Nowadays, people find everything through search engines: news, articles, essays, recipes, products—you name it. No matter how good your content is, people won’t be able to find it unless it’s been search engine optimized. This practice (referred to as SEO by experts) is essential to writing in the digital space. If you’re just beginning with SEO, here are some important tips to help you get started.
1. Pick Keywords Judiciously
SEO is all about using strong keywords that search engines will pick up on as they “crawl” through billions of webpages. As the writer, you have to pick keywords that are representative of the main idea of your piece and incorporate them into the text.
As you write your copy, try to come up with a 1-3 word phrase that sums up the topic of the piece. Keywords don’t necessarily have to tell you everything about the content, but it should give search engines (and readers) an idea of what they’re getting.
You should also pick specific keywords. General keywords (“books,” “movies,” “cars,” etc.) are ubiquitous, and using them will only get your page buried. Instead of using “bookstore” as your keyword, specify “children’s bookstore in Atlanta.” That phrase may yield fewer searches, but those searches will be much more valuable to you.
2. Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Once you’ve chosen your keywords, you may be tempted to cover your page with them, saturating every sentence to make sure the search engine knows what your content is about. Don’t.
The algorithms that search engines use to “index,” or rank webpages can also detect “keyword stuffing.” A keyword-stuffed page is one which has been purposefully overloaded with keywords in order to get a higher search engine ranking. If you write this way, your content will penalized by the engine, or worse, marked as spam.
Try to maintain a keyword density of 1-3%. If you have to use the keyword more than that, at least make sure that it is being incorporated organically and doesn’t come off like you’re gaming the system.
3. Don’t Let SEO Make Your Content Boring
The saying goes that you optimize your content for search engines, but you write it for humans. SEO beginners sometimes end up writing prose that is so sterilized that it feels programmed rather than written.
Here’s the thing: as important as SEO is, it won’t matter how well-optimized your writing is if it’s boring. Let optimization be the last step in your creative process as a writer—before you get there, write a real, full, interesting piece and make small adjustments to make sure Google or Bing notices it.
Practice a lot; as with any other style of writing, mastering SEO will take time. Need help? Ask us!
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