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Basic SEO for Article Writers

Search engine optimization, or SEO for short, is the art of writing pages which rank highly on the search results pages (SERPs) of web giants like Google, therefore generating lots of free organic traffic to the page. It really is an art too, rather than a science. Google and the other search engines guard their ranking algorithm very jealously, to prevent spammers from gaming the system. That means that nobody is really certain, in any detail, what the best practices are for getting a page highly ranked. There are, however, some basic guidelines and best practices that you can follow.

What Makes a Page Rank Highly

Essentially, search engines rank pages according to their relevance and quality. Relevance is the biggest factor, and is partially calculated according to 'on-page' factors such as the actual words used in the article and the links you have included on the page, and partially according to 'off-page' factors such as how many people click through to the page from the search results, what other sites or pages link to your article, and so on. Incoming links pointing to your article are probably the biggest factor – but don't get sucked in by the thousands of services out there promising to offer you 'link building' services…

Which Hat Will You Wear – Black or White?

Not all SEO is good SEO. You don't want to be one of those spammers trying to game the system; trust me – Google is better at working out what you are doing than you are at working out what Google is doing. So if you try to game the system, even if it seems to be working for a while, you will get found out sooner rather than later and either blacklisted or just dropped from the search results. The main way that people try to game the system is by building lots of links themselves to make it appear as if their page is very popular when actually it really isn't. This is known as off-page SEO; almost all off-page SEO is considered to be spam by google – it is therefore known as 'black hat' – a forbidden technique. That doesn't mean you can't do anything to promote your article across the web, but you should be trying to promote it to real people rather than trying to build links to impress Google – the big G is very good at telling the difference, so rather than get caught up in the precise details of what is good and bad practice in any given month, as some so-called experts do, it is much better to just stick to that one simple rule about doing things for people rather than Google bots and let the details take care of themselves.

So-called 'White Hat' SEO includes all of those techniques which are considered to be acceptable by Google. The remainder of this article will guide you through the main white hat SEO techniques to help you get more free traffic to your articles.

SEO Research

The most important and effective SEO techniques are used before you even start writing your article – perhaps even before you decide what you are going to write about. Simply put – if your article is relevant to something people are searching for, then you stand a decent chance of getting search engine traffic; if it isn't then you won't. It sounds obvious, of course (because it is), but you'd be surprised how many writers don't even think about it. Often we just want to write what is in our heart, or what we ourselves are interested in at a given time. That's fine, but it might not get you a lot of readers.

It is also very important to research the competition. Think about exactly what search terms you would expect people to find your article with, then actually perform those searches. If the first page of the search results is filled up with highly relevant articles from Wikipedia, major international news publishers, or other big 'authority sites' then it is highly unlikely that Google will choose to list your article above them. Spending time trying to find that perfect balance between a topic which people are searching for, and something which also doesn't have a lot of highly relevant content from authority sites, is difficult and frustrating – but it is by far the single best way to get readers from Google.

SEO Content Writing

Once you have chosen your topic, the next most important thing is the title. Your page title should ideally include the main search term you want people to find your article with – but it should also be interesting and catch people's attention. The search engines do look at the 'click through rate' for links and adjust their search results accordingly, and most people only read the title, so its very important to have a 'clickable' title.

The actual content of your article should, of course, be relevant to the search term you are trying to target. Ideally the precise term should appear at least a couple of times in the main body of the text, and once close to the top of the page. It is a good idea to include subheadings, some of which should ideally include the search term you are targeting. Also, having relevant images with your keyword in the alt tag is a good idea.

Beyond these simple guidelines, it is mainly all about writing quality content. Having a social media strategy to encourage people to share your content can help, and if you think your article would genuinely be relevant to the readers of a quality web page you can ask for a link. But be very careful about getting caught up in the details, such as the precise 'keyword density' (number of times you use the search term you have selected in your article), because these things regularly change and overly optimized pages can be penalized by Google.

Categories: Writing


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