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How to Screen and Recruit the Best SEO Content Writers

Posted by Victor_Ijidola

It’s easy to find writers; they’re everywhere — from a one-second Google search to asking on LinkedIn.

But hiring the best ones? That’s the daunting task marketers and business owners face. And you do not just need writers, you need exceptional SEO content writers.

Mainly because that’s what Google (aka the largest traffic driver of most sites) has clearly been clamoring for since their Panda update in 2011, RankBrain in 2015, and their “Fred” update (and by the way, Gary Illyes from Google coined “Fred’ for every unnamed Google update) in March, 2017.

It’s obvious how each of these major updates communicates Google’s preference for excellent SEO writers:

If you’re a frequent Moz reader, you probably know how they work — but if not: Panda penalizes every webpage with content that adds little to no value to people online, giving more visibility to content pieces that do. On its own, the RankBrain update has made Google almost as smart as humans — when choosing the most relevant and high-quality content to rank on page #1 of search engine result pages (SERPs).

The “Fred” update further tackled sites with low-quality content that aren’t doing anything beyond providing information that’s already available on the internet. It also penalized sites that prioritized revenue above user experience.

After this update, 100+ sites saw their traffic drop by 50 percent to 90 percent.

It is evident that Google has, through these core updates, been requiring brands, publishers, and marketers to work with SEO content writers who know their onions; the ones who know how to write with on-page SEO mastery.

But how do you find these exceptional wordsmiths? Without a plan, you will have to screen tens (or even hundreds) of them to find those who are a good fit.

But let’s make it easier for you. Essentially, your ideal SEO writers should have two key traits:

  1. Good on-page SEO expertise
  2. A great eye for user experience (i.e. adding relevant images, formatting, etc.)

A writer with these two skills is a great SEO writer. But let’s dig a bit deeper into what that means.

(Note: this post is about hiring exceptional SEO content writers — i.e., wordsmiths who don’t need you monitoring them to do great work. So, things can get a bit techie as you read on. I’ll be assuming your ideal writer understands or is responsible for things like formatting, on-page SEO, and correctly uploading content into your CMS.)

1. On-page SEO knowledge

By now, you know what on-page SEO is. But if not, it’s simply the elements you put on a site or web page to let search engines understand that you have content on specific topics people are searching for.

So, how do you know if a writer has good on-page SEO knowledge?

Frankly, “Can you send me your previous writing samples?” is the ideal question to ask any writer you’re considering hiring. Once they show their samples, have them walk you through each one, and ask yourself the following questions:

Question A: Do they have ‘focus keywords’ in their previous samples?

    Several factors come into play when trying to rank any page, but your ideal writer must know how to hold things down on the keyword side of things.

    Look through their samples; see if they have optimized any content piece for a specific keyword in the past so you can know if they’ll be able to do the same for your content.

    Question B: How do they use title tags?

      Search engines use title tags to detect the headings in your content.

      You know how it works: put “SEO strategy” — for example — in a few, relevant headings on a page and search engines will understand the page is teaching SEO strategy.

      Essentially, your ideal SEO writer should understand how to use them to improve your rankings and attract clicks from your potential customers in search results.

      Are title tags really that important? They are. Ahrefs, for instance, made their title tag on a page more descriptive and this alone upped their traffic by 37.58%.

      So, look through the titles in your candidate’s samples, especially the h1 title. Here’s what you should look for when examining how a candidate uses HTML tags:

      i. Header tags should, ideally, not be more than 60 characters. This is to avoid results that look like this in SERPs:

      (three dots in front of your titles constitutes bad UX — which Google frowns at)

      ii. The subheadings should be h2 (not necessarily, but it’s a plus)

      iii. Headings under subtopics should be h3 (also not necessary, but it’s a plus)

      Look for these qualities in your candidate’s work and you’ll be able to confirm that they properly implement title tags in their content, and can do the same for you.

      But some writers may not have control over the title tags in their published works — that is, the sites they wrote for probably didn’t give them such access. In this case, request samples they published on their own site, where they actually have control over these tags.

      Question C: What do they know about internal linking?

        Orbit Media once shared how they used internal linking to shoot a blog post from position #29 up to #4.

        So, it’s important that your writers know how to contextually link to your older content pieces while writing new content. And it works for good reason; internal linking helps you:

        • Communicate the relevance and value of your pages to Google (the more links a page gets, the more authority it has in Google’s eyes)
        • Demonstrate to Google that your site contains in-depth content about any specific topic
        • Tell Google your site has easy navigation — which means it has good UX and is well-structured.

        Internal linking is a major key to search ranking, so you need writers who have internal linking in their pocketful of tools. But also ensure they do it using proper anchor texts; in a recent LinkedIn post, expert editor Rennie Sanusi hinted at two key anchor text elements to look for in your candidate’s samples:

        • [Anchor texts] should clearly explain where they’ll take your reader to
        • [Anchor texts] shouldn’t be too long

        Question D: Do they write long-form content?

        The average word count of a Google first page result is 1,800+ words long — according to research from Backlinko.

