[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. :)


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!)

42 replies
  1. Jenny Simpson says:

    Hi Heather

    Thanks for writing this, I absolutely agree with your point “SEO content (how it’s supposed to be) is fantastic content”, that’s my attitude too and it’s what my clients (luckily) understand.

    Sadly there are far too many of these agent sites offering to pay (usually on a bidding system) even less than you quoted in your article, I see quite a lot “willing to pay £3 for 500 words” – and, even more insultingly, this will follow on from a headline plea for an “experienced, professional writer”.

    When I recently embarked on a freelance writing career, following a number of years managing content in search marketing agencies, I naively thought that we had turned a corner and there was an appreciation for the time (and skills) required to craft readable, searchable, shareable copy.

    I’ve been sadly disappointed and wish that the search community and the search engines themselves would do more to act against this demeaning attitude towards content producers and the prevalence of shoddy, ill-written copy, which is still doing enough to help people rank.

    Sorry, rant over!

    • Heather says:

      Jenny – LOL – I love your rant. :)

      I think that writing has always been one of those services that’s easy to low-ball. After all, everyone is a writer – right? ;) And it’s true that most folks can write a Web page. Now, whether they do it well…or have any idea what they’re doing…well, that’s a different story.

      Google is trying to push for content quality – it’s happening slowly, but it’s happening. As writers, it’s our job to help educate clients and the community about the value that great content brings to the table. No-one is going to “go to bat” for us, unfortunately. But the more we talk about what quality content does and looks like, the more that we can help “move the needle” on some of the misconceptions…

      (Thankfully, many clients DO understand that good content is crucial – and is willing to pay for it. The other folks, well, I hope that they come around soon…)


  2. craig wright says:

    I charge £50 a page for SEO content (about $90 dollars I think), so it isn’t all low paying work.

    I write for human readers first and foremost, and look at ways of injecting keywords after. The end result has to be something that is appealing to real readers, because at the end of the day, Google can’t buy anything.

    Why do freelance writers hate SEO? Hmm, maybe because it can be more difficult to write at times? There is no doubting that the SEO writing industry has been hijacked and tarnished by people who know SEO but don’t know communication theory. That’s not helped matters.

    But then the freelance writing industry has suffered similar things – it is easy to hire writers for next to nothing on bid sites, many of which are not professionals. I could hire an article writer in India for next to nothing, but as with anything in life, you get what you pay for.

  3. Heather says:

    Craig, I love this line:

    “There is no doubting that the SEO writing industry has been hijacked and tarnished by people who know SEO but don’t know communication theory. That’s not helped matters.”

    That’s true. I remember talking about content “back in the day,” and hearing, “Who cares about how the content reads? It’s just for ranking purposes, anyway.” Heck, I’ve been on stage with those folks – and the person saying it was considered an SEO expert. So, you’re right. That attitude really hasn’t helped matters….”


  4. Angie Nikoleychuk says:

    In my experience, marketers and site owners pay $10 or less for 500 words because they can. I’ve had several of them tell me flat out that they have no problem with it. They aren’t doing anything wrong. (And technically, they’re not.)

    Why should they spend more than they have to, if writers are willing to accept low rates to write crap content? Would I give a car dealer an extra $1,000 for an old Geo Metro because someone else says that’s what the car is worth? Not a chance. It’s opportunistic and sad, but as much as I hate to admit it, they’re right.

    On the other side of the fence, I’ve had site owners and marketers rip me a new one (very publicly in some instances) because I refuse to write crap content for peanuts. If you want me to write it, you pay my rates. Whether or not you want me to produce something of quality or not is up to you.

    I mean, why should I make peanuts and work my butt off so these guys can make a ton of cash? If that were the case, I’d build the site myself, do a proper job, AND take home 100% of the profits, while cutting out the frustrations of the middle man. “My momma didn’t raise no dummy!” ;)

    As far as I’m concerned, SEO copywriting isn’t synonymous with cheap, crap content. (I have all but stopped marketing myself as an SEO copywriter, but that’s another story, for another post.)

