A content creator is someone who makes shareable media with the intention of helping others and attracting attention online. Usually, their end game is converting attention into money.
The beauty of the trade is that by understanding a few key concepts, anyone with an area of interest or expertise can build brand recognition and leverage their content into a lucrative side hustle or a new career entirely.
In this guide, you’ll quickly learn what it takes many successful writers years to synthesize, and give yourself an advantage that few others had when they first got started.
This article was written for those interested in our Free Website trade. It should be useful for anyone interested in learning to establish a strong online presence.
The people we work with are not professional marketers, and most are not confident in their writing skills. To the average person, the idea of creating content is daunting.
It’s normal to doubt your expertise.
“I don’t know enough about any subject to be an expert!”
It’s normal to doubt your writing abilities.
“I haven’t written in years!”
Bookmark this article to return to. Share it with someone who could benefit to learn how to become a content creator that routinely ranks on the first page of Google.
The following are seven steps to help you begin your journey to becoming a successful content creator as quickly as possible.
1. Identify Your Short-Term Goals
Before you put any thought into your niche, your angle, or ideal customer, your first step must be identifying your goals and motivations.
Why? Because literally everything else depends on this.
For example, you might have an amazing idea for a goldmine of a website. It fits every criteria that the world needs, and there’s no way you wouldn’t make a million dollars off of it.
…but then you get started. You go full steam ahead for 6 months, then realize that your idea requires 3 articles a week, three social media accounts posting around the clock, constant back-and-forth email negotiations, a lawyer and an accountant, a team to make Youtube videos, podcasts and to respond to people’s comments on all of your platforms, deal with customer questions and complaints, and so on.
Could you make it happen all by yourself? Possibly.
Would you burn yourself out if nothing was going to plan? Definitely.
What is your margin of error? How long could you afford to be without income?
If you’re working another job during all of this, how much time can you actually commit? Are you imagining yourself to be more productive than you might actually be? What about your other commitments? Will you have time for everything?
To Get the Best, Plan for the Worst
If there’s one unanimously agreed upon concept in business, it is that you can guarantee that things will never go as planned.
Many people start new projects who don’t see them to fruition, usually because of either burnout, frustration, or a lack of planning.
You will need to be sure that your reasons are strong enough that you will be motivated to persevere through the inevitably difficult times, of which there will be many.
The key is to align your goals with the lifestyle you wish to achieve in the next 1-3 years, while being as specific as possible.
This will motivate you to work hard, even through the hard times, because, frankly, that’s the life you’re building towards.
Some good short-term example goals:
- “earn $2,000 per month, while working remotely, and being my own boss.”
- “get hired at (insert dream company here)”
- “navigate a career transition and become a (insert profession here)”
- “be seen as an influencer or thought leader in (insert field here)”
Notice how none of these examples say “get rich”, or “sell as much as possible.”
Those are fine desires, but they are neither specific nor motivational enough for this exercise.
Remember, things will be hard. You will be challenged. If your motivation is money, think exactly how much money you need to make your dream short-term lifestyle a possibility.
It’s often less than you think.
Don’t lazily say “a million dollars.” Write your budget out, along with your goals, include allotting for saving, travel, and everything you want your life to have in the next 1-3 years.
With that number in mind, work backwards and figure out how to get there, starting in the present.
If your motivation is to become your own boss, identify concretely why that is and write it down someplace that you’ll see it frequently.
The more clearly you are able to describe your motivations, the more likely you are to make them come true.
What about long-term goals?
The reason for thinking short-term before long term is that life has a way of changing plans whether you want it to or not.
In general, if you can meet your short-term goals, you’ll probably be getting closer to your long term goals without having to necessarily plan for them.
The same principle applies in business: a content creator’s long-term goals shouldn’t be a deciding factor in what they decide to do with their business in the short-term.
Remember that Amazon once sold exclusively books, and Netflix began as a dvd rental service.
Start off perfecting your solid business idea, by doing what you can do well NOW. Your business will evolve over time as you receive feedback from your customers. Once you start to build brand recognition and grow an audience, you can pivot later.
Thinking long-term at this point will only lead to paralysis-by-analysis. Decide specific and motivational short-term goals.
Then work backwards.
