If you want to make a living as a writer, it’s not going to happen writing novels. Novelists quickly find out that they have to continue writing something new while pushing to sell the old. Newspaper and magazine outlets are unionizing with the Writer’s Guild of America, so blogging your way through content mills is pretty much the best way to grind away and earn money writing.
But you’ll need clients, and those clients aren’t interested in reading your poetry or fantasy novels about vampires and wizards. Frankly, nobody is. What actually pays is ghostwriting editorials and blog content for industry thought leaders. These entrepreneurs, influencers, brands, and agencies will want to see that you understand the basics of writing for online publication. This means you’ll need a thorough understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
If you’re not already familiar (or if you just want a refresher), here are four important tips to keep in mind while blogging. They’ll make sure your content will be seen by the audiences you’re trying to reach.
1. Aim for Evergreen
Some marketers will tell you it’s important to stay current. This is true in many aspects. Marketing technology is important to keep up with, and understanding which trends are important to which demographics is important. But blogging about current events is a death trap for SEO. It only works if you have the editorial staff to run a real news agency. Current events aren’t current for long, and everyone has an opinion on them. If you’re going to be a drop in that bucket, you have to do it well.
What’s more important is that you write evergreen content that’s going to be as relevant in ten years as it is today. That’s not always possible with the finer details (statistics will constantly change), but with a solid foundation, at least you’ll be able to more easily update your blog as the years go by. Keep in mind a blog is a long-term strategy – even businesses don’t get read immediately by building one.
The more evergreen content you have built up in your archive, the better your current events posts will do, so focus on evergreen as much as possible. This gets the most bang for your blogging buck.
Don’t want to blog yourself? Check out The Ultimate Guide for Hiring Ghostbloggers!
2. Understand Current SEO Guidelines
If you’re going to write anything online, you need to understand SEO guidelines. This isn’t just a psuedoscience, as even Google has regular updates and guides about how to navigate its search engine. They don’t give out the exact algorithms, but we know enough about the search industry these days to get the idea.
The best places to keep up to date on the latest blogging and SEO trends are agencies like Moz and HubSpot, along with publications like Search Engine Land. These people dedicate their lives to tracking Google search algorithms and writing content about writing blogs, content marketing, conversion rate optimization, and other digital marketing topics. I know it’s boring (trust me – I ghostwrote a ton of it), but the more you study this stuff, the more it becomes second nature.
3. Placing Contextual Keywords and Links
Obviously we want to reach the biggest audiences possible, but it has to make contextual sense. Sometimes overzealous marketers read blogs from experts like Neil Patel, and they try to apply these tips in hilariously wrong ways. For example, a real estate site tried using the hype surrounding the delayed third season release of Rick and Morty to post a review and use that link juice to power his real estate site.
While this type of black-hat trickery may look good temporarily, nobody is going to buy a house because you wrote a Rick and Morty review. Another great example is the link juice that keeps this blog running. The reason I even have any SEO presence is because I dated a pill popper and wrote information on vaping drugs years before it was a thing. Even when media sites jumped on the trending keywords, they weren’t writing the same type of information. So my clicks for people wanting to vape drugs continue to last through all the information warning people not to do it.
So when you’re writing a blog to rank for a term like “SEO blogging,” make sure you’re actually providing information that’s relevant to people who will be blogging for SEO. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.
4. Communicating Expectations to Clients
No matter what you think you understand about SEO blogging, the most important aspect of the blogging business is communicating to your clients. If you’re working for a content mill, the pay may be lower, but the production-like atmosphere is a lot easier to work in. These agencies are typically writers and editors themselves, so they understand the freelance writer lifestyle. So long as you deliver on time and never miss a deadline, you’ll be good.
But working as a writer for a marketing agency (or directly with a client) has a completely different set of expectations. The first thing every hack marketing agency asks is where you can publish. Do not ever offer to use your publishing platforms for a marketing agency unless you fully negotiate the contract and are representing the agency, not their clients. They will use you until you’re blacklisted, smiling the entire time and assuring you they’re different. They are not – they are leeches.
Have faith in yourself as a blogger and a business, and you’ll be fine. And always set expectations up front in your contracts to ensure you’re not taken advantage of. Otherwise, you’ll quickly find yourself doing a TON of free work.
Blogging for business is definitely selling out, but we all sell out for a living. I never once judged my plumber for fixing my toilet for the money instead of the art. It’s an unrealistic expectation. But selling out can be a lot of fun, so long as you’re honest, transparent, and willing to roll up your sleeves to do a little SEO blogging. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll have clients lining up to hire you.
For more information on keyword placement, SEO writing strategies, and other blogging essentials, please see the resources below.