SEO Editing vs. Copywriting for SEO

Should you create original SEO content? Or, should you optimize an existing page (in other words, add keyphrases without rewriting the copy?).

Freelance and in-house writers ask this question all the time. I receive emails saying, “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!)

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Is Your SEO Copy Crap? 8 Ways to Tell

Last week, a prospect asked what I thought of his site copy.

I took one look and resisted the urge to say, “Um, how much did you pay for this?” The writing was…bad.  Picture a 500-word, below-the-fold paragraph with no hyperlinks, no call-to-action…and what’s worse…

All of the copy was italicized. All of it.

Imagine reading that on a mobile device.

The prospect knew that something seemed “off.”  But he thought, “I hired someone who specializes in SEO copy. Maybe the copy is supposed to read that way.”

Not by a long shot.

Life is too short to pay for bad copy. If your SEO copy sucks, that means that it’s time to send it back to the writer and get her to fix it.

Here’s how to separate the stupendous from the sucky:

 – Read the copy out loud and hear how it “sounds.”

If your content sounds clunky — or if the keyphrases stand out like a sore thumb — send it back to the writer. Keyphrase-stuffed copy won’t help you drive traffic (in fact, it will do the exact opposite.)  Plus, over-optimization is bad from a conversion standpoint. After all, you don’t want your readers bouncing out of your site as soon as they arrive.

 – Understand that good SEO writing is good writing, period.

Do you have the urge to bring out your red pen and slice unnecessary words? Smart SEO copywriting is tight, which means that the writer is using as few words as possible to bring the point home. If you feel like the content is “fluffy,” lacks focus, or misses important elements (such as citing sources), send it back for editing.

 – Does the copy make your company’s benefits “pop?” Or is it all focused around features?

Your readers care about one thing: How can your product or service solve their problem. That means your writer needs to transform your company’s features into hard-hitting benefit statements. If your web copy is filled with features (a common problem,) ask for a revision.

Bonus tip: Review how many times the writer used your company name, “we” and “our company.” Ideally, your copy is focused around the word “you” — otherwise, you may sound like a bad date.

 – Is the copy focused around one single keyword?

This is old-school SEO writing that will tank your Google positions. Good SEO copywriting is topic-focused, and contains synonyms, related words — and, yes, well-researched keyphrases. Not only should you send this content back to the writer, you should consider if you ever want to work with her again. This kind a mistake is a huge red flag screaming, “Hey, I haven’t updated my SEO content writing methods since 2009!”

–  Are there spelling or grammatical errors?

Granted, your writer is human – and things happen. But if you are seeing multiple errors and you’re finding yourself correcting the document, stop. That’s what your writer is supposed to do for you.

 – Is there a call-to-action?

This could mean linking to a sales page, another blog post, or encouraging folks to sign up for a newsletter. Your writer needs to weave your site’s (and your page’s) conversion goal into the copy. If they haven’t, it’s time for a rewrite.

 How is your page Title (what appears as the clickable link on the search engine results page.)

Does it include the page keywords? Is it enticing? Or is it a bunch of keyphrases separated by pipes? If you’re thinking, “Hmm, I don’t think I’d click on this result,” send it back to the writer.

 – Is the page easy to read?

Long, scrolling paragraphs are visually overwhelming – especially on a mobile device.  If the paragraphs are long – and you’re not seeing any subheadlines that break up the text – have your writer check out these SEO writing tips before they rewrite the copy.

What happens if your writer revises the content – yet your SEO copy is still crap? It may be time to let the writer go and find someone else who better suits your needs. Better to take the loss now and move on, then upload crappy copy and suffer the consequences.

5 Content Marketing Tips for Tough Financial Times

In-house and freelance writers are all asking the same question…

…what should I do now?

I get it. I do. As I talked about last week, this is a time of tremendous uncertainty. We don’t know how long this will last. We don’t know what it will mean to our income. Heck, we may not even be able to work in our “normal” office or enjoy a “normal” schedule anymore.

Everything feels up in the air. And that’s because it is.

Having said that, there are things that you can control right now. In fact, this time could (weirdly) be a huge opportunity.

Let’s talk about five things you can do.

Get yourself (virtually) out there

You know that confused, “what should I do next?” feeling you have? Your clients and prospects feel the same way. They are looking for a thought leader (like you!) to connect them with others and to help them navigate this weird time. 

One way to do this is by thinking about how you can help and serve your market. For instance, I wrote a LinkedIn post asking people to comment if they’re looking for writing jobs. The post is trending for #copywriting, it’s been reshared 24 times with over 2,500 views, and it’s brought together a community of freelancers.

That’s pretty darn cool.

You have a choice right now. You can choose to be THE person your customers can turn to during this weird time. Or, you can choose to hide in the shadows and wait until it’s over. 

