How to Hire Top SEO Content Writers — 5 Must-Have Traits to Look for

how to hire top SEO content writers

Hiring writers is easy. They’re literally everywhere. What’s hard, though, is to hire top SEO content writers aka those whose work brings actual ROI to your business.

I’ve been hiring SEO content writers for more than three years now. During this time, I’ve screened and rejected more than 100 SEO writers and only hired a handful for Idunn and for my recently launched agency for tech companies, Copywritech.

In all truthfulness, it’s hard not to get discouraged. The fact that there are so many writers out there makes separating the wheat from the chaff much harder.

With time, I have managed to create and continuously perfect a hiring process that helped me find and screen the best SEO content writers much easier.

But this doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park. Not at all.

I’m sharing my process and my key tips with you partly because all this needs to be documented somehow and partly because I know most businesses always need to hire great SEO content writers.

Let’s make things easier for everyone, shall we?

Here’s what we’re going to cover in our guide on how to hire the best SEO content writers:

  1. Why Do You Need to Hire SEO Writers
  2. 5 Key Qualities to Look for When You Want to Hire Top SEO Content Writers:
    • On-Page SEO Knowledge
    • The Ability to Write for Real, Human Readers
    • SEO Research and Writing Technique
    • Proven Results
    • Marketing/Communication Background
  3. My Personal Framework — How I Hire the Best SEO Content Writers Out there



1. Why Do You Need to Hire SEO Content Writers?

A fair question, right?

After all, you can do all the writing in-house.

Or you can ignore it altogether. Hire SEO copywriters to create your web copy and then forget about blogging or other types of content.

Well, yes, you could. But you shouldn’t.

Here are just a few of the reasons why you should invest in SEO content writers that are worth their name:

a. Everyone Searches Things Online

In fact, 93% of all online experiences start with a search. If your company can’t be found through a search, it might as well not exist.

b. SEO Generates Leads (A Lot of Them!)

57% of B2B marketers agree that SEO generates more leads than any other marketing tactic. Can you afford to leave all those leads on the table?

How does SEO content fit with all this? Well, besides the fact that you absolutely need it in order to rank high in SERPs, there are tons of research reports that say the same thing: content doesn’t just rank, it also sells!

c. Your Buyers Need Content to Make Decisions

47% of consumers view between three and five pieces of content before even talking to a sales rep. Even more, content marketing is viewed as the most effective SEO tactic by no less than 72% of marketers.

d. Rank High or Disappear

You should never settle for the second page of SERPs. That’s because 75% of users never, ever get there.

best place to hide a dead body SEO
Image via Huffington Post

Sure, you could do all this in house, BUT:

a. You WILL Waste Time It takes up to four hours to create a 500-word blog post. And who writes these tiny posts anymore, right? We all know Google loves long-form, 2000+ words content. So be prepared to spend 15+ hours per blog post.

b. Your Strategy and Sales Tasks Will Suffer When you or your marketing/sales team decide to take up SEO content writing too, you have to spend a lot of time on it (see above). But where is this time supposed to come from? How much overtime can you realistically log? More often than not, when you decide NOT to outsource something that can be easily outsourced (like SEO writing), you end up jeopardizing your most important tasks — the strategy and sales ones.

c. You Will Pay More Paradoxically enough, it’s cheaper to hire top SEO content writers than to do the writing in-house. Just think about how much the founder or the marketing exec makes per hour. Now multiply that with at least 10 hours every week. That’s how much you’d be paying for an average blog post. Professional SEO content writers are cheaper for two main reasons: First and foremost, because they naturally make less than a company owner or a marketing manager. Secondly, because they KNOW writing better than any of the two. Which makes them faster at SEO writing. In other words: a blog post that takes a non-pro 15 hours to write could be wrapped up in up to seven hours by a professional SEO writer.

d. You Will End up with Poorly Written Content Do you know what happens when people cram too many different tasks into a single day’s schedule? They half-ass (almost) everything. This isn’t true just for engineers being assigned tech writing. It’s true for any professional whose job is NOT writing but has to do it anyway. It’s in our nature to delay tasks we don’t like and when we do get to them to do the bare minimum. On the other hand, when you hire pro SEO content writers, writing is their job. Their only job. Their livelihood depends on it, so they will go above and beyond to do a good job.  

Want to work with top SEO content writers? We’ve hired them so you don’t have to! Check out our writing services and drop us a line! We’d be happy to help create the content you need to rank and convert more visitors into buying customers.


There are countless other reasons why you should hire professional SEO content writers. But I won’t bore you with them. Since you clicked on the article, let’s get to the actual reason why you’re here:

5 Key Qualities to Look for When You Want to Hire Top SEO Content Writers

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to hiring content writers. You are the only one that knows what your company really needs and what type of writer can help you meet your business and marketing goals.

