When I was starting out in freelance writing years ago, my sole intent was to write content that my readers found interesting. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it couldn’t matter how well-written a piece was, if it never reached readers –something that depended entirely on how well search engines understood my writing as relevant to queries typed in by potential readers.

This is where search engine optimization, or SEO, comes in. While computers do not understand human language, SEO helps the creators of websites and web content achieve a convincing approximation. It suggests the creation of systems that are sensitive to the limits and idiosyncrasies of current computer technology.

What is SEO?

Optimizing a webpage is far bigger than factoring the needs of machine understanding into the creation of content. A great deal more goes into helping a search engine see a piece of text as relevant to a searcher’s query. Search engines attempting to gauge the relevance of a page, for instance, tend to look at the kind of links on the page and the kind of credibility the page enjoys on social networks, both areas that writers don’t control.

What writers can do to optimize content can powerfully influence its success with search, though. One of the simplest ways to optimize for search is to include specific phrases or words used by searchers. Search engines are able to match specific words found in web content to words and queries.

It takes experience to know what words and phrases searchers are most likely to use, though. The greater your level of skill at picking the right phrases, the more effective your content will be. SEO writers tend to be sought after for this reason.

Illustrating what writing good SEO content would involve

Substantial and in-depth material: If you’ve ever tried to get on Quora to answer a question put up by someone else, you’ve probably noticed that the site doesn’t accept answers unless they are a certain length. It doesn’t matter how on-point or useful your reply is; if it’s no more than a couple of sentences, you won’t be accepted.

Article length may not always be a good measure of quality; it often works out that way in practice, though. The search engines are programmed to treat long articles with greater credence than ones that only run to between 500 to 800 words. You need to use the space you have to delve deep into your content, and offer great insight. This helps with search engine success.

Your content needs to answer the right questions: While it’s a very good idea to write quality content, you need to make sure that you’re answering the questions that people are actually searching for. It takes considerable knowledge of your industry to know what questions are actually being asked. You can get far looking around on the Internet to find what people need to know.

Consider the use of longtail keyword phrases: If you’re writing about the fall fashion line, merely using the words “fall fashion line” in your content won’t get you very far — there are far too many examples of authoritative content around the Internet that he uses the same keywords. To get noticed, you need to use longer phrases that not much existing content is aimed at. For instance, rather than write about the fall fashion line, it would make sense to aim after the keyword phrase 2015 fall fashion color trends.

The Keyword Planner tool published by Google ad words can be tremendously useful in finding highly specific phrases. The tool can also be useful finding every popular alternative to the keyword phrases that you have in mind. The greater the level of variation in the keywords that you use, the better you get at aiming your content at a searcher’s query.

Consider conversion, not traffic: SEO may appear to be about attracting great traffic with your content. That isn’t really what it is, though. In reality, it is about writing content that will convert — move people to take action, preferably by clicking on something or buying something. It takes a certain kind of knowledge of consumer psychology together with great writing chops to be able to get people to do that. Taking a course in consumer psychology can make sense.

You’ll be more successful when you understand SEO

SEO is a fast-moving field. It can take professional training in the beginning to truly internalize the rules of SEO well enough to apply them. You also need to invest in ongoing education to make sure that you keep up with the changing rules of the game.

SEO writing can also take better creative skills. Writing can be hard when you’re forced to use specific words or phrases, and still not take away from the flow of the thoughts that you’re putting down. Yet, the rewards can be great. Once you truly learn SEO writing, your clients will notice, and word will get about. You will be in demand.