by Joe Wallace
Some of my non-writer friends and some of my colleagues who write more for print or television try to razz me when they see something apparently poorly worded or otherwise mangled in some of my online content.
And then I have to point out to them that I have not accidentally screwed up the use of a hyphen or suddenly reverted to second grade English. SEO and keyword issues sometimes lead you and your clients down roads that make copy editors shudder. “The client made me do it” is one of my favorite lines.
While I try to warn my clients away from using bad word combinations for SEO’s sake like “jobs freelance” or “musician gear concert PA”, sometimes you do have to bend a little bit. I personally cringe when removing the hyphens in “debt-to-income ratio” but it’s a search term consideration. The finance blogs I write for need that extra edge and it doesn’t read poorly, so I’ll write an informative blog post about applying for a home mortgage using both hyphenated and non-hyphenated variations.
Technically, my headline was a lie–I NEVER mangle the actual spelling of a word for SEO purposes. Anytime people have asked me to do that I gently remind them that the content is for HUMANS to read even when tweaking for Google. Badly spelled words make you look like either an idiot or a very hasty smart person. Neither one is good.
But sometimes you have to give a little, so in some of my copy instead of simply using the phrase “Is whole life a bad investment?” in the context of an informed consumer article, I’ll have to resort to the far clunkier, “Are whole life insurance policies a bad investment?”
Does this offend my inner grammar teacher as much as the idea of “investing” in whole life insurance itself? Yes it does. Is it good for search engine discoverability? When done with the right keyword research, yes it is.
Half the battle for me is finding the balance between making my inner grammar nazi happy and staying in the top Google results. There’s no such thing as Dramamine for fussy writers, sadly. My struggle continues.
Amanda Smyth Connor
More often, you may see “knowledge of SEO” popping up on job descriptions and in your freelance positions. Having a working knowledge of SEO best practices, keyword usage, and proper linking strategies makes you that much more valuable and gives you an extra leg up over the other shlubs applying for the same projects.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of adding keywords that will make your copy “search-friendly,” adding links that will help the bots find your copy, and being able to make informed decisions regarding how to use the two to add power to the copy you create. What good is this great copy if it doesn’t get read/found? SEO helps Google (and other search engines) find and list your copy so that it appears in appropriate search results. Continue reading SEO: A Crash Course
by Joe Wallace
I posted “Just Say No” on Twitter recently in response to some freelance writing “gigs” I spotted on one of the more popular job sites. The employer was offering a buck fifty for 500 word articles. When I got done laughing I realized that the reason people offer these prices is that there are armies of people waiting to take those jobs. A clear cut and dried case of supply and demand.
Personally, I think writing jobs are worth far more than that, but on the other hand many of these 500 word article jobs are likely sausage factory SEO content anyway. Does it matter if they read like 5th grade homework?
So many new freelancers have a hard time setting freelance rates–there is often a lack of confidence at work in the early days. But I can promise you this–even as a rank amateur or, worse yet, a dilettante freelancer, chances are you can find work that pays better than a dollar and a half for 500 words. FICTION pays better than that.
Don’t let anyone fool you about SEO work. If you think you have to accept that buck-fifty (which can’t even get you a decent cup of coffee these days) because you’re an SEO noob, think again. In many cases, SEO is about following the client’s instructions about using the right keywords, combinations of keywords, and appropriate density. If you are seriously lacking an education about SEO, do a Google search and read some articles. Now get yourself an SEO writing gig that pays TEN dollars four roughly for up to 300-500 words. There are lots of SEO gigs paying that much for content. It’s not what you SHOULD be earning, but it’s a lot better than a dollar fifty.
Many people take SEO gigs while trying to develop a list of clips in “legit” publishing (read newstand mags and their web equivalents)–haven’t we all? But do yourself a favor–don’t take a gig paying desperation wages unless you yourself are truly THAT desperate. The time investment you make on that dollar fifty could just as easily be spent looking for a higher-paying SEO gig.
No, he doesn’t. But that headline serves two purposes—the first is it definitely grabs your attention. Even if it’s just for a moment. The second is, for better or worse this headline will be scooped up by Google and will give yours truly a lot more clicks.
Am I suggesting that you put misleading information into your blog headlines? HELL NO. What I am suggestion is that people don’t put enough though into those headlines. They don’t realize that Google latches on to keywords–especially those found in headlines–and may give your next blog entry higher placement if you use Google-friendly buzzwords such as “freelance rates” or “freelance jobs”.
Headlines can be a very powerful way to attract more clicks if you structure them correctly. Notice that my bogus Barack Obama headline leads with the most Googleable word in the string. “Barack Obama” is very hot right now, so I capitalized on that to pull add SEO value to the headline. “Blog” can also be a hot Google word depending on what you use it with. In my case, the usage is weak because I don’t tie the word “blog” in with anything else, so I lose points for that.
Headlines can be your best friend depending on the topic you’re writing about…when you write them, think GOOGLE.
Angela Booth’s Fab Web Writer has a recent blog entry on how to attract paid writing gigs via your writer’s site. One of the suggestions is to add your location to every page in your site. Although Booth doesn’t address the SEO value of regional keywords in the article, I do think using them is an excellent strategy–especially for those who live in areas frequently Googled such as Chicago, St. Louis, NYC, Boston, etc.
If you are a freelance writer in Springfield, Illinois, you might not get the same Google power from this tactic as you might from an address in Manhattan, but there is still plenty of networking value. How many other freelance writers do you know in your zip code? Chances are your fellow writers and editors search for other regionally-based freelancers, if only to see who else is out there.
Never ignore the power of NOT living in a major metro area–the isolation factor can sometimes work in your favor. If you are easy to find on the net because of city, state and regional keywords in your site, living in a writer-challenged area could turn into great relationships with editors near you who need the extra help. How many publications, websites and local blogs are in your area? How many freelancers? Making yourself more visible with city and state keyword and related SEO content could result in gigs you never realized were in your own back yard.
For those living in the big city, the Google clout is desirable. Are you taking advantage of these great keywords in your blogs? We here at FZ never thought of it until reading Angela Booth’s blog…thanks for the inspiration, Angela!