An Easy Guide to Keywords & SEO Research

One of the most confusing subjects online is SEO. There are thousands of different so-called “experts” telling you to do thousands of different things. Some of these suggested tweaks are legitimate and truly helpful. Some are utterly useless. Some actually do damage (both to your prospects and to the general quality of content online).

Are you confused by it all? Don’t be. Listen in to this week’s podast in which we provide an Easy Guide to Keyword Research. You’ll find that with a bit of effort and good old common sense, you will have all of your bases covered when it comes to being found in search engine results.

This topic was suggested by Chelsea Langan on Facebook (thanks, Chelsea!!). If you would like to recommend a topic for a future Online Writing Insider podcast, send an email to podcast-at-HubPages-dot-com!

Interview with a Winning HubPages Creative Writer

In November of this year, Marlin55 won the Creative Writing Grand Prize in the HubPatron of the Arts contest for The Agency, a short story with a splendid, cinematic feel. Marlin66 also won the HubPatron of the Arts Smashwords prize, and will have his work published as an ebook soon.

Read on for a peek at the Hubber behind the evocative stories!

First, congratulations on winning first place in the Creative Writing category in the HubPatron of the Arts contest! What inspired The Agency?

Thank you, Simone. There are so many talented writers here on HubPages and I feel honored to have taken part in the contest with them. I have to say that The Agency was influenced by a number of things. When I was a kid, I watched a lot of Alfred Hitchcock and read lots of detective magazines, so I combined those with my love for old Hollywood, and threw in a little skill.

You include quite a few twists and turns in the story, and it is definitely more complex than most of the short stories submitted as entries in the contest- how did you construct the plot? Did you start with an outline and build around it, or just write?

I’m what I call a “fat writer.” I write everything that comes to my mind. I’ve never used an outline or note cards to write a book because I find it too constrictive. So, I am one of those writers that just writes. My plot is always derived from a central question to be explored. I actually got that technique from writing scripts and found that it works very well when writing books and short stories. The central question in The Agency is when Murdoch asked Frank Spencer if he’d won an Oscar for his role in the movie, Midnight to Nowhere. Every scene that followed was built around that question.

You mention that you work in film, which helps to explain the cinematic elements in The Agency. How much would you say your career influences your writing?

A lot. There are so many details to pay attention to so that you get your idea across on film. Film is not a piece of linear work. There are many hooks involved using sound, music and facial expressions and those hooks are staggered to bring you effortlessly from one scene to the next. Editing film has taught me to visualize a scene in my head and to know where to place the hooks. I use the same technique for writing hooks into the scenes of a story.

When you write a new story, do you have any particular process you go through? How long does it typically take you to finish something?

Yes, I write “fat” and then go back and do a lot of editing. The time it takes depends on the length of the manuscript and how involved it is. I wrote the rough draft for The Agency in two days, but then spent a week editing it.

What advice would you have for other fiction writers on HubPages?

Stretch. After you finish a story, start another one and write that story even better. There is always room for improvement for all of us. Don’t be afraid to experiment because there is no such thing as failure.

I would like to add one more thing. And that is a great big thank you to my wife. I would not have made it this far without her love, support, and her help.

Online Freelance Writing Advice from Bard of Ely

Many writers join HubPages hoping to develop their online writing skills, meet some friends, develop a readership, and perhaps even make some money on the side, but in many cases, Hubbing has lead to a freelance writing career.  Believe it or not, every time you publish a Hub you are adding to an online portfolio of your work which may be discovered by reporters and editors. It is not unusual for Hubbers on our site to be contacted by individuals asking if they might be interested in doing some freelance work.

Bard of Ely is one such Hubber who has found a sporadic freelance writing career through his Hubs. His writing background is quite interesting, as are the Hubs he writes! It comes as no surprise that he has caught the attention of journalists and editors.

