Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a writing technique that increases a website’s ranking on search engines. The freelance writers at Ultius thrive on writing SEO articles. Content writers and bloggers use this technique to draw more traffic to a given web page or blog entry. For online vendors and sites that rely on ad–click revenue, SEO is an effective tool for increasing brand visibility, page hits, and profits.
What is an SEO keyword?
SEO text generally consists of between two and seven words that form phrases or questions that trend well in search engines. When an SEO keyword phrase is strategically placed to appear as a natural part of an overall text, it can make the page rank high in search results for that phrase. For example, if a site that sells electronic rat traps was hoping to draw traffic to its products, a line of copy might read something like this:
If your house is being infested with little furry creatures in the dead of night, an electronic rat trap can help you solve the problem. Out of all the electronic rat traps on the market, the EZTrap by FixDatRat® is the most powerful device for eliminating rats in a single snap.
The above text could rank high for searches on the phrase “electronic rat trap” by containing singular and plural variations on the phrase.
How does SEO work in search engines?
If you start to type something into the Google or Yahoo search bars, and a drop–down of the completed line of text appears before you’ve finished typing, that same query has probably been entered by thousands of other web surfers. Those are the types of text lines that are incorporated into the contents of websites through clever usage of SEO.
For example, if you’re curious about topics such as Albert Einstein’s intelligence, stateside elephant captivity, bad presidents, or the longevity of the Empire State Building, Google might read your mind before you’re even done typing the following questions into the search bar:
- what was Einstein’s iq
- how many elephants are in the us
- who was the worst president
- when will the empire state building be demolished
Each of these search strings are offered as pull–downs as soon as the first three letters of the predicate are typed, which speaks for the popularity of these questions among web surfers. For websites or blogs, any of these topics could be traffic magnets, providing that the articles in question make good use of SEO keywords and phrases.
How does SEO work in an article?
In order to draw readers, online content must first and foremost be informative, unique, and well–written. While an SEO phrase or two might generate a certain amount of page views due to rankings in search engines, such hits will only translate to reader engagement and loyalty if the content itself is worth reading. Therefore, SEO phrases are meant to be used as naturally as possible within the flow of a given text, and not abused or overused in the hopes of maximizing search rankings.
The more page views you attract, the likelier advertisers will be to place banners on your page. This can generate a reliable stream of click–through revenue on pages that draw healthy hit counts and are shared/liked across social media. The most lucrative pages of all in this regard are the ones that deal with evergreen topics, examples of which could include popular questions, bits of trivia, or pieces of advice, such as the following:
- How to deal with a mosquito bite?
- What does throbbing tooth pain mean?
- How far underwater is the Titanic?
- What if Germany had won World War II?
- How to break up with someone and not hurt their feelings
- How to handle the urge to cheat
All of those above queries could be used as SEO key phrases. In order to maximize the effectiveness, you’d want to use the phrase once as the page title, and—depending on the overall length of the page—once in the body text. With some of these phrases, variations should also be included somewhere in the body to draw search returns from people who enter simpler search spellings, such as “what if germany won ww2” or “how deep is the titanic.”
Using SEO keywords and phrases in articles
In an average–length web article—which could be anywhere from 450 to 700 words—the main keyword should appear in the title of the article and twice in the paragraphs; preferably in the first and last few lines of the text. The main keyword or phrase could be included within a larger search phrase used as a title, such as “How Many Sumatran Tigers are Left in the Wild?” Here, the keyword would be “Sumatran tigers,” which you’d want to include in the text in both singular and plural forms, such as in the following example:
According to recent estimates by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are only between 400 and 600 Sumatran tigers left in the wild. With a roaming range limited to small portions of the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, the Sumatran tiger is the last surviving member of the Sunda Islands group of tiger species.
With variations of the title and key phrase included in the first two sentences, the article could perform some of its highest rankings in searches where people type “sumatran tiger/s” and “how many sumatran tigers are left.” The same article might also rank high in searches where people type variations of the question, such as “how many tigers are left” or “how many tigers are in the wild.”
Placing secondary SEO keywords and phrases in subtitles
For an article to maximize its ranking potential, subheadings should appear between every few paragraphs, each with secondary or tertiary SEO keywords or phrases. For an article titled “Who Played the Best Superman,” subheadings for the topic could include the following:
- George Reeves as Superman
- Christopher Reeve as Superman
- Gerard Christopher as Superboy
- Dean Cain as Clark Kent
- Henry Cavill as Superman
Under these subheadings, tertiary keywords and phrases could include “Brainiac,” “Daily Planet,” “Bizarro,” “Metropolis,” “Fortress of Solitude,” “Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane,” and numerous other characters, places, and things in the Superman/DC Universe.
