By Vanessa Day
Introducing our first official guest post on Kay Writes Stuff. Today’s submission comes from travel blogger and freelance writer Vanessa Day.
In the digital world, the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become common language. It’s been around for years, used as a tool by brands, large corporations, small businesses and even bloggers to help boost their pages in search engine results and increase traffic to their websites. Writers have learned to hate SEO over the years, avoiding it at all costs. But the system has changed in recent years, and SEO is no longer the dreaded concept it once was. In fact, writers who understand it and know how to cater their writing to it will win out in the end.
A Little Background
First things first, what is SEO? As I mentioned, SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is a methodology to increase web traffic to a website by procuring a higher ranking in search results on sites like Google, Bing and Yahoo, among others. It’s a fact that people are unlikely to click through pages of search results to find what they want. Having placement on that first page is essential to success, and SEO helps companies get there.
When I first started freelance writing over seven years ago, SEO was all about keywords. Online articles were riddled with the same two to three keywords or phrases, in the hopes that this would push that piece to the top of the results page for anyone searching a phrase. If you read the articles, the keywords tended to be unnaturally forced into sentences, creating a choppy, redundant, hard-to-read piece.
This is where the loathing of SEO began for writers. Let’s be honest, what self-respecting writer wants to litter their work with phrases like “facial botox” or “laser hair removal?” Well, that’s what I had to do. I was a young copywriter, just getting my feet wet in the online marketing world, and it was my job to write article after article about plastic surgery procedures. The more content I created, the more the website would show up in searches, and the more traffic the company would get. I despised it.
Even when I moved into travel writing, a subject I was much more passionate about, there was still this belief that keywords were king. The more I squeezed them in, the better the article would perform, or so the editors told me. Despite my creative genius being compromised, I stuck with it. But many writers refused to deface their art in this manner, and based on what I went through, I completely understand.
The SEO of Today
The search world has shifted in the past few years. Now, SEO is less about keywords and more about quality, genuine content. In fact, if Google’s algorithm finds one of those poorly written key word-dominated articles, it penalizes that website, instead of rewarding it.
While keywords are important, they take a backseat to compelling, useful content that people will want to read. Companies are eagerly seeking writers who can develop this kind of engaging content, such as blog posts, articles, advice pieces, lists, and much more.
Writers who have knowledge of SEO and understand how to incorporate it into copy will increase employability among companies. If you can create intriguing clickable headlines, develop eye-catching meta descriptions, incorporate long-tail SEO, and generate the right level of keyword density, then you become much more appealing to potential clients.
There’s a lot more that goes into search engine optimization than developing content and keywords, such as linking, website speed, mobile compatibility, site engagement, sharability etc. But that’s less important for writers, and more a concern for web managers. Still, it’s valuable information in case a potential client was to inquire.
Okay, that was a bunch of search jargon right there. But hopefully, you get the idea that these kinds of skills and knowledge are important to have, especially if you’re writing for the web. Businesses of all sizes and specialties are seeking enjoyable content, as well as people who can create it using strategic SEO tactics. And if you have a website or blog you use to promote yourself as a writer, SEO is an absolute must in order for you to break out from the crowd and reach future customers.
After enduring a few painful years of intense article and web optimization, my work paid off. The freelance client I had stuck it out with changed their SEO tune. They soon reached out to me to create opinion pieces, research articles, trend-focused editorials and destination features. They trusted that I could create high-quality content, and incorporate SEO strategies at the same time. The perfect one-two punch.
I’ll be the first to admit that you may have to write some cheesy listicles or highly formatted commercial pieces once and a while, just for the sake of SEO. Rather than balk at them, use them as practice to improve your search aptitude. In the end, you’ll be a more marketable writer.
(And for those who are paying attention, if the keyword for this article is “SEO”, then I’ve got a solid keyword density of 2.3%)
About the author: Vanessa is a travel blogger and freelance writer living in Denver, CO. She’s been writing for online and print publications for nearly ten years, and recently revived her blog to document her travels and craft beer escapades. You can follow Vanessa’s adventures on her blog, hopsontheroad.com.