As a freelance writer, you are typically not required to be an SEO expert.
And, depending on the client you work with, you may not even have an SEO conversation with them.
After all, you can write compelling and engaging content for online publications without even knowing what these three letters stand for, much less what it means and how to put it into practice. You can have an interesting point of view, do relevant research, and compile plenty of articles that readers will love without doing any SEO writing at all.
However, without a basic knowledge of SEO and an understanding of some of the basic terms and principles companies use when it comes to SEO, you are missing a huge piece of what goes into online marketing and a huge opportunity to make your articles perform better, which is ultimately what matters at the end of the day.
One of the best ways to set yourself apart from other freelance writers is by constantly elevating yourself from the competition. When you show how you bring a working knowledge of SEO writing to the table, it can help you further build loyalty and trust with your freelancing clients.
8 SEO Writing Tips Every Freelancer Should Know
1. Understand what SEO is and why you need it
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. The purpose of SEO is to improve how a search engine chooses to rank your website when someone has a question or goes searching on the internet for a solution to a problem. (The primary example and largest search engine by far is Google, but others include Bing, Yahoo, Ask.com, DuckDuckGo.)
The higher a website ranks in those search results, the more traffic a website receives from the search engine. More traffic can result in more leads, and more leads can convert into more sales.
Getting to page 1 of Google is the goal. Page 1 is where you get the biggest visibility and the highest chance someone will find your content when they are searching for your keywords.
The art of improving your search engine ranking is what SEO is all about.
2. Know your SEO keywords before you begin writing
The first SEO writing tip is to understand what keywords and phrases are relevant to the products or services being offered by the business that hired you. These keywords can be determined by thinking about the relevant search terms or questions that will lead people to the company’s website and product pages.
To get the relevant keywords, think about the questions you’d ask if you were a user looking for the services the company you’re writing for offers. What problems does the company solve? What are the signs someone may need these services in the future? What would someone be thinking when they are typing into a search engine?
3. Search keywords yourself to scope out the competition
Before you begin writing, search for the keyword phrase yourself and see what current content ranks on page 1.
Evaluate the type of content you find at the top to determine what you need to do to make your content better and unique—what is going to set your article apart from the pack? Strive to make content that is more comprehensive, more credible, more user-friendly, or more up-to-date.
Make your content answer more relevant questions on the topic so it will bring more value and hopefully find its way to a top-of-the-page spot.
4. Pay attention to the title and headlines
Take the time to format your article to optimize it for SEO. This will make it easier for google to index it. This can be as simple as using Heading 1 (H1) for the title, and then using Heading 2 (H2) and Heading 3 (H3) for the phrases that introduce different sections throughout your article.
Within these headlines, make sure to include your keywords. Within the intro, also include a keyword phrase. Google will view the headers and the intro as the most important pieces, so make sure those sections are optimized.
5. Use SEO keywords strategically
After you have your keywords in your headers and intro, make sure to use your keywords organically throughout your article and when it makes sense. But don’t overdo it.
It can be tempting to be overzealous with your SEO keyword usage, throwing the words or phrase into every other sentence with the hope that it will help your article rank better.
However, the more unreadable your article becomes, the less this tactic will work in your favor. Gone are the days when keyword-packed spam articles rank high in Google. Instead, you need to spend time on creating quality, readable content that is valuable and useful to readers.
Plus your readers will see through the intent of an article if you pack too many obvious keywords in. Gain the trust of your readers by creating quality content with your SEO keywords.
6. Know that higher page rankings don’t happen overnight
It can be tempting to write a compelling and comprehensive article with relevant keywords and then get frustrated when your page doesn’t rank on the top of page 1 right away.
The backend, technical side of page rankings is complex and the rankings typically don’t change drastically overnight. The best thing you can do after you publish content is to continue to write great content for the site you are working on, share the content, and seek to get links to the content from other relevant sites.
Continue to be steady with your content and don’t lose heart if it takes time to see tangible results.
7. Use tools to understand where the SEO opportunities are
This may be beyond what you are typically asked to do for a client. As a freelance writer, you are paid to write and typically not to do SEO research. But if you are interested in getting further into SEO writing and researching, and charging for those services, there are tools you can use to do more advanced SEO research (which can help set you apart as a copywriter with unique skills).
There are a variety of online tools, both free and subscription-based that you can utilize for this type of research.
- Answer the Public is a free tool that doesn’t require a subscription to go through common search terms.
- Moz also has a free tool you can use to research current searched terms.
- Ahrefs is an expensive but incredibly helpful tool. If used correctly, you can really increase your income and make the cost worth it.
If you are new to SEO keyword research, these tools are great for getting started with understanding the type of search engine information that is available. These sites also have great online courses available where you can learn more about SEO.
8. At the end of the day, don’t stress about being an SEO expert, just focus on creating great content
Remember, you don’t have to be an expert in SEO to be a great freelance writer.
Just remember to know the value of using relevant SEO keywords, use them organically in both the headlines and the body of your articles, and then keep focusing on creating engaging and authentic content.
Seek to answer the questions that will lead people to the company’s website and make it valuable so they will come back again when they have another similar question or need the services the company provides. SEO writing doesn’t have to be a scary term or proposition. A little understanding goes a long ways.