A Writers Guide to SEO

Anyone who wants to make money writing online, needs to have at least a general understanding of what SEO is, and how it works.  Many customers will request that articles are written for SEO, and others will want advice on SEO.  If you don’t at least have a good basic understanding of it, you’ll almost certainly lose clients.  With that in mind, this post will provide a very high-level overview of what SEO is, how it applies to writers, and some commonly used terms associated with it.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization is any activity which is performed in order to attempt to get a particular site to rank better in the search engine results pages.  For example, if I want this site to rank in the #1 spot in Google’s search results when people type in “A Writers Guide to SEO,” then I would have to take some steps to help ensure that happens.

There are two main categories of SEO.  On-page SEO and off-page SEO.  On page SEO is anything which is done on your site to help with the search rankings.  This would include things like including the keyword in the title and any heading tags, adding the keyword to the description of the page, using Meta tags and, most importantly, having high-quality content about the subject you want to rank for.

Off-site SEO is, as you might expect, any activities taken outside of your own page. This is commonly going to be link building, through things like blog posting, forum commenting and social media marketing.  There is endless information available on this subject, and many so-called experts all disagree with each other on what works and what doesn’t.  The important part for a writer, however, is that you know the basics of what each of these are.

How does SEO Apply to Writers?

If a client asks you to write an SEO article on the keyword “training English Bulldogs to roll over” and they say they want it optimized to 5%, you need to understand what that means.  In this case, it means they want that specific keyword to be 5% of the total article.  If you’re writing a 500 word article for them, you would use that phrase 2-3 times.  Many clients will also ask that you optimize the article for the keyword in the first and last paragraph, meaning they want that specific keyword to be used in the first and last paragraph of the article.

Still other clients will ask for your advice about where to post the article or how to properly use it.  Most of the time, however, it is enough to be able to at least talk about SEO and use the terminology correctly.  The more you know, however, the more effective you can be for the clients who want you to help them with SEO.  In fact, if you learn enough about this subject, you can begin offering SEO services in addition to the writing, and raise your prices significantly.  That is, however, well beyond the scope of this article.

Common SEO Definitions

There are hundreds of terms used in SEO, but this post will only cover the most important ones to know about.  If you have any questions about specific terms you’ve seen or heard, please post in the comments.  I’d be happy to explain them to you.

  • Algorithm – The algorithm that the search engines use to index listings.   Google’s search algorithm, for example, is made up of thousands of different pieces of information which allow Google to rank the search results for any given keyword.
  • Anchor Text – The clickable text in a hyperlink.  If I were linking to Google and I wrote, “Click HERE to visit Google,” and made HERE clickable, that would be the anchor text.
  • Backlinks – All incoming links to a website or page are known as backlinks.  They are also called inbound links.
  • Headings – These “H-Tags” can go from H1 to H6.  They are HTML tags which are commonly used in search engine algorithms.  Having the main keyword within an H tag (especially H1) can help with on-page SEO.
  • Keyword – A single word which is used to search for a specified topic
  • Keyword Phrase – A combination of several keywords a searcher uses to search for a specific topic.
  • Keyword Stuffing – The act of using a specific keyword in an article an unnatural amount of times.  Some clients will, for example, ask for a specific keyword to be 8% of the total article, which is almost never a good idea.
  • Link Building – The process of building links from one website to another.
  • Long-Tailed Keywords – Keyword phrases that are 2-5 words long and typically have less competition than shorter keyword phrases.
  • SERPs – Search Engine Results Pages




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