Behind the erupting mass of digital content – millions of blog posts published every day – a secret army of writers labours tirelessly.
Whenever you see someone launching an e-book, promoting a blog post, running a webinar, or crafting an event, just know their work has been facilitated by artisans hacking, hammering, and whittling with words.
The world of content marketing is being run by content developers. And alas, much of what they’re producing is junk.
The preponderance of the content they produce often goes unread – and not for lack of promotion. But because it’s poorly written.
81% of business professionals say poorly-written content wastes a lot of their time. Of the 25.5 hours that they spend online each week reading, much of it goes to waste as they try to make sense of the content that it’s either too long, unclear, poorly organised, imprecise, or filled with jargon.
While writers are a dime a dozen, good writers are as rare as they come.
SEO Content Writing (What’s It?)
SEO content writing is a form of writing that seeks to help websites and blogs become more visible to search engines. By more visibility we mean your site will feature on the first few pages of search engine results when an online user runs a search query for a particular topic.
The Basics of SEO Content Writing
SEO content writing is centred around optimisation and is driven by the use of keywords, bullet points, and headers to convey valuable information that answers different search queries. It calls for the writer to wear the mind of an online reader and visualise from every possible angle what type of content they might be interested in.
SEO content writers aren’t just good with words. They have an in-depth understanding of search engines and how they rank websites.
With many of the pieces they write, they must first research relevant keywords with which to write the article around. But quite often, it’s the client who provides this.
Here’s how you conduct keyword research for SEO content writing:
- You’re to first enter your topic keyword phrase into keyword research tools such as SEO Book Keyword Tool or Google’s Keyword Tool.
- Next, look at how many searches the keyword has attracted in the past month. It’s common sense to go with a keyword that’s attracted lots of searches. But that’s not the only consideration.
- You’re to also look at the number of people competing for that particular keyword. If a particular keyword has so many searches but the competition is high, then the chances are good that you’ll have a hard time ranking for that particular keyword phrase in the SERPs. There are times when you’re better off choosing a keyword with fewer searches but with less competition.
- Lastly, you want to look at the recommended keyword options. Some of these keyword research tools might help you identify better keywords or the variations to use to avoid overusing a particular keyword and getting penalised for keyword stuffing.
Where to Use the Keywords
After you’ve conducted keyword research, it’s time to get down to business. So, how can you integrate these keywords into your article, and where exactly should they appear?
Here are a few places the keyword must appear:
- Your article title and headlines
- A few of your subtitles
- In the article’s metadata, especially in the meta-description and meta-title
- The links to other webpages (the pages must be relevant to that particular keyword)
- In the body or actual text of the article
- Graphic title and its description
As an SEO content writer, when a client hires you to create content for them, you must ensure the keywords appear in the title, headline, and within the body of the article.
And when you send the article to the client, be sure to remind them what keywords you optimised the article for so that they can add it to its meta-data, links, and all the accompanying graphics.
Frequency of Keywords Usage in SEO Content Writing
With SEO writing, you’ll be writing for both the reader and search engines. Leaning on either side puts you at risk of hurting the other. For example, if you overdo the optimisation bit, then your article may come off as too clunky, stilt, and boring.
Moreover, Google will not hesitate to penalise anyone that overuses a particular keyword phrase (or keyword stuffing, as it’s commonly referred to).
Experts can’t seem to agree on what’s the right keyword frequency. But most of them suggest a keyword frequency of between 3% and 7%.
For WordPress users, a few plugins can help you analyse your keyword frequency and tell you if you’re overstuffing or overstuffing them.
Why SEO Content Writing?
SEO is important because it ensures your content can reach the reader. It’s the ticket to the wonderland that’s Google’s first page.
Otherwise, you could be writing in vain. Readers wouldn’t find your content. Meaning, there would be no one to benefit from it.
SEO is about helping search engines understand your content and whether or not it’s relevant to a particular search query.