    It’s all in how you market yourself as an SEO copywriter — If you’re competing on price, you have more issues than just the quality of the content you create. Been there. Done that. Got the tshirt.

    SEO content is no different than cars, clothing, houses, or anything else you purchase. There are always going to be cheap, ugly, low-quality versions available, just like there are going to be luxury versions of the same products. You have to choose the quality level that suits your situation.

    That being said, recent changes have really shook things up. Recent algo updates should (hopefully) help reduce the amount of crap out there simply because site owners will learn the hard way that it doesn’t work.


    • Heather says:

      Angie – great post.

      You’re right – there will always be clients who want to pay lowball content rates. And as freelance writers, we have choices…

      1. We can try to educate the client, discuss why quality content is important, and try to help them see why paying more for quality is beneficial
      2. We can refuse to work with that type of client
      3. We can take the gig, figuring something is better than nothing

      Some copywriters market themselves on being the “cheap” alternative – and more power to them if that’s their approach. For me, I’d rather compete on value.

      What disturbed me was the amount of misconceptions this group had about SEO copywriting in general. In their heads, all SEO copywriting is bad. It’s all low paying. It’s all spammy. I think that’s sad. It’s sad for them. It’s sad for their clients.



  5. Nick Stamoulis says:

    This is a great point – “It’s good copy first – and good for Google second.” SEO content shouldn’t be viewed as “SEO content”, that’s where it gets the bad reputation. It should just be “content” that is optimized for the search engines after being written to benefit target audience members.

  6. Heather says:

    Nick – exactly! SEO content has never meant “written just for Google.” It’s write for users first…and THEN think about what Google needs to see.


  7. Scott Salwolke says:

    I do think many of the changes Google is implementing with their changes will eventually turn the perception around about SEO copywriting. And I do think with content the simple fact is that there is just so much of it out there on the web and it doesn’t cost much to put it up. With direct marketing campaigns you had the expense of designing and mailing the campaigns, so it was crucial that the copy was good. And there was the time involved in not just getting the campaigns out, but waiting to see the results. There were few campaigns so you had to make sure each campaign had the best chance of succeeding.

    Yet, with copy for the web many people think they can just throw it up and if it doesn’t work you’re not out that much. What they’re not realizing is that the good copy is actually generating business for companies. A lot of business. So paying 10 dollars for copy means less out of pocket expense, but they’re not creating a revenue stream. Once they realize the potential of good copywriting they’ll have more respect for it and be willing to pay more for it.

  8. Amy C. Teeple says:

    “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet.”

    Ah Shakespeare – he knew his stuff.

    It sounds to me as though people are getting caught up in the term. If they have, in fact, been looking on eLance, Odesk, or similar sites, then, yes – “SEO copywriting” probably sounds horrible.

    I once worked as an SEO copywriter (full time) at a company that would use eLance and similar sites to get cheap, crappy articles that they hide deep in websites – hoping Google liked them, but praying that real people never saw them. (Thankfully Google got wise to these types of tactics.) When it came to optimized marketing content for the main pages of the website, this company used its team on in-house writers who were trained in SEO copywriting. The MAIN requirement to get this job was you had to be able to write well.

    Yes, when I first started on my own, I checked these websites hoping to find decent jobs, but I soon stopped trying. I used my skills as a marketer (something any good online writer – whatever you call yourself – should have) to attract clients who understood the importance of people-friendly copy.

    Many people I knew from my old job used to charge $50/page for an optimized web page. I can now command four to five times that. Do some clients balk? Absolutely. Are some clients ready to pay even more had I asked them? Yup – those are the ones who understand the importance of good writing.

    Freelancers – “SEO copywriting” does not automatically equal cheap, bad copy. If it makes you feel better, call properly optimized content “web marketing.” Please, just don’t automatically attack anything that is labeled as SEO. Thanks.

