Learn the Basics of SEO Writing

Get Paid as an SEO Content Writer

SEO word written on a puzzle piece
••• Fernando Alonso Herrero / E+ / Getty Images

According to SEO Tribunal, 93% of online experiences begin on a search engine, which is why most website owners, whether it's a blogger, business, or ecommerce site, want to be noticed on search engines. They do that through the process of search engine optimization, and many of them hire writers with specific knowledge of SEO.

What is SEO Writing?

SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization, which involves making webpages more attractive to search engines as a means to boost traffic. While search engines use a variety of factors to rank websites and pages, in terms of SEO writing, it is focused on creating content using specific, targeted words or phrases, called keywords or keyword phrases, to help search engines find and rank the webpage.

The challenge of SEO writing is to balance the content to help search engines rank it, while also remaining interesting and appealing to the reader.

Basics of SEO Writing

The first step to becoming an SEO content writer is to understand search engine optimization. For written content, it starts with finding a keyword or phrase to build the content around. Often, your client will give this to you.

When you have a topic keyword or phrase, you need to research it. Here's how:

  1. Enter your keyword or phrase into a keyword tool, such as Google's Keyword Tool or SEO Book Keyword Tool.
  2. Look at the number of searches done for that keyword or phrase over the last month. While you want a lot of searches on that word, the number of searches isn't your only consideration.
  3. How much competition is there for that keyword or phrase? If there's a lot of searches but also high competition, you may find it hard to rank for that keyword in the search engine. Sometimes it's better to pick a different keyword with fewer searches, but also, less competition.
  4. What other keywords are there? The tools are a big help in identifying keywords that might be better, or variations of the keyword to use in the article to avoid using a single keyword too much and having the search engine penalize for keyword stuffing.

Where to Use Keywords in SEO Writing

Once you've established the keywords and phrases that you'll use as the website writer, you need to use them in specific areas on the site. Keywords or keyword phrases need to appear in:

  • Titles and headlines
  • Subtitles
  • Metadata, such as keywords, description, and title (if you have access to the page's metadata)
  • Links to other pages that are relevant to the phrase
  • Within the actual text or content
  • Graphic title and description

Note that if you're being paid to write the content only, you'll want to use the keyword in titles and subtitles, headlines, and within the article. When you send the article to the client, you'll want to let the client know what keywords you've targeted (unless the client gave you the keywords), so that he or she can put them in the metadata, graphics, and links.

Frequency of Keywords in SEO Writing

One of the problems of writing to search engines is that it can be boring for the reader on the website. Plus, Google, in particular, doesn't like to see a keyword or phrase used over and over, referred to as keyword stuffing.

The experts seem to disagree as to the "perfect" percentage or number of times to use a keyword. The average appears to be 3% to 7%. There are online programs and WordPress plugins that will analyze your keyword frequency and tell you if it's too much or not enough. Sometimes the client will tell you what is expected or will have an SEO expert on hand who cannot write but can guide you on keyword use.

SEO Writing for Readers

You need to use your writing talent to churn out quality, well-written pieces that readers will enjoy or benefit from, and be willing to share, while at the same time keeping in mind that search engines need to find and rank them.

Ideally, you should write your article to appeal to the end reader. Your client will have instructions on factors such as voice and style that you'll want to follow. Once you have a draft, go through to find places to use the keyword, or keyword variation, if you haven't already. Check that you've used them not just in the article, but also in the title, subtitle, and headlines.

SEO Success Isn't All About the Writing

As an SEO content writer, it is important to know that search engine ranking isn't determined solely on SEO content. You can write the best copy that Google has ever crawled its spider legs over, but you may not get a lot of search traffic. Why? Search results are determined by additional factors, including how others interact with and share the content site, how old the website is, and how many other sites link to it, thereby giving the site authority.

While you may not be responsible for these other factors, it will be helpful for you to share this information with your clients so they can be sure to do the other work that needs to be done to help search engines find their sites.

Becoming an SEO Content Writer

The next step to SEO writing is to dig deeper into SEO. The pages on The Balance Small Business have wonderful content about Search Engine Optimization.

To find work, search on writing-related job boards, such as MediaBistro, Writers Weekly, and ProBlogger.