Business Writing Copywriting 2020-10-30 00:00

How to Screen and Hire SEO Content Writers

SEO (search engine optimisation) blog posts and other online articles have become the staple for generating organic traffic. Marketing guru Seth Godin once said that content marketing is the only marketing left. And, yes, SEO copywriting is an enormous part of content marketing

Content marketing itself comprises more than mere blog posts and articles, as it also comprises images, videos, audios, podcasts, interactive platforms, and others. However, texts are the backbone of Internet searches, so strong copywriting is a must.

This said, publishing well-developed and effective SEO articles is one of the proven ways to win the e-commerce game. By dominating several lucrative SEO keywords, you can expect to see a significant hike in site visitors, which may as well increase the overall revenue. 

This explains why companies and other organisations are willing to pay a good amount of money to hire the best SEO writers. Earning well is also the reason many writers claim that they're good at SEO writing while it might only be a self overestimation.

Naturally, those who aren't quite experienced in hiring SEO writers may find it challenging to distinguish the top three percent, or even ten percent, from the rest of the pack. SEO copywriting is a specialisation of content marketing, but it's not synonymous with it. 

Remember, the best SEO articles attract a significant influx of organic traffic. Thus, it should be the goal of any SEO writing.

In this article, we'll discuss the things to do when you're hiring SEO writers, particularly how to discern the most qualified ones with advanced skills. We wouldn't, however, be talking about grammar and subject testing, as we assume that you're already familiar with it or the applicants already have impeccable grammar and overall language mastery. 

  1. First things first, let's discuss what makes SEO writers unique and why you can't just hire any writer who claims that they're good at it.
  2. Second, as an employer, understand the principles of SEO copywriting, so applicants who overestimate themselves would n't fool you.
  3. Third, distinguish top SEO writers from mediocre ones.
  4. Fourth, test writers on SEO knowledge.
  5. Fifth, familiarise with SEO tools.
  6. Sixth, assign a test article.
  7. Seventh, test for user experience (UX) in SEO best practices.

First things first, let's discuss what makes SEO writers unique and why you can't just hire any writer who claims that they're good at it.

SEO writing refers to blog posts or online articles written with a method of enhancing the effectiveness of the content to help rank higher on search engines (like Google and Bing) than contents from other sites targeting the same keywords. Because 75 percent of people will never scroll past the first page of Google search results, by ranking higher, it considerably increases the likelihood for getting more traffic.

To achieve this, an SEO writer must understand search engine algorithms (Google mostly), keywords to search for and include, how to sprinkle them throughout the article without making it awkward, and article development for the specific phase in the buyer's journey. A good SEO writer must understand the technical aspects of search engine optimisation and the artistic and linguistic aspects of content marketing copywriting.

Second, as an employer, understand the principles of SEO copywriting, so applicants who overestimate themselves would n't fool you.

At minimum, as a hiring manager, you'd to comprehend the big picture of holistic SEO, effective keyword research, constructing landing pages, and the three phases of SEO copywriting: preparation, writing, and editing/rewriting. Yoast, an SEO plugin for Wordpress published a comprehensive guide in this subject.

Also, you'd need to be familiar with the big names in SEO research tools: SEMRush, Ahrefs, Google Keyword Planner, UberSuggest, MOZ Keyword Explorer, KWFinder, and Keywords Everywhere. They have similar keyword search features with some overlapping, even though each has its own distinctive strengths.  

Third, distinguish top SEO writers from mediocre ones.

You may post a job vacancy ad on a job board or announce it to your LinkedIn connections that you're hiring SEO writers. Include requirements that only experienced SEO writers would understand and be able to provide, such as familiarity LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords, proof of published articles on high DA (Domain Authority) sites, viral articles on social media, and articles ranked on the first page of Google search results. 