  9. Angie Nikoleychuk says:

    hehe “educating the clients” — That’s a whole new beast, with its own set of nightmares. Short answer to that: Don’t do it. Or, at least, not without strict limits. (Remind me to write a rant on this topic… ;) )

    The misconceptions about SEO copywriting are no different than those surrounding SEOs, Internet Marketers, lawyers or dentists. And that’s to the early days of the Internet, there’s a basis for it…keyword stuffing used to work, and it worked well. Unfortunately, people think it still works.)

    Is keyword-stuffed content (or failing to use keywords) bad? Definitely. Do their clients suffer? Unfortunately, yes. But it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had an Internet marketing expert tell me not to use SEO. (Heck, I’ve had clients tell me they want me to write content “without any of that SEO stuff” and no keywords!)

    It’s another situation where clients need to educate themselves and choose their writers carefully.

    The days of choosing an SEO copywriter purely for his or her ability to put keywords in a chunk of content are long gone, as far as I’m concerned. Smart copywriters and site owners know that. Sadly, it will keep showing up. Link exchange anyone? :P


    P.S. I should comment here more often…that’s five post ideas I’ve come up with in the span of two comments lol

  10. Jane says:

    You’re right about spam farms. I wrote for Demand Media for a few years and hated SEO copywriting because of it. But if you’re writing for the web you need to use the right keywords so readers find you.

  11. Derek Cromwell says:


    This goes along the lines of people hating what they don’t understand. I’ve had heated debates with copywriters who are firm in their belief that “SEO copywriting” doesn’t exist – that you can only write for building conversions (Sales copy) or write for the search engine (SEO).

    From a freelancer perspective, it all comes down to education and understand what it is. If all they’ve ever seen are requests for force-optimized content(not the Jedi kind, the spammy kind)but they’ve never really researched what SEO copywriting is, then they’re naturally going to hate it.

    This is a good thing and a bad thing. The good side of it is that you have a community of freelancers that actually recognizes how bad spammy, over-optimized and keyword stuffed content is. It was actually refreshing to hear that writers are rallying against it rather than simply taking the pitiful compensation to churn out more drivel.

    The bad side is that it’s clear we have more work to do to help educate our industry. They definitely need to see that when you produce really good, value-oriented content that is naturally themed and optimized you can get great conversions -and- get higher visibility in search.

    Case(s) in point:

    I spent the better part of 8+ months focusing on carefully producing content for my copywriting biz. With constant tweaking of onsite content and offsite stuff I was able to move my own site to the top of the SERPs for several keywords. As a result I haven’t touched a freelance site in a -long- time because all of my business comes to me via organic search. No other marketing, no cold calls, no direct mail. All organic.

    Another client from Norway had been in business for over 40 years, directly competing with 3M. In the 15+ years they had a website they had 1(One!) business order come through their site. After revamping their content to provide more value, product info and a lean toward optimization for a half dozen keywords they were on page 1 within 30 days for competitive terms, brought in more than $175k in business in the first 60 days and landed a contract with the U.S. military based on contacts that game through the new website.

    SEO copywriting is cheap and spammy and underpaid? NEIN! Costs can vary but depending on the industry and how technical the research/content is I see between $150 – $250 per page of content. There’s money to be made when you can help clients see the value then deliver on that value and earn them money.

    SEO copywriting is fun, it helps clients grow their businesses and when they profit they help me sustain my expensive video game and paintball habits.

  12. Stephen Monday says:

    Hello Heather,

    You have a great thread going here! I am proud to say that I STILL market my Copywriting services as (SEO Enhanced)

    The big difference is; EVERY Web site I write Sales copy for, or craft Web content to are automatically(SEO enhanced.)

    All of the content I write – is strictly grade “A,” premium-quality content that will stand up to the highest standards of writing.

    To “enhance” a page to start with; relevance is first and foremost towards optimizing a page for SEO.

    The title, as well as the content “body” should have at least 2-3% of researched, most relevant keywords to what the page is about – if it is to rank well in the SERP’s.

