SEO Content Writers: What They Do, How Much They Earn, Skills Needed, Where Jobs Are & More


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I get questions all the time about SEO content writing. Usually, the questions come from those who are interested in freelance writing as a career and have heard about “writing for SEO,” but they don’t quite know what it is, the skills needed, the salary they can expect to earn, etc. This post will address all of these questions – and more. So, here goes . . .  

First, a couple of things: (i) SEO is the acronym for search engine optimization; and (ii) SEO content writers are also known as SEO article writers, SEO copywriters, SEO writers, web copywriters, online content providers and search engine optimization writers (among a few other variations).

What Does an SEO Content Writer Do? 

In simple, layman’s terms, an SEO writer produces copy written in such a way to increase a website/blog’s visibility in search engines. There are specific guidelines they use to generate “search engine optimized” content. And, these guidelines change from time to time, as search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing are constantly tweaking their algorithms in order to keep their search results relevant for web surfers.

Learn more about what SEO writing is.

Why SEO Content Writers are Necessary? 

Let’s explain by way of an example. Let’s say a client has a website about “organic recipes for vegetarians.” They want to show up on – at least – one of the first three pages of Google when a web surfer is looking for this type of information.

Why the first three pages? Because statistics have proven that most web surfers (approximately 90%) don’t look past the first three pages of results returned when they conduct web searches.

The highest this client’s website shows up in search results is on page 5 of Google. So, they may hire an internet marketing firm – who will employ an SEO writer – to produce copy that will help push their site onto the first three pages of Google.

The Type of Writing an SEO Content Writer Produces? 

There are many different types of content these profesionals produce – everything from web articles and blog posts, to SEO press releases and product descriptions.

FYI, the word “content” also includes photos, videos, slides and infographics. An SEO writer, depending on their employer, can be responsible for making sure that all of this is “SEO’d” before it’s uploaded to a website.

SEO Content Writers: Qualifications Needed 

Foundational knowledge of SEO: You don’t have to be an SEO guru, but you must have a foundational grasp of what SEO is all about and how “content” fits into the overall scheme of it. This means knowledge of concepts like keywords, how to conduct keyword research, blackhat and whitehat SEO tactics, what themed content is, the impact of SEO updates like Google’s Panda, etc.

Good communication skills: You will be responsible for communicating with clients and various departments/freelancers (eg, the web design department, the marketing department, the videographer) via phone and email about project particulars like deadlines, content needed, etc.

Excellent research skills: Usually, the SEO writer must conduct their own research for copy to be written, including conducting interviews with clients, forming angle pieces are to be written from, sourcing stats, etc.

Organized: As an SEO writer, you’re pretty much given an assignment (whether you freelance or work full-time, in-house for a company) and are left alone to do it. So, you must be organized and self-motivated in order to meet deadlines.

SEO writing is a deadline-intensive profession. This is because a project can’t proceed beyond a certain point until the “copy / content” is produced. So the duties of many others depend on you meeting your deadlines.

Also, as an SEO writer, you’ll often be working on multiple projects at one time. If you freelance, this is particularly true. You may have standing orders from five different clients due in a span of three or four days, so the ability to keep it all straight – and attend to back-end office functions like billing – means that you have to be highly organized.

Top-notch writing skills: Many clients will expect you to write with certain guidelines in mind, eg, AP style, or their own in-house style. Of course, copy must be grammatically and factually correct, suit the “tone” of the organization; have good editorial flow; and be informative/helpful to the end user.

Self educator: Search engine optimization is mercurial; it is not a static field. As the guidelines constantly change, you have to be conscious of staying on top of what the latest rules and trends of the field are. This means bookmarking certain publications (eg, WebProNews.com, SearchEngineLand.com) and reading them on a regular basis.

Also, you should know about the latest SEO tools like keyword suggestion tools, rank checkers, etc.

FYI, while learning SEO – and staying abreast of the changes in the industry — can seem overwhelming, it’s really not once you grasp the foundation of it. Then, much like reaching a goal weight when you diet, it’s just a matter of maintaining.

SEO Content Writers: Education Requirements

If you’re seeking a full-time, on-site position, some companies require a BA degree, usually in an “English” related field like journalism, public relations, or communications, along with a few years of writing experience (eg, 2-4 years).

If you freelance, you’ll rarely be asked for a degree. Oftentimes, clients just want to know if you understand how to write SEO content. They may ask for references from other clients and/or writing samples to prove you CAN write this type of copy.

