Qualities to Look for When Hiring an SEO Writer

A quality freelance writer who can consistently write the type of content that wins high search engine rankings is worth their weight in gold. While there is no shortage of freelance writers, finding the right writer for your company can be an expensive exercise in trial and error. You can spare yourself and your business a lot of frustration and expense by narrowing your search to writers with the following qualities:

  • Basic SEO knowledge
  • Ability to connect with the target audience
  • Resourcefulness
  • Adaptability
  • Willingness to follow instructions
  • The right experience

Basic SEO Knowledge

A writer doesn’t need to be an SEO expert, but you should look for a writer with at least a basic understanding of SEO principles. A trustworthy writer will understand and adhere to the following basic SEO principles:

  1. Appropriate use of keywords – A good writer will use keywords naturally without being overly repetitive or crucifying the language just for the sake of using them. The best writers will use the most important keywords as early in the text as possible.
  2. Laser-focus – A good writer will keep the page focused on the topic related to the keywords without adding irrelevant content or focusing too much on unimportant details.
  3. Avoidance of duplicate content – A good writer will avoid repeating content you already have on other pages. An effective writer will also know how to avoid producing a page that is too similar to other pages. While some of the information can be the same, every web page on your site should have unique content.
  4. Sound internal linking strategy – A good writer uses appropriate internal links throughout the page with careful consideration of the anchor text. The anchor text should not be a keyword on the page being written, but it should be a keyword for the page being linked. It should also be descriptive enough that the reader knows what type of page they will land on if they click on the link.
  5. Strategic use of external links – A good writer only uses external links when necessary to increase the authority or trustworthiness of the page. These links should be to government websites or other trusted websites that are not your competitors. The first external link should be further down on the page than the first internal link. The anchor text should not be any keyword you are trying to rank for anywhere on your site. The best writers use internal links instead of external links when possible.
  6. Accuracy – A good writer is conscientious about quoting statistics correctly and from the most updated sources available. This is an important component of Experience-Expertise-Authority-Trustworthiness (EEAT). Of course, it is always a good idea to fact-check any writer, but having a writer who consistently gets the facts right can provide valuable peace of mind.

Ability to Connect with the Target Audience

Internet readers decide almost immediately whether to stay on a page after landing on it. This means you only have seconds to capture the attention of your readers. Even if your writer manages to initially hook your audience with a catchy introduction, the threat of a reader clicking away at any second and visiting a competitor’s page remains strong at all times. In fact, few readers make it to the bottom of your page. When they do, they skim. Every page should be written with this in mind.

Content isn’t the only way to keep your audience interested. Videos, graphics, and page elements are also important. But if the writer fails to connect with your readers, you will lose most of them. Good writers will use the following strategies to connect with the audience and keep them interested long enough to give you a reasonable opportunity to convert:

  • Answering the question or addressing the audience’s main motive for searching and clicking on your page in the introduction, usually the first sentence of the copy
  • Strategically using headers with important keywords and questions your audience likely would ask
  • Providing direct answers to questions posed in your page’s title or any header
  • Avoiding the use of large blocks of text by limiting paragraph length and strategically using bulleted lists, numbered lists, and headers to divide the text into short, digestible sections

The best writers will take the time to research the audience and understand the pain points and motivations of the audience. Writers who can put themselves in the shoes of someone who is searching for the main keywords will be able to most effectively anticipate the questions members of your audience would have and address those questions in a way that reaches them.

This will also help a writer to determine the style and tone that should be used to address the audience. For example, a business manager will generally expect a more professional tone than an end user. However, this can vary by industry, so it is important for a writer to understand the topic well enough to understand the audience in depth.


The best writers are those who can be trusted to do the amount of work necessary to write the most effective pages. This may mean doing any of the following:

  • Researching as much as necessary to provide helpful, accurate information for the correct audience
  • Exploring your website long enough to become familiar with internal links and existing content
  • Performing competitor research to determine what types of content Google regards as valuable

Writing a quality webpage that reaches its maximum conversion potential is a discipline that requires intellectual curiosity, creativity, and hard work. A writer who is willing to put forth this type of effort is an invaluable part of your SEO team.


A professional writer should be able to write about any topic, and they should be able to adapt their writing style to match your voice. Your website may include articles, blog posts, and sales copy. A versatile writer should be able to switch between the different types of pages seamlessly. The best writers also have the prowess to write a white paper or update an existing one.

Willingness to Follow Instructions

Few things are more frustrating than ordering a page and having the writer return content that doesn’t match your specifications. Sometimes, you will get your best content when the writer takes a few liberties, but the writer should be able to justify this and explain how it complements your strategy rather than taking away from it. A good writer will know when it’s okay to take liberties and when it isn’t.

A Writer that Cares

When I write a page for a client, I care about the final product. I follow the content brief meticulously. I check competitor sites before and after writing the page to ensure mine measures up. I proofread my work. I double-check to ensure I’ve used all of the appropriate keywords and taken advantage of internal linking opportunities appropriately. My goal is to submit a page your audience will love and that I can be proud of, whether or not my name appears in a byline.

