|Writing Web Content|
Tips, Tricks, Ideas?
I stumble everytime I get to this part. I do my research first (visiting other sites in my niche), and find stuff out there. But when it comes time to actually write for my own site, it is very hard for me.
Is there anything I should be doing, or looking at? BTW, I would like to write my own for now and maybe look at hiring out down the road.
I should put in here that this is for the Affiliate Sites that I am building, so hopefully this stays in the Aff Marketing section.
How about grabbing an article about a completely different subject, then re-writing it for your subject?
Not a long term thing but if you just need a few pages it can work.
Suppose, for example, you wish you write an engaging article on the purchase of a specific product, such as mobile phones. You could find an article on buying a similar type of product, aimed at the same demo' and price range and go from there.
Here ya go, pasted off someone's site (hope they don't mind..)
"There are literally thousands of choices when it comes to choosing a watch, and the selection can be overwhelming. Where does one begin? How much should you pay? What quality elements are important? In the end your choice may simply come down to what catches your eye, or which watch has that indescribable look or feature that you have to have. But to help you get started, we've put together a quick guide to sorting out the criteria:"
OK but you're selling mobile phones, so..
"There are literally hundreds of choices when it comes to choosing a mobile phone, and the selection can be overwhelming. Where does one begin? How much should you pay? What elements or features are important? In the end your choice may simply come down to what catches your eye, or which phone has that indescribable look or feature that you have to have. But to help you get started, we've put together a quick guide to sorting out the criteria:"
Including time to find a paragraph about watches, that took me 30 seconds max.
It's by no means an ideal solution and I would suggest further alterations than I have shown here, however for building the structure and inspiration it's a nifty technique.
You are of course dealing with a completely different trade or topic so no-one is likely to chase you or be upset. Be aware though that you can search the net for your own content - without significant changes the original site owner may well notice.
Hope that helps.
Thanks for the tip, its something I have never thought of.
Running a little close to stealing intellectual property what?
GuitarZan, what aspect of writing content for your site do you find difficult?
I'm not sure I understand the question, here...
Here's a big hint: After you're done reading and making little notes apply what you've learned to your own life experiences and then write about THAT.
What makes you unique and who you are is your life experience, your personal take on life, your you-ness.
If there's a you in there, especially a you with some miles on him/her, that alone should be the source of 10,000 stories about how you have or would or might approach an issue, event, a decision, etc.
Are you there? Are you willing to let you hang out? Can you live with other people judging you? Do you mind telling one on yourself? Are you able to laugh about yourself and therefore able to blend wit and humor in your writing?
Am I getting anywhere with you GZ?
Trust yourself, be honest with yourself and with people, see yourself in others, take a little risk, be humble even whilst you are being other than humble - i.e., always be prepared to be humbled, it shows great humanity - be outrageous somteimes without being offensive, realize there will always be someone who is offended if for no other reason than you being there.
Lighten up. This stuff is fun. Every day you get out of bed you're a volunteer, not a victim. Give it up. Go through whatever suffering, doubt(?) you haven't gone through that blocks you, clean up any wrongs you may have done that have you bound - this is all about freeing up energy and having the forces of the universe line up in support.
Did I say lighten up? All this enlightenment crap sometimes comes out as pretty heavy material.
Bottom line: Have fun or get about what you really like doing. Life's short. Once you have kids you don't own your life for about 25 years, so if you don't have kids there's no reason for you not being primed to rock in your writing.
Unless, of course, you're not getting enough sleep, your not eating right, you're hanging about people who are lost and going along with that ride.
Okay, enough for one read. Pick any one point of what I've written and go with it. Soak it up, hang out with it, if it's real for you (don't borrow my spirituality or gestault, just use it as a tool for opening cans) then great.
OBTW - I just wrote for the last 10 minutes off the top of my head. Was it at all helpful to you? Could you stop reading it?
Think, but don't think too much. The answer is staring you in the face. (Actually, the answer is staring out from your face. Go look in a mirror for about 20 minutes straight and you'll begin to get what I just said.)