In the interview below, Bard of Ely shares a bit about his nearly lifelong writing career- and offers some tips for anyone interested in getting the odd freelance writing side job through HubPages. Enjoy!

From your bio, anyone can see that you are a very passionate writer. What got you started writing? And when did you begin to take on professional writing projects?

I started writing poetry and songs in my late teens way back in the late sixties. I was hoping to one day be a successful singer-songwriter and to impress the girls. I am still hopeful! But writing professionally for publications such as magazines and newspapers began in 1998 really when I was given a column in the Big Issue Cymru magazine for homeless people. I had had a column in Magic Saucer Junior UFO News back in 1979 and 1980 but that wasn’t for money and had a limited circulation. I also began writing my book Herbs of the Northern Shaman back in 1998 and got it published in 2002 by the American Loompanics Unlimited publishers. Sadly that company folded and my book went out of print but it is back in full colour, with all new photos and additional text republished by O-Books/Moon-Books.

Did you join HubPages hoping to develop your freelance writing career? What were your expectations?

I actually joined HubPages hoping to make some money. I was searching online for ways of doing so and hit upon the site so thought I would give it a go. I have to admit I didn’t make anything to well over a year but I stuck around because I liked the site. It gave me somewhere to showcase my work and I made some great friends there. I was also impressed with the quality of a lot of the Hubs.

Do you think freelance writers behave in any particularly different ways on HubPages, either in their writing styles or in the manner in which they present themselves in their bios?

Well, yes, there is a community spirit and regular Hubbers who communicate with their fellow writers and may well interview them (like you are doing now) or feature them in their own Hubs. I think there is more of this at HubPages. I also think that many Hubbers take more pride in their work here than they would at other sites or that writers do elsewhere. This is because HubPages gives us all so many features we can use in creating out hubs and it is all really easy to use. This is a big attraction of HubPages – it is simple to find out how to do things even if you are not much good with computers and the Internet. Bios here are very varied. Some I think are overdone when it comes to stuffing them full of links but maybe they get good traffic from doing that.

A couple weeks back, you posted in the forums about how you had been given a new paid job from one of your Hubs. Which Hub was it, and why do you think that Hub in particular got you a freelance gig?

It was my hub about the Kogi Guardians of the Heart of the World. It got me work because it was about a unique tribal people who had already had a TV documentary made about them many years ago and now their message is even more urgent and topical. Basically the spiritual leaders/shamans of these people called Mamos, who live on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Columbia still live by the pre-Columbian culture and wisdom that survived the Spanish invasion. They refer to us as the “Younger Brother” and believe they know the right way of living on the planet. Their understanding of ecology is a fine art and they are able to determine the state of the rest of the world from signs in flora and fauna, habitats and climatic conditions on their sacred mountain home. They were and are very worried about Climate Change because the amount of snow on top of their mountain is getting less and less, as is the cloud cover. Chris Everard, who is a film-maker and author, was researching the Kogi when he found my site. He liked my work and asked me to write for his Feed Your Brain magazine. I am currently working on another article for it and being interviewed as a guest on his radio show.

What advice would you give to Hubbers who would like to follow in your footsteps and get writing gigs through their Hubs?

Well, I suppose the best way is to write about specialist subjects that you may know about. Everyone has their own hobbies and stuff they are passionate about and this is where you should look for topics and inspiration for your Hubs. Try and become a niche writer. I have done a lot of hubs on conspiracy theories, on Tenerife, on wildlife, and recently on tropical fish. There are many Hubs I have written within those areas of research and interest. It can be anything really – whatever you most enjoy in life is what you know most about and what you should be able to write about and share.

The other advice I would give is work at promoting your hubs elsewhere on the Internet. Think of your Hubs as a showcase of your writing skills. Share the links to them on other sites such as forums and social networking sites. That helps get you the traffic. And most importantly don’t get discouraged and give up. Just keep on Hubbing!

