How to Include SEO While Keeping Your Writer’s Brain Happy

Allow yourself the creative freedom to plan and write in the style that makes you happy, while still optimizing your work for visibility and readership. (Image from Pixabay photos)

Picture this: You’re a writer, and you just sat down at your desk — in the corner of your tiny apartment. It can also be your re-purposed dining room, or even a beautiful window view — with your coffee and article to finish and send to your editor. You worked hard on this first draft and included everything you think you need for it to be a useful, informative document.

Then, you start incorporating key terms, phrases, and links to optimize your post, to link to other sources and products… and to reach more readers. And suddenly, you feel unhappy with your draft. The more key terms, phrases, and #hashtags you incorporate, the more you have to change (and even simplify) the sentence structures. You can feel the integrity of your writing breaking down and the quality draining away…

I get it.

You’re a writer for a reason. Maybe you’re good at it and want to make money from it. Or it can be because you love it and want your creative freedom. Either way, you probably want to maintain the integrity of the ideas you put down on paper (or screen!). Also, let’s be honest, since your name is going to be on your work, you want each piece to be amazing! Amazing, without feeling like you over-simplified or “dumbed down” your writing to meet the needs of SEO.

In this article, you’ll find two things. First, I’ll point out some limitations of using SEO that every writer dealt with when writing an optimized piece. Consider this your opportunity now, to avoid those headaches. And also, learn from the masters what mistakes you could make, before you actually make them. Second, I’ll share some of the tricks-of-the-trade I learned (through my own trial-and-error), and help you avoid those mistakes. These tricks allow me to employ SEO to the maximum benefit, without feeling like taking anything away from my writing.

Sound good? Let’s jump right in.

The limitations of incorporating SEO —

For anyone who is new to the concept of SEO or utilizing it in their writing, SEO is —

“The simple activity of ensuring a website can be found in search engines for words and phrases relevant to what the site is offering.”

— Red Evolution, 2018.

By selecting key terms that relate to the post you’re writing, or the website in general, you’re increasing the chances of someone finding your content. It can be when they are looking for an answer, or an article to read on a particular subject. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of selecting key terms that are relevant, and not just popular ones or “buzzwords”. Writers new to SEO think, “The more buzzwords I use, the better,” or “The more popular references, the better,”. But, sorry to say, this simply isn’t true. You would like your key terms to relate to your content so that the relatable readers can find you.

Take an example, you are writing a blog post about keeping your focus while working a desk job. In this post, you mention the importance of staying energized, which might invite a quick tangent about working out… at your desk or when your shift ends. Amidst the writing of the draft, you may also mention the new Peloton Indoor Exercise Bike. And because the Peloton is currently popular, you decide it’s a good keyword, and thus, link to a website selling this bike.

But now, you also, increased the chances of receiving visits from readers looking for information about at-home fitness and exercise bikes… which has nothing to do with your original subject of staying mentally focused while working at your desk.

The keywords that you want to emphasize, instead, might be “mental focus,” “environments that encourage focus,” or even “brainstorming activities to get your mind back on track.” The latter two fall under the category of SEO phrases, instead of key terms (which typically have one to three words in total). The phrases, though, keep your SEO options related to your topic, rather than what is the most buzzworthy.

Some tips provided above might make you feel a little limited in what you write, but they’re important for SEO.

Perhaps, you wanted to include all the information about the Peloton. Also, you may have pulled an analogy about staying focused, from a popular cartoon. And now, you thought you could link both of these to increase popularity.

I’m not saying that you can’t mention these things; inserting side-topics can increase the likability of a post. Moreover, they also can make your content more relatable on an emotional level. I’m simply suggesting staying away from linking those subjects, as they don’t relate to the core subject of your post.

Again, while it may increase readership for one post, incorporating unrelated links won’t increase readership of your blogging series or website, long-term. Why? Because these weren’t readers, who were originally looking for the focal content of your post.

More than likely, they’ll click on your link in the search engine, read a few lines of the post, and then navigate back. It’s when they realize that your post does not focus on the content they were looking for. That isn’t the kind of engagement you want, is it? You want to encourage the readers who want to talk about staying focused and having a productive work day, to find you. These are the readers who will keep coming back.

