Ever wonder if taking a deep dive into SEO trends could help you earn more as a freelance writer?
Itâ€™s easy to think SEO is a mysterious abyss only tech gurus understand.
But that doesnâ€™t mean SEO trends are being sucked into a swirling whirlpool of digital data nobody cares about.
Quite the opposite, in fact. SEO trends are evolvingâ€¦fast. Ever heard the phrase, â€œGoogle just changed its algorithm?”
Like every day. Right?
If you can keep up, knowing where the currents of search engine optimization and SEO copywriting intersect can help you move up and earn more as a freelance writer.
Afraid of diving deep into SEO trends? Itâ€™s really not that scary.
And you donâ€™t have to be a tech-savvy genius to figure it out. Dip your toe into SEO. Skim the surface. Doggy paddle if you have to, because itâ€™s worth it. Show a prospect you know the value of SEO, and you can charge higher rates.
Ready for a deep dive into SEO trends for freelance writers?
The basics of SEO
Whether youâ€™d like to offer SEO copywriting as a service, want to use it to drive leads to your freelance writing website, or bothâ€”letâ€™s take a look at the basics of SEO first.Â I see SEO for 2018 and beyond as having three major pillars:
- Website structure
- Keyword research
1. Website structure
In essence, creating (a properly formatted/researched) blog content gives you the opportunity to rank for different keywords with each new post. When someone contracts with you for freelance writing services (as an SEO copywriter), youâ€™re focusing mostly on the aspect of SEO that relates to keyword research/onsite seo when it comes to expected deliverables like blog posts and website content.
The WordPress advantage
I always recommend using WordPress as your content management system. Why?Â Itâ€™s the easiest to customize (once you get past the learning curve). And it’s easy to optimize. Squarespace is also OK.Â
But avoid using website builders like Wix and Weebly. Their drag-and-drop page builder adds code bloat that you canâ€™t get rid of, hurting all further SEO efforts.
2. Keyword research
Ever wonder what people are searching for on the Internet?Â The easiest place to start isÂ Google Keyword Planner.
This free tool gives you data on search phrases people are typing into Google, frequency, and your ability to show up in search engine rankings in terms of keyword difficulty:Â low, medium, or high. In general, realistic keywords tend to be categorized as low/medium difficulty.
The art and science of keyword research
Competition is stiff on the search engine results page, so you have to find diamond-in-the-rough keyword ideas to win at SEO. Here’s how:
- Understand the intent of searchers within your target audience
- Look for keywords with low difficulty to realistically rank and whenever possible, a high monthly search volume.
- Monthly search volume over 20 is a good place to start for niche topics/audiences.
- Note:Â When writing for clients, if theyâ€™re big players in their niche, keyword difficulty isnâ€™t quite as important to worry about.
- Need more help with the basics of SEO? Check out thisÂ list of SEO concepts to learn more.
You find a key phrase for the blog post you’re writing for a client. Now what? Determine how well a website will rank for the keyword based on its domain authority. Domain authority is determined by things like:
- Age of the site
- Breadth of content
Domain authority is measured from 1-100: the higher, the better. Moving from 1-100, it gets exponentially harder to increase domain authority.
You can peek behind the hood of the website youâ€™re writing for to determine its domain authority by using Mozâ€™s free Open Site Explorer tool.
Backlinks from other sites to your freelancer writer site, or your client’s site, can also help improve SEO rankings and domain authority.
But you have to be careful. The Internet is full of shady offers from people who will pay you to get their link on a popular blog. It’s unethical, and one of the fastest routes to ruining your freelance writing career.
In order to be effective, you must avoid black hat SEO tactics, which include actions such as:
- Keyword stuffing
- Spinning articles
- Publishing duplicate contentÂ
Google is too smart for this trickery and may de-index websites that attempt these activities.
SEO trends for 2018 and beyond
In a sea of ever-changing rules and algorithms, what does the future hold for search engine optimization? Check out these SEO trends:
Gone are the days of keyword stuffing to dominate SEO rankings. There was a time when using a keyword as many times as possible in a blog post would work.
Semantic search represents a newer sophistication in Googleâ€™s search algorithm, which instead encourages the use of related (semantic) terms to help Google understand the relevance of your content to a given keyword.
Thanks to the proliferation of personal assistant gadgets like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, voice search is more important now than ever.
Thatâ€™s not to say that it hasnâ€™t been an important consideration for SEO beforeâ€”people have been using voice search on smartphones for years. Now its increasingly more important to optimize content, specifically for how people talk instead of how they type.
Another recent sophistication of Googleâ€™s ever-evolving search algorithm involves an aspect of technical SEO, which preferentially ranks website content thatâ€™s optimized for mobile.
This means that your website (or a clientâ€™s website) must have a user-friendly mobile version. Those that fail to adapt will find themselves in obscurity when it comes to ranking on search.
This isnâ€™t a change so much as an area of importance for SEO copywriters, especially if you create content for local businesses. Understanding the difference between general SEO and local SEO is necessary for success when helping small/local businesses find success in search and involves some unique optimization effortsâ€”many technical in nature.
Also known as ranking for position zero, featured snippets refer to Google-generated answer boxes that appear at the very top of a search engine results page for a given query. Here’s an example of a featured snippet:
Ranking for position “zero” at the top of the page can be quite lucrative and starts by optimizing content to serve as the best answer to a question.
Social media & SEO
Many SEOs will tell you that thereâ€™s no clear link between social signals and SEO. But with the recent Facebook News Feed change (which means business pages have an organic reach close to zero), it seems more important than ever to invest in SEO in 2018.
Earn more as a freelancer with SEO skills
SEO is only growing in importance in terms of any given businesses marketing strategy. And that’s critical for freelance writers to understand. Get familiar with SEO trends and practices and then do the following:
Before you write a blog post:Â Have a conversation about SEO with your client. If this isn’t on their radar, you can become their SEO expert, find a key phrase for the topic, write the post, optimize it, and charge a higher rate. Or pitch prospects blog post writing, plus SEO services.
After you write a blog post: Ask your client for data on site visits, traffic, blog post views, time spent on the page, social shares, etc.Â Being able to say (and prove) that you can create a blog post thatâ€™s 100 percent ready to rank in search upon publication puts you at the top of the pile for higher paid blogging gigs.
Maddy OsmanÂ is an SEO copywriting pro, web designer, social media consultant, and freelance writer. She lives in Denver, Colo.