I’ve been working with other SEO industry professionals of all stripes, from technical SEO specialists to web developers, for decades.
I feel that every individual in an SEO setting needs to bring some innate skill to a role, but there is also expertise that is often learned best on the job itself.
SEO content writers know this as well as anyone.
If you want to enter digital marketing as a content marketer, you might be surprised that strong writing skills are necessary but not sufficient.
There are plenty of core SEO concepts with which content writers must be familiar if they intend to do their jobs well by writing content that ranks for their clients.
Here are three skills that SEO content writers need to succeed in the industry.
1. Diverse Writing Skills
No surprise here: the first core skill an SEO content writer needs is the ability to master different writing styles.
When a writer joins an agency, chances are good that the writer will be tasked with generating content for all kinds of clients.
Employees of digital marketing agencies know this to be true: content writers can spend the morning writing for a candy company and a funeral home, then turn to a blog post about the construction industry later on.
The content itself is different for each of those clients, but what matters is the tone.
Tone is something that readers can’t exactly discern from words themselves, but rather from the sound of the words when put together.
Funeral home content deserves a serious, straightforward, and compassionate tone, while candy ad copy calls for writing that is lighthearted and fun.
A strong SEO content writer not only knows instinctively what kind of tone to use but how to go about using that tone in a way that is engaging to readers.
Speaking of engagement, this next skill is also absolutely crucial for any SEO content writer who wants to make it big.
2. Understanding Search Intent
The content writers you employ in your digital marketing agency don’t need to be consummate gurus in SEO to succeed in their roles.
But there is also a method to content writing that fits in perfectly with SEO as a whole, and that is the understanding of searcher intent.
If content writers want to be engaging in their work, they need more than just professional writing skills.
To be engaging, writers must generate the content that online users actually want to read, rather than simply tossing subjects at the wall to see what sticks.
Now, SEO professionals and other industry experts know all the tools that content writers use to determine what people are searching for, tools such as BuzzSumo and SEMrush.
Being aware of these tools isn’t the hard part; it’s using the information they provide to work, to create better content for readers.
Once content marketers are experts in navigating the topic-generation features of these tools, it is up to them to turn those topics into lightning-rod content that actually answers users’ questions.
There are four major types of search intent that content writers must keep in mind when they write.
- Informational – when people want to know things.
- Navigational – when people want to visit a specific website or web page.
- Transactional – when people want to buy things.
- Commercial investigation – when people research products they are interested in buying.
Writing for the different search intents requires different approaches from the content writer.
At the same time, each piece of content is still designed to lead readers toward purchasing the client’s products or services.
For instance, an informational content piece might be a listicle of the top 10 best fashion styles for the upcoming season.
Then, in each item, the writer can link to a product of the client.
Meanwhile, writing for an ecommerce website would call for transactional content that is a bit more open about getting readers to buy a product.
Additionally, content writers know that each type of content written for a certain context will use different keywords.
Depending on the setup of your digital marketing agency, your content writers may be responsible for performing this keyword research themselves, or they can receive it from the SEO specialists.
In either case, knowing how to use the correct keywords should always be part of an SEO content writer’s toolbox.
For example, an informational search term might be something like “best trampoline brands,” whereas a transactional query could be “trampolines for sale online.”
A strong writer will know how to employ such terms in natural ways that answer what people want to know.
3. Writing for Topics Over Keywords
The final skill that any professional SEO content writer needs to have is the ability to write for topics over keywords.
If writers are just getting into SEO content marketing now, then they should know the history of keywords in SEO.
It used to be that people wrote for keywords because Google placed more importance on keywords in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
People used black hat techniques to stuff keywords into the content.
That’s all penalized now since it makes for poor user experiences.
Now, what SEO content writers have to do to get their content ranked is to focus on writing for topics over keywords.
Yes, keywords have their place, but if a content piece focuses too much on shoehorning them in, it won’t read well to users and Google won’t rank the piece so well.
Instead, writers need to do their best to make content original and relevant to the original query.
They should concentrate on answering the actual question in as much detail as they can muster.
To see what’s already ranking, writers can scan the SERPs and then work to make their content better.
I think it’s wonderful when a professional writer, perhaps one who formerly knew nothing about SEO, wants to break into the industry.
I don’t want to minimize the fact that it does indeed take strong writing skills to be a successful SEO content writer.
I simply want to emphasize the marriage that must take place between writing acumen and SEO knowledge in people who want to call themselves content marketers.
Digital marketing isn’t going anywhere!
To all professional writers out there who are interested in SEO, I hope you take some lessons from this post and get even further into the fascinating world of content marketing.