    It is simple as that. Every site wants to rank well in the free, organic search because a business needs to be found to get traffic.

    The higher a site ranks, the more traffic it receives, so for an online business to “throw out” SEO efforts is akin to shooting themselves in the foot!

    Every page should be optimized for search, but at the same time be written for the help and benefit of human visitors.

    So in my view – the only people who “hate” SEO copy – are those who do not know how to produce it.

    My clients do not blink at paying $200 to $300 for a great SEO optimized Sales Page, because they already understand that it will make them money.

    They expect (and get) content that is above and beyond just “good.” It is writing which will automatically get high rankings, as well as be content that their visitors will love to read.

    So lets give properly-done SEO the praise it deserves. Without it – your Website would be “lost” in cyberspace where it could not be found.

    For the ($10 a page) buyers out there – you “get” exactly what you pay for…cheap worthless drivel – that is not worthy of a decent read.

    SEO is not dead.

    It is just now truly coming to life – I thank Google for weeding out the mindless junk – because this kind of “trash” copy,
    (showing up on the first page results) has made Google look bad for WAY too long.

    This rant is complete. Thank you for hearing me out.

    Sincerely, Very Best Regards

    Stephen Monday

  13. Heather says:

    Amy, Stephen, Derek, Scott, Angie and Jane – your comments are fantastic! A few choice quotes:

    “So paying 10 dollars for copy means less out of pocket expense, but they’re not creating a revenue stream” – right on, Scott. Good copy *makes” you money. Bad copy only costs you money.

    “Freelancers – “SEO copywriting” does not automatically equal cheap, bad copy. If it makes you feel better, call properly optimized content “web marketing.” I totally agree, Amy. Call it whatever you like – just don’t hate it because it’s “SEO” copywriting.

    “P.S. I should comment here more often…that’s five post ideas I’ve come up with in the span of two comments lol” – Ha! That’s great, Angie! ;)

    “But if you’re writing for the web you need to use the right keywords so readers find you.” Jane, you’re right. Whether folks like SEO copywriting is irrelevant. What is relevant is it works (when it’s done well!).

    “SEO copywriting is cheap and spammy and underpaid? NEIN!” So true, Derek! If folks feeling underpaid, it’s because they aren’t selling the value to a higher end clients. Good clients will pay for SEO copywriting – and see great results (as you pointed out!)

    “So lets give properly-done SEO the praise it deserves. Without it – your Website would be “lost” in cyberspace where it could not be found.” – Yes, yes, yes Stephen. Thank you!

    What FANTASTIC comments! Please keep ’em coming! ;)

  14. Kriszia Jenks says:

    This hits such a nerve, because I’m a bilingual writer who lives in Asia.

    I get emails from clients asking me for my rates. When I tell them it’s $60/page they balk and tell me that people from my side of the world get paid $10/page.

    I tell them that it’s $60/page for local clients, and a bit more for overseas clients due to the transfer fees, and the unpredictable exchange rates.

    The funny thing is, I get emails because I have agency experience. I’ve written for some big, local and international companies, so they think “Great! An offshore writer, with native level English, and a nice portfolio!”

    But when we start to discuss compensation, they immediately bring up the “$10-15/page pay scale.”

    What’s worse is that when I tell them that it’s way too low for me, they’ll try to rationalize it by saying “But we don’t need you to write anything deep like you did for Big Company A. We’re just a small business. And no one gets paid that much for SEO writing, even US writers.” (The last part is obviously a lie.)

    It got to a point where I was spending so much time educating foreign leads, that I decided to stick to local clients while I re-assessed my marketing strategy.

    It’s also a bit insulting for me as a writer, who spends time and money working on her craft, to be asked to “dumb down” her writing so clients can pay less.

    Or to be told that I wasn’t worth more because I lived offshore. Seriously? I’ve seen local writers with more experience get paid $100-200/page.

    Great copy knows no borders. You can be a big company in Asia, or a small business in Texas, people will still gravitate towards a company that has better copy.