Pibs technique is plagiarism, pure and simple. It's fine for practice, but if you actually use that content, the author would have every right to accuse you of plagiarizing his or her work. For the record, Merriam -Webster's defines "plagiarize" as
"to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source"
It doesn't have to be an exact copy, but if it's derived from another source, it's plagiarized. IMO, always immoral and usually illegal. And for the record, if I did a search and found you using the copy in Pibs' post, I would most definitely ask you to take down the palgiarized content from your site (friendly-like at first, assuming that it was an honest mistake and you didn't know any better). If, after fair and friendly warning, you persisted, I would contact your ISP to get you kicked off and Google DMCA people to get your site banned. Sorry, but I don't like plagiarists.
Apologies to Webwork for not lightening up as suggested ;-)
I will usually go through a few good sites on my subject, research it, and then write content. Sometimes I "borrow" ideas. I never write word for word.
All the Best,
Done as shown above, yes, I was making a point but that's why I said:
"..I would suggest further alterations than I have shown here, however for building the structure and inspiration it's a nifty technique."
Structure, inspiration, not direct copying. It helps pull the article together, gives an idea about effective density of keywords, intro, middle, ending, call for action, all that kind of thing.
The "let yourself hang out" is a good suggestion, again you could combine it. There's little point hanging out with no structure, that's just a mess.
If you borrow ideas and do not give attribution, in most contexts, that is plagiarism, whether you copy it word for word or not. Again, Merriam-Webster's (this time the def for the transitive, rather than intrans. usage) says
plagiarize: to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use(another's production) without crediting the source
There is definitely a grey area at a certain point. If I read ten things, set them aside and start writing from my own head, I'm probably okay. However, if something I write is substantially similar to one of my sources, I'm moving to dangerous ground.
As a scholar, the tendency is to give attribution for anything that remotely comes from anything else. In other contexts this is less stringent. I would have undergraduate students that would misunderstand this all the time. They would find one good source and essentially summarize it with a few little factoids from other sources, give citations in footnotes, and pass it off as a research paper. Of course, they meant no harm, they just didn't have a clue what research was, but what they did is borderline plagiarism (they did cite the sources, but they passed off the paper as their own). Without the footnotes, it's not borderline anymore. It's a derivative summary, which AFAIK is plagiarism.
I'm not a lawyer, so I can't say whether it's a legal violation of copyright (though my understanding is that it would be).
If you were to follow Pibs' suggestion, you would indeed be plagiarizing. It's okay to read others' material to inform and inspire your own writing - in fact, most people do - but your work must be substantially different in wording, content, and structure. To follow along theirs, paragraph by paragraph, and plug in a substitute word or change a phrase here and there would be copying.
To ensure your work is your own, you want a unique slant or perspective on an idea. If you want to make the same points as everyone else is making about a particular topic, you can, but you need to say it in a very different way.
If you're really stuck, you might try this technique: find an "expert" in the subject, and interview him or her. Transcribe the interview, clean it up a little bit, and publish the transcript as an interview article. This will ensure a fresh, "real" perspective on the topic.
As a writer, I regularly google unique key phrases from my work to make sure nobody is copying my stuff. And, after dealing with the Unethical Client from Hell who swore he wrote his own web content and just wanted me to "edit it," (and he really stole it from all his competitors) I also google key phrases from client-supplied material to make sure, in fact, that they are the rightful intellectual property rights owner of the material.
People are fed up with others stealing their material. I'm not suggesting you are planning on doing the same - I believe you're honestly trying to figure out how to get the job done ethically - but be aware that people are fed up with intellectual property theft and are now regularly checking to make sure it isn't happening to them.
"If you want to make the same points as everyone else is making about a particular topic, you can, but you need to say it in a very different way."
That, in some ways, is my point - it's not the same topic, it's a different topic, and at risk of repeating myself, I did say to alter it significantly.
Sometimes you have to repeat yourself to be understood ;-)
Actually, I'm mostly reacting to the examples you gave of how to do it. Those are plagiarism, pure and simple. I understand that you did those quickly, but I'm just trying to point out that to be legal, you need to do a lot more work than that.
