Do SEO Writers Need Technical Skills?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever thought SEO writing was “too technical” to learn and involved too much programming and geeky terminology.

Yup. That’s totally normal. And it’s certainly true that SEO writing has geeky-sounding elements.

Heck, I remember trying to wrap my head around what a Title was when I first learned over 22 years ago. Throw in weird terms like “meta description” and “H1” and “image tag,” and it’s enough to make some writers nope out of SEO writing.

(Obviously not you. You’re much braver than that.)

At the same time, one common question I get is — how much technical information do writers need to know? In other words, how geeky do you need to go?

The answer? Well, it depends.

For instance, if you’re new to SEO writing, you don’t need to bury yourself in programming blogs and code.

In fact, you only need to know the geeky bare minimums.

What are the bare minimums? I’d argue that a beginner SEO writer should understand:

• What a Title is, and how to structure one for maximum click-through.

• How to write a meta description.

• How to put keyphrases in the copy without the text sounding weird or stilted.

Is more knowledge better? Sure. The more you know, the more you can help your clients and the more you can earn. But when you’re just starting out and getting your SEO feet wet, you don’t need to immediately dive into the geeky side of the pool. It’s OK to stay in the shallow SEO end.

When does knowing geeky information come in handy?

Sometimes, smaller companies look to their SEO writers as their overall SEO expert. They know the SEO writer isn’t a programmer or coding ninja — but, they rely on the writer’s SEO expertise to at least point them in the right direction.

For instance, one of my clients had two versions of their site in Google — a www version and a non-www version. They thought their previous programmer had redirected the site…but it didn’t happen.

Although I wasn’t the one fixing the issue, I did flag it and show why it was a problem.

Should I strive to be an expert content writer and technical SEO geek?

Not necessarily. Most people I know are good at one or the other. Not both.

For instance, my brain tends to gravitate towards the content side. (Surprise!) It’s true that I did help a major site figure out their technical Title strategy once upon a time, but that’s because it was easy for me to translate their issue into content terms.

I know enough to communicate with technical teams and when something may be wrong. But I’m not going to program a site. If I look at my brain in Donny and Marie Osmond terms, my brain is a little bit technical…and a whole lot of content rock and roll.

(As a side note, I’ve met just one person who is equal parts technical and content. He’s like a unicorn, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster rolled into one.)

Which skill is most important as an SEO writer — content skills or technical?

Well, you know how I’m going to answer this one.

In fact, this is one of the questions SEMRush asked me during their Twitter #SEMRushChat. I posted my answer below.

Q3. Creative skills or technical knowledge: which skill would come first for an SEO copywriter, if you had to pick only one?

A3: Creative skills, hands down. Writing smart copy is a unique skillset. In fact, a @conductor study said that 81% of SEO jobs require content skills. Having said that, a smart SEO writer who understands writing to sell and technical SEO is a powerful combination. #SEMRushChat

So yes, technical knowledge is a smart thing to have. You can do a lot to drive traffic if you understand the SEO strategy behind the words.

But let’s face it — the SEO may drive traffic to a page, but it’s your words that will cause people to convert.

And that’s a powerful skill.

What do you think?

How many of you remember Donny and Marie Osmond? (Sometimes, I have to throw in something for the old folks, you know?) On a scale from 1-10, with 10 being a super-level technical geek, how geeky are you? Leave a comment and let me know!

Hiring an SEO Writer? Do These 3 Things First

Welcome back! In today’s SEO copywriting video, Heather discusses the three things that you should do before either hiring an SEO copywriter, or starting to write your own new website.

This how-to was inspired by an email Heather received, in which the woman said she had her domain purchased and business registered with the state, and was really excited to hire a copywriter, then asked “What else do I need to do before I hire the SEO copywriter?”

Heather’s lengthy reply spoke to all the other things that need to happen before the writing begins, which she has summarized in three steps. Tune in to learn how to ensure your website content will crush your competition!

Plan on a lot of legwork before the writing takes place

As a business owner, there is legwork you will want to do – ideally on your own – because it will help you with your marketing, and it will also help you with your overall business strategy. Plus, taking these steps will ensure that everything your copywriter does create is highly targeted to your market.

  • You’ll want to spend a lot of time researching and planning before you launch.
  • These steps are very important. Skipping them literally puts your new business at risk.
  • A good copywriter can do some of this legwork for you. Ideally, though, you should know this information before you start.

