Magnet workshop: SEO writing

Ray Litvak is the founder of Writing Web Words, a company that helps local businesses raise their online profile using SEO. He led an SEO writing workshop at Magnet, an annual magazines conference, where he offered up tips for conquering Google’s search results page.

SEO – search engine optimization – is a growing trend which, like any emerging field, experts haven’t quite figured out yet. Litvak warns that there is no SEO bible – the rules are still being developed, and even the ones that have been proven might change at any given moment. That said, there are simple things a writer can do to get their stories on the top of Google search result pages.

“Writing for the web is an art, and it’s a science,” Litvak says. “Write for the reader first, and SEO secondly.”

There are three important things to consider, he says.

1. If you build it, they will not come – unless you use the right words. Know who you’re targeting.

2. You want to be on the first results page, near the top of the rankings.

3. All that’s needed is a slight adjustment to your print writing style.

There are a few ways to increase your search ranking. Every search engine uses bots designed to read and sort certain types of data. Google, who holds more than 70% of the search market, offers a list of criteria: over 200 bits of information that determine the relevance of your page. Some you have control over – i.e. links and content – while some are out of your control – like who links to you. To see your ranking – and the ranking of any site you visit – download the Google toolbar.

“Google rewards experts and authoritative sources – that’s who you want to be,” Litvak says.


Any links that send readers away from your site are considered charitable. What you really want is other sites to link to you. The more reliable the site that links to you, the more the bots like you. For example: links from .org or .gov sites are as gold as gold. Believe it or not, Google also puts value on Wikipedia entries – if you can get a link in a citation, the bots will notice.

Write keyword-rich links (instead of “Click here”, try “Click here for a list of divorce lawyers in Toronto.”)

Don’t forgot to link back to your own site.


Update frequently with relevant content. Google loves blogs for this reason. “The more often you write, the better you’ll do. The bots will visit you more often.” Of course, if you’re a new blogger, you’ll have to earn the ranking: “Google waits to see you earn trust,” Litvak says. For this reason your blog and your site should be seamless, so they will rise together in the ranks.

Take advantage of the blogosphere community. Build relationships (and links) by writing guest blogs for other sites.


Every page should have a unique title tag under 70 characters, as well as a description tag under 150 characters (after that, tags are truncated). Include keywords and details like your phone number.

Litvak’s search result description:
Writing Web Words | Toronto’s Web Writer & Web Content Specialist | Call today for a friendly and pressure-free quote @ (416) 226-8676

H tags: These range from H1 – headline – to H2-6 for smaller heds. Make the headlines keyword rich so the bots will pick them up. The code is

Insert keywords into the page URL (i.e.

“The trick with keywords is content and context,” Litvak says. Avoid the overly-banal headline that blasts readers with dull SEO-friendly wording. “The secret is to not let them know they’re being SEO’d.”

Use the Google Keyword Search Tool to determine which keywords are most popular, and to find alternatives (if you’re a divorce lawyer, you don’t want to compete with the millions of hits a google search for “divorce lawyer” will bring up. Narrow your niche by adding geography and more specific offerings (i.e. Toronto divorce attorney and estate lawyer).

Litvak says there is one general rule to search engine success: “Pick a niche, become the expert, blog – and tag those posts – and people will come to you.”