When I first joined Associated Content, I couldn’t wait to see my clout index increase. By employing the following techniques, I’m happy to report that my clout index catapulted from 1 to 4 in only two short weeks. It shot to 5 a couple of weeks after that.
If you just joined AC, hopefully these tips will do the same for you.
Create great titles…
…that are punchy and pithy. Make them interesting enough for readers to want to know more. You clicked on this article because it was something pertinent that you wanted to know more about, right?
If your headline doesn’t lend itself to succinctness, at least make the first 3 or 4 words count. Depending on where your article’s headline is eventually listed, like in AC’s library page, the ending may be abbreviated due to space constraints. So the beginning may be the only portion of your title you have to entice readers to read on.
Walk the line between good taste and tabloid-tacky headlines, though. I originally titled one piece “My Night with Dave Chappelle,” knowing it would intrigue folks.
By the time it made it to press, the AC editors changed it to “My Night with Dave Chappelle on Tour,” which was really more appropriate. After all, the guy does have a wife and kids…
Also, make sure to check out the AC 101 page for other great articles that teach CPs how to write with search engine optimization and keyword density in mind.
Make subheads or the “Enter” key your friend.
Bolded section headers break up an article into readable chunks with good amounts of white space, and are more visually appealing. I don’t know about you, but my eyes go loopy at pages and pages of unbroken text, unless it is something truly fascinating to read. If not, my mind says, “Forget it!”
With subheads, the reader can quickly scan over subjects the piece contains and pick out the sections they want to read, the fervent desire being all of them. A fully read and thoroughly enjoyed article is more likely to draw great comments, five-star votes, e-mail referrals and thus more page views.
Hit the links!
As you’ve already noticed, I’ve hyperlinked and referenced a few of my other articles in this piece, and made it easy for readers to read their descriptions and click on them.
Don’t go crazy with links to the point where your whole article is baby blue, but at least capitalize on the attention one piece may get to promote your others.
Write amazing text.
Despite the temptation to throw together 10 so-so articles a day just to get paid more money right away, it’s better to focus on one extremely well-written piece.
Composing high-quality content will bode better for you in the long run in terms of your writing career, especially if you’re using your AC pieces to show editors who are hiring for freelance gigs. You only want your name to be associated with your best work, not pieces filled with grammatical and factual errors.
I spent days researching and writing the Dave Chappelle piece, much more than would seem warranted for only 10 bucks. Lo and behold, after bookmarking it to the high heavens (see more on bookmarking below), someone picked it up in the forum section of Dave Chappelle’s official website and called it decent!
Decent! Woo hoo!
Days of blood, sweat and tears for a “decent” review! I took it, though, because I know if I would’ve thrown together some ad hoc crap, no one would have passed it around.
Soon thereafter – only two weeks after joining AC – I saw my clout index increase to four. The Chappelle piece even made the “Editor Picks” page on AC, along with the fast freebie mentioned next. (Non sequiturs be damned!)
Write a few fast freebies…
…that are topical and short, but still well-written and researched. The day before the controversial 13th season of ‘Survivor’ premiered, I wrote a short piece called “Segregated ‘Survivor’ – Island Life in Black and White (and Yellow and Red)” and selected the No Payment/Non Exclusive option.
(As an aside, why would anyone ever choose the No Payment/Exclusive option?)
Anyhoo, lickety split the ‘Survivor’ piece was published, immediately after I clicked on the “save content” button. It was scary how fast that thing was published, but thank the good Lord that I had proofed it thoroughly.
It’s the same technique I used for “Why You Should Watch Grey’s Anatomy’s Season 3 Premiere,” which landed in the second position of Google News’ search results for “Grey’s Anatomy” and quickly helped to bump my clout index up to 5.
Bookmark your pieces to death.
As soon as you get that “You’ve been published!” email in your inbox, click on as many of the bookmarking sites listed beneath your article (and more) that your sleepy eyes will let you muster, letting the cyberworld know it’s out there to behold.
I always like to add the url of my most recent piece to Google, a site that performs “fresh crawls” at interval timings that they don’t disclose. But it must be pretty often, because the same day that I added my ‘Survivor’ piece to the fray, a sociology student found it pretty high up in Google News’ search results.
Even before you get published, whilst still in the seemingly lllooooonnnnngggg waiting-to-be published phase, go to the “My Content” tab, click on “e” to edit your piece, and click on the “e” to edit the photo you’ve attached.
Do this after you’ve found and attached a legal, spankin’ good image from some site like Google Images, Free Stock Photos, Geek Philosopher, Big Foto, First Gov, stock.xchng, Big Stock Photo or Getty Images and added a witty caption.
There’s a “keywords” spot there that allows you to enter terms that folks searching for images might stumble across, and therefore find your lovely article along with it.
Enter as many keywords or “tags” that are applicable and allowed when tagging both your images on AC and your articles when bookmarking them at other sites.
Some places only allow 3 to 5 tags, while others allow as many as possible. Make all your tags count, and make them topical.
