The SEO Guide To Freelance Writing
So you want to be able to use SEO to help get you those vital writing gigs? Well, there’s good news; if you can write well and put a little bit of time into learning SEO you’re going to get more jobs. Simply by researching SEO and reading top SEO blogs from experts in the field, the chances are you’re going to know as much as half the people out there claiming to be SEO pros!
That’s right! You know how professionals are often using “jargon” to make you feel like you could never possibly understand their profession? Well, SEO is a little bit like that. People might try to convince you otherwise, but there’s nothing stopping you getting a good grasp of it and using that knowledge to increase your profitability as a freelance writer.
Not every freelance writing job out there revolves around the internet but a heck of a lot of them do and SEO skills are going to make a big difference when it comes to you winning them. We’ve learnt these skills over the course of our freelance writing careers, but there’s nothing stopping you from mastering them from the beginning and kickstarting your freelance writing career with some expert knowledge.
SEO makes up an important part of our guide to freelance writing; so we’ve picked out 7 points that represent some of the best ways to improve your SEO knowledge and use your SEO skills to gain more work.
The SEO 7 Step Guide to Freelance Writing
- Understand the basics
- Content is King
- Change is always round the corner
- Always be Niche
- Consistency is key
1. Understand the Basics
As with anything in life, nobody starts off as an expert. Professional race drivers don’t learn how to race in an F1 car; they start with a single engine go-kart on a small track. The important thing is though, they share the same foundations.
Despite this, when it comes to anything remotely academic like SEO, we seem to think that if we don’t know everything like an all conquering pro then that knowledge is not useful. That’s not the case with SEO though and the truth is even basic knowledge can make a big difference to your writing.
When it comes to the SEO guide to freelance writing, understanding the basics means understanding the foundations of how Google and other search engines (don’t forget Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Amazon, Ebay, Linkedin & Twitter) rank items at the top of their results.
There are a ton of factors that go into this, but we’ve picked out backlinks and keywords because they give you the best opportunity to turn your SEO knowledge into more jobs.
Backlinks are an essential part of the SEO guide to freelance writing. The easiest way to explain backlinks is to think of each search engine like its own high school, packed with hormonal teenagers all jostling for social acceptance and importantly – popularity.
Google’s aim, unlike that of a high school, is to provide its customers with the best possible content for their search query. If I type in ‘Game of Thrones recap’ into Google, Google would ideally like me to be sent to a website that provides brilliantly edited video on each season so far (a miniature cinematic masterpiece in recaps), deliciously eloquent and thorough writing, and an option for a team audio synopsis by David Attenborough & James Earl Jones. They would ideally have a pop up that makes me a coffee and shoots out a couch for me to kick back and relax on, all whilst I enjoy the fruits of their algorithmic labors.
Too far? Well, you get the point, Google loves great content. But there’s only one problem. With billions of websites on the world wide web all fighting for those all important top three spaces on Google, it relies on robots to scan each website and decipher which content is worthy of one of those top three positions.
The problem with this is that robots still aren’t advanced enough to decipher how well written a piece of writing is, how advanced a video is or whether the greatest audio duo of all time have collaborated on a podcast. However, Google (and other search engines) do have a trick up their sleeves to try and separate the great from the not so great and that is popularity.
Just like the high school metaphor, Google algorithms use popularity to distinguish those that prosper from those that don’t. If your writing has a million links to and from other Game of Thrones related websites, Facebook groups, Youtube channels and more, Google is going to recognize your website as an authority in Game of Thrones and you’ll be far more likely to rank for Game of Thrones related keywords than competitors.
Continuing on the same metaphor, if you’re friends with the star player of the football team, or dating the prom queen, you’re probably going to see a rise in your popularity. If your Game of Thrones writing had a link from the HBO website (Company that makes Game of Thrones) then your writing would instantly gain a lot of domain authority (term used to describe the popularity of websites based on the amount of high ranking backlinks they have).
So, how do you become the popular kid in this High School of freelance writing? Well, in true movie fashion, you turn up in a Porsche! How do you do this? Well, the best way to do this is be a superstar of your niche and have tons of examples of how your work has been a social media phenomenon and everything you post gets thousands of links.
