Who’s Really Writing Your Web Content?

Is this your SEO copywriter?Yesterday, I received a disturbing voice mail.

The caller represented an SEO outsourcing service based in India. He wanted to know if I wanted to save money on writing costs and outsource my SEO copywriting projects to his firm. He then named three high-profile SEO firms that had (supposedly) done just that, indicating that I would not be alone in this outsourced copywriting world.

And it got me to thinking: Assuming the SEO companies mentioned really did outsource their writing to India, I wonder what their clients would think if they knew the real scoop.

This is actually an extreme example of a widespread issue. SEO companies, agencies and design firms know that their clients need SEO copywriting services. At the same time, SEO copywriting may not be the firm’s core competency. When that happens, sometimes, they outsource it to a firm.

Sometimes, they work with interns (really!) Other times, they’ll outsource to India. The client rarely (if ever) knows about this arrangement.

On the flip side, some companies that do keep their SEO copywriting in-house assign the content to low-level personnel with absolutely no direct response or copywriting experience. These folks are then promoted as “experienced writers” — when their main gig may actually be design, programming or answering the phones (true story — one company called their receptionist their “expert copywriter!”).

I think that transparency is exceptionally important. If a client is paying hard-earned money for expertly-written pages, they should know the copywriter’s background. They should know that the work is being outsourced to India, written by an in-house intern or (hopefully) penned by an experienced wordsmith.

So, what can clients do for SEO copywriting due-diligence?

  • Get to know the writer who will  write your copy. You may have a great relationship with the salesperson or the CEO. However, the person you need to “click” with is your writer — the person actually controlling your online brand. There’s no reason why the writer can’t spend 15 minutes during a sales call explaining what she’s done and her experience. If the agency won’t put the writer on the phone, find another agency.
  • Outsourcing is not always a bad thing. If you hear “we outsource our SEO copywriting to freelancers” – don’t panic. I would still insist on chatting with the freelancer before you sign on the dotted line.
  • Review clips written by your writer. If his writing doesn’t turn you on — whether it be too “mechanical,” somewhat unclear, benefit statement-free or not very good, don’t figure that your copy will be different. It won’t.
  • Ask about the writing process. Good writing shops will insist on a kickoff meeting before the first word is penned. This is so the writer can learn about your business, ask about your preferred tone and feel, find out more about your competition and brainstorm possible approaches. This foundational step is so crucial that I would distrust any firm that skipped it. Yes, it’s really that big of a deal.
  • Remember that you get what you pay for. I have no tolerance for companies that pay low-dollar for writing services and then whine that their copy “isn’t converting,” “horribly written” or “is keyphrase-stuffed.” Would you trust a discount attorney or doctor? No. So why would you expect that paying super-cheap writing fees would provide you a good return. Sure, $10 a page sounds good,” but I guarantee that the final result will look like, well, you spent $10 on a page. If this sounds like your company, reevaluate your budget and adjust your expectations. You’ll be much happier as a result (and see better returns from your SEO copywriting efforts.)

What do you think? Post your comment below!

4 replies
  1. Heather says:

    Dumb, yes. Sadly, people think that it’s cost effective to do so – and then they complain about their online conversion rates… :) It’s very true that you get what you pay for!

  2. Scott Salwolke says:

    Last week I received an email from someone offering his services as a writer for web sites. He boasted on his speed and his ability to write a lot of text on a subject. And he’d do it for 2 cents a word. To me this person looked on writing for web sites as an assembly line job. I’m sure, however, this person will get some business from companies who need writer and are only interested in word counts and low overhead. To me writing is the best part of the job. I like the research and I like to craft the text. I’m not simply looking for filler.

  3. Suzanne says:

    These Indian companies really give SEO services a bad name. Yes, it is really cheap. And you get exactly worth for your money; cheap crap. The quality of these services are really bad. Articles are written with tools as Article Writing Wizard. It just doesn’t make sense.
    And then they send out emails offering their services. The emails are even full with spelling mistakes, but we are supposed to believe that they are going to do this great job for just a few dollars.
    Thanks. But I’d rather do the writing jobs myself.
    Content is still the most important part of your website. If you choose to outsource it, you will have to find a really good company.


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