Search engines are designed to analyse web content and rank them according to relevancy and quality.
SEO writing isn’t just about flowery writing or the use of fancy words, but strategically placing your keywords and formatting your article to adhere to search engines policies and standards.
How Is SEO Content Used?
Marketers and business owners use SEO content strategically to increase web traffic and generate leads.
Writing SEO content is a skill that not so many writers possess. That explains why many qualified SEO writers are always attached to agencies.
Other SEO writers prefer working as freelancers, which means they have to find work on their own.
SEO agencies tend to work with a diverse range of SEO wordsmiths that you immediately gain access to when you contract one.
SEO content is typically meant to be used on your website or blog as well as the content you publish on other people’s websites.
The SEO content you produce for your website includes (but is not limited to):
- Blog posts
- Landing pages
- Category/Product pages
Most businesses engage in SEO by publishing continually on their blogs. Writing long-form, evergreen blog posts that educate readers is one of the most sure-fire ways to rank for relevant keywords and drive traffic to your website.
With SEO writing, you can target so many different keywords, queries, and topics as you steadily work on expanding your reach.
What makes Good SEO Writing?
How can SEO writing help you to stand out among other business owners churning out SEO content?
Here are 4 distinguishing aspects of good SEO writing:
- Authoritativeness: Your readers must find your content useful. You want them to trust your business as the go-to solution hub. You can achieve this by continually supplying them with high-quality content, backed up by data and your honest opinion on different things, without trying to convince them to buy anything from you. Most importantly, everything has to be written with a confident tone and voice.
- Relevancy: Before you pick up any topic, ask yourself, “how’s this going to benefit my target audience?” What are they bound to gain from it?
- Answer Questions: With SEO writing, you’re to adapt to the needs of your readers. Your content must be adjusted to answer their questions. That’s the criteria for ensuring many of them will find your content useful.
- Comprehensible Content: Keywords will place you on Google’s Radar. However, the reader will always take precedence. Given the option of writing for Google and writing for the readers, then you’re better off with the latter. In most cases, the keywords you use must fit in naturally. Your articles must be engaging, easy to read, and focused on the topic at hand.
There’s more to SEO writing. But generally, it’s a form of writing that requires one to be strategic, intentional, and concise.
Modern SEO Writing
SEO writing has changed a lot. It’s barely recognisable from what it used to be in the early days.
Or, we could just say the old SEO styling no longer cuts it. Back then, SEO only meant optimising your content for search engines. But that always came at the expense of the reader.
Today, good SEO is about optimising your content for both search engines and the reader.
This is might sound like a tall order, but you have to find that perfect balance between the two.
We can conclude by saying modern SEO is complicated. There are rules to follow and a set of guidelines to keep you on track.
More importantly, you need a skilled team of SEO writers and keyword researchers to help you execute it.
Here’s are the key ingredients of modern SEO:
- Modern SEO is built around longtail keywords. These keywords have to blend into your content naturally.
- Modern SEO requires you to optimise your content for the reader first with search engines coming in second.
- Modern SEO is about providing value and solving problems, and less about trying to sell.
- Its success comes from shares, conversions, and click-throughs, not just traffic as it used to be.
- It’s less technical and more conversational. Everything has to feel like you’re having a focused, person-to-person conversation with the reader. You’re talking to them directly, explaining about something they’ve taken interest in.
- It’s adaptive, always adapting to ever-changing consumer behaviour and needs.
Why You Shouldn’t Hire an In-house Writer
Hiring an in-house writer might sound like a cheaper option, but there are convincing reasons successful brands find it more reasonable to look outside.
Hiring a full-time writer may mean placing them on salary. This can prove to be too costly and limiting, compared to the cost of working with an agency or freelance writer.
Whether you’re a small business or a giant multi-million-dollar company, hiring an in-house writer is a costly mistake your company can ever make.
