SEO & Content: How Writing as a Hobby Led to Entrepreneurial Success
If you could narrow the reason for your business’ success down to one trait, what would it be? Mine would be writing — the very skill I had always been told was a hobby, to be employed only in more useful contexts like law or teaching.
Discovering how to leverage my “hidden talent”
I got the first inkling that writing would come to define my career when I was 17 years old. Sitting in front of my bedroom computer, I was racking my brain trying to find a way to make my Columbia admission essay stand out. Back then, I was a bit of an idealist, spending much of my time writing poetry. I decided to try pasting a stanza I had written next to each paragraph of the essay in the hopes it would enhance the piece’s overall meaning. I made every stanza a different color, and connected them visually with squiggly cut-out arrows.
My English teacher was horrified at my experimentation. This wasn’t the format of a college entrance essay, she said. But I knew I needed to take a risk, as my grades were at the lowest end of Columbia’s range. So I submitted it, glue smudges and all. And I waited.
A few months later, I got an unexpected call from the head of the Columbia admissions committee. Not only did she tell me I got in, but she asked my permission to use my essay in a workshop they were creating on the ideal college application.
Writing & SEO
That was a moment I’ll never forget. And when I got out of college, it inspired me to try my hand at entrepreneurship — as a college admission essay tutor. Given the unusual way I got into college, I figured I was well qualified. But there was one little issue: I had no money and no idea how to find customers. That’s when one of my friends told me about this emerging field of marketing called search engine optimization (SEO), which allows you to rank highly on Google for free. If I could get my site to the top for the query “college admission essay,” I’d be set.
So, I studied. I went online and read everything I could find on SEO. And I did so with the fervor of a kid who knew he’d be back working at the local sneaker store if he didn’t get some clients. At 22, I could stay up all night working, and it barely affected me.
I woke up one day a few months later and went to the computer to search “college admission essay” like I had done hundreds of times before. But that day, something was different: my site was #1. I had cracked Google.
How I “cracked” Google with written content and maximized success
By writing dozens of articles about various types of admission essays: college, law school, and med school; for Harvard, Yale, and Princeton; on travel, an inspirational person, and childhood illness. I made my site an information hub about every conceivable aspect of the essay. And for some reason, Google loved it. We remained #1 for two years, the business grew, and I eventually sold it — my first ever transaction.
From there, the formula was easy to follow. I chose niche product areas I had some passing interest in — antiques, sculpture, high-end apartments, casual games — and hired writers to pen articles on every dimension of the subject, optimizing them to be found on Google. The process worked: By the end of my twenties, I had started and sold five profitable companies, including one of the most popular gaming websites in the world.
How I use my writing skills today
Today, I preside over an SEO firm, which, no surprise, centers around writing. We simply create an article on every aspect of the client’s product or service that has commercial value and present it to Google in the right way. Google’s algorithm is elegant in this way because it rewards genuinely helpful and interesting content, which in turn makes its brand better.
I still write every day, both personally and professionally. At this point, I recognize that it’s a need, not a want. Writing has given me what I dreamed of having as a middle-class kid growing up in the suburbs of New York. But beyond that, I get to tell stories, make an impact, and connect with like-minded people as a Member of TIGER 21. Not bad for a hobby.
About Evan Bailyn
Evan Bailyn is an internet entrepreneur, the bestselling author of three books on SEO and social media, and a TIGER 21 Member since 2019. He is primarily known as an expert on content marketing, having used his ability to attract online visitors to build and sell five businesses, including one of the largest children’s websites online.