        Google has been all about in-depth content since its inception; you’re probably familiar with their mission statement:

        Every algorithm change they make is geared toward achieving this mission statement, and ranking long-form content helps them in the process as well.

        Because, to them, writing longer content means you’re putting more information that searchers are looking for into your content.

        So you need writers who can produce long-form content. Check their samples and confirm they know how to write long-form content on a regular basis.

        Question E: Have they ranked for any important keywords?

          Ultimately, you need to see examples of important keywords your ideal content writer has ranked for in the past. This is the utmost test of their ability to actually drive search traffic your way.

          That’s it for finding writers who know on-page SEO. But as you know, that’s only one part of the skills that makes a great SEO content writer.

          The other important bit is their ability to write content that engages humans. In other words, they need to know how to keep people reading a page for several minutes (or even hours), leading them to take actions that are important to your business.

          2. A great eye for user experience

          Keeping readers on a page for long durations also improves your ranking.

          In the aforementioned Backlinko study, researchers analyzed 100,000 sites and found that “websites with low average bounce rates are strongly correlated with higher rankings.”

          And you know what that means; your ideal SEO writer should not only write to rank on search engines, they must also write to attract and keep the attention of your target audience.

          So, look for the following in their samples:

          Headlines and introductions that hook readers

            You need writers who are expert enough to know the types of headlines and opening paragraphs that work.

            It’s not a hard skill to spot; look through their samples. If their titles and introductions don’t hook you, they probably won’t hook your audience. It’s really that simple.

            Explainer images and visuals

              The report also revealed that: “Content with at least one image significantly outperformed content without any images.”

              But of course, they have to be relevant images (or other visual types). And many times (if not most of the time), that means explainer images — so look out for those in their samples. And there are two examples of explainer images:

              Example #1: Explainer images with text and pointers

              This one has elements (an arrow and a text) on it, explaining how the image is relevant to the topic the content is about.

              Example #2: Explainer images without text and pointers

              Why does this image not have any text or arrows on it? It’s a self-explanatory screenshot, that’s why.

              As long as it’s used appropriately — where the “online sales of Nike products” is mentioned in the content — it gets its message across.

              In general, your ideal SEO writers need to know how to use tools like Skitch and Canva to create these images. Remember, you’re on a hunt for the exceptional ones.

              References and citing resources

                Your ideal writer should link to stats or studies that make their points stronger. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Check the links in their samples and make sure they cite genuine resources.

                Examples

                  Illustrations make understanding easier. Especially if you’re in a technical industry (and most industries have their geeky side), your ideal writer should know how to explain their points with examples.

                  Simply search their samples — using Command + F (or Ctrl F if you’re using Windows) — for “example,” “instance,” or “illustration.” This works, because writers usually mention things like “for example,” or “for instance” when providing illustrations.

                  Excellent SEO content writers = Higher search rankings

                  Getting SEO content writers who have all the skills I’ve mentioned in this article are possible to find. And hiring them means higher search rankings for your content. These writers are, again, everywhere. But here’s the thing — and you’ve probably heard it before: You get what you pay for.

                  Exceptional SEO content writers are your best bet, but they’re not cheap. They can send your search traffic through the roof, but, like you: They want to work for people who can afford the quality they provide. So, if you’re going on a hunt for them, ready your wallet.

                  But ensure you get their samples and ask the questions in this guide as you deem fit. If you’re paying for content that’ll help you rank higher on Google, then you really should get what you pay for.

                  Did you find any of my tips helpful? Let me know in the comments below!

                  Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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                  Google Image Search Tests New Preview Screen Again

                  Google is once again testing a new user interface for the image search preview image window. This is similar to previous tests but this one takes the right hand window look and keeps the black background interface versus the white background interface.


                  Search Engine Roundtable

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                  SearchCap: Bing Ads tracking, Google Home screen & Google Fred

                  Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

                  The post SearchCap: Bing Ads tracking, Google Home screen & Google Fred appeared first on Search Engine Land.



                  Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


                  Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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                  Screen Shot: Reduce Load Time & Increase Google Crawl Budget

                  We’ve been talking a lot about Google crawl budget recently but here is a tweet that Google’s John Mueller retweeted from Twitter Rasmus SÃ’rensen where he said he was able to reduce his load time on his server by 50% which resulted in his crawl budget “exploding…


                  Search Engine Roundtable

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                  Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman to Reunite on the Big Screen

                  Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, stars of Horrible Bosses and Horrible Bosses 2, are reuniting on the big screen to star alongside SNL’s Kate McKinnon and actor T.J. Miller in a new film called Office Christmas Party. Shooting is set to start this spring, with the film hitting theaters in time for the Christmas season, on December 9.

                  2014′s Horrible Bosses 2 marks the last time Jennifer Aniston starred in a film. She and Jason Bateman are an excellent comedy team.

                  By the time Office Christmas Party arrives in theaters, Kate McKinnon will have already starred in the Ghostbusters reboot that comes out this summer.

