SEO Copywriter? 5 Things SEO Copywriters Need To Know
Have you considered making money by writing SEO copy?
Maybe you’ve read glitzy, glamorous accounts of sitting on a beach and making lots of “freelance income” from SEO copywriting on Upwork for a couple of hours a week.
Or just maybe you’re an SEO copywriter who is grinding along trying to make money and you’re wondering how the above gurus got it all so wrong.
This article is for you in any of those cases. I’ll give you the good, bad and ugly about being an SEO copywriter as well as advice for SEO copywriters in terms of a wider career.
I’ve moved away from copywriting for SEO, but it’s basically where I got my start. More on that soon, but let’s define the SEO Copywriter so we’re all on the same page.
What Is An SEO Copywriter?
An SEO copywriter is a person who writes content for websites. This is mostly blog posts, but can also be posts for social media or article directories.
The important thing to note is that SEO copywriting is different from direct response copy – where you write sales letters in order to generate a direct sale or action – and agency copywriting, where you write stupid adverts and then convince someone it’ll sell something somewhere down the line.
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SEO Copywriters need to balance writing a good piece with creating good SEO copy. Good SEO copy includes writing clearly, with several headlines and a certain keyword density.
It’s a skill you can pick up quickly and easily, and that means one thing…
SEO Copywriter Tip #1: Your Value Is Sadly Under-Recognised
Many, many people think “copywriting” is an easy industry to break into because there are no barriers to entry.
For anything remotely technical, they are completely wrong. If you think an average joe can sit down, having no experience whatsoever, and pump out a 10,000 word video sales letter, then you’re an idiot.
Even for basic SEO copywriting there are barriers to entry: an SEO copywriter must be able to write quickly, write to spec and write SEO copy that’s readable. That cancels out most of the people who try.
Unfortunately, SEO copy is where people try their hand and find the barriers to entry. Third world freelancers with scarily bad English language skills are your competition. On the one hand, this is bad. On the other, it’s good; you can rise to the top pretty quickly.
The problem with valuing SEO copywriting is that it’s far away from the goal of marketing funnels: It’s nowhere near the sale.
If I write a sales letter, then I can tell how much value I add to a company based on how well stuff sells versus a control sales letter. SEO copywriters can’t do the same.
This means there’s a cap on earnings for SEO copywriters, and they normally have to charge by word.
Of course, this wouldn’t be so bad if you had clients who respected that SEO copy still provides a ton of value… most of the time, your clients will understand this. Sometimes, they won’t.
SEO Copywriter Tip #2: There Are Good SEO Copywriting Clients… And Bad
I promised you my reason for moving away from writing SEO copy. Here it is.
I had a guy sometime last year who took exception to my terms for working. He wanted:
- Me to write a whole website for him (a basic niche site, but still)
- It to be ghost-written so he could syndicate the content elsewhere under his own name
- All the copyright of all the work to revert to him forever
- Me to sign a complete non-disclosure and a non-compete before he told me what I would be writing about (outside of the fact it was a basic everyday item)
The above was pretty absurd. What was more absurd was, like the section above states, he didn’t value the work I’d be doing. In fact, he didn’t want to pay more for any of that; not for the rights reversion (which people happily paid extra for) or the non-compete.
At this point, I was very good at writing content for websites. More on this in Tip #4.
The point I’m making here is that many, many of your SEO copywriting clients will treat you well. They’ll understand that SEO copy is valuable. They’ll pay you. Some of them will even give you bonuses and referrals.
Some SEO copywriting clients are Grade-A morons who will try and screw you. While you’ll learn how to avoid these for the most part, it’s a part of the job and even if less than 1% of your clients ever give you a problem, it’s that >1% which will make you want to quit and hate your work.
SEO Copywriter Tip #3: If You’re Paid For SEO Copy By The Word, Better Work Quick
If you’re writing anything, be it blog posts or SEO copy or an article for your local parish magazine, if you’re getting paid by the word, then you need to work quickly.
When it comes to SEO copywriting, you’ll start off earning $0.01 a word. Once you’ve gotten a few testimonials and a handful of regular clients, you’ll be earning many times that, but even when you earn $0.1 a word, you’re still stuck with a basic issue:
Writing is hard on your brain, and the more you want to earn, the harder it is.
If you have ten articles to write in a day, then you can’t afford to write multiple drafts. If you earn five pence per word, you’d better only write that word once because if you keep correcting yourself you’ll earn next to nothing.
SEO copywriting is all about pumping out professional quality material at an inhuman pace. Some will argue with me on that, but they’re wrong. If you want to be an SEO copywriter, then you must accept this fact.
SEO Copywriter Tip #4: Your Value Is Low? But Your Skills Aren’t
I’ve probably scared off all the would-be SEO copywriters already, but if the above points seem negative, here’s the flip-side.
Whilst SEO copywriting is underappreciated and writing SEO copy is a hard slog of a freelance gig, what’s not bad are the skills you’re building as an SEO copywriter.
Think about the things I’ve mentioned above:
- Writing to specification
- Writing with specific criteria (keyword density and structure)
- Sticking to tight schedules
- Dealing with clients
- Pushing your writing speed
- Dealing with (sometimes unfair) criticism
- Earning money in a way that encourages productivity
There are many more benefits to SEO copywriting, but the above are well worth the price of admission.
Many, many writers don’t have any of the above skills, and are afraid to develop them. As an SEO copywriter, you’ll find the mentality of a lot of writers to be absolutely crazy.
I routinely sit in shock when I hear other writers talk about how they need inspiration, or read forum threads where people talk about their 1,000 words-a-day schedule being gruelling.
As an SEO copywriter, you’re becoming a better writer, better businessman and more knowledgeable about a ton of stuff that your future competition simply have no idea exists. This is invaluable.
This leads me on to my final tip.
SEO Copywriter Tip #5: Your Career, Your Choice
Here’s the deal that most SEO copywriters never realise. It’s pretty sad, because what I’m about to tell you can pave the way to all sorts of businesses, career choices and more.
If you can write content for someone else, then you can write content for yourself.
When you’re used to pumping out thousands of words a day on top of researching subjects you’re not familiar with and customers you have nothing in common with, there’s very little you can’t do, writing wise.
Want to write a book? No problem.
How about build your own site? Easy… just get someone to help you with the technical details.
What if you want to move into authorship, publishing or direct response marketing? You’ll have a laundry list of skills that’ll help with those.
Affiliate marketing? Another great choice where your output and content writing will give you a head-start on the other competitors.
You can do all of these things and a ton of other things I haven’t mentioned. (Check the archives for more weird ideas dotted around the place.)
What starts as a beer-money gig on the weekends can lead you to countless different careers.
If you’re an SEO copywriter, then life might seem hard. SEO copywriters are underpaid and have to work many hours in order to break even. The SEO copy they write is then often underappreciated.
That said SEO copywriting is one of the best ways to get into professional writing. That’s almost entirely due to the limitations I’ve mentioned above.
A wannabe author might write five hundred words a day, wipe the sweat off their brow and consider that a good day. If you cut your teeth by writing SEO copy, then you’ll probably write thousands of words a day.
The would-be author will probably stick their finished manuscript in a drawer (it took them two years and would have taken you three weeks) because they’re scared someone won’t like it. As an SEO copywriter, you’ll be used to criticism and it’ll roll off you.
Most importantly, remember my fifth and final tip; if you get good at SEO copywriting, then you’ll have mastered the skill of creating lots of words for other people. If you can write lots of words for other people, then you can write lots of words for yourself.