Here are some tricks I’ve learned along the way to keep my writing fluid, creative, and, well, “me”… when modifying my work to suit the needs of SEO:

Incorporate Your Required Key Terms and Phrases in the Beginning — Not a Later Draft

A big mistake that I made early on in my freelance and content writing career — I wrote the piece I wanted to write, and then went back to incorporate what I needed for SEO. And, my results were never what I wanted. By ignoring that list of items that I needed to incorporate, my first draft looked completely different from the second one. I was also, never able to maintain my writing style in that second draft.

However, when I made the list of the key terms and phrases first, I was able to fluidly incorporate them. I could write around them as I worked my way through the first draft. Incorporating them as I wrote, allowed me to familiarize with the feel of these words (and phrases), without limiting my creative touch. Then when I revised for a second draft, it was more about the fluidity than creating a whole new piece.

You may be wondering, what’s the difference between including these terms from the beginning, or adding them later? Why wouldn’t these two drafts look similar? It’s a great question, and I too, asked it when I was new to this field. It seems to be so easy to decide how you want to write, and then, always write that way. But it isn’t that simple.

When I write creatively, going back and adding key phrases is like adding a whole new voice to that draft. Suddenly, I feel pressured to revise and revise and revise, until that original voice and the new one match. So, I go from having a creative piece to a piece that sounds almost like SEO jargon.

And how does choosing to incorporate that list of required terms and phrases from the beginning, helps? You get the opportunity to phrase your sentence a little differently, to accommodate the words. Also, you know how you might structure the sentences to include that phrase.

By including them early, removes any surprise I might experience in how I want to write the entire piece. It gives me a chance to rephrase any surrounding clauses to meet my writing style, while still accommodating the needs of SEO.

Treat Required Phrases Like a Creative Writing Prompt

As I stated above, sometimes you will only need to incorporate a keyword here and there for SEO purpose. At other times, you may need to include (one or) several whole phrases. These phrases can really change the course and quality of your writing. However, I have a solution which may feel like a disadvantage, but have fun with it.

You heard me. Collect what you’re required to include in your piece, and re-purpose it as an opportunity to advance your writing skills. Thus, having some fun!

Now, you may be asking: McKenzie, how do I do that? My response, do whatever you need to do to turn the required phrase into a creative writing prompt. You can write the phrase in the middle of a page and create a concept web for a brainstorming activity. It would help you to explore new ways that you could write about the topic. Or you can write a quick paragraph on the perspective you will take to explore the topic (and phrase)

You also can just make a quick list of associated words that get your mind moving. Whichever approach gets your creative juices flowing, use that to get into the mindset of the phrase. This way, it will be easier for you to employ it, instead of it, controlling your writing style.

Write Multiple Responses to Each “Creative Writing Prompt”

I can hear some of you already: “This is too much work for one piece. It will take too much time.” However, I’m not asking for long, or even complete responses. All I’m asking is to consider variants to each of the phrases you require. Then, go with the one that most comfortably suits your writing style.

Think of it as revising a sentence. But instead of reviewing sentence after it’s written, you’re making a list of potential sentences to choose from.

Remember, I suggested that you incorporate your key terms and phrases from the beginning. Knowing what sentence style will suit your piece best will serve you in maintaining your creative integrity. And as a bonus, it allows you the comfort of less editing later.

Time to get started!

My greatest recommendation, of course, is to simply begin writing with the potential keywords and phrases in hand. See where your writing takes you. It will, sure, take some practice and persistence. Along the way, you also will learn the key terms most useful to your posts. But once you’re comfortable in content writing, you’ll want to keep doing it all the time.

Also, you will notice an increase in traffic to your website, once you have spent some time writing SEO posts. You will also start noticing regular trends in your readership and increased audience engagement.

You’ll see more readers who are interested in your content, who subscribe to your website or check in for new content. They’ll also be the viewers who “like” your posts on Facebook, share your work and post engaging comments. Such social media activities have the power to launch a whole other stream of conversation, around your article.

These are the readers that you want the most. Those readers are the reason why it’s important to use key terms related to your writing. It’s what you believe your audience truly wants to learn more about. Through this relationship with your readers, your work will become more popular.

You’ll have more conversations with your audience, and also, see money coming your way with those pieces of writing. And all this happens while writing on topics that interest you… in a style best suited to you as a CREATIVE CONTENT WRITER.

Get going!