What’s Your Copywriting Superpower?

Have you seen the latest Marketing Profs 2018 Marketing Salary Guide?

The 2018 salaries for brand and agency content positions blew me away!

The forecasted salary range for a content strategist is $60,000 – $115,000.

A web copywriter? $47,000 – $104,000.

In fact, there was nothing under $40K a year.

Nice, eh?

This is great news for content writers like us. (Congratulations if you make this — or even more than this — now!)

But, what if you’re not making that kind of money?

It’s easy to look at salary surveys like this and think, “Everyone else is making way more money than I am. What’s wrong with me?”

I assure you that is NOT what’s going on.

In fact, after I wrote about this in my newsletter, I heard from many writers — both freelance and in-house — who ARE afraid of algorithms taking their jobs.

They’re floundering around, taking low-paying gigs, and suffering with slow-paying clients.

Maybe you feel the same way.

For instance…

A friend of mind was stressing out because she had a “feast or famine” business. When she was busy, she was too busy to think — but when things were quiet, she’d wake up at 3 a.m. and worry about money.

What’s funny is this woman is brilliant at product launches. She can write the emails. She can set up the back end. She can project manage the process. It’s a huge skill set.

The challenge is, she didn’t think of her skill set as a superpower. She didn’t realize she was charging way too little for the knowledge that was in her head.

Because that’s why clients pay you, you know. It’s because of your superpowers.

One SEO Copywriting Buzz reader summed this up beautifully when she responded to my “will machines take our writing jobs” email. Her note?

My copywriting superpower is being a CPA steeped in direct response. I don’t see my big clients looking to AI to write for them. They’re willing to pay me for what’s in my brain.


So, what’s your content writing superpower?

What do you do every day that seems easy to you — but, blows your clients’ or boss’ minds?

Do your blog posts get more likes than cute cat videos?

Do you have influencers at your fingertips, ready to help get the word out?

Can you write highly-technical content that only an engineer could understand?

Your superpower skill set is what propels you from, “I’m worried about money and clients don’t pay me enough,” to “I’m on vacation and I’m not taking on new clients right now.”

Knowing the value you bring to the table gives you the confidence to negotiate a much higher writing salary (plus, it allows you to work on the stuff you really find fun.)

It’s all about what’s in your brain. The information in your head is worth more than you know.

What do YOU think of the salary survey?

Is it inspirational? Depressing? Do you know your writing superpower, or are you still discovering your hidden talents? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Has Blogging Become A PITA?

Raise your hand if you’re feeling pressured to blog all the time.

Blogging is fun when you first start out. Then, for some people, blogging starts to get old. Writer’s block sets in. You learn that your 300-word posts won’t cut it in today’s Brave New Google World, so you have to write more. Your posts go up to 500 words. Then 700.

You start to get tired.

You read that it’s not enough to just blog anymore. You have to create standout content that truly differentiates yourself from the competition. Now, the magical blog post length is over 1,000 words.

And you don’t know how you’re going to do it (or pay for it) all.

My contrarian advice: Quit blogging so much.

I did. And it didn’t hurt my conversions one bit.

I went through the same blogging burnout a couple years ago. Once upon a time, my blog was publishing four days a week. My blogging editor was finding sources to interview and curating content, while I was writing posts, recording videos and developing the editorial calendar.

Suddenly, everything stopped. My blog editor quit and I realized I had an opportunity. I could stay on the content creation hamster wheel. Or I could jump off and try my own thing.

I took the leap.

About that time, I discovered Derek Halpern and read about his 80/20  blogging rule. Derek says, 20 percent of your time should be spent writing, 80 percent should be spent on promotion.

So I gave it a try. I sliced the blogging schedule down to once a week, I wrote longer, more in-depth posts and I spent more time on LinkedIn Groups and Twitter promotion.

The result: My conversions have actually increased.

For me, blogging less is actually better than blogging more.

I think this is happening for a couple reasons:

  1. I think the extra time I’m spending on content creation is paying off. The content is higher quality and clicks more with the reader. People enjoy reading it. It makes them want to sign up for my newsletter. It’s working.
  2. Extra promotion time means I’m driving more traffic to the site.

I mention my experiences to you, because you may be feeling the same blogging burnout. You may be cranking out blog posts for clients that fit their magical “write 750 words on X” requirements…but you know the posts won’t convert.

Or, you may work in-house and feel stuck. You may not have the budget to hire a full-time blogger, but you feel the pressure to blog constantly.

I’ve been there. If blogging less and promoting more sounds like a smart idea, consider these steps.

– Check your analytics 

You need to know exactly what to slice if you’re going to drastically reduce your blogging schedule. For instance, I’ve worked with firms that got a great response every time one of their engineers blogged. On the flip side, posts written by their PR department would fall flat (surprise!).

