SEO Copywriters: How to Make an Extra $61,880 This Year

SEO Copywriting

I’ve been an SEO copywriter since mid-2007. When I first entered the field, I knew absolutely nothing about it beyond what SEO stood for. I didn’t know what a duplicate content penalty was (or more correctly, was not); about black hat tactics; keyword strategies; etc.

And I knew nothing about the foundation of SEO – internet marketing itself. And to my great surprise, neither did a lot of my clients.

The reality of internet marketing that’s pertinent here is twofold: (i) it is a rapidly developing medium that very few online marketers really understand; and (ii) you will have to educate your clients to sell more.

You Know More Than Your Clients

If you’re a regular reader of Copyblogger, then you’re probably pretty internet savvy. More than likely, you understand at least the foundation of marketing online. For example, if I asked the following, you’d be able to answer:

Would you like to start with a PPC campaign or do you want to work on building more organic traffic via an article submission campaign?

Many of my clients don’t understand this question. They don’t get phrases like “organic traffic,” “PPC campaign” and “article submission.”

Initially, this astounded and confused me. You see, I’m used to being “just the freelance writer.” I’m accustomed to getting my direction and feedback from clients. Once I realized that I knew more than many of my clients about internet marketing, I had to switch hats – from SEO copywriter to internet marketing consultant.

At this point, I knew I had two choices. I could either shy away from the challenge this presented and stick with basic web copy, or I could seize the opportunity to expand my writing business. I chose the latter.

And, this is where the work began.

How to Prepare Yourself to Teach Clients

I did two things to prepare myself to help clients. I became an “expert,” and I prepared a tutorial. Expert is in quotation marks because internet marketing is a constantly changing field. There’s always something new to learn; you never know it all.

On Becoming an Expert: This was a little nerve wracking in that when you teach, there’s no chance to back out by saying “I don’t know.” You either must know — or you must know how to find out — quickly.

I read – and still do – a lot about SEO: from site architecture, to how to research keywords, to effective link building strategies, to common SEO myths.

You see, I knew how to write SEO content. But to teach, I realized I had to gain an intimate understanding of how all of the pieces of the SEO puzzle fit together. Doing this not only made me a better teacher, it made me a better SEO copywriter as well.

Teaching Tip: It’s okay not to know; clients will forgive you this. BUT, you must know how to find out. So bone up on those research skills if it’s a weak spot.

Preparing Your Client Tutorial: It took me a while to realize that I needed a client tutorial. Why? Because I hadn’t wrapped my brain around the fact that a lot of my clients knew less than I did. I think subconsciously I didn’t want to accept this fact – because it meant I’d have to do something about it.

Once I decided to write one though, it came together seamlessly. The following is how I went about it.

  1. Questions from Clients: The endless questions from clients were the first thing that made me realize I needed a tutorial. Hence, this was an excellent starting point. I simply started by answering client questions.
  2. A Broad View of Internet Marketing: In order to ground the answers to these questions, I started from ground zero. I literally went step by step, explaining what SEO is, how search engines find and rank sites, the difference between organic and paid traffic – and a whole lot more.

Before I knew it, I had a 21-page PDF document entitled SEO & Internet Marketing 101: An SEO / Online Marketing Tutorial for Those New to Internet Marketing (you can take a look at it here).

How Educating an Interested Prospect Closes the Deal

As I was putting together the tutorial, I had one prospect on the hook. He was the marketing manager for an online gift card seller. He was unsure about which service he wanted to go with, in spite of several phone consultations. I practically begged him to let me finish writing the tutorial so he could read it before he made up his mind (it was the holiday season and he was anxious to get started).

I was putting the finishing touches on the copy around 7 one evening. I sent this prospect an unproofed copy. He said he wanted to read it on the train on his way home and didn’t mind an unfinished version.

By the time he got home, he’d made up his mind about which service he wanted to proceed with. The next morning, he placed his order. He said the tutorial helped to clarify a lot of the questions he had about internet marketing. This allowed him to easily choose the right service.

This client chose the article submission package for $595. It’s a popular service that many SEO copywriters offer. Simply selling two of these packages a week will gross you $61,880.

Successful SEO copywriters offer many more services, which is why it can be such a lucrative profession.

