It can be difficult to trust third-party copywriters to write for your company. Here are 9 things you can give a copywriter to ensure better content.
When I do an SEO campaign, I have an insatiable need for content. I try to set this expectation up-front with a new client. Almost always they tell me they can write whatever I need. Inevitably they are unable to keep up with how much content I need.
That is fine. I never expected my clients to be able to keep up with my (their) content needs. After all, they are busy managing their business or coordinating several marketing initiatives. I don’t expect them to be a writer, too.
That’s when I turn to my experienced team of writers. Over the years I’ve worked with dozens of different writers. Some were expensive. Some were cheap. Some were good. Some were bad. Just because they were expensive, doesn’t mean they were good. Some of the best writers I’ve worked with are often inexpensive.
Though all this I’ve learned one truth about copywriters: crap in, crap out.
If you tell the writer what you need and what you expect, you’ll get great content from them. If you don’t give them a lot to start from you won’t be happy with the result.
So, what does a writer need to know to write for your company’s website? Here are several things you need to tell them.
1. What is the topic?
Copywriters are generalists. They need to be quick learners and good researchers. If you give them a good place to start they will take the time to understand it and produce something good. If you don’t give them a starting point, they will produce something boring and general.
When working with copywriters, I suggest giving them a “topic” rather than a “keyword.” Gone are the days of keyword density. Now the search engines look for semantics. The easiest way to do this is to simply write about a topic. When they write about a topic they’ll naturally use your keywords and natural variations.
2. How long do you need it to be?
Most writers work in terms of words. They usually charge by the word, too. You need to be clear upfront about your needs.
I prefer longer content. I like no less than 800 words for each article. This is because:
- The search engines like longer content.
- Longer content gives you more opportunity from the long tail.
- It’s hard for a writer to BS their way through a longer piece of content. That means they will have to put more effort into it, and you will like it better.
3. When do you need to receive it? When is it due?
Set your expectation upfront. Your writer is balancing your needs with their other clients (sorry- it’s not an exclusive relationship). Learn from my experience: whenever I’ve set a soft deadline, I get burned.
4. How much will you pay them?
This might seem obvious but I always seem to find someone who thinks this should be for free. The fact is, you’re hiring someone because you don’t have time to write it yourself. How much is your time worth? If you can get someone to write something for less than that, you’ve made a good trade.
While you might be able to negotiate a bulk-discount, don’t try to get a deal with the promise of future work. Your writer has bulls to pay, too, and they can’t pay them with your promise of “more to come.”
5. On behalf of whom will they write this?
Sometimes you’ll want the writer to speak for themselves. They can use their own name, experiences, and style. This is especially good when hiring an expert in your field to write for you.
Other times you’ll want the writer to write on your behalf. Ghost writing is a legitimate practice. Do you really think Richard Branson writes his own blog? No- he’s got more important things to do. You do too. Don’t hesitate to hire someone to write for you.
6. For whom will they write this?
A good writer needs to know the audience for whom they’re writing. Are they novices? Are they experts? Are they make or female? The more you can give your writer, the better the article will speak to your audience.
7. Where will this appear?
Some content might go on your website. Other articles might appear on other sites. Your writer needs to know this because it affects the conclusion of the article. For example, you can be completely and transparently self-promotional on your own website. When you publish on someone else’s blog, for instance, you probably have to be more neutral in tone.
8. How will you use this?
A landing page is different than a blog post. For example, a landing page can be a hard sell with a in-your-face call to action. A blog post should be more educational and informational in nature. If you tell your writer how you’ll be using their content, they can adapt.
9. Do you have any branding guidelines they need to follow? Do you have any style guidelines?
This is the most difficult part of delegating your content to another writer. Most companies have never thought of these things before. Here are some things you should consider before hiring a writer:
- What is the correct way to refer to your company? Is there an acceptable shorthand for your company’s name? An abbreviation?
- Are there any key messaging items you want to convey- even subtly? What makes your company different?
- Do you prefer to talk to your customers (using the second person)? Do you prefer to talk about your topic (using the third person)? Do you prefer to talk about your experience (first person)? It’s funny how websites overlook this. I know my site is guilty of an inconsistency in person.
- When your boss reads it, what will freak them out? Everyone has pet peeves. Prepare your writer by warning them off the ones that will send your boss into orbit.
- Keep a running document of things you expect from each writer. When a writer delivers something to you that you don’t like, add it to your list. That way, next time, your writer won’t make that mistake.
Even if you give your writer all this information, sometimes clients can be unhappy. When I ask them what they don’t like about it, they can have a hard time putting it into words. That’s why I developed my second maxim to working with copywriters: just because it’s different, doesn’t make it wrong.
Remember your first job as a manager? Remember how terrible the people for whom you were responsible were at their job? Remember how difficult it was not to push them aside and just do it right, for them? When you start to hire a copywriter for your own content, you’ll have to go through this all over again. Delegation is hard, but it’s the only way you’ll be able to produce enough content for your SEO campaign. I hope these guidelines help.
Am I forgetting anything? Do you ask your copywriters for something different? What’s your experience working with copywriters? Share your experience in the comments, below.