2. Make a Plan To Achieve Those Goals
With your list of short-term goals clearly articulated, you can get to the fun part!
When you know “why” you are doing what you’re doing, you can clearly begin to zero in on really what you’re doing, and how you’ll get there.
For example, knowing that your goals are to make a certain amount of money, you must then identify what your offer is to make that a reality.
If Your Goal is to Earn Money
Are you selling a product? A service? Using the Freemium model? If you want to build a passive income stream, how will you do it?
Decide on your pricing model, and how much you will need to sell to meet your goals.
Bottom line: If you’re trying to earn money, you need to have a clearly defined way of earning it.
Editor’s note on advertising. You definitely CAN make money selling advertising space. But you will first need a steady and consistent reader base, which can take a long time to grow. Be sure you have another plan for income, or be prepared to not earn one.
If Your Goal is a Career Transition
If you’ve decided that your goal is to transition to a new career, it should be easy to identify the subject of the articles you should be focusing on.
Having an established website on a relevant subject would make your resume irresistibly strong, and give you an easy introduction to others in the industry.
Not only does it show a prospective employer who you are and what you know about a particular subject or professional field, but it also demonstrates serious commitment to your craft, and that you’re the type of person who puts initiative towards things you care about.
Even if you don’t make it big on the web, simply having a professionally designed site with a handful of well-done articles can give you an edge over your competition.
Don’t be afraid to show your personality, either. People like to know who they’re engaging with. This is your opportunity to show your prospective employer what working with you might be like.
If You’re Hesitant to Commit to a Single Topic:
Remember that we’re only asking you to commit to that single topic while writing for our website (it benefits our user experience to have a single page all on the given subject).
Once you’ve got your site, it’s yours to do what you want with it. We recommend having a distinguishable focus, but we’re not here to tell you how to run your life.
Just promise yourself this:
Start with your short-term goals, and keep them in mind when making every decision from here on out.
We can help you identify a subject area to write about based on your interests – just ask if you’re unsure!
3. Identify Your Ideal Customer
For those of you who are thinking that you don’t know enough about a subject to be an expert:
Here’s a secret: you don’t have to be.
Remember, you know more about this subject than SOMEONE, and if you can help one person, you can help thousands of others just like them.
According to Google, there are approximately 1.5 billion English speakers in the world. It’s a safe guess that most of them use the internet.
No matter how many Starbucks there are in the world, millions of other successful coffee shops still exist.
It doesn’t matter how many McDonalds exist, you can still make money in the burger industry.
The internet is no different.
Yes, there are a million blogs and websites out there, but the world is huge and the Internet is still an untapped market. There is plenty of room for you to thrive.
They’ve Got a Problem, You’ve Got a Solution
Darren Rowse, founder of ProBlogger.com spoke at the World Domination Summit in 2013. From his talk, a popular highlight was:
“if your blog helps even 1 person, then it was worth writing.”
Remember that and it will take you far.
The only way to succeed doing this kind of work is to help people.
People turn to Google searches when they have questions.
The way you get your website in front of them? Be helpful and answer them.
It’s no different than helping a friend. We had a very specific friend in mind when we were writing this article. If there’s one person you can speak directly to, there are thousands of others who fit their same profile, and this will resonate with them perfectly.
If you’re doubting your credibility, consider this story:
Katherine is not in great physical health. She’s been much heavier before, lost a decent amount of weight, and considers herself to now be a “relatively average” body type.
Still, she’s nowhere near the body types you usually see on fitness websites.
Does that mean she couldn’t run a health and wellness website if she really wanted to?
Sure, maybe some people would look at her relatively average body and think, “why would I trust this person’s opinion on healthy eating?”
But you know what? Those people aren’t her ideal customer. It’s that simple.
Maybe she doesn’t have credibility among the 6-pack crowd, but how about for a plus size, self-conscious beginner?
Think someone in that situation wouldn’t love to be where she’s at and trust her opinion, while feeling less intimidated?
Katherine was in their shoes once. She remembers their pain, and knows what they struggle with way better than any petite fitness celebrity ever could.
While a fitness celebrity might write articles on eating poached salmon with asparagus every day, Katherine would be able to speak to her audience, and meet them where THEY are at, recommending meals that her audience would be more likely to enjoy.
“There are no unique messages. Only unique messengers.”
