Be Keyword (and Content) Rich: A Freelance Writer’s Guide to SEO

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Search engine optimization (SEO) is not subsiding.

It still lingers.

It still evolves.

In fact, in a Bloomberg report, data from Strategy Analytics shows that the number of smartphone users globally is now beyond one billion and this may double by 2015 as the demand for Apple’s iPhone rises. The importance of these figures is justified by the study of Local Search Association and comScore, Inc. which shows that local search via mobile devices and tablets more than quadrupled in 2012. Moreover, a study from Google and Nielsen, as cited in Search Engine Land, revealed that 77% of “mobile search happens at home or work—even when there is a personal computer nearby and readily available.”

What should this matter to you as a freelance writer?

Your potential clients are taking advantage of this phenomenon to drive their businesses. They will need you to make SEO happen for them. To attract more customers, intensify publicity, and expand their reach.

Search Engine Land defines SEO as:

the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” listings on search engines. All major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing have such results, where web pages and other content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users. Payment isn’t involved, as it is with paid search ads.

Freelance writing is like running a business.

As a business, you have to be aware and skilled of the trends and needs that your clients currently prefer. In a Forbes article, Jason DeMers explains why SEO is important to entrepreneurs. Here are some of the reasons:

“Reputation management – Owning the top search results for branded queries is an extremely effective way to ensure that current and prospective clients get the best possible impression of your company when they search for your brand name or related keywords.

Keyword research is the most strategic way to get inside the minds of your target market. Understanding what keywords are being used to find your website (as well as your competitors’ websites) can inform your overall marketing strategy on many different levels, from subject lines used in newsletter emails, to press release titles, and more.

Competitive gamesmanship is a basic element of any SEO campaign; it’s also a common trait in entrepreneurs. Getting ahead of your competition in organic search is a major way to set your business apart from the competition.

Social media marketing has become intertwined with SEO; not only do social signals play a role in organic search rankings, high rankings in organic search results drives more traffic to your website and social media channels, accelerating their growth.”



Relevant Content

Victoria Edwards, in an article, lists the do’s and don’ts when writing for SEO. She explains that search engines are strict about showing websites and content that users would find relevant. But how is this relevancy measured? Edwards notes the following:

  • Content: Is determined by the theme that is being given, the text on the page, and the titles and descriptions that are given.
  • Performance: How fast is your site and does it work properly?
  • Authority: Does your site have good enough content to link to or do other authoritative sites use your website as a reference or cite the information that’s available?
  • User Experience: How does the site look? Is it easy to navigate around? Does it look safe? Does it have a high bounce rate?

But she adds that search engines are not for the following:

  • Keyword Stuffing: Overuse of keywords on your pages.
  • Purchased Links: Buying links will get you nowhere when it comes to SEO, so be warned.
  • Poor User Experience: Make it easy for the user to get around. Too many ads and making it too difficult for people to find content they’re looking for will only increase your bounce rate. If you know your bounce rate it will help determine other information about your site. For example, if it’s 80 percent or higher and you have content on your website, chances are something is wrong.

User Intent

DeMeyers, in a HubSpot article, emphasized the importance of user intent. It refers to providing users the answers, resources, information, product reviews, and other information they are looking for. Content should be made with the goal of meeting the expectation of the user. To demonstrate this, he added, “When you begin to focus on user intent, you’re going to be looking at live examples of searches that people type into search engines like Google every day. This isn’t just an indication of which keywords are being used; it’s also about how they’re tied to questions or queries in Google. For example, “iPhone cases under $20” and “iPhone case reviews” are two popular keywords. But “iPhone case reviews” only tells you that users are looking for reviews of any iPhone case. It isn’t particularly clear what type of a case the user is looking for. Generic content will be sufficient here, without too much focus on a particular type of case.”

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This is a skill you need to learn as a freelance writer in order to meet the needs of your clients and be more in demand in your market. Here is a compilation of the industry’s best advice and tricks on SEO.

Bianca Male, Business Insider

Monitor where you stand. MarketingVox suggests that you keep an eye on your page rank with tools like Alexa and the Google toolbar. It’s also important to check your referrer log regularly to track where your visitors are coming from and the search terms they’re using to find your site, according to PC World.

Keywords, keywords, keywords. You should be conscious of placing appropriate keywords throughout every aspect of your site: your titles, content, URLs, and image names. Think about your keywords as search terms — how would someone looking for information on this topic search for it?

Link back to yourself. There is probably no more basic strategy for SEO than the integration of internal links into your site — it is an easy way to boost traffic to individual pages, SEO Consult says.

