“How do I find good writers?”
“My writers are inconsistent.”
“How do I know if a writer ‘gets’ SEO?”
As someone who’s deeply immersed in the world of search engine-optimized (SEO) content writing, I hear these statements quite a bit.
What I find is that there seems to be a gap between the data-focused SEO pros and the creative copywriters they tend to hire. That is, it’s hard to find that sweet spot where a writer both understands SEO and how to write in a way that sells.
It’s essential that you have both pieces of the puzzle. Yet, SEO agencies and consultants often struggle to:
- Find ‘good’ writers and
- Train them how to write SEO-friendly content.
So, what’s the secret to getting your web page copy just right?
It all comes down to the magic of a well-organized, descriptive and mission-focused style guide or Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
In this article, I give my “10 Essentials” for creating an effective style guide, as well as an example template that you can use for your own business.
What is a style guide vs. an SOP?
I often use “style guide” and “SOP” interchangeably, because what you really want to create for your writers is an all-encompassing guide on how to write SEO-friendly content for your site or your clients’ sites.
Many people separate these two, but that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, I recommend being as concise as possible and not overwhelming your writers with too much “fluff.” They often don’t need to know all of the ins and outs of your entire brand (or robust SEO strategy, for that matter).
So, what is this document, really?
An SOP (aka Standard Operating Procedure) is a set of instructions on how to do something.
This can be used for SEO, writing, project management, onboarding clients or what-have-you. In our case, an SOP outlines how you want your writers to write you content.
I also tack on the style guide because there is a creative element to writing (something that other types of tasks often lack). Writers need to have an idea of what the brand is about, what kind of language should be used, who the target audience is and more.
That’s why including a style guide is an essential add-on to your typical SOP.
Why do you need a style guide for your content writers?
One of the biggest complaints I hear from SEO agencies and consultants is that they struggle to find consistent writers. Additionally, they feel that their writers don’t really understand SEO.
Well, I’ve got some news you may not want to hear: part of the reason your writers are inconsistent and don’t get SEO is your fault.
But let’s be honest — the typical SEO/writer engagement goes something like this:
- Find a writer online
- Send them the website URL, word count, topic, focus keywords and due date.
- Let ‘em loose.
- Receive the content.
- Edit the heck out of it.
There is a crucial step missing here, and that’s instruction.
Your writers can’t (and shouldn’t have to) read your mind.
If you give them limited information and direction, they are left to their own devices. The end result may be amazing, or it may be way off from what you expected. You can’t afford to have that kind of hit-or-miss engagement in your business.
It is your responsibility to outline your expectations, brand details, procedure, SEO strategy and desired writing format. This gives your writers the information they need to do the job right the first, second, third, fourth time… and so on.
By giving them a style guide, you set them up for success. You also help prevent the headache of receiving inconsistent work that you then have to edit on your own, which can be a huge time and money suck.
If you are struggling with getting consistent content from your writers or don’t know how to teach them SEO, then creating a style guide may be the best solution for you.