“SEO Content Marketing Is Too Expensive.” Now What?

Last Updated on

How many times have you heard, “We can’t rewrite the web content right now. It’s too expensive”?

Or…

“Revising the SEO content is going to take a lot of manpower. We have other priorities.”

Yeah, I’ve heard it too.

Sure, the content may be horrible. But, the thought of changing it (and paying for it) is too overwhelming.

Even if it’s holding a business back from SEO (and sales) success.

The disconnect between expectations and reality

Many prospects (and in-house teams) are surprised at how hard it is to create good SEO content. In their heads, it will take just a few weeks and cost less than $2,500 for the entire site. They won’t need to allocate manpower to it, or have to pay for “extras” like competitive intelligence or keyphrase research.

The content will just…happen.

When they get the inevitable reality slap of “yes, this costs time and money,” it’s easy for the prospect (or manager) to back away, reprioritize, and choose to do something different.

Sure, they know their current SEO content is underperforming. But, the thought of change is too overwhelming. Too expensive. Too….everything.

If you get kickback, or hear “not now” from the powers-that-be, the first reaction is often to get angry or feel discouraged. After all, it’s easy to go down a path where you can feel like, “they don’t care,” or “they’re just trying to lowball my pricing.”

Instead, take a deep breath…

Here’s what you can do

Remind your prospect/boss that content marketing is not a sprint — it’s a marathon.

A marathon you can eventually win, even if you take baby steps.

Is it ideal to comb through all the content at once and switch it out? Sure. But most teams can’t accommodate that workload (and the up-front price tag for outsourcing would be hefty.)

Instead, look at what you can realistically do every month. For instance, maybe the first month is checking out the competition, reviewing the keyphrase data, and creating the editorial calendar.

Month two, you could rewrite a couple important “money” pages (the ones that drive the most revenue) and track performance.

And go from there…

You’re still getting everything done — and the client is still paying the same amount — but it’s all happening in baby steps. You can take your time, see what’s working, and adjust accordingly.

The baby step approach is often much less overwhelming to the prospect (or boss.) She can budget X hours (or dollars) every month to get to the goal.

Plus, a baby step strategy allows everyone to see some nice wins along the way. The wins may not happen quite as quickly as doing everything at once, but they do happen.

Will you still get some kickback, even with a suggested baby step approach? Possibly. If so, put your curiosity hat on and ask the client, “how much is it costing to not improve these pages?”

Or…

“How many leads could you generate if these pages were performing?”

This helps shift the prospect’s attention from, “oh, crap, this is expensive,” to “oh yeah, it’s costing us more to NOT do it.”

This shift doesn’t guarantee your boss will say, “You’re right. Let’s start today!” You may still get a “not now” response. That’s OK. At least you’ve helped her think about the situation in a new, realistic, and less scary way.

What’s Your Copywriting Superpower?

Last Updated on

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.

YES, YES, YES!

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.

Did you enjoy this blog post? You’ll love my weekly newsletter — it’s chock-full of actionable SEO writing tips. Here’s how to sign up!

 

52 Questions to Ask Your New Copywriting Client [Updated for 2017]

Last Updated on

Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to ask a lot of questions….

Why? Because that’s how I learn.

When you’re onboarding a new copywriting client — whether you work for yourself, or an agency — asking lots of question is the key to success.

Sure, that means that you’ll be spending an hour (or more) on the phone. But just as you wouldn’t enter a marriage without a pretty solid “getting to know you” process, you shouldn’t start writing without a solid customer interview under your belt.

After all, how can you write specific, action-oriented content if you don’t have any specific information?

Here are 52 of my favorite questions to ask a new copywriting client – enjoy!

Important: Ask these questions after your client has signed on the bottom line. Although you may touch on some of these topics during the sales phase, it’s best to save the “meat” of your questions for the kick-off client call.

Reporting/set-up questions

  1. Can I review your analytics?
  2. Do you have any customer persona documents? Can I see them?
  3. Do you have a style guide?
  4. Can I see reports outlining your SEO/content marketing success, to date?
  5. How do we measure success? Conversions? Page positions? Social media love?
  6. Which social media platforms are working for you?
  7. What is your per-page keyphrase strategy?
  8. How did you arrive at your keyphrase choices?
  9. Do you need me to create the strategy and research the keyphrases?
  10. How important is it for you to position for a particular keyphrase? If it is a competitive keyphrase, are you prepared to spend the time (and budget) to make this happen?
  11. What’s your one thing that drives most of your current content marketing success?
  12. What tools/platforms do you use (SEMrush? BuzzSumo? Trello?)