The thing here is that it’s really easy to skip these steps because you’re amped to get your new business site out there, and want to hire an SEO copywriter right away. But skipping these steps can literally prove fatal to your business.

Heather has talked to a lot of small business owners that have skipped these steps, and they’re not making that much money, and their marketing is scattered all over the place.

There may come a point where, in taking these steps, that you find yourself stuck, or you may want somebody else to look at what you’re finding and perhaps offer suggestions for other types of research. So while certainly a good copywriter might be able to do some of the legwork for you, you’ll want to be sure to work in tandem with him/her, because what you learn during this 3-step process will help you with your business plan, as well.

Step #1: Who is your target audience?

The first step to take is to define your target audience.

  • Hint: the answer is not “everyone” or “all business owners should have this product”

Heather has heard these answers from folks, and they are not necessarily true.

  • What niches will your serve? Why that niche?

Where you want to really dial it in is what niches you’ll serve: are there particular types of verticals where you know your product or service is going to have the most impact?

And you’ll want to ask yourself: why that niche? For example, if you worked in the construction industry for a long time and want to start providing marketing services, then it follows that marketing services for construction companies might be a really good niche for you, because you understand the market, the pain points, and it might be all that much easier for you to market your services to that audience.

  • Get specific. Not “home business owners” but “home business owners with X characteristics who have been in business for Y years.”

The key here is that you want to get really precise and focused in defining your target audience.

  • You should know your target audience like you know your best friend.

This is one of Heather’s favorite sayings. Ideally you should be able to walk into a Starbuck’s, look around at folks, select a handful, and say “okay, you guys are the ones that I serve in my business”: that is how intimately you want to know your target audience.

This is the purpose of creating a customer persona: to precisely define the people that you serve and their characteristics, so when you are sitting down to write – or have hired an SEO copywriter to do so – you have this highly specific information and are then able to tightly focus everything you write around that persona/target audience.

And you might have multiple target audiences – so if you find that you’re going to be serving three or four markets, that’s okay! A lot of site owners do that; it’s just a matter of different target audiences.

Step #2: Check out your competition

The second step is to check out your competition and find out what they’re doing.

  • What other companies are doing what you do?
  • Carefully check out their sites. What do they do well? What could you do better? How can you differentiate yourself?

Learn how they’re structuring their site, how they’re structuring the writing, and find out what they do really well: consider ways you can do it even better!

Part of this exercise is to figure out how to differentiate yourself from your competition, so when a prospect says, “I’ve looked at this company and I’ve looked at your stuff – why should I hire you over this other company?” then you have an answer, because you know exactly what your relative strengths are.

  • You don’t want to copy your competition – but you do want to learn from them!

The point here is that while it may be tempting to copy a worthy competitor that’s clearly making money with their site, your business is going to be different from theirs, so you want to create a brand and site that are unique.

So certainly, do learn from them, but don’t copy your competitors.

Step #3: What unique benefits do you bring to the table?

Finally, the third step is to have a clear handle on the unique benefits you offer.

  • What makes your company unique?
  • How does your product or service solve a problem?
  • Why should someone work with you instead of your competition?

Folks who are familiar with Heather’s YouTube webinars know that the guy pictured is her “What’s In It For Me” guy, shown here because that is what prospects want to know.

What is in it for your target audience?

And this is really important, because people think in terms of benefit statements.

When potential customers land on your site, they’ll immediately want to know how you can help them, and how you can do it better-faster-cheaper, than your competitors. Know what your unique benefits are! That will help you hone your copy, help you sell more products/services, and you’ll be able to do more with your online business faster.


photo thanks to andjohan (Andreas Johannsen)


SEO copywriting 101: A guide for clients

SEO Copywriting 101Whether you’re hiring copywriters in-house, or outsourcing to freelancers,  finding and working with SEO copywriters can be challenging – and a little bit scary, too.

First, you have to find the “perfect person” who will make your Web copy sing. Once you’ve found the perfect person, you have to give them direction, evaluate their content and make sure that it’s right for your site.

If you don’t know SEO, the entire process is confusing. How can you figure out who to hire? How do you get the SEO content quality you need?

If you need to hire a copywriter, this guide is for you. Here’s what to do.

