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So You Want to Write SEO

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SEO word written on a puzzle piece
Fernando Alonso Herrero / E+ / Getty Images

Intro to SEO Writing for SEO Writers

So, you've seen the ads and heard your clients looking for SEO writers, right? You want to give it a try, huh? Following are the basics of SEO writing aimed at new SEO writers.

SEO writing is Search Engine Optimization writing. This is writing that is focused on grabbing the attention of the search engines using specific, targeted words or phrases (called keywords or keyword phrases), and using them in specific ways.

Now, why would this be important for websites? Because websites need to draw those people who are searching for certain things. They need that traffic to come to their site, and stay on their site, to buy their product or click on their ads. So, they need search engines to point people to their site. The way to get search engines to point to a site is partially in the writing of good, optimal, search engine-directed content. As a side note, other factors include presence of videos on the site, how others interact with the site, and how others refer to the site from other sites. In addition, once the search engine lands a potential reader on your lap, you must now write to that reader- not to the search engine, right? So this is an interesting balance, and fun for the right writer. We'll talk about that more in a bit.

Basics of SEO Writing for SEO Writers

First, you must find the "right" phrase or words for the site. For new SEO writers, the easiest "first" step to researching these "right" phrases (again, called keywords), is to go to Google's Keyword Tool and play with it a bit. It is advisable to go in (again, as a new writer, not an SEO expert per se) with a phrase in mind, and pop that into the Keyword Tool. Check out what combinations are returned from the search, and note the columns that describe:

  1. How much competition is for that phrase
  2. How many searches are made for that phrase in a month

From this exercise, you can massage the phrase that you came with, and also consider adding some complementary phrases to your writing.

Once you've established the phrases that you'll use as the website writer, you then need to feed those into certain areas on the site you're writing. Those areas are:

  • Titles and headlines
  • Subtitles
  • Metatitles (if you have access to the page's metadata
  • Links to other pages that are relevant to the phrase
  • Within the actual text ("content") itself.

SEO Writing - Frequency of Keywords

Now, I'm not telling SEO writers or wanna-be writers to take the above list and push the heck out of their keyword phrases in all of the above. In fact, littering your content with excessive uses of your phrase is called "keyword stuffing." Don't stuff. Be "real." The experts out there seem to disagree as to the "perfect" percentage (probably because there is not a true perfect percentage). I've seen clients asking for keywords as anywhere from 3% to 7% of the content. There are online programs that allow you to analyze what your number is. As writers, we are lucky in that the client often has a percentage in mind, or even has an SEO expert on hand, but one who cannot write! Which brings me to my next point…

SEO Writing, the Human Side

You must, must write for the humans, not for the search machines. This means that you must pull out all your writerly talents and make that SEO content jibe with the true human message it entails. You must make people want to refer to the site, link to it and talk about your content, because. . .

SEO Writing Doesn't Matter

As an SEO writer, it is important to also know about the other side of SEO writing. You can write the best copy that Google has ever laid her little paws on, but you may not get a lot of search traffic anyway. Why? Search results are also quite tied up in how others interact with your site and refer to your site. If your site is lacking "authority"- that is if your site is not viewed as the expert go-to on a subject-that will impact your search. If your site is newish, that may also be the culprit. If your site has too many keywords, or doesn't read as human, you'll be pushed lower in search results.

What the site needs, in addition to expert SEO writing, is interaction. Referrals. People pointing to the site from somewhere else- somewhere such as Twitter or another authoritative website- and saying you should go read this!

Your Next Step in Becoming an SEO Writer and Expert

So, you've got the basics down, and you want to become an SEO writer? Your next step is to dig deeper into SEO. The About.com pages on Home Business, Web Design, and Google all have wonderful content about Search Engine Optimization.

Then, to polish up the writing side of Search Engine Optimization, I find Copyblogger to be one of the go-to experts. I also highly recommend the classes at WOW-Women on Writing, MediaBistro and Writers Digest University. Each of those might run an SEO writing class now or in the future. And if they don't, ask them to! It's a lucrative field for writers.

Best of luck!

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