However, my four+ years of scanning content writer profiles and trying to figure out who’s actually as good as they say they are have taught me that there are some common traits the pros share.

So, feel free to add your own criteria to the mix when you start looking for writers for hire. But take a look at the objective traits that most good writers should already have, irrespective of the industry they write for:

On-Page SEO Knowledge

Building links is not an SEO writer’s job. But making sure that the content they write is ready to be published AND to rank is definitely their job.

On-page SEO is a complex matter and it’s not all in the hands of the SEO writer. Some things, like page speed and responsiveness fall under the web developer’s attributions.

When you hire top SEO content writers, here’s what you should expect them to know about on-page optimization:

  • Keyword research. Sure, you could be the one to provide the keywords to your writers. But that means extra work for you. Plus, it’s always ideal to let your SEO content writers take full charge of a piece, from keyword and topic research to editing and proofing. The best writers in SEO know how to research keywords and how to find gems that have low competition, high relevance to your business, and a decent search volume.
  • The right keyword density. If a writer tells you that they have a keyword density rate higher than 2%, don’t hire them! This practice is called keyword stuffing and it will get you penalized.
  • Keyword placement. The most important spots for the main keyword are: the title, H2 and H3 subheadings, the first paragraph/the first 100 words, the last paragraph/the last 100 words, meta description, alt image tags. Couple this with the right density and you’ve got yourself a piece that’s almost ready to rank.
  • Inbound linking: when you hire top SEO content writers, you don’t even have to tell them that they need to add inbound links to everything they write. Good writers know that they can boost the SEO of your entire website by linking to other relevant blog posts and web pages. And, of course, they know how to use the proper anchors for each inbound link.
  • Outbound linking: why link to other websites, you ask? Why help others? Well, because it also helps you. When your SEO content writer links to high-DA websites in your blog posts, search engines learn that your content is well-researched and that all your claims are data-backed. A great SEO content writer knows exactly how to look for and vet websites that are worth linking to. Oh, and most importantly, they know NOT to link to your competitors.
Image via Seopressor
  • How to use LSI keywords. LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. LSI keywords are not synonyms to your main keyword but closely related to it. For instance, an article about SEO will also use terms like Google, search engines, keywords, backlinking and more. These keywords send strong signals to search engines about the content of your article and what it’s really about. When you hire top SEO content writers, they know how to use them naturally and how to use tools like LSI graph to find the right keywords for any blog post.
  • Readable content. The best SEO content writers know that keyword research and placement matters less than keeping people engaged. So they don’t write walls of text that make people yawn from the second paragraph. They use subtitles, bullet points, and multimedia content to make the text easily scannable by both desktop and mobile users. More on that below.

The Ability to Write for Real, Human Readers

I’ve said it more times than I could count: your content should be written for humans, not search engines. Why? Because even search engines take their cues from human users. They try to become more user-friendly with each algorithm upgrade. All in an effort to keep their users satisfied and coming back for more.

Which sounds a lot like what your content should do, right?

Sure, keyword research is VERY important. No one is denying that. But the Google BERT update of 2019 told us bluntly: we don’t care about your optimization efforts. We only care whether or not your readers are happy with the content you publish.

This is why most old school SEO writers find themselves starving or learning a new trade. Short articles, keyword stuffing, and no-value content are all dead.

They have been replaced by content whose ideation resides in the pain points of the reader. This type of content solves real issues and empowers the reader. It’s not there just to fill up pixels and your editorial calendar.

Hire top SEO content writers today and you won’t even be able to tell that a certain blog post was written with SEO in mind. Their ability to juggle main keywords, LSI keywords and witty turns of phrases will keep you glued to your screen. And your article WILL rank.

SEO Research and Writing Technique

Remember what I said above about keyword research? Well, that’s just one step of the SEO research process.

And it’s not even the most complicated.

In fact, the SEO and topic research for a long-form article takes more than the actual writing — providing the writer has a decent typing speed, of course.

What’s included in SEO and topic research and what should top content writers know about this process?

  • Topic relevance. Is the topic relevant to your audience? Will they have something to gain from reading it? If so, is it relevant to your business, too? This means: does this topic have any chance to generate leads or move current leads further on their purchase journey?
  • Competition research. Have your competitors already tackled this topic? If so, can you produce a better, more in-depth piece that will outrank them? What about websites that aren’t your direct competitors — how is this topic covered right now. Tools like BuzzSumo help a lot with this part of the research!
  • Main keyword research. What is the best keyword to illustrate your topic? Does it match your users’ intent i.e. will they ever use this exact query in search engines? Does it sound human enough? (For instance, top SEO content writers avoid keywords like ‘best coffee new york 2020’. They would create a human variation of it, even if it’s longer, to cater to how people search today. ‘Best coffee shops in New York in 2020’ is one example.
  • Additional keywords research. LSI and supportive keywords are included here. It may look like a simple search using a dedicated tool but the writer also has to use their judgment and experience to decide which keywords actually match the topic and should be used. Similarly, they have to exclude keywords that have been used before so that they avoid keyword cannibalization.
  • Top sources to link to. Remember the bit about outbound linking above? Researching the right research reports, studies, and graphic material to be included in a blog post is a big part of an SEO content writer’s job. They have to decide whether a certain source is trustworthy or not, check their domain authority and make sure they are in no way their client’s competitor (or partners of a competitor). It’s quite a tall order.