The Cost of Hiring a Full-time SEO Writer
While this might vary depending on experience, location, and a long list of other factors, the average cost of hiring a full-time content developer can range anywhere from $49K to $69K per year.
And that’s what you pay for hiring someone with average writing skills. But if you’re looking for a premium-quality writer, then you should be prepared to pay six figures.
While in-house teams give you more control, they’re more expensive and less flexible compared to freelancers or an agency.
Paying someone more than $50K a year to write your content may sound like a lot at first, but you have to consider the benefits that come with it.
An average SEO writer can only produce about 2000 words per day. Now, take out vacations, holidays, and time, and that means they can only produce something in the neighbourhood of 500, 000 words a year (maximum capacity).
Paying the writer about $60, 000 per year translates to paying them about 12 cents per words.
That’s not all.
A full-time content developer may also require you to provide other benefits, writing software, technology, and payroll taxes.
Now compare that to the cost of hiring a freelance SEO writer charging between 3 cents and 5 cents per word, and you’ll realise there’s a lot you’re saving.
Options for Hiring Content Writers: In-house vs. Freelance vs. Agency
All three hiring options have their own set of pros and cons. So, how do you determine which one of them is the most ideal hiring option for your business?
Read on to find out:
Hiring an Inhouse SEO Writing Team
This option has more risk. It also takes a more significant amount of investment.
There are a few times when hiring an in-house team is the perfect option, especially with a super-complex brand or business that not so many people or content writers are familiar with its workarounds.
The pros and Cons of Hiring an Inhouse Team of Writers
Before going any further into it, I’ll admit an in-house team has its own share of pros and cons.
Cross Department Functionality: An in-house team is an essential asset to a company, whereas agencies and freelancers cannot be regarded as assets. If content marketing is the core competency of your company, hiring an in-house team keeps it near the leading edge.
Involvement: With an in-house employee, you get to enjoy the benefit of working with someone that’s specifically committed to your brand operations. An in-house employee is better than an agency or freelancer because they have in-house information. They know what’s happening with the company firsthand.
Dedication: An in-house writer only focuses on your brand. They know all the intricate details of your company. They know your goals, what you hope to achieve, and so on. You don’t have to keep on spelling certain things to them.
Control: An in-house team gives you total control over how you handle your company tasks. You can create a publishing schedule or set deadlines that the employee has to follow.
It’s also possible to mould, train, and make your team adapt to your work culture.
As many businesses are already aware, hiring the wrong content writer can cost you a lot.
That explains why the hiring process is always a painstaking and time-consuming one.
Even hiring the right content developer comes with its share of open costs. It’s more like investing for the future, with no real guarantee on whether things will go according to plan.
This one disadvantage is enough to make you second-guess the decision to set up an in-house team, and maybe look into the possibility of subcontracting the task to an agency or freelancers.
Hiring an SEO Writing Agency
Freelance SEO writers operate alone. However, SEO writing agencies are made up of a diverse range of content and marketing experts, each specialising in a different field.
An agency can also come in the form of a group of freelancers who decide to team up and work together.
Pros and Cons of Hiring an SEO Writing Agency
Team and Skills: An agency doesn’t just consist of a team of writers looking to earn an honest living. It’s a business, with a name to protect. So, they always go for top-of-the-shelf talents. Their primary selling point is quality.
They recruit the most experienced talent pool. Plus, you get to work with multiple people, with each specialising in what they’re good at.
Expertise: Besides housing the most experienced teams, SEO writing agencies have invested in a series of tools and marketing strategies that could help your business improve from every possible angle. Unlike freelancers, they don’t just create SEO content. Most of them tend to be experienced in all matters relating to content marketing.
They know what needs to be done and how to best get it done. They also enjoy the benefit of having served so many clients before, where they got to learn so many things. They can even predict to a perfect accuracy how a particular content strategy is likely to play out.
Time Savings: Hiring an agency means you do not have to do the heavy lifting of hiring the writers yourself. Plus, you’ll be working with a team, which means your work will be shared among multiple individuals, thus saving you time.
