Why We Don’t Hire SEO Writers

While some digital marketers have yet to get the memo, using cheap, low-quality content to bolster a site’s backlink profile is becoming less and less feasible by the day. If you want your link building and content marketing campaigns to be more effective, you have to invest in quality content creation.

While SearchWorks is best known as an SEO service agency, well over half the people we employ are content writers, editors, or creators of some kind. In fact, you might have heard of SearchWorks because of all the job postings we put out for these positions. However, despite the huge supply of web content writers and editors on the job market, only a small percentage of applicants are ever hired.

Why Don’t We Hire More Writers?

We would like nothing more than to hire more writers. Our inability to find qualified writers has actually significantly limited our growth. However, to maintain the standards we’re known for, we have little choice but to be picky about the people we do hire.

In any case, of the 30 or so applicants that we entertain each week, the vast majority of the ones we don’t hire describe themselves as “SEO writers” or “SEO copywriters”. SEO writers and SEO copywriters should not be confused with SEO specialists who happen to have writing skills or content developers who know SEO principles. Using the title SEO writer implies that one applies SEO principles in their writing to make pages rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).

In our close to a decade of experience, we find that this distinction tend to imply a mindset that makes an applicant unsuited for our projects. It’s not just SearchWorks that has this problem either. Other Philippine-based agency owners and managers that primarily handle high-value SEO campaigns seem to have the same issues.

So why do SearchWorks and other digital marketing agencies have such a problem with self-described SEO writers? Here are just some of the reasons:

1) The SEO Industry Has Probably Corrupted Their Writing Style

The peculiarly repetitive type of bad writing common to many SEO writers is not taught by any school system. Rather, it’s forced by short-sighted and incompetent managers and business owners, some of whom seem to have a knack for destroying the long-term career prospects of the people they hire.

When a writer is forced to adopt an unnaturally redundant style in the name of SEO, it can be very difficult for them to reacquire a writing style that is suited for the projects we take on. Even worse, if they spent years writing low-quality content, they might actually believe that their robotic writing has a place in digital marketing.

It doesn’t. Google and other tech companies continuously pour billions of dollars into R&D to ensure that their products can understand human communications patterns. The unnatural style maintained by a lot of SEO writers has long lost its value as search engines have long been smart enough to see right through it. If we were to hire a writer who had a typical “SEO writer style”, they’d probably damage our client’s online properties, and this is something we cannot tolerate.

2) They Tend to Have Unrealistic Salary Expectations

Another thing we noticed about self-described SEO writers is that many of them have an inflated sense of self-worth, particularly when it comes to their asking rates. A lot of them seem to believe they should be paid twice as much or even more than their counterparts who describe themselves as content specialists, simply because they claim to know what SEO is.

Unfortunately, this sense of self-worth is rarely justified by their application test scores. The consistently disappointing test scores have led us to be skeptical of any hotshot applicant who describes themselves as an SEO writer.

3) You Can Teach Any Good Writer SEO

SEO writers often have unrealistic salary expectations because they believe SEO is much harder than it actually is. It isn’t. What’s more, we’re more inclined to hire applicants who don’t know SEO if their writing samples prove to be engaging.

Why? Because great writers also tend to be great students. If they’re smart enough to write articles that are engaging, well-researched, and logically structured, they’re more than smart enough to pick up on SEO principles and apply them to their future writing without compromising their style.

An SEO writer, on the other hand, probably has to unlearn a lot of bad writing practices before they get up to speed. This can be a problem because we expect our writers to pass deliverables that require minimal editing. Fixing content written in the typical SEO writer style is a nightmare for our editors and is rarely worth their time. Given this, we would rather just hire applicants who have the most important things down and later develop their SEO knowledge as they work through their projects.

4) A Good Writer Will Avoid Calling Themselves an “SEO Writer”

Many applicants that describe themselves as SEO writers do so because their previous job gave them that job title. If this applies to you, then there’s technically nothing wrong with calling yourself that.

However, we’ve noticed that the title “SEO writer” is often used as an additional selling point by applicants who lack confidence in their writing skills. We get a lot of applicants who specifically choose to call themselves SEO writers in an attempt to convince us that they’re worth hiring.

This isn’t something that good writers tend to do, even if they did have SEO writer as a title at their previous job. For one thing, most good writers will relish the opportunity to take on a wide range of writing projects, including those that have nothing to do with SEO. Thus, they’re more likely to describe themselves as content specialists, content writers, or even content developers.

Also, if they’re good writers, they’re probably smart enough to understand that being an SEO writer is nothing to be cocky about. They will understand that selling themselves as one devalues their skills and can hurt their chances of being hired at a respectable agency. This leads us to our final point.

5) Legitimate Agencies Don’t Use “SEO Writer” as a Job Title

Legit marketing and advertising agencies don’t have any SEO writers on their permanent payrolls. We said “legit agencies” because there are a lot of fly-by-night operations that give their employees that job title.

Quite often, if an agency uses “SEO writer” as a job title it betrays a lack of confidence in their team’s basic writing abilities. At best, it can also indicate that the agency’s owners have a naïveté about SEO and the value of content. At worst, it might show that they are the type of business that is willing to deceive clients. In any case, writers from these smaller agencies rarely have the experience or skills we need to pull off high-value content creation and link building projects.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of whether you run a vast ecommerce site or a simple one-page blog, content quality matters. Search engines have become much better at detecting and punishing content that’s meant to manipulate the system and the “writing for the machines” approach to SEO has long become unworkable as a result. For an SEO campaign to really succeed in elevating a brand, you want writers who can create real value for human audiences.

In our experience, applicants who willingly describe themselves as SEO writers are rarely able to create value with their writing and they tend to have a fundamental misunderstanding of how modern search engines work. From our perspective, this makes them poor choices for the types of digital marketing campaigns we run.

We’re sure that there are exceptions. Unfortunately, it seems that not many of these exceptional SEO writers want to apply at SearchWorks or other local agencies. Needless to say, if you want to get hired at a respected agency, it’s probably a good idea to ditch the “SEO writer” job title and all the baggage that comes with it.

Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal is the founder and CEO of SearchWorks.Ph. He has been doing SEO since 2008 and is consistently featured in mainstream media and industry conferences. His core skills include SEO, SEM, data analytics and business development.
Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal is the founder and CEO of SearchWorks.Ph. He has been doing SEO since 2008 and is consistently featured in mainstream media and industry conferences. His core skills include SEO, SEM, data analytics and business development.