A good and bad aspect of writing online for a living is that everything you love becomes potential writing fodder.
As usual, you have to find the “What you love / what people are searching for” overlap: I love J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fall of Gondolin” story in Book of Lost Tales, but few people are searching for it; those few people who love it are all on some Lord of the Rings fan forum talking about it. They’re not going to find an article I write on it unless I write a really good article on it, and lots of other really good Tolkien articles, until finally I get a following of Tolkien geeks.
That’s social promotion, which works by word of mouth.
Search engine optimization means automated traffic: people finding your content through searches. Not all aspects of a topic get search traffic. (“Fall of Gondolin.”) But many do. I’ve learned by trial and error that common search traffic queries related to science fiction and fantasy fandom are collectibles, toys, and costumes. People want Harry Potter legos and Star Wars action figures and Xena swords. Being part of science fiction fandom, I also like some of these things, enough to research and write about them. Bingo!
Being a longtime Tolkien fan, I know that another Tolkien book is being turned into a movie — two movies — and that as with The Lord of the Rings films, there will be collectibles, action figures, replicas, toys, stuff. But of course, if fans just want to buy that stuff, they’ll go straight to Amazon and look it up there, bypassing Google and bypassing my lenses. They don’t need me to natter at them about that stuff! So product-related articles must do more than just showcase the product. They must provide some kind of information that fans want that Amazon doesn’t cover.
If you are a fan, you know what fans find interesting or want to know, and it’s your job (a fun job!) to research and provide that info. For example: The origin of Hermione’s Time Turner and how it works. The colors of different Jedi lightsabres. Costume details on Thor’s armor, and how to make it (and where to find materials to make it on eBay for cheap). This is where your fan expertise suddenly becomes useful, instead of merely an embarrassing hobby: you can answer questions that Amazon can’t, related to things.
In my case, I like swords (there’s an Éowyn bottled up in me somewhere), and I like Elvish and runes and dead languages. I paid attention to the props and replicas in the LOTR films and noticed all the Elvish runes written on them. So what am I doing, on days when I can’t think of more educational and thoughtful topics to write about?
- Gandalf’s sword Glamdring: its history in the books and its design in the movies
- Bilbo’s sword Sting: its background and what the runes on the movie prop say
Amazon product images let me grab photos, and the Fair Use policy of a “limited excerpt” for critique/commentary lets me use a credited close-up photo for analyzing and reporting on the inscriptions on each weapon.
The details of what I’m doing aren’t important except as an example of how to mine an interest for an angle that’s likely to draw traffic and drive sales.
The point is: you have fandoms, hobbies, interests in which you have expert knowledge. Many of them are related to upcoming books, films, or events. Those are prime targets for search traffic. Now think of products related to the hobby, fandom, or event. And think of details about those products that fans might be wanting to know (“What do the runes on Gandalf’s sword say?”) The more you know about the fandom, the more likely you’ll be able to come up with information that may not be available elsewhere, or may not have been pulled together in quite the way you can do it. (There are webpages on Elvish, and there are websites about Tolkien trivia, and there are websites on movie swords, and there are sales listings for the swords available on Amazon, but the information from all those sources hasn’t been combined onto one article, plus I’ve found or added some information not found anywhere else.)
I’m getting ready for the Hobbit films. What are you getting ready for?
This is so helpful. I was wondering how I add value when there are lots of websites out there on topics I like to write on. I needed to be reminded that there may be a way that I pull stuff together that is unique in spite of all that is already written.
Haha, it’s not writing about stuff that’s the problem for me – it’s the data overload! I can’t choose which of the many awesome things I COULD dive into to start writing about.