When Is an Agency an Ideal Choice for You?
- If you’ve ever worked with a tactical team before and you now understand how efficient most of them tend to be
- When you have a content writing team, but doesn’t have a particular SEO writing experience. Maybe they’re not good with keyword research, content analysis, or have never written a particular type of SEO content
- You have a brand that can be easily embodied
- You have a robot content marketing strategy in mind and would like to invest in growing your brand
- You’re observing your SEO marketing channel, and you’d like to observe it first before investing in anything long-term
Hiring a Freelance SEO Content Developer
Freelancers are self-employed people who offer services to clients, often to several of them at a time.
They’re not restricted to only working with one particular client, but any client who reaches out to them for business.
Pros and Cons of Hiring a Freelance SEO Writer
Working with a freelance SEO writer comes with its share of benefits, the core being they’re less expensive compared to the other two options.
Pros of Hiring a Freelance SEO Writer
Affordability: Hiring a freelancer is far less costly than hiring an agency or employing a full-time content developer. When you hire an employee, your cost isn’t just limited to the salary you pay, but to the benefits and all the training that the employee is entitled to. While some agencies charge less than freelancers, generally freelancers are considered a cheaper option.
Flexibility: Freelance SEO writers work remotely. So, they can easily adapt to almost any work routine and schedule. And since you’re working with an individual, your interactions are direct. When you don’t like someone, the person to raise the complaint to is on the other end of the contact line.
Independence: Freelance writers are free birds. They’re disciplined enough to complete a task without being supervised or rushed. All you have to do is find an experienced one, with an established work process and strategy to get their work done. They also don’t require any training. They know what’s expected of them and are always ready to deliver once hired.
Specific Expertise: Where you do not wish to work with a jack of all trades, you can always hire a specialised freelancer. Whether it’s technical writing, health content, dating articles, or health, there’s always specialised freelance writing dealing with that specific type of writing.
Cons of Hiring a Freelance SEO Writer
No Control Over Them
A freelancer SEO writer will always be open to taking in other clients, even your direct competitors. They always go where the money is, so don’t expect your work to get their full attention.
Good Freelance SEO Writers Are Hard to Come By
Freelance SEO Writers are everywhere. However, many of them are below par writers whose work may not measure up to your business standards. Hiring one is always a gamble. And if you’re lucky to ever find a good one, be sure to hold on to them with everything you’ve got.
How to Find Freelance SEO Writers
If you decide to work with freelancers, then you have to know where to look for them. While there are so many options to work with, here are a few common ones we suggest you check out first:
Freelance Marketplace: You can start by checking out freelance sites such as Upwork and Fiverr. There are thousands of SEO content writers to work with on these platforms. While these sites tend to attract crappy writers, there are a few good ones that you can find when you search carefully.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn is one of the best platforms to find freelance content writers. You can even search for freelancers using their job titles or positions. This allows you to vet a few content writers first before you can go ahead and hire them.
Networking: Leverage your existing network. People tend to forget this important business hack. Does any of your colleagues know someone who can write SEO articles?
Dust up your old relationship and start putting your network to good use. You may be surprised to find out that the solution you’ve been looking for has all along been right under your nose.
What to Look for in a Freelance SEO Content Writer
It’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff. Keep in mind that no two freelance SEO writers are the same.
So, how do you trim down the list you have and remain with a few right ones?
Simple: here are a few key elements to keep an eye on:
Professionalism: The easiest way to tell a serious content developer is to look at their level of professionalism. Does the writer have a website? What about a professional email address? Do they have an articulate LinkedIn profile? What of a clean email signature? The more invested a writer is, the more they’re less likely to disappoint you.
Experience: The word writer carries so many definitions. A poet is also a writer. And so is a fiction writer.
They might be good writers, but that doesn’t necessarily make them good SEO writers. You want to look for writers who are experienced in your sort of writing.