At the risk of repeating myself, if you read ten articles, set them aside and from your own mind write a new article, you're probably in the clear for the sorts of things you're talking about (it might still be plagiarism in an academic setting).
If you read one article, paste it into your word processor, change it around to fit your product and reword it bit, it's plagiarism. If you plagiarize someone who doesn't have lawyers on retainer, it's (IMO) still immoral, but you won't pay a big price. If you plagiarize someone with a lawyer on retainer, you could be in for serious pain.
OK, I understand that but my point is not to use the same article but to simply use words like clay.
if you're staring at a blank screen or a ball of clay it can be hard to get going, hence our friends problem.
If you want to do an article about renovating your house and an article about repairing a crashed hang-glider gives you structure and form, you can mold it into your own little work of art.
A good article has elements, an intro, a deeper intro, bite sized elements, keyword density, details, wrap-up and overview, call to action etc.
Using such a structure to help you get going is no more copying than saying that once someone has done a statue of a human figure, no-one else can do a statue with a head, arms, butt and smile.
Perhaps this is why so many statues have the left arm missing, because someone once did a statue complete with left arm?
You know, I did specifically point out, perhaps not clearly enough, that you shouldn't use exact turns of phrase and so on, precisely because people might indeed notice from a search or whatever.
Again, we ARE talking about a different topic, so it will organically grow into something else. An article on crashed hang-gliders can remind you about photographs for insurance - you could think "Mmm, suggesting some 'before and after' photos for the renovation would be good.." etc.
The article can mention "Of course hang-gliders don't have a black box, so if the worst happens you will need to search for clues why it happened.."
You could think "Hey, since this article is about building a new fireplace, how about building in a fireproof safety box for important documents, well away from the intended fire but built from fire-proof brick? In case the worse happens?" and add the idea to your article.
I think the chap's problem was he didn't WANT to do a basic rehash of existing articles about his topic - by doing a complete rehash of an article on a completely different topic you can have the best of both worlds - a completely fresh article on YOUR topic, without directly copying someone else's - BECAUSE it's a completely different topic.
Check. I geddit. Obviously, everyone is inspired by others (shoulders of giants and all that).
Inspiration is one thing. Theft is another. As someone who has read some undergraduate papers, I can attest that many people don't have the foggiest idea where the line between the two is.
As someone who often assists his uni' lecturer fiance with her student's papers, I know exactly what you mean.
And I can only say that's not what I meant.
Ok here is the deal.
Say I don't know jack about depression. I find a few good sites about it, print out the notes that I need. Read them over and take the understandings of depression from them, and then create articles written in my own words.
How does that sound?
|Say I don't know jack about depression. |
I don't want to be too controversial here so I'll add out the outset that I'm a journalist and I have a print media background. My comments should be taken in that context.
I recognise that you don't have to be able to write a book about a topic to be qualified to write a website about it. But you should - at least - be sufficiently familiar with the subject matter to be able to write an 300 word article for your local, free newspaper.
If you can't do that, maybe you shouldn't be writing on that topic.
Depression is a topic that people in need or relatives of people in need may well be trying to look up on the internet. They may not be web-savvy, they may not be able to look at a page and tell whether it was put together by an accredited body or by a designer working from home.
If you don't know your way around a topic - at least a little - before you start writing a page about it, how are you going to differentiate between the sources that you read to prepare your article?
What happens if you read an inaccurate fact or statistic in one of your sources which is never mentioned in any of the other sources so you can't cross-reference it? What essentially are you doing to verify the accuracy of the article you are publishing?
Reading a few websites qualifies as possibly the worst way of verifying anything. At least if you know a little about a topic, you'll know enough for alarm bells to start ringing when you come across something which is over-simplified, exaggerated or just plain made up.
Okay, so it's not the end of the world if you choose to research and write an article about hot air ballooning in this way - though there's still plenty of opportunity to commit some real howlers and expose yourself as an obvious non-authority.
