Sunday, February 1, 2015

What are Your Key Words? Communicating Your Writing’s Purpose

I've been thinking about several people recently who have asked me to look at their blog and give them any input insights I have. Of course every blog is unique and individual, and each one also needs its own critique about its set-up and more. But if I wanted to give one piece of advice to all bloggers, it would be to nail down your Key Words. (Tweet that!)

As a matter of fact, this advice isn't just for bloggers. It's for all writers.

Whether you're writing a print-magazine article, an online article or post, or a non-fiction book, knowing and nailing down your key words is important. (Tweet that!)

But lest you think I'm talking to non-fiction writers only, listen up fiction writers: I believe knowing and nailing down your key words is just as important for novelists and short story writers. (Tweet that!)

Whether you want readers and potential book-buyers to find your blog post or your book to purchase, they need to be able to find you. (Tweet that!) In order to find you, they need to be able to search for you and have you appear amidst all the “noise” of that comes up online or amidst everything else in a bookstore.

How will they know what gift you have for them?

Here's a truth I run into over and over and over again: Beginning and/or young writers think all they have to do is write something great. And then… What? Do expect people to just “find” you?

It doesn't work that way. Take for example. There are millions of books available on Amazon. So you write one, even a great one, and make it available through Amazon and… then what? You expect people to not only know your book exists but you expect them to find it? Doesn't work that way.

It sounds basic, but it's true: Before anyone can find your book or article or blog post or other helpful piece of writing, they must know it exists. Then they must be able to find it. These two things don't happen automatically. It takes some strategic effort on the part of the writer.

Now if you get right down to it, some of this should happen automatically. (I'll explain in a moment.) But if you know it and know it well, then you can help it to happen “automatically.”
What I'm talking about, really, is being clear in your writing. Sometimes writers seem to think they need to dance all around their subject without ever really saying what they're talking about!

I don't know, maybe they're afraid of being too obvious or “over the top” as they say in screenwriting. Some writers want to be more subtle and less obvious. I can understand that. But if you're so subtle that nobody is “getting it,” then what's the point?

Your Key Words say what you're talking about

Speaking of dancing around the subject without ever actually saying what I'm talking about. Let me get to the point:

You need to say what you want to say. Out loud. So we can hear it. And whatever it is you're trying to say will include your Key Words.

That's what I meant a moment ago when I said stating your Key Words should happen automatically. When you state out loud what it is you're talking about, using your Key Words should be automatic.

When we were only writing for printed publication, this was important for our audience to understand what we were saying, to be clear. But now that we're writing for the internet, Key Words are even more important. This is how people find you – even if what you want them to find is not online but rather is a book you have for sale.

We are all now writing for the internet because even printed books are advertised on the internet. Most of your platform as a writer is on the internet. Most likely the majority of ways people find you and your written products are via the internet.

How do I find my Key Words?

To find your Key Words, you have to ask yourself some important questions:

Who is looking for what you are writing?

What are they looking for?

What are they going to call it?

Here's the thing: You're writing for a reason. (Tweet that!) Either you're teaching. Or you're entertaining. Or you'e expressing your opinion. Or you're trying to get information out to an audience. All writing has a purpose. (Or why do it?)

So here' what you need to know: Who is it that you want to receive this information?

Be careful with your answer. Examine your answer carefully and consider whether that person you're imagining wants to receive it. They have to want it. You can write material for people because you want them to have the information but if they're not interested in receiving that information, they're not going to. They won't look for it. Even if they find it, they won't want it. So make sure you'e writing something that people want.

That's the person you're targeting.

Now imagine this: Imagine that person needs the information you have written. Imagine they need it enough that they're going to go try to find it. They may go to the bookstore or library and ask for it. But more likely they are going to pull up Google on their laptop, tablet, or phone and search for it. So pay attention! Imagine you're looking over their shoulder as they type something into that search box.

What do they type?

Those are your Key Words! (Tweet that!)

Key Words can be single words or phrases.

If you have what they need, and if you want them to find you and your writing so that you can help them with their need, then you need to use these same Key Words. (Tweet that!) When you do, the search engine is going to link you two together.

Perhaps this links into “branding.” 

I won't claim to be any kind of expert on branding, but it seems to me that your Key Words are either virtually the same as your “brand” or at least are very closely related. These Key Words are what you're writing, or at least what this piece of writing (article, book, story) is all about. Your Key Words may be what you are all about.

Okay, maybe they are not what you're ALL about. Maybe it's just what this article or nonfiction book or story/novel is about. But it' still at least a part of what you're about (your brand).

So what do I do with my Key Words?

Use your Key Words whenever you want to draw people who are searching for your "thing" to you. That's pretty much all the time that you're doing business as a writer, isn't it? Whether you’re online or in print.

So use your Key Words in your:

  • Book title
  • Book's back cover copy
  • Blog post title
  • in the Blog post itself
  • Article titles
  • in the Article itself
  • Tweets on Twitter (use a #hashtag)
  • posts on Facebook (use the #hashtag)
  • Google+ (use #hashtag)

There are also Key Word tools online. There used to be lots of free ones but they are harder to find now. Still, if you can find one to use, you can put your Key Words in and it will tell you how effective they are, usually by numbers of people conducting searches using those Key Words. A Key Word tool can also suggest other Key Words or phrases that are similar and may get you even more searches, so you can adjust and strengthen the Key Words you use.

So whatever you're writing now, or whatever you're marketing now, take some quality time to:

  • consider what your Key Words should be, 
  • think about where and how you can use them, 
  • put them into your titles and whatever you're writing.

Every piece you write should have Key Words. (Tweet that!) Chances are good you will get more attention for your posts, articles, and books when you find strategic ways to consistently use your Key Words. (Tweet that!)

Related Article:

For more help on keying in to your message, see my article about Thesis Statements in December 2014: Keep Your Eye on the Ball: One Sentence that Can Elevate Your Writing to New Heights.

E-Books for Writers

Have you checked out my e-books for writers yet? I now have two:

How to Get Published! Learn how to sell your manuscripts to publishers.
E-books (at end)

Which e-book would you like me to write next? Please let me know with my easy peasy one-question Survey.