Frequently Asked Questions about Copywriting & Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
These FAQs are divided into three main sections. Click the link that best describes you.
- I want to hire a copywriter…
- I want a high search engine ranking for my website…
- I want to be a copywriter…
- What do you charge?
- What information do you need to quote?
- What information do you need to start the job?
- When can you start?
- How long will it take?
- Can I suggest changes to your copy?
- Do we need to meet in person?
- I’m in another country, can you still write my copy?
- Is my project too big or too small?
- Do you also do editing?
- What is copywriting?
- Do you also do technical writing?
- Can you help me with copyright?
A: It all depends on the project. Some jobs are quick, some take a while. Without knowing a bit about what you require, it’s impossible for me to say. What I CAN say, though, is if you want copy written for $5 per page, or a whole site designed and built for $200, you’re outta luck. We cost a lot more than that.
A: To quote accurately, I need to know a bit of detail:
- How many pages of copy are you after?
- What kind of pages are you after? (e.g. Web, corporate profile, brochure, speech)
- If web, what are the pages? (e.g. Home, About Us, Services)
- How many words per page are you anticipating? (Or are you happy to go with my recommendation?)
- Will you be relying on traffic from the search engines? (i.e. Will you need your site optimised for search engines?)
- What’s your deadline?
A: I’ll send you a questionnaire before I start writing. It’ll cover questions like these:
- What are the benefits of your offering?
- Why is it unique or better?
- What claims do you want to make about it?
- How would you describe the personality of your brand?
- Who is your target visitor?
- What do they need and want?
- Why are they at your site?
- How did they get there? (e.g. Search engine? Sales letter?)
- Why should they trust you?
- What’s your call to action?
- What are your keywords for SEO?
Generally I’ll have further questions as I go, which will all be answerable via email or phone.
A: I can generally start your copywriting project within 2 weeks.
A: Again, it all depends on the specifics of the job, how much information you can supply, and how long you take to review the work. A single page of copy, say 400 words, can be turned around in 1-2 days if you’re able to supply all the information I need, and you review fairly promptly.
A:Yes! By all means. I’m not precious about my work. However, if you suggest a change that, in my professional opinion, is unwise, I’ll advise against it, then leave the final decision to you.
A: No. Only in rare cases is a face-to-face meeting required. All correspondence can be over the phone or via email.
A: Yes! I work for clients around the world, including USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, Tanzania, South Africa and Botswana.
A: Probably not. Whether it’s a one-line ad or a 200 page manual, I’m happy to help.
A: Yes. Some clients find it more affordable to write their own copy and have me simply edit their work. This can be a good option, especially for clients on a tight budget.
A: In plain English, copywriting means the writing that promotes your business. This includes brochures, websites, letters, print ads, Google AdWords, articles, scripts, etc.
A: Yes. I worked as a professional technical writer for 9 years in the software industry before moving into copywriting.
A: No. Copyright is about legal ownership of something, and is totally unrelated to copywriting.
- Why are search engines important to me?
- How do search engines decide on their rankings?
- Can’t I just pay for a high ranking?
- How do I get a high ranking?
- What is search engine optimization (SEO)?
- How many links to my site are there?
- Are some links better than others?
- How do I get lots of links back to my site?
- What do you think is the best way to get lots of links?
- How long does it take to get a high search engine ranking?
- What SEO companies should I be wary of?
- What is keyword analysis?
- Do I need to submit my site to the search engines?
- Should I submit my site to the search engines more than once?
- What are directories and should I submit my site to them?
A: 85% of all website traffic is driven by search engines. The only online activity more popular than search is email. 79.2% of US users don’t go to page 2 of search results. 42% of users click on the no.1 result. For the under-40 age-group, the Internet will become the most used media in the next 2-3 years.
A: You can’t pay a search engine in return for a high ranking in the natural results. You can only get a high ranking if your content is seen as relevant by the search engines.
Search engines identify relevant content for their search results by sending out ‘spiders’ or ‘robots’ which ‘crawl’ (analyse) your site and ‘index’ (record) its details. Complex algorithms are then employed to determine whether your site is useful and should be included in the search engine’s search results. For more information, see my SEO ebook.
A: No. The biggest concern for search engine companies like Google is finding content that will bring them more traffic (and thus more advertising revenue). In other words, their results must be relevant. Relevant results makes for a good search engine; irrelevant results makes for a short-lived search engine.
Most search engines these days return two types of results whenever you click Search:
- Natural/Organic – The ‘real’ search results. The results that most users are looking for and which take up most of the window. For most searches, the search engine displays a long list of links to sites with content which is related to the word you searched for. These results are ranked according to how relevant and important they are.
