What Is an SEO Copywriter? 23 Questions, Answered
Are 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?”
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?
At 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:
- 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 include:
- 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.
How 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.
I don’t have any writing samples. Can I still get hired?
Yes, but you’ll need to show your prospective employer (or client) something — otherwise, they won’t be able to evaluate your work.
Ways you can generate samples include:
- Volunteer for a non-profit and rewrite some of their content
- Ask a business owner if you can write an article in exchange for a testimonial.
- Find a mentor, ask her to offload some writing your way, and write for free (in exchange for feedback and training.)
- Create a “hobby blog” and write about one of your passions.
What kind of companies hire in-house SEO copywriters?
The employment possibilities are endless. All types (and sizes) of companies, including B2B, B2C, and publishing companies, hire SEO writers.
Can someone specialize in SEO writing even if they’re not “technical?”
It’s true that the more you know about the “techie” side of SEO (and SEO copywriting,) the more opportunities that you’ll have. I highly recommend reading everything you can about SEO (including how to code) and upgrading your skills.
Having said that, there are many SEO copywriters who partner with SEO firms. The copywriter writes the copy – and the SEO firm takes care of the “techie stuff.”
I’ve heard freelance SEO writing = content mills and low pay. Is that true?
Not necessarily. It’s true that some companies will pay only $10/article. However, many companies pay freelancers anywhere from $50 – $300/hour. How much a freelancer gets paid depends on his knowledge levels, his niche and how well he markets himself.
I’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.
How much can in-house SEO copywriters make?
According to Glassdoor, experienced SEO writers can earn over $50,000 a year (of course, the salary depends on experience and the company location.) I know a few SEO writers/editors who are making around $75,000 a year (plus benefits.)
What are characteristics of successful SEO copywriters?
SEO writers love to write, love to research, love to learn and love working online. They also tend to have a high tolerance for change – which is good, since Google (as well as other providers) love to mix things up on a regular basis.
Higher-paid SEO writers tend to have some “technical geek” characteristics. Those geeky characteristics help them understand the more technical elements of SEO writing — and liaison more successfully with an IT team, an SEO provider, and analytics experts.
If you are the kind of person who gets bored easily, SEO copywriting is a great gig. You won’t get bored. At all.
What’s the one thing an SEO copywriter MUST always do?
The scariest type of SEO writer doesn’t update his knowledge and uses out of date techniques. If you want to be in this industry, you MUST keep up with Google’s ever-changing whims. Today’s best practices could be borderline spam tomorrow.
How can an SEO writer make more money?
There are typically four ways:
- Improve your craft — learn everything you can about neuromarketing, direct-response writing, SEO, etc.
- Be able to showcase demonstrable results. For example, case studies and testimonials can help position you as an expert.
- Offer more content writing services (for instance, here are some to try.)
- Ask for more money. About 75% of the time, writers aren’t getting paid what they want because they set their rates too low. If you work in-house, you can ask for a raise.
In-house writers may also want to freelance on the side.
What’s the job horizon? Will this still be a “thing” in two years?
Besides, even if Google was suddenly able to read our minds and immediately understand the searcher intent, content will still be a “thing.” Someone will need to write those web pages, landing pages and blog posts.
Why not you?
Want to know some of my favorite SEO writing tips ? I save my best stuff for my newsletter — here’s how to sign up.
Image thanks: Question / ID 3534516458 © Marco Bellucci / Flickr.com
Briefcase / ID 8613058100 © shmectorcom / Flickr.com
Analytics / © Komal Bhesaniya / Wikimedia.org
Tombstone / ID 333146680 © camelfobia / deviantart.com
Wow! this is a very informative article you have written. SEO is really a high-paying job. I hope I could be master it someday and use it in my business. Thanks man!
Wow. This is a fantastic article. While I have written quite a few random articles here and there I will never claim to be an SEO copywriter. Thanks for an in depth clarification on this.
By the way, Jesse Wojdylo sent me this way to get more information on the importance of content. I can already see why he sent me the link!
Thanks so much for your comment and for letting me know Jesse sent you over. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.
And hey, it’s not too late to take the SEO copywriting plunge. If you’re writing blog posts for your business, you’re well on your way! :)
SEO has such a bad rap, still. I write for high quality agencies (no $10 post churnout here) and it is genuinely a pleasure. I get to learn about all manner of things I wouldn’t normally be exposed to and inject my own personality in the writing. Your sentence about it being high quality content production, just with keywords naturally thrown in, is bang on the money. Great to see this cleared up so eloquently in such a positive post.
I joke that SEO copywriters are *great* at cocktail parties. Thanks to our careers, we know a little bit about a lot of things — which makes small talk easy. Well, easier. :)
Thanks so much for your comment! I see you signed up for the newsletter, too. Thank you and welcome aboard!
Nice article. Well researched and thorough. SEO seems a constantly moving target, but we must work with it as web searches are the way people find you. Thanks for the information!