I have written for clients who had existing web pages that I found to be problematic for one reason or another. They were inaccurate, poorly written, outdated, slow to load, or otherwise problematic. I have always brought this to the attention of the client or the SEO agency. Whether I am writing on a one-time basis or as part of a long-term business relationship, I see myself as part of a team. I think every writer should care enough to bring up problems that could derail a client’s success.

The Right Background

Determining what type of experience and education to require in writer candidates is tricky because there are so many writers who look good on paper, but their writing doesn’t measure up. If you have hired writers in the past, you have probably already come across situations like this. This begs the question: How do you find a good writer in the vast sea of freelancers?

As a rule, an experienced writer will write better than an inexperienced writer, but this isn’t always true. Every legitimate freelance writer should have a portfolio of some sort. Ideally, the portfolio should include samples of published work the writer provided for others. This can tell you a lot, but of course, you don’t know how much the work was edited, and the writer will likely only provide samples of their best work.

Some writers may have experience but lack a formal portfolio. There can be a legitimate explanation for this. For example:

  • The writer may have worked under a confidentiality agreement.
  • The writer may have worked as a ghostwriter.
  • The writer’s experience may be informal and unpaid.

Although they may not be able to provide paid writing samples, a legitimate freelance writer should understand the importance of a writing portfolio and have one prepared whether or not they have formal writing experience. These portfolios will provide alternative types of writing samples.

For example, they could provide writing samples they prepared specifically for their portfolio. They could provide links to posts they have written on LinkedIn, Quora, or other websites. They could direct you to a personal blog with writing samples.

You may come across a candidate who lacks formal writing experience but has valuable experience in your industry. This could still be a good candidate. For example, if your company is a medical technology company, and your candidate is a nurse, you may have a great candidate.

If you have doubts, ask the candidate to complete a test assignment on a contingency basis. This means you will give the writer an assignment without any risk. You only pay if you can use the copy. If it works out, you could then hire the writer with assurance that the writer will be able to get you the results you need. Some experienced writers may be unwilling to work on a contingency basis, but most won’t mind, especially if they know their craft well.

What About Education?

Having a college degree may be helpful if the degree is in a writing-related field, such as English or journalism. It could also be helpful if the degree is related to your product or service. For example, if you are a tech company, it might be ideal to have a writer with an education in your field.

There are also many well-known writing courses, such as the American Writers & Artists Institute (AWAI) copywriting course, that allow writers to earn a certification after undergoing rigorous training, often under the tutelage of well-known authors. Some companies require all of their writers to complete this training. However, anyone can go through these courses, so it is important to exercise as much caution with these candidates as others.

Experience has proven more valuable than any college degree or training program. Writing is more than a skill. It is a discipline and an art. Certain aspects of writing just can’t be taught. The most effective writing for even the most technical websites requires some level of creativity. It also requires discipline. Research and writing can become tedious, but a good writer perseveres until they produce a quality product.

Should You Contract with a Content Mill?

A content mill is an agency that hires numerous writers to produce content for companies that contract with them. Getting quality content through one of these companies will be hit-and-miss at best. One of the problems with content mills is that the pay is generally low, so they don’t attract the best writers. Even when good writers do work at content mills, they are often only stay long enough to build a portfolio. Those that work for content mills long-term may not be motivated to perform the in-depth research your project needs due to the low pay.

Why a Good Writer Is Worth the Price

If you want to maximize the potential of your website, you need content that strikes the perfect balance between being helpful to the audience and attractive to search engines. You may have to pay more for this type of writer, but this will cost you less in the long run.

If the written content on your website doesn’t measure up, you could miss out on ranking in the top positions in the search engines, even if you have a strong SEO strategy that checks all the boxes, such as strong paid advertising campaigns, compelling graphics, video content, and page speed. There is no amount of paid marketing or website graphic strategies that can make up for inadequate content.

Google’s September 2023 helpful content update implemented a system of penalizing the entire website if the site contains a lot of unhelpful content. This includes the following types of pages:

  • Hosted third-party content
  • AI-generated content
  • Over-optimized content written for search engines instead of people
  • Content that duplicates information already on the internet

If your site is penalized for unhelpful content, you may be unable to restore your ranking for months, and in some cases, you won’t be able to completely recover until Google’s next helpful content update rolls out. This doesn’t mean SEO optimization strategies shouldn’t be used, but the glory days of posting crappy, keyword-stuffed pages in exchange for rankings are over.

Where to Find a Quality Writer

It isn’t hard to find a freelance writer, but it is difficult to find a writer you can count on to consistently deliver quality content that will help your site rank and avoid the dreaded penalties. Look for a writer with a proven track record of writing pages that consistently rank in the top of search engine results.

I have worked as a content writer for a digital marketing company that specializes in law firms. The legal space is a competitive market, and only the most thoroughly researched, relevant, informative, and well-written pages stand a chance of ranking on the first page of Google for the most important keywords, let alone the top of the first page. Having worked for a successful digital marketing company for the past two years that has successfully brought many law firms from obscurity to the top of search engines, I know what it takes to write a page that your potential clients and Google will love.

Many of my pages have won the coveted featured snippet as well. You can learn more about my writing background by visiting my LinkedIn profile or my About Me page. If you are ready to contract with a writer, contact me now at writer@candacemarra.com.