But something as serious as depression which impacts on people's lives? Do you really want to write a webpage about that without at least some prior exposure to the issues involved? Without reading one book? Without talking to a single professional?
If you don't know jack then why don't you write an article about how you performed research online to learn more?
If this doesn't register then I'm beginning to think that this is simply another thread about "how much I can rip off without being too obvious".
On that score I can assure you: people will get sued and will be made to pay.
How do I know?
I'm a lawyer. I'm planning on 'doing research' about suing people who rip off other people's work. It's not that I want to, it's that I plan to because I know what's coming and I've got a plan for dealing with it.
Then, when I'm done, I'm going to write about the experience ;-)
Who knows? You do the right thing and it tends to work out. I write. It helps people. I make a few bucks. Someone sees my writing. Rips it off. I sue them. I make a few more bucks. I write about my experience suing rip off artists. People contact me to seek my legal assistance. I make a few more bucks.
Which path do you want to travel?
It's a long life. Choose your path wisely.
I don't know if people think that I am ripping people off. I have every right to do research on other sites. As I am doing research, I am essentially learning about depression. I don't see a problem with building a Mini Site around depression, listing some of the treatments, giving some background info on depression, etc.
I am not out to rip anything off.
|On that score I can assure you: people will get sued and will be made to pay. |
Not me. I am not copying anything. What do you do if you want to learn about something? You either read a book on it, or you go to the net most of the time. Same thing here. I am not copying anyone.
I don't know about the suing part, I see sites copied word for word all of the time, and I would never do that. From what I have read most Affs that build a site like this, do research first, and then write. I am doing the same thing.
Nough' said... I had to say that, but seriously why do you people think I am stealing.
BTW I am not out to win an award on content. Just present facts in an interesting way that makes the reader want to stay, and hopefully buy something from the Merchant.
I just want to present real info to people or friends of people that have depression, and hopefully sell them a Merchant's product in the mean time. If anything I may get them away from using expensive and side effect ridden drugs!
To the person that talked about cross referencing... I see what you mean. I have gone through a few major sites, and if there is anything I have found, it is that we really do not have a definitive answer on what causes depression and other things about it. So... basically I provide some standard facts, and also talk about other things.
All the Best,
P.S. What would be the ideal way to write a small site on depression then, or for that matter, any site I am doing, where I start from 0?
The only way I know to write an article on a subject I am unfamiliar with is by doing research. I would stick to authoritative sources.
I read 10 publications put them down take a break to let what I have learn sink in. Then I go back and write about what I have learned without referring back to the publications.
I repeat the above to fine tune my articles, cross referencing if applicable.
|Trust yourself, be honest with yourself and with people, see yourself in others, take a little risk, be humble even whilst you are being other than humble - i.e., always be prepared to be humbled, it shows great humanity - be outrageous somteimes without being offensive, realize there will always be someone who is offended if for no other reason than you being there. |
Well said WebWork.
5stars posted while I was writing, so this is a bit repetitive
I don't know if people think that I am ripping people off.
Absolutely not! I have been assuming all along that you and Pibs have no desire to rip people off, but that Pibs gave some bad advice or expressed himself poorly in the first post. I was trying to add the disclaimers and warnings.
What would be the ideal way to write a small site on depression then
5stars advice is basically what I said before - read ten articles/books, set them aside and write from memory. Verify that you haven't inadvertently copied just because you have good memory.
You want it to be an affiliate site, so citing your sources is great - send people to Amazon to buy the books that you find useful. Using this method you should make money, be a valuable service/resource and be in no danger of infringing on copyright.
- Since this is an area where bad advice can literally kill someone, be very careful about what you say. I believe Pubmed is now publicly available (I've always had access through my university, so I'm not sure), which will give you full-text versions of tons of academic research on health and medical topics. I just spent an entire day there reading up on a subject for an affiliate site I'm working on. I found that the advice that I was giving based on seemingly authoritative non-academic sources was, in fact, mostly BS. This will exclude a couple of affiliate merchants I was planning to use because I now know their product will not work for my target audience. However, I believe that I have at least put together a good resource page in layman's language. I'll pay a small price for having so many outbound links, but I believe my page is the one people will link to when they realize how turgid the academic articles I link to are. I'm no medical researcher, so it's based entirely on secondary research, but I think it's a useful page. On my own, I had a three sentence page. Now, after reading a dozen websites and a half-dozen scholarly articles, I have a pretty good page. I'm no expert, but AFAIK I have the best non-scholarly page on the subject (and now it's probably too long).
