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SEO (search engine optimization) refers to the practice of organically improving the rank of a web page on search engines. Instead of paying for advertisements placed at the top of a search result, SEO practitioners design webpages to catch the attention of the search engines.  Beginner SEO lessons focus on understanding how SEO works and what writers can do to incorporate them.

Search engines consider several factors when deciding which pages to include on a results page. Although the weight they give to these factors change over time, they generally look for pages that provide relevant, quality information related to different keywords. Knowing the algorithms used by search engines isn’t enough, though. You also need to understand how SEO writing is different from other types of writing.

Why SEO Writing is Different

Writers create content that appeals to specific audiences, and they modify everything for these groups from the details they highlight to the words they choose. For example, when writing car reviews for parents, a writer may emphasize features like interior space and safety ratings. That same writer may discuss the vehicle’s handling or integrated technology when appealing to younger or single drivers.

In SEO, there are two audiences: the website visitors and the search engines. SEO writers must learn how to appeal to both groups. The challenge is creating quality content that’s informative and entertaining for the reader as well as easy for the search engine to analyze. Let’s take a closer look at some general guidelines for doing that.

How to Write for SEO

SEO writing starts with well-written content that’s well-organized, focused and free of grammatical errors. This helps establish your position as an authority and builds trust. With this in place you can start optimizing the page.

  1. Choose target keywords. Keywords are words or phrases people type into search engines when they’re looking for information. If you’re looking for a new car, you may type the model of the car you’re considering (Camry) or add additional details like “2015 Camry” or “best deals on Camrys near me.”  The keywords you choose should appear in the title and in the first few sentences of the content.
  2. Create content people want to read. There was a time when writers stuffed pages with keywords even if they didn’t make sense. This helped them catch the attention of the search engines, but it didn’t build confidence in their readers. In fact, visitors would often leave in frustration and check out other sites on the results page. Search engines now look for additional factors like the length of time visitors spend on your site to verify that you’re providing relevant content. Give your visitors a reason to stick around by providing quality content.
  3. Link to other pages on your site. Remember that search engines note how much time visitors spend on your site. One way to encourage them to stick around is to link to other pages on your site so they can explore more content. After you write each piece, review it to identify which terms and concepts relate to other pages on your site and link to them. This information could be in the form of a video, infographic or article.
  4. Ask other sites to link to your site. Another way search engines evaluate the quality of your information is through the number of sites that link to yours. They view this as an endorsement that your content is useful. You may have no say in who links back to your site, but you can give them information they’d be happy to share.