How to Stay Safe Online

Online safety is a big issue these days- it is difficult to go a week without hearing about it the news somewhere or another! Buzz-worthiness aside, it is very important that protect yourself while writing on HubPages and poking around elsewhere.

At the behest of Tracy Robinson on Facebook, we’ve made this week’s Online Writing Insider all about online safety for writers. As we view it, there are three major facets of online safety:

  • Physical safety
  • The safety of your intellectual property
  • Mental safety

Listen in to the podcast for tips on staying safe in each of these domains.

Thanks for the great subject Tracy! If you have a suggestion for a future Online Writing Insider podcast, we would love to hear it! Send your thoughts to podcast-at-HubPages-dot-com.

Your Questions, Answered!

One of the many things that we are excited about this holiday season is about how well our Hubbers are doing on the Q&A section of HubPages. A recent report generated by our wonderful Ari Lamstein shows that a third of questions asked on our site get answered in less than 10 minutes, 70 percent get answered within 1 hour, 90 percent within 8 hours, and, in time, 99 percent of our questions are answered within the site!  Isn’t that wonderful?

So if you were wondering about the cure for hiccups, or the best way to bathe your cat, go ahead and ask here. Our marvelous Hubbers will have an answer for you, pretty darn soon, and they may even go ahead and write a Hub based on your question – after all, just in the last year alone, 3034 Hubs were written based on questions asked on the site.

Also, noteworthy: Q&As  do very well in traffic terms as well. In fact, the last year, collectively, all Q&As received more than one million page views. So the next time you have a question, or need advice, HubPages is an excellent resource for you.

Changes to Our Podcasts

If you pay frequent visits to the HubPages blog, you will know very well that we have been regularly sharing new installments in three different podcast series:

  1. Fascinating Fiction: A series dedicated to the reading of short fiction Hubs
  2. The Online Writing Insider: A series sharing tips and advice for the modern online writer
  3. Weekly Advice from Everyday Experts: A series exploring interesting subjects through the Hubs of some of HubPages’ best writers

Because we will be dedicating more time to developing features and programs that will debut in 2012, we are putting the Fascinating Fiction and Weekly Advice from Everyday Experts podcasts on hiatus.

That said, if you would like to submit a recording of your own reading to the Fascinating Fiction podcast (something many Hubbers have already done in the series), we would be happy to run it. So in effect, the Fascinating Fiction podcast can run as frequently or infrequently as you please.

We will continue to share new Online Writing Insider podcasts each week, so keep an eye out for new episodes, and as always, feel free to submit any suggestions and ideas via email to podcast-at-HubPages-dot-com!

Tributes to earnestshub

The HubPages community learned on Monday, with great sadness, that earnestshub, a HubPages member for 3 years, had passed away. A treasured member of the community, earnestshub had published 146 Hubs sharing his expertise and passion for automobiles, and had gotten to know a lot of us through his frequent interactions in the forums.

The outpouring of praise for earnestshub and sadness at our collective loss was immediate. Two Hubbers emailed and asked if there was another way those grateful to have known earnestshub could pay tribute to his warmth and wit, so we opened up a form for Hubbers to share their personal thoughts. Here are their eulogies, all sixty-three of them. (If you didn’t have the opportunity to submit a eulogy via the form, please feel free to do so in this post’s comments)

Continue reading

On Writing Well: On NOT Losing the Plot

Much of the time, when writing prose, we get so carried away by character development and writing style that we forget all about the central structure of our work – the plot. Plot (or story, it really is the same thing) plays a critical role within creative prose. In fact as a judge of the recent creative writing contest, I had to unwillingly set aside very well written pieces just because they had no discernible plot. Sticking to a story – however complex or simple, is critical to your writing.

