October 24, 2014

Guest Post: The Truth About Writing for SEO

By Rebecca Joyner

It’s amazing what happens when you take a descriptive term and chop it down into an acronym. Consider “search engine optimization.” We all know what search engines are. And “optimize” is a familiar word. Most people can figure out that this phrase is about optimizing something so search engines like Google can find it. But once you turn an understandable phrase into alphabet soup – S…E…O… – it suddenly becomes technical. Difficult. Scary.
Writers should not be scared of SEO. They should, however, know what it is and how to wield it for their own benefit or that of their clients. Here are some truths I’ve learned aboutSEO during several years of writing copy that helps businesses get found online:
  1. Writing for SEO starts with writing well. There are plenty of job postings out there for “SEO writers.” Companies are getting smarter about marketing their businesses through online content. That’s a good thing. However, organizations need to know that good SEO writing must first begood writing. Once readers are on your website, you better deliver something informative, entertaining, readable and actionable, or you’ve wasted your time.
  2. Knowing your keywords is similar to knowing your business. Keywords are at the core of most SEOstrategies. These are the words and phrases that prospective readers type into search engines to find you or your client (or your client’s competition). Some simple research on Google Adwords can show you which short and long tail search terms website visitors use most often. But really – if you understand the market, the target customer, and the problem that customer needs to solve – you should have a pretty good idea of your top eight to 10 keywords and phrases.
  3. Pay attention to headlines, subheads, tags and descriptions.Cheap content mills and self-appointedSEO gurus might stuff boring copy with keywords and call it a day. You can’t do that. You are a writer – a writer who happens to know a few things aboutSEO. Make sure you’ve used keywords in the places where they count most: headlines, subheads, blog post tags and meta descriptions. Because your keywords are intrinsically tied into your business and the problem you’re solving for customers, they will naturally appear in the body of your content, as well. Don’t cram them in where they don’t need to be. You’ll get pinged as spam (and you won’t feel good about yourself, either).
  4. Be nice to SEO experts (but don’t compromise your core writing principles). If your client has enlisted the help of SEO consultants, be ready for detailed instructions about the number of keywords you should use and where you should put them. Most of the time, you can heed these instructions without abandoning what you know about how to appeal to readers and get your job done well.
SEO is no panacea for writers or the clients we serve. We still must create work that is clear, compelling and creative. That requirement hasn’t changed since the days of quill pens and parchment; the words mattered most then, and they matter most now. Modern-day realities demand, however, that we know something about distribution, since the words themselves are now part of the strategy for finding readers.
Rebecca Joyner works with small businesses and companies in high-tech, financial services and other industries to write and edit press releases, articles, newsletters, website copy, blog posts, case studies, e-books, marketing collateral and more. Her work has appeared under client bylines on Mashable, Businessweek, MarketingProfs, Computerworld, Search Engine Land and many other outlets, as well as on more than a dozen corporate blogs. Follow Rebecca on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comments

  1. Informative read. I think for some writers “SEO writing” sounds like a bad word. I like your approach. It can be valid work for a writer and their porfolio — if done right. I agree it’s important to consider your own ethics when writing for SEO. I want to write for humans, and to help a company foster business, not write for search engines or to mislead customers.

  2. Right on, Holly.

    SEO is a tool with which business writers need to be familiar. But there’s no business value in drawing tons of website visitors, only to have them realize there’s nothing worth reading once they land on the page. The SEO strategy has to incorporate quality content.

  3. This is very informative! I love your approach regarding SEO writing.

  4. Very informative post Rebecca. You have clearly put forward the benefits as well as the “how to” of SEO writing. Thanks for the amazing post.

  5. What an excellent post…I must admit, as a writer who used Elance in the early stages of her career, I have an irrational fear of all things SEO (No, I will NOT write 75 500-word articles for 25 cents each, thank you very much!). But as has been stated by the other posters here, you’ve really nailed it – SEO is something we need to consider, particularly if we’re writing for the web. Thanks for taking some of the scariness out of it all!

  6. This is so terribly true. As a freelance writer I often find myself disagreeing with SEO experts as sometimes they want to flood each page with keywords while I want to keep in light and readable. Thanks for these tips. You can read my freelance writing story here- http://www.howtomakemoneyfreelancing.com.

  7. Thanks for this, Rebecca! As a writer who is new to SEO, I love your emphasis on good writing. It’s easy to forget about craft and story when you have the “keyword” mantra in the back of your mind. As Holly said, we are still humans and machines are merely our method of interface. Story is something we all crave and craft is what makes story enjoyable.

  8. Thanks for Sharing Rebecca Joyner. Somehow, you put the clear picture of SEO. Its really very informative post.

  9. Content is king and that has been already repeated a thousands time earlier. So being SEO specialists one needs to concentrate more upon content, especially after Google Panda. There is definetly no space for low quality content in google SERPs. Thus it is mandatory to be very much vigilant about quality of your content be it for web copies, guest blogs and any other ind of content because if your content is tasty and engaging you can gain a huge traffic at your business and also Google will reward you by increasing your rankings and vice versa.

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