SEO content writing is a mercurial profession. It’s one of the things that make this form of technical writing so much fun on the one hand – and challenging on the other.
It’s why I constantly remind freelancers who provide this type of content that they must, must, must stay abreast of what’s going on with search giants like Google, so that they can provide the most effective copy to their clients. To this end, I’ve been perusing the web for the last few weeks in preparation for this post.
Emerging Trends in SEO Content Writing in 2013: 12 Things SEO Writers Need to Know
Following is what’s important in SEO writing this year. Some of these observations are from things I read on the web; others stem from the questions I receive from SEO writers via this blog on a regular basis. Note: This post reflects my opinions only.
I. Content Curation Is Becoming Increasingly Important
While it’s not something you as a freelance SEO writer will likely be responsible for in your day-to-day writing for clients, it’s important to know because it provides a prime opportunity to increase your value to clients.
How? Quite simply by expanding your service offerings.
For example, you could offer to do monthly, quarterly, bi-annual or annual reports to clients that pull together “industry news” for them to distribute to their clients. Writing special reports can bring in a good chunk of change, and they’re usually not that difficult to produce, as I relay in the link here.
What Is Content Curation?
Following is one of the best explanations I’ve read that explains what content curation is. When you think about it, it’s something almost all of us do on a daily basis to a limited degree, eg, when we go through our Twitter stream to find relevant info to tweet:
Content curation is the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme. The work involves sifting, sorting, arranging, and publishing information. A content curator . . . continually seeks, makes sense of, and shares the best and most relevant content on a particular topic online. [Source: BethKanter.org]
II. SEO Writers Must Learn How to Produce Themed Content
The last couple of years, search engines have moved away from rewarding keyword stuffed content to ranking themed SEO content higher. In varying degrees, it’s what Google’s Panda and Penguin updates were all about.
Noted SEO expert Jill Whalen explains why just focusing on keywords can actually hurt a client’s website, writing:
When you do SEO with the goal of optimizing for specific keywords that you want to rank for (as we’ve always done), it can end up hurting you now.
What happens is that you focus too much on those specific words and end up putting them in too many places on your pages and within the website as a whole. But now this is not as helpful to search engines as it used to be. In most cases this will actually lower your rankings and traffic for those specific keyword phrases. Instead [you should] use much more of a variety of words within your content. [Source: HighRankings.com]
III. Learn How to Do Keyword Research
Many SEO writers don’t know how to do effective keyword research. But, it’s a skill that must be developed in order to, for example, write themed SEO content. So . . .
For you visualists, here’s a really good infographic on how to conduct keyword research.
Here’s a link to a 67-page pdf file on how to conduct keyword research. It’s free – and will tell you everything you need to know –once and for all – about how to effectively do this.
IV. Limited Exposure for Organic Search: What It Means for SEO Writers
One thing Google has been lambasted for recently is that it’s featuring its “money making” (ie, paid ads) in search results. There’s even a national commercial by Bing (MSN) accusing the search giant of being a “Scroogle.”
What this means, in effect, is that SEO content providers have to become as knowledgeable about distributing content as they are about creating it. This includes knowing how to drive traffic via social media; knowing about the latest recommended meta tags (eg, the author tag); and how to make a site more clickable by writing rich snippets (more on this below).
SEO Content Writers Should Learn How to Correct Write Rich Snippets
This is a seemingly small — but increasingly important — variable that can drive more traffic to a site.
What are Rich Snippets?
As explained on one of Google’s support pages . . .
Snippets are the few lines of text that appear under every search result and are designed to give users a sense for what’s on the page and why it’s relevant to their query.
For example, the snippet for a restaurant might show the average review and price range; the snippet for a recipe page might show the total preparation time, a photo, and the recipe’s review rating; and the snippet for a music album could list songs along with a link to play each song. These rich snippets help users recognize when your site is relevant to their search, and may result in more clicks to your pages.
In the link, Google explains the three-step process to correctly writing rich snippets.
V. Repurposing Content becoming More Important
This kind of piggybacks on the point I made about distributing content. The article, 7 content marketing trends to watch for 2013, explains why repurposing will become much more important this year, stating:
. . . next year  we will see an increasing number of sites with multiple versions of the same content tailored to specific audiences.
The reason for this trend is that communication professionals strive to hit just the right tone to ensure content resonates with different segments of their target audiences. For example, Emory University’s news center has two versions of each story—one for the public and one for the press.
In short, a client can get much more mileage out of one piece of content – but many of them won’t realize it unless you, as their SEO content provider, make them aware of it.
Learn more about how to repurpose content (pdf file).
VI. Create More In-Depth Content
One of the reasons is, it gets rid of a lot of those spammy, made-for-AdSense sites. Spam operators aren’t going to take time to create a 700, 1,000 or 1,500-word post. They’re most likely to pay freelancers a few bucks to create keyword-stuffed 200 or 300-word posts. FYI, this is where a lot of those cheap article writing gigs come from.
