How to Get Paid More for SEO Writing

Carol Tice

SEO Writing Helps you Stay on Target

As promised, I have one more question to answer this week from MALW reader Gina, who asked earlier about niche blogging vs general blogging. Today, we discuss SEO and high-paid writing. Her question:

Carol, I’m curious what you think of SEO writing. There are many SEO companies that charge big dollars to provide readable SEO articles and content to clients. How many upscale online writers do or don’t write with keywords in mind? I know search engines are becoming less keyword driven, but they are still a reality. Just wondering what your thoughts are on copywriters and SEO.

Let’s start by saying there’s SEO writing, and then there’s “SEO writing,” as in all the ads you see that are looking for an “SEO writer.” In my experience, this latter title in an ad usually means “I’m looking for someone who will quickly cobble together something from a few other similar topic pages they find online and use a lot of keywords to help our rankings. We don’t care if the writing’s very good.” A threat that all content will be run through Copyscape to make sure you’re not plagiarizing is the hallmark of this genre.

And the pay is crap. And established, professional copywriters have names for what this is — names like “retyping” and “article spinning.” When you say it’s “readable,” in my experience that doesn’t mean it’s usually something anyone would ever actually want to read. These are articles created primarily for search engines to read. Whether people ever read them seems to be a sort of secondary consideration.

I know what you want to tell me, Gina — you’re different and special. Your SEO writing is great copy. If so…you’re being ripped off and underpaid for what you’re delivering. Stop writing for SEO houses if you want to earn more.

Well-paid copywriters sell themselves as capable of delivering knockout information in compelling ways, so that customers of their client Web sites will be excited by what they offer, come back often, and buy products and services. These articles are written for people first, and search engines second. That’s the difference. Not everybody can write something people want to read…the pool of possible writers is smaller…and pay is better.

Do top-flight copywriters care about SEO and use keywords in online content they create? Absolutely. We try to work them into our headlines and first paragraphs, for sure. But we’re not looking to use them at some crazy ratio where they’re every third word of an article. I’m often given keywords to use by clients. The key word there is “use,” not overuse. As you note, search engines are getting smarter about keyword-dense text. Keyword density isn’t most important to most good-paying clients — their top priority is to have mind-blowingly helpful information on their site and compelling sales materials that establish them as the authority in their sector and helps them sell.

As far as the “many SEO companies that charge big dollars,” I’m not sure that’s a reality. It’s a very cutthroat industry and I think their markup isn’t that different from that of any other type of copywriting agency or middleman. Stop worrying about how much profit SEO companies are making off you, and find your own clients to earn well and learn how to make money writing the correct way.

Photo via Flickr user smemon87


  1. sandfan332

    How about another article like this? Pretty good. I learned a little technical writing back in school, and this has the two most important things of a good article, engaging and fun to read. Cheers.

    F. Wilson
    Halloween cookies

  2. Gina

    Carol, Maybe I need to work on my writing skills because based on your responses it seems I haven't made myself clear in one post yet. I'm not on a "crusade." Crusades wear me out. These type of conversations wear me out.

    I'll just say that I have observed a disproportionate number of bottom-feeding conversations on the Internet with copywriters–many of them seasoned journalists in transition–who are fed up with unfair pay. They somehow never bring into the conversation how much of a cut is being taken off the top of their pay.

    I agree completely with you that the goal is to work for yourself. That has been my premise from the start, so I don't know why would keep being reiterated here.

    I have long believed the ultimate business model and freedom of the Internet is that everyone can work for his or her self. Obviously, there is a plethora of work to be had. But a lot of people struggle on some level with the transition from working for contractors to working for themselves. They don't always have the money to pay someone to coach them though the process of transitioning. So, they can feel like they can't get "in"–or they just can't get straight answers to basic questions. A couple of days ago I talked to a copywriting coach who told me she vowed to herself after she "made it" in the business she would help other people do the same, because she had experienced such an attitude of a "secret society" among copywriters. That seems so odd to me, considering how much text and copy exists on this planet.

    I've circled around this stuff enough now. I'm headed where I need to go. Thanks.

  3. Marshall Melancon

    Would it be alright if I link up to this webpage, from my webpage? I'm wanting to collect as many pieces of information as I am able.

    • Carol Tice

      It would be fine! Appreciate your asking. In case anyone has questions, it's always OK to link over to one of my blog posts…just not OK to reproduce it on your own site without permission.

      Thanks —


  4. Carol Tice

    Gina —

    I don't understand your comment 'there is no entry for people who can't afford to pay the insiders." Can you elaborate?

    Because as far as I know, the world of copywriting is wide, wide open. You are free to call on businesses and get writing jobs from them directly, any day of the week! No inside info required.

    I get that you're on some kind of crusade to 'expose' that SEO houses make money off you. Consider it exposed! But also realize that it's never going to change, which is why I don't think it's a productive use of time to spend energy obsessing on it, hating intermediary SEO houses that hire you, etc. That's what they do — they make a cut because they have the clients and you don't. The only way it changes is by going out and marketing your business and getting your own clients.


  5. Carol Tice

    Gina —

    I think all you really need to know is — when you work through an intermediary…they take a cut. You always make less than the full rip.

    It's always better to find your own clients. In some situations, it's not always possible — for instance, I've worked through contractors in order to work for major corporations, including Microsoft and Dell. I would likely never have accessed these clients without that mediator, so it was well worth it to me — and I was still well paid. I guess that's my bottom line — if I feel I'm being paid appropriately and pretty close to a par with what I'd get independently, I'm OK with it.

    The question is still the same — am I being paid a professional rate? Usually the answer when you work for a third party is no…which is why I try to keep them a small part of my client mix.


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