SEO copywriting is one of the most sought-after forms of freelance web writing, and it’s also one of the most misunderstood. Pay rates for SEO copywriting can range anywhere from $3 per 500 word article to $2,000 for 300 words of optimized homepage copy (no joke), so suffice to say that it’s a freelance writing niche that can pay quite well – but only if you know what you’re doing.
If you’ve spent any amount of time hunting for freelance writing jobs online, chances are you’ve come across posts for SEO copywriting and keyword-related writing gigs. There’s a huge demand for SEO writing, which is incentive enough to learn become an SEO savvy writer, but I also believe that having a working knowledge of SEO can help inform your writing in most web writing projects and make you a better writer in general.
But first – what is SEO?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization”, which is the process of helping websites rank more highly for specific phrases in the results pages of search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing (ok, really mostly Google). Ethical (i.e. “white hat”) SEO involves doing things both on the website (on-page SEO) and on other websites (off-page SEO).
On-page SEO focuses on making sure the key phrases you want the site to rank for appear in the right places with the right frequency, and off-page SEO focuses on developing links from other websites to the website you’re optimizing.
What does writing have to do with SEO?
Tons. Solid SEO campaigns are built around one thing primarily: content – and much of that content needs to be written.
For example, websites themselves need content to populate pages. Good website content contains certain branding and sales elements, but if the website is going to gather any sales from search engine users, it also needs to contain certain key phrases.
The ratio of keywords – or key terms for which you’re trying to get a website to rank – within content body is referred to as “keyword density”, and good SEO writers know how to find that perfect balance between too many keywords (aka keyword spamming) and too few.
Off-page content needs SEO savvy writing as well. A guest blog post on vacations in Hawaii, for example, needs to contain the words “Hawaii” and “vacation” in the title – as well as throughout the post itself, in order to a) rank for those terms, or b) provide keyword-rich links back to the main website – or both.
So, is SEO copywriting just writing with keywords, then?
No, not at all. In the same way that sales letter copywriting isn’t just “writing with sales pitches”, SEO copywriting involves much more than simply inserting keywords here and there. Writing SEO article titles that are both juicy (keyword-rich) to search engines and clickworthy to users requires an understanding of how both search engines and web users operate.
Importantly, SEO copywriting combines the kind of engaging, branded writing you would expect from well-written print copy with the elements that make copy attractive to search engines and an online audience. In other words, quality SEO copy combines skilled copywriting with strategic keyword usage and succinct, web-friendly language.
What types of content could I write with a knowledge of SEO?
The sky is almost the limit on this one, but the main types of content that call for SEO copywriting include:
- website content
- blog posts
- articles (ezine and otherwise)
- white papers
- video scripts
- social media profiles
- feeder/landing pages
How can I learn more about writing for SEO?
Glad you asked – education is key in SEO! There are plenty of great online SEO copywriting training resources, some of which are free and some of which are not. I strongly recommend gaining a broad working knowledge of SEO to hone your craft, so I’ve included some resources below that are not copywriting specific.
www.inboundmarketing.com – Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing University is comprehensive, free, and of the highest quality. An IMU certified badge doesn’t look too shabby on your website, either.
www.seocopywriting.com – The knowledgeable SEO diva Heather Lloyd’s company Success Works offers a fantastic SEO copywriting training program. If you have a little capital to work with, I can’t recommend her program highly enough. Her company blog is a great free resource, as well.
www.copyblogger.com – One of the most established resources for online copywriters, this site offers plenty of free info and training for aspiring freelance writers.