Anyone who has ever worked in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) will know that there’s quite some skill involved. The client gives you keywords that must be inserted into articles. These may be articles they want you to write from scratch, or they may provide you with links to articles they like which they want rewriting.
Either way, you need to work in those keywords at a given percentage of the overall content, which may be 1% to 2%. Too little and those clever spiderbots don’t have enough to feed on and your client’s site doesn’t rate well; too much and they spit your keywords out in disgust and scurry off to report your client to Google for over-egging the pudding, so to speak.
Trying to sneak in keywords or longtail keywords (a keyword phrase) can be difficult at the best of times. You can’t just write freely because you are always aware of the need to bring your track around to the point where the keyword(s) can fall into place again. Generally, they don’t fall into place; you have to push and squeeze them in, and occasionally break out your literary cro-bar and jam the little bastards in where they really don’t fit at all.
That’s at the best of times.
The worst of times is when the client mistakes you for some sort of literary magician. Here’s how it goes:
Client: I own a ferret-breeding website, and I want you to write some SEO articles to bring traffic to my site.
You: No problem.
Client: I have some articles I’ve found online I want you to rewrite.
You: Even better.
Client: I want you to use longtail keywords.
You: I can do that.
Client: I need “ferret-breeding for beginners”, “best food for baby ferrets”, “how to stop your ferret attacking small children”, and “what to do if you start to find your ferret sexually attractive”.
You: Uh ….
Client: I’m attaching the articles I really like. They are: “David Beckham’s luxury lifestyle”, “Cooking with Indian spices”, and “Developing the next-generation stealth bomber”.
You: What the fuck?
You: I said … that’s your luck … because … it’s my forte.
Client: Oh, good.
So as not to lose face or insult the client, you take the project. You end up writing some probably libellous story about David Beckham and his specially-constructed ferret room; you wax lyrical about the delights of Tandoori Ferret and Ferret Samosas; and you describe how the current USAF stealth bomber has a technical glitch that causes it to smart-bomb ferret dens rather than Al-Qaeda bunkers and that ground troops are taking pity on the orphaned ferret young and taking them back to the U.S. where they are attacking children because they’re not getting the right food but are then being calmed by getting a bit of human lurving.
Your client thinks you’re an idiot. The feeling is mutual.
All right, so there’s a little hyperbole in there, but it’s not far off the truth at times. The problem is that clients sometimes don’t realise how difficult their projects will be. They can think in fairly simplistic terms – you’re a writer so write this. That’s like asking your mechanic to put a Hummer engine in your Mini Cooper. It can probably be done, but it’s going to be a proper pain in the arse and the end result will look like a dog’s dinner.
Honesty in client relations is crucial. You can’t allow a precedent to be established where your client suffers under the delusion that the work you are giving them is easily done. Paying by the word simply does not account for the time you may have to spend researching their project, and the difficulties you may experience in shaping an acceptable final piece. If Mr Ferret Breeder wants you to rewrite an existing article on ferret-breeding, that’s great. If he wants you to research the topic and struggle like hell to cram difficult longtail keywords into practically irrelevant articles, then you have to let him know it’s going to require more money or it’s simply not doable if he wants something genuinely decent at the end of it.
You may be a writer, but you can also speak, and sometimes you have to.