Why “Teaching Sells”

As the name of Copyblogger’s Teaching Sells training program suggests, teaching gets you – and the client – invested in the process. It’s a give and take that there’s no substitute for.

Once clients understand the process, they’re much more likely to invest in it. And, if you’re the one doing the teaching, the SEO copywriter they’re most likely to invest in is you.

About the Author: Yuwanda Black is an SEO copywriter. Her full range of SEO writing and internet marketing services can be found at New Media Words.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the great tips. Love the headline too. A nice round number: $61,880 :)

  2. This is a great article. I’m going to read your PDF tutorial the first free minute I get.

    It’s kinda funny, because in the car this morning I was telling myself that I need to learn more about marketing my blog on the internet.

    Thanks much!

  3. And the teaching never stops! Longevity seems to be a problem with a lot of clients. They are ready to get to page 1 on Google without a marketing plan.

    As an SEO content writer and strategist I find myself continuously wondering how on earth these people ever got into business? Regardless of whether you are on page 1 on Google does that mean you are getting an ROI? Therefore a commitment from the client is always something I look for. Thanks for writing this copy I will definitely be sending traffic here.
    Gabriella

  4. Yuwanda:

    You are spot on with the notion that many SEO copywriters know more than their clients. Especially if the client is a small offline business.

    My father in law runs a one unit restaurant in a tiny town and i have been trying to get him hip to the idea of doing some online marketing. However it hit me like a ton of bricks, that he just doesn’t understand the process.

    I need to “teach him” what net marketing is all about and how the restaurant can benefit from it. I have set up a website for him, but it receives no interaction from the local community, which is what i want. The town is not very wired, so i’m not expecting huge traffic numbers, but certainly more than what it is currently getting.

    The challenge for me now is to present him the idea of what SEO can do and that it is not rocket science. And that even in a small town, there is some benefit to be gained. A tutorial is a great idea, and i’m not sure why i didn’t think of it before.

    Thanxs!!!

    Missy
    Woody’s Old Town Grill
    http://www.woodysoldtowngrill.com
    Winona, MS

  5. @Gabriella: Re “They are ready to get to page 1 on Google without a marketing plan.”

    Truer words have never been spoken. I have a hard time getting clients to “invest in the process” over the long haul. They want one article set to do the trick and I tell them, it’s just not that easy. Hence, to steal Brian’s phrase, the “teaching sells” concept.

    Glad to know I’m not alone in this quest.

  6. Wonderful example provided. I’m not an SEO writer or expert but it certainly helps to exchange out “SEO writer” with any profession.

    I find that helping potential clients first will lead to the sale rather than pushing for the sale.

  7. Thank you. This is very encouraging and leaves me more confident about what I want to do. Since you are so open about the mathematics of content for pay, one thing that I am sort of confused about was what is the “article submission package” for $595? Can you describe what this service consists of?

    Thanks

  8. As a consultant in a past life, I know how important it is to teach clients how much they *don’t* know – that is, by explaining some of the details to them, they quickly realize that they don’t have the time or energy to do it themselves and make lots of mistakes along the way. It’s much cheaper to benefit from the expertise of the consultant!

    Plan for 2009 is to use this past experience to build a social media consulting practice. Building site now.

  9. Nice article! I really enjoyed reading this article and am now about to read your tutorial document.

  10. Curious: Aren’t all web copywriters naturally SEO copywriters? Why make the distinction?

  11. @Frank Dobner See this page to learn what it’s all about http://www.newmediawords.biz/article-submission1.htm

    @Demian Farnworth: Not if you don’t “write with SEO in mind.” While organic search will start to work for your site after a while (if it’s continuous filled with good, relevant content), you have to apply consistent SEO tactics that work.

    This includes paying attention to things like keyword phrases, keyword density, long-tail keywords, etc. when you write for your site.

  12. @Missy: And, this is why SEO copywriters will be in great demand for years to come. Many smal business owners like your father-in-law have come nowhere near harnessing the power of what the web can do for their business.

    I read someplace that 90% of internet users use the web to send email, make reservations and mindlessly surf. If only 10% are using it for “higher purposes,” eg, to sell goods and services online, create websites, do graphic design, blog, etc., it means that SEO copywriters who are in business now are on the cutting edge of this career.