If there’s a single person out there who Katherine could help, there are thousands of others in their same situation.
Even if you alienate 99 out of 100 people, there will be that one person who will find you and think, “Finally, THIS person really gets me. I’m going to bookmark this page and sign up for their email list because I find their take on things extremely helpful and valuable.”
Identify your audience, be yourself, and help them.
Pro Tip: imagine a single person who you’re talking to, real or fictional, and keep them in mind throughout everything you do, you’ll be amazed at how much easier it makes the process.
It’s critically important to know who your audience is. The better you can respond to their pain points, the more helpful (and profitable) you’ll be.
4. Understand the Importance of SEO
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization. It’s most easily explained as, “the stuff you do in order to show up on the first page of Google searches.”
The name of the game in SEO is having a website with an offer (ex: “buy my stuff”), and then getting people TO your website, so that they can then find your offer.
For the sake of working with us, you don’t need to become an expert in SEO, but it’s important to have an awareness of it so you are not spinning your tires writing articles that nobody cares about.
It’s helpful to see how valuable SEO can be for your work.
How to Make Money Writing
The following data is a snapshot of the niche site, acleanbake.com for the month of April, 2020.
This is for one month, people.
That means that in April 2020 alone, this site had 39,000 visitors, and that traffic was valued at $25,400!
How does that one site get so much traffic?
It’s because that site is full of helpful, useful articles like this:
This isn’t a revolutionary article. I mean…it’s boringly called “How to Freeze Potatoes.”
If they can write a single article about how to freeze freakin’ potatoes, that drives 2,100 people to visit it, and have it be valued at $964 each month. Do you see the value in being helpful?
Multiply that times 150 articles on the content creator’s site and they’ve got 315,000 monthly visitors.
If you’ve got an eBook for sale, a course for sale, a partnership with another company, sponsors paying to advertise, that’s how you become rich as a content creator.
If this site had 315,000 monthly visitors, and even ONE PERCENT of its visitors made a purchase – that’s 3,150 purchases in a month. (3,150 sales for a $19 ebook = $59,850 each month in passive income).
Obviously you’ve got to put a lot of work in to get your site that big…but you get the point. Traffic potential is huge, and writing helpful articles is work worth doing.
That How to Freeze Potatoes article is an excellent example of a website answering people’s questions, and knowing what their audience is looking for. In this case, A Clean Bake’s audience is people interested in gluten free or paleo eating.
Create Content that People Are Looking For
Far too often what happens with new website owners is that they charge into writing articles, put tons of effort into them, and then…crickets.
Where are all the readers?
Where’s that traffic that you were expecting?
“THEY MADE IT SOUND SO EASY, DAMNIT!”
It could be a lot of things, but the first place to look is whether people are even looking for that information in the first place.
It won’t matter if you’ve spent a hundred hours writing the best article the world has ever seen if it’s on a topic that nobody is looking for.
Remember: People turn to Google when they have a problem. A content creator’s goal is to help them find solutions.
It doesn’t matter how great your article on Alligator Socks is if nobody is searching for them.
Keyword research is the practice of identifying good opportunities to rank online.
It’s the way that you know how many people have searched for a term, and how many articles have been written about it.
The sweet spot is identifying a term with both a high search volume and a low level of competition.
Using the example from the A Clean Bake website, if you’re one of the first people on the internet to write an article about “how to freeze potatoes”…and 4,100 people out there globally are looking for that term each month,..
You’ve got far fewer articles to compete with for that traffic.
On a scale of 1-100, the lower the score, the easier it is to rank on page 1 for. The higher the number, the harder it is to rank.
Sure, maybe 250,000 people globally search the term weight loss each month, but it’s got a Keyword Difficulty of 74, aka “Super Hard”. It would take you years and years to get even close to the first page.
How to Define Your Niche
Does high competition mean you can’t possibly find success writing in a saturated market like the weight loss niche? Absolutely not.
Just because you can’t rank for the term Weight Loss, doesn’t mean you can’t find a more specific opportunity.
Knowing how to identify terms people are looking for, as well as the competition for terms you want to rank for can give you an enormous advantage.
But how do you know what people are looking for? And how do you know that it’s not already a saturated market?
Enter: Keyword Research.