How to hire the perfect in-house or freelance SEO copywriter

Looking for an SEO copywriter? Whether you’re looking to hire in-house or outsource, it’s tempting to ask, “How much do you charge,” and go from there. That can be a dangerous mistake. Would you work with an attorney because she was the cheapest around? Or a doctor? Heck no. Rather than focusing on price, focus on results and reputation. That way, you’ll find the right vendor (or employee) for your needs. (If you’re wondering how an SEO copywriter can help you, here’s a great resource.)

Many smaller businesses prefer to outsource their SEO copy. You can outsource to a freelance SEO copywriter, or sometimes your SEO company has someone on staff. Larger businesses – or companies that kick out a lot of content – may be better served with an in-house hire.

Questions to ask are:

  • What kind of experience do you have (here’s some guidance on working with a newbie and an intermediate SEO copywriter.)
  • If you’re outsourcing, ask the writer if she will be writing the content? Or will someone else?
  • What’s your process? If the copywriter doesn’t say, “I’ll need to start by asking a bunch of questions,” that’s a huge red flag.
  • Do you know how to write to sell (called direct response copywriting.) Or, are you primarily a blogger? There is a big difference between the two styles, so make sure you ask.
  • Can I see case studies and testimonials?

And here are some other questions to ask to get the best quote.

You also want to consider if you need a copywriter or a content strategist.  Here’s the difference between the two job descriptions.

You’ve found the perfect copywriter? Great. Here’s how to get started…

If you are giving the SEO copywriter direction, you want to give them the right direction. Where a lot of good campaigns go bad is when the client dictates the article length and makeup based on SEO copywriting myths and misconceptions.

Beware the SEO copywriting myths, such as:

Plan to spend quite a bit of meeting time with your new copywriter so you can explain your unique sales proposition, your customer persona and what’s important to your customers. Your copywriter will also bombard you with a list of questions (here’s a list of 52 questions your copywriter may ask.)

This part of the process will take some time. You may be tempted to skip this step and think, “He’s smart. He’ll ‘get it’ and write great copy.” Don’t do it. Spend the time to get your writer up to speed. Your copy will be much better for it.

Your writer completed her first rough draft. Here’s how to evaluate it.

The most important question you can ask is, “Does the content make me want to buy?” If the answer is, “Meh,” that alone may dictate a rewrite. Whether your copywriter is writing sales copy or posts for your blog, the writing should showcase your benefits, be engaging and – yes – include keyphrases. Here’s some things to consider.

Now that you know exactly what to do, you can safely find the right in-house or freelance SEO copywriter who meets your needs – and start gaining benefit from well-written content. What could be better?

How to stop worrying about Google updates…

…and learn to love writing really great SEO copy!

Greetings & welcome back! In today’s SEO copywriting video how-to, Heather discusses a most timely topic since Matt Cutts’ recent, ominous-sounding pronouncement that the next Google Penguin update will be “jarring” to SEO’s and Webmasters – and that is, how to stop worrying about Google updates and start writing really great SEO copy!

Tune in and learn how to set yourself free…

Fear is counterproductive

The thing is, around all the Google updates and the stress that comes with them, that fear is really counterproductive.

  • Get out of the learned helplessness trap!
  • Google updates are not an excuse to stop writing content.
  • Think of this as an OPPORTUNITY. Good content is still good for Google.

What this fear of Google updates does is get a lot of companies stuck in this learned helplessness trap: they don’t know what Google is going to do next and so they use that as an excuse to stop writing content. They completely freak out within the organization!

But instead of being all fearful about what Google is going to do next, think of what’s going on as an opportunity: Good content is still good for Google.

I know that it’s not sexy news, but there are a number of sites out there that never got penalized by either Panda or Penguin – they came through just fine! And that could be you.

The key is to focus on what your customers and readers are looking for, and stop focusing so much on what you think Google might want!

Focus on making your content better

So think of ways you can focus on making your content better, and this will help you ride through those algorithmic updates. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What questions do our prospects/customers ask? Do we answer them on the site?

That’s a great way to be able to get folks to come to your site that might not know anything about you! You might also want to ask…

  • Does our content really represent our company?

I’ve talked with a number of people who’ve said: “Yeah, we don’t really love the content that’s there – it doesn’t really sound likes us – but it’s what we have, so we’re stuck with it.”

No! You’re not stuck with it! If it doesn’t represent your company, then change it!

  • How can we create quality content within our organization?