  15. Jenny Simpson says:

    I would like to add “thank God I’m not alone”, it’s so good to see a comments thread populated by like-minded people and it makes me feel more hopeful about my newly minted freelance career.

    @Stephen – I like the way you market your copy as SEO Enhanced, that makes sense to me. Because I’ve worked in SEO so long, it’s such a natural part of my writing that find I never have to force it – make the stuff interesting first, go check the keywords after – I find I’m often covering them off without thinking about it!

    Well it’s old problem that SEO has always had, that there are few black sheep out there (wearing their black hats) ruining the reputation of the industry for everyone.

    From my recent agency experience, I know that good SEOs (even those with the most entrenched, old-fashioned views) have come round to seeing that content doesn’t just have to be there, or just meet keyword requirements.

    The best content (even when the brief is strictly for SEO) should be engaging and interesting. Social signals are playing their part in the algorithms now and content (I’ve seen the results) can drive traffic as well as rankings.

    Here’s to us writers :)

  16. Irishmaninusa says:

    Reading down through the article and the comments, and I think people have hit on the head.

    What SEO people tend to forget is that content is not just for the spiders, it is for the users as well. And it is all about finding the balance between spiders and users.

    And when you are writing SEO content, it kind of takes away that creativity part that writers like to use in their content.

    So the balance has to go both ways, between those who SEO and what spiders like, and the writers that want their creativity to show through the content but keeping in mind that you need to give spiders the information they need to bring people to the content.

    At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how creative your writing is, if it is not something spiders will rank on and therefore no one will see it.

    Remember, find the balance and then move forward. :)

  17. Stephen Monday says:

    Hi Jenny,

    First I would like to thank all commentators, for their great, insightful posts.

    Jenny, I find myself doing the same thing (when it comes to optimizing my pages.) With relevance to the page title (being first and foremost in mind,) I craft fantastic copy which concerns the topic first.

    Then I research the keywords that came natural (to see how much competition they have, how often they are searched, and so on.)

    I am glad to hear so many other writers lifting up the true value that proper SEO brings to Web content.

    After all, (no matter how good the content) if it cannot be found – what good is it?

  18. Tim says:

    I have recently fallen in to the freelance writing world. I didn’t really know what to expect, but so far I am making good money doing it. Unfortunately, the articles I am writing are ‘expected’ to be crap, and I deliver what they want.

    I struggled against creating ‘crap’ because I don’t like putting my name on anything crappy, but I have been unable to find any clients willing to pay for what my abilities are worth.

    For that reason, I gave in to the ‘crap’ request and started pumping out articles left and right. So far I’ve written over 200 articles over the same topic – SEO.

    I like being able to work from home, but I really do despise the articles that I write. I would run away from these articles as quickly as possible if I had a client willing to pay a decent wage for excellent content.

    Unfortunately, I cannot find these clients. To be honest, I don’t really know where to look because the only thing I find are the companies wanting quantity and care very little about quality.

    I’m kind of stuck because I have to make money, yet all I find is the SEO crap jobs that pay low rates. Heck, I would even be happy with $10/500 words.

    As stated previously, I’m new to the freelance writing world and I’ve only dipped my toes in to the water. I want to branch out and let the content I produce speak for itself, but I can’t seem to find that opportunity.

    If any of you have any suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it. I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ that is furthering the supply of crappy SEO word vomit.

    • Heather says:

      Tim, you’re not alone. Many freelancers start out by taking anything that they can get – if it brings money in the door, they’re happy. Then, when you find yourself working 10 hours a day for $50, you realize you could make more money working at Starbucks (and get benefits, too!)

      You may want to think about niching your business and determining what type of clients you want to target. There will always be the bottom-feeders. What kind of client would make you happy? What industry? What kind of writing do you love to do?

      The key is not selling yourself short. Which means telling clients that you charge X per article – and sticking with that price. A good client will see the value.

