The rules of SEO writing changed – dramatically in my opinion-when Google did its Penguin 2.0 algorithm change in May of 2013. If you’re a freelance writer who specializes in providing this type of content, following are three of the most important things you need to know.

Writing Search Engine-Optimized Content: 3 New Guidelines to Keep in Mind

I. Keywords are No Longer the Focus: At least not the primary focus. Why? Because after digging through a lot of data, Google’s research team found that getting a site to rank high based solely on targeting keywords is pretty easy to do. They also found that many spammers use this technique – turning out a lot of garbage content quickly.

So the search giant decided to make it harder to rank solely based on targeting keywords and churning out content. They not only want variety in the keywords you use in your content. And, they also want you to start using branded anchor text.

II. Anchor Text: Piggybacking on the last point, there are two changes the Penguin 2.0 update addressed as it relates to anchor text.

(i) No more using the same keyword over and over again as your anchor text: For the same reason that Google doesn’t want you filling your site with content that has one or a few keywords targeted, they don’t want to see this practice in anchor text either. Again, they want variety; and

(ii) No more using exact match anchor text: Spam sites are notorious for this. You see, a lot of exact match anchor text is not grammatically correct. But, because these keyword phrases get a lot of searches, many (spammers) would use them anyway.

Now, Google is like, “No way Jose are we going to reward you for this practice.

The rationale behind this is that no legitimate business wants misspelled or grammatically incorrect copy on their website. So if you’re doing this, it’s a red flag, and your site could sink in rankings.

III. Backlinks: The whole point of this latest Penguin update, according to Google’s SEO guru, Matt Cutts, was to penalize sites that use illegal SEO tactics and reward those that offer genuine value to web surfers. Cutts continued on, explaining that the ultimate goal was to cut back on link spamming and hacking, while giving webmasters the tools they needed to fix hacked sites.

The bottom line is, how you build backlinks is being closely watched and if you have a lot of low-quality and/or non-relevant backlinks to your site, you could be in trouble.

Google is even watching how fast you build backlinks, ie, your link velocity. Proof? The Huffington Post article, Penguin 2.0: What Likely Changed and How to Recover, explains it, stating:

If a newer website suddenly experiences spikes where numerous links are acquired over night [sic], this serves as a red flag to Google, making it more likely the site will get “sandboxed.” Search Engine Watch demonstrated this phenomenon on a line graph where any more than 75 links a day were ignored by Google.