Well, I'm not sure that was helpful, but at least it was long-winded!
[edited by: ergophobe at 5:05 pm (utc) on Sep. 11, 2004]
If you add nothing new to the knowledge or experience then, truly, you are adding 'jack'. You might as well run a slice and dice application against a knowledgebase that spits out snippets.
If you are simply regurgitating facts - facts that someone else produced by performing real research - then will you provide a proper reference to the source material and authority - or just further remove the reader from important information, such as "Is this data valid? How were the numbers generated? Was there bias in the study? Etc."
Are you going to 'borrow' someone else's definition of "What is depression?" or "What are the signs and symptoms?" Since you don't know jack (your term) then isn't that necessary?
Oh, "no, not really, because..." you in fact now know jack because you've not read someone else's definition? Then, 'your knowledge' is merely 'their knowledge'. How do you know their knowledge is valid? Are they 'experts'? How do you know their expertise and competence before you go spreading misinformation?
Okay, so in fact your source material was written by an expert, confirmed with real credentials. If they are experts, and you are merely parroting 'their criteria for diagnosing depression' will you then give them/the source material credit (a link to their website or book)? If you are not merely parroting their words, but are instead - to make it new material (not a rip off) - what words will you change? How will you change the wording? Do you think that the experts chose his/her wording and phrasing 'precisely', to set it down with some scientific specificity? So, you alter their precise description to avoid plagiarism/copyright violation and what do you do to the state of 'real' knowledge? I submit you degrade it.
If you are getting any of this then you are ready to write BECAUSE you have to get that in areas that YOU are not expert that the process of 'creative' regurgitation - without proper citation to the source material by hotlink - is a DISSERVICE, and one that someone of conscience - which I'll assume is you since I don't know you and wouldn't want to be overly critical - just wouldn't do, especially if the subject matter is one of say, mental illness, such as depression, which can involve people who are severely ill, may be looking for answers, and if they don't get medically accurate answers and timely care they might kill themselves, as depressed people are known to do
Not to put too fine a point on it.
Think you have hit a nerve? Yes. My wife suffers from chronic, recurring major depression, mixed type. It's genetic. It's nasty. It can and has tried to be fatal. I'm not an expert by license but I'm an expert by experience.
So, next time, before you start thinking about how you might make a buck by huckstering your 'knowledge' in order that you might put up an affiliate website consider that in the wrong case - some thread of misinformation or some element of frustration arising from inaccurate or incomplete information - may have real consequences.
So, you want to do it anyway? You want to write about matters that are life and death, as illness or anything else of real life consequence, then do it the right way. Quote source material with proper credit and a hotlink to the material.
You see, you just might get sued for more than copyright violation in the right/wrong situation if you start to offer misguided medical information. You 'opine' and you might find yourself being investigated by various enforcement authorities.
To return to my original premise, it would be my strongest suggestion that if you want to 'make it your own material/content' (which is often of great value since people DO respond to 'real life stories') you might draw upon your own circle of friends and family to offer stories about 'how depression came about and was helped in John/Jane's life' (name changed to protect the innocent.
You strike me as someone of conscience, otherwise you wouldn't even bother to ask, so don't draw the wrong conclusion about my statements to you. Rather, the subject matter of this thread has multiple issues, many of them of considerable import and therefore a level of gravity in responding is not inappropriate, albeit it might not be welcome.
I doubt GuitarZan is 'huckstering' - I don't know anyone who has ever been inspired to write about depression unless they are dealing with it in some way (either depressed or trying to help a friend or family member who is depressed).
Let's assume that Zan is trying to offer a valuable resource and have some affiliate stuff to defray expenses.
