SEO Experts and Freelance Writers: Interview with Kieran Flanagan

Just mention the term “SEO content” and you’ll rile up a large portion of the freelance writing community.  The expression conjures up images of low-grade, barely comprehensible word-vomit designed to appease the Google god with no concern whatsoever for craft, readers or the dissemination of quality information.

However, I’ve found that working with SEO people doesn’t necessarily involve banging out meaningless junk.  Writers who flat out dismiss SEO content may be missing some great opportunities.

No, it isn’t for everyone.  No, it won’t usually net you a buck per word.  I know there are many freelance writers who will pass even on the sector’s higher-paying work.  That’s a ll a matter of preference and I have zero interest in turning this into Round 1,394,201 of the fight over rates.  I do think people should know that SEO writing is not the mindless, evil drag many imagine it to be.  Well, not always…

But you don’t need to take my word for that.

Kieran Flanagan, who  owns and who has extensive professional experience in the SEO sector, was kind enough to answer a few questions about SEO firms and freelance writers.

Kieran is based in Dublin, Ireland.  SEO services are in high demand there and all around the world and I’ve had the opportunity to write for him and have served as something akin to a project manager, organizing and overseeing production of content for some of his projects.

Kieran is a great guy with whom to work and his perspective on writing and search engine optimization is indicative of what I tend to encounter when dealing with the “right” people.  He’s the kind of person I’d recommend to anyone looking for someone to provide link building services

Don’t get any funny ideas about stealing my client, either.  I’ve asked Kieran to tip me off if anyone tries to muscle in on my turf, lol!

Without further ado, here’s the Q&A:

1. You hire writers and you work in the SEO field, which has a reputation for being more interested in keyword use than in quality writing.  Do you think it’s accurate to describe SEO experts, as a whole, as being focused more on the mechanics than they are on excellent writing?

Most SEO experts do understand the importance of the content they put out. The problem is, a large portion of the SEO industry is made up of people who are not experts and only see content as a means to generate some links.

This isn’t necessarily wrong, you can get a lot of links from low quality articles that have been spun to death. But the landscape of search is changing. Quality of content is just as important, if not more so, than the links you get as a result of that content.

Producing one quality guest blog post can be a lot more beneficial than getting 100 links from spun articles seeded across low level article directories. That guest blog post not only results in a single quality link from a themed site, but also highlights your knowledge on a particular subject and can product traffic in it’s own right.

When building links, you should always ask “Would a user click on this link”

2. What about you, personally?  Do you find yourself in search of great writing or more interested in keeping prices low while simply hitting the “mechanical” benchmarks of density, original content, etc?

I used to try to keep costs low, but we’ve completely changed our view on content. I would prefer to get 10 quality articles that will leave a good impression on a reader, rather than 100 articles with questionable English.

In terms of keyword density and other SEO factors, I only look for a couple of keyword variations to be used in the first couple of paragraphs. Keyword density was never something I paid that much attention to.

3. Many freelance writers are really dismayed at the kind of money they’re offered for “SEO work” like keyword articles.  Can you provide a little insight as to how and why SEO firms pay the way they do?

This is a great question and comes back to what we discussed in the first one. Most SEO firms purchase content in bulk and then plaster it across the web, with very little strategy behind it. They don’t expect the content to be read because it’s only used for links purposes. This results in the SEO firm looking for low level content, with no quality control on it (it doesn’t get proof read). In saying that, there are a huge amount of content houses that service this market by offering extremely low prices. It results in a race to the bottom, putting added pressure on those content services that do offer great articles for a far greater price.

In the end it comes down to knowledge and results. There is always going to be a demand for low quality content as plastering it over the web for links still delivers results. It is however important for freelancers to understand that SEO and links are vital to nearly any business with an online business these days so they need to be up to speed on how to write content with links in it. I would recommend they spend some time reading up about the importance of link building:

4. I find myself frequently preaching the virtues of providing clients with insights, recommendations and ideas instead of just “following orders.”  Do you find that’s a valuable asset in a writer or would you prefer a simple “follow the specs and deliver on time” model?

The future of search is going to be massively effected by social media. Although I don’t feel social media has proven itself (in terms of delivering targeted traffic), it has certainly opened up a lot of opportunities when it comes to building links. Generating quality content for your market, that gets picked up by social channels, is a sure fire way of helping your site increase traffic.

This is where there are lots of opportunities for companies who deliver content to partner with SEO firms who understand it’s importance. An SEO expert can research any market and build a mind map consisting of popular keywords (topics) to target. They should be able to hand these of to a company who can deliver quality content around those topics, using familiar language and themes that will resonate with that market. For me there should always be some input by the content team.

5. List the three things you look for when hiring a writer.  What’s important to you?

a. Online Marketing Background – For me it’s critical the writer has a background in online marketing and understands the purpose of each piece of content being produced.

b. Flexibility – This is an fast paced environment and things change a lot. I look for someone who is flexible enough to work around my hectic work load.

c. Quality Content – It goes without saying, I look for someone who can produce quality content.

6. What do you think is the most exciting new development in content creation and SEO?  Is there anything new writers should be learning more about, etc?

For me social media is the biggest shift content writers should be paying attention to. It’s now possible to tap into the very language your market is using, by listening to twitter, facebook etc and create content that will connect with your market. Creating “social content” is something all content writers should be looking at.


2 responses
  1. Jack Busch Avatar

    Thanks for this interesting look at SEO content writing. I got my start doing keyworded content, but I have noticed that there’s been more and more focus on quality articles over hitting those “mechanical benchmarks” as you call them. The goal is, after all, to get links. And just one article that gets a backlink from a blogger or a retweet or is shared by email is more valuable than 10 articles uploaded to ezinearticles.

    I think it’s very important to remember that there is more to SEO than keyword density and that SEO is important to every web property – from to boutique shoe stores.

    I write for an Internet marketing firm that practices SEO, but as part of a more comprehensive marketing strategy. I don’t mean this as a plug, I just wanted to link a relevant article from them:
    .-= Jack Busch´s last blog ..Google Goggles: The World is Your Hyperlink =-.

  2. Ashwin Avatar

    I think it pays to keep abreast of what is happening through social media. Most of the time, someone’s already doen the research for you & you can add your bit to it if you can add further value.

    Too many companies hire writers & VA’s to post links; I hae seen some really badly written stuff doing the rounds.

    I totally agree & know what you mean when you say 1 good blogpost can get you better business than “100 links from spun articles seeded across low level article directories”.

    Thanks for sharing!

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