Marketing questions

  1. Who is your online competition? Why would you consider them “competition?”
  2. What is your unique sales proposition?
  3. Why should a prospect purchase from you rather than your competition?
  4. What are your company benefit statements?
  5. What content approach has worked in the past?
  6. What has not worked?
  7. Do you like your site’s “voice?” (how it reads and sounds.)
  8. If not, what’s an example of what you would prefer?
  9. How do you follow up with prospects?
  10. How do you follow up with current clients?
  11. Can I see your other marketing materials (autoresponder emails, print materials, etc.)
  12. Are there any keyphrases that you’re not currently positioning for, and you want to gain a stronger position?
  13. How do you currently promote new content (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
  14. Who is your “perfect customer (s)”?
  15. What benefit statements are important to those customers?
  16. What customer profile would not be a good fit for your business?
  17. Can I review your customer testimonials (or better yet, can I chat with a few of your happy clients?).
  18. Has your company won any awards? Can I see the documentation?
  19. What are the most common questions that customer service answers? How do they answer them?
  20. Can I talk to your best salesperson to get his/her perspective?
  21. What are the most common objections to overcome?
  22. Has your product/service been featured in a book, endorsed by an organization, etc.
  23. What primary action do you want readers to take?
  24. Is there a secondary CTA?
  25. What is your biggest sales “sticking point” right now?
  26. How will the content be promoted?
  27. What is your influencer outreach strategy?
  28. Is there anything you’ve wanted to try (for instance, white papers,) but you haven’t had the time?

Process/procedure questions

  1. Who else will I be working with (for instance, an external SEO company.)
  2. Who is my main point of contact?
  3. What is the expected content turnaround time?
  4. Who will review the content?
  5. How long does content approval take?
  6. How would you like me to send you the content? For instance, in a Word document?
  7. How often would you like to receive project updates?
  8. How will I know if the content is working? Will I have continued access to your analytics?
  9. How is the editorial calendar created and who is on the editorial calendar team?
  10. How often do you deviate from the editorial calendar?
  11. How often do “quick turnaround” posts happen?
  12. Are there any content structure/wording no-no’s I should be aware of (for instance, not using the word “cheap” in the content.)

Did you enjoy this post? I save my best tips for my weekly newsletter — sign up today!

Is Your SEO Content Failing? Here’s What to Do.

Last Updated on

Does your company have challenges around content creation (especially creating optimized SEO content?).

You’re not alone.

I hear the complaints all the time…

“We create a lot of content every month, but it’s not very good. Our writing has quality issues, and we’re not sure what to do.”

“Our writers refuse to optimize their content because they think ‘SEO writing’ is bad. How can we fix this from a process perspective?”

“We’ve focused our writing efforts around social channels in the past. How can we gain more Google traffic and increase our site visits?”

“We’re creating content, but it’s not driving qualified traffic. What are we doing wrong?”

Sound familiar?

Many companies — especially B2B companies — struggle with SEO content creation. Although the individual situations are always different, there tend to be some fairly common fixes.

Here are some things to consider if your in-house content creation is falling flat, and you’re not sure what to do:

Is the writing quality poor?

The fix: Examine your content creation process, price structure, and support

Is this how your in-house content makes you feel?

I frequently hear this complaint from agencies, publishers, and companies with a large outsourced writing team. In many cases, the reason boils down to sheer volume — the writers are overwhelmed, writing too fast, and focusing on getting the content out the door.

Consider soliciting feedback from your writers and ask about the workload. Are your writers frequently working overtime to complete daily writing tasks? Are they concerned about their writing quality (good writers hate kicking out bad writing.) A solution could be as simple as hiring additional writers (or finding freelancers) to fill in the content gaps.

If you rely 100% on freelance writers, and you’re having quality issues, your pay rate may be to blame. Paying a writer $50 for a 2,000-word blog post incentivizes her to work fast, not smart. After all, she’ll need to write a lot of $50 blog posts just to make her mortgage. Paying higher rates for a more professional writer may save you money in the long run, especially if your editor is spending a lot of time revising your writers’ work.