Also, include a brief test on the subject such as:

  1. What would be the acceptable keyword density in an article of 1,200 words?
  2. What tool(s) do you use for optimising keywords? Why do you choose them?
  3. How do you research a subject that you're not familiar with? Include the steps and tools used.
  4. What kind of style do you use when writing SEO articles? Explain why.
  5. How do you discern that an article is of high or low quality? 

Fourth, test writers on SEO knowledge.

Both in-house and freelance SEO writers work with an SEO manager. However, if you're a business owner and you're also acting as an SEO manager, it's recommended to master SEO prior to leading a team of writers. Once you're confident enough, test those candidates.

Ideal SEO managers and writers are familiar with the three pillars of SEO copywriting: content, authority, and technicality. Lacking one of them wouldn't be sufficient for ensuring optimised SEO pages.

Content: A good SEO article is well researched. Long form articles of 1,500 words and above work better than short ones as it has higher stickiness and lower bounce rates. Keyword density should be one to two percent. Aim readability level at 6th to 9th grade level.

Authority: A good SEO article contains incoming dofollow links from other high-authority sites that increase the overall page authority. To achieve a considerable amount of incoming links from prestigious sites, you'd need to submit guest articles with a backlink to your site, which may take time and due diligence in approaching editors.

Technicality: A good SEO page is efficiently developed for crawling and indexing efficiency. Include keywords in each heading and structure each page with headings H1, H2, H3, etc. Also, place an anchor keyword in a title tag with 50 to 60 characters, so 90 percent of the title can appear on search results.

Out of these three pillars, you can ask questions to candidates, such as:

  1. How would you fix low-quality content?
  2. Give examples of high quality incoming links.
  3. What is on-page SEO? How do you use title tags? 
  4. What is internal linking? Why is it important?

Fifth, familiarise with SEO tools.

Since you're hiring SEO writers, most likely you'll be acting as an SEO manager, at least until you've hired one. For this, you'd need to get your hands dirty by using SEO and writing tools first hand. 

Start with a readability level that most readers would be familiar with. Flesch-Kincaid utilises the amount of syllables in a word and amount of words in a sentence to measure readability. Use Hemingway Editor for this purpose.

The higher the score, the better. Ideally, SEO articles aim at 60 to 90 or 6th grade to 9th grade reading level. Most conversational sentences are of 6th grade school level. 

Use SEMrush SEO Writing Assistant to check whether the article has been optimised. Or, you can use Google Search Console to optimise content on Google and get alerts related to your content.

Sixth, assign a test article.

Provide the candidate with a topic or a set of keywords. Ask them to write an article of 1,500 to 1,800 words. Such word count is preferred as Google crawler would consider it more worthy than shorter articles, especially when the content is well developed to provide detailed information on a particular topic.

Once it has been submitted to you, check the keyword density and variations of the anchor keywords, the structure of headings, and the overall development of the narration. How is the tone? Formal or casual, yet intelligent? How's the flow?

Contentwise, which stage of the buyer's journey does it cover? Awareness? Consideration? Decision? Does the article include relevant pain points and provide solutions or steps of things to do? 

Seventh, test for user experience (UX) in SEO best practices.

While it's often overlooked in the things to test in SEO writers, good UX matters when it comes to publishing content online. Expect the writer to at least provide an easy-to-navigate structure with clear and parallel headings, charts, and images. 

Provide some guidelines on the visuals to include in the test article, but make sure to give some room for creativity. Ideally, the chosen writer selects the most appropriate images from stock photo depositories, like Shutterstock (paid) or Pixabay (free).

Sometimes, charts are also required, especially when illustrating statistics, facts, and figures. How the writer presents them in pie or charts and tables would be interesting to evaluate. Illustrations are key to stickiness and increasing readability as you want to accommodate visual readers.

In conclusion, an outstanding SEO writer possesses both the hard and the soft skills to succeed. This refers to language mastery, content copywriting, marketing journey, SEO knowledge, and image selection and editing, and UX familiarity. And also the ability to work closely within an SEO team with the manager and, possibly, several editors.

Be confident about grammar

Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.