By Heather Lloyd-Martin published August 20, 2010

10 Ways to Find Your Perfect SEO Copywriter

So, you’ve decided that an SEO content overhaul is in order – and you need to find a copywriting expert who is half technical geek, half persuasive genius. The person you outsource your SEO copywriting services to represents your brand – so you deserve (and need) to be highly picky.

If you’ve been searching for that “perfect person,” here’s how to find him or her.

1. Understand what SEO copywriting is…and isn’t.

Many people believe that “SEO copywriting” is another term for “shove as many key phrases you can into the text.” Although it’s true that SEO copywriting is focused around well-researched key phrases, they shouldn’t stand out like a sore thumb. Good SEO copywriting is targeted, informative, enticing – and highly readable.

2. Review your SEO company’s capabilities…and look around, too.

Some SEO companies are “one stop shops,” employing both technologists and writers. However, just because an SEO company offers SEO copywriting services doesn’t mean that you should jump on the opportunity. You’ll want to ask your SEO company hard questions about their copywriters (e.g. are they employed in-house or is the work outsourced), plus, you’ll want copy samples. Although it may seem easier to keep all the work in one place, you may find better SEO copywriting services from another vendor. It’s not uncommon, unfortunately, for a SEO firm to pay a copywriter $20/page for “quality” writing – and mark up the rate hundreds of dollars. You’ve been warned.

3. Know what you want – and prepare to want even more.

You may want to “test” your writer with creating just one page – and that’s fine. However (and this is especially true for small to medium-sized businesses,) a good SEO copywriter can also create newsletters, white papers, video scripts, emails, PPC landing pages – even ebooks. The right writing partner can help you build your business (plus build additional revenue streams) in some pretty powerful ways.

4. Get familiar with different SEO copywriting skill sets.

Some SEO copywriters are newbies, and – although they may be good writers – may require quite a bit of hand-holding or rewrites. Other SEO copywriters are SEO experts in their own right, and can skillfully choose key phrases, develop an ongoing strategy and write your pages. Depending on your needs, you may be able to get by with a SEO copywriting newbie – or you may need an advanced practitioner. You can get a feel for your options if you…

5. Chat with prospective copywriters on the phone.

Yes, it’s tempting to send out a bunch of “How much do you charge for SEO copywriting services” emails and hope for in-depth, informative responses. At the same time, you won’t get a real feel for the person until you chat with her on the phone. Within five minutes, you’ll be able to determine if you would want to work with that copywriter – or if you’d be better served by a better firm. Taking time for a conference call also allows you to…

6. Ask hard questions about experience levels and ongoing education.

Like “social media experts,” there are a host of SEO copywriters who hung up their virtual shingle just a short time ago. Although being new to the scene isn’t a bad thing, it should raise some red flags and spur you into question-asking mode. Ask every copywriter how long she’s been in business, the verticals she mostly works with, and what types of education she’s received. The more complex your campaign, the more you need a highly experienced writer helping you.

7. Make sure you know who is writing your copy.

You may have fallen in instant “like” with the skilled copywriter who answered the phone and talked you through your SEO copywriting options. Just know that the person handling the sales may not be the same person doing the writing. That’s OK. What’s not OK is receiving sub-par copy because the agency outsourced it to India (yes, it happens). Make sure you ask who will handle your account (and get writing samples). If you don’t like her work, request another writer.

8. Ask about success stories.

It’s tempting to ask a writer, “What other clients have you worked with?” Depending on the types of clients your writer works with, they may not be able to tell you about the “best” clients. SEO copywriters frequently sign NDAs that preclude them from providing client details – or even client names. However, a savvy SEO copywriter always has success stories she can share. Ask her questions about campaign successes and hear what she has to say. Remember, it’s more than just getting good search engine rankings – a smart SEO copywriter will be able to share how she boosted conversion rates as well.

9. Clearly understand what’s included in the fee.

I’ve said before that pricing SEO copywriters is a lot like purchasing an airline ticket. That $500 a page may not include key phrase research or a competitive analysis. And titles and meta descriptions may drive the price up an additional $400. Although it’s not unreasonable for the writer to charge additional fees for additional work, it’s best to ask what’s included up front – and have those specific deliverables outlined in your agreement. That way, you eliminate any issues such as, “What do you mean it’s going to cost me more money for key phrase research” before the writing begins.

10. Know that the per-page price is important – but remember the value of SEO copywriting.

Of course, price is an important consideration. However, you can’t expect to pay $50 per sales page and receive seamlessly-optimized copy with a killer sales bite. Remember – once the writer creates your copy, it will show up in the search engines for a variety of key phrases – plus encourage the prospect to convert. Compare this to PPC advertising where you could blow through $1,000 a day, every day easily – and that’s not including landing page optimization. Or another way to look at it – would you rather spend a flat $1,000 per page, or continue paying for PPC traffic day after day?

Summary: Questions to ask your SEO copywriter

Here is a list of questions to keep handy when looking for an SEO copywriter:

  • Are your writers employed in-house, or is the work outsourced?
  • Can you provide samples? (Make sure these are from the writer who will be doing your work, not just the firm.)
  • Do you also create other content such as newsletters, white papers, etc?
  • How many years of experience do you have with SEO copywriting?
  • What type of education have you received?
  • How do you educate yourself on the ever-changing trends in SEO?
  • What verticals do you work with?
  • Do you provide ongoing strategy?
  • Can you share some of your success stories with me?  (Note: A good SEO copywriter should talk about more than search engine rankings; listen for stories about conversion.)
  • What does your fee include?
    • Keyword research
    • Competitive keyword analysis
    • Titles
    • Meta descriptions

Finding your perfect SEO copywriter takes time and due diligence. But once you’ve found that “perfect person,” hold on tight and don’t let her go. She’ll be able to enhance your site copy (and your brand) in ways you never thought possible – and you’ll benefit from top-quality writing that converts like crazy.

