Should your SEO company create your content?

I had the most interesting email exchange the other day with a SEO firm.

This particular firm (one that is well known in the industry…and no, I will not name them) contacted me because they wanted to outsource their SEO copywriting. This isn’t uncommon  – in fact, many SEO firms offer SEO copywriting services but don’t keep that particular skill set in house.

The exchange was pleasant, nice and positive. I sent over my prices. My contact wrote back and said that the price was too high. I responded that I work with a number of Certified SEO Copywriters – perhaps I could refer them? I then asked how much they were willing to pay per page.

The answer: $20 per page. And their old writer spent about 30 minutes per page.

I was floored. Literally floored. It takes a lot to shock me (as my friends know.) This was…shocking.  Let me explain the reasons why:

Quality SEO copywriting (or any type of quality writing) takes time. I’ve been a full-time writer for most of my adult life, and I would never – ever – spend 30 minutes on a sales page and call it good. That’s barely enough time to write a rough draft (and that’s on a short-copy page.) In order to write a good sales page (and not crap) you have to:

  • Research the competition and know how to differentiate your client
  • Create the best tone and feel for the page (or know how to replicate your client’s preferred tone and feel)
  • Understand the micro and macro sales focus on the page
  • Highlight the main benefits (both company and product/service)
  • Write a headline (by itself, this could take 30 minutes or more)
  • Create a rough draft
  • Edit the draft mercilessly until it’s “right” (and this can also be highly time consuming)
  • And then…finally…you’re ready to submit your draft.

You see what I mean? No matter how many efficiencies that you’ve built into your writing (and I’ve built in a number of them over the years,) writing quality content takes more time than 30 minutes. Much, much more time.

And then I started wondering, “I wonder if their clients – many of them big-brand clients – know that this SEO is paying their writer $20/page, marking it up to who-knows-what and selling it as quality content.”

(Mind you, I have no problems with a company marking up the cost – that’s just good business. But if you’re working with large brand companies and promising “quality SEO copywriting services,” shouldn’t you WANT the best for your clients?)

This situation puts the client (you) in a buyer beware position. It’s easy to trust a SEO firm when they say, “Don’t worry about the SEO copywriting. We have people who can help you.” It sounds all warm and fuzzy and nice and comforting – and you’d figure that of course the company would have good, experienced, whip-smart writers on staff.

But don’t count on it.

So here’s what to do if you’re thinking about having your SEO firm write your content.

  1. Ask about their writers. Are they Certified in SEO copywriting? How many years experience do they have? How does the SEO company vet their writers before they hire them/ outsource to them? The last thing you want is to find out that their “experienced SEO copywriter” is someone fresh out of college who (as my father used to eloquently say) “doesn’t know their ass from third base.”
  2. Ask about the company’s writing process. Can you have direct contact with the copywriter (highly recommended – otherwise, your information is being filtered through multiple people.) What’s the average time the writer spends on every page? Will the same writer be working on all of your pages, or will your pages be written by multiple writers?
  3. Ask what kind of continuing education the SEO firm provides their writers. The SEO/social media world is constantly changing – and if the writer hasn’t updated their knowledge for a couple years, that can negatively impact your results.
  4. Ask for writing samples from the writer assigned to your account. Always. If you don’t like the samples, request another writer.
  5. Consider chatting with a SEO copywriting agency at the same time. It doesn’t mean that you have to use a copywriting agency over your SEO. But you may find that the prices are similar (often less) than what the SEO firm is charging – and you’ll benefit from more experienced writers (who get paid a living wage.)

Is all of this due diligence necessary? You bet. The writing on your site represents your brand. It’s your “silent salesperson” online. And yes, you deserve to be highly picky. You (probably) wouldn’t work with a SEO firm if you knew they outsourced your account to India. Why would you buy writing services from a firm who devalues the writing so much  – and cares about your branding so little – that they’re outsourcing to the lowest bidder (and yes, Demand Media and Associated Content, I’m talking about you too.)

Think about it.