Increasingly today writers are finding the Internet a more welcoming market for output than print publications. There are more markets on the Web than are available in print, and for the free lance writer, it is more convenient than writing for traditional print publishers. For one thing, it saves on the cost of paper and postage, trips to the post office are no longer necessary, and responses to what you submit for publication are light-years faster.
I’ve been writing for over thirty years, and only began writing for on-line publications about three years ago. The amount of output I’ve been able to achieve; now that I no longer have to wait for weeks to know if an article or story has been accepted, has more than doubled, and while per word rates are generally a bit lower, my net income from writing has actually increased because I no longer have the cost of stamps and envelopes to contend with.
In order to maximize income from on-line writing, however, it is essential that your writing be read. In order to increase readership, it is important to understand the concept of search engine optimization (SEO).
Search engines help people seeking information on the Internet make the connection with the information they desire. Search engines analyze the words or phrases on Web pages, particularly those that are repeated or highlighted (in bold face, headlines or links, for example). The engine records these words or phrases, known as keywords, on servers. When a Web surfer types a search word, phrase or sentence into the search box, the search engine attempts to match them with pages it has analyzed. It then delivers a set of matches to the search, organized from best to worst matches. Since people usually only click on links on the first page of matches, the chances of your writing being read improve if your article is listed on the first page of returned matches.
This tutorial offers some helpful hints to improve the chances of what you write being among the best or first page of returned matches to Web searches.
How search engines read a Web page
Search engines and people differ in how they read Web pages, but there are some points of similarity. Here are some of the basic ways search engines analyze pages.
– Page title. Search engines, like people, want to know at a glance what an article is about, and this information is provided by the title. Sometimes called the tag, the page title is inserted in the code of the Web page. Similar to the headlines in newspapers or subject lines in magazine articles, the best titles make the reader want to read more of the content. For example, “How to get your lover back after a breakup” is a more tantalizing title than “The study of relationships.” The first is specific and is likely to match a search more closely than the second.
– Headlines, emphasized words/phrases, and lists. Search engines will focus on anything that is called out in headlines or subheadings, or that is highlighted either with italics or bold type. Search engines also key on bulleted lists. This indicates important information in the writing, and can increase the chances of your writing getting a higher search rating.
– Introductions and conclusions. Search engines search the entire page for keywords, but especially in the opening paragraphs and the conclusion. This does not mean that you should only put key words in these two sections; rather they should be distributed evenly throughout your article. It is important, however, to ensure that opening and concluding paragraphs have key words to increase ratings.
– Links. Having options for more information makes your writing more useful. Ensure that your links work, though, as bad links will turn readers and search engines off.
Best SEO practices
As a starting point, to improve the rating and readership of what you write on-line, remember to write what people will want to read; information-rich copy that tells the reader what he or she wants to know; and do your research to know what words or phrases people are likely to use in searches and make sure they are spread throughout what you write. An example of copy that fits this description is an article I wrote on “The Top 10 Video Games.” There are hundreds of thousands of gamers who are constantly searching for information about new games, or new versions of old games. This content, although over a year old, still gets hundreds of hits every month. In addition, several game sites have linked to it, increasing its rating by search engines.
SEO is competitive. What you write has to stand up against every other copy on the same or a similar subject. There’s no guarantee that your site or copy will wind up on the first page of a search, but the following tips will increase your chances.
– Write original copy with value and relevance to your readers.
– Distribute key words that describe your content and that are likely to be used in searches throughout your copy.
– Make sure key words are in places where they will do the most good; titles, introductions, conclusions, lists, and links.
– Make sure your content matches your key words. Don’t mislead people by using key words to lure them to read copy that is not what they were seeking.
– Link to related sites and invite them to link to your copy. Before uploading copy, make sure your links work.
– Don’t just arbitrarily insert key words. Make your copy readable and clear.