For example, the tags for my “Top Ten Songs by James Blunt” piece were:
2006, baby, back to bedlam, blount, blunt, blunted, chasing time, Christian, Concert, death, girlfriend, High, james blunt, james blunt live, jimmy, marriage, military, new cd, petra, Nemcova, model, thin, laxatives, sex, tears and rain, tickets, Tour, wife, world tour, you’re beautiful
I entered these tags (where allowed on both the images and bookmarking sites) because I knew folks would be searching for James Blunt’s most recent touring info. Which reminds me, another great way to check what people are looking for is to…
…check the hot searches.
Find out exactly how to write your tags (and get inspiration for new articles) by checking out the sites that track what people are looking for.
Bookmark Yahoo Buzz and check it often to see exactly what search phrases folks are typing in quotes, then use those phrases as your tags, where appropriate.
Technorati also has a top searches and top tags list developed by tracking millions of blogs. And then there are the AOL Hot Searches, where you can click on the “more” arrow to see the top 20 hottest searches, and their change from the previous day.
Lastly, there’s dogpile and metaspy , a couple of sites that I don’t use all that often, but they do show you in real time the truly varied (and sometimes weirdly horrifying) stuff people are searching for. It might be worth a try to keep dogpile open in a small window as it scrolls and check for consistent themes on any given day.
Examine your search ranking and find the right forums…
…where users are most likely to comment on your piece. As soon as a news story related to a piece you’ve published hits the front page of AOL or Yahoo or any other prominent news provider’s page, leave a comment (if they offer a section to leave comments) that directs web-heads to your published piece.
Set up Google alerts to check for your byline (and/or article titles if your byline is a super-common name), so that you’ll get emails alerting you when your search ranking rises.
For example, I set up as-it-happens alerts on “Paula Neal Mooney” so that I could tell how effective it was to seed my stories on the sites listed beneath my published articles in AC.
This is how I found out that the Dave Chappelle piece had been mentioned in his site’s forum. It helps to know what’s worked in the past, so that you can duplicate your marketing efforts (which you should spend as much time on as writing) in the future.
Use your AC profile to market your articles.
Personally, I tend to be more intrigued by (and therefore more apt to click on) profiles that contain the writer’s photo, but I understand the many reasons why some folks don’t want to put their faces out there.
Photo or not, you can use your AC profile page to market your work efficiently. Use all three Affiliation URL spots to lead people somewhere, either to your blog, online business, or other articles. My third affiliation says “Celebrity Stuff,” and users who click on it are led straight to my latest published AC article about a celeb.
I even use the “Interests” field to list the exact title of my favorite article of the moment, so that when users click on it, they are taken to AC’s search page, with my piece near or at the top. It’s just one more prominent spot to place your articles’ headlines for those who don’t scroll all the way down your CP page.
Write from your gut.
This is really the numero uno tip on creating content that people want to read. If you’re passionate about a subject, it will translate on the screen. Sometimes I write from AC’s suggested topics, yet other times I go in a completely different direction and pour out the piece that’s nagging at my insides.
Like this puppy that you’re reading now, which made my fingers fly across the keyboards, amazing me over 1,600 words later.
I find that my writing flows better when I’m heeding my “Holy Ghost-writer,” and I’m more apt to do intensive (okay, obsessive!) research about the kinds of things that interest me the most. Joseph Campbell wasn’t lying when he said to follow your bliss. I say follow it all the way to the bank!
Write to suit the AC editors.
Make everyone’s life easier by creating error-free content that editors don’t have to spend much time correcting.
I also notice that the AC folks tend to favor paying for service pieces like “Ten Legitimate Ways for Stay-at-Home Moms to Make Their Own Money,” “You Cheated – Should You Confess?” and “40 Things to Do Before You Turn 40” as opposed to self-aggrandizing stuff.
For example, my Cleveland/Akron Family magazine reprint, “Are Smart Stay-at-Home Moms Wasting Their Brains?” was deemed one of the rejected “op-ed pieces on well covered or general topics” with “too short of a shelf-life” by AC, so I published it for free just to get the page views.
Ironically, it ended up as a “Editor Picks” selection on AC’s home page for days.
Get on the front page of AC…
…by not only writing the kind of compelling text that will land you there, but by emailing “an image of yourself that is at least 300 pixels wide to firstname.lastname@example.org,” which, according to AC’s blog, will give you “a strong chance of being featured on our front page.”
Oh, those CMs are loving me right about now…but to redeem myself for filling up their email box with put-me-on-the-front-page-please pix is the last tip to…
…pitch your piece and move on.
Yes, you’ve spent days and days writing your brilliant baby, and you can’t wait for it to be published. Literally.
In your impatience, you shoot off an annoying email (I’m embarrassed to say I know this from firsthand knowledge) containing the text of your piece to AC’s admin, hoping to move your article to the front of the hopper.
Calm down. Instead, go watch some TV, take a walk, or talk to your friends. Eventually, those swamped CMs with get back to you with the exciting “Offer from Associated Content,” or the let-em-down gently, empathetically titled “Reply from Associated Content.”
In the meantime, doing other stuff will provide you with the inspiration to get that next article written and in the hopper – one so fascinating that folks will click on it and send your clout index into the stratosphere!
Paula Neal Mooney is editor-in-chief of Real Moms magazine.