The results you find may be surprising. For instance, my content curation posts drove great traffic, but they didn’t help with any conversion goals (for instance, getting people to sign up for my newsletter.) They were also extremely time-consuming to produce. My decision: get rid of them.

–  Figure out a realistic blogging schedule

Now that you have a “do-over” chance, figure out what blogging schedule works best for your company. For my company, blogging once a week was perfect. For yours, you may need/want to blog more often. It’s OK to slice your blogging schedule down in baby steps to see what works.

– Consider how you can reallocate your time/resources to make your posts even better

Now that you have the additional blogging time, use it to create spectacular resources your readers need. Take a hard look at competing sites (whether local or national,) and consider how you can step up your blogging game. Can you write in-depth reports? Can you interview industry experts? This is a great time to check your keyphrase research, plus look at Quora and LinkedIn groups for content ideas.

– Build promotion into your editorial calendar

It’s not enough anymore to upload a post and watch for the Google results to roll in. Think about where you can promote your posts to get the biggest bang for your buck and set up a promotion schedule.

For instance, I post on various LinkedIn groups, Twitter and my Facebook page within a couple days of publication. If I cite an industry influencer, I make sure that I’ve mentioned her on Twitter or Google+. That way, she’ll (hopefully) share my post with her audience — and, yes, drive traffic to my site.

– Obsessively track your analytics

Confirm what’s working, what’s not and tweak your campaign accordingly. For instance, I like to track my weekly newsletter subscription stats and see how they relate to a blog post topic. If I get a lot of newsletter signups based on a blog post, I know I have a winner.

A special note for freelancers…

If a large part of your income comes from blogging, you may be thinking, “I can’t write fewer posts! I’ll lose money!”

That’s a fair point.

Instead of blogging more often, blog better. Consider offering your clients longer, more in-depth posts and pair those posts with some promotion. That way, your clients will see better results, and you’ll maintain your blogging revenue stream.

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[Updated]Why Do Freelance Writers Hate SEO Copywriting?

“SEO copywriting is low-paying, demeaning work.”

“SEO copywriting is synonymous with unethical projects.”

“[Much of this] SEO content is written by non-native speakers.”

In the words of Liz Lemon from 30 Rock, “What the what?”

I was amazed to read such angry posts in a LinkedIn group.  I knew SEO copy had a bad reputation in some circles. But I had no idea that some freelancers HATED the concept of SEO copy.

The sad thing is, their hatred is fueled by misconceptions. It’s true that spammy copy is out there. It’s true that some clients (still) insist on keyphrase-stuffed content (and will only pay $10 for 500 words.) And if you’re trolling Upwork or job boards for SEO copy gigs, well, you probably won’t find the cream of the money-making crop.

But here’s the thing: SEO content is good content, period. It was never – ever – supposed to be synonymous with spam.

Plus, profitable client relationships are out there. If you’re only getting paid $5/post, that’s not the industry’s fault — that’s on you.

Here’s how I responded to the “I hate SEO copywriting” LinkedIn comments…

First, I totally understand the feeling that some folks have about SEO copy. Companies like Demand Media have cheapened the concept and has given it a horrible reputation. It’s true that you’ll see ads promising $5 for writing 500 words – and those 500 words are mindless drivel, at best. It’s sad.

It sounds like what you call “SEO copy” is what I call “spammy copy.” *Real* SEO content writing – the type that Google likes (and doesn’t bounce out of its index) – isn’t like this. It’s always been about writing quality content for readers. Yes, you have to do certain things to help the page position in Google. At the same time, “certain things for Google” doesn’t mean copy that reads like, “Our cashmere sweaters are the best cashmere sweaters online. Buy our cashmere sweaters now for the best cashmere prices.”

Good SEO copy doesn’t read like this. It’s good copy first – and good for Google second.

I’ve been talking about SEO copy for 14 years – and I was a freelance copywriter before I entered the SEO space. It drives me NUTS when I see overly-optimized copy. Or I hear about clients who will only pay 10/page and they want something that’s keyphrase-stuffed.

Fortunately, Google is (slowly) bouncing those kinds of pages out of their index. The Panda update targeted thin, low-quality content – and sites like Demand got hit. That was a huge wake-up call for clients, SEO companies and writers. They were suddenly put on notice that bad content is…well…bad.

So please know that I’m with you when you talk about spammy copy. Also, please understand that there are many instances of good SEO content – Brookstone’s site is a prime example. Companies of all sizes have benefitted from good SEO content – I’ve seen it increase conversion rates, drive more traffic and help companies make significantly more money.

And there are many (quality) writers who are able to attract good, high-paying gigs. If it were all 10/page jobs, I would have boogied out of the industry a long time ago. :)

So, please know that not all SEO content is bad or spammy or repetitive. There are some “good guys” in the industry, too. :)


Fast forward to 2016, five years later.

