The client says, ‘Write an SEO piece.’ What does that mean? What is SEO for copywriters?

SEO for copywriters: The Unsecret Secret

SEO is not a secretHow can a secret be unsecret? With the Web, anything is possible! But, really, this is something that I keep thinking everyone knows, only to find that some people don’t. What works – what gets a site high on search engines’ results lists and keeps it there – is not SEO. It’s a high quality site. The algorithms search engines use are far cleverer than we can imagine. They see the websites that people spend a long time on and those where visits are short and they draw the obvious conclusion: long time on site equals high quality. Short visit equals poor quality. Okay; now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s address the question. The client says “Write an SEO piece.” What does that mean in practice? What is SEO for copywriters?
I’m publishing two pages at the same time: this one, and a companion piece, What SEO means to the website owner. Customer or writer, you should probably read both. So: SEO for website owners. What’s it about?

SEO for copywriters: How much have you been contracted to do?

There’s nothing scientific about this survey, but a canvass of other high-level copywriters suggests that the huge majority of contracts are for writing only. At least four in every five, and it may be slightly more than 80%, are jobs where the writer does the writing and someone else takes care of uploading and SEO. That’s also my experience and I don’t have a problem with it – I’d rather be writing than uploading. I will take on the whole job when I’m asked, and sometimes I am asked, but I’m always happier to let a genuine SEO expert take care of it. I write regularly for two online marketing agencies and in both cases they have other freelancers for SEO and uploading. That suits me fine.
You may be asked to take on the whole job, though, and if you are don’t accept it unless you know that you can do what you’re being asked to do. Make sure, too, that you charge enough for what is probably going to be a more detailed undertaking than you may think. Also, watch out for “contract creep.” More than once, when I’ve contracted to do the writing, the SEO and the uploading, the customer has said halfway through the job, ‘While you’re on there, set me up with Google Analytics, would you? I know I should have done it, but I haven’t.’ The answer to that is, and always should be, ‘I’ll be happy to, when this job is finished and you’ve signed it off. Do you want to agree a price for the Google Analytics job now, or shall we wait until this job is done and paid for?’ One of the lessons that all freelancers have to learn is to set out at the beginning exactly what it is they are agreeing to do and not to allow the client to heap more jobs on them without additional payment.

SEO for copywriters: elements of SEO

SEO for copywriters: keywords and meta-keywords

Let me start by saying what SEO for copywriters does not mean: it does not mean using meta-keywords to attract people to the website, because the search engines ignore them. Or, at least, Google and Yahoo ignore them; Bing are a bit ambiguous on the subject, but they’re also the smallest of the big three search engines. If you don’t believe me, believe them: here’s Matt Cutts of Google.
As Cutts says, so many people attached to their posts meta-keywords that would be searched for by lots of people but had little or nothing to do with what they were posting that the search engines simply refused to take any further notice of them.
That doesn’t mean, though, that you don’t need keywords. You do – and, whether or not the customer has supplied you with any, you should look for suitable keywords and use them. There are lots of tools for finding keywords; my favourite is Keyword Optimizer Pro but I use others, too, and so should you. Watch out for “keyword stuffing;” if you work keywords into the text in a random way to make your quote, the search engines will spot that and the site will be penalised. Make the keyword fit into the natural flow of the text. With some keywords, that may be more difficult to do, but you’re a writer. That’s your skill. If you can’t do it, you’re in the wrong job.
Also, select which is going to be your “main” or “focus” keyword and do everything you can to get that into the title of the page or post and into sub headings. Take a look at this post and see if you can work out what my focus keyword is (it’s actually a phrase, which is usually better than a single keyword). Also, see what I have to say about “images” below.

SEO for copywriters: Latent Semantic Indexing

While you’re searching for keywords, do this, too: take a good look at the pages of search engine results and see what words the search engine has bolded that aren’t the keyword you searched for. These are words the search engine considers sufficiently like your keyword to stand in for it; add these words to your keyword list and use them in the text.

SEO for copywriters: Images

If the job you have accepted is only to write the text, you don’t have to worry about images. If, though, you’ve accepted a deal that means you put the whole thing together, then you’ll need some images because visitors like them and if there are none on the site, a significant number of people will spend less time there, causing Google to reduce its ranking (see above). The problem with images is that search engines can’t see them – they only see text – so make sure you complete the Alt Text field that the image placement facility on the website makes available, and include the focus keyword there, because the search engine does see that. It’s also a good idea to fill out the Description field because some visitors will be sight-impaired and they’ll be grateful for a description their voice software can read out.
As always, this page could be three times as long and, if it were, it would cover the subject properly. Research says, however, that very few people would read a page that long. If you’d like to discuss SEO in relation to a specific project, fill out this form and let’s talk

Return to John Lynch, Freelance Writer and Copywriter