Ruud Questions: Angie Haggstrom

by Ruud Hein April 3rd, 2009 

Angie is one of those people I "met" on Twitter — and something just clicked. Smart and geeky, copywriter and SEO-ish; perfect for our interview series where we learn more about making money online during the recession (and after).
Angie did a guest post here, The Big SEO Copywriting Secret: Quality Content That Converts, and has recently become a contributing writer at SEO Scoop.

You're a freelance writer with solid experience in writing search engine friendly copy. Do you do anything different for orders by "regular" clients vs. the ones by an SEO Company?

Before I had any idea what SEO was, I thought SEO Companies were a little odd. (Not that some aren't, mind you) But yes, regular clients and SEO companies have two very different ideas of what articles and copy should be. At the same time, they are very similar.

Both want copy to be interesting and informative. In terms of quality, both want the best possible content for their money. Both sides have members that are extremely picky, and some that only want words on a page in a different order from everyone else.

When you look at the differences between the two, they are worlds apart. In many instances, regular clients just pull keywords out of the air, if they supply any at all. They really have no strategy going ahead; they only know that article marketing generates traffic and copy helps convert traffic.

Some go the other way asking for copy with a density of 10%+ or for articles with a density of 3%+, which we all know just isn't going to work. I try to discourage my clients from those types of practices, and explain what is generally accepted. Some change their minds and others are bound and determined to stay on their original course.

SEO Companies are much different (the good ones anyway). To them, crafting optimized copy and articles is a real art. For one, natural sounding copy becomes a lot more difficult because the keywords are often a lot different. For example, one might be "cars in New York fords" rather than "ford cars". And, many of them are now getting into the long tail, which I really hope to see more of in the future.

Many SEO companies give exact placement for the keywords. Some of them will ask for one in the title and one each of the subtitles. Others will get specific stating after X number of words in the X paragraph, and they will lay out each piece this way.

Generally though, I've ran a few tests of my own in terms of article marketing, and have found a few little tricks that work well. If I have nothing specific but a topic to go on, I do a bit of research and come up with something that will work the best. This is what makes my copy different and I aim to maintain that.

There are articles, and there are "articles". The latter go for 5-10, sometimes 15 bucks. Does that affect you? Does it frustrate you, change your business model or…?

On the writer side of things, we've all got to start somewhere. If you have the time and patience to work with a newbie, by all means do. There is more than enough work for everyone. I started for a few dollars per article too. The difference is that the smart writers don't stay there.

A majority of those writers who do are those who can afford to due to differences in currency. It works for them, and that's perfectly fine with me; I have been fortunate enough to keep a schedule that has been more than full.

The only word of caution I'm going to give you is to know what you are paying for before you make an agreement. I don't worry about what others are doing generally speaking. I do what I feel will benefit my clients the most. They are my bread and butter, not other writers.

On the article side of things, it's really disappointing to see how many companies pay for articles that have just been recycled. I mean, if that's all you're going to buy, why not save yourself some coin and just rewrite it or add your own links to it!

In fact, many of the requests I get today are for exactly that. However, those who want something that is going to get links and great traffic are willing to pay considerably more to have the topic researched as well as the article.

The information might not be some earth-shattering new discovery, but at least it will be something fresh and different from the rest of the articles in places like Ezine Articles! All you need is one well chosen topic, and you'll more than get your money's worth.

Have you noticed any change in the type or depth of content ordered by SEO companies in general? Is it getting longer and better or shorter and more shallow?

In my experience, that depends on what the content is for. Blog posts are becoming more thought out in general. Web copy is appearing on more and more sites all the time as the concept of SEO begins to take off. (Outside of the SEO circle, many of my clients have no idea what it is, or have a very jaded view of what it is.)

Article marketing is slowly becoming higher in quality, but no real difference in length really. I really would like to see clients focus on quality. In my opinion, it doesn't matter how long something is as long as there is thought behind it. I feel an article is done when the discussion is over, which is probably why most of my blog comments are over 300 words!