For those of you who are going through the process of writing 10 articles for a website, we don’t expect you to spend hours and hours deep diving into the subject.
When accepted as one of our Free Website candidates, we will do the keyword research on your behalf, and line your articles with the best opportunities we can find.
Keyword research can theoretically help you choose the topics for the articles that would be the most beneficial for you to write.
It can also help identify what you should write about, because choosing 10 articles out of nowhere can be intimidating by itself.
If you’re interested in the subject, and want to play around with some keyword research tools, the one we use is called ahrefs.com (it’s expensive, but there’s a 7 day trial for $7). A free alternative, which admittedly isn’t as reliable, is called ubersuggest.
It is important to remember that Google’s goal is always to give their users the answers they are looking for.
When someone searches for a topic like “how to freeze potatoes,” Google goes into its database, finds all of the articles written on that subject, and returns the best solutions.
But how does Google actually prioritize what the best answers are? How do they choose which article to rank #1?
In short – it’s a popularity contest.
A word you’ll hear a lot in SEO Land is “backlinks.”
A backlink is a hyperlink that directs you to a page on another website.
For example: At the end of this sentence there is a backlink that takes you to a client’s website for their non-profit CrossFit Gym in Reno, NV.
Notice how the linked text above might also be what someone searches Google for? That’s called the Anchor Text. It tells Google what that link is about, as well as where it goes. Reserve “click here” for directing to files and supporting documents.
The more quality backlinks an article has pointing to it, the stronger Google thinks the article must be. The article with the most (and the best) backlinks gets ranked #1.
One backlink from a reputable website will almost always be more valuable than a hundred backlinks from smaller sites.
5. Become Familiar With Topic Clusters
The concept of a Topic Cluster is typically mentioned in the “Advanced SEO” category that most introductory Search Engine Optimization courses don’t cover.
But for the 10 Articles for a Free Website offer, it’s important that you understand it.
Simply explained, you’ll be expected to create 10 pieces of content on our behalf. There should be one main “pillar content” article, and nine supplementary “cluster content” articles that stem off from it.
The central article must have 9 links within it that point outward to the cluster articles, and each cluster article must link inward to the central article.
Download your blank, printable topic cluster here
Other than backlinks, another ranking factor that you need to be concerned with is the concept of Internal Links. While a backlink goes to an outside website, Internal Links are links to another page on the same website.
Google thinks, “the more links that go to a single page, the more valuable that page must be” – which is why you want your central article to have 9 links going towards it. It’s a signal to Google that this page is important.
For example: within this sentence, there is an internal link that takes you to our article called “Why Your Side Hustle Needs a Website”
Google loves internal links because they improve a website’s User Experience. If someone clicks from article to article, they’re more likely to stay on the website and learn more of what the site has to offer.
Time on Page
A third important ranking indicator is how long a user stays on your site, or “Time on Page.”
This is a big reason why your articles should always aim to always be over 1,000 words long. In general, the longer you can keep someone’s attention, the better Google assumes your article is.
Having longer articles combined with internal links increases the amount of time before the average user clicks away, resulting in YOU moving up in Google rankings, inching closer to your goals.
Advice: Write Your Pillar Article Before Planning Your Cluster Content
When filling out a topic cluster, it’s really easy to get wrapped up in thinking, “this is going to be my main article, and these are going to be my supplementary articles.“
Here’s why that’s a bad approach…
1. It compromises the effectiveness of your pillar article
Remember that in order for an article to perform well on Google, above all else it needs to be helpful to a stranger who has never met you before.
If you are writing your pillar content trying to force a little bit about 9 different subjects into it, it will be obvious to the reader that you were more focused on keyword stuffing than producing a helpful article.
There is nothing worse for a reader than expecting to find an answer, then having to skim through a bunch of fluff. Google knows this, and will penalize you for it.
Focus on writing one great, actually useful article.
Always remember that your goal for everything you ever write is for someone to find it on Google, click on it, and get their problems solved.
If you’re promising a solution to “How to Freeze Potatoes”, this is not the article to start talking about the history of potatoes, or the difference between those grown in Idaho vs. those grown in Ireland. Those are better reserved for entirely separate articles of their own.
Just stick with one great 1,000 word article about How to Freeze Potatoes. That’s all the user wanted when they clicked into your article, and that’s all you should be giving them.
