Most online freelance writers will tell you that their least favorite part of the job is dealing with SEO rules. SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization,” and although these rules can be annoying, they are the primary way text is found on the Internet, so most people hiring freelance writers want these rules to be used. Of course, that means if you own your own website, they’re also important.
When someone is looking for information on a specific topic, they usually use a search engine like Yahoo! or Google to find websites about that topic. For example, one might type “carpet cleaning tips” to figure out how to clean their carpet. If you’re someone running a carpet cleaning company, you want your website to appear first on the search engine’s result list. With thousands of other carpet cleaning websites out there, how can you achieve a high ranking?
The phrase typed into the search engine, in this case, “carpet cleaning tips,” is called a keyword. Search engines have programs that look at websites (yes, ALL websites, millions of them) and catalog keywords. These are called “spiders” and they scan the Internet regularly, so that when someone types in a keyword, they can provide relevant results. Of course, spiders aren’t human, so they aren’t subjectively looking at websites to see their relevance. Instead, they look at a website objectively.
First, they’ll look to see how prevalent the keyword in question is on your website. Headings, picture file names, links, and general text are all scanned. So, have a page on your website called “Ten Carpet Cleaning Tips” and you use the keyword “carpet cleaning tips” throughout the article (and especially in the first paragraph). Soon you’ll automatically be on your way to appearing high on the list for that keyword.
You can overdo it. When spiders were first being developed, people would scam by putting completely irrelevant strings of words on their sites, just to get people there through keywords. Today, if the keyword appears too many times, it will actually hurt your rankings. For writers, it is a very fine line to walk.
Keywords aren’t the only thing that matters. Your page is also ranked according to how popular it is, how many people link back to you (which indicates that you’re a credible source), and so forth. Search engines are continuously reworking their ranking system to ensure that people aren’t working the system so to speak, but at the end of the day, it really comes down to the writing. As a writer, if you can make keywords sound interesting, you’ll be hired again and again.