Do your writers hate SEO content creation?

The fix: Train your writers (and your editorial staff, too).

SEO content writing tip

SEO writing gets a bad rap.

Many writers, especially established writers with a print background, feel SEO writing is spammy. Unfortunately, this misconception is often fueled by in-house style guides that focus on keyphrase densities, ungrammatical keyphrases and focusing on Google instead of the reader.

In fact, an editor from a big-brand client once complained how SEO was killing their writing style. Their content didn’t flow — instead, it was choppy and pushed the SEO envelope way too far.

In cases like this, a team-wide training (that yes, includes the SEO department) is a smart move. The writers can learn that SEO content generation and strategy is based on smart, authoritative writing. Plus, the editorial and SEO department can learn how to balance optimization needs with creating quality — and readable — content.

We write exclusively for social. Where’s our Google traffic?

The fix: Time to optimize your content.

For many companies, creating social-only content can be a short-sighted strategy.

Certainly, social channels can drive a lot of traffic. However, your target reader is also searching Google for information that satisfies their micro-moments. According to CEB, 57% of the B2B buyers’ journey happens before the prospect contacts the company. If your company doesn’t have a strong Google presence, you’re losing leads — and money.

The key is to change your content creation strategy to include some optimization efforts. This may mean optimizing older content assets, as well as developing a new SEO content strategy.

(Do the powers-that-be insist you can ditch keywords and write topical-based content, instead? Check out this Whiteboard Friday video with Rank Fishkin.)

Your content isn’t driving traffic.

The fix: It depends — and you may want to look outside your company for the answers.

There could be a few reasons this is happening.

Perhaps it’s because your content is too company-focused, and it’s not serving your readers’ needs.

Or, it could be you need to optimize your content for Google and use some of your SEO writing skills.

Or, your content isn’t answering your readers’ micro-moments.

It’s easy to get stuck in a content creation rut, and miss important opportunities. You don’t realize your content doesn’t click with your target reader anymore. You’re not optimizing your posts as well as you should. Influencers don’t even notice your copy.

There are so many content marketing blind spots, you can’t “see” your content anymore.

In this case, it pays to work with a content marketing strategist who can help pinpoint your issues, highlight your opportunities and get your content creation back on track. Yes, it will cost money and time — but the outside perspective will be well worth it.

I’d love to hear your SEO content creation horror stories (and success stories, too!) Post your comments below!

Are you looking for smart ways to supercharge your SEO content development? Sign up for my weekly newsletter for free tips.

Has Blogging Become A PITA?

Last Updated on

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.

Do you love advice like this? I give away even more actionable SEO writing advice in my weekly newsletter. Why not sign up, today?

Photo thanks: © zenwae | Dreamstime.com

[Updated] Why Do Freelance Writers Hate SEO Copywriting?

Last Updated on

“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. :)

–Update–

Fast forward to 2019, eight years later.

A lot has changed since the Panda update.

Google got smarter, content marketing continues to be the hot marketing strategy, and SEO writers are being tasked with creating quality, 10X content.

In fact, the 2019 updates to Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines discuss content quality AND author reputation, showing that content is more important than ever. Yes, keyphrase research is still an important component of SEO writing, but you also need to know how to (intelligently) use those keyphrases in the content.

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!)

SEO Editing vs. Copywriting for SEO

Last Updated on

Should you create original content? Or, should you SEO optimize a page that’s already on the site?

Freelance and in-house writers ask this question all the time. Their emails say, “My boss (or client) wants me to add keyphrases to this existing page. The problem is, the page isn’t very good. Will the keyphrases help? Or is better to rewrite it?”

That’s an excellent question that I address in the video  — or, you can read the modified transcript, below.

SEO copywriting and SEO editing — what’s the difference?

First, let’s go over the differences between SEO copywriting and keyphrase editing.

Keyphrase editing is also known as “on-page optimization,” “optimizing the text,” or “SEO copyediting.” The technique is to add keywords — either derived from the writer’s keyphrase research or received from an SEO — to existing text.

When a page is optimized (or edited,) the content is not rewritten. The writer may edit the page Title and meta description, but for the most part, she’s working with the existing content.

