Why Shouldn’t I Handle My SEO Copywriting In-House?

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question markAs someone who offers online SEO writing training courses, you may think that I’m all about DIY SEO copywriting, all the time.

But that’s not quite true.

Recently, Mike Moran wrote a great blog post titled, “Why shouldn’t I do my search work in house?” In it, he listed some very specific reasons why outsourcing makes good sense for some companies.

I would argue that it’s the same for SEO copywriting. Yes, it is very possible to keep your SEO copywriting in house. Yes, good copywriters can be transformed into excellent SEO copywriters.

But sometimes, it makes more sense to outsource. Here are six of those times.

  • The SEO copywriting project would fall to you, and you can’t stand writing. You may be passionate about your business – and equally passionate about the fact that you hate writing. If that sounds like you, writing your own copy could be a huge mistake – you won’t like the writing process, you won’t write well, and you’ll end up hating what you create. Believe it or not, SEO copywriters love writing. It’s fun for them. And they can easily translate your business passion into really fantastic Web copy – and do it in about 1/4 of the time it would take you to create a first draft.
  • You’re in a time crunch. The only thing worse than bad SEO copywriting is text that’s been written fast – too fast. Hey, we’ve all been there. We have 50 pages to write in two weeks. We know that means working after hours to get it all done (or cramming it between other obligations.) We imbibe a lot of coffee to make it happen. And we write until our back starts to spasm. The problem is, the final 35 or so pages are going to sound like utter crap. If that’s the case, it’s better to bite the bullet and hire a SEO copywriting firm that can meet your deadline. Yes, it’s money out of pocket. Yes, it’s going to cost more than keeping it in house. But at least you can finish your site and get some sleep at the same time.
  • When you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing. It’s not that you don’t want to learn SEO copywriting – you do. But right now, you have no idea what you’re doing and you need Web page copy sometime yesterday. Rather than torture yourself, burn the midnight oil and try to find time to learn the SEO copywriting ropes (hint: you won’t find it), make your life easier and outsource it. It will be much easier to learn SEO copywriting when you’re not facing an immediate time pressure and you have some breathing room.
  • When no one on your team would make a good copywriter. Once upon a time, I worked with a group of lab technicians. These folks would talk about recombinant DNA like it was yesterday’s sports game and were incredibly brilliant beyond compare. But they weren’t copywriters.  In fact, everything they did was so technically brilliant, they couldn’t “dumb down” their writing and discuss concepts in a way that “normal people” could understand. Good SEO copywriters can be trained, but there has to be a spark of something to train.  If your team members aren’t writers – it’s better to outsource.
  • If this is your one shot, and you need to generate conversions quickly. Many businesses are in the position of needing to generate leads (or sales) fast. It’s tempting to go the DIY route in this situation, but this is one time when hiring a professional is in order. An experienced SEO copywriter knows all the powerful direct marketing response tricks that can send your conversion counter clicking. It doesn’t mean that you can’t learn these tricks eventually – you can. But it may make more sense to learn a new copywriting skill after you get some cash through the door.
  • If you just need to see a couple “example pages” to get going. You’ve read the SEO copywriting books. You’ve been trained. And now, you’re sitting in front of a blank page wondering how the hell to start. Sound frustratingly familiar? Relax. Some folks are incredibly visual. They need to see a finished product before they can wrap their heads around what to do and how to proceed.  If this sounds like you, consider hiring a SEO copywriter to create one to three pages for you as as a template. Those pages will give you an idea of how to start – and you’ll have the jump start you’ll need.

Photo credit:© Risto Hunt | Dreamstime.com

What to do right now: Planning ongoing SEO content

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Add more SEO content to your siteSo, what new articles are you adding to your site this month?

I know, I know. Content development and adding additional Website content seems like “too much work” when time is already short and your nerves are feeling frazzled. You can’t ask your marketing department to do it — they’re already maxed out. Fighting for freelance budget seems too overwhelming. And heaven forbid that you add something new to your plate.

Sound familiar?

I am just as guilty as other site owners and marketing departments. Part of my marketing midlife recovery means more and better writing — blog writing, writing for other sites and, yes, writing for my own SEO copywriting site.

Easier said than done.

The thing is, writing ongoing content is more than just a SEO trick. Sure, the engines love new content, and adding ongoing content is one of the ways they measure how “fresh” a site is. Sites without new, ongoing content tend to slowly drop out of rankings sight, despite their age and history. It’s just like Hollywood, baby — if not you’re coming out with new stuff, it’s easy to forget all about you.

Of course, I always hear the kickback — “Why should I add new content? It’s a pain to do. “Yes, it is. But here are the advantages of fresh content:

  • It builds trust. When people search under various keyterms, they notice companies that continually position in the top 10. My favorite example of this is a company called Amsterdam Escape. Their site positions for main keyterms such as “vacations in Amsterdam” as well as long-tail keywords like “places to stay Amsterdam Newmarket.”
  • New content overcomes objections. You can’t assume that prospects will contact you for more information. If your content doesn’t answer their questions immediately, they’ll find another site that does.
  • New content can sell your product or service. This is the most obvious reason — good (or improved) content translates into better conversions.
  • New content gains search engine positions. ‘Nuff said.

Make a commitment to your company to upload at least one new article per month on your Website. That may mean hiring a firm who can help you with an editorial calendar or topic ideas. That may mean asking your internal team to step up and start writing. Either way, ongoing content will keep those search engine rankings (and conversions) flowing.

When to Hire an Intermediate-Level SEO Copywriter

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

Profile of intermediate-level SEO copywriters:

This category describes the vast majority of SEO copywriters.

Competent, smart and experienced, intermediate-level copywriters are the perfect choice for a good chunk of clients. These folks have risen up through the newbie trenches, learned from their mistakes and have a decent portfolio under their belt. From a direct-response writing perspective, they’ll serve up a solid and skilled (yet usually not stellar) web page.

From the SEO side, the skill-set depends on the person. In most cases, that’s OK. The intermediate-level copywriter typically works under a SEO supervisor, so they don’t need to worry about being SEO experts.

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

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

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

Intermediate-level SEO copywriters are good for:

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Should You Hire a Newbie SEO Copywriter?

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Is it worth hiring a new copywriter who loves what you do — but isn’t quite as experienced?

Let’s break this down.

Profile of newbie SEO copywriters:

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

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

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

Newbie SEO copywriters are good for:

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

Sometimes, a more experienced newbie SEO copywriter can:

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

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

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

What do you think? Have you hired a brand-new copywriter and seen success? Leave your comment below!