How to explain SEO copywriting to clients

Do your clients think that “SEO copy” is a bad word?

Unfortunately, I’m not surprised.  An article called, A 3-Step SEO Copywriter Confession by Kelly Watson joked, “As an SEO copywriter I often get lumped in with keyword spammers, blog content aggregators and overseas article writers.

Sound a little familiar…?

Clients – both small and large businesses – may think of SEO copywriting as “keyword spamming” and want nothing to do with it. Sure, they know they need good content. But where they get confused is what good SEO copy looks like. Maybe that’s because all they’ve seen is bad copy. Or maybe that’s because although content is crucial, it’s not necessarily valued.  After all, Yahoo! owns Associated Content – accused by some as being a “content mill” company. Some SEO companies pay low-dollar for writing and refuse to pay more for higher quality work. We love what content does for us. But we want it cheap. And cheap typically means really, really bad stuff.

And unfortunately, there’s so much “bad stuff” out there, it gets mistaken for “normal” SEO copy best practices.

For instance, Stephen Spencer in his Multichannel Merchant article, Black Hat Tactics Can Ruin Your SEO said one black hat tactic was:

SEO copy — slipping keyword-rich content (often with keyword-rich text links too) meant only for spiders into the very bottom of the page

Whenever I see SEO copy I roll my eyes and think to myself, can you get any more obvious than that?

Well, yeah, I understand what he means – he’s talking about keyphrase STUFFING, not keyword-rich content.. At the same time, the casual reader (someone who is not SEO savvy) reads this and thinks, “SEO copy is bad and obvious. I shouldn’t have it on my site.

Another example comes from the 3-Step Confession article.

Confession: I have inserted misspellings into my own writing.

I have rejected really good headlines and great lede sentences for mediocre ones that start with a keyword or phrase.

I have stifled the urge to delete redundancies. I’ve even added redundancies to get one more keyword into my writing.

Don’t get me wrong – the rest of the post is great. But adding misspellings purely for SEO purposes has never been best practices. And adding redundancies makes me think of fluffy, keyphrase-stuffed paragraphs that talk about “home business opportunities” for the next 750 words.

And if *I’m* thinking that – what are clients thinking? I know if I was a clueless client, I’d wonder, “So, I have to have misspellings on my site for search engine rankings? No way.”

Is it any wonder that clients are a little confused?

The great news is: Once the clients understand the benefits, they’re excited. They’re on board. They realize that their copy will not, in fact, suck.

You just have to explain what good SEO copywriting is first. Here’s how to do it:

  • Get a sense of your client’s knowledge levels – and be prepared to spend time addressing the basics. Don’t assume that your client understands what SEO copywriting is just because they contacted you. Or because they throw a few buzz words around. They may know that they need it – but they may be pretty fuzzy about the specifics. They may really believe that it’s all about stuffing the page as “spider food” (as Spencer mentioned.) Take some time to share with them why the writing is so important, and explain how it could impact their site. Bonus points if you create a PDF with some fast copywriting facts.
  • Show examples of your past writing. I talked to a prospect the other day who said, “I know exactly what SEO copy is. My SEO company wrote something for me and I hated it.” When I showed him that (good) SEO copy was completely different than the keyword-stuffed page he received from his SEO, he immediately mellowed out.
  • Explain your process. Take time to impress upon your client that you’ll be doing more than just shoving keywords into the copy. You’ll be learning about their business, creating benefit statements, developing a strategy and telling a compelling story. I heartily agree with Watson when she says, “SEO is the easy part. The hard part is capturing readers’ attention with writing they actually want to read.” Clients need to know that, too.
  • Ask what questions your client has – and listen to what they *don’t* ask. Unless you have a highly direct client, they may not say, “Hey, I’m afraid that I’m going to pay you a lot of money for content that sounds like hell.” But they may ask things like “How can I tell if it’s working,” or “Why should I hire you at $X/page, when I can get this for $Y/page.” Same fear. Different approach.
  • Do a rockin’ job. It sounds basic, but if you’re not returning your client’s calls/emails – you’re sending a bad message. If you’re sending so-so copy because you’re “busy,” the client won’t be happy. Show your client how fantastic (and professional) SEO copy really  is. Once your client has seen your awesome writing (and the resultant sales paired with some impressive search positions,) they’ll be a fan of SEO copywriting (and you) for life!

Are You Creating Your Own Hell?

I just got off the phone with a very dear friend of mine. Her normally laid-back life has suddenly turned tumultuous – and she’s not quite sure how to handle it. What she is sure about is that she wouldn’t be in this situation had she addressed issues a little faster – and had a few more tough conversations.