SEO copywriting usually refers to creating original content. The writer still conducts keyphrase research (or receives the keyphrases from an SEO.) However, rather than editing the existing content, she would write brand-new content and include the keyphrases (along with synonyms and related words.)

So you see, SEO copywriting and keyphrase editing are very different: one is working with existing text, and the other is throwing away the existing text and starting fresh.

Should you optimize your site? Or rewrite your pages?

So, when is a better strategy to edit existing pages rather than rewrite them?

It’s best to optimize a page (keyphase editing) when:

  • You (and your readers) already love the content
  • The page isn’t crucial to the sales process
  • The bounce rate isn’t too high

If you have content on your site you (and your readers) already love and it’s performing well, but it wasn’t written with keyphrases the first time around, the page may be a good candidate for keyphrase editing.

It’s also OK to edit the page when it isn’t crucial to the sales process. For example, I’ve worked with companies that have edited old blog posts and saw a great bump in search positions as a result. Editing FAQ pages and articles can offer the same benefit.

Finally, optimizing the page is OK when the time on page (or bounce rate) isn’t too high. You know that people are sticking around and reading the page once they’ve landed on it, so adding in some strategic keyphrases here and there is typically fine for that page.

An SEO content editor or an SEO copywriter usually handles the keyphrase editing. He may be someone you employ in-house, or a freelancer.

There are also certain times when it’s better to write original content, such as:

  • When the page is crucial to the sales process
  • When the page is a duplicate
  • When page conversions or time on page is low

If a page is crucial to the sales process, or is somehow intended to make money — like the home page, and subcategory pages such as products and services — it’s better to rewrite it.

You also want to rewrite the page if it’s a duplicate. This is common with  local landing pages, where two (or more) pages may be basically the same (outside of the city name.)

Also, when you know that the page isn’t working — you’re not getting conversions, the time on page is low, and people are bouncing out quickly —  rewrite it. Readers are telling you they don’t like the page by leaving as soon as they can.

Sure, you can edit the keyphrases into a poorly performing page and sure, hypothetically that page might position a little better, but it won’t help boost conversions.

Either a freelancer or an experienced in-house SEO copywriter can rewrite your pages. Also, an SEO content strategist could do the keyphrase research for you, as well as dovetail her research with the rest of your SEO plan.

Make sense? There’s clearly a difference between when you would write original content and when you can work with the existing content — and it’s smart to know those differences before you proceed.

(Editors note: I originally wrote this post in 2011. A lot has changed since then, so I updated the video and the transcript. I hope you enjoyed the post!)

Love learning about SEO copywriting? Subscribe to my newsletter, where I share my tastiest actionable tips and insider secrets!

Photo thanks: © Bakhtiar Zein | Dreamstime.com

 

What Is an SEO Copywriter? 23 Questions, Answered

Last Updated on

23 SEO Copywriting Questions, AnsweredAre you wondering what an SEO writer 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?”

No.

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?”

Yes!

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?

Yes.

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?

Want to know some of my favorite SEO writing tips ? I save my best stuff for my newsletter — here’s how to sign up.

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

What Match.com Taught Me About First Email Impressions

Last Updated on

Did I just send an email with a major typo?

Did I just send an email with a major typo?

I had one rule when I was on Match.com.

If I saw misspellings, typos or the wrong form of a word (like “they’re” when he meant to type “there,”) that person was no longer a candidate.

Harsh? Yes. But here’s my theory. First impressions count. If a person can’t spend two minutes proofing their email, they weren’t overly invested in meeting me in the first place.

I thought of my “Match rule” after receiving an email from a possible vendor. I was searching for solutions and had asked some pretty specific questions.

When I finally received an email, I noticed a number of typos:

– The customer service representative had misspelled the company name. YES. THE COMPANY NAME!

– He would Randomly capitalize words That didn’t need Capitalization.

– On the flip side, some words that should have been capitalized were not.

My response was an immediate “I’m not impressed.” If a company couldn’t be bothered to spell their company name correctly, how could I trust them as a vendor?

I immediately went from being hot to trot about this company to throwing them in the “undatable” pile.

