Anyone who has ever tried to run an online business will tell you that organic traffic – visits from people finding your site through a search engine – is vital to success. And to get lots of organic traffic, your site needs to rank well on the engines, especially Google. That’s why search engine optimization (SEO) is so important.
In the last couple of years, Google has made some significant changes to their ranking algorithms: they started with the Panda update, followed it with Penguin and finished the trio with EMD. As each update was implemented, the changes affected some critical areas of SEO.
So what does this have to do with freelance writers?
As a freelance writer, you create the groundwork on which almost all websites are based: words. It is words which Google uses to work out what the site is about, what key phrases it uses and, most importantly, how relevant the site is to someone looking for a particular subject.
For example, if someone types “Nigerian politics” into a Google search, they want to end up on a site that talks about Nigerian politics, not a site about the price of cabbages at WalMart.
The problem is that, up until a couple of years ago, old-style SEO meant that writers had to find a way to get exact match keyword phrases into their work. In other words, to capture someone searching for “politics Nigeria”, you needed that exact phrase on the page… and writing understandable sentences with “politics Nigeria” in them is not easy.
This is, in fact, why there are so many sites on the Internet that read like they were built by demented robots on drugs. Natural, high-quality writing would not allow the use of many unwieldy keyword phrases, so the site owners forced the issue and hammered the expressions into places they don’t fit.
So how is Google helping freelance writers?
Although you may hear a lot of whining and complaining about the recent updates, all of them have helped freelance writers who produce high-quality content.
Google’s intent is to catch people who “game” the system. They want to down-rate the spammy, crappy sites and promote those with informative, authoritative content. The Panda update started this push by down-rating (or “Google-slapping”, as I like to call it) sites which were obviously built just to get hits, usually to sell an affiliate product. You know the ones – all those sites with copied content, spun content, bait and switch and other junk which made little sense but ensured the site was on Page One of the search results.
The Penguin update continued the advance by slapping bad links – all those profile links on sites covering completely different subjects with no relevance and the ones on article directories with more of that spun, junk content just for the backlinks.
The EMD update (Exact Match Domain) put the final nail in the coffin by removing the domain name bonus for exact keyword matches. All those sites with names like “buyreebokrunningshoescheap.com” lost the advantage they had been given for their domain name matching a Google search.
So what does this mean for you, as a writer?
The practical result of all three updates is the same: the content of a site matters much more now. It has to be informative, useful, authoritative, frequently shared and (most importantly) accepted as high-quality and relevant.
This means that cheap $1-per-500-words content is disappearing. Site owners are starting to realize that they need to pay better prices for better content if they want to keep their business in profit. Writers have been saying it for years, of course, but now Google backs us up: you get what you pay for, and what you should pay for is quality.
Quality content is the backbone to online success. And who creates that content? Freelance writers do. You do.