Thursday, April 3, 2008

SEO: Mostly Writing?

I read over on Inklit the other day that the difference between an SEO and a writer is about $40 an hour. This quote made me smile, because the more I look into SEO, the more it looks to me like writing plays a crucial role. When I first started investigating SEO to promote my business, I thought it was an arcane, technical art I probably had little hope of understanding. But on further investigation, it seems like much of SEO is well within my skill set.

Am I ready to call myself an SEO yet? Not quite. But I am ready to start promoting myself as an SEO-knowledgeable writer; which I think will help me develop a USP. Could any of you writers out there be more SEO than you realize? Here are a few SEO-crucial skills that rely on writing, not mysterious technical wizardry.

Keyword-rich copy. Integrating keywords into your copy can help you position your pages to rank well with the search engines. Of course, many business owners get it wrong by simply spitting out keyword-stuffed copy that doesn't appeal to prospects. A strong writer can integrate keywords seamlessly into copy that persuades prospects to buy. But either way you go, it's writing.

Anchor text. Anchor text is the text you use to link to a site. Google counts the amount of times a certain keyword is used on other sites to link to yours, and this can affect your rankings for that keyword. But it's not as simple as throwing up a bunch of articles with anchor text that uses "freelance writer" to link to you. If you rank artificially high for a single phrase, it could count against you--so it's often smart to vary the phrases you use as links so they look as natural as possible. Finding the right anchor text is a writerly skill.

Linkbait. Linkbait is anything on your site that encourages others to link to you. It could be video, audio, or even online games--but often it takes the form of good old fashioned excellent content. Good writing is a large part of building excellent linkbait.

Article marketing. Article marketing can get the word out about your business, bring you links from high-PR sites, and generate traffic. And, um...they're articles. So they're writing. I've seen plenty of businesspeople throw crappy articles up on article marketing sites, but if you write them well, they can do much more for you. In fact, just recently I landed a large project because the business owner found one of my EzineArticles and asked if he could use it in one of his presentations.

Blogging. Blogs provide your website with fresh content that helps keep it high in the SERP's. A good blog also helps prospects get to know you and establishes you as an expert. Good writing is crucial to any blog. Many people tout frequency of posts as more important than content, but in my personal experience good writing is key. I spend an hour or more on each post, post three times a week, and get healthy traffic from this blog--it's also won industry awards and helped me connect with crucial networks. I can't stress enough how important good writing is to any blogging effort.

Title and meta tags. Title and meta tags are the most technical I get. These are found in your site's HTML code, and they determine what appears as the title to your site in search engines. They're also more important to keyword placement than keywords in your copy. Writing good title and meta tags that include crucial keywords and encourage users to click is an art form that writers are well-placed to master, once they learn the right format.

If you think SEO is something you can't master, think again. There may be more to SEO than writing--but writing is a crucial part of the process. If you're not calling yourself an SEO writer, maybe you should.

6 comments:

Mark said...

Jen,

This is a good post with good content as usual. However I found it interesting that a post on SEO didn't have any hyperlinks or other examples of SEO included in the post. SEO can not be ignored but the focus should be on content as 'content is king' as you say and will trump SEO in the long run.

Mark W.

Jennifer Williamson said...

Yeah, I didn't throw up any links. Usually I'm not very strategic about my linking; I tend to link when I feel inpspired to and forget about it when I don't. I'm still more writer than SEO :-)

John Lockwood said...

You're forgiven, after you paste the link into the body of your post so I can enjoy the benefits of it with out the nofollow tag -- speaking of SEO. :)

The link you lost was here:

http://www.inklit.com/blog/2008/04/03/what-does-seo-have-to-do-with-writing/

Jennifer Williamson said...

Thanks for the link, John--I've added it into the post.

Anonymous said...

SEO writing--but isn't most of it "adapting" others' work and inserting keywords? How else could anyone do this for $5 a throw? Even then, I wouldn't type 400 words for that. I see the words "cut and paste" in the ads--and wonder is it my hard-won interview being cut and pasted? My reported story where I called sources and spent 6-8 hours?

Jennifer Williamson said...

Anon: It can be that way, on the low end. But it can also be quite good. I've been doing SEO article writing for over a year now; I charge a lot more than $5 an article, and I put as much time and effort in as I do any professional writing project. It all depends on whether you're going for quality or quantity--and my position has always been that when your competitors are throwing shoddy writing at the search engines, the company that invests in its content will stand out.