What other tips can you share about how to find a good SEO copywriter?

Author: Heather Lloyd-Martin

Heather Lloyd-Martin is CEO of the SEO copywriting agency SuccessWorks. A first-generation search marketer, she is considered the pioneer of SEO copywriting and speaks frequently at worldwide events. Lloyd-Martin developed the SEO Copywriting Certification Program, and offers customized, in-person training seminars for businesses. Her next hands-on group training, SEO Copywriting for Businesses: Tips, Techniques and Real-World Strategies, will be held September 15th, 2010 in Bellevue, WA. You can follow her on Twitter at @heatherlloyd.

Other posts by Heather Lloyd-Martin

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Awesome post, Heather. You've performed a great service for the buying public. It should be required reading for anyone looking to have a website developed or enlist the services of an SEO specialist.

  • http://twitter.com/KatieMcCaskey Katie McCaskey

    Excellent! Thank you for articulating the value of quality, seo-driven copywriting. This phrase jumped out: “[W]ould you rather spend a flat $1,000 per page, or continue paying for PPC traffic day after day?”

  • Heather

    @Katie and @globalcopywrite – thanks so much for your comments! :)

    Yup, I'm pretty passionate about SEO copywriting. :) I've seen it work REALLY well, resulting in life-changing results for business owners. And I've also seen how bad SEO copywriting (and untrained SEO copywriters) can hurt a campaign more than help. The more that we can educate clients about what *good* SEO copywriting is – and how to find skilled copywriters – the better things are for everyone.

    Thanks guys! LOVE the comments – keep 'em coming! 😉

  • http://www.webdevelopmentcompany.com/ Web Development Company

    This is a great checklist!

  • Alan Graner

    Although I'm a PR copywriter, my background is in advertising where the keyword is “sell.” I understand the importance of keyword copy. My question is, who's real the target audience: Google? Or buyers?And please don't say “both,” because my experience is it's one or the other.

  • http://www.thewritinglab.in thewritinglab

    Well written. We are experienced content providers as well and know the effort and time that goes into writing a saleable SEO copy. Our content writing services and copywriting services are meant to sell to the audience as well as to Google. So for the question whether we are selling to the audience or to Google, how does it matter when you are getting both.

  • http://twitter.com/heatherlloyd Heather Lloyd-Martin

    @Alan, thanks for your comment. To answer your question – my answer is “both” (but let me explain before you start cringing….) :)

    I've always said that good SEO copywriting satisfies two masters: The search engines, and your prospects. Writers should do what they can do for SEO in order to help the page position – after all you want as many (qualified) eyeballs as possible reading the content. However…

    At the end of the day, it's your customers who pay your bills – not the search engines. Although, yes, good keyphrase-rich content is important, the *quality* is even more important. Is the writing laser-targeted for the audience? Is it written in an engaging tone and feel? Does it have a conversion focus? Keyphrase-stuffed, nonsensical content doesn't do anything for the company's brand, nor does it help their conversions. It's just wasted content space.

    That's why I have a problem with “content mill” companies. Yes, the articles may be “keyphrase rich.” But the writing (and conversion power) of the content is probably not the best…

    Thanks for your comment! :)

  • Marie

    Might want to include asking for writing samples…
    ReputationManagementConsultants.com

  • http://twitter.com/heatherlloyd Heather Lloyd-Martin

    @Marie – yes, you're exactly right. Writing samples are very crucial – and I cover what to ask for in #7.

  • http://www.searchengineoptimization.co.uk Bronte

    Thats nice post, seo content writer can make or break your business. Your web content with well-researched key phrases can persuade or dissuade search engines as well as users on your website. They play the role of a silent salesman in search engines eye and can get you more conversions, more business. Aesthetics and good design will generate the initial user interest, but the actual task of winning the user via search engines and directly rests only and only with good seo website copywriting.

  • http://www.directorysubmissionservices.net Nick

    I think Each SEO Copywriter that you encounter will have their own individual strengths and weakness. Your job will be to find the SEO Copywriter that fits best with your company’s needs.

  • Copywriters

    Hi Heather,
    A little off-topic but interested to get your perspective:

    I am often asked by clients to create content with a high ‘keyword density’, which I personally feel is a bit old hat.

    What is your take on this? What level of KD would you recommend?

    • Anonymous

      Hello!

      Thanks for your comment!

      Actually, I don’t measure keyword density and I never ever have. It’s an old holdover from the Alta Vista days when we knew a 5.5% keyword density would gain a top ranking. There is so much more that goes into the algorithmic secret sauce now – so it’s not relevant anymore.

      Of course, clients don’t know that – they read a few blog posts and think that all articles need to be 1,000 words and have an X% keyword density. That’s where client education and managing expectations comes into play… :) Fortunately, they relax once they realize what good SEO copy reads like (and how it converts, too!)

      :)

  • http://www.giftsspace.com/blog Online Strategies

    SEO copywriters with some kind of domain expertise can write well on the subject because they understand what they write.

  • http://lexorsoft.net/ link building services

    You really have to have a very good copywriter. You don’t want to have somebody who don’t know they in and out of his/her articles.

  • http://seooutsourcingshop.com/ SEO Outsourcing Services

    hey excellent post.thanx for sharing this article with us.  preforming excellent service for the selling people

  • http://www.buzzoutsource.com/outsource-seo-service seo outsourcing

    Once you start getting traffic, you really need to take a look at your website’s copy.  Most people think that the solution to everything is working for traffic, but it’s wonderful what a minor tweak in copy can do for your conversion.