Now that you understand the rationale behind longer articles/web content, you may be thinking . . .
Just how long should a post be to rank well in Google?
Well now this is where some debate comes in. Just know, there’s no set word length, but in my opinion, a good ballpark number is 400-600 words. How did I come up with this?
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I’m a big believer in article marketing. I remember a few years ago when many article directories stopped accepting articles that weren’t at least 400 words (before they only had to be 250 words). Some article directories even made their minimum word count at least 500 words.
This signaled to me that search engines wanted – and rewarded – more in-depth content. Also, it gives search engines more food to feed on to [correctly] figure out what your site/content is all about. And, if you’re writing themed content, this is really important.
When You Can Get Away with Shorter Content
If you have a really popular blog/website that gets lots of comments or other types of “community reaction” (eg, retweets, shares, likes), you can get away with posting short content (Google confirms this). Why?
Because, in my opinion, it sparks a conversation and inspires action by readers.
You see, Google likes unique, informative content. And if you write a unique short post that gets a lot of comments and social media reaction, then that means backlinks (usually the high-quality kind). This signals to Google that this is a conversation worth passing along to readers, hence, it’s likely to rank well in relevant search results.
VII. Link Building in 2013
The biggest impact on link building in the last few years is social media. The post, Link Building 2013 – It Is All About Quality, on InfaWeb.com, explains why/how, stating:
One of the biggest changes over recent years is the introduction of social media. This includes things like; Google plus one, Facebook, Twitter, U-Tube [sic] etc. This has changed things with link building in 2013 as the search engines take social activity and use to this help with search engine rankings.
As an SEO writer, it’s important to know about link building because you need to become more aware of how to write content that gets linked to, ie, linkable copy. Here’s a great post that gives 32 ideas on how to write content that gets linked to.
Employing just a few of these ideas into the SEO content you write for clients can give them great returns and means more work – and referrals – for you!
VIII. Stay Abreast of Search Engine Algorithm Changes – and How They May Affect Your Clients
Many SEO writers were caught by surprise by Google’s Panda and Penguin updates. So when their clients started calling wondering what was going on with their rankings and should they order more content, or not, they were at a loss as to what to say.
An example? One SEO writer emailed me after Google’s Penguin update last year. He wrote:
I wanted to ask you a quick question . . . have you heard from any distressed clients about the recent Google “penguin” update last week? I have.
In fact, my best client (who accounts for over 60% of my work) is panicked because he lost many of his local rankings for his clients. . . . he doesn’t know what to do, that there is no rhyme or reason to what Google is doing. He . . . put a hold on some regular monthly work I do for him (articles + mass distribution) until the dust settles and they figure out what they have to do to get rankings again.
. . . I’m concerned long-term for SEO companies in general. I have a feeling many of them have been affected by this. And since these are the companies we solicit to build our clientele, I’m wondering how this might affect us down the line. Any thoughts you might have on this topic would be greatly appreciated.
Read the post to see how I responded to him. The bottom line is, you should always stay abreast of what search engines, particularly Google, is doing. And, you can do that by bookmarking their webmaster blog. Another way is to keep up with Matt Cutts, Google’s SEO guru, blog.
Related Post: Keep Google’s SEO writing guidelines in mind when creating content.
IX. Know What a Content Strategy Is – and Relay That to Clients
In my opinion, content marketing will take center stage this year. There have been rumblings of it over the last few years, but now it is THE shining star of the SEO world (again, this is just my opinion). Why do I think this?
Because search engines are all about returning relevant, FRESH results. Hence, not only does content need to be in-depth and informative, it must also be up to date. The article, How to Do SEO in 2013, explains why, stating:
Due to Google’s increased emphasis on ‘fresh’ results, old practices like benchmarking rankings need to change. . . . If you’re sitting on 10 year old content and strategies from 10 years ago and just riding your coat tails and hoping everything will stay ok. It won’t. Even if the algo[rithm] doesn’t change – 80% changes every day in the SERPs.
In the post, Why Content Marketing is the New SEO, SEO specialist Neil Patel expounds upon why creating content (content marketing) regularly is important, stating:
Make sure you publish content on a regular basis. . . . if you can’t publish content on a regular basis, no matter how good your content is, it will be tough to get a good ROI out of your content marketing.
One way for an online retailer to seamlessly create content on a regular basis is to create – and follow – a content strategy (FYI, this is a service SEO content writers can provide to clients). This helps you as a writer to give a client’s content more consistency, which helps to build a more active community of followers. This is discussed in detail in the HuffingtonPost article, The New Era of SEO: Content Strategy, which states:
A content strategist thinks about producing valuable content and distributing it across various channels; the rest of the equation completes itself. In addition to building a brand reputation and recognition through social channels, great content also builds links, relationships, and lasting value.