A lot has changed since the Panda update. Google got smarter, content marketing is the hot marketing strategy, and SEO writers are being tasked with creating quality, 10X content. Keyphrase research is still an important component of SEO writing, but writers have way more room to move.

In short, we’ve come a long way, baby.

Yet, the misconceptions are still out there. A well-known freelance writing expert said SEO was on its way out — unless someone wanted to work for $5 a post.

No, no, no, no.

Clients WILL pay more than $5/post. Keyphrase research-based writing is still important (check out this Whiteboard Friday for Rand’s take on keyphrase research.)  The success stories from freelancers and end clients are out there.

I’d love to share some success stories with these folks – they’ve obviously only seen the “dark side” of SEO content. Let’s show them the light.

If you’re a business that has benefitted from SEO content, please tell us how you’ve benefitted. Did you make more money? Increase the number of leads coming to your site? How has SEO content helped you?

And if you’re a freelance SEO copywriter, I’d love to hear from you too! These folks need to know that it’s not all $10/page, offshore work. There are real writers making a real living as an SEO content writer.

C’mon guys. Let’s show the haters that SEO content (that is, GOOD SEO content) is a smart business move. You shared some great success stories in the comments when I originally published the post. Let’s do it again!

(And I’m looking forward to your comments – thanks!)

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Photo thanks: © Aleksandr Frolov | Dreamstime.com

What Is An SEO Copywriter? 23 Questions, Answered

23 SEO Copywriting Questions, AnsweredAre you wondering what an SEO copywriter is, how much you can make and if taking the career plunge is right for you?

I’ve answered 23 of the most common questions I hear about the SEO copywriting profession. Enjoy!

What is an SEO copywriter?

An SEO copywriter writes content with two end-goals in mind:

  • The content is strategically written to position well in organic search.
  • The content must “click” with the target reader and help her accomplish her micro-moment search goal. For instance, the reader may want to learn something new (“I want to know,”) or find something to purchase (“I want to buy.”)

SEO writing contains keyphrases — words and phrases a reader would type into a search box to find the information she needs.

What are some other common names for “SEO copywriter?”

You’ll see terms such as:

  • Digital writer
  • SEO writer
  • SEO content writer
  • SEO content strategist
  • Web content writer
  • Web writer.

Does “SEO copywriting” mean “repeating the same words over and over?”


A common misconception is SEO copywriting equals keyphrase stuffing. Although some (uneducated) clients and employers request this kind of writing, it’s not effective in Google — and keyphrase stuffing is not considered SEO copywriting best practices.

Good SEO copy is good copy…with just a few (strategically placed) keyphrases here and there.

Where do SEO copywriters work?

SEO writers can work in-house or freelance for clients. Some writers do both — they have a full-time job, and freelance on the side.

What skills should SEO copywriters have?

analyticsAt the very minimum, SEO writers need to know how to include keyphrases into their copy according to best practices (which do change over time.) Other important skill sets include:

  • Keyphrase research
  • Google Analytics
  • Title creation
  • SEO article writing (more commonly known as “blogging.”)

More advanced SEO writers (sometimes called SEO content editors or SEO content consultants) also understand:

  • Schema
  • Content strategy
  • How to conduct a content audit
  • Landing page testing
  • Advanced analytics
  • Setting the editorial calendar
  • Influencer marketing
  • Some programming (and/or have some technical expertise.)

What other tasks do SEO writers handle for clients/their employers?

It depends on the organization.

Many freelance SEO writers handle all content production for their clients. This can copywritinginclude:

  • Newsletter copy
  • Email content
  • PPC ad writing
  • Sales pages
  • SEO article writing/blog posts
  • SEO content strategy.

In-house writers typically write web pages (including product pages and blog posts.) They may have other writing duties as well.

What knowledge does an SEO writer need?

At the very minimum, you’ll need to understand how to intelligently add keyphrases into the content. Some writers learn this by taking an online SEO copywriting course. Other writers may receive one-on-one guidance from an experienced writer. In many cases, the more training you receive, the more you’ll be able to write content that outperforms the competition.

There are some SEO writers who learn via online guides and blogs. As SEO writing is extremely dynamic — and things change all the time — this method is not recommended.

What kind of tools does an SEO writer need?

The main tool you’ll need is something that will help with keyphrase research.

An SEO writer can easily start out using Google’s free Keyword Planner — just know that it’s not ideal. Eventually, you’ll want to invest in a subscription-based tool, such as SEMRush, Wordtracker or LongTail Pro.