                  Jennifer Aniston is, of course, best known for her role as Rachel on Friends. She has appeared in several films besides Horrible Bosses, including Cake, Wanderlust, and She’s Funny That Way. Jason Bateman has starred in dozens of films including This Is Where I Leave You, The Longest Week, Identity Thief, Hit and Run, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Tropic Thunder, and more. He is set to star in Zootopia later this year.

                  Are you among those who feel Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman play off one another perfectly? If so, you’re likely thrilled to learn they’ll be together on the big screen once again, just in time for Christmas.


                  WebProNews

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                  New Google Maps Suggest Edit Screen

                  Google Maps seems to have at least two different ways for users (administrators also have different ways) to submit edits to a map listing. If you go through a search in Google Maps directly, you get one method. If you do a search in Google web search and click edit…


                  Search Engine Roundtable

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                  Dolly Parton Brings Taste of Life Story to Small Screen in “Coat of Many Colors”

                  Dolly Parton shares tidbits of her life as a child with TV viewers on Thursday evening, as her story Coat of Many Colors airs on NBC. Starring Alyvia Alyn Lind as a young Dolly Parton, the story follows the tale told in Parton’s song of the same name.

                  In a recent interview with the Washington Times, Dolly Parton explained why she wanted this made-for-TV film made.

                  “I always thought that “Coat of Many Colors” would make a beautiful film. I had been offered a lot of times to have it put on film. It just seemed to be the time to do it,” she said.

                  “I just think there are a lot of family things missing from television. I just wanted to do something faith-based for families, something they could enjoy together. So I think it’s time,” she added.

                  Dolly Parton gives an enthusiastic thumbs up to the finished product, too.

                  “It’s very touching, very emotional. I get so emotional I can’t hardly watch it. Getting a chance to see Momma and Daddy and my younger brothers and sister like it was when we were little. It was very overwhelming to Stella and me. We spent all day crying,” she said.

                  Never content behind the scenes, Dolly Parton plays a role in Coat of Many Colors, too.

                  “I’m playing the gossipy old church lady. I’m the first character you see in the film. I drive up and give her the box of rags that becomes the coat,” she said.

                  In addition to Dolly Parton and Alyvia Alyn Lind, Coat of Many Colors stars Jennifer Nettles and Ricky Schroeder.

                  Will you tune in on Thursday night to see Dolly Parton’s passion project, Coat of Many Colors? It sounds like a wonderfully wholesome family film–perfect for the Christmas season.


                  WebProNews – WebProNews

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                  Search In Pics: Matt Cutts Screen, Google+ Cop Car & Google Pipes

                  In this week’s Search In Pictures, here are the latest images culled from the Web, showing what people eat at the search engine companies, how they play, who they meet, where they speak, what toys they have, and more. Google San Francisco Stairs Slide: Source: Google+ Google+ Police Car:…



                  Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


                  Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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                  Second Screen TV App Viggle Buys Competitor GetGlue

                  Not since chocolate and peanut butter got together to form a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, have I been so excited about a merger. Robert F.X. Sillerman, Executive Chairman and CEO of Viggle announced today that his company has entered into an agreement to buy competitor GetGlue.

                  For those of you who don’t live and breathe TV like I do, Viggle and GetGlue are both second screen, social TV apps that reward viewers for checking in to various programs.

                  Viggle uses audio sync technology to make sure you’re watching the show, then rewards you with points. They also offer bonus points on a few shows a week when you answer trivia questions during the broadcast. These points can be redeemed for gift certificates, discounts and sweepstakes entries. I routinely use mine to buy iTunes and Starbucks gift cards which I often use as gifts (bribes) for family members.

                  GetGlue rewards viewers with limited edition virtual stickers that can be converted into real stickers every few months. Since they’re not giving away anything with a monetary value, they don’t use audio sync, they simply trust you when you say you’re checking into a show. In order to get the sticker reward, you do have to check in when the show airs live, so there’s a gaming element to the system.

                  Because of the different rewards, I use both systems but switching back and forth at show time is a pain. I’m hoping that this merger means the functionality of both apps will be combined. I want my stickers and my reward points, too.

                  GetGlue, which has been around since 2007 has 3.2 million registered users. Viggle launched in January of this year and already has 1.2 million users. Gotta figure there’s a lot of cross over in the member list, but it still means a large influx of users for Viggle.

                  According to a press release, Viggle will pay $ 25 million in cash and 48.3 million shares of stock for GetGlue. Viggle Inc. will operate the Viggle and GetGlue brands, and they will take on all 34 GetGlue employees. (And I pause here to marvel at the fact that GetGlue runs with only 34 employees.)

                  Alex Iskold, Founder/CEO of GetGlue said;

                  “We are very excited to join forces with Viggle! GetGlue has built a Social TV product that people love, and Viggle has become their favorite loyalty program for TV. Together we are positioned to deliver the next generation second screen experiences that delight and benefit users, networks and major brands.”

                  Second screen and social apps are the future of television. We’re on our way, but are still so many avenues to be explored. I’m very excited to see where they go with the combined brands.

                   

                   

                   

                   

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