      (As an aside, you may want to check out my Business Bootcamp classes for copywriters. The class offerings are 100% focused in building a fun, sustainable and profitable business.)


  19. cyndeed says:

    Just to make the comment that I learned about SEO from you before I was a copywriter, so learning to research key phrases and weave them strategically and conservatively into well-researched quality content was my understanding from the start. And it is lucrative. As a web writer, I don’t write anything that isn’t optimized in this way. I now have writers working for me, and they operate the same way. I’ve contributed to discussions on LinkedIn where writers talked about charging extra for SEO in their writing…and my comment was just that: ALL writing for the web should be optimized so just quote your price including that service. I’m grateful to say that SEO copywriting is making a nice living for me, and it’s not at all difficult to be well paid. While I paid my dues on a low paying site like many others, I didn’t stay long. Clients get what they pay for. They don’t get the same service for 10./pg off elance that they get from me for 20 or 30 times that. A website is not a memo. it’s a valuable asset to a business, and one of the most important investments. It’s a waste of money if it hasn’t been properly optimized for search engines.

  20. Walt Goshert says:

    When clients are looking at the rate, or the cost of the copy, it’s easy for them to make a bad business decision.

    The smart clients are going to look at the value the copy provides.Those clients who think value vs. rate are the kind of long-term clients I want in my business.

    Also, clients who have multiple low dollar sales- under $100 per transaction are a tougher sale than clients who sell high ticket products and services.

    Clients have this perception about the value of writing. They believe anyone can do it.

    Hey lots of people know how to drive a car, but only a highly skilled driver knows how to win the Indy 500.

    • Heather says:

      “Clients have this perception about the value of writing. They believe anyone can do it.

      Hey lots of people know how to drive a car, but only a highly skilled driver knows how to win the Indy 500.”

      GREAT comment, Walt – and you’re certainly right! I may use that someday… :)

  21. Amandah says:

    This is useful information for freelance writers, especially those contemplating starting a freelance writing business.

    One of my first writing opportunities was to write search engine optimized blog posts for a travel company. The keywords/phrases were important, but the emphasis was on providing quality and useful content for readers. Spammy writing wasn’t acceptable. Well researched and thoughtful writing was expected.

    In general, I don’t think you can get away from SEO, but you can write quality content that hooks readers and keeps them coming back for more.

  22. Heather says:

    Wow – I love this! Thank you so much for your fantastic comments. It’s so gratifying to see writers really “get” that SEO copywriting is more than just shoving words into the copy. It’s writing quality content first – and then worrying about the search engines.

    Thanks so much! Keep those awesome comments coming! Let’s show the world that SEO copy is more than making $10 for a poorly-written 500 word article. It’s a valuable skill set that helps our clients make more money!

  23. Tim says:

    @Heather – I couldn’t figure out how to reply directly to you, so I’ve put it down here.

    What I know is that I breezed through my Comp I and II classes but I was going to Nursing School so I wasn’t as concerned with my writing skills.

    Although, even in high school, I’ve always had a knack for grammar, spelling, etc. I never really enjoyed it until my college courses. After that, I realize how awesome it was to communicate with people. I also realized how powerful communication is in the real world, so I fell in love with it.

    To be honest, my passion lies in argumentative/persuasive essays over a topic that requires several hours of research. I love proving my own assumptions wrong while researching material for an essay. After proving myself wrong, I will adjust the thesis of my essay to reflect the newly discovered information. To me, that is the only way to write.

    Regardless, I don’t mind writing for SEO content. I like it, but I don’t love it. I might love it if it paid more.

    For example, I’ve researched SEO Companies and I have a client that asks for 20 articles per week over this topic. I know enough about SEO that I can write without researching the topic anymore, which is a plus because I only get paid $5 for each article. But, it only takes me 15 minutes or less to write an article, so I’m averaging about $20/hr. which I’m happy with.

    What I’m not happy with is the quality of those articles. I understand how important the editing process is with any article, essay, blog post, etc., so it’s hard for me to omit these things in order to make my hourly rate worth working for.

