Search Engines Can Be The Online Writer's Best Friend

Cherie Davidson
 


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It's an exciting time for online writers, with a wide array of options. With desire and well-directed effort, a good writer can end up with a variety of work. However, as we know, there is much more to the writing biz than the meat and potatoes of the actual writing. Research, record-keeping, finding markets, composing and sending queries, dealing with rejections and self-promotion all factor in, and it all takes up a great deal of time. But the actual money, and the greatest satisfaction, comes from the writing itself and seeing your by-line posted on some well-trafficked site.

So, the question becomes, “How do I make more time for writing and spend less time on the “other stuff'"? That “other stuff" is vital to being a successful writer, so the trick is to find the easiest and most simplified ways to accomplish the “not writng stuff. "

I have given it much thought - and spent a great deal of time - and as a cyber-writing veteran I have discovered there is timesaving value in search engines. Eight years ago I would not have believed that the time- consuming search engine could be my friend. But now I know better!

The trick is to be selective, precise, and not allow yourself to get distracted. Another trick is to get to know the particular benefits and shortcuts of your favorite search engines and directories, because they all have different aspects to them, some more than others. Use their strengths and avoid their weaknesses.

RELEVANT SEARCHES

The greatest weakness is irrelevant search results, so for general or topical searches stick with those sites that make an effort to give relevant results. A tip from my own experiences: use either specialty search directories dedicated to the particular field you are researching, or a major engine that uses popularity results.

One drawback to large search portals is they usually bring back a huge amount of results (often in the thousands and hundreds of thousands), so I don't go any deeper than the first three to five pages of results. If I can not find what I am looking for in those results, my search term/ keywords are getting derivative results and this translates to losing valuable time. So I do a new search using different and more specific keywords or phrases to get better results faster.

REFERENCE HELP

When you are working online, why take the time to pull a dictionary, thesaurus, or other reference book from your shelf, when you can type what you want and have it pop up on your screen? As you may have discovered, the major search engines don't really offer reference information, except to give you lists of sites that specialize. By using a reference-specific directory you have access to a list of helpful tools at your mouse-tip.

TOOT YOUR OWN HORN, AKA List Your Writing Site

The third best way search sites can be a very good friend is when you list your writing site with them. More and more off and online writers are finding an advantage to having their own online presence, a site for posting their virtual portfolio, links to their published online work, “clips" available for download or reading on site, references, bios, even resumes or client/publishing lists. You can have a site for little or no money by using a free site service like Geocities (http:// www.geoci), or my personal favorite, QuickSites (http:// quicksites. pixelmation.com). Now more than ever, it is important - actually, it is essential - for today's writers to have a Website or at least a blog. Someplace where editors, publishers and potential contacts (and even fans!) can visit and learn more about the writer, their work and who they are.

Once you have a site, you obviously want people to find it, and listing with search engines and directories is one of the ways to do this. You can pay to have a service list your site, or you can take the time to do it yourself. How far you want to take it depends on your needs, but for the shoestring-budget writer, I have found the best way is to go to the search engine and directory sites, and fill out the (usually) short forms found on their “Add a Site" or “Submit URL" pages on your own.

There are some free services that claim to “mass submit" your site address to hundreds of search engines, but you may pay for these with your time, because your e-mail inbox will be flooded with “Make Money" and promotional offers, so be careful and know what you are getting into. One notable and outstanding exception is SelfPromotion.com (http://selfpromotion.com). I have used that site for a few years and I never get spammed or bothered. I always begin my client site promotions at SelfPromotion.com.

When submitting your site, use the search directories that do not charge a listing fee. This will not give you thousands of visitors your first month (and neither will paying for being listed!), but it will cost you very little time, no money, and get you a good start. Then you can include your site address in the signature of all your e-mails, add it to business cards, stationary, your yellow pages ad or anywhere you put your name or business name.

Search engine and directory sites are very helpful tools with great potential for benefit when used efficiently. With a little practice, and being aware of the positive features available at your favorite portals, you will be able to spend more time on the real issue at hand - getting that article or story written and published.

Cherie’ Davidson is a freelance writer and Web content developer who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her toy poodle, Auggie Dog, her “energy muse. ” During her “day job” she runs her own freelance writing business, Suitable Words Publications (http://www.suitablewords.com ), where she writes and promotes Website content, designs and develops e-books, hires out as a copywriter and writes a wide variety of articles and essays. She has finally caved in and started a blog for helpful and humorous comments and articles for and about writing. You are invited to visit her blog at http://suitablewords.blogspot.com or drop her a note at cherie@suitablewords.com

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