As an aside, when I first started writing SEO content, while I did list my educational background on my website, I didn’t in the marketing emails I sent out to clients. All most of them wanted to see were some SEO writing samples.

In fact, I landed my first client without any SEO writing samples; I pitched them on my experience as a real estate/mortgage writer. When they asked for samples, I sent them some articles I had that weren’t SEO samples. They liked them, but asked if I could “SEO” them. I did (to prove that I knew what SEO was), and got the gig.

In my firm’s SEO training course, I discuss how to land gigs with no prior experience (and a whole bunch of other things you need to know to start this type of freelance writing career).

SEO Content Writing: Salary Expectations

I did some web surfing yesterday, checking everything from what companies were offering for full-time, on-site SEO writers, to freelance jobsites and those seeking article writers via free classified ad sites like Craigslist.

Salaries for this profession are all over the place, but I agree with an assessment of what an SEO writer can expect to earn on SeoJobsFinder.com, which puts it at between $35,000 and $75,000. The site sums it up in the following manner, stating:

Content Writer
$35,000 – $75,000
A great content writer is a critical part of an SEO firm, particularly with the focus on linkbaiting campaigns. Writers, like link builders, can grow in value over time, but since it requires a much less specialized knowledge, there is far more supply in the marketplace (hence the lower salary ceiling).

One caveat: As a freelancer, you can earn more because you can tailor your service offerings – and your rates – to achieve whatever income goals you may have.

Factors that Affect SEO Content Writing Salaries 

There are many elements that affect what an SEO writer is likely to be paid. Some of them are:

Types of projects (eg, blog posts, web content, press releases, etc.); 

Niche you may specialize in (eg, medical, legal, fashion, finance);

Whether you freelance or work as a FT employee;

Years of experience;

Educational background;

Writing samples / writing ability; 

Longevity of project (if you freelance);

Type of client/company you work for/with;

Marketing ability and consistency (if you freelance); 

Location (this can vary greatly for an SEO writer in the Philippines from one in the U.S., for example); Note: Gain more insight into how to land SEO writing gigs as a “foreigner” (and really, aren’t we all in one form or another).

Etc. 

Just be aware of all of this going in. Gain a bit more insight into how SEO copywriting salaries are determined.

Now . . . with all of this being said, following is what I found in my “SEO writing salary” surfing yesterday. . . 

FT SEO Content Writer Salaries: This site has salaries from specific companies.

I saw wages from a low of $25,000 for a “Content Writer” at a warehouse; to a medium pay of $40,000 to $43,000 for a “Web Content Writer” at Travelocity; to highs of $69,000 for a “Medical Content Writer” at a medical licensing organization and $71,000 for a “Senior Content Producer” at HSN (the Home Shopping Network).

Here are more SEO Copywriter job listings from individual companies:

SEO Copywriter, Tampa Florida: $30,00 to $42,000/year. 

Digital / SEO Writer, San Antonio, TX: $55,000 to $65,000/year

SEO Copywriter, Chicago, IL: $32,000 to $34,000/year 

Classified Ad Sites: The rates on free classified ad sites like Craigslist, backpage, and others can REALLY be all over the map for SEO content writers.  Note: A lot of these job ads will disappear as they get older. To find the most recent ones, search the appropriate category on the site.

For example, here’s one article writing job that pays $20 per 350-500-word article.

Here’s another that pays $14 per page (400 word web page);

This one pays by the hour ($10 to $15); and

This one pays by the hour also, but significantly more ($35 to $40/hour).

Cheap SEO Article Writing Gigs Disappearing?

One thing I noticed while searching free classified ad sites for jobs is that the pay has gotten better. You used to see a lot of $2 for 400 word-type SEO writing jobs listed on sites like Craigslist. These seem to have migrated over to bid-for-pay sites, which is our next category.

Bid-for-Pay Job Sites: Let me say up front, I have a personal dislike for sites like this. I find the pay to be too low, the competition too stiff and the demands from clients too outrageous to make it worth my time. For example, I ran across the following ad on one of these sites:

Talented SEO Article Writer needed, $2 per 800 words article.

You can view tons of SEO / article writing gigs here to make a more informed decision. 