Link to others. An easy way to direct more traffic to your site is by developing relationships with other sites. PC World suggests that you personally ask the webmasters of well-respected sites if they’ll include a link to your site on theirs. Be sure to return the favor — then everyone wins! Make certain that your partner has a good web-reputation, of course. MarketingVox warns against getting tied to a “link farm” whose bad SEO habits could bring you down.

James Martin,

SEO basics will never go away. Adam Barker, senior inbound marketing manager for SmartBear Software, admits that SEO has changed: “Content is the new way to optimize and drive traffic.” But you still have to prepare your site through keyword research and basic on-page SEO, he adds. “This is laying the tracks for the train to come through — and making sure you have the right train coming, through keyword research, is still just as important as it was before.”

Social presence will be more important than search. This trend, evident in 2013, will only be more apparent this year, says Ian Aronovich, president and co-founder of “It’s not that search rankings and the SEO era are over,” he says. “It’s still worthwhile to put resources into SEO. But having a strong social presence is becoming more and more reliable in driving traffic and building brand awareness.”

Determining what ranks, and why, will be more complicated. Copley Broer, CEO of LandlordStation, expects a lot of time and effort devoted to sorting out what type of sharing and content move the needle for Google rankings now and which don’t.

Flipboard, the mobile content aggregation app, is a good example, Broer says. Being indexed into Flipboard’s bot so your content pops on Flipboard is important — but it’s nearly impossible to tell when readers view your content on Flipboard unless they click through to open it in a browser. “How do you know if Google thinks that content is important if you can’t tell how many people are seeing it?” Broer asks. “Does Google’s Hummingbird search engine overhaul take Flipboard directly into account, or are you only impacted if someone shares your content from Flipboard to Google+?”

Natural language queries will be more important. Google wants people to be able to “talk” with the search engine the same way they would talk with anyone else, Laloggia says. Users, meanwhile, want Google to parse sentences and understand their intent. As a result, the focus on individual keywords should fade in lieu of a more keywordtheme approach to content creation. “In other words,” he says, “1,000 keyword variations on a theme should be less important, while great content built around the hub of the keyword theme will become more important.”

Jamie Tolentino, The Next Web

Make your page copy relevant and descriptive. When you type in a search in Google for example, you would see results with big font size titles and a snippet of description below the title, which serves as your first layer of marketing. You should include a homepage title and your description should briefly describe the type of service you do.

Create a mobile optimised website. Mobile usage is growing exponentially so now is the time to get ahead in the game. Always keep in mind that SEO is not just a process to make sure search engines are happy, it is a process to make sure you are delivering the best customer service to your customers.

Nathan Joynt,

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Organize internal and external marketing channels that directly or indirectly impact SEO. As you working toward earning your stripes with Google Analytics, be sure to spend some time learning about its Multi-Channel Funnels. This tool will give you the insight needed to understand how effectively your organization’s overall marketing initiatives work together. You may discover a buyer commonly purchases a product or service through multiple channels after multiple visits. If that’s the case, you’ll want to learn how all these channels work together to create that sale.

Jon Rognerud,

When you’ve selected your keywords, you’re ready to write your content. Here’s where the keyword optimization takes shape. What you need to do is repeat your keyword several times throughout your content. Generally, you want your keyword to appear 2 to 5 percent of the time. For example, if you’re writing an article of 500 words, you’ll want your keyword to appear at least 10 times but no more than 30.

By including optimized content on a website that would otherwise not contain such content, you get the advantage of self-expression while making sure your site gets seen by search engine bots.

Karen Scharf, Business Know How

Use Good Keyphrases.If you’re trying to optimize your brand new website for a single keyword, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle. Try longtail keyword phrases instead (a phrase that is four words or longer) because they are less competitive and easier to get started with. Be sure to research the phrases that your target market is actually searching for, and then do the competitive research to ensure that you actually have a chance of ranking for those phrases.

Create Good URLs.Creating readable URLs is especially important if you’re using a content management system or otherwise generating dynamic URLs. While evidence suggests that Google’s new algorithm does not apply much weight to keyword rich URLs, other search engines do. And since it’s such an easy step to create relevant URLs, it’s worth the few seconds of extra time it might take, if only to make it easier on your human site visitors. Make sure that your URLs are indicative of the kind of information that your visitors will encounter on that page.

Create and Update Regularly. Keep your website or blog fresh and relevant.  You don’t have to go overboard, but be sure to make small updates regularly.  This ensures that the search engine spiders will return often. Use unique content, avoid private label right articles, and keep information as current as possible.