If you’re not satisfied that your website copy represents your company, you can change it either in-house, and write that quality content within your organization, or if you are maxed out internally and that’s not an option – then outsource it!

Find someone you can trust to work with: just last week, I talked about how to find a (Google-savvy) SEO copywriter.

  • Do we have low quality content on the site that we need to fix?

You might also want to evaluate your site and see if you have low quality content that you need to fix.

On the lower left-hand side of the slide there is a link to an article written by Jill Whalen about other types of low quality content – those things you might want to evaluate on your own site to see if it’s something that you might want to tweak.


  • You also want to look at your analytics!
  • Think of ways to increase your conversion rates!

Wouldn’t it be better to focus on “how can we drive more sales?” and think of ways that you’re able to do so, rather than “Oh my goodness, what is Google going to do next?”

Because at the end of the day, Google does not pay your bills – your customers do.

So if you can figure out how your content can make your site more money, then that is a much better discussion to have than “Oh my goodness, what is the next update going to do to our site?”

Focus your content around your readers, and when the next update rolls around, then you are probably going to be much more relaxed about it, because you’re coming at it from a different angle – rather than trying to tweak your content to fit what you think Google wants today.

That said…if you have questions about what Google wants and are looking for a checklist for evaluating your content, simply sign up for my free weekly SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter, and/or choose to receive daily blog post updates, and receive my free “How to write for Google” whitepaper!

Thanks so much for tuning into today’s SEO copywriting video how-to!

As always, if you have any questions at all, or if you are interested in the SEO Copywriting Certification training, please let me know – I’m happy to help! I can be reached via [email protected], or via Twitter @heatherlloyd.


photo thanks to marklarson  (Mark Larson)



Last call for SEO Copywriting Certification scholarship contest entries: if you haven’t entered to win a full scholarship to the SEO Copywriting Certification training yet, you have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern today to do so! Enter now at: Win an SEO Copywriting Certification Scholarship!

And remember – you have absolutely nothing to lose! Everyone who enters receives 20% off the certification training, plus 10% off the Copywriting Business Bootcamp training, through September 7th!








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

Hello, all!

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s just for starters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest blogger Pam Foster is the owner of ContentClear Marketing. Pam is one of the industry’s first Certified SEO Copywriters.

Photo thanks: © Ronfromyork |

Outsourcing Your SEO Writing? 9 Ways to Get the Best Quote

Yesterday, a business owner sent over an interesting question.

“Why do I have to answer so many questions before you give me a quote? Years ago, if I wanted a copywriter to write a print ad, I knew it would be X amount. Why can’t there be more transparency?”

He had a point. I don’t list prices on my site – and neither do a number of my copywriting students/ The main reason is because, “we don’t know what we don’t know”– short, catalog pages could be $250 a page – or up to $1000 if you factor in things like strategy, keyphrase research, customer persona generation and other factors.

And granted, a range like that could freak out the average prospect.

However, there is a way to get the information you need and find the right SEO copywriter for your next campaign. It may take more background research than sending a quick “how much do you charge” email.  Plus,  from the copywriter’s standpoint, there are some things that prospects can do to get an accurate quote, quickly.

Here are nine tips to get you started:

Do include your domain name in your initial email

At least twice a month, I get an email from a gmail address that says something like, “I need five pages written for Google. How much will you charge me? From a copywriter’s perspective, we can’t help you if we don’t know the entire project scope. Some pages (think longer direct-sales pages,) cost more. Others (like short catalog copy) can cost less. We won’t know what to tell you without seeing your site.

Do let us know your challenges

It’s wonderful when a prospect says something like, “We’re ranking well in Google, but our sales copy isn’t converting.” Or, “We have a marketing team now, but they don’t know anything about SEO copywriting.” That information helps us evaluate your site and develop some ideas.

Do talk to us on the phone

I understand that it’s often easier to gather quotes via email. That’s OK. I do it too. But even a 15-minute conversation can help copywriters delve a little deeper into your challenges and explore different ideas. I’ve actually saved clients money because I told them that they didn’t need the big content marketing strategy they thought they did — and some simple tweaks would garner a great reward. We wouldn’t have come to that conclusion in an email conversation.

Do tell us what you’ll expect. Do you need us to provide status reports to your marketing department once a month? Are you working on an internal deadline, and need to have copy turned around by a certain date? Let your copywriter know what you’ll need before he zips you a proposal. That way, you avoid any future sticky issues – like your copywriter expecting to be paid to be on a three-hour branding conference call – when you thought it was a freebie (yes, this has happened!)