What do you want to do?

Work on your value proposition

It’s easy to sell products or services when the economy is good. When resources dry up, so do sales — unless you know how to adapt.

NOW is the time to review your value proposition and make sure it’s still relevant for today’s new world. That may mean overhauling your sales copy to reflect the current times. It may mean changing the voice of your site so it’s more conversational. (Pro tip: people want to read personal-sounding copy right now.) It may even mean hiring someone who can see your site and content with fresh eyes — and show you how to fix it.

Pretty much every site out there can do something. Now is a great time to start.

If you’re a freelancer, consider building your skill set, revamping your site, and taking some online courses. No, it doesn’t have to be one you purchase from me. :) Just anything that helps show clients that you are the one-stop solution they need. 

OYDCP!

What does OYDCP stand for? Optimize your damn content, people! Although that seems like a no-brainer statement in a blog post about SEO writing, there are a lot of folks out there who haven’t taken this step.

News flash: you are out of excuses. Driving Google traffic is one way you can drive leads and make sales. It could even make the difference between making enough to make payroll or putting it on your line of credit. If you’ve avoided learning how to optimize your site or blog post because it feels “too geeky” and you’re not ready, get over it. Especially since there are so many people out there who can help you.

Get more mileage out of your existing content

Are you trying to squeeze every drop of ROI you can out of your content? Instead of reinventing the wheel and writing new content, why not repurpose the content you have? For instance,

  • You can add transcripts to the bottom of podcasts or videos. That’s great for Google — and great for people (like me) who hate watching videos.
  • You can turn blog posts into an e-book.
  • You can pull pieces of content from your blog posts and turn them into email copy.

The possibilities are endless! Here’s how to find easy content opportunities.

Review your social posts and sales emails

Raise your hand if you’ve recently seen an email that made you think, “Ouch, that seems a little tone deaf considering the current times.” Guess what, Mr. “let me help you with your IT solutions” dude — most folks are worried about their businesses right now. Not their VPN.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t sell or market right now. Just…be smart. Showing stock art photos of large groups standing around a computer monitor is dumb. Pushing for a meeting during a time when companies are trying to keep their staff employed is dumb. Pretending that it’s business-as-usual during a global pandemic is dumb.

As a side note, I just saw the first COVID-19-inspired commercial from Cadillac. Check out their “We have your back” ad. Personally, I can’t imagine dropping the funds for a brand-new Cadillac right now…but I’m not their target market. And if I was, I’d appreciate how I wouldn’t have to leave my house to buy a car.

Your readers and customers are watching you. Do you want to be known as the helpful company who brought people together? Or the slimeball who responds to every LinkedIn invitation with a canned, “let’s set up a a 20-minute time to chat about your financial needs” message.

I know what I want my legacy to be during this time. How about you?

What do you think?

Do you also want to scream, “Don’t you get it?” to all the spammers out there? How are you serving your audience during this challenging time? Leave a comment and let me know!

Scalable Content Generation Strategy: The Online Marketer’s Formula for Success

When you are a large company or an agency, generating large volumes of good content can be quite a challenge. It can get expensive pretty quickly.  It is also time-consuming.

And in the end, high quality content is not a guarantee of explosive attention and viral sharing.

In order for your content generation to be sustainable, it needs to be scalable. The formula for success is using fewer resources to generate more high quality content.

In addition, your content needs to provide an excellent user experience and convey a consistent brand message, in compliance with brand standards.

Yes, I know, it is easier said than done!

The only way you can sustain content generation without breaking the bank is by making your content strategy scalable.

Planning Your Content Strategy

Planning your content strategy can be broken down into three foundational steps: defining your target audience, doing a content audit and regular inventory, and setting your content marketing goals.

1. Audience.  You will be using your content to speak to the customers you are trying to reach.  Of course, it makes sense to learn about these people to determine what is important to them.  Why would they listen to you?

Once you know what they want and what message they respond to, you will be able to craft your brand message more effectively.

There are many ways to collect information about your website visitors.  You can run surveys, look at feedback and contact email, or talk to customer support. You can follow your tribe on social media. You can interview your most typical clients.

Once you know who your audience is, look at your website analytics. If you can, segment the data to fit your audience profile better. Trace their routes on your website and make note of what they are doing with your content.

Find out which content they like and share. Learn which content prompts them to take action and become your customer. And finally, which content does not affect them whatsoever.

Note what type of content they prefer – text, video, audio, etc. You will also notice if your audience likes to comment or they prefer sharing.

2. Content audit and inventory.  It is important to do a content inventory regularly.  Audit your content to avoid duplication and ensure accuracy and freshness.

You can combine the audit with your audience review.  The analysis will show if your content corresponds with the interests of your visitors.

