As a freelance writer, I am sure you have come across job adverts for an SEO expert or for writing blog posts that are SEO optimized. When I first started out on my freelance writing journey I had no idea what SEO was. I found after quite some time that I was doing myself, and my writing business, a disservice by not knowing about SEO.
So, do you know about SEO?
Still not sure if you think it is important? Keep reading to find out why freelance writers should know SEO, even if it is just basic knowledge.
Why should freelance writers know about SEO?
There are so many reasons why we as freelance writers should know basic SEO principles.
Businesses and companies now know that if they wish to be visible on search engines and thereby drive more traffic to their website that they need to implement appropriate and effective SEO tactics. If you understand the fundamental principles of SEO then you are more likely to be hired by these people.
Learning SEO expands your skill base. We all know knowledge is power! However, the added benefit of adding more tools in your arsenal is you can charge more for your work. Ka-ching!
You can use what you have learnt about SEO to improve your own websites ranking on search pages. What does this mean? More visibility, more website traffic, more chances to convert that traffic to paying clients. Ka-ching, ka-ching!
And for me, the most compelling reason to learn SEO is the fact that so many writing gigs now look for writers who are able to write SEO optimized website content and blog posts.
So what does it hurt to learn something new?
What is SEO and what does it mean for freelance writers?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Again, what does that mean?
One of the best (and simplest) explanations of SEO that I have found is in an article by Bianca Male “10 Basic SEO Tips To Get You Started” in Business Insider Australia:
“At its most basic, “SEO” means finding ways to increase your sites’ appearance in web visitors’ search results. This generally means more traffic to your site.”
Another great way of thinking about SEO:
“It is writing that is focused on grabbing the attention of the search engines using specific, targeted words or phrases (keywords or keyword phrases), and using them in specific ways.
Most Internet users do not scroll past the first page of search results. So your aim for your own business website, and also for website content and blog posts that you write for clients is to land their site or blog on the first page of search results. This means more visibility, more traffic and more chances of bringing in new customers or clients.
SEO optimized writing is all about landing on the first page or as high up in the search results as possible.
Basic SEO terms you need to know.
When I first started researching SEO I became overwhelmed by all the terminology and language surrounding SEO practices. I found I needed to break it down into the simplest definitions and prioritise what I needed to know at a basic level.
Google developed an algorithm to calculate a “page rank”. Google basically looks at the number of links that point to a website and the amount of relevant content on the site. The website is then assigned a number between 1 and 10 (1 being lowest and 10 being highest). The higher a page ranks the better off its chance of appearing near the top of search results.
“Page rank is a way of determining a websites’ importance dependent on desirability and exposure”
Keyword or Keyword Phrase.
A keyword or keyword phrase is the words or terms you would type into Google (or another search engine such as Yahoo or Bing) to find something specific.
“Freelance writer” would be a keyword as an example.
“Freelance writing for WAHMs” would be a keyword phrase.
The simplest way of explaining keyword density is that it is the number of times your keyword appears in your website copy or blog post. The trick is you want it to appear enough to rank for that keyword, but not so much it will be considered “keyword stuffing”.
Keyword stuffing is pretty much what it sounds like. Writers (usually not so good ones) will shove their keyword or keyword phrase in as often as they can, even if it doesn’t make sense. It will not read fluidly and may even result in that blog post or website being flagged as spam.
Steps to SEO writing.
Now you know what SEO is, the basic terminology and why it is important to understand SEO for freelance writers. Next is HOW to create SEO writing.
Step One: Keyword Research.
Sometimes your client will already have done this. They will simply tell you to use a certain keyword or keyword phrase for whatever writing project they have hired you for.
However, occasionally you will have to do the research yourself. Therefore knowing how to conduct keyword research is a valuable skill for freelance writers.
To be honest, I don’t get too bogged down in finding the “right” keyword. I have found the easiest (and best) way to find out what people are searching for is to search for your topic and see what pops up in the “people ask for” and “searches related to” areas of Google. This will help guide you in creating value filled content that people actually want to read.
I also use Google Keywords Planner if I want to (or have been asked to) focus on one keyword or keyword phrase around a certain topic.
Step Two: Keyword Placement
Once you have found the keyword you or your client want to rank for you need to input it to certain areas of the site and blog post:
- Meta description
- Body of the content
- Image titles
- Pinterest image descriptions (if using or part of your agreed work for your client).
Step Three: Content Writing
Search engines like to see consistently published fresh content. This way they know that you (or your client) are actively producing relevant content that people want to read.
The latest algorithm for ranking prefers long-form content (1000 words plus). The great thing about this is it gives you ample opportunity to provide quality content that answers people’s questions and is value filled. Plus plenty of chances to use your keyword or keyword phrase without overusing it! Remember…no one likes keyword stuffing.
The headline and meta-description of the post or page is your first impression. This is what people will see first so make sure you use powerful keywords to make them want to click through to read more! Then it is up to your amazing content that makes them want to stay and keep reading.
As important as keywords and keyword phrases can be, it is just as vital to WRITE FOR HUMANS. It can be easy to think, well I need to say X Y and Z so the search engines rank this blog post or website. However, part of ranking is how readers respond and interact with the website or blog post. So don’t forget to write for your audience! Answer their burning questions. Give them copy they want to keep reading. You want to compel people to link to and talk about your content and refer to your site. Be human. Be compelling. Be personable!