Now that the research part is over (whew!), writing can begin. A skilled SEO content writer can adapt their tone of voice and writing technique to match your brand’s own voice.

But that’s just the beginning of it.

The key element of a writer’s technique is the ability to get all the info collected above and turn it into a readable, educational and friendly-sounding piece of content.

Sounds like a tall order?

That’s because it is.

This is where experience comes into play.

I’ve hired dozens of SEO writers for Idunn or Copywritech and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that experience is the only thing that polishes writing technique.

Beginners have a natural tendency to let their perfectionism shine through their writing. You can actually see how they strived to polish each phrase, to introduce a keyword that wasn’t really supposed to be there or to add a CTA where a CTA doesn’t naturally belong.

Seasoned SEO writers do all this intuitively. By the time they’ve started writing, they already know what the best places for CTAs are and how to make a keyword sound like it was born to be in that exact place.

Bottom line: if you want to hire top SEO content writers, you have two choices: invest time and energy into training newbies (provided that you already have SEO writing knowledge) or hire seasoned writers.

Since most companies don’t have time or resources for the former, the next point of our agenda becomes super-relevant.

Proven Track Record

So, you’re looking for an experienced SEO writer. The internet is full of people claiming to be exactly what you need.

But…we all know how easy it is to lie about work experience, especially when you don’t have to look them in the eye.

My advice: don’t take anyone at face value. Ask for proof.

A few things that fall into this category:

  • Testimonials from past clients or, better yet, case studies.
  • Examples of articles that have ranked well — ideally with a byline. But since ghostwriting is quite common in the SEO content writing industry, you might have to accept articles that are signed by someone from the client’s company.
  • Their own website. What does it rank for? Sure, the cobbler’s shoes adage holds true but can you really trust an SEO writer who didn’t manage to rank a single one of their own articles?

At Idunn, we are proud to say that we are our own case study. Our website and blog rank for thousands of keywords. Some of them are gems like this article on hiring SEO copywriters that ranks on position 3 in Google.

hire top SEO writers

Capture via Google Search Console

Our own results, along with those of our clients, are why we are a preferred provider of SEO content writing and copywriting services for SMEs. Want similar results for your business? Check out our services and let’s talk!

Marketing/Communication Background

When I first started my freelancing career as an SEO content writer, I quickly climbed to the top of clients’ preferences on outsourcing websites. There were two main reasons why I was able to do that:

  • always delivered on time. It was shocking to find out that this rarely happens with freelancers.
  • I wasn’t just a writer; I was also an experienced marketer and that could easily be seen in the copy and content I delivered.

Thanks to these things, I was able to charge way more than my competitors who were ‘just writers’.

It’s been years since I don’t hunt for jobs on UpWork or

But I haven’t forgotten the importance of these two things.

If I’m being completely honest, I tried hiring people who had zero marketing or PR background. I was naive in thinking that these things can be taught quickly.

Yes, there are some amazing copywriters and content writers out there who can grok marketing and PR intuitively. They don’t have any studies or experience in the field. And they’re still great at what they do. But these are the exceptions, not the norm.

In making hires for Idunn and Copywritech, I learned that you can easily teach someone how to create amazing SEO content provided that they already understand marketing. They don’t need to be digital marketing gurus.

But they do have to have some experience with it. Otherwise, it’s incredibly hard to explain how to understand buyer personas and how to write for them.

And it’s even harder to change your tone of voice accordingly. I’ve hired a lot of talented writers. But they were not SEO writers.

They could have, perhaps, become the next Hemingway. However, it was not literature we were trying to sell on behalf of our clients.

Today, my main concern when screening applicants is whether they grasp basic marketing and communication concepts or not. I love to mentor new hires and it gives me immense pleasure to see them evolve.

I can easily teach people the basics of content writing and SEO. But if they don’t have a marketer’s heart, all is in vain.

The content they produce is correct. The grammar is on point. Still, it will never convert readers into paying customers.

Bottom line: when you set to hire top SEO content writers, don’t just check if all the commas are there. The occasional typo is perfectly acceptable. What’s not acceptable in content writing in 2020 and beyond is writing without a precise business or marketing goal in mind.