Where to Find SEO Content Writing Jobs

My Thoughts on Using Bid-for-Pay Sites to Find SEO Content Writing Jobs 

In my opinion, the best way to find these types of jobs is to contact companies directly. I do not advise the use of job bidding sites to find these types of freelance writing gigs. I’ve blogged about this subject in detail (eg, using bidding sites to land SEO writing jobs).  Be sure to read the comments in this post for some insight from other SEO writers.

Here’s an alternate view from a freelancer who’s had great success with Elance, a bid-for-pay freelance job site. 

More Insight on Bid-for-Jobs Sites

Here are some thoughts shared on the Digital Point forum from others (employers and freelancers alike) on using bidding sites to land SEO writing gigs. One respondent gave an encapsulated rundown on various sites like these, writing: 

We have used (paid subscription) Guru, Elance
Also used Rentacoder and Getafreelancer

Guru : Too much sophisticated for small jobs. Have to go through several procedures before coming to an agreement with the client. Not worth for projects less than 100$. On top of it they have an escrow system. The projects appears good but I doubt a bit on the genuineness in it. Good thing about it is you can have Express projects where you can advertise your service package, which is cool.

Elance : Nice interface, lot of projects but the project quality isnt as good as Guru. For eg people will be asking 100 one way PR5 links for 100$. Certainly a great place to know the feel of the industry.

Rentacoder: Free but the commission rated are way too high. Here too you will find a good number of unrealistic projects but you can filter them to your needs. We have some good clients from RAC. I like the arbitration system, monitoring of reports etc. Site is generally slow loading but a good place to start with.

Getafreelancer – If you are a beginer you can try this to know the industry. But don’t expect any decent pays here. Lot of the projects are fake and they never pay. Initially we did a project for a guy called Rahn Heart who never paid. Professionals keep of from it.

SEO Content Writer Interview Questions

Whether you’re applying for an on-site position in the flesh, or an off-site one via phone/email, you are likely to be “interviewed” by a prospective employer/client.

I ran across a great hub on Hubpages entitled, Content Writer Interview Questions and Tips. The writer had been interviewed 11 times in 14 days for this type of job. She listed some common interview questions you can expect, and gave the answers to them. Some of the questions include:

Do you know something about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?;

Why did you choose content writing as a career?; and

What do you know about Social Media Optimization (SMO)?

SEO Content Writing Is an Ideal Flexible, Work-from-Home Business Option

This is one of the reasons I love writing SEO content – it’s a business that can be run “on the go.” As an avid traveler, I’ve worked everywhere from a friend’s kitchen table in Minnesota, to an internet café in New York City, to a beachside bar in Jamaica.

An article on Yahoo’s education channel entitled, Switch Careers To Be Happier, illustrates the flexibilty of this career, stating:

Having the flexibility to control your hours and design your work day doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.  . . . Though becoming an entrepreneur is far from easy, starting your own business is one way to give yourself more flexibility [and]. There are plenty of careers with flexibility built in.

Flexible Option #1 – SEO Writer: Understanding how you can target your copy to attract search engines and more eyeballs is what search engine optimization (SEO) writers do every day. Whether you’re freelancing or working from home at odd hours, flexibility is often a hallmark for SEO writers. Majoring in subjects like English or creative writing is helpful, as is studying marketing and communications. According to a SimplyHired search in May 2011, the average salary for SEO writer positions is $60,000 (emphasis added)

I hope this in-depth post has answered many of the questions you may have about SEO content writing. It’s a growing profession – that pays well. And, you can do it as a freelancer, or with the right qualifications, as a FT employee.

Learn more about why there’ll always be a need for professional SEO content writers. And, good luck if you decide to pursue it. 

Best,
Yuwanda
P.S.: Want to learn how to earn $100-$250+/day writing SEO content? Get SEO copywriter training. You can take the class online, or attend a hands-on seminar in Jamaica! Learning SEO is about so much more than learning a new skill; it’s about changing (taking control of) your life!

seo-copywriting-training

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3 Comments so far

  1. Mark Weyland on August 17th, 2012

    This is a perfect blog for newcomers in the field of SEO article writing profession. it has cleared almost all the commonly asked questions from such copywriters. I would recommend all SEO writers to go through this blog before starting their career in this field.

  2. Yuwanda, SEO Writing Jobs Editor on August 17th, 2012

    Thanks Mark!

  3. […] SEO Content Writing: This is an obvious one that is discussed in detail on this blog’s companion blog, […]


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