Do writers need to know SEO?

January 27, 2023


John Thomas

Like most things in life, the answer isn’t all-encompassing.  “As crucial as SEO is to the success of a website, not every writer knows how to do it”

Writing is an art form that isn’t without its challenges. There’s grammar to think about, vocabulary to choose from, and countless rules to follow depending on genre, format, channel, medium, and industry. All this while trying to capture the attention of an audience.

There have been many discussions about search engine optimization’s (SEO’s) role in writing, adding another step to a laborious process. Some claim that writers need to know SEO to write compelling content, while others disagree and maintain that SEO is a separate profession altogether.

What is SEO?

Let’s start with the basics. SEO stands for search engine optimization, and it means doing everything possible to ensure that your content appears in search engine results pages (SERPs). This includes using specific keywords, optimizing your website’s design and user experience, and publishing fresh and engaging content on a regular basis.

SEO is accomplished through on-page optimization (like using keywords and optimizing title tags) and off-page optimization (like link building and social media engagement). 

In the past, SEO was a lot simpler. Google’s algorithms were less complex, which made it easier to game the system by stuffing keywords into website content. But those days are long gone. Now, full-time SEO specialists and strategists dedicate themselves to the art and science of search engine ranking.

What types of writers need SEO?

As crucial as SEO is to the success of a website, not every writer knows how to do it nor do they need to. For example, SEO isn’t a concern if you’re writing sales collateral like PDFs and sales decks.

Generally speaking, if you’re not writing for the web — or more specifically, if you’re not creating content meant to be found by Google search — then the writer wouldn’t need to worry about SEO. In a business setting, however, most content writing is meant to rank. Some exceptions include:

  • Email marketing

  • Downloadable lead magnets (e-books, white papers, etc.).

  • Printed collateral (like brochures and catalogs).

If a job description or brief is for any of the following content writing, the client is likely looking for a writer with SEO knowledge and experience:

Blog posts

When writing an SEO-optimized blog post, you need to be aware of how people will find it. That means using keywords throughout the post (in the title, in the body, and in the meta tags), as well as making sure the post is shareable on social media.

You also need to format your post in a way that’s easy to read and digest, which generally means keeping paragraphs short and using subheadings and bulleted lists generously. This not only makes your SEO content more readable but also helps Google index it more effectively.

Web copy

If you’re writing SEO content for a website or online store, you need to know how your content will appear in search results. That means using keywords judiciously and crafting effective title tags and meta descriptions.

It’s also important to remember that people read web copy differently than other types of content writing. When someone lands on a website, they usually look for specific information. They will scan the page rather than read it from top to bottom. 

Marketing materials

If you’re working in or for a company’s marketing department, you need to be aware of how to integrate keywords into your writing. You also need to be able to write persuasive copy that speaks to the needs of your target audience. After all, marketing aims to drive conversions. 

Your writing needs to be focused on persuading people to take a specific action, whether signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase.

SEO: Science vs. Artistry

SEO used to be regarded as a science while copywriting was considered an art. But the two disciplines have become increasingly intertwined in recent years, to the point where it’s hard to be a good SEO writer without also being a good copywriter and vice versa.

The reason for this is simple: Google’s algorithms have evolved to reward quality content. For your SEO content to rank highly in search results, it must first be well-written, persuasive, and relevant to your target audience.

In other words, the best way to succeed at SEO writing is to approach it from a copywriting perspective. Of course, you still need to include the right keywords, format your content in a way that’s easy for Google to crawl, and distribute your content in a way that earns backlinks. 

Why should writers learn SEO?

So, should writers know SEO? Learning the basics definitely wouldn’t hurt. But as for becoming an expert? Unless you’re planning to specialize in SEO analysis, it’s probably not worth your time.

If you’re a freelance writer, the best way to position yourself as a qualified SEO writer is to focus on creating quality content. The more value you can provide for your clients, the better your chance of landing high-paying gigs.

Related Content: The Ultimate SEO Playbook

And if you’re looking to hire a writer, the best thing you can do is look for someone who’s a good fit for your brand. If you need help with your SEO, look for a writer or writer platform that has experience with keyword research. But don’t necessarily expect them to be experts in all things SEO.

As a business, your SEO strategy should extend beyond blog posts and keywords anyway. Creating quality content is just one part of a successful SEO strategy. Link building, site architecture, and technical SEO are also essential factors. Even your social media presence can come into play.

That being said, here are a few reasons why a writer should at least learn basic SEO:

Understanding the target market

The first and most crucial step in SEO is understanding the target market. What are they looking for? What keywords will they be searching for? Where are they in the buyer’s journey? If you can answer these questions, you’re well on your way to creating content that ranks highly in search results.

Plus, it will give you ideas for topics to write about. The more knowledgeable you are about your target market, the easier it will be to identify topics they’re interested in reading about.

Keyword research is an excellent place to start when trying to understand your target market. Google AdWords Keyword Planner and Moz’s Keyword Explorer are both great tools for this purpose.

Formatting a blog post

Learning how to write for SEO also teaches you how to format your content in a way that’s easy for consumers to digest. That means using short paragraphs, headlines, and bullet points. It also means breaking up your text with images, videos, and infographics.

Apart from some scientific papers and some creative writing, the vast majority of written content on the internet is aimed at being consumed quickly. Nobody wants to read a wall of text these days. That’s why it’s important to format your blog posts in a way that’s easy to read and skim.

If you can do that, you’re more likely to keep people’s attention long enough to get your message across.

Providing results

The relationship between a writer and a business is a results-driven one. The objective of hiring a writer is often to achieve some kind of business results, whether that means more website traffic, conversions, or both.

By learning SEO, you can give your clients a better chance of achieving their desired results. You’ll be able to help them choose the right keywords and target the right audience. You’ll also be able to analyze the results of your work and make necessary adjustments.

Once you can do all that, you’ll be in high demand and you’ll be able to earn higher rates for your services.

The bottom line

Depending on the type of content a writer creates, they’ll need to have at least basic knowledge of SEO best practices. Draft’s writer marketplace is full of vetted writers and powerful tools that bring the science and art of SEO writing together. Get everything from blog posts and social copy to ads and video scripts with help from Draft.

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