Monday, July 20, 2009
Getting an SEO Copywriting Job
Posted by Lucy Langdon 20 July 2009
The inspiration for this post came when I was chatting with a recently graduated friend of mine who'd been looking for work online. Much like myself when I graduated with that all-purpose English Lit degree, she was looking for copywriting jobs online. Before I started at Distilled I did a bit of freelance writing so I knew exactly where she was coming from. Out of curiosity, I decided to have a poke around craigslist and gumtree- a couple of regular haunts of mine about 18 months ago. The very first thing I noticed was that the vast majority all of the writing jobs mentioned SEO, if not in their title then somewhere in their description. I don't remember it being like that all.
Obviously, SEO copywriting isn't as new as 18 months, but it is impressive how the landscape has changed so that now some awareness of writing for SEO (and a lot of the jobs were asking for more than that) is nigh on essential to landing some work.
This post is a fairly simple checklist for copywriters who need to be able to walk the SEO walk. It's pretty top level but I've made sure to link out to essential resources.
I just looked on craigslist and found this handy ad that illustrates exactly what I mean:
1. Web-savvy content writer
What it is: Last time I checked, 'savvy' was something this dashing young pirate said a lot. However, on closer inspection, I can reveal that web-savvy nirvana can be reached simply by getting acquainted with the Internet. You should probably know who this and this are. Web savvy folk know how to Google.
How to have it: Make sure you know what a blog is and be able to talk about them without sounding stupid, (you can write a blog post, post a post, write posts, even post posts, but you can't post or write 'blogs', unless you actually mean publish to more than one different website). Have your favourite three websites tattooed on the inside of your eyelids. You might also want to write why you like them on the back of your hand- is their usabiilty to die for? Have they fully unleashed the power of social media? Actually, it'd be worthwhile getting to know a social media site or two- Reddit and Digg are the hotspots for what's hot online. Here's a handy list if you're playing catch up.
Buzz word/s: RSS, Technorati, Firefox or Chrome, social media, hot trends
2. Produce and upload
What it is: The produce bit's ok, but what's that sneaky upload? This is the point where your writing gets put on the Internet for other people to read. If you're anything like me, that whole 'other people reading it' takes a tiny bit of getting used to. There are a few ways your writing can get uploaded but if it's more complicated that publishing a blog post I shouldn't think you'll be expected to do it without help the first few times.
How to have it: My advice is get your own blog and try uploading a few posts. It's easy once you get going and is also a great place to showcase anything you've written. It's also a great way to practice some basic html. If you're really busy/lazy, try just signing up to a social media site and submitting someone else's content. It's a different process, but the simple act of publishing something online can be a bit daunting first time round.
Buzz word/s: Wordpress, Blogger, Tumblr, CMS
3. Keyword rich, compelling content
What it is: Ah, keywords. This is how search engines work- keywords (or keyphrases) are very important. This'll do for a very short definition: keywords are the words or phrases people use in the search engines to find what they're looking for. A lot of job adverts ask for a basic level of keyword research. Check out this introduction. You also need to learn about actually writing optimized copy.
As a side note, there are quite a few misconceptions about keyword use out there. Back in the day, something called 'keyword stuffing' or achieving the right 'keyword density' was all the rage. If a potential employer asks you to do that sort of thing, you should have the confidence to tell them that practice won't help, and writing well-optimized and, most importantly, natural copy will be much better for their site.
How to have it: I think keywords are the beginning and end of SEO. They're important across so much of what we do. You have to see them as part of the whole; understand where they come from and how to use them before you actually try finding them. There are lots of online tools you can use to find out keywords and estimate their importance to your writing. I started out on SEObook's keyword tool and now mostly use Google's Keyword Tool.
Buzz word/s: keyword/keyphrase research, meta tags, optimization, keyword stuffing
4. Website needs viewers
What it is: Viewers, traffic, users, customers, visitors- all pretty much the same thing. These are the people sitting at their computer that arrive on the website in question via any number of ways. More often than not, these viewers will need to be 'converted'. That can mean anything from signing up to a newsletter to buying a sofa- and your copy will come into play somewhere along the way. Your copy might also need to attract visitors. I've written more on that below.
How to have it: As far as this ad goes, you just have to write well. Obey all the usual rules about old school copywriting- don't babble endlessly with words that only you and your much-missed Professor understand. Don't try and be funny unless you actually are.
Buzz words/s: traffic, Google Analytics
5. SEO efforts
What it is: SEO is Search Engine Optimization. It's very similar to SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and on the same page as PPC (Pay Per Click). As for 'SEO efforts', I'd take a guess that this is the same as the point above. Websites undertake SEO to bring more visitors to their sites by ranking better in the search engines.
How to have it: Learn the basics of SEO. SEOmoz.org is one of the best places to start.
Buzz word/s: blackhat, whitehat, SEO, SEM, PPC, CRO
6. Web link campaigns
What it is: After copy come links (as a writer, I'm a little biased). The phrasing's a bit strange in the advert, but they're almost certainly talking about dedicated linkbuilding, which is really just a part of SEO. There are lots and lots of ways to linkbuild. One method might be to promote the quality content you have been hired to write.
How to have it: Learn about why links are important to the search engines and understand the philosophy behind why people link. The search engines essentially see a link from one website to another as a vote. Understand the difference between a spammy footer link and a quality editorial link and the different value of each of those.
Buzz word/s: anchor text, linkbuilding, spiders, indexing
7. Social networking
What it is: A social network is an online community- they hang out on forums, blogs and social media sites. LOTS of people use them on the Internet, some for fun, some for profit, some for pure unadulterated spamming. A few of these sites have 100,000's of users and getting your content to appear prominently on their radar can obviously bring a lot of traffic and links to your site.
How to have it: Start by spending time with a few different online communities. You'll soon notice the one or two you keep returning to. Treat the group like you would an offline community and you'll soon earn your place amongst the ranks. Be warned: social networks can become a time vacuum that you will never truly recover from. Subscribe to a few blogs that regularly appear in these social networks- Cracked and The Onion are a couple of my favourites.
Buzz word/s: social media sites, Twitter, linkbait
8. Online PR
What it is: It's kind of the same as offline PR except that it's more informal. You can use sites to publish and distribute your Press Releases in an SEO friendly way, or you can go directly to webmasters and bloggers to see if they want to cover the story. It's all in the same bag really.
How to have it: Have a go at submitting a press release- you can do it for free. Wait a few hours and then google a section of the release and see how many results appear. Or, if you're feeling really brave, try pitching an idea for a post to a blog you enjoy reading. This is called guest-posting or guest-blogging and is a really good way to get coverage of something you want to draw attention to.
Buzz word/s: news wire, PR Web, guest blogging
9. Natural search
What it is: As opposed to unnatural search? Natural search just means visitors that come through searching in the engines and didn't click on a sponsored listing (aka a PPC ad).
How to have it: As above, learn SEO. It can seem a bit overwhelming to begin with but what you have to remember is that a lot of the stuff that gets discussed day to day to do with search is quite high-level. The basics of copywriting for SEO are fairly easy to master, particularly if you spend a bit of time actually having a go, rather than just reading!
Buzz word/s: Organic traffic, search
10. Create great content that ranks on search
What is it: Content is king. Another tattoo for the back of your eyelids. And, crucially, this is why you're getting hired to write about your Top 10 Favourite Bond Villains. Content that ranks on search means content that ranks naturally in the search engines.
How to have it: All your new found SEO skills (and related buzzwords) will help, but just being able to write in a clear, concise, engaging and readable manner will do wonders.
Buzz word/s: Content is king, optimized copy