In short, she knows that she created her own hell.

Her situation made me think of all the ways we create our own business (and personal) hell. Instead of dealing with issues head-on, we let FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) stand in our way. We let things fester, hate the “place” we’re in and come up with every excuse we can think of to explain why our current situation can’t change.

For instance, do any of these statements sound familiar to you?:

  • I know that my current site copy isn’t working. Our bounce rate is horrible. But I don’t want to go through the hassle of figuring out the SEO and hiring a writer.
  • I know my clients want SEO help, and I know I need SEO copywriting training. I just don’t feel like I have any money to spend on training help right now.
  • I really wanted to work with a consultant, but their hourly rate is too high for me. I guess I’ll never be able to hire anyone.
  • I don’t feel good and I know I’m gaining weight. But I’m already working so many hours. I don’t have time to exercise.
  • I hired someone to help me once. But it didn’t quite work out. I guess online marketing only works for the big boys.
  • My home page is so keyword-stuffed. But if I change it, I’m afraid that I’ll lose my search engine positions. I better stick with the bad copy just in case…

It may be easy to say, “Duh, they could change the situation just by doing X.” But the thing is – when we’ve created our own hell, we don’t immediately see the lifeline. We don’t see how easy it is to change our situation. Instead, we live our life around the word “no.” “No, I can’t do that.” “No, I don’t have enough money.” “No, I’d rather feel poorly than try to find workout time.”

Granted, it’s smart to be cautious. If you have no money in the bank, it may not be the best decision to quit your day job and start your own business. If your cash reserves are low, spending $50,000 a month on PPC may not be in the cards.

And that’s OK. What’s not OK is resigning yourself to your current situation, letting the word “no” rule your life, and refusing to examine your own thought process.

You can, right now, stop creating your own hell.

For instance, if you’re a Web writer and your clients are asking for SEO copywriting, why would you let “I don’t have money for SEO copywriting training” stand in the way of making more money? Will you recoup your investment immediately? Maybe not. But you will recoup it. That’s a much smarter long-term strategy than creating your own business hell and leaving money on the table.

If you are afraid of hiring a consultant because their hourly rate seems “too high” for you – so what? The more important question to ask is, “Do you think this person can help you more money?” If the answer is “yes,” your $1,000 investment with them could help you make $10,000, $50,000…who knows? The key is: If they can make you money, go for it.

If you are afraid of hiring someone – anyone – because you had a “bad experience once,” may I respectfully ask…what the hell are you thinking? That’s like never dating again because you went on one dreadful date 10 years ago. You took the plunge and tried again, right? You can do it again.

If you’re not taking care of yourself because you, “Don’t have time,” stop it. Just stop it. I get that working out is a pain in the butt. At the same time, you’ll feel healthier, more energetic and happier if you do. You may even work more efficiently, too, if you weren’t suffering from sedentary “brain fog.” How much is that extra free time worth to you?

Ask yourself, “Would it be OK with me if I stopped putting myself in this untenable situation? Would my life be better if I did something that represented growth rather than staying in my own safe (and fearful) little corner?”

If the answer is “Yes,” than do it. Don’t wait. Take action – even if it’s baby step action – and keep on going.

‘Cause it’s amazing to see the heavenly results of digging out of your own self-inflicted hell.

Photo thanks: © Sharpshot |

Is SEO Copywriting the Right Career for You?

Mouse on money

How much money can you make as an SEO writer?

There’s something about September that starts folks thinking about changing careers.

Maybe it’s because we’re used to “back to school” time and the dawn of an unknown school year. Maybe it’s because we don’t have summer’s sunny distractions.

Whatever the reason, I’ve receive five emails from folks considering SEO copywriting as a new career choice. And heck, if Yahoo can consider SEO content jobs like “bloggers” and “content managers” in their Hot Careers list, well, SEO copywriting has to be cool.

Why?  Because SEO has become nearly synonymous with web copywriting and content marketing.  If your clients are asking about search engine rankings, It is no longer enough to know direct response copywriting exclusively, no matter how fabulously well you may excel in the craft.  As the reality of search engine optimization has taken center stage in copywriting and content marketing campaigns, the demand for SEO copywriters has also grown.

Can you make money? Yes? Can you work from home and support your family with your SEO copywriting skills? Yup, I know many folks who do just that. I also know some very savvy SEO copywriters who choose the in-house life, helping lead their company’s SEO content campaigns. In short, you have a lot of options.

