion is at least as important as publishing.
It's also risky to rely on search engines alone to bring you visitors, as many writers at Squidoo found out in 2013, when the site was penalized for having too many spam-filled articles. (However, it appears to be staging a comeback.)
What I should have done was hit the publish button, and then get busy promoting. I started using Pinterest late in the game. In the last year or so, it's become one of the best ways to help people find your article.
There is also evidence that people are now using the site as a visual search engine. Pinterest, with more than 70 million pinners, has become so popular that we almost can't afford to ignore it.