A Quick-Start SEO How-To Guide for Web Writers

SEO flowchart drawn by a programmer.

How can three simple letters bring you more prospects?

No, I’m not talking about a direct-mail campaign. The letters I’m thinking of are S, E, and O.

You probably know SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization” and it can play a big role in bringing more prospects to your website.

Yet, if the mysterious art of SEO is still a puzzle to you, don’t worry. This article will help you see how the pieces fit together and illuminate some of the basic principles you can master and begin applying immediately to bring more traffic to your website.

4 Ways SEO Can Bring More Prospects to Your Website

The essential principles aren’t difficult.

  1. Use the words your prospects are using.

    By using the same language, you’re helping Mr. or Ms. Prospect find you because Google (and other search engines) serve up what your prospect types into the search box. These are your “keywords.”

  2. Use these keyword search terms strategically in your headline and in your body copy.
  3. Use them again in your meta data. (This is the “behind-the-scenes” title and description that show up on the search-engine results page and entice visitors to click-through to your site.)
  4. Use both onsite and offsite SEO.

Onsite SEO is — as it sounds — on your website. An example of onsite SEO is using your keywords strategically in your copy.

Offsite SEO focuses on links that bring traffic to your site from other sites on the Web … for example, guest posts on other people’s blogs or optimized press releases.

Finding and Defining Profitable Keyword Terms

Keywords are your foundation of SEO. You’ll build everything else around them. So, take your time and do the research.

The great thing about the Internet is that you don’t have to guess. You can know exactly which words and phrases your prospects are using.

Programs like Wordtracker and Google’s Keyword Research Tool tell you how many people are looking for the words you brainstorm and how many websites are already delivering on these results. You can see the “supply and demand” at a glance. In addition, they show you the results for similar terms you may not have considered.

For example, let’s take the keyword term “copywriter.” Wordtracker tells me 16,981 people typed this term into a search engine last month. Sound good? Now, let’s look at the supply — 36,006 sites show up. That’s okay, but a bit competitive.

It also gives me the results for the term “online writing.” Almost 20,000 people searched that term last month and only 10,186 sites show up on the supply side. Hmmm … there’s a good many searches but much less competition.

What about “web copywriting”? Wordtracker says last month 7,864 people searched for this term and only 2,786 sites “served it up.” Also worth exploring.

Keyword research like this reveals why finding a niche is so powerful. Your odds are easier to rank high for terms like “natural health copywriter” or “aviation copywriter” than for “copywriter” alone. You also won’t face as much competition.

So, how do you know what makes a “good” keyword? You want to look for adequate search volume combined with low levels of competition.

For example, 1,000 searches or more is great IF you have fewer than 10,000 “competitors,” but if you have 50,000 or more websites showing up for the term, it’s going to be difficult to rank well on search engines for that keyphrase.

In the “web copywriting” example above, there are 2,786 sites showing up for a term with nearly 8,000 searches. These numbers make for good odds at achieving front-page Google status.

What Do You Do With These Keywords?

SEO requires you place your keyword terms in strategic locations.

  1. Use them in your headline. For example, “How a Natural Health Copywriter Can Boost Your Supplement Sales in the Next 30 Days.”
  2. Near the beginning of your copy, use your term again.
  3. For maximum SEO juice, you’ll want to use it again in the body of your text (if your text is long enough), and at the end.
  4. Finally, you’ll use them in your meta data — the “behind-the-scenes” code of your website that tells Google (and your visitors) what your site is about. You can learn more about writing effective copy for these tags in Sid Smith’s recent article, Use This Hidden Lead-Generation Device to WOW Your Web Clients.

If you chose the term “natural health copywriter,” for example, you’ll use this in your meta title (also called the “title element”). You have 70-85 characters, so keep it succinct and benefit-focused.

For your description, you get a little more room, 150-185 characters. Again, think benefit-focused and keyword-rich and include a call-to-action when you can.

Include keywords in your “alt tags” for pictures.

Using the same keyword phrase at strategic points lets the search engines know what your page is about so they can serve it up to your target audience. Yet, it’s part of the art of SEO copywriting to make your copy sound natural. Always make writing for your human visitors your priority.

Keyword research and placement make up the very basic elements of SEO. You can do a lot with your site and with client’s sites just by understanding and implementing these strategies.