- Paid – Pure advertising. This is how the search engines make their money. Advertisers pay the search engines to display their ad whenever someone searches for a word which is related to their product or service. These ads look similar to the natural search results, but are normally labeled “Sponsored Links”, and normally take up a smaller portion of the window.
A: There are 5 main steps:
- Step 1 – Create a fast, user-friendly site that Google can ‘read’
- Step 2 – Use the right words on your website
- Step 3 – Get lots of relevant sites to link to yours
- Step 4 – Use the right words in those links
- Step 5 – Have lots of great content on your site & add more regularly
For more information about getting a search engine optimisation (SEO), see my SEO ebook.
A: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the art of creating a website which is search engine-friendly. This means:
- using the right words in your copy
- using the right words in your HTML code
- structuring your site properly
- designing your site properly
- creating lots of great content
- getting lots of other sites to link to yours
For more information about getting a high ranking, see my SEO ebook.
A: The simplest way is to just Google for “www.yourdomain.com”. Google will list most of the pages that contain your URL. In most cases, the URL will be an active link (or at least it should be… if it’s not, you should ask the site owner to make it active). For more information about getting a high ranking, see my SEO ebook.
A: Yes! The ideal kind of links are those that:
- come from relevant sites (sites which use the same keywords);
- come from important sites (have a high ranking);
- include your keyword as part of the visible link text;
- include varying link text (not the same link text each time); and
- come from a page that links to few other sites.
When a search engine sees a link which satisfies most or all of these conditions, it says, “Hey, this site must be credible and important, because others in the same industry are pointing to it.” For more information about getting a high ranking, see my SEO ebook.
A: There are many possible ways to generate links. Some are dubious (like auto-generation software, and sites set up by webmasters simply to host links to their other sites) and I won’t be discussing them here. Others, like those discussed below, are legitimate.
- Add your site to DMOZ & Yahoo Directories (and other free directories)
- Check where your competitors’ links are coming from
- Invest yourself in social media, become a part of a community, write lots of good content on your site, let that community know about it – then some of them will link to it
- Write guest blog posts for other people
- Write testimonials for other people, on the condition that they include a link to your site when they publish them
For more information about getting a high ranking, see my SEO ebook.
A: Invest yourself in social media, become a part of a community, write lots of good content on your site, let that community know about it – then some of them will link to it. For more information about getting a high ranking, see my SEO ebook.
A: A long time! It’s impossible to say how much time you’ll need to spend, but you can be sure it’ll be a while no matter which method of you use. You just have to keep at it. Even then, you’ll still need to dedicate some ongoing time to the task, otherwise your ranking will drop. For more information about getting a high ranking, see my SEO ebook.
A: Be wary of SEO companies that promise or guarantee results in a given timeframe, especially if they won’t expand on their methods for generating links back to your site. For more information about getting a high ranking, see my SEO ebook.
A: The first thing you need to do when you begin chasing a good search engine ranking is decide which words you want to rank well for. This is called keyword analysis or keyword research. It involves a bit of research and a good knowledge of your business, the benefits you offer your customers, and the reasons they’re searching. For more information about keyword analysis, see my SEO ebook.
A: Theoretically, no. But I wouldn’t risk not doing it – especially as it’s free. As soon as you register your domain name, submit it to Google! Even if you haven’t built your site, or thought about your content, submit your domain name to Google. In fact, even if you haven’t fully articulated your business plan and marketing plan, submit your domain name to Google. For more information about getting a high ranking, see my SEO ebook.
A: No need. Although some of the search engines allow you to do this, there’s really no need.
A: Directories are websites (or web pages) which simply list lots of websites and give a quick description of each. Some are free and some require you to pay for a listing. Free directories are useful because you get a free link. However, the links aren’t worth much. Paid directories can be good if they’re relevant, but they can cost a lot in the long term, so choose wisely. The other issue is that you don’t usually have to have a great website or a great offering to get a listing on a directory. So Google doesn’t value those links very highly. (They’re not really a reflection of the quality of your site.) One exception is the DMOZ Open Directory Project. You should try to get your site listed there if possible. For more information about getting a high ranking, see my SEO ebook.
- Can I work for Divine Write?
- Can I do work experience with Divine Write?
- What does a copywriter do in a typical day?
- What are the working conditions like?
- What’s the pay like?
- What skills do I need?
- What education do I need?
- Do I need a website?
- What should I include on my website?
- Should I target agencies?
- Should I cold call?
- Should I write samples?
- Do I need an accounts package?
A: Not unless you’re totally awesome, and the client specifically wants me to outsource. (I usually write everything that goes out the door.) And even then, there’s a good chance I’d choose one of the freelance copywriters I’ve used successfully in the past.