Most of us couldn’t afford a Porsche in High School though so we had to play the game a little differently. We played by the rules and worked our way up. Just like High School, when you’re starting out you need to show people that you understand the rules, that you’re going to follow the rules, and you’re going to use the rules to help your potential client succeed.
Another huge ranking factor and basic foundation for how search engines rank websites is precision. If I search for a specific term, Google wants me to receive information that will answer the question I’m asking or satisfy my reason for asking it something. Google’s answer to this is keywords.
This is the most important bullet point so far because it is the area where you can make the biggest difference as a writer.
For example, if my blog is targeting wildlife documentaries and I create a blog titled Blue Planet, it’s going to be harder for Google to recognise my intention than if the blog title read, Top Ten All Time Wildlife Documentaries.
Choosing keywords that you have a realistic chance of ranking for is an important aspect of SEO and one that can easily be overlooked. If you choose the wrong keywords there’s a chance your writing might never see the light of day, but if you get it right, it has the potential to draw a huge amount of traffic.
This means keyword research is a hugely important step when you’re writing for a website, but it doesn’t stop there. You then have to follow the best practices for SEO by making sure your headings, subheadings, and text contain your keywords in the right places.
This might seem like a small detail, but understanding this process well can give you a huge advantage in freelance writing. In our article “7 Ways to Win Your Dream Work” we ran through our favorite pitch where we use our SEO knowledge to get the kind of writing jobs we’re really passionate about. This pitch has worked for us time and time again, and by understanding the basics of SEO and keyword research, we have picked up some lucrative jobs.
When you get into pitching for writing jobs, you’ll find everyone does the same thing. They’ll put a generic statement along the lines of ‘I research keywords.’ Well, that’s great, but the problem is every other would-be freelance writer out there will put this in their pitch! In addition, most freelance writers don’t actually do it.
So, when you’re creating your pitch, come up with a strategy for your keyword research. Show how you’re going to make a difference for this client! Consider the difference in reaction of the person reading your pitch if you provide a step by step list of how you research keywords in your writing compared to that person simply reading the generic ‘I research keywords’ line.
A little lost on how to research keywords?
Check out this blog https://neilpatel.com/blog/dominate-keyword-research/
4. Content is King
This is my favorite take home for this blog because if you’re reading this post, you have a talent, and the great news is Google wants your talent!
Yes, if you can write well, Google’s algorithms will want to promote your content. If you provide consistent, high quality content that’s pertinent to a large enough group, then you’re going to get exposure on search engines that can bring in a serious number of readers.
I was talking with one of the first people I did freelance writing for the other day (we now run a website together) and he said “the great thing is – the internet is filled with so much average content that when we put out great content it stands out like a sore thumb.” He’s right, how many times do you have to trawl through websites to really find what you are looking for?
There is a slight hitch though, you might be creating amazing content, but if you’re not following SEO best practices then people won’t find it!
The unfortunate problem many would be successful freelance writers and companies come across is that Google doesn’t seem to pick up their great content. If it is truly well written content and of interest to readers, then the only reason Google is not picking it up is because the website does not abide by Google’s SEO rules or is not following Google’s basic guidelines.
This is the reason SEO is so important and it’s why as a freelance writer you should commit to a lifelong habit of keeping up to date with the latest SEO trends.
So really, the message gets even better here. If you produce great content and you nail the SEO guidelines then your possibilities are limitless!
So, how do I leverage this knowledge into writing jobs? Well, Google loves great content and if you can prove in your pitch that you have a history of shareable content, then you’re in with a good shot at winning the gig.
Keep a tab on where your writing is being shared and how it ranks on the search engines. If you find that a certain article you’ve written has gone viral, then take a screenshot of it and include it in a portfolio of work you provide in your pitch.
It’s important you can convey an understanding of why content is important and show a history of great content to back up your claims.
5. Change Is Always Round the Corner
You don’t need to be an SEO expert to win a freelance writing job but the more knowledge you have, the easier it will be to gain the job in the first place and indeed to keep that job.
When I first started off in my freelance writing career; I had a few jobs with some smaller companies that knew very little about SEO.
They understood they had to post regular content, but they were simply posting blogs without optimizing titles, images, headings, or anything. As this was affecting the exposure my work was getting, I put in some research and presented them a strategy for how to turn their SEO around.