Down the line, you can look at investing in other tools, such as HootSuite or Buffer (for social sharing,) CoSchedule (for editorial calendar creation,) or BuzzSumo (highly recommended.) You could also invest in content optimization tools such as Optimizely.

rp_Smart-Mouse3-Skills.jpgHow easy is it to learn SEO copywriting best practices?

“Easy” is relative. Most people pick up on the foundational SEO copywriting best practices fairly quickly. Keyphrase research tends to take more time to learn — but most writers master the process (and actually enjoy it!)

Once the foundational best practices are mastered, you can learn other aspects of SEO writing, such as Schema, strategy and more.

I’ve heard that things change quickly. Does this mean I have to relearn everything?

Not necessarily. It’s true that SEO copywriting best practices have changed over time. Having said that, many of the fundamentals have stayed constant.

The best SEO writers keep up with Google’s ever-changing algorithm and “rules.” This way, when things change, you’ll able to tweak your tactics (if needed,) advise your clients and leverage current strategies.

Is it easy to break into SEO writing?

If you have some writing experience, breaking in is fairly easy — but it will take time.

If you’re a freelance SEO writer, “breaking in” typically means “landing a client.” The speed-to-market depends on many factors, including your niche, your experience level and how hard you hustle.

Some writers apply for in-house junior SEO writing or account management positions to get their foot in the door. More experienced writers can apply for SEO editorial jobs.

I’m a print copywriter. How easy is it to transition to SEO writing?

It’s fairly easy. There is a learning curve (especially around keyphrase research.) However, once you “get” it, SEO copywriting will be easy and almost second-nature.

briefcaseI don’t have any writing samples. Can I still get hired?

Yes, but you’ll need to show your prospective employer (or client) something — otherwise, they won’t be able to evaluate your work.

Ways you can generate samples include:

  • Volunteer for a non-profit and rewrite some of their content
  • Ask a business owner if you can write an article in exchange for a testimonial.
  • Find a mentor, ask her to offload some writing your way, and write for free (in exchange for feedback and training.)
  • Create a “hobby blog” and write about one of your passions.

What kind of companies hire in-house SEO copywriters?

The employment possibilities are endless. All types (and sizes) of companies, including B2B, B2C, and publishing companies, hire SEO writers.

Can someone specialize in SEO writing even if they’re not “technical?”


It’s true that the more you know about the “techie” side of SEO (and SEO copywriting,) the more opportunities that you’ll have. I highly recommend reading everything you can about SEO (including how to code) and upgrading your skills.

Having said that, there are many SEO copywriters who partner with SEO firms. The copywriter writes the copy – and the SEO firm takes care of the “techie stuff.”

I’ve heard freelance SEO writing = content mills and low pay. Is that true?

Not necessarily. It’s true that some companies will pay only $10/article. However, many companies pay freelancers anywhere from $50 – $300/hour. How much a freelancer gets paid depends on his knowledge levels, his niche and how well he markets himself.

tombstone_png_by_camelfobia-d5ichmgI’ve heard that SEO writing is dead. Is that true?

No. It’s true that Google has gotten smarter, which is a wonderful thing. Things are shifting to more conversational search, which means that it’s easier to “write naturally” and include synonyms, related words, etc.

Having said that, keyphrases are still important — and without them, a site may not position. Here’s proof that SEO is far from dead.

What are some typical freelance SEO copywriting rates?

The per-page rates are all over the board. I’ve heard of writers charging $25/post — and companies paying over $1,500 for a single page. Some freelancers barely clear $20,000 a year. Others make six-figures.

The factors that influence a writers’ income include:

  • Her experience level
  • The types of clients she serves. In many cases, B2B copywriting pays more than B2C (but not always!).
  • Her business savvy. For instance, is she building relationships with companies that could send her work?
  • Her past results. SEO writers who can show ROI are often more in demand (and are paid more).
  • How much she hustles for work.

Here’s some information about how to set your rates.

moneyHow much can in-house SEO copywriters make?

According to Glassdoor, experienced SEO writers can earn over $50,000 a year (of course, the salary depends on experience and the company location.) I know a few SEO writers/editors who are making around $75,000 a year (plus benefits.)

What are characteristics of successful SEO copywriters?

SEO writers love to write, love to research, love to learn and love working online.  They also tend to have a high tolerance for change – which is good, since Google (as well as other providers) love to mix things up on a regular basis.

Higher-paid SEO writers tend to have some “technical geek” characteristics. Those geeky characteristics help them understand the more technical elements of SEO writing — and liaison more successfully with an IT team, an SEO provider, and analytics experts.

If you are the kind of person who gets bored easily, SEO copywriting is a great gig. You won’t get bored. At all.

What’s the one thing an SEO copywriter MUST always do?

The scariest type of SEO writer doesn’t update his knowledge and uses out of date techniques. If you want to be in this industry, you MUST keep up with Google’s ever-changing whims. Today’s best practices could be borderline spam tomorrow.