If you want to be a freelance SEO copywriter – or work as an in-house writer – here are some things to consider:

  • Know that good SEO content writing is more than just writing. It’s understanding what makes people think, act and buy.  Study the art of art of copywriting and learn how to write in a way that connects with a target audience and elicits an emotional response.  Not only will understanding the psychology behind what you’re writing help your writing be even better, but it also will help your client make more money.  The books Buyology by Martin Lindstrom and Influence: Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini, PH.D are excellent. I would also recommend reading  Jonathan Fields’ blog – good stuff, great writing.
  • Know your SEO. Go to conferences, read books, articles, and blogs – in short, learn everything you can about SEO.  SEO copywriting requires the writer to be familiar with SEO principles and best practices, to understand how the search engines work, and to know how to research key phrases and write top-converting titles.  No, you don’t have to be a super-tech. But you do need to know some foundational SEO stuff.  Conferences to consider are AWAI’s Web Writer Intensive and PubCon.)
  • Understand that money will not magically drop from the heavens. I cringe when I see sites touting that you can make thousands of dollars a day as a SEO copywriter.  Can you make thousands? Yes. But not at the beginning. Start up is start up no matter what business you run. And if you’re planning to work in-house, the same rule applies – you’ll have to pay your dues before making the dough. That doesn’t mean that you can’t make a very good income. It just means that building a career takes time. For more information, check out these FAQs on becoming a SEO copywriter.
  • Work with experienced writers whenever you can. The best copywriters I know have worked with “master-level” copywriters and leveraged every training opportunity they could find. Why? Because learning how to write is more than reading a book and calling it good. It’s learning what we don’t know and honing our skills. It’s working with a writer one-on-one and having them gently say, “Um, there’s no benefit statement here.”  If you’re a freelance SEO copywriter, find a mentor (for instance, Pam Foster mentors copywriters.) If you work in-house, work with the best writer there (or if you’re the only writer, beg to work with a consultant.) You’ll value your mentor relationship throughout your career. Trust me.

Photo thanks: © Paulacobleigh |


3 Easy Ways to Make Your Testimonials More Powerful

Ah, the testimonial. There are few things more powerful in the conversion process than reading comments from real people stating, “Yes, I used this product (or worked with this company) and I highly recommend them.”

Unfortunately, many sites don’t leverage testimonials like they could. Instead of thinking about strategic testimonial placement, folks will upload whatever the client gives them and call it good. But if you want your testimonials to have a real impact, here are three tips to consider:

Use the testimonial author’s full name

We’ve all see testimonials like, “I loved this product – R.B. Oregon.” The problem is, people’s B.S. meters start flashing when they see initials rather than a person’s first and last name. They’ll wonder if “R.B.” is a real person…or if it’s a fake testimonial penned by someone in marketing.

Consider telling folks that you’ll need to print their full name in order to post their testimonial on the site. In all my years of doing business, I’ve never had anyone come back and say, “No, I’d prefer that you use my initials instead.”

Use “appropriate” testimonials for the target audience

Many sites have multiple target audiences – so doesn’t it make sense that the testimonials should be focused around whatever audience you’re targeting? For example, Constant Contact used to have separate pages for the main industries they service, and each page had a testimonial from that vertical. That’s much more powerful than, say, a real estate agent testimonial on the “non-profit” page – or a spa owner testimonial on the “sports and recreation” page.

Specifics sell

It’s great when a prospect says, “Thanks. You’ve increased my business.” It’s even better when they say, “You’ve helped us increase our conversion rates by 27%, which brought in over $50,000 so far.”

When you’re asking for the testimonial, ask for examples and stats – how did your work (or your product) make your client’s life better? What kind of conversion lift did they see? What specific improvements did they experience? When the testimonial provides details and tells a story, prospects will read it and think, “If this company was able to help these people, I bet they can help me too!”

Finally, what’s the best time to ask for a testimonial?

After you’ve done something that rocked your client’s world. According to the psychological theory of reciprocity, people are more apt to provide a testimonial right after they’ve see results. That is, since you’ve done something fantastic for them, they are more than happy to do something nice for you.

If you wait a few months, your awesome results have already faded in your client’s mind…and getting a specific testimonial (or sometimes, any testimonial) is more difficult.

Photo thanks: ©Yuri_arcurs,

Five Stupid Ways Clients Sabotage Their SEO Copywriting Campaigns


Today, most companies understand that strong content is an important part of the SEO process. But why do some clients do everything they can to ensure that their SEO campaigns just won’t work? If you’re working with a SEO copywriter (or plan to hire one soon), don’t let this happen to you! Read more