A Freelance Writer’s Basic Guide to SEO

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Hands up all those freelance writers who, when scanning the job boards recently, have seen writing gigs looking for copywriters with SEO experience? (should be everyone). Keep your hands up if you don’t understand what SEO is, or if you do, were confused the first time you saw it used? (should still be everyone). And now keep your hands up all those freelancers who have since realised how easy it is to make money writing SEO articles, or who would like to know what it’s all about? (Everyone should still have their hands up).

Yes it’s true, SEO seems like one of those fancy modern phrases, that only applies to tech-minded people, but the reality is very different. SEO has been around for a while; it’s only since the Google revolution has it been defined as an entity. Get your head around SEO, and it can be the source of many lucrative writing jobs.

This article will give you the low down on SEO, what it is, and how you can earn from it.

What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimisation. It is the term to describe the methodology used to boost a website’s rating when it is searched for on an Internet search engine, and the resulting page rank it receives in relation to other related websites. This is achieved through the use of web content and articles enriched with keywords, and meta tags in the structure of the webpage.

Why is it Relevant?

SEO is relevant in the world of e-commerce and online business, and for those involved in the creation of web sites and web content. Because most Internet users don’t browse past the first page of search results they are offered, the higher a website can rank for a given keyword or phrase, the better its chances are of bringing in new customers. Research has shown most users only ever click on the top 5 to 10 results.

Yahoo, MSN, and in particular Google, account for over 70% of all search engine traffic on the Internet, so for an online business this avenue of attracting customers is highly valued.

What is a Page Rank?

Page rank is a way of determining a website’s importance dependent on its desirability and exposure. The term was derived by Google, who developed an algorithm to calculate rankings.

When this algorithm is executed, it determines the number of links pointing to a website, the amount of relevant content it contains, and then assigns it a number between 1 and 10; 1 being the lowest level of rank, 10 being the highest. The higher a page rank, the better chance a website has of appearing at the top of an Internet search result page.

What is a Keyword?

A keyword is a word or phrase an Internet user will enter into a search engine when trying to locate something, i.e., a product or information. For example, a website selling herbal tea will list keywords such as, “herbal,” “tea,” and “tea bags,” etc.

What is Keyword Density?

Keyword density is the numerical factor derived from dividing the number of words on the page of a website, by the number of keywords that are used within it. The more keywords used throughout a web page (and ultimately the entire site), the better the website will rank for that keyword or phrase.

Websites that have too high a density tend be considered as spam by search engines, and may be excluded.

Can’t Website Owners Pay For A Higher Ranking?

It’s not possible to purchase search list rankings, because they are free and calculated through algorithms. Instead, a website must earn its rating over time, and through the use of Internet links and keyword relevance.

It is possible to pay for promotion based on specific keywords or phrases, however these are separate to the free results offered when running a standard search, and usually appear as sponsored adverts.

What Has All This To Do With Freelance Writing?

For freelance writers, this means the appearance of more and more writing gigs looking for writers who are able to write dedicated SEO-rich web copy, related articles, and blogs.

All these methods are aimed at attracting hits and links to a website, thus boosting its rankings, and pushing it up the search ladder. There are two main methods you might be hired to do this.

The first is through the writing of web content for the target site. The aim of this is to attract interested users directly into a website via a landing page. For example, a user will search for the term “herbal tea,” and find their way onto a website that sells it. They will then be able to read all about it and order their favourite brand before they leave.

The second method is through the writing of articles and blogs that are external to the website, but show up in search engine results and guide users towards the main website at the centre of the business. So for example, somebody might search for “Lemon tea” and discover an article written by a freelance writer on the physical benefits herbal tea promotes. The article will contain a by-line or other links throughout it, that direct the reader to the main website so they can purchase lemon tea.

Where there are websites looking for business there will always be a need for writers. Fresh and attractive articles that are written using SEO techniques, and are enriched using keywords in a subtle and sensitive approach, are becoming more in demand. Master SEO writing, and you will never be short of work.