2. It is harder for YOU to write it
We’ve seen this over and over again. Over planning stresses people out. When you pre-fill out your entire topic cluster, it might look good and you’ll feel confident that this is your plan.
When you begin to write your central article, however, you’ll inevitably find yourself banging your head against your keyboard with writer’s block.
Trying to keep 9 future articles in mind while writing the first one is a lot harder than it might sound. The result is often more stress for the writer, and an inferior product in the end.
Start by writing your central “Pillar Content” article first, then let your 9 supplementary “Cluster Content” articles come naturally after.
Topic Cluster Example
If your main article is “Why I Love Living in Portland, Oregon.”
You’ll write your main article about all the reasons why you love calling Portland your home. Write this one first. Do NOT think about what you plan to write next.
Within that main “Pillar” article, you might naturally say you love the food, the nightlife, the proximity to the outdoors, and so on.
By nature of writing that one article, great topics for your other nine articles will naturally arise, and they all make sense to link to from your main article. Once it is completed, read through it and look for natural places that might make sense to write future articles about.
Main Article: Why I Love Living in Portland
First Supplementary Article: The Best Places to Eat in Portland
Second Supplementary Article: Why Portland Nightlife is the Best
Third Supplementary Article: The Best Places to Hike Within 30 Minutes of Portland
Wash, rinse, and repeat until you have written 10 articles. Just start by writing your main article, and if you need to, read over it and look for ideas for natural places to link to additional content.
Link Cluster Content To Pillar Content
Important: When writing your Cluster Content articles, be sure that within each there is an internal link back to your main Pillar Content article as well. Your goal is to have 10 articles where 9 internally link to your main article, with the main article linking out to the other 9.
It’s worth showing this image twice. Be sure to study it and understand this concept. It’s crucial both for writing your articles, and for your website to be a success. Download your blank, printable topic cluster here.
6. Outline Your Content
Even for the best SEO professionals, writing articles isn’t as simple as it sounds.
Throw in the fact that there are rules to follow in order to rank on Google and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
If you have a simple, structured outline to follow will make your life much easier.
First start by completing your topic cluster, so you know exactly which articles to write.
Why You Need an Outline
Not only will having an outline make it 10x easier for you to write and stay on track, but your outline is actually necessary for ranking on Google.
An invaluable free tool we recommend everybody download is the SEO Meta in 1-Click Google Chrome browser extension.
Once installed, try visiting any web page and clicking it. For this example, we’ll use the article How to Use Header Tags.
When opening the extension, click on the second tab called “Headers”, and take notice of what you see. This is called the page’s “Header Structure”, and is the outline of the page.
This is a huge part of what Google looks at when deciding what this page is about, so that when someone searches for that subject, it’ll know to pull it up as a response.
What you’re looking at is nothing more than a run-of-the-mill outline. It’s just labeled in a way that lets Google read it, called HTML.
You do NOT need to learn coding, but what you do need to understand is the importance of having an outline.
It not only makes it infinitely easier to write your articles, but it’s required by Google, too.
How to Make an Outline
For a lot of our audience, it’s been many years since they’ve written anything, let alone an outline.
Rest easy that it’s as simple as brainstorming your thoughts in an organized way.
How to Write an Outline in 4 Easy Steps
There are three rules for an Article Title:
- There should only be one title on a page. This is always the H1 Header
- The Title must be between 50 and 60 characters long.
- The first few words should explain what the article is about, so users will see the title in search results even if it does get cut off.
(the examples below shows an effective Article Title and SEO optimized meta instruction. Notice what happens when your title is too long?)
Statistics show that a reader decides whether to stay on an article within 3 seconds. How do you make a positive and quick first impression that gets them to stick around?
Use this 3 sentence formula when writing your intro:
1. Big Problem
- Many people visit Portland Oregon, and don’t know what to do outside of visit Voodoo Doughnuts.
2. Effects of Big Problem
- This leads to a lot of people leaving our beautiful city with a poor impression.
3. What You’ll Learn By Reading This Article
- By reading this article, you’ll learn 10 great things to do when you visit Portland to have a great experience.
