SEO Content 101: How Freelance Writers Get More Eyes on Their Articles
Storytelling Content Creation

SEO Content 101: How Freelance Writers Get More Eyes on Their Articles

From a writer’s standpoint, it may be tempting to assume search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t your concern if you aren’t selling something online. But it is, and in a way, you are. Freelance writers don’t just help brands nurture a customer base; they keep their own bylines as visible as possible so that they—pardon me—have a job tomorrow.

The good news? It’s only as involved as the reader you have in mind. Here are four simple approaches to SEO content that can get your article discovered by the people who need it the most.

Write First, Add Keywords Later

I’ve read complaints that SEO integration makes it harder to write an article, because keywords interrupt your ability to report on something naturally. That, however, implies that you’re building it into your style before your fingers hit the keyboard. Don’t do that.

Optimizing your article for search doesn’t have to change the way you progress through it. Rather than shoehorning a link’s anchor text in the middle of your analysis, you should write freely and make those adjustments once you’re done. It’s easier to fit that stuff into a completed paragraph than into a context you’re still developing.

Use a (Somewhat) Specific Keyword

If your keyword is a single word, you may need a refresher on why we use them. Keywords reflect the search terms that readers enter when looking something up, allowing you to align your material with their interests. Often these searches go beyond a single word.

When given the opportunity to design your own keyword, consider terms and phrases that are associated with a common question your article answers. Writing about manual transmission, for example, should evoke popular searches like “how to drive stick” or “manual vs. automatic.” Words like “manual,” “transmission,” and other vanity keywords hide your content behind more casual search engine results pages (SERPs) that are unrelated to your topic. Even if you do rank well, you’ve reached the Internet’s version of the “just browsing” customer.

Keyword list for For Writers

Link Wisely

SEO content can also use inbound links to influence a search engine’s decision on where to put it on a SERP. This means, for example, that if Page A and Page B have nearly identical content, Page A can theoretically rank higher than Page B if there are more links directing to it from elsewhere on the Web.

However, that doesn’t mean you can spam your article with 50 outbound links to your other published pieces. Instead, incorporate links to pages that complement the piece you’re currently in. Link building only helps you if it accurately represents other material. This keeps you from distracting readers from the subject matter you’re still trying to sell them on.

Title It Last

You may be certain of what your article is going to discuss. Just as you should wait to optimize an article until you’re done writing it, you should wait until the end of a piece to create a good title. Headers are the first things users see when sifting through search and social, so the value of SEO content is no better demonstrated than it is here.

Establishing a title at the beginning limits you to an approach that will probably need to change as you write. Hence, coming up with an optimized header is pointless without a completed article to base it on. Although you may write a title for a listicle that will divide your content into “snackable” pieces, who’s to say sudden insight won’t cause your piece to mutate, demanding a richer headline? Freelance writers generally take up issues that run too deep for BuzzFeed’s viral-first strategy—the last thing you want to do is cheat yourself out of readers because they were misled before clicking through to your content.

No two articles look the same, and that goes for their search qualities as well. On that note, don’t ever suspect that SEO content and storytelling are mutually exclusive.

If you’re looking to expand your audience with branded content, join Skyword’s pool of contributing writers.

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