When reviewing your site, mark the pages that need to be updated or expanded.  These should be popular pages that your visitors share and comment on.  Review the comments and note ideas for new pages or blog posts.

Some of the content can be re-purposed, some needs to be deleted.  Mark the pages accordingly.

3. Set goals. You know what your audience wants. You know what you have to offer.  It is time to define your content marketing goals.

Revise your business objectives and align them with your content strategy.  Use your business and branding goals to guide your marketing.

At this step, you need to craft your brand message:

  • What are you trying to communicate to your audience?
  • What is your tone?
  • What do you expect your audience to do once they receive your message?
  • Why would they care about what you have to say?
  • What is the benefit for them to know that you exist?

If you have answers to these questions, you are ready for the next step – implementation.

Implement Your Content Strategy

The only way to achieve scalable content generation is to have good processes in place.

 – You can start with a content schedule. Define tools and technology you will need to build work flows, help with the planning, approval, optimization, and distribution of your content.

 – Now you are ready for resources.  Train them. Assign specific roles for each person. Your staff needs to be held accountable for the results and, therefore, they need to own their part of the process. Outsourcing content generation is also an option.  With clear goals and processes, outsourcing can be very successful.

 – Create a process for generating a content pipeline. It should start with ideas. Then you can take each idea and cover different angles for a series of (un)related posts.

  • Take one idea and create content in multiple formats – video, audio, text, infographic, white paper, etc.
  • Use one idea, same content, but different delivery channels: blog, social media, email, press release, conference presentation, advertising, interview, etc.

 – Define types of content that match your goals.  Consider options like how to’s, tutorials, guides, checklists, or glossaries. These are usually very popular types of content.

 – Determine how much of each type of content you need. Create a process for generating each type of content.

 – Remember that content you needed to update? Go for it. Re-purpose those other pages. Put the deadlines on the content calendar.

Measure Results

The only way to determine success is to measure your results. Here are some things to consider:

 – Determine how you will measure success. Go back to your goals and objectives, review your content strategy, and set KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and targets.

 – Define reports and their frequency. Who is your audience for the reports?  What are the next actions for them based on the data you are reporting?

 – What you measure will show you how you are doing.  Base your metrics on data that matters to achieving your goals. A high bounce rate on a blog post might be okay, if the time-on-page is high enough.  But a high bounce rate on a conversion page means that your message missed the mark.

Final Thoughts

Remember the formula to a scalable content generation strategy?

Fewer resources generating more high quality content make a scalable strategy.  Good processes will ensure that few resources are used. They will also streamline the very process of content generation.

As a result, you will receive large quantities of different types of content. Applying audience knowledge to your company message will solidify the quality.

About the Author ~ Lyena Solomon

Lyena is the localization director at Service Now. She has extensive experience in SEO, analytics, website usability and navigation. You can connect with Lyena on Twitter.

[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. :)

–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!)

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

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

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

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!

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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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Photo thanks: © zenwae | Dreamstime.com

What Is an SEO Copywriter? 23 Questions, Answered

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?

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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

The SEO Content Writers’ Manifesto

I am more than “just a writer.”

I am a profit driver. A matchmaker. A storyteller.

A content marketing dream-fulfiller.

My SEO writing helps companies reach more people, do more good and make more money.

It doesn’t matter if I’m writing about industrial machinery, hotels or software.

Or if I’m blogging, tweeting or writing sales pages.

I entice my readers. I entertain them. And I empower them to make a buying decision.

I know that I have a responsibility to learn more, write more, research more.

The more I learn, the more my writing can touch one more person. Drive one more sale. Do more good.

Sitting on my laurels and refusing to expand my knowledge goes against everything I am.

I take classes. I read books. I study and network with other writers.

Sometimes, I’m even a copywriting rebel – because “following the rules” may not make sense 100% of the time.

I’m not afraid of Google.

I embrace new social networks, new algorithmic updates and new online opportunities.

Because I know I can master anything new that’s thrown my way.

And I know good writing never goes out of style.

I know my writing ability is a gift and I treat it like the precious thing it is.

I charge accordingly for my time, set good boundaries and work when I’m fresh.

When I feel burned out or blasé, I know taking a break will restore my focus and heighten my abilities.

This helps me write commanding SEO content that stands out, gets shared and boosts conversion rates.

I take care of myself physically and mentally.

And my writing inspires people to take action, calms peoples’ fears and gives them hope.

That’s pretty powerful.

Over the years, I will drive thousands (maybe millions) in profit for my clients.

I will change lives.

I will provide hope.

I will succeed.

I am an SEO content writer.

And I love what I do.

UPDATE: My designer, Erin Kistner, transformed this post into a beautiful graphic. Please feel free to share it. :) I’ll also have a downloadable PDF soon!

SEO Writers' Manifesto

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