    This is why I’m simply astounded that more aren’t diving in. There’s plenty of work out there — if you know how to get it.

  13. Yuwanda do you have a twitter account? I would love to follow you. Thanks!

  14. Yes. As a blogger i many times forget how most of the population has no clue what SEO, twitter, blogging, net marketing is.

    Bloggers (and net marketers) tend to forget this alot, because we spend so much time around the above subjects.

    The 90% is an interesting stat.

  15. Yuwanda, you write well! Surely, though, you have a twitter account you can share with us ;)

    Regards
    Shane
    twitter: shanearthur

  16. @Shane: I’m at http://twitter.com/InkwellEditor, and thanks for the comment onmy writing — on some days, I do “get it right”, so to speak. Others, oh well (clients and potential clients, cover your eyes to this response) :-)

  17. Sounds a bit like how to go broke as an SEO copyrighter. $61k might sound like a lot of money, but after self-employment taxes and covering your own benefits, you’re down around entry-level salaries for many jobs (without the sick days, training options, time-in-job vesting, civil rights protections, etc). If you add the overhead of staying viable as a self-employed person (freelancer or whatever), which means covering time spent prospecting for new work, networking, writing proposals, handling bookkeeping and what not, you’re on the way to poverty.

    I’m all for self empowerment and $61k is a great achievement…. but you need to double it before this should be viewed as an attractive opportunity for others to chase (I think you need to earn at least 1.5 times you desired salary as a very rough rule of thumb, more if you are not young and single).

  18. I think SEO is important but if there is no good content, even SEO cannot fool search engines. SEs keep changing their algorythms to become better at seeing the value, so if there is no value provided, correct keyword placement won’t help.

  19. Thanks for the tips Yuwanda! An extra 61K wouldn’t be bad at all for this year. :D

  20. @Simona Point taken. However, to my mind SEO is not meant to “fool search engines” per se, but to aid internet marketers in driving qualified, interested prospects to their websites.

    Of course all the other pertinent, online business practices must be present (eg, excellent content, quality products and serrvies, etc.).

    @john andrews You’re absolutely right. BUT, tell this to the person making 30K with no employee-sponsored health insurance who has to fight traffic to go to a job they hate everyday, and I’ll bet plenty will be willing to “go broke as an SEO copyrighter making 61K.”

    And, the title did say, make an “extra” 61K.

    Thanks anyway for chiming in.

  21. I definitely picked up the “extra” in there.

    This is a great example of changing your relationship from a service provider (commodity, to be priced by the pound and treated accordingly) to trusted partner and advisor, who can charge a oremium price and find clients who are thrilled for the chance to pay extra. Cool stuff.

  22. Premium, not oremium. But you probably already guessed that.

    Although maybe I could convince people that oremium was some kind of trendy precious metal, more valuable than platinum. Yeah, that’s the ticket . . . it’s made out of SOLID OREMIUM.

  23. One thing that came to my mind after I thought about this conversation today, is that based on the answer to my prior question, in order to keep $61k coming in per month and growing the business, you will not be able to do this by yourself because your bandwidth will be severely reduced after 3 or 4 monthly customers. You would have to start hiring or outsourcing bloggers/writers. Do I have this right?

    Frank

    Twitter: http://twitter.com/frank_dobner

  24. Love the article. However, I am not much of a search engine optimization person. It is definitely one of my weaknesses. It is better to be honest then to lie though.

  25. @Sonia Simone Love that ore, SOLID OREMIUM. Waaayyy more valuable than platinum :-)

    @Frank Dobner You’re right about one thing, you will have to sucontract to other writers (or put in 10-12 hour days), but not b/c of bandwith problems (this is never a concern). Articles are submitted to article directories (AD). They’re not hosted on your server, but on the AD server.

    FYI, it’s $61k per year, not per month (boy, I wish!).

    Hope that clarifies things.

  26. Yuwanda, I was not refering to data bandwidth, but rather personal bandwidth (the ability to have enough time to get stuff done). My point was that once you have so many clients you will need to grow by getting more people. How will you manage quality with all that work?

    Thanks

  27. @Frank Dobner Sorry for the misunderstanding; my bad.