Put together, here is that sample introduction:
“Many people visit Portland Oregon, and don’t know what to do outside of visit Voodoo Doughnuts (overrated!). This leads to a lot of people leaving our beautiful city with a poor impression. By reading this article, you’ll learn 10 great things to do when you visit Portland to have a great experience.”
See how easy that was?
The introduction is your one chance to convince them that this is the article that is going to solve their problems, and why they should remain on this page.
Respond to these prompts, and you’re sure to hook your reader quickly, and get them to advance to the rest of your article.
The body of your article, while the longest, can be quickly written and easy to write. It will be easier if you group your main ideas and back them with supporting thoughts.
It helps to outline them using bullet points.
Title: 10 Reasons Why Portland, Oregon is a great place to live
- The Food Scene is Incredible
- Best Pizza City in the US
- Amazing Japanese Food (mention that our water has the same ph as Tokyo)
- Affordable Food Carts Everywhere
- Brewery Culture
- Proximity to the Outdoors
- Columbia River Gorge
- Multnomah Falls
- 3 hours from the Oregon Coast
Note that you can have as many main ideas and supporting thoughts as necessary. Simply say a little about each topic in your list. Add a picture or two and you’ve quickly written an article worth reading!
The Main Ideas are the most important part of what Google sees when they scan your article, and are usually indicated as H2’s and H3’s in the code. These are a majority of how you can tell Google what this page is actually about.
Interested in seeing how this very article was outlined? Click Here to download the pdf.
The conclusion is usually the least important part of your article, but it SHOULD still be included, if not for any reason other than giving the reader a reason to continue using your site, sign up for your email list, or contact you to learn more.
To write an easy conclusion, try to follow this formula:
- Recap of what the reader should now understand.
- Next steps if they want to continue learning more.
7. Write Your Articles
With your outline in hand, writing your article should be easy.
I repeat: Writing your article should be easy!
If it is not easy, then you are overthinking.
Your goal is NOT to wow the world with your Shakespearean prowess, gifted approach to transitions or dedication to a thesaurus.
Your goal is to help someone find an answer.
That’s all they want from you.
If you can add a sense of personality, consider that a bonus, but it is NOT required.
Remember, Google’s #1 priority is giving their users answers.
That’s all you need to be doing. Identify a question – provide a great answer.
Don’t Complicate Things
When writing with overly sophisticated words, you’ll likely confuse people and they won’t understand your message.
Remember who your ideal customer is, and tailor your speech to them appropriately.
Your goal is to be helpful, not impressive.
As a wise person once said, measure your success by the people you help.
People Skim When They Read.
The reason you start with an outline is to keep yourself on track with what you’re supposed to respond to.
More often than not, a reader’s Google behavior is:
- Identify a problem
- Search for answer
- Locate answer and move on with their life.
This is why so many articles have their main ideas as a header in large, bold text, with their supporting thoughts below it.
It’s the same reason why a Table of Contents exists.
It makes it easier to locate the answer you came here for.
Does that mean your efforts are wasted if they find your answer and leave?
Absolutely not. You accomplished what your article promised it would.
Google registers this as a “win.”
The next time someone has the same question, they’ll know your article has the answer.
If you’re concerned with capturing leads (i.e. “potential customers”), a common practice is to create a “lead magnet” in the form of a free giveaway.
For example, an exit-intent pop up offering a pdf of “the top 5 tips” of something in exchange for their email address.
With that email address, you can develop a relationship with the reader.
Just Answer the Questions
People are naturally hardwired to want to believe that audiences hang on to our every word.
To us, we are the most important mind that exists.
The problem is that everybody thinks that of themselves.
Remember that when you’re writing.
Nine out of ten people will NOT read most of the words that you write.
Just because you wrote a zippy one-liner on paragraph two of your article, don’t expect that the reader will catch your reference to it in paragraph six.
The best advice when writing an article is simply “see the prompt, respond to the prompt, and move on to the next prompt”.
In short… don’t get caught up repeating what you learned in High School.
Prose is great, but you shouldn’t be trying to write the next great piece of literature. You’re just giving advice to someone who asked you for it.
This approach will make it both easier on you, and easier for the reader to find what they’re looking for.
This article is long and covered a lot.
Now that you’ve worked your way through it, you should have a good understanding of what is expected of you as you work your way through earning your free website by writing ten articles
and how to grow your website long after we’ve parted ways.