But, you can do even more when you dig a little deeper. Let’s take a look …

The Power of the Long Tail

In 2004, Wired editor Chris Anderson coined a new term, the long tail, in an article that reverberated around the techno-sphere. Later, he expanded his article into the best-selling book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.

Anderson’s point is that the Internet has enabled the buying public to fragment into ever-smaller interest groups. In other words, niches.

Even the niches have niches, which is how you can have car enthusiasts who bond over a 2005 Mustang GT Cervini with a 350 HP engine and body kit with custom exhaust/paint.

Or, a gardening niche of people who live in Michigan and grow pineapples at home.

Long tail keywords are the easiest terms when it comes to landing high rankings on the search engines.

Here’s an example of a long tail keyword from my Money-Making Website www.all-natural-dog-treat.com. The site’s topic is dog treat recipes and dog health. One of my top pages is optimized for “homemade dog treat recipes.” It’s my highest performer after my home page, receiving 20,002 visitors last month.

These long tail keywords are an excellent way to build traffic. Think of them as the low hanging fruit and write to incorporate them as you build your site.

SEO and Blogging

It’s a smart strategy to use keyword research for blogging ideas. Let’s say you’re blogging for a moving company. Part of your job is coming up with the topics.

From your keyword research, you find the term “moving supplies” shows up with 14,920 searches and 17,007 competitors. Not bad. You can plan a series of blog posts around the term “moving supplies.” If you do your job well, your client will start showing up on the first page of Google for this term. Everyone’s happy.

You can extend this to other people’s blogs, too. Offer guest posts to related blogs with your long tail keywords and get a link back to your site. Guest posting is a powerful, offsite SEO strategy. According to Heather Lloyd-Martin, it’s currently one of the most successful strategies for link-building.

Those offsite links play an important role in your SEO strategy, so let’s take a quick look at how two other offsite linking techniques can help you.

Facebook, Twitter, Etc.

Offsite or inbound links (links coming into your site) help your site to establish its “authority.” They give you a “thumbs up” in the eyes of Google.

You can help build those inbound links by creating great content (like blog posts, articles, infographics, and videos, just to name a few) and then linking to your content via your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, and other social networks and bookmarking sites.

Every relevant link coming into your site has the possibility of raising your profile and connecting you with more of the right prospects. Besides building links, this has the added bonus of highlighting your expertise and bringing prospects to you.

Press Releases

You can write press releases using keywords and submit them to online PR services like prweb.com and addpr.com. There are many sites to post your press releases. Some are free and some charge a fee. Generally speaking, you’ll get far better results from the paid services.

When writing a press release, you need to find a “newsy” aspect of your business. Some services will reject your press release if they feel it’s overly promotional. You could write it around a client you worked with and showcase their business. You could even pitch press release writing to your client and get them to pay for it. Talk about glicken!

Putting It All Together

So, how does it all come together? A solid SEO plan for your web-writing site, or for a client’s site, might look like this:

Step One: Do your keyword research. Google’s Keyword Search Tool is free and Wordtracker has a free trial. Find your top “must have” keywords and your top “long tail keyword” terms.

Step Two: Integrate the must have keywords into your site. When writing each web page, use the term you’ve chosen in:

  • the meta data
  • the headline
  • early in your body copy
  • again further into the copy
  • at the end as part of your call-to-action

Step Three: Plan out 10-12 blog posts you can write based on long tail keywords and must have keywords you haven’t used yet. Create a schedule to write them.

Over the next 3 months:

Identify 3-5 websites where you’d like to be a guest blogger. Read their blog regularly to get a feel for their style. Who else guest blogs there? Offer intelligent comments in the comment section. Follow them on Twitter and Friend them on Facebook. Show up regularly and be helpful. Then, when you feel they know who you are, ask if you can guest post. Offer a topic idea and usually the answer will be “yes.”

Be active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media. Choose two or three social media networks to be your main ones and make sure you contribute regularly. Share your new blog posts and get links. If others share your post and link, it has the potential to bring you dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of new visitors.

Plan to write press releases for prweb.com or other online sites at regular intervals. Put on your journalism hat and dig around to discover something “newsworthy” about your business. Maybe one of your clients is having a record-breaking year after you rewrote their website. Share the news.

SEO is not an overnight way to generate massive traction, but if you follow the steps here on a regular, consistent basis, you’ll see the kind of steady growth that ultimately spells success for online business.

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Jen Phillips April

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