Companies need to realize that good copywriting means more than having great SEO copy. It also means that all auto responder copy is top notch. All newsletters are proofed. And yes, all customer service emails are free from major typos, they’re easy-to-read and they address the recipients’ needs.

Otherwise, your company may also be considered “undatable” – and you’ll lose the sale.

Don’t let this happen to you! Here are some copywriting tips to consider:

– Comb through all of your auto responder content. Do you see any typos or grammatical errors? Can you see ways to make a good email even better? This is a task you can do in house, or you can hire a copywriter to help. An outside person can often see opportunities and mistakes you may not notice anymore. Like the Febreeze commercial that talks about being “nose-blind,” it’s easy to be “content-blind” when it comes to your own copy.

– Review your sales teams’ email correspondence. There are some folks out there who are great talkers, but their emails are full of mistakes. It could be because they’re writing fast and they need to take some additional email time. Or, it could be that they just aren’t good writers. In that case, you may want to consider other avenues (pre-written templates, hiring an email editor, pairing them with another sales person) to make sure the job is done right.

– Are you a business owner? If you know that email writing isn’t your strong suit, don’t take chances. Hire an assistant who can write your emails for you (as well as take on other duties.) It may seem like a luxury. It’s not. You’ll free up time and know that everything is written correctly.

What about you? What do you think when you see an email typo from a vendor? Are you forgiving? Or does it depend on the situation?

Photo thanks to © Spaxia | Dreamstime.com – Oh Boss That Are You Doing? Photo

Want to DIY Your SEO? Here's Your Reality Check

Last Updated on

I walked away from the conversation shaking my head.

“SEO services are too expensive. We can’t afford to hire someone.”

“I’m smart. I should be able to figure this SEO stuff out myself.”

“My team is top-notch. No, they don’t have any formal SEO training, but I’m sure they’ll get it. Maybe I’ll send them to a conference…”

Stop it. Just. Stop. It.

Why do I sound so frustrated? Because I’ve chatted with large and small companies that have all said some variation of the “We can handle this in-house excuse.” Granted, their intentions are good. They really do plan on tackling their own SEO. They don’t mean to blow it off.

But they do. Time and time again.

Yes, some companies expertly take on their own SEO (and SEO writing.) These companies put time, money and effort into making it happen, too. They don’t expect the Google gods to magically hand them rankings. They don’t expect to learn by osmosis. They just do it.

But then, there are the other companies. The ones that fall into a “wishful thinking” trap.

They want to learn more, but they “don’t have time.” They watch competitors outrank them and feel guilty. The guilt turns into avoidance. One day, they wake up and say, “Today is the day I master SEO.” But then an email pops up, an employee crisis happens or something else takes precedence.

And nothing gets done.

I understand the dilemma. I do. But there comes a time when you have to buckle down and make a choice. And that means you tackle your SEO issues head on and refuse to make any more excuses.

Here’s how to do it:

1.  If you are a solopreneur/work for a small business, you have to be very honest with yourself. Do you really have time to learn the ins and outs of SEO? Some people consider it a fun challenge and master it fairly quickly. Some folks never “get it.” If you’ve been promising yourself that you’ll learn how to SEO your site over the past few months – and you haven’t done so – it’s time to give it up. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. It means that you’re a busy person and you have other priorities. Like running your business.

2. If you work for a medium/large size business, your site is probably larger and has more complex issues. Handling everything may be daunting (and dangerous,) especially if your staff doesn’t have any experience. What many companies do is work with a consultant to unravel any existing technical SEO issues. Then, they work with another firm (or sometimes the same firm) and get training in SEO writing, social media and the other SEO bits and pieces. This one-two punch helps move the SEO ball along fairly quickly. The marketing team can rewrite/edit the existing content and they have the benefit of an outside consultant watchdogging their work.

Yes, SEO services cost money. Yes, good providers are expensive (beware the $100/month SEO “expert” trap.)

But if getting help means that you’ll make more money, faster – why not go for it? Right now.

Because for every moment you delude yourself into thinking you can do it yourself, you’re giving up market share to your competitors.

And that’s just sad.

Did you like this post? Well, I like you! And I’d love it if you subscribed to the SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter. It’s delivered hot and fresh to your inbox every Tuesday. Why not subscribe right now?

 Photo thanks to © Iqoncept | Dreamstime.com