Just for SEOs – How to Find and Keep a Great Copywriter

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One of the things I enjoy most about SEO is that I get to work with a lot of creative, talented specialists, especially copywriters. For those who don’t know, a copywriter is someone who writes marketing copy. In essence, a website content writer is a copywriter.

The world has thousands and thousands of copywriters. Sifting through the masses to find a talented, affordable, and likeable copywriter is not always an easy task. But after some time, I’ve managed to find and keep a few great ones. Here’s how I’ve done it.

How to Find Good Copywriters

There are a lot of places to look for copywriters, but these are some of my favorites:

  1. AssociatedContent.com – If you need a writer for a specific subject area, Associated Content is a great place to look. Not only are there thousands of writers to choose from, but you get to review samples of their work before you decide to contact them.
  2. Blogs about Writing – Good copywriters are constantly honing their craft, which means they often comment on and contribute to popular writing blogs. MichelleRafter.com, for example, holds a massive annual writing contest that attracts numerous high-quality bloggers and writers…each of whom offers a series of contributions on their personal or business website. These contests are a great way to identify talent.
  3. Craigslist – If you don’t mind pouring over dozens of emails and attached writing samples, Craigslist can be a great way to find good copywriters (especially local copywriters).

Some favor sites like Elance.com or Guru.com, but I’ve found they can be hit or miss. While you can definitely find someone that offers great quality and value, I’ve found that many of the people actively bidding on copywriting projects are halfway across the globe. When you’re working with a copywriter, it’s essential that both of you can pick up the phone and talk about your project. If your copywriter is 12 time zones away, that becomes much more difficult. As a result, these sites are low on my list.

Six Tips for Keeping Great Copywriters

Once you’ve found someone who can create the writing you need, it’s essential that you cultivate a relationship with them. Great copywriters have plenty of opportunities to work (good writing, like SEO, is an in-demand skill), and as a result copywriters are as much evaluating you as a client as you are evaluating them. Here are some tips for building a great relationship:

1. Find out what they like to write. Some copywriters salivate at the prospect of writing 500 words about mortgage refinance. Other copywriters would rather have sharp pieces of bamboo shoved under the fingernails than write about anything financial.

Before starting a project with a new copywriter, take a few minutes to discover what they enjoy writing about so that you can match them up with projects they’ll like. When you can match a copywriter with an enjoyable topic, the result is a well-researched and top quality product…not to mention a copywriter who always looks forward to working with you.

2. Open communication is essential. Many experienced copywriters have a standard questionnaire that each of their clients must complete before starting a project. These questionnaires help a copywriter learn about your project’s marketing goals, you or your client’s preferred writing style, etc. If the copywriter you’re working with doesn’t have a questionnaire, help them develop one.

3. Recognize that writing is a process. It’s not realistic to expect a copywriter to generate exactly what you need in their first draft. Copywriting is a creative process. It’s expected that you and/or your client will give feedback and ask for revisions.

4. Don’t ask for it right away unless you need it right away. One of the easiest ways to turn off a copywriter is to demand quick turn-around on all of your projects. First of all, most copywriters have dozens of clients – it’s simply not fair to demand they drop everything to complete your project right away.

Second, if you ask for something ASAP and then don’t respond to your copywriter immediately with feedback or revisions, you’ve made yourself look bad. At best, they’ll ignore your next “emergency” request. At worst, they’ll never work with you again.

5. Remember that writing is not a commodity. I can’t tell you how many web designers, developers, and SEOs I’ve talked to who view copywriting as some sort of machined commodity. Instead of recognizing that copywriting is both art and skill, these people ask how many 400+ word articles they can have written for $50.

If you don’t value copywriting as a skill, that’s your own business. However, no self-respecting copywriter would choose to work with someone who doesn’t respect their skills. If you want to keep a great copywriter, you must respect what they do.

6. Most Copywriters need SEO guidance. I’ve yet to talk to a writer who doesn’t claim to “get” SEO, but a lot of times the copy still comes back with keyword-less headlines, no bold or emphasized keywords, no integration of skimmable items like lists and sub-headers, or poorly chosen anchor text. This is to be expected – most web copywriters were educated to write as a journalist or novelist, so optimizing content for search isn’t necessarily a natural mindset.

In order to minimize revisions, I have a short SEO copywriting checklist that contains all the SEO elements I want from my copy. I send that checklist to my new copywriters and give them SEO tips during the revision process too. Over time, we develop an understanding of what I’m looking for.

Great copywriting is the backbone of many powerful websites, and successful SEOs understand the importance of well-written content. Considering that one simple article or blog post can spontaneously generate links, leads, and/or sales for you or your client, it’s essential to get the best possible writing you can afford.

Great copywriters may be hard to find, but the reward is substantial. Take the time to find writers that know what they’re doing, remember that writing is a process, and respect the skills. The reward will be strong relationships with people whose work will make you look better in your client’s eyes.

Special thanks to my wife, Sara, website copywriter extraordinaire, for teaching me so much about copywriting.

Jason Lancaster

Jason Lancaster

Jason Lancaster is President of Spork Marketing, a Denver Internet marketing company specializing in search engine optimization, marketing, and web design.
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