    I’ve explained these things to my clients and they don’t care, which I suppose is fine, because I’m actually making a decent wage, but at the same time I get irritated by their lack of ‘give’a’shit’ when it comes to their content.

    I would much rather spend hours researching a topic, learning all that I can on the topic, and then writing an article. Then I’d appreciate having the option of coming back to it the next day and editing it. Then I’d wait a few more hours and edit some more. I’d edit until there wasn’t one misplaced comma, nor would there be a ‘jink’ in the flow of the article. That’s what I want to do.

    But, what I need is a place that will hire talented writers, such as myself, in order to provide extremely well-written content that will provide information that someone will find important.

    Do any of you know any companies that hire writers for excellent content?

  24. Heather says:

    @Tim – one challenge that you may be facing is your business model. For instance, Pam Foster has a great niche – the pet industry. Because she’s the industry expert, she can charge more for her services.

    There is a lot of higher paying work out there – work that you’d be proud to write. It’s just finding the right market.

    Many SEO companies, unfortunately, don’t pay well. At the same time, other verticals (such as B2B companies) DO pay well. Plus, they really need the help and would love to work with a talented copywriter.

    The key is to work on your value proposition and your rates. How much do you want to start charging? How can you justify that rate? Who is your perfect market?

    (You may want to check out my Business Bootcamp for information about how to make more money as a freelance writer. Or, chat with a mentor. It sounds like all you need is a paradigm shift around your rates/target market – and you’ll be off to the races!) :)

    Good luck!

  25. Peter Wise says:

    I became an SEO copywriter (or at least a copywriter who also does SEO writing some of the time) by default. I had created my own website and I wanted to get it near the top of the search engines for popular, relevant search terms. And eventually I got there.

    Now, I do other types of copywriting, but optimised copy is what I do most. And you know what? I enjoy it.

    I like doing the research, picking those keyword terms I think will work best for my clients, thinking laterally to unearth the less obvious ones.

    I like including them in such a way that the copy appeals first and foremost to people, not spiders. (Although I also like the fact that nowadays it’s about keyword use, not density.)

    I like writing the tags properly – again, to appeal to both people and search engines. At 66 characters or less or whatever, it’s a mini challenge in itself.

    I like the fact that I can convince enough people that it’s worth paying me a decent amount to write their site. It helps that much of the time they have found me via an online search. If I can do it for my own site, I can do it for theirs.

    I also like the fact that I’m well-known enough among other copywriting friends in the agency world where I started out that I get work passed on to me because I have a recognisable skill in an area that they don’t.

    And above all, I like, or rather love, seeing a site I’ve written progress up the rankings for keywords I’ve chosen and used, and to hear of how this has made a difference in traffic, response and profits, knowing that much of it is down to me.

    Hate SEO copywriting? Not me!

  26. Kate says:

    Heather, thanks so much for writing this. As a new freelance writer with 12 years of senior corporate communications experience, my enthusiasm about building my business by writing good, clean content has been dampened by what seemed to be a desire for poor writing that simply generates hits – something I can’t find it in myself to do. You’ve convinced me that I need to become an SEO expert (@PeterWise, your comment inspires that goal as well) – and one who still writes high-quality content grounded in good communications principles.

    I would be so appreciate of your suggestions as well as others on effective ways to learn the ropes.

    Again, so glad I found your site!

    • Heather says:

      Hi, Kate!

      Thanks so much for your comment! :)

      You’re right. SEO copywriting is more than “getting hits.” It’s connecting with the reader, giving them great information and helping them make informed choices. The GOOD news is – there are many clients who value good, clean content. Granted, there are folks who want you to stuff the keyphrase in the content 500 times (or more!). But, you don’t have to work with those folks. And chances are, they wouldn’t value your skills anyway… :)

      If you read through the SEO Copywriting Blog archives, you will find a lot of information on smart (and ethical) SEO content strategies. You may also want to consider the SEO Copywriting Certification Training (please contact me if you’d like additional details.)