Happily, the plot is the easiest of all the creative writing elements. It consists of:

  • Exposition: This is where the narrative universe is set up and made accessible. It is common to start with a gripping hook, or offer the back-story, and present the action and inner life of the main character.
  • Rising Action: This is where the drama begins to unfold. It mainly describes a conflict or complication, where the main character meets an obstacle, either internal or external where he or she is unable to get what they desire.
  • Climax: This is often the middle of the piece where the drama comes to a head – usually this consists of a confrontation between the main character and the obstacle, where it becomes obvious that the status quo, that we became aware of in the exposition, is no longer possible.
  • Falling action: This is where the dramatic narrative eases, where tensions begin to loosen, and the new, post-climatic world becomes available to the reader.
  • Resolution: This is where the writer knits up all loose threads into a beautiful pattern, offering the reader a sense of both closure and satisfaction.

The next time you sit down for some creative writing, consider these elements and how they manifest themselves in your work.

How to Find Good Topics

We recently asked for some Online Writing Insider topic suggestions on our Facebook page and received a couple of excellent recommendations. One came from Tracy Robinson, who was looking for some advice on How to Find Good Topics to Hub about.

In this week’s Online Writing Insider podcast, we outline five different ways to find topics for new online articles. These are methods we have found to be most successful in inspiring Hubs that aren’t only popular, but high earners, and they’re taken directly from the standard practices of some of our site’s top earners.  We hope you find these resources to be just as useful as we do.

Big thanks to Tracy Robinson for inspiring this week’s theme. We always appreciate getting feedback on the podcast, so if you have any comments or recommendations of your own, please send them to podcast-at-HubPages-dot-com!

An Interview with Sarahredhead – Award Winning Photo Hubber

In November’s HubPatron of the Arts contest, Sarahredhead won the $500 first place prize in the photo category for a beautiful collection of photos titled PHOTOGRAPHY: A Living Palate.

To learn more about this impressive photographer and her work, we contacted her for an interview. Read on for a fun peek into the life of a truly artistic explorer!

HubPages: First off, congratulations on winning first place in the photos section of the HubPatron of the Arts contest! Were you surprised to find you had won, or did you know you had created a major contender?

Sarahredhead: I was shocked. I read Hubs almost everyday, and because this contest was dear to my interests I read several of the entries. The talent represented on HubPages is intense, and my admiration extends to several Hubbers.

I got so excited when the contest was announced; this is the first HubPages contest I have entered. When I sat down to write my article, I wrote from the heart. I simply defined why I love photography and then chose about twenty of my all-time favorite images. I remember telling my husband I felt my entry to be too simplistic. He said, “Let the photography speak for itself.”

In your Hub, you share how you were given your first camera at age 10. Would you say your photography has changed significantly over the years, or is there still a similar feel to it all?

Absolutely. I never included people in my earliest photographs, and I am not sure why. I wish I had more photos of loved ones in my youth. As an adolescent, I always focused on animals, architecture and trees. It wasn’t until later, when I was a young adult that I shifted to capturing portraits.

About ten years ago I became enthralled with industrial photography, which stays with me to this day. Lately I have seen some incredible photographs by other artists using the genre of street photography. My fascination with such imagery has led me to begin experimenting. I have definitely improved and changed over the years. It is fascinating to see how different styles and subjects have defined different stages and events in my life throughout the years. My photographic portfolio is my journal.

You also share in your Hub that you’re a purely amateur photographer and care less about special settings and fancy cameras – why is this the case?

First and foremost it was a total lack of funds. For years I used any camera I could get my hands on, but I always wished for the best equipment! I remember in college I bought $4 disposable cameras at WalMart just to have one at all times. Some of my best works came out of those cheap disposable cameras.

I couldn’t afford photography classes, and we never owned a computer. I read books on photography and even dreamed of having my own dark room. I was a self-starter and a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal so instead of worrying about my inferior devices I concentrated on recording whatever scene caught my interest.

By the time I did get a decent camera, the world of photography had already shifted to the digital realm. This was intimidating for me because other photographers were excited about the latest equipment and I had no idea how to speak the language. How ironic is it that my old school camera days required more hands on manual skills whereas my newer cameras required a vast array of “easier” but frightening technical knowledge.

