Writing for the Web: SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) copywriting is an exploding niche field in the journalism world right now.  Publications are looking for writers with the ability to create content that can easily be searched for using search engines like Google or Bing.

The purpose of SEO is to write for the web in a way that is highly relevant and accessible for search engines.  You want to get your publication at the top of the search list for certain subject matter.  For example, If I want to write an article for a fitness magazine with an audience of women age 35-50 about the benefits of kale smoothies, I want my article to be the very first option available to someone searching Google for ‘kale’, ‘smoothies’, ‘green smoothies’, ‘health drinks’ and so on.  The way to accomplish that is to include those terms at the beginning of my copy, enabling the article to be crawled for those specific terms.

Before you even begin writing for SEO, you want to use online keyword tools such as Google AdWords.  Keyword tools allow you to enter a general term and generate dozens of new terms related to your first term.  This is based on the amount of searches conducted per month on Google by web users.  The keywords and phrases that are generated by keyword tools are the words you want to use throughout your copy.  Optimized SEO content need to include between five and ten percent keyword density.

The more traffic you can generate for a publication’s site, the more sales you produce…equaling more money for both the publication itself and you.  Every publication out there is in need of SEO writing, meaning thousands of job opportunities out there for us pending journalism graduates.

Though SEO writing may not be as glamourous or exciting as editorial writing, it definitely pays off.  SEO writers can make as much as $50,000-$75,000 per year in their first year.  That is almost double what first-time editorial freelancers make.

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7 responses to “Writing for the Web: SEO

  1. With Facebook and Twitter acquiring thousands of new users daily, social media is the go-to avenue for companies seeking relationships with their customers. In his column on The Huffington Post, though, Ernan Roman, president of Ernan Roman Direct Marketing, stresses the importance of SEO and recommends companies pay equal attention to social media and SEO. Roman also includes helpful title tag tips, such as limiting title tags to 70 characters and placing essential keywords toward the front of the title tag.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ernan-roman/have-you-forgotten-about-_1_b_1833896.html

    • Thanks Taylor, that was an interesting article. He mentioned something about how using SEO in gaming has failed in the past. That could be a result of “spamming” or using too many keywords in a tag or web content in order to get it crawled. Did you know you can actually get your site blacklisted if you do this? Google has a way that they can calculate the percentage of keyword density in web content and if you go above about ten percent, Google will consider your site spam and it will no longer be crawled.

  2. I think SEO writing is so in demand because it sounds like it’s very difficult to do well. One has to write an interesting story that people want to read. Then it needs these buzz words scattered throughout the copy in a consistent manner so search engines will automatically place the story at the top of a search. To me, it sounds like an evolution of public relations into the online world.

    I think this article gives people some interesting avenues for their writing skills. As you pointed out, it might not be the most glamorous or cool job, but the best paying ones seldom are. It all depends on what you want to do with your life, and what your priorities are.

    • You’re right Jeff, SEO writing is somewhat difficult to do. That is why SEO writers are so high in demand right now because virtually every website out there could use an SEO writer to increase their site’s traffic. It is a great journalistic career alternative to editorial writing and it involves writing something new every day in order to keep up with current demands of web users.

  3. I know this is something that has been discussed in some of the Magazine courses at Drake, like J91. We talked about the difference between the title and lead you would write for a print piece, and ones you would write for the web. Professor Blachford would commonly make the point that we wouldn’t want to make the title of our blog posts overly cutesy or clever and make it impossible for our post to be searched.

    It is interesting to see what new skill sets are needed as the technology we use to get our news continues to develop. Journalists need to constantly be updating what they know and adding to what they know how to do.

    • Another medium that is in need of SEO content is video. It is very important to include optimized titles, captions and tags for videos in addition to written content or blogs. You have to think like your audience and what they would search for.

  4. You provided some relevant, interesting information about SEO I did not realize. I did take a class on writing for the web from Chris Snider, and I remember he talked about providing links in your blog as one of the things google picks up on as well as the larger fonts in the code for Headings – H2 I believe, as another element that google picks up on when someone does a search.

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