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14 thoughts on “A Freelance Writer’s Basic Guide to SEO”

  1. Great summary of what SEO basically is. My recommendation to anyone wanting to learn more, is to subscribe to blogs that talk specifically about SEO techniques because the rules change practically every day.

  2. I think that SEO is all about having the highest quality website. Maybe you can do SEO for a while but probably Google Analytics will analyze how long your visitors stay in your site and compare it with the competition and if the visitors stay longer in the competition, your rank goes down. My opinion.

  3. Many SEO experts consider keyword density to be a bit of a “myth.” See this for example:

    I would tend to agree — if keyword density was a factor, then it is too easy to “spam” search engines with content that is meaningless but has the right keywords.

    That being said, there are some important aspects of a document that writers should be aware of, such as the title of the page (in HTML this is the title element), the keywords and descriptions (that are shown in search results, but not used to factor the rank), good use of headings and sub-headings, bullet lists etc to facilitate scanning and quick reading, etc.

  4. Great article!

    I studied SEO for over a year, built a web site, and successfully got it ranked in the top 5 results in Google for my targeted keyword phrase, but what I would really like to know is; how can I use this knowledge as a Freelancer?

    You addressed this broadly but I would love to see an article speak more specifically with strategies for actually doing it and how to land the jobs. Where would be a good place to start marketing myself?

    Really like this web site a lot and the tips you provide. Thank you!!

  5. Quick SEO Tips For Online Writers

    By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

    The rapidly changing online environment is putting new challenges on writers of online content, with writers expected to pay attention to strategies of marketing and to increasing online visibility with keywords for purposes of search engine optimization (SEO).

  6. People say that keyword density isn’t a factor, but i strongly disagree.

    I have been SEO-ing for 4 years, have worked on nearly 100 websites, and I will tell you, the frequency of the keyword, as it appears on your page, is still has a major impact on ranking.

    If, as a freelance writer, you have written content that appears higher int he search engines and you know how to duplicate those results, you can sell that ability as a value add to your current offering.

  7. Hi Mike

    I completely agree with you about the keyword density factor. There are many web sites where you can check your keyword density and the best result to have is from 3-7%. I’ve got a web site optimize by myself and my keyword density was 19% and 17% for my main keywords. Then I hire a company from Canada to optimize my home page and I check my keyword density again. It was 6.9 and 5.8% for the main keywords and my website is ranked fifth now on Google so everyone who thing that the keyword density isn’t a factor its wrong

  8. The important thing is not so much density of keywords, but where you put them. There are lots of tricks and things to know here – too many for a humble comment {though you could always check out my ebook on the subject 🙂 }. In brief, the keywords need to go in certain places, such as the page title; H1 headline; first para; last para; in a list; in a link; in italics; etc etc.
    Of course, the most important thing in SEO is the backlinks to your site, and the anchor text used in those backlinks.

  9. Great website and post (is this related to daily blog tips?)….I run a website and I offer a free 7 week SEO course designed specifically for writers wanting to incorporate this skill into their regular writing…just look on the sidebar…it’s about 100 pages of techniques…you can download it at selloutyoursoul.com, if interested.

    Thanks. I’m a big fan of this site.


  10. Hey guys….I have just set up my own website and want to improve traffic. I have written most of the content myself and am now planning on outsourcing some. Can anybody recommend some good writing sites? I am currently using one called independent publishing, which has been great so far, but i was wondering if anyone knew of any others. Or, in fact, if it is even worth outsourcing?

  11. Thanks Colin for your “A Freelance Writer’ Basic Guide to SEO- Search Engine Optimization. “Hands up” was a fun way to point out that I am not the only one wondering what SEO is? By the way under the heading What is SEO? Your spelling Optimisation? comes up red lined but if you spell it with the “z” it creates not only a different pronounciation. (which is also red lined) but a different meaning. I figured the Search Engine Part but, the “O” was the what?
    Also I have learned, that almost all on-line and computer applications could change daily.
    Since Search Engines are the topic. Have you heard anything about Google and Yahoo partnering? Ms. Marilyn

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