      You may also want to check out this post:

      I list 27+ resources every Web Writer should read.

      Good luck – and please let me know how I can help. Thanks!

  27. Herman says:

    Hello, everyone. I’m a novice at the whole free lance, SEO writing game and would love to know the best way to get started. I found this site and comment thread while entertaining the idea of getting started on E-Lance. I’ve always had a flair for creative writing but never actually tried to monetize my gift. Most of the things that I’ve ever written have been immediately recognized by my teachers, professors, supervisors and others as material that could and should be published. Any suggestions?

  28. pawas says:

    A human first approach works well for us. Keyword stuffed content looks lame. SEO copywriting is more about telling a story, convincing a website visitor to take an action and giving value to the reader.

  29. Greg says:

    I understand the need for SEO…but at the same time, I don’t respect it at all. And this is coming from a writer who writes SEO copy about six hours a day. I absolutely can’t stand it. You may me asking why I still do it. The answer is: I won’t be soon.

    Sadly, I have become engrossed in an area of writing that is just as superficial as most major marketing agencies. I’m just trying to earn corporations more dollars. And all for what? That’s an empty question that has an empty answer. I write for BIG corporations, and it leaves me with a gut-level feeling of sadness knowing that I contribute to the mundane and aloof culture of consumerism that plagues our country.

    SEO copywriting is the death of writing.

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:


      I’m sorry that your job is so soul-sucking. It sounds like you have something new lined up? Or you’re working on it?

      SEO writing isn’t all about soul-sucking clients (or big corporations.) You can use its power for good, too. For instance, writing for not for profit sites. Or developing a great blog that helps you meet like-minded people.

      I hope things get better for your work life soon. :)

  30. Scott A. Dennison says:

    This article is a good read, never thought I could incorporate this strategy to my own SEO

    learnings. Hope to read more of your SEO tips in the future.
    Thanks a lot

  31. Laura Crest says:

    Wow. Within minutes of sharing this article on Twitter, I was challenged by a freelancer to defend the very phrase “SEO Copywriting” as if it were a dirty expression.

    There seems to be a strong resistance to identifying oneself as an SEO Copywriter, given the widespread misconception that we’re either underhanded in achieving search rankings for our clients or miracle workers who will magically catapult them to “#1 on Google” overnight.

    Or unskilled keyword stuffers who work for $5 an article.

    I replied to this person that sometimes client education is part of our services — hence why I refer to myself as an SEO Copywriter & Consultant — so they understand that it is a long-term content strategy. If you’re not inclined to work with clients to educate them and manage their expectations, then perhaps it is not the right career for you. But trash-talking the profession only serves to show that you know nothing of it.

  32. James Mawson says:

    I’ve had the opposite experience to these people. My SEO background has been my ticket to better paid and more interesting writing work. For genuinely linkable blog posts, think more $500 than $5.

    There is definitely still a spammy side to SEO. Black hat guys love their Fiverr gigs and putting ten dollar articles on web 2.0 sites. Even reputable agencies are still building their links by PBN, and their idea of SEO copywriting for the money site is still just about putting the right phrases in the right tags. But if you don’t want to do that kind of work, it’s easy enough just to say no to it.

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Hi, James!

      I. Love. Your. Answer!

      You’re exactly right. Writers can mess about with Fiverr and ODesk and beg for $5/post jobs. Or, they can realize that good clients are out there. Sure, being able to work with those clients may mean upgrading your skills, or hustling more, or tightening up the business side of your business…

      …But making a (great) living as an SEO copywriter is very possible!

      Thanks for your comment!


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  1. […] Why do freelance writers hate SEO copywriting? The SEO copywriting industry has its haters. Learn why and what the misconceptions are (there are a lot of them!). […]

  2. […] talked with many writers who say, “SEO writing is so unnatural. I don’t want to worry about keyphrases, meta descriptions and search engine stuff.” I […]

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