In short, I gained an additional job of optimising their blogs to align with SEO best practices! The thing was, the people who had been running their SEO might have had knowledge of how everything worked at some point, but things move so quickly in this industry that the things they were doing were simply outdated.
Things are changing all the time in SEO so you need to keep up with what’s going on. This means committing to life long learning! The good thing for you is you might not know much now, but shortly your knowledge can be greater than those “experts” who have spent the past year resting on their laurels.
Since my early days of struggling with SEO inept clients, I’m always keeping up with the latest SEO news and particularly keep an eye out for Neil Patel’s blogs. I find Neil Patel to be the best authority out there on SEO and I read every blog written on his website, using the knowledge in my pitches.
Using this knowledge to leverage more jobs is simple, the more you know, the easier it will be to talk about the quality of your work and its ability to gain traffic on search engines.
This doesn’t have to be limited to Google. There are many companies out there looking for product descriptions and bullet points optimised for Amazon, descriptions and titles for Youtube and much more.
6. Always Be Niche
I don’t think we’ll ever write an article without talking about niches! Choosing you niches wisely helps with so many aspects of your freelance writing career and it’s the same for our SEO guide to freelance writing.
When you dedicate your time to one niche the chances are you’re going to get pretty knowledgeable in that subject. It becomes much easier to understand how keywords work in that niche and how best to utilize them.
I did some work once for a company that sold tennis scoreboards and they were very confused when I told them that I wouldn’t be using the word scoreboard as a keyword. The reason was, when people type tennis scoreboards into Google they are more often than not looking for live scores from pro tennis.
This meant that ranking highly for the keyword scoreboard would be nearly impossible because you would be competing with massive sports and betting companies. So instead, we focussed on terms like tennis score keeper and had a lot of success!
Again, this wasn’t rocket science, but by understanding my niche and running a little keyword research I was able to make a success of a job that otherwise might have ended up in failure.
The other great thing about being an expert in your niche is being able to link back to some of your other work. Google wants to see links from your blogs to other blogs on your website, from your blogs to other highly influential sources in your niche, and lastly, backlinks from those highly influential sources to your blog.
This gives you an opportunity to link some of your blogs and help to maximize your exposure. Of course, this depends on the wishes of your clients, but the thing is there are only positives to finding yourself a freelance writing niche.
7. Consistency is Key
Consistency is extremely important in ranking well on Google. Google loves to reward websites that consistently put out good content, so use this to your advantage!
Many small companies understand they need to share content online to help create a buzz around their offering but they often fall short when it comes to consistency. The odd article here and there isn’t going to make a big difference, but if they can consistently produce high quality content there’s a good chance they will increase their exposure.
Use this knowledge to maximize the amount of work you’re getting from one client. If your client is only posting once or twice a month, highlight the benefits of more regular posting. Of course, you stand to benefit from this, but the main point is they will too!
Producing consistent, high-quality content is not easy, but if you get it right then it can make a massive difference to a client’s fortunes. If you’re producing great content for a client, but you don’t feel like they’re posting regularly enough do some research, show them the benefits of more regular posting and make a plan!
Your client may not go for it, but they will respect the fact that you’ve put the effort in. The great news is that Google wants your content and there are going to be tons of people out there who recognize that. If our SEO guide to freelance writing teaches you one thing it should be that your skills are in great demand!
You can use SEO to leverage freelance writing jobs. Even a basic understanding of how search engine optimization works can make a big difference to your offerings. Not only will it improve the results your clients achieve, but it will allow you to get more jobs, and ultimately, make more money.
If you follow our SEO guide to freelance writing, do a little research and put the effort in, there’s no reason you won’t see results.
- Understand the basics
- Content is King
- Change is always round the corner
- Always be Niche
- Consistency is key
Although you definitely don’t have to be an expert in SEO to gain high paying freelance writing jobs, every piece of knowledge you have in it can aid your pitch. There’s a huge amount you can learn in SEO, but even the basics can make a big difference.
Luckily there are a multitude of great resources for SEO learning. It is one of the more competitive markets on the web with thousands of marketing firms offering free content to try and rank top for SEO related keywords.
This means you can just access all their free content and absorb all the knowledge you need to become a great freelance writer. To start off with I would advise these resources.