Over twenty years ago, I was deeply depressed for a couple of years. A good resource would have been nice, but a bad resource could have killed me and cheated me out of the last twenty great years. A site on depression isn't a site on hair coloring, that's for sure.
For some of the best info out there about writing content for the web that helps ROI and conversion rates go to [grokdotcom.com...]
Read through the archives for info that is priceless and if you sub out writing pick some of the good articles to send to your copywriter to be sure they are on the right track.
One of my favorite resources, enjoy! Linda
Ok guys, I will respond in detail when I get some time.
Basically I am going to be doing this my way. I am sorry to hear about your wife, WebWork, and I know that you have deep seated feelings in this. No Problem... I understand.
Will my 5 page depression site be totally original? No. You will definitely be able to find the stuff talked about original. Am I trying to get people to click through to the Merchant and buy? Yes. I won't point people to Merchants who do not tie in with my site though, just to make a quick buck.
Again, I am not out to spend days upon days upon days researching. I put facts on my site, and don't recommend that the user do anything. If anybody actually wants to see the main page where I talk about depression basics, Sticky me and I will be glad to show you what I wrote.
Thanks Ergophobe for stickying me.
All the Best,
I made my point earlier that both I and the chap enquiring would not wish to abuse other's work - he would not have bothered asking and I would not have bothered answering if either of us considered a raw re-write acceptable.
I think that's understood but appreciate it being made clearer than a see-thru transparant thing with the light behind it.
I have not responded regarding the depression aspect for that is a whole new ball-game.
Detailing some of the features or benefits of your merchant during a chatty pre-sell is fine and actually of value if the visitor is interested in such a product. Offering a resource of an expert level in health, safety, legal or other such areas without expert knowledge? Best avoided other than personal stories or simply "Check out merchant.com"
As an affiliate you're not, generally, expected to be the expert, the service supplier or product provider, you're just pre-selling someone who is.
My advice? Get to be a real expert at doing that.
Depression affects a lot of people, including indirectly. there's plenty of stories of that nature, I can give you one myself - my sister suffered depression, took a couple of overdoses. She recovered, was rebuilding her life.
She threw up in her sleep after a heavy meal and two glasses of wine, choked to death. Her damaged kidneys couldn't cope. Paracetomal (sp?) does that.
If you're satisfied your merchant has something genuine to offer, pre-sell them by all means. Come across as an expert on such a subject? No.
you can make a case that the experts don't really seem to know what they're doing, that the usual drugs have side effects etc. "If you're interested in alternative treatment, check out merchant.com" is about as far as I'd go.
Guitarzan, I think you are using the words "copying" and "researching" in a different way from how they are traditionally understood.
Copying is not just copying word-for-word. It's anything where you derive information from other sources without adding your own contribution. Preferably, any article should be substantially your own work. And any source which you use needs to be referenced unless what you are quoting is an indisputably proven fact. (Like the distance between the earth and the sun, for instance).
Researching is not reading a couple of other websites even if they seem authoritative. You need to know the sources of information behind what's written on those websites. Without that knowledge, you cannot evaluate the authority of what is written on those websites.
If you want to write about merchants who provide anti-depressants, you can assume the merchant websites to be reasonably authoritative about the companies that they represent, but not necessarily the topic. They may elide recent research conclusions, they may selectively choose statistics. They are, after all, in the business of selling their product. Few merchants are happy to publicise information which would result in a drop in sales.
If you are going to write hard facts about the latest research on depression, you are going to need to know how reliable the kind of information provided by any particular merchant website - or any other website for that matter - is.
At any rate if you are uncertain about any statement at all that you rewrite - ie. it's not an indisputable fact - then you need to refer to the source. And if a fact is single-sourced, you definitely need to refer to the source.
I think the majority of warnings in this thread are because the topic that you have mentioned is one which requires hard facts, substantiated evidence and thorough research.
If you want to write a new website about a subject of which you know jack and you don't want to do a lot of research, I suggest you pick a topic which is opinion-based - something like "What kinds of cuisine are popular / fashionable to cook at home?" - rather than fact based.