Misspelled SEO keywords and phrases
Most people don’t write or type for a living. Consequently, proofreading skills are not a common trait among the average web surfer. In search bars, pull–down suggestions with correct spelling will often appear if the engine recognizes the initial formation of a word or line of text, but countless misspelled names and search strings still get entered each minute. Misspellings are most frequently applied to words and names that are foreign, confusingly spelled, or contain silent letters, such as the following:
- Hulio, Wholio (Julio)
- Istanble, Istanbull (Istanbul)
- rondevu, randevu (rendezvous)
- doppleganger (doppelgänger)
- asma, azma (asthma)
- receet, receit (receipt)
Other words that are often misspelled include homophones and names with two different spellings:
- dessert vs. desert
- flower vs. flour
- capital vs. capitol
- Jerry vs. Gerry
- John vs. Jon
- Ashlee vs. Ashley
In order to draw traffic from misspelled searches, some of the Internet’s more clever writers have intentionally used common misspellings of popular keywords within passages of site copy. The most convenient way to engage in this practice without losing face is to portray the misspellings as anonymous, third–party quotations:
All across the Internet, people are typing in everything from “payday lone” to “playday loan” and sometimes even “pay day laon” to find the best payday loan.
Certain sites are rather shameless with the practice, though in some cases it’s unclear whether there’s been a deliberate attempt to draw misspelled searches, or if it’s simply down to poor editing.
Everyone hates income taxxes, which can take up to a third of your annual earnings. For every year you work, January through April gets consumed by income taxes.
Admittedly, this practice can undermine the credibility of a site with certain audiences. For the most part, misspelled keywords should only be utilized—if at all—on sites with a decidedly non–serious, comedic appeal. An exception to the rule are homophones, which can be incorporated more easily into texts. All it takes is a little cleverness, even if it does push you to make up examples that you otherwise wouldn’t have considered:
Whether you’re making cookies in flower shapes or circles, Gold Medal flour will make them soft and tasty.
When you get to the fair and you can’t pay the fare, it might not seem fair, but you should have used FairExpress, the credit card that’s accepted at fairs worldwide.
Grammar in SEO key phrases
Misspellings aren’t the only grammatical shortcoming in casual web searches. A lot of surfers simply enter search strings comprised of two or more keywords that—if placed together in an actual sentence—wouldn’t even be grammatically sound. Examples could include the following:
- cheap auto insurance bozeman mt
- roof shingle repair bend or
SEO writers are often asked to use these strings as key phrases in sales copy, though slight modifications for the sake of grammar are usually allowed. Regardless, engines nowadays usually add a preposition before the geographical location in search results. Countless other search strings are grammatically passable, but only really work in awkwardly formed sentences:
- pompano beach financial planners
- leimert park renters insurance policies
Search strings such as these are easiest to incorporate at the start of sentences. An example could read as follows:
Leimert Park renters insurance policies are recommended to residents who reside in local–area apartments and rental houses.
Stuffing pages with SEO keywords
During the late noughties, the Internet was awash in low–quality websites that didn’t seek to inform or entertain; but that simply existed to draw as many page views as possible. In order to meet that objective, sites were creating endless landing pages stuffed with SEO keywords and phrases, but little actual content. In effect, these sites were abusing the power of SEO in order to rank high on Google.
The trend was halted in 2011 by the rollout of Google Panda: a ranking algorithm designed to sift out low–quality, keyword–stuffed sites from search results. Gone were the days of content barns and keyword salads; pages would now need to have quality contents and make modest use of SEO in order to score viable rankings. Basically, pages could no longer read like this:
This weekend we have country music tickets on sale for Trisha Yearwood, who’ll be entertaining country concert ticket holders at the Windhorse Saloon in Nashville on Saturday, May 10. For the following night, get your family some country concert tickets for Travis Tritt, who’s playing to holders of country music tickets at the Music City Bar & Grill on the 11th. A week later, head on over to the Grand Ole Opry, where we’ll be selling front–row country music tickets, back–row country concert tickets, and balcony country music tickets for a triple bill with Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum, and Shedaisy on the 17th.
Since the arrival of Panda, SEO has gained respectability as a content marketing tool for websites, providing that the following rules are adhered:
- Produce well–written articles, no less than 300 words; 500 is even better
- Place main keyword in the title, as well as the first and last paragraph
- Limit keywords to 2–3% of the body contents
Search engines also favor longer, in depth articles in the range of 1500–2000 words. If possible, produce longer sales copy, articles, and blog entries to maximize SEO.