3. My Personal Framework — How I Hire the Best Content Writers Out There

When you sell SEO content writing services, you can’t afford to be sloppy with your hiring process. And you can’t afford to hire writers who aren’t worth their salt.

Each week, I receive and review at least five new applications. I hire an average of one new writer every two months. We are not a content mill, so we don’t need hundreds of writers on staff.

But we do need excellent writers. Some of them leave on their own (two of our former writers now run their own agencies), others are let go by us because they fail to meet deadlines or certain quality criteria.

No, we are not 100% successful at separating the wheat from the chaff in the early stages. But our editing process is there to ensure that no content that isn’t 100% on point ever gets to the client.

So, while we don’t hire a lot of people, we are constantly searching for top talent. Our screening process is quite strict and I personally oversee every step of it.

Here’s a quick overview of how we hire top SEO content writers:

Step 1: Finding Top SEO Content Writers

Sometimes, the writers come to us directly. Other times, we have to search them out (especially when we are expecting to have new large projects in the near future).

The initial research typically falls onto the plate of my assistant. But not always. It’s a joint effort. The top channels we use to find new SEO content writers are:

  • Facebook groups
  • Twitter and LinkedIn
  • Outsourcing websites like UpWork and (less and less frequently, though. The quality has decreased immensely in the past couple of years).
  • Recommendations from other team members.

Step 2: Initial Screening

When you receive this many applications, you don’t have the time to go through every step of the hiring process every time. This stage is where 40% of applicants are dropped.

During the initial screening, we exchange a few emails with the applicants — we want to learn more about their communication skills and attitude toward working in our remote team. More importantly, we ask for their resume.

Remember what I was saying above about marketing or PR background?

Resumes may seem obsolete to some but I’ve found it to be extremely helpful in finding our which of our applicants can truly create content that stands out from the crowd. We don’t insist on a ‘regular’ resume. A LinkedIn profile or even a short outline of past experience is perfectly fine.

All we want to do here is see if the applicant has the relevant background. If all is well, we move on to the next step.

Step 3: Writing for Made-Up Companies

Since I used to be a freelance SEO content writer myself, I know how annoying it can be when potential clients ask you for free samples. You always wonder if you’ve been duped and your content used for free (if the deal falls through).

I have the utmost respect for all our employees or potential employees so I’d never want them to feel like we might trick them. So the initial test consists of writing for a made-up company.

We supply a brief that details company history, mission, marketing, and business goals and more. What they have to do is create a piece of content (also given by us) that has the potential to rank for a given keyword and is aligned with the specified goals.

Typically, there are some edits to be done here, so we send the initial draft back to the applicant. If they can follow the editor’s suggestions to a T, we’re moving on to phase four.

Step 4: The Paid Test

As I said before, we don’t like to waste anyone’s time. So the last phase is a paid test (the agreed rate aka what the writer will usually get if they end up working with us).

And since it’s a paid test, this assignment is either a piece of SEO content for one of our clients (rarely) or a piece that might be published on the Idunn blog, the Copywritech blog or a guest post.

This step has the same sequence as the one before: detailed brief/assignment, first draft, final edits.

If all goes well, we sign the contract and we move on to the last step.

Step 5: On-Going Training and Evaluation

Even if an SEO writer has been hired, it doesn’t mean that they stay with Idunn indefinitely, irrespective of their performance. We invest a lot in the continuous training of our content writers.

They receive new reading materials regularly, as well as personalized recommendations from myself or our editors — depending on their needs and how their writing evolves.

No matter how much we trust our writers to deliver excellent quality, we know that mistakes, typos, and various errors happen even to the best of us. So every piece of content our staff creates goes through a thorough editing process before landing in the client’s inbox.

How to Hire Top SEO Content Writers — Final Thoughts

I know very well that the process above is not ideal for every company — agency or final client. The reason it works for us is that we know exactly what to look for in every single paragraph.

Our initial screening steps allow us to weed out completely unfit candidates so all that’s left is making sure they can emulate various styles and produce content that ranks and converts.

Does this seem too time-consuming?

That’s because it is!

But you can’t really get top SEO writers without the effort.

Unless, of course, you work with us (wink-wink). We do all the screening SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO. We hire less than 3% of all applicants to make sure that the content YOU get is the best it can be.

Want to work with top SEO content writers without putting in the effort to hire them? Fill in the form below and let’s talk about taking your content to the next level!      

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Adriana Tica is an expert marketer and copywriter, with 10 years in the field, most of which were spent marketing tech companies. She is the Owner and Founder of Idunn. In October 2019, she also launched Copywritech, a digital marketing agency that provides copywriting, SEO content writing, and strategy services to companies in the tech industry.

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