Why some SEO firms don’t employ copywriters

Last week, I heard from a very frustrated prospect.

This nice man had been working with a SEO firm for a few months. The firm had been doing all the back-end stuff that needed to be done: Cleaning the code, creating new Titles, building links and generally sprucing up the site. In general, the company did an OK job making the site more visible to search engines.

But here’s the thing: The prospect comes from a marketing background. He knew his existing copy didn’t “pop.” And he knew that better writing would equate into higher conversion rates.

When he expressed his concern to the SEO firm, they handed him a list of “SEO copywriting best practice guidelines” and told him that they “didn’t do SEO copywriting – he’d have to write the copy himself.”

His question to me was: “Shouldn’t all SEO firms employ SEO copywriters? Isn’t it such an important part of SEO that they’d want to have that part covered?”

Well, yes and no. It depends on the SEO.

Many SEO firms are technically focused, meaning that they are masters at untangling the most ugly bits of code, making it easy (or easier) for search engines to access the site. A savvy technical SEO shop can work wonders with a site – and a few technical changes can unlock the positioning floodgates.

However, technical SEO firms aren’t filled with marketers. Their job isn’t to help your copy convert better. Their job is to make your site better for the search engines.

There’s a difference.

Other SEO firms work with copywriters, but the copywriters mostly add keyphrases into copy and create new Titles. Granted, keyphrase editing (or what some firms call “on-page optimization”) is very valuable to the SEO process. But the focus again is to make the existing copy “better for search engines.” They aren’t addressing the conversion aspects of the page. That’s not their job.

This is a challenge for clients who really need writing help. After all, if your copy wasn’t converting before it included keyphrases, adding keyphrases without changing the copy won’t magically help. It won’t make your writing “pop” to the user and entice them to read more (or buy more.) It’s just that the page is better for search engine positioning.

This is where asking the right questions before you sign with a SEO firm comes in…

If you know that your conversion rates are low (or maybe you’re not sure – but you know that your copy is dirt-dull boring,) ask the SEO firm about their approach to SEO copywriting. They may say that they don’t handle the copywriting. Or that they “edit” copy – but they don’t rewrite it. In that’s the case, you have some options:

1. Handle the writing in-house, and give the new copy to the SEO firm. If you have smart in-house copywriters, they can learn how to create top-converting and keyphrase-rich copy. There are also resources such as (shameless plug) the SEO Copywriting Certificate Program that will teach you the ropes.

2. Find a technical SEO firm that does employ SEO copywriters. They are out there – you just have to be very specific about what you need (content marketing services.) If you do go this route, it’s important to gain writing samples from the writer who will be handling your account. That way, you can request another writer if the original writer’s work doesn’t “speak to you” (and don’t worry – the original writer won’t take it personally. Different writers “click” with different clients, so it’s OK to be picky.)

3. Work with your “technical SEO” and hire a SEO copywriting and content marketing agency for your content creation. This may seem clunky at first, but it’s actually very workable. The technical SEO worries about your site architecture and links – and the SEO copywriter focuses on your customer persona and your conversions. Since good SEO copywriters are also SEOs in their own right, they can easily work with other SEO providers. Plus, both firms get to focus on what they do best.

Whatever option you choose, you can easily have the best of both worlds – a technically-savvy site and top-ranking copy that converts like crazy. Once your copy and site are top-notch, you’ll truly enjoy the power of “good SEO” – and you can start building on that success.