Writing Samples: An experienced writer will have a few samples published on their website or a public profile. Plus, there’s no harm in prying for the samples privately. In which case, you’d want to use them to assess the writer’s voice, style of writing, and skills.
Responsiveness: How long does the writer take to respond to your messages? If they take ages, then that’s reason enough to strike them off your vetting list. You want to work with writers that get back to you in time.
Approach: You can learn a lot about a writer during your interaction with them. If all they’re doing is responding to your question, without asking anything or giving suggestions, then that’s a dead giveaway that they’re only interested in the check that comes in.
A serious SEO writer will bombard you with questions about the style of writing you prefer, your brand’s voice, the frequency with which you publish your content, and so on. The least they could do is show some concern on your project and how to make it a success.
How to Manage Freelance Content Writers
Your job doesn’t end with you hiring a freelance writer. After you hire one, you should take it upon yourself to orient them to your working conditions and style, and make sure they’re able to deliver as per your expectations of them:
- Give Clear Expectations: You have to spell it out for the content writer you hire. They should know about your expectations of them – particularly at the beginning of your working relationship. What’s your preferred word count? Voice? What CTA should they use? And so on.
- Don’t Overwhelm them with Instructions: Use a piecemeal approach to deliver your instructions. While at it, you also want to go slow on the minute details, and with every submission they make remind them to observe things formatting, line spacing, fonts, and ultra-specific keywords on subsequent submissions.
- Set a Conservative Deadline: Set a date when you expect the writer to deliver. This should 48 or 72 hours before your day of publishing. The 48 and 72 hours is meant to cushion you in case of any revisions. You need time to edit the article and work on graphics before publishing it, and that’s where the extra 48 or 72 hours come in.
- Keep Your Writers Happy: You don’t want to lose a good writer once you get hold of them. It’s easy to lose them, and whether you believe it or not, it’s going to take you a while before you find a perfect replacement. And unless the writer has proven to be unruly, don’t be afraid to go out of your way to make them happy– both in monetary and non-monetary ways (encouragement, bonuses, free products, and commissions).
How to Find a Good SEO Writing Agency
The second option to hiring SEO content writers is through an agency. It’s more of a hands-off approach that’s going to save you a lot of time and headache.
The only limitation is that you’ll have little to no control over how your job is handled, as opposed to working with a freelance content developer.
That being said, here are a few suggestions on how to find a good content developer in Singapore:
- Google Search: The easiest way to find a good SEO writing agency is running a quick search on Google to see what shows up. This should also give you some clue on how competent an agency is – more so if they’ve managed to rank with their own SEO effort.
- Get Referrals: Referrals are great. Find out which agency successful companies around you are using. They might be your direct ticket to the wonderland that’s Google’s first page.
What to Look for In a Content Marketing Agency
Singapore has so many SEO Writing Agencies to choose from. So, how do you narrow down your search to a few right ones:
- Research their Range of Services: Some agencies offer only one line of services – be it content marketing, social media services, web design, or branding. That means you might have to hire more than one agency. However, we suggest you go with an agency that bundles up all these services. In which case, you might want to research the agency’s range of services before you can go ahead and hire one.
- Know What’s Included in the Agency’s Service Package: Never assume anything. When you hand over your content needs to an agency, you have to make sure you understand what’s under the hood. What’s included in the package you’ve selected, what promises are they making, what guarantee do they have, and so on.
- For the record: anyone who guarantees to you to page one of Google is outrightly lying to you. Agencies only improve the odds of getting you up there, but the rest is usually determined by search engines.
- Don’t be Afraid to Ask them About their Content Writers: Ask the agency about the writers they have employed. While many agencies won’t reveal their writers’ identities, they should at least be willing to talk about their experiences, areas of expertise, and perhaps show you a few of their samples.
- Consider Pricing: Finally, you’re to compare prices. The content writing industry is so flexible. With a good search around, you should be able to come by an agency that can accommodate your budget.