Following up on that question. There's a lot of talk about attention deficit, attention span, attention fragmentation. Is that reflected in your work or work orders?

Haha Well, I can tell you that I probably wear the crown for attention deficit when it comes to working. I run two computers simultaneously and have 3 or 4 browser windows open, each with at least 10 or more tabs. My phone rings, skype is going off, Yahoo IM, email flying back and forth, and at least one conversation going on Twitter at any one time.

As for dealing with the work orders, I actually wrote an article on how I've incorporated lean manufacturing practices into my business. It allows me to get all of the work done on time, but it also lets me skip subjects and even jobs enough to keep the day interesting.

When it comes to the attention span of a though, this is a huge concern, particularly with onsite content. This is dealt with through form and style. You need to hook the reader from the start and keep using small hooks throughout the content. Format the work right, and you can get them to at least skim through the rest of the content.

You make a living online. Is it, writing, or any other form of trying to make a living online something you would recommend to your best friend? If not as her main source of income, would you recommend it as a secondary source?

Honestly, that depends on the friend. This job isn't for everyone. That goes for writing, SEO, design, development, whatever. You have to be a certain type of person who is responsible, self-motivated, and truly passionate about what you're doing. Without these three things, you aren't going to get anywhere. I talk to freelancers from all different industries who didn't realize the huge time commitment and dedication this takes until it was too late.

For instance, it isn't just sitting down at the computer and saying 'I'm going to write for money today, and I'm going to make $500'. There's writing that requires constant honing, marketing, customer service, accounting, and the list goes on.

I work a lot of long hours. They are very satisfying hours, but long all the same. If you think you're going to start off and only work 4-8 hours and make a living at it, you'd better be really talented, have amazing connections, or not worry about your income.

So, I guess to answer your question, yes, but only if she's sure that's what she wants and she's prepared for the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of being your own boss.

She's gone ahead, setup her web site, all on a shoe string budget if that — and now what? What do you recommend she does so that she can start to pay at least for some groceries as soon as possible?

Well, hopefully, if she quit her job, she planned ahead for the changeover. Saved ahead and built up her client lists at the very least. If she hasn't had a steady income previously, she needs to diversify her income. So with writing, I'd suggest she goes to a site such as Constant Content where she can produce sets of articles and offer them for sale.

Then, she needs to gather some info to create a few niche websites. Finally, she needs to go to a few freelancing sites to bid on some work, and hunt down the bigger jobs that are hiding on the net. It's the last one that's going to fill her fridge.

Plus, she needs to get her name out there and start marketing herself through article marketing, blogging, social media sites, whatever she can get her name on. For me, Twitter has been the best thing since the invention of the keyboard. I've made more connections, learned more, and picked up more clients on Twitter than I have anywhere else. And, I'm not the only one who has experienced the same thing. Since I started there, I've more than doubled my income, and I have not had to advertise my writing services or step on any one to get to that point.

Also, if I could only give her one single piece of advice, I would tell her to network with other writers. I have learned more and received more support from my fellow writers and friends than I would have ever imagined. I wouldn't be where I am today without them!

The way I see it, you can't just sit around and wait for the good things to come to you. You have to be willing to put the thought and effort into it and reach for what you want. The work is there, you just have to show the world you're not afraid to work hard to get it!

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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5 Responses to “Ruud Questions: Angie Haggstrom”

  1. Lee says:

    Hi Angie,

    I work for a manufacturer and we're all about the benefits of lean manufacturing. I'm quite interested in your use of it in a writing/office setting. Would you please provide the link to the article you mention?

  2. Hi Lee! I sure do! It's on the 'Society for Manufacturing Engineers' website, and it can be found here: http://cli.gs/9j3Lhn

  3. Great article and great insight. I found it very interesting and informative since I am tring to make a living frow freelance writing right now. It is not easy but I love it.

  4. I have several friends who are excellent writers (many are journalists), but they get paid next-to-nothing for blogging for major sites, or they feel forced to blog free for the visibility. When will the economics change, if ever?

  5. As soon as writers ask for more and not worry about the client saying 'no' ;)