How can an SEO writer make more money?

There are typically four ways:

  • Improve your craft — learn everything you can about neuromarketing, direct-response writing, SEO, etc.
  • Be able to showcase demonstrable results. For example, case studies and testimonials can help position you as an expert.
  • Offer more content writing services (for instance, here are some to try.)
  • Ask for more money. About 75% of the time, writers aren’t getting paid what they want because they set their rates too low. If you work in-house, you can ask for a raise.

In-house writers may also want to freelance on the side.

What’s the job horizon? Will this still be a “thing” in two years?


Besides, even if Google was suddenly able to read our minds and immediately understand the searcher intent, content will still be a “thing.” Someone will need to write those web pages, landing pages and blog posts.

Why not you?

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Image thanks: Question / ID 3534516458 © Marco Bellucci / Flickr.com

Briefcase / ID 8613058100 © shmectorcom / Flickr.com

Analytics / © Komal Bhesaniya / Wikimedia.org

Tombstone / ID 333146680 © camelfobia / deviantart.com


Do You Know What Your Prospects Are Really Thinking?

Want to know a secret?

Want to overcome common sales objections? You'll need to crawl inside your prospect's brain.

Want to overcome common sales objections? You’ll need to crawl inside your prospect’s brain.

When prospective buyers visit your website, they are looking for more than just their desired product or service.

The secret is; they’re looking for reasons to NOT buy from you.

Yes, that’s right. Your prospects – no matter how motivated they are – are coming to the virtual table with a chip on their shoulder. Like the person burned by too many bad dates (you dated that person too?), they want you to prove to them how you’re not just like all the others.

But the problem is, just like in the dating example, you have no idea what the “others” did to your prospect. She’s not coming to you and saying, “Here’s what happened to me – and I’m expecting you to pull the same stuff.”

Here’s what a prospect may be thinking…

…The last PR company I worked with took my 10K and didn’t generate a dime in buzz. How can you help me?

…The last time I bought something online, the package arrived late, and the company overcharged me for shipping. Will you do the same thing?

…The last time I hired a writer, he copied an article from Wikipedia and tried to pass it off as original content. How do I know that I’ll get what I’m promised?

…These prices seem high. Are your services worth it, or are you overpriced?

Think about your buying behavior. Do you jump into a new purchase willy-nilly, buying from the first vendor in the search results? Or do you carefully compare sites, send exploratory emails and check reviews so you can work with the right company?

(As a side note, that’s why well-written persuasive content is so important, It’s more than just “getting a good ranking.” It’s providing a fantastic customer experience through the power of the written word.)

The importance of overcoming sales objections in your web writing

Now that you know that your prospects have sales objections, it’s important to overcome them within your copy. Rather than waiting for your prospect to bring up every objection they have (guess what – they won’t,) you have to face the known issues head-on, showcase your value and create an active need.

That means knowing what freaks your prospects out about working with you.

Plus, if you don’t overcome these objections immediately in your copy, you may not get a second chance.

For instance, Domino Pizza’s old campaign of “Pizza in 30 minutes or less” was perfect for thousands of hungry pizza-lovers anxious for immediate-gratification food.

The U.S. Post Office’s campaign of “Celebrating a simpler way to ship” accomplishes a couple goals. It helps promote their online services, plus, overcomes the objection of “Will I have to stand in line for hours at the Post Office?”

Or FedEx’s, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight…guaranteed” – which is important for businesses who need on-time, trackable shipping.

How do you “figure out the known issues” if you can’t crawl inside your prospect’s brain and determine what she’s thinking? Simple. Do your homework.

Talk to the sales team

Your sales team are the folks “in the trenches” who hear what’s going on – and who overcome objections every time they talk to a new prospect. Ask them what their clients are worried about and any common questions they hear.

Chat with your new customers

New customers are a fantastic source of information. Task someone with calling selected folks who sign up. This is a smart strategy for a couple reasons:

  • Your new customer will be impressed that someone has called to check in – so your company gets some great customer service bonus points.
  • During the call, you can ask your customer questions about their past experiences, why they chose your company, why they love your product or service and more. In fact, you may even be able to ask them to provide a testimonial.

Read your testimonials

Testimonials provide great (yet, often ignored) information. Companies are often so focused on posting new testimonials to the site that they forget to mine the data.

And testimonials provide yummy data.

For instance, customers will tell stories like, “When I worked with XYZ company, it took one or two days before they would answer my email. When I work with you, I get an immediate response.”

Bingo! Now you know that a fast response rate is an important benefit. A sentence like, “We’ll return your email within one business day, guaranteed” perfectly overcomes the objection.

