SEO tips that every freelance writer should know

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So you’ve decided you’re going to try writing from home as a freelancer and see if this career appeals to you. Some people will tell you it’s a great idea, others will suggest you see a mental health professional for help. If you persist, you need to think about the mechanics of writing materials that will sell or meet the requirements of your assignments.

If you are writing a novel, short story, or other work of fiction, you will pursue other avenues to publication. However, if you are working on a non-fiction article for a website, for example, you are going to have to make sure it will rank high in the results, ideally on the first page. That’s why you need to know something about SEO.

What is SEO?

SEO is the acronym for “search engine optimization,” which is exactly what it does—optimizes your material so that it ranks high in the search results. Research has shown that even if a search returns thousands of results, people will usually not look past those at the top of the first page. If your work is number 35 on a list of 12,237 results, it’s a very high ranking—but it’s still possible no one will see it. You want to be in the first few spots on the first page of the Google results (or DuckDuckGo or Explorer or any search engine).

What do I do?

To get into those first few precious slots, you need to start by using keywords the web crawlers will recognize as relevant to your article. To identify these terms, you need to do some creative thinking. First, consider your material not from your point of view, but from the perspective of someone searching for the information you provide. How are they likely to form their query? What words are they going to look for? You are likely to find your ideas are different from those of your readers.

Sitting around trying to guess what others will look for sounds as frustrating as going ten rounds with Jell-O. How can you possibly know what others think? Lucky for you, there are websites designed to help you find out exactly what others are doing.

Start by thinking about what your article discusses. If you’ve written a piece about keeping cats off counters (good luck with that!), keywords would surely include “cats,” “surfaces,” “behavior,” “training cats,” and similar terms. You see the problem immediately, as a search for something as general as “cats” is going to return a million results. You’ll need to be more specific and find out what keywords are working for others. This brings us to keyword research tools.

These platforms are just what they sound like—they will tell you how well their chosen keywords are working for others, and provide a great deal of additional helpful information. Keyword search platforms include Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, Semrush, Google Keyword Planner, Moz, and many others, all slightly different.

For instance, Ahrefs provides keyword suggestions, and information about ranking difficulty, search volume (how many times people look for this term), and what keywords your likely competitors are using, based on the information Ahrefs gathers from ten search engines.

Another platform, Serpstat, provides tools that allow you to build links, manage PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns, do keyword research, and more. Serpstat helps you track the competition, identify keywords, and analyze competition, popularity, and volume.

What all the platforms have in common is that they give you tools to analyze what keywords other people are using, how successful they are (how often people search for them), and which ones are likely to provide the highest ranking. Many of these platforms have a basic option that is free, but if you need more complex analyses, you may have to pay a fee. However, considering the amount of work they do for you, saving you hours of frustration spent comparing data, they’re worth the price.

Other tips

Once you’ve identified your best keywords, use them sparingly. Articles packed with terms designed specifically to appeal to search engines may seem odd and even boring to read, so make sure you use the keywords judiciously.

Also, take the time to proofread your work and create a headline that will appear consistently in searches.

If you’d like to put your new skills with SEO to work, we invite you to apply to join our team. We send the assignments to you, so you don’t have to hunt for work, and we pay monthly. If this appeals to you, apply now.