X. The Emergence of Infographics and Other Mixed Media
Another thing search engines like to do is return mixed media results. For example, I went to Google and typed in the keyword phrase “how to make money selling ebooks” (without quotes). Most of the results returned on the first page are web pages, but the last one is a video on YouTube.
This is what’s known as mixed media and it can be videos, infographics, slideshows, etc. As human beings, some of us are more visual than others, so search engines like to return results in various different types of media. And not for nothing, things like infographics (pictures) work great as linkbait. I mean, just look at the exploding popularity of the social media picture-sharing site Pinterest.
So if you have some artistic skill as an SEO writer, you can provide these services – or provide them and outsource them.
FYI, a great place to find affordable talent for some of these types of jobs is Fiverr.com. I’ve hired a few people from here over the last couple of years. Sometimes it’s been hit and miss, as in, I’ll place an order and nobody gets back to me. But, other times it’s worked out beautifully.
XI. Social Media
It’s impossible to talk about SEO and content creation these days without talking about social media. The two go hand in hand and as we discussed earlier in this post, you must become knowledgeable about it – so you can write content that gets shared via these outlets.
This helps you to help clients quantify how effective your content is for them (eg, by seeing how many times an article was retweeted on Twitter, liked on Facebook, or shared in a LinkedIn group.
FYI, social media is one of the easiest services to sell your SEO writing clients because most want someone to just “handle it” for them.
XII. Knowing What NOT to Worry About
There’s so much that goes on in SEO day in and day out that it can be hard to know what you should pay attention to and what you shouldn’t as an SEO writer.
SEO Sources That Keep You in the Know
By regularly reading highly regarded search engine trade journals, you can easily stay up on what’s important and what’s not. Following are the main ones that keep me in the know:
Google Webmaster Blog; and
Matt Cutts Blog.
Conclusion: SEO Writing in 2013
As you can see, there’s a lot to stay abreast of as an SEO writer in 2013. Some of these observations impact how you write for clients, others impact how you market to clients, and yet others impact your knowledge of the industry.
What they all have in common, however, is that they present a chance for you to build your reputation as an SEO writer. And make no mistake, SEO copywriters (and other search specialists) are some of the most in-demand professionals around these days. Proof?
Marketers [now] get SEO. That is, there is a maturation of the industry that is occurring as the value of natural search as a channel is being recognized and Marketers demand both tools that help them get the most from it, and employees that understand it. . . . [Hence] Job listings with ‘SEO’ in it have increased on job site Indeed.com by 1900% since 2006. . . [Source: Conductor.com]
So the demand is there, but competent SEO professionals are not that easy to find, which means those that are well trained will be in high demand. Proof?
In the comments section of this post, one freelancer relayed how in less than a year, she went from starting an SEO writing business, to being offered the opportunity to interview for a job by a mid-sized firm in her area as an SEO campaign specialist. She [Donna] wrote:
I built my first professional website, and launched a legitimate SEO copy writing business in January 2012. I marketed as you suggested, and by April had a full time client load. I went from just writing articles to learning how to optimize an entire website by October 2012. I learned how to write not only quick 400-500 word articles but in-depth, highly-researched, longer themed content in the alternative and medical fields.
I [also] learned how to write sales copy – much harder for me to do, but my client is impressed with the conversions. I got put on staff at one business and became a feature writer at another. I learned a number of internet marketing strategies in November 2012.
The cream is that at the beginning of December 2012 I was invited to interview as a SEO campaign specialist for a local mid-sized company. The hiring decision should be made before the end of the year. Even if I do not get the job, the experience has shot my confidence through the roof. I plan to completely rebrand myself and my company since businesses recognize and value my skill sets.
From $25 Per SEO Article to $85+ Per SEO Article
When I first started out as an SEO writer in 2007, I charged $25 per article. Nowadays, my SEO writing company’s cheapest content package is $340 for 4 articles ($85 per article). And, very few clients even haggle over the rate. All they want to know is how soon we can start producing content for them.
This is because, as the quote in the article on Conductor.com states, “Marketers [now] get SEO.” So you don’t have to sell them on the service; it’s just a matter of if they can afford YOU. And if you invest in yourself as an SEO writer – by staying abreast of what’s going on in the industry – you’ll be able to practically write your own ticket as an SEO professional as well.
What’s Important to You as an SEO Writer in 2013?
Did I miss anything? What do you think it’s important to know as an SEO content writer in 2013? Please share in the comments section below.
P.S.: Join me in Jamaica in April and learn how to start a high-earning career as an SEO writer.
Register for the SEO copywriter training class. A nominal deposit reserves your spot. Learning SEO is about so much more than learning a new skill; it’s about changing (taking control of) your life! Proof? See average salary of SEO writers in graphic just below.
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