Additionally, if there’s something your company does really well, testimonials will often reflect that fact. Maybe it’s your cutting-edge knowledge. Or your great customer service. Those testimonial themes are marketing gold!

Review competing sites

Sometimes, your competition really does get it right. Comb through their copy and see if they’ve overcome objections your site doesn’t address. Does your competition talk about how many years of experience their consultants have? Does your competition mention a “no hassle money back guarantee?” Do they include customer reviews touting their superior service?

Although it’s not a smart idea to copy your competition (after all, you can do better,) you can learn from them.

What’s the best way research the objections you should overcome?

Easy. Just start.

If you have an in-house marketing manager, he can get the ball rolling and start gathering data. Although this process isn’t hard to do, it is time-consuming – so your marketing manager will want to set aside time to do it right. Otherwise, it will sit on the back burner and never get done.

Some companies choose to work with an SEO content strategist who can do the heavy lifting for them. This tactic is especially smart if your team members are time-crunched – or if you want a fresh perspective. It’s amazing how often an outside expert can find opportunities that were missed in-house.

The important thing is to get moving, especially if your site’s conversion goals are sluggish and you’re leaving money on the table.

Once you have the data, you’ll want to rewrite the content and incorporate the messaging changes. Depending on your existing content, this could be a simple tweak – or a more major undertaking. Consider A/B testing the new copy to further refine your pages.

Just imagine: After a few hours of research and some copy tweaking, you can gently move that chip off your prospects’ shoulder and drive more sales.

It’s that simple.

Should Your SEO Company Create Your Content?

I had the most interesting email exchange the other day with a SEO firm.

This particular firm (one that is well known in the industry…and no, I will not name them) contacted me because they wanted to outsource their SEO copywriting. This isn’t uncommon  – in fact, many SEO firms offer SEO copywriting services but don’t keep that particular skill set in house.

The exchange was pleasant, nice and positive. I sent over my prices. My contact wrote back and said that the price was too high. I responded that I work with a number of Certified SEO Copywriters – perhaps I could refer them? I then asked how much they were willing to pay per page.

The answer: $20 per page. And their old writer spent about 30 minutes per page.

I was floored. Literally floored. It takes a lot to shock me (as my friends know.) This was…shocking.  Let me explain the reasons why:

Quality SEO copywriting (or any type of quality writing) takes time. I’ve been a full-time writer for most of my adult life, and I would never – ever – spend 30 minutes on a sales page and call it good. That’s barely enough time to write a rough draft (and that’s on a short-copy page.) In order to write a good sales page (and not crap) you have to:

  • Research the competition and know how to differentiate your client
  • Create the best tone and feel for the page (or know how to replicate your client’s preferred tone and feel)
  • Understand the micro and macro sales focus on the page
  • Highlight the main benefits (both company and product/service)
  • Write a headline (by itself, this could take 30 minutes or more)
  • Create a rough draft
  • Edit the draft mercilessly until it’s “right” (and this can also be highly time consuming)
  • And then…finally…you’re ready to submit your draft.

You see what I mean? No matter how many efficiencies that you’ve built into your writing (and I’ve built in a number of them over the years,) writing quality content takes more time than 30 minutes. Much, much more time.

And then I started wondering, “I wonder if their clients – many of them big-brand clients – know that this SEO is paying their writer $20/page, marking it up to who-knows-what and selling it as quality content.”

(Mind you, I have no problems with a company marking up the cost – that’s just good business. But if you’re working with large brand companies and promising “quality SEO copywriting services,” shouldn’t you WANT the best for your clients?)

This situation puts the client (you) in a buyer beware position. It’s easy to trust a SEO firm when they say, “Don’t worry about the SEO copywriting. We have people who can help you.” It sounds all warm and fuzzy and nice and comforting – and you’d figure that of course the company would have good, experienced, whip-smart writers on staff.

But don’t count on it.

So here’s what to do if you’re thinking about having your SEO firm write your content.

  1. Ask about their writers. How many years experience do they have? How does the SEO company vet their writers before they hire them/ outsource to them? The last thing you want is to find out that their “experienced SEO copywriter” is someone fresh out of college who (as my father used to eloquently say) “doesn’t know their ass from third base.”
  2. Ask about the company’s writing process. Can you have direct contact with the copywriter (highly recommended – otherwise, your information is being filtered through multiple people.) What’s the average time the writer spends on every page? Will the same writer be working on all of your pages, or will your pages be written by multiple writers?
  3. Ask what kind of continuing education the SEO firm provides their writers. The SEO/social media world is constantly changing – and if the writer hasn’t updated their knowledge for a couple years, that can negatively impact your results.
  4. Ask for writing samples from the writer assigned to your account. Always. If you don’t like the samples, request another writer.
  5. Consider chatting with a SEO copywriting agency at the same time. It doesn’t mean that you have to use a copywriting agency over your SEO. But you may find that the prices are similar (often less) than what the SEO firm is charging – and you’ll benefit from more experienced writers (who get paid a living wage.)

