Writing content for the web

by Phyllis
(North Carolina)

Steve,
I read through your site and I absolutely love it! It’s very informative and you go into great detail about how to write for the web. My problem is, I have a lot of ideas for a website theme and content swirling around in my head, but I can’t seem to transfer those ideas onto paper in written form. It seems as though I "freeze up" when I start writing. What are some suggestions to overcome this?



Phyllis, great question (and thanks for your kind words). If I'm understanding your problem correctly, I have precisely the answer for you.

So I hope I understand you correctly!

I think what you're describing is "paralysis by possibility." In other words, there's so much you could be writing about that you can't even get yourself to start.

Did I get you right?

If so, I'm very familiar with the problem. When I was a bratty teenager, there was nothing more daunting than a teacher telling us we could write about anything. (I was interested in nothing!)

As an adult, I have the same problem for a different reason: I'm interested in everything!

In both cases, I needed the same thing: an assignment. As long as I know precisely what I'm supposed to be writing about, I'm off to the races.

I have used the same outfit to create four sites, including The Shared Self Publishing Experience.

Why? Because when I follow their guidance we get impressive traffic. And...

...because following their process results in receiving an endless supply of distinct "assignments."

I'm going to walk you through the initial stages of the process, and you tell me whether it sounds like it's made for you. The company I'm talking about is SBI, or SiteBuildIt.

You'll start with the SBI Action Guide (written or video). It walks you through the theory and practice of planning your site. It tells you what to do, with interfaces not much more complex than using a search engine.

Here's the exciting part: you'll be encouraged to begin the process with three different ideas for websites. So you, Phyllis, will pick your three most tempting website notions. Let's say they're

snorkeling
lap dogs
North Carolina politics

You'll approach each of them separately. Your research on snorkeling will tell you what the most popular internet search terms are relating to snorkeling. Subjects like

coral
underwater photography, and
snorkeling vacations...

...will undoubtedly come up. The best of these subjects would be your "assignments" were you to write a snorkeling website. You might have a section of your site devoted to corals and another to snorkeling vacations. The snorkeling vacations section would have pages devoted to Caribbean vacations, Hawaiian vacations, etc.

You would next go through the process for lap dogs and North Carolina politics. What's now happening is that you're outlining the essential theme, structure and content for three different sites. Once you've completed that...

It's time to decide which of the three you're going to go with. You'll base this on

1. Demand - the number of searches on each of the subjects
2. Supply - the number of other websites and pages on the subjects
3. The "Assignments" - now that you have a clearer idea of what you'd be writing about, which is most appealing to you?

The research might rule out some of your subjects right off the bat if the demand is too high or too low. For instance, the data might tell you that no single person could write a comprehensive website on the subject of snorkeling; the subject is too broad.

Your choice then would be either to rule out the subject or re-contemplate a more specific aspect of it, say East Coast (U.S.) Snorkeling.

Similarly, N.C. Politics might be too narrow. Maybe N.C. Government or Southern History would be more on the money.

I hope you can see that this process would help you overcome Paralysis By Possibility, if in fact that's what you're suffering from. But there's another benefit as well (that perhaps you've already inferred)...

You'll be saved from tackling a website that was destined to fail, whether from too little demand or too much competition.

Phyllis, let me know if you have any follow up questions. (Click on "Click here to add your own comments," then fill out the form.) And here's a good place to start learning more about SiteBuildIt.

I hope that helped!

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