    Well, the workload is incredible — let me tell you. And yes, you need other freelancers. I have a team of four writers I work with on a regular basis, and I outsource to other freelance writers if my team gets overloaded (usually inthe spring and early fall is when this happens).

    AND, I routinely put in 10, 12, and 14 hr days (which is why I’m still at the computer at this hour). So far, 2009 is shaping up to be a banner year for biz, but it’s ruining my social life!

  28. In my circle of real life friends I’m sure I’m the only one who even knows what SEO stands for!

    So many to educate…

  29. @MikeWords Mine too Mike. And a lot of my friends work in publishing — where I started my professional career in 1987.

    As you said, sooooo many to educate. C’est la vie, no?

  30. Great post, and thanks for the PDF!

  31. Is 61k what you earn from teaching others? That is alot.. I might try teaching myself first before teaching others.. :)

  32. Awesome article, I always learn something new when I visit.

  33. Nicely done and good elaboration on key points.

  34. Thanks for the PDF. It will help me educate my friends that I’m building websites for. Do you have any advice for SEO’s that have weak copywriting skills? I enjoy the SEO part of it but I struggle with writing the content. I can write it but it just doesn’t flow easily and therefore takes a fare amount of time.

  35. Interesting article/PDF, I have a few points though (wrt the PDF)…

    1. As far as I was aware, the meta keywords tag is ignored by most Search Engines (this goes back to when people used to stuff these tags with high ranking, but irrelevant, keywords). The same applies to the meta description tag although some SEs will use this tag to provide a summary in the SERPs if they can’t find any other text.

    2. You mention keyword density as a factor (in your PDF) but again from what I understand this is not something Search Engines give any weight to – unless there is an abnormal amount of keywords in the text, in which case the content probably would be very easy to read and so wouldn’t get any ‘votes’ (backlinks).

    3. Not using lots of Flash or Images – Search Engines will read the text in the alt attribute and Google is now able to index text content inside of Flash

    Whenever I browse any SEO forums there is usually one thing all the SEO experts say you should do (wrt content) to improve your position in the SERPs… write for humans, then optimise for search engines.

    Just my 2p :o)

  36. Teaching is certainly the best method to improve any skills. Very interesting post.

  37. @DC SEO is not an exact science and even experts disagree on what’s important and what’s not.

    Interestingly, I just did a series of abstracts for one of my clients, an Search Marketing Firm, on SEO. On the subject of “teaching to sell and what’s important,” one article noted:

    “As more marketers move into search marketing to support the shift from offline to online, the industry will see a need to educate newbies who must learn to keep SEO in mind when building the sites. Paying attention to details and ensuring that every page on the Web site has a title tag and keyword-rich URLs will make it easier for search engines to crawl the site . . .”

    Read the entire article at http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticleHomePage&art_aid=97329

  38. @Rick the Realtor In answer to your question, “Do you have any advice for SEO’s that have weak copywriting skills?”

    Hire an SEO copywriter — really!

    Or, spend time to do it yourself. Some people just have a knack for writing; others struggle with it. If it’s not your forte and you can afford to, farm it out so you can concentrate on what you are good at.

    Good luck!

  39. You’re absolutely right, and this is truly the field to get into right now. Take a look at these SEO trends and you can see just how important it is. The jobs are actually going up amid the down economy. Very impressive.

  40. lolol @Yuwanda Black the best is when they want that one article to do it all! We have many articles that explain the most basic SEO techniques on our site. This has always been a service of ours. Do you think the client will read those? Nope they just want you to do a Magic Trick, the rabbit out of the hat as it were. My favorite is when they ask you to give them a point by point of your strategy. Oh yeah sure and how far should I bend while I am at it. Yes My dear Yuwanda we are all in the game of Teaching… it’s the thirst of knowledge. I just don’t do it for free..*mumble*

  41. @Frank Dobner I have 12 full time SEM/SEO writers, senior copywriters and journalist working for me… I hop that answers your question.
    Gabriella

  42. Loved this article–interesting information with real value!

  43. Very informative and inspiring. Sometimes I forget how much of an advantage the average blogger has over the average business man/woman when it comes to SEO. We deal with it every day!

  44. Nice guide for many aspiring freelance writers and those who wants to be involved in SEO writing. And yes, I was drawn by the title. Of course we all know that it does not end there; compelling content should be provided too.