Is all of this due diligence necessary? You bet. The writing on your site represents your brand. It’s your “silent salesperson” online. And yes, you deserve to be highly picky. You (probably) wouldn’t work with a SEO firm if you knew they outsourced your account to India. Why would you buy writing services from a firm who devalues the writing so much  – and cares about your branding so little – that they’re outsourcing to the lowest bidder.

Think about it.


Photo thanks: © Isabel Poulin | Dreamstime.com

Think Penny Wise, Search Foolish When It Comes to Investing in an SEO copywriter

Hello, all!

Today’s post is by Pam Foster, a highly experienced SEO copywriter and one of the first Certified SEO Copywriters in the world. Enjoy!

The other day, a marketer for a sophisticated mid-size national company inquired about hiring a professional SEO copywriter to improve his website’s search engine traffic and sales results.

He admitted that his website is in very tough shape (weak search engine rankings, not much activity on this site), and that he doesn’t know why. This kind of awareness is terrific — it’s the first step toward making big improvements!

So let’s quickly hit the key points about what’s wrong with his site — those missing critical elements that drive results online these days:

  • The web pages don’t include a single keyphrase his ideal prospects may be using to find his company’s services in search engines such as Google and Bing.
  • The page titles and meta descriptions have absolutely no information about why someone would choose his company among the many options in search results
  • The messages on every page are all about “how great and cool our company is;”  not focused on what the customer needs
  • It doesn’t seem to set itself apart from the competition. There are no messages that differentiate this website from others in the same business category
  • It isn’t “conversion-focused,” meaning there are no inviting calls to action; no compelling reasons to sign up for his company’s emails, inquire about services, or buy anything

And that’s just for starters.

So as you can imagine, this marketer would find tremendous value in hiring a skilled SEO copywriter who knows exactly how to bring his website to life with a smart keyphrase strategy, customer-focused messages, and compelling sales copy that offers unique and exciting reasons to choose his company over others. Right?

In other words, copy like this would be “found money”in the bank for his website, yes?

Well, sadly he didn’t see it that way. He balked at the fees for hiring a professional, skilled SEO copywriter — someone who will offer a terrific return on his investment and deliver measurable results. Instead, he decided to search for a cheaper resource; even though his company can and should make the sound investment in what works.

Ah, well. He’ll soon find that this “Penny Wise, Search Foolish,” approach means he’ll end up working with someone who doesn’t know all it takes to write successful SEO copy. Therefore, his frugality will come back to bite him.

We hope to help you avoid this problem with the following logic.

We’re not saying you have to take out a second mortgage to invest in SEO copywriting that works. But if you plan on a budget of at least $500-$800 or more per page, you’ll soon find that it’s a drop in the bucket when you consider the immediate and long-term gains you’ll realize.

For example, let’s say a single new client is worth $1,000 to you (if you’re a consulting service). Or 20 new product sales may equal $1,000 if you’re a retailer; even more if you’re a B2B marketer.

So would a $500 web page investment today, that returns $1,000 in business tomorrow, be worth it? I’m pretty sure I hear you saying, “Heck, ya!” Plus, when you consider the long-term gain of each new customer relationship, the revenue potential is infinite. Trust me on this one.

It’s important to banish short-term thinking when investing in your web content. Instead, consider it a solid foundation that will support your business revenue growth for quite some time. (You wouldn’t build your dream house on quicksand, now would you?)

Thanks for giving this some serious consideration. Here’s to your web success!
Pam Foster

Guest blogger Pam Foster is the owner of ContentClear Marketing and PetCopywriter.com. Pam recently became one of the industry’s first web content writers to achieve SuccessWorks SEO Copywriting Certificatio,n” the world’s only SEO copywriting certification program.

Photo thanks: © Ronfromyork | Dreamstime.com

When to hire an intermediate-level SEO copywriter

In our last post, we discussed newbie SEO copywriters — when they’re fantastic hiring choices, when they aren’t and what you need to know before you hire them. But what if you need someone with a little more SEO copywriting street-savvy? Enter the intermediate-level SEO copywriter — the perfect choice for many clients.

Profile of intermediate-level SEO copywriters:

This category describes the vast majority of SEO copywriters. Competent, smart and experienced, intermediate-level copywriters are the perfect choice for a good chunk of clients. These folks have risen up through the newbie trenches, learned from their mistakes and have a decent portfolio under their belt. From a direct-response writing perspective, they’ll serve up a solid and skilled (yet usually not stellar) Web page. From the SEO side, the skill-set depends on the person. In most cases, that’s OK. The intermediate-level copywriter typically works under a SEO supervisor, so they don’t need to worry about being SEO experts.

