The trouble with SEO: future trends and the current crisis

If you’ve been freelance writing for quite a while, chances are you’ve scoured the net for potential leads at sites like Craigslist, lance and o Desk. These are great sites that offer many writing opportunities for freelance and part time writers, usually dishing out a variety of topics ranging from quick short articles to writing a technical product manual.

You’ve probably arrived at some job offers with three seemingly strange (and corporate sounding) letters: SEO. If you don’t know what SEO is yet, check out my previous post. Basically, you’re given a bunch of keywords to come up with articles with a specific word count. Depending on the job provider (and his appetite for choosing bids), work of this sort goes for around $3-$5 per article. It may not be much, but if you look at it from a volume perspective of say 100 articles, you’re bound to at least make $300 at the end of the project. The predominant method of bidding for client projects in a global market presents a problem that is steadily becoming a threat to every writer’s bottom figure; dwindling returns as a result of cutthroat competition and a saturation of the SEO writing market.

You’ve seen it already quite a few times: fresh individual/company ABC with excellent writing skills bid for an SEO project based on their skills and merit, and suddenly here comes individual/company XYZ who undercuts the bid and even goes for the minimum allowable bid for the project. Quality issues notwithstanding, clients may be tempted to go with less expensive company XYZ. But is saying a lower priced bid equates to lower quality results a safe assumption?

Countries with lower standards of living and excellent written English skills become a hotbed for outsourced work. Aside from their lower pay scale, the conversational nature of SEO articles make them perfect candidates as writers for these types of work because the technicalities of most SEO types of articles are waived in favor of a more understandable body of work written for laymen. In fact, some of the output of these non-First World countries are comparable to First Worlders, further posing as potential competition to even established SEO writers.

As with any relatively young business with a boom, SEO writing will follow trends as its technology develops further and its audience and providers evolve. This blog post doesn’t necessarily want to posit a final solution to the problem of competition with SEO writing, but here are a few ideas that we hope will aid the worldwide SEO writing community towards a common goal: demanding better pay!

1. Higher Minimums – but one possible method for demanding a higher baseline pay per article is to support companies and freelancing sites that support a fair minimum. has a $50 minimum bid for projects under $500, and this is a far cry from’s floor of $30 per project. Although companies can go around this by offering more articles to be written for the $50 they’re paying, you’re nonetheless guaranteed a higher minimum for the project.

2. Higher per article payments – to take the above idea a step further, freelancing sites could support bids based on a per article basis. Instead of charging one figure for a bulk project (e.g. $2/article, thus creating a job post with 15 articles or 25 articles to meet the minimum), companies could let SEO writers set bids based on a pre-meidated minimum per article rate (e.g. $3 per article instead). There are many reasons why freelance hiring websites would be strongly against this idea, though.

3. Increased technical requirements for narrower markets – as the web becomes more and more saturated with SEO written content, search engines are bound to become more and more intelligent in determining the fluff from the facts. The future may bring more complex search engines that improve upon its current algorithms and search based on the technical nature of a written article, for which conversational SEO writing (as is the norm) becomes runner up to a properly outfitted and well written article.

If, for example, you query a search engine for the string “recording studio acoustics,” you’re less likely to retrieve an article that uses the keywords 15 times in an article that talks nothing about the technicalities that you’re looking for, instead providing you with a work that’s rich in well researched information regarding psychoacoustics and the principles of sound. If search engines can accurately do this, we may see the end of fluff SEO writing as we know it today.

4. Better SEO writing opportunities for better writers – the internet is rife with writing gigs for novice and professional writers. Future SEO writing may involve particular skill sets aside from just being able to write; a strong command of business writing style, fluency with the language of visual arts, or quite simply the proficiency and discipline to writing SEO articles in an academic tone. These types of SEO writing may fetch for higher premiums because they aren’t simply “grind articles” where putting together a bunch of sentences around a highly repeated keyword becomes the writer’s “accepted” end.

The future of SEO writing is indeed very bright, and there’s no better testament to that than the burgeoning number of SEO writers and company providers out there. Although the current configuration of the web maintains SEO’s status quo, enlightened and seasoned SEO writers will no doubt one day unite for premiums that better reflect the effort they put into their content, and perhaps even companies who post bids for SEO will come to realize that with so much garbage floating around the internet, quality content really does come at a higher and more deserving price.

If you want to join in on the discussion, head on over to our forums and post!

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