Do chat with multiple writers

It’s tempting to hire the first SEO copywriter who happens to meet your pricing and turnaround requirements. Just know that finding a good writer may mean talking to multiple people and asking lots of questions. Some writers will quickly “get” your business and will immediately generate some ideas. Other writers may not be as well suited for the task. Who you hire is crucial — after all, this person represents your brand – so make sure you find the best person for your business.

Do ask us for writing samples

Writers love to brag about our successes. Yes, by all means, ask for writing samples – especially when evaluating us against another copywriter. It’s important that you find the right fit for the right price, and writing samples (as well as case studies) help us showcase our value. Plus, from the client standpoint, writing samples will clearly show the difference between a $5 and a $500 sales page.

Don’t expect free consulting as a way to “prove our worth”

It’s important to find the right vendor — and many SEO copywriters will throw out some quick top-of-mind thoughts about how you should proceed. At the same time, asking us, “What strategy would you recommend” and “How would you specifically change the Titles” is moving from sales-process vetting to freebie consulting. Yes, ask us hard questions. Yes, ask for writing samples. But please know that the best copywriters (like the best doctors, attorneys and business consultants) won’t give it away for free.

Don’t tempt us with “more work later if you can lower your rate now”

In my non-scientific estimation, 99.9% of copywriters have lowered their rate in this scenario. And 99.9% of copywriters would never do it again. Unless we have a signed contract promising us “future work” – including a retainer guarantee – we can’t “bank” on future work. Ask us this question later, after we’ve worked together and we’ve built a successful relationship.

Do be open to higher fees — but ask us how you can save money

Many people start the SEO copywriting vendor search process without a clue about per-page rates. Or, the prospect needs more than writing – they need strategy and better keyphrase research – and that drives up the price. At the same time, if you feel like the price is edging higher than you’d like to spend, ask about training (DIY always costs less in the long run,) running a longer campaign for a smaller (guaranteed) monthly spend, or even paying your agreement up-front for a discount. There are always ways to save some cash without sacrificing quality.

What do you think? What would you add to this list?

RFIs Gone Wild!

Ah, the RFI. If you’ve been in business for awhile, you’ve seen the multi-page “request for information” documents prospects use during the vendor-vetting process. Some companies love filling them out, figuring it’s a great chance to showcase their successes and land the client. Other companies dread the time and manpower RFIs take to complete, preferring to opt-out of the process. With questions like, “Share your philosophy about working with clients, ” and “Explain a recent problem you had with a client, and how your firm handled it,” RFIs often feel like job interviews – except everything is done on-paper rather than face-to-face.

Mind you, I’m a big fan of prospect due-diligence. Companies need to make sure that the vendor they hire will meet their needs – and sometimes, you can learn everything you need to know by reading written responses (especially if you’re hiring a SEO copywriting agency – if they can’t write compelling RFI responses, I doubt they could create good Web copy.)

But then, the other day, I received a very unique RFI – and I’m curious to see what you think…

The “typical” questions were there regarding how my firm worked with clients, and and asking about my firm’s writing process. But then, the questions started getting very…personal.  They asked me to name my top clients and their annual spend. Then wanted to know if I’ve worked with clients in certain verticals – and they wanted me to name the clients and engagement scope. And in addition, they asked for two year’s of financial statements.

Mind you, my husband didn’t see my financials until about two weeks before we were married.

Yes, there would have been a MNDA in place – so the information would have been protected. However, I didn’t know anything about the gig. Nothing. Not the scope of work. Not the budget. Nothing. This could be a $100,000 SEO copywriting makeover – or a $1,000 project. And unfortunately, the prospect was prohibited from providing any information until after they received the RFI – assuming, of course, that my firm made the cut.

How did I handle it? I took my firm out of the running. Even with a MNDA in place, I didn’t feel comfortable discussing my current clients with a prospect – not without my clients’ express signoff. And certainly, I did not feel at all comfortable sending over two years of financial documents before I could even speak to the prospect (and truth be told, I would never send over financials to a prospect.) It’s a shame, because I’m sure that I could have helped them. But the RFI process soured me on the gig.

But you tell me.  What types of RFI questions are appropriate – and what feels like “RFIs gone wild?” Am I being stubborn? Would you have provided that information in the hopes of getting the gig (keeping in mind, of course, that you wouldn’t know what the gig was before submitting your information.)

