Don't Focus on Keywords
The term "keyword" is responsible for most of the negative thoughts related to SEO today. In fact, stuffing your copy with the same generic keywords is a good way to get your content penalized. A better strategy is to focus on the topic at hand and use a variety of different words related to your subject. This will impress both the search engines and your audience with your knowledge. Freelance writers who specialize in a niche have a much easier time doing this since they're already well versed in a specific area.
Try to Read Your Audience's Mind
No, it's not time to test your psychic powers. However, you will need to learn how to think like your reader. Imagine you have no knowledge of the topic at hand and then make a list of the questions you encounter.
Now when you sit down to write your content, inform your audience using the list you created. You can do this by discussing each item in detail or state each question you wrote and provide an answer immediately below using bullet points or a numbered list.
Be Stingy When Using Hyperlinks
While it's still okay to use hyperlinks in your writing, you don't want to overdo it. Links within a site are great for navigation, but you don't want spammy generic backlinks from other sites in an attempt to drive traffic.
Savvy writers will also be aware of the words they use in hyperlinks. Never place keywords in your copy for the sole purpose of creating links. Make a habit of inserting hyperlinks after your article is complete. This practice will ensure your hyperlinks sound natural and help you to avoid the dreaded "click here" syndrome.
Study Your Competition
If you write in a particular niche or have several long-term clients, this advice can be especially helpful. For example, pretend you have a client who sells essential oils on his website. He knows that lavender oil is a popular seller, but for some reason he's not selling a higher quantity of lavender compared to his other products.
Although your first response might be to suggest more content, it's often better to do a search on the primary keyword term. Study the sites that rank on the first page and compare their content to yours. Do they have more subject matter keywords in their content? Does their copy answer questions about the product that your client's site doesn't? If the answer is yes, go back and revise your content to improve your chances of ranking better.
While search engine optimization is still relevant, it shouldn't be your primary objective as a writer. Focusing on creating quality material that addresses your audience's questions and problems is a far better way to improve your content marketing results.