Being an SEO content writer is not something everyone can do. Sure, people imagine that because they tap out emails regularly, they can write an article. Or because they wrote long essays at school once upon a time, they’re a natural writer. However, none of those so-called ‘skills’ apply to writing for the web. These are important distinctions that people looking to assign article title ideas to a freelance writer should bear in mind.
Here are the 8 top skills to look for in an SEO content writer.
1. Grasping Search Intent and Using an Appropriate Writing Style for It
Search intent is important for writers because the writing style and focus must reflect the intent behind the article.
When the buyer provides the article title, the writer must understand how the topic will relate to expected readers’ behavior. For instance, will the article solve a problem but not be looking to sell products? In which case, it will be factual and informative, and not ‘salesy.’ Alternatively, will it have a hybrid focus where it’s not pushing for the sale directly, but will still include a commercial intent when it’s relevant?
A good writer needs to appreciate the search intent behind an article subject, so they write what the audience is expecting to see and get the balance right. Otherwise, the article will fall flat and have a high bounce rate.
2. Appreciating How Keywords Relate to Topics for Ranking
Articles still rank due to the appropriate search terms (keywords) selected and included in the article. Typically, the title will include part or all of the keyword phrases, and the keyword will be included in the copy too.
An SEO content writer must know that the intention is not to keyword stuff by including the keyword excessively and unnaturally. Some clients prefer the keyword to be included in the title but never in the copy itself whereas others might wish to see its inclusion 1-2 times only. A better writer will confirm the client’s wishes to get the keyword density right for them.
3. Being a Native Speaker
While someone from the Philippines or India could produce readable copy that reads like a native, it’s exceedingly rare. Usually, you can almost immediately tell the article was written by a non-native because of their odd word selection despite a grammatically correct sentence structure. Or in worse cases, sentences aren’t properly formed or run on seemingly forever.
Indeed, being a native speaker isn’t a skill, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t include it. Exposure to the English language – either from being born in the USA, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand for starters – isn’t something you can teach quickly. And it shows in the English level and the sophistication of the writing too.
4. Ability to Switch from American English to British English (and Visa-versa)
Writers are often required to switch from their native American English or British English over to another English language. Therefore, it’s useful for owners who have both UK and US-focused sites to work with a writer who can write as an American and as a Brit too.
While a British writer may not know the latest local slang used on the streets of Chicago, they can still use common turns of phrase or words that strike true to American-born readers. It’s useful to read content produced by a writer for different audiences to verify their ability to switch back and forth successfully.
5. Understanding Pop Culture & Keeping Up with the News
Writers are asked to cover a myriad of topics in a given year. Therefore, they must be adaptable.
Sometimes, they will cover topics that are currently trending, Not being completely unfamiliar with that newer product or service is useful to avoid sounding like they’re clueless about it. Also, if they are familiar with relevant pop culture references, it can lend greater authority to the piece.
Reading the news on relevant industries along with current top stories is beneficial because some content buyers like to see topical titbits slipped into the copy. While they may not want to have current news produced because it’s not evergreen, content can be informed with a sense of what’s going on, so it doesn’t read like it was produced 5 years ago.
6. Ability to Research Topics Quickly
Writers may specialize in one industry or field, or they may cover many different ones.
While they may have written on the same subject before, they will also need to be able to research quickly to produce what’s required. If they have limited first-hand knowledge and are unable to bridge that gap through research, it becomes restrictive to the buyer.
7. Formatting Content in a Readable Manner
An article is not the same as a newspaper piece or a novel. Even today, newspaper articles often contain lengthy paragraphs that can take up a full screen or more of a smartphone browser. Similarly, a novel can have long paragraphs that are more suited to an e-book reader where the text size and margins can be easily adjusted to better accommodate it.
Web content must look good on a mobile device. Over half the visitors to the article likely will be consuming the content on their phone at home, on a train, in the car, or elsewhere.
To achieve the readability necessary, short paragraphs, and sometimes shorter sentences are needed. Content should be broken up to ensure a single paragraph never consumes all of the mobile screens. Also, making it easy to scan down the page speeds up reading time. Including bullet points and other eye-catching features draws the reader in.
Writers must possess all these abilities to produce human-readable content that will keep readers on the page for longer – either to buy or so that ads get time to generate impressions.
8. Not Delivering Content Days Later than Expected
Site owners work with a calendar. They expect to order and receive content on time, so they can maintain their publishing schedule and be consistent.
Ordering content and not receiving it when it’s expected creates a knock-on effect as a result.
Talented SEO content writers are not easy to find. Most lack the skills necessary to deliver effective copy that will support their client’s websites. It’s necessary to pick and choose to find the best ones and then hold onto them.