These folks are fantastic for most content jobs. Need monthly articles on a certain topic? Do you have 50 Web pages screaming for a makeover? Intermediate-level copywriters provide the perfect go-to guy (or gal) solution. Yes, you will still have to look over their shoulder some, and no, don’t expect them to come up with create anything that’s unbelievably awesome or think out of the box. But that’s just fine.

Unlike the newbie SEO copywriter, intermediate-level copywriters can set some content strategy in conjunction with the SEO firm. That would mean working with the SEO to establish a keyphrase list, strategizing the per-page keyphrases and developing a content template. Although some intermediate-level SEO copywriters could easily set a small-business content strategy, they are more effective as collaborative partners with agencies and SEO firms.

Additionally, intermediate-level folks usually have clear strengths in either direct-response copywriting or SEO — but typically not both. That doesn’t mean that they are great writers and are clueless about the engines (or techs who can barely type a legible sentence.) Both types of folks can write a good Web page and understand how the engines work. It’s just something to watch for and notice. By the type a writer reaches an expert SEO status, they enjoy equal (and superior) SEO and writing skills.

Intermediate-level SEO copywriters are good for:

  • General Web page writing (both sales and information pages)
  • Keyphrase research
  • Collaborative campaigns (working under an existing SEO

Sometimes, a more experienced intermediate-level SEO copywriter can:

  • Service a small-business SEO campaign (only if they have the requisite SEO skills)
  • Some content strategy (depending on the copywriter and the client)
  • Supervise/mentor other copywriters (especially if they are more advanced).

Somewhat like the newbie SEO, the intermediate-level SEO copywriter doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. However, unlike the newbie copywriter, that shouldn’t make a whole lot of difference — unless you need strategy or training. If you are a big-brand company — or a company with highly complex technical, marketing or tone and feel needs — hiring an expert copywriter would be your best bet.

Because the skill-sets can be so variable, make sure to ask for clips before letting your intermediate-level SEO copywriter loose. Some folks will pen a really good page, while others are somewhat so-so. Although great writers can write anything for any vertical, intermediate-level folks are typically really good at writing certain types of copy. If their clips don’t turn you on, check out another copywriting choice.

Wondering if you should hire the cream of the SEO copywriting crop? Stay tuned for more information about expert SEO copywriters!

When should you hire a newbie SEO copywriter?

In the last post, we discussed how there are different “types” of SEO copywriters — newbie, intermediate and expert. Today, we’ll talk about the newbie SEO copywriter — when she’s a smart hiring choice, what work she’s qualified to do, and the kind of time that you’ll have to spend to keep her on track.

Profile of newbie SEO copywriters:

All SEO copywriters were here once upon a time. Newbie SEO copywriters are eager to learn, excited about their new career choice and ready to tackle most any client (although they’re only ready for a chosen few.) Some newbie SEO copywriters have a sales writing background and they’re simply expanding their skill set. Others are brand-new to the writing life. Both types of SEO copywriters can perform small-scale writing tasks for a more competitive (read: cheaper) price.

These folks may not know HTML — and anything code-related may be scary. They may outgrow this phase, but some newbies will never get past this level. As such, most can be relied on for only the most basic of tasks. That’s OK.

No, newbie SEO copywriters should not perform keyphrase research, choose keyphrases, write crucial sales pages or put their nose in your strategy business. They simply don’t have the experience to do it well. Big brands would typically not benefit from a newbie hire. However, because they are less expensive than their more experienced brethren, newbie SEO copywriters are often a great alternative for small businesses.

Newbie SEO copywriters are good for:

  1. Blog posts
  2. Forum posts
  3. FAQ pages
  4. General articles
  5. Some product descriptions (if they are more experienced and with supervision)

Sometimes, a more experienced newbie SEO copywriter can:

  1. Perform keyphrase editing
  2. Create Titles, descriptions and keywords tags (only if they have HTML experience)

The issue with newbie SEO copywriters is that they don’t know what they don’t know. You’ll pay a lower cost, sure — but you’ll be spending your valuable time training your writer and looking over her shoulder. If you don’t have that kind of time (or if you have limited SEO knowledge) an intermediate-level SEO copywriter would be your best bet.

There is one other important upside. Sometimes, you can find the perfect newbie who learns fast, invests herself in your business and turns around accurate work, quickly. If you can find that “diamond-in-the-rough” SEO copywriter, hang on to her. My previous Director of Search Strategy was a diamond-in-the-rough. Leslie Carruthers, owner of The Search Guru, was another. Both women are absolutely fantastic at what they do and have helped me tremendously.

Need a writer with more experience? We’ll be talking about Intermediate-level SEO copywriters in the next post. Stay tuned!