Why every writer should learn about SEO

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You’re a writer.

You’re confident with spelling and grammar.

You craft a clever sentence, looping thoughts and ideas in compelling patterns, teasing the reader to follow you to the final full stop.

But do you have a handle on SEO?

For writers, internet magic has brought the planet’s readers within a mouse click and publication opportunities seem limitless.

Unfortunately, if you’re just starting out now, you’ve got a bit of catching up to do.

Writer learning SEO

At last count there were 23 infinity billion people publishing online through blogs, social media, e-books and other platforms.

That’s a lot of words, and a lot of writers hoping to be read.

While your prose might be amazing – original, insightful, uplifting – and your blog or website a thing of beauty,  all that work will go unnoticed if people can’t find you.

Sure, there’s a (slim) chance people might stumble across your witty book review or story on companion pets and share it.

But you’ll have more chance of being discovered through a search engine query.

Enter search engine optimization, or SEO.

This is a series of steps writers can take to make their work sticky, attracting search engine tentacles and ensuring their website or blog makes its way onto a search results page.

A lot of SEO strategy relates to technical elements of a website such as how fast it opens, whether it loads correctly on different sized screens and whether the links on the site all work.

If you publish using a blogging platform like WordPress there are diagnostic tools you can use to identify problems and tidy things up (see All in One SEO plugin and Yoast SEO plugin) .

But here’s where it gets interesting.

The chances of an individual story or blog post being read also increase depending on its content, including the title.

The key to making content SEO is all about keywords; finding the right ones and using them at certain places throughout your publication.

Potential readers aren’t going to type “ground breaking new author” into the search bar on their browser.

So you have to invest some time deciding what it is you’re writing about and what you’re giving the reader.

This applies equally to your website’s static pages (such as the home and about pages) and individual stories or articles (posts).

In particular, think carefully about titles and avoid anything too cute.

Witty newspaper headlines and intriguing novel titles might inspire you but they won’t impress a search engine.Clever (1)

Copywriting guru Kate Toons is an authority on SEO and writes regularly on how to drive traffic to a website.

She shares her top 66 tips here, including a heap of marketing suggestions to help you improve your online presence.

Jeff Goins, a writer, advises choosing key words before you write and offers strategies to draw more readers to a blog.

SEO is about having a laser focus, so choosing your terms before writing is essential. – JG

For the writer struggling to find their voice, who agonises over word choices and phrasing and dramatic effect, the prospect of filtering prose through a keyword screen might not be very attractive.

Sure, Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf weren’t preoccupied with search engine rankings; they were free to find the right word, not the right keyword.

But if you want to self-publish online and hope people will read your work,  you have to play by the online rules.

That means looking at how robust your site is and tweaking publications so search spiders can easily categorise and promote them.

Working on your website’s backend and thinking about keywords when you’re editing individual posts and pages is as important for increasing readership as polishing your prose.

PS – I added par four and replaced my original (funny but cryptic) title as part of my SEO editing for this article. 🙂


Angela Bensted Bw 1x1
Angela Bensted is a Brisbane-based freelance writer who likes to listen first and struggle with syntax later. She pitches stories to magazines and helps businesses produce compelling copy for print and online.
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