A: Unfortunately not. Managing an inexperienced copywriter and controlling quality takes a lot of time and introduces risk.
A: This question is very comprehensively answered in A Day in the Life of a Freelance Copywriter. However, to summarise, copywriters do some or all of the following:
- Meet with prospective clients or talk with them on the phone to sell your services to them.
- Liaise with clients to take a brief (learn what the client needs from the copy, who the audience is, what benefits the client offers their customers, etc.).
- Research the subject matter.
- Plan the structure and approach of the writing.
- Write the piece.
- Liaise with the client through the review process.
- Get the client to sign off (approve) the job.
- Invoice the client.
- Chase payment of your invoice.
- Process the payment using an accounts package.
- Keep detailed records of all correspondence and activities throughout the process.
- Manage the business (including your IT systems, accounting, website, advertising materials, proposals, search engine ranking, contacts database, etc.).
A: Most copywriters work either for themselves (“freelancing”) or for advertising or web design agencies (“employees”). Freelancers tend to work from home, but may sometimes work at the client’s workplace. Employees almost always work at the client’s workplace. Conditions for freelancers tend to be pretty relaxed (they’re at home, after all!!!). I haven’t worked at an agency, but I suspect things are a little different there.
A: I’ve heard of freelance copywriters being paid by the article at a rate of USD $12 per 600 word article (seems ridiculous to me!). I believe these people were college students looking for a way into the copywriting industry. At the other end of the spectrum, talented freelancers who treat writing as a serious business can earn in excess of USD $200,000 per year. I think junior to mid-weight agency copywriters tend to earn between USD $35,000 – $70,000.
A: A copywriter needs to be able to write very well in many different styles (from short 1-2 line ads through to long 3000 word articles). You also need to be able to adapt to heaps of different subjects (from IT to kitchen surfaces to accounting to nutritional supplements to cars). You need to be organised and hard-working, with an eye for detail and an understanding of writing for different media (website, brochures, radio, TV, etc.). Freelancers need good business sense, an understanding of search engines, some ability with IT systems, and patience. You also need to accept that you’re gonna be poor for the first 2 years!
A: Formal education never hurts, and often helps. But it’s no guarantee of success. If a copywriter has all of the above skills, they won’t need formal training in writing. If you’re after a great copywriting course, check out Damn Fine Words by Men With Pens. It’s the course I’d choose if I wanted to break into coywriting, or simply wanted to improve my content marketing skills.
A: Yes! The best place for any freelance advertising copywriter or website copywriter to start is to fork out for a website. A website is invaluable because when you cold call and email prospects, you’ll need to direct them somewhere that gives them more information.
A: Keep it simple, include a portfolio page, add any samples of any sort of copywriting you’ve done, talk about the places you’ve worked, the clients you’ve written for, and include any testimonials you’ve received. Make sure you include your contact details as well, and it doesn’t hurt to include a photo either. If you can’t say much about your experience, don’t say much. It doesn’t even really matter if you don’t say anything. Remember, just like any other form of advertising copywriting, writing about yourself requires the art of subtlety. If you lack experience, but you’re confident you can do the job, you can be very clever in what you don’t say, and most people will read it the way you intended.
A: If you’ve never worked as an advertising copywriter or website copywriter before, don’t target advertising agencies and web design agencies. They know exactly what they’re after, so if you don’t have a portfolio, you won’t stand a chance. Target end-clients directly.
A: Yes. One of the best ways of generating business in the early days is to cold call potential end-clients. It’s hard work and very time consuming, but you can generate some very qualified leads. For more information on cold calling, take a look at 12 Handy Tips for Generating Leads through Cold-Calling.
A: Yes. If you’re targeting specific clients or industries, don’t be afraid to write a few samples and send them through. You can offer the pieces free of charge (everyone likes something for nothing) or at a discount, or you can use it as an incentive to sign them up for future work. It all depends on the type of work and the type of client. The important thing to remember is that samples are virtually as good as a portfolio to most prospective clients.
A: Yes! Don’t be fooled into thinking you can handle your accounts manually (or with Microsoft Excel). Even if you only have a few clients, you NEED a proper accounts package like Saasu. You’ll understand why the first time you do your GST reports or annual taxes. In fact, you’ll understand why whenever you need to chase down outstanding invoices.
See some samples of my copywriting
Take a look at my copywriting portfolio to see if I’m the copywriter you’re after.
Or contact me for a copywriting quote
If you’re after a world-class copywriter or designer, call Glenn in Sydney Australia
on 0413 388 991 or email me for a quote.