I am not adept at technical knowledge. For many years I used a Kodak EasyShare point and shoot. It was a sweet camera, and it was user friendly. The Kodak ushered me into the digital age. I would show up to take pictures at a friend’s wedding and they would take one look at my camera and laugh. “You’re taking pictures with that? I have THAT camera…”I think they were expecting big things.

Many of my fellow shutterbugs proclaimed the better the equipment the better the quality and talent. I knew this was not true. I encountered some prejudice over the years concerning the status of my equipment, which was completely ridiculous.

I remember I once courted a gallery in the hopes they would show one or two of my works. The owner asked me what kind of camera I used to shoot. I told him I was using a friend’s Sony. He never even looked at my work! It is bogus, I know, but it reminds me to openly encourage anyone who is passionate about photography! Ignore the Photog Snobs (but respect the true professionals!) and start shooting. Experiment, learn, make mistakes and grow.

What kind of camera do you shoot with?

Last year my husband bought me a Nikon D60 and for the first six months I used it in manual mode, with an old Nikon Nikkor 24mm lens my dad used when he was in college. I loved it.

Now I alternate between the old lens and a newer digital lens. I am much less intimidated by the technology. To assist my research I watch a lot of YouTube and read tutorials on both HubPages and deviantART. My goal is to learn how to use photoshop. The sky’s the limit!

Most of the photos in your Hub emphasize color- either in vibrant bursts or altogether absent. How do you decide whether to remove all or some of the color in an image or whether to emphasize it?

My life as an artist has placed me in the habit of dictating strong visual ideas using my imagination. I have done oil paintings for many years, and most of those images are composed from my imagination.

I have a habit of seeing my photographs as though they are also paintings (of a sort). When I view some of my photos, I immediately see them some other way. I can visualize an image in black and white, pastel, or any other combination.

A grand example would be the image entitled AUTISM. The original photograph was remarkable. Rosemary’s jumpsuit was primary red and the woods in the background were made up of strokes of vivid greens and rich browns. The first time I viewed that image I saw the rooster competing for attention. To allow him his chance to show off, I silenced everything else by removing their colors. I fell in love, and so did Rosemary.

Even as a very young child I was smitten with black and white photography. Sometimes a very ordinary image becomes extraordinary when I transform it into a monochromatic piece. Suddenly, all pretensions are stripped away and the simplest, rawest, purest most basic reality is revealed.

For some reason, some images thrive in black and white. Such imagery is frank and honest and acts as a validation of some bygone memory, era or intention. I used to think of black and white photography as the skeleton of all other photography. You can begin with the bones of a great photo and build upon that with color, texture…whatever. I will look at my color photos and see the strength of the bones beneath. I also enjoy sepia tones, but my judgment is not as good when it comes to sepia interpretations. Hopefully I’ll get the hang of it.

How did you decide on which photos to include in your Hub?

I held my breath and picked my personal favorites. My family and friends have opinions about which photographs are their favorites, and they give me excellent feedback. However, this article was very personal so I risked choosing my private collection. I attempted to choose a variety of styles – even the mistakes and the experimental ones. I wanted to offer samples of my works the way the waiter at a fine restaurant walks by pushing that fancy dessert cart. I want the viewer to look at those images and feel as though they have several choices.

If you could encourage people to try one new thing with photography, what would it be?

I’m trying new things right now! A friend let me borrow a macro lens, which I have never used. It is weird and I am not yet sure what to do with it, but I plan to figure it out.

Try new lenses. A different lens opens up an entirely different world for a photographer. It also keeps you on your toes! If your camera has a fixed lens, try something you have never done before, like extreme close-up portraiture, or night photography. My favorite moments are when I make a mistake and find a way to utilize that process (an example would be COMETS or FIRECRACKER) For me, it is all about fun and adventure.

[Thanks, Sararedhead!]