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Overview of SEO For Freelance Writers – You Already Know How To Do It

Freelance writers already know SEO, even if they don’t realize it.

SEO, the acronym for Search Engine Optimization, seems arcane but it isn’t, really. The goal of SEO is to make a web page findable by search engines, particularly Google.

Search engines use formulas, called algorithms, to determine where to display a web page. Known as page rank, the algorithm determines if your page shows up on the first page of a search for a particular keyword or the zillionth.

You search for keywords and phrases

When you think about how you search you’ll realize you’re already using the keywords and phrases used in SEO.


For example, Google analytics, a free service used by many to track the traffic on their websites, tells me that just over 44 percent of the traffic to this site comes from people using search engines. Among the key phrases used are freelance writing, freelance writing jobs, which are pretty obvious, and how to write an invoice and hemingway on writing, which always surprise me. 

You apply the same sort of thinking when you’re writing an article, asking yourself what search terms you’d use to find whatever it is you’re writing about. Another way to say it is how would a reader be expected to search if they were looking for this information or story?

The trick, of course, is to include the keywords you want in a natural way. As a freelance writer I find it pretty easy to write an article, then go back through it and add the key words of phases I want.

Keywords aren’t the only thing that determine page rank. Ideally your article will be strong enough so others link to it, which increases the page rang tremendously. The right keywords and phrases help others find the piece so they can link to it.

Search keeps changing

While there are organizations and individuals who offer to “put you on the front page of google” or claim there is a particular combination of the right number of key words and links and length and, I suppose, holding your mouth exactly right, that will make your page go to the top, the truth is every search engine tweaks and even radically changes their algorithm regularly so what works today may not work tomorrow.  And as more and more personalization comes to web search, creating filter bubbles, the harder it will be for writers and others figure out what will bring their information to the top.


The secret, I believe, is solid writing and some attention to optimization. How much? It’s hard to tell exactly. I do find Scribe, a tool that scores my posts before I publish them for good SEO, helpful, at least for now.

How do you work with SEO?

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Image: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Paloma Gómez

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Ali

    When I started writing, I hated SEO. I thought, it kills your copy and forces you to follow rules you shouldn’t be. But when I learned more about it, it actually helped me write better. And by the way, what is the point of writing if nobody is going to read it?

    So true when Anne says, “search keeps changing” and Google’s Panda is the recent example. It’s an ongoing process but I don’t think the basics are ever going to change.
    Ali recently posted..3 Hottest Christmas Gifts for Writers and BloggersMy Profile

    • Anne

      Ali, I suspect that search optimization in 10 years will look like nothing we do today. And yes, sensible seo, which after all is working with words, can improve writing.

  • Sometimes in my content work, it’s easy to get them in there and sometimes not. Since I can choose what topics I write on, I avoid those with a long or awkward keyword unless it’s a topic I want to write about. I only have to use it five to eight times, so it’s not that difficult.

    I have, however, written whole posts and then discovered when I plugged it in that I wrote the keyword wrong and it registered zero. Then I had to go back and redo it. As Homer Simpson would say, “D’OH!”
    Elizabeth West recently posted..Proofreading Your WorkMy Profile

  • What I don’t like about SEO is that it obliges me to use the keyword within the title and first 50-100 words of the introduction. It’s just that sometimes I want to begin by telling a story or by building an image, and this may be a huge restriction on the course the whole writing piece will take.

    • Anne

      Helenee, you’re not obliged to do it that way – build the image and include a keyword in the title and you’ve probably struck a reasonable compromise. And besides, there are tons of stories about stories that went viral without any attention to key word and seo.

  • When I started doing this I read up quite a bit on SEO, but what I’ve found is all the “tricks” to try to get pages rank higher just lead to crap writing and there’s way too much of that already splattered all over the web. I find that when I know what I’m talking about and writing naturally, keywords turn up automatically.

    Plus the search engine developers are all savvy to the tricks now too and they are really starting to put the smack-down on writers who try too hard to get sites to rank.
    Amelia Ramstead recently posted..Maintaining Professionalism While Working from HomeMy Profile

    • Anne

      Exactly – and I often go over a piece to see if I can easily add an extra key word or phrase or two.

  • If you use Wordpress for your blog, there’s a pretty cool tool called Scribe Optimizer that provides good guidance. It’s $17 a month, but to me it’s been worth it to take some of the guesswork out of the process. (I’ve been using it for my Dr. Freelance site for a year or so.) Basically, you write your post and run the analyzer, and it offers suggestions on how to improve the results.

    I also use it to improve the results of content for my clients. I paste their copy into one of my posts and run the analyzer to tweak it, but delete it rather than publishing it to my blog.
    Jake P recently posted..Video: Freelance writing speedMy Profile

  • “Keywords aren’t the only thing that determine page rank.”

    This is so true, and yet, it is the one thing a lot of people fail to understand.

    I have several keywords now on page one in Google that are only in the article 2 or 3 times. It doesn’t take a lot. In fact, much more than once every 100 words generally starts sounding awkward and forced. I’ve gotten to where I’ll have it in the first 50 words (or at least try to) and towards the end. If I can work it in naturally once or twice in the middle, that’s fine, but I don’t force it.

    SEO is important, but it isn’t all about the keywords. The keywords, and how they are used, are only a part of it.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Grady Pruitt recently posted..Broke? Find More Money to Build Your Wealth!My Profile

    • Anne

      Grady, do you have any sense of what the increasing personalization of search is going to do to SEO?

  • Yes, you’re right, we absolutely do know SEO! When I consider my field, medical writing, it’s kind of difficult for a knowledgeable scientist to write an article that doesn’t automatically lead to good SEO. I believe that anyone who knows their writing field will be applying top SEO keywords/phrases without even thinking about it.
    Nicky Parry recently posted..How Low Can You Go?My Profile

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