What do YOU think?

How to find a Google-savvy SEO copywriter

Greetings! In today’s SEO copywriting video post, Heather addresses a topic that is very important if you are looking to hire an SEO copywriter, which is: how to find an SEO copywriter who won’t screw up your Google listings.

As you know, Google has made a lot of changes to its algorithm, and those changes have been largely focused on content quality, so the key to hiring an SEO copywriter is finding someone who is keeping up to date with all of what Google is doing.

So yes, you want your new hire to be an excellent writer, and yes, you want them to understand conversion theory and how to get people to take action, and how to write content that is shareable, but you also want to make sure that they know how to stay on Google’s good side!

Here’s how to do it:

Review their writing

The first thing you want to do is review their writing.

Always ask for clips, and not just from one client, but from a variety of clients that they’ve worked with.

  • Look at their Website. Do they even have a Website?
  • Are their articles well written? Or do they look like they were written quickly?
  • Would you consider their articles to be a valuable resource?
  • Do they repeat the same words over and over?

You want to see if their articles are well written. In judging this, think of their articles as if you were scanning the Web and just happened to land on one of their articles. Would you want to delve in and read more, or does it look like the article was written hastily?

You also want to get a sense for how they integrate keyphrases into the copy. If you are able to “catch” the keyphrases very easily, and it appears that the same word (or phrase) is being repeated over and over again: huge red flag!

And of course, you also want to look at their own website, and see how the copywriter has worked with an optimizer on-site.

If they don’t have a website and they are an SEO copywriter, that might also be a red flag because that’s a basic foundational step for an SEO copywriter – to have their own (well written and well optimized) site.

Ask about their process

The second thing you want to do is get on the phone with them and ask them about their process.

Ask something like: “Let’s say we sign the contract today – what would you need from me in order to get started? What is the process for how you write Web pages?”

Note their answers and beware these danger signs – the things you do not want to hear in response to your questions.

“Danger signs” include:

  • “Every article is X words for Google.”

You do not want to hear something like: “Well, every article I write is 500 words. I write that way for Google because that’s what Google wants.”

Wrong. That’s not what Google wants – that’s a myth that’s out there.

  • “Every article has a X percent keyphrase density.”

You also don’t want to hear the words “keyphrase density” come out of their mouth. Even Google’s head of spam, Matt Cutts, has come out and said there is no such thing.

  • The copywriter doesn’t ask about your target market or conversion goals.

You also want to pay attention to what questions the copywriter is asking you: are they asking about your conversion goals and your target market, or are they saying something like “When we sign the contract, then we will have a kick-off called ‘We’ll ask you a lot of questions’”?

If they are not asking these kinds of questions, that means that the content they’re writing is not going to be good for you: it will probably be too general, it’s not going to fit your target market because they didn’t ask what it was, and it won’t fit your conversion goals.

So make sure that the copywriter is asking you really good questions, as well!

Ask about the latest Google updates

The final thing you want to do is ask them about the latest Google updates.

Ask something like: “Well, so can explain a little bit about what Google has been doing lately with their algorithm updates? I’ve heard about this Panda and Penguin thing – what does that mean?”

  • If the copywriter can’t clearly explain Google’s Panda and Penguin updates…
  • Run away.
  • Run quickly.

You want someone who actually knows the answers. If they can’t clearly explain what Panda and Penguin mean to the SEO industry and to content generation, it’s time for you to run away, and run away quickly, because these are things that any experienced SEO copywriter should know about.

If they do not know, that means that they are not keeping up with the industry, and that can come back to bite you later!

Thanks for tuning in to today’s video how-to! If you have any questions or topic suggestions for Heather, please let her know: email [email protected], or tweet her @heatherlloyd. (And she’d love to know what you think about the new site design!)

Be sure to check back next week for the next webinar – see you then!


photo thanks to dannysullivan (Danny Sullivan)


You’re invited! This Wednesday, August 22nd, Heather will be holding an open SEO copywriting Q & A at noon Pacific / 3pm Eastern. Email our Heather G. for call-in information: [email protected]. Look forward to “seeing” you there!

Also, there’s one more week left to enter our contest to win a full scholarship to the SEO Copywriting Certification training – see Win an SEO Copywriting Certification Scholarship! for details!