Content marketing has revolutionized the way marketers reach, engage, and convert their leads into customers.
Two branches of content marketing that are crucial to every business are copywriting and SEO writing.
Sometimes these two may overlap, or some marketers may group them in the same category, executing an overall content strategy without differentiating between the two.
As a marketer, knowing the difference between copywriting and SEO writing is important and, when implemented correctly, will help you achieve the results you’re looking for.
In this article, we’ll discuss each one and how you can maximize each in your integrated marketing strategy.
The foundations of content marketing
In order to fully understand the difference between copywriting and SEO writing, we first of all need to get an understanding of content marketing as a whole.
Content marketing is the process of creating and sharing content with the purpose of attracting, engaging, and converting leads.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s nothing new at all. It has been around for hundreds of years and is popularly traced all the way back to Benjamin Franklin.
The content itself comes in various formats like emails, web pages, blog posts, video, press releases, social media posts, and any other messaging you include in your marketing campaign. The one thing all content has in common is that it all involves words that need to be written in a special way in order to achieve an end goal.
This is where the confusion can set in. While all these marketing assets require writing, not all deliverables should be written the same way.
Think of it as a conversation in real life. Even though you may tell the same story to two different people, you probably change the way you tell your mom versus your best friend. The same concept applies to content marketing because, although your end goal is the same, you’re communicating information in a different context or driving conversions using a different method.
That’s the reason significant differences exist between copywriting and SEO writing.
A deeper look at copywriting
Copywriting is defined as strategically creating content to build brand awareness and ultimately encourage consumers to take a particular action—most likely, this is associated with a purchase. It is also called persuasive writing for this very reason.
Copywriting can cover a multitude of projects, and it can take many forms, depending on your company and product.
Copywriters mainly focus on projects such as:
- Direct mail
- Web pages
- Landing pages
- Print advertisements
- Video and audio scripts
This is just a small sample of the long list of projects copywriters may work on.
Elements of good copywriting
In order for a copywriter to produce good copy, it’s important for the copy to have certain elements that will make it strong enough to leave an impression and move people.
Copywriting is a discipline that creates copy for a specific audience. In order for the copy to be effective, it has to address a particular problem or pain point in that target group, presenting the brand as a solution.
Because of this, copywriters must understand the psychology of the people they are writing for. This is an invaluable skill that will help the copywriter push the right buttons in the consumer of the content.
Image Source: Buyer Seller Insights
To create targeted copy for specific individuals, you should start by creating buyer personas. This means pinpointing specific demographic groups within your target audience, which will help you remember who you’re talking to with your copy.
Without first acknowledging your target audience, your copy will easily get caught in the shuffle of constant messaging overload.
2. Emotional appeal
Another strong element of copywriting is that it has the ability to tug at the reader’s emotions.
To do this, copywriters learn the skill and art of using certain words that elicit the desired emotional response. In the same vein, they also know to omit particular words to create a specific user or reader experience.
This especially applies to copywriting for mediums that require small word counts, like subject lines in emails or headlines in articles.
According to research conducted by Copyblogger, 80% of your visitors will read your headline. But only 20% will read the entire article. If you fail to hook them with your headline, no matter how great your copy is, you won’t get people to read it.
This is why copywriting is such a fundamental skill in marketing. It takes a lot of effort and talent to create copy that produces results.
SEO Writing: What is it all about?
If ever there’s a field of marketing that is a mystery for many, it’s the field of SEO. SEO, or search engine optimization, is a field where you focus on the best practices that help your content rank well on search engines like Google, Bing, and others.
So, what is SEO writing?
SEO writing, or on-page SEO, is a type of writing where you focus on creating content that is both search engine and user-friendly.
One mistake that many content creators make is to focus on creating content that is search engine friendly and neglect the user experience. These are black hat SEO techniques that will not get you anywhere. Some bad SEO practices include:
- Keyword stuffing
- Buying backlinks
White hat SEO (the good kind) involves writing content with the user in mind.
The main focus of SEO writing is to create content that is not just informative but is also designed to be easily discoverable by search engines.
Key components of SEO writing
SEO writing is not at all like writing a novel. Because this kind of writing seeks to achieve a page that ranks within search results, the writer needs to ensure that the writing has some important elements.
Keyword research is a discipline by which an SEO writer researches certain words that people search for in relation to your product or service. These words (or phrases in the case of long-tail keywords) usually direct the content you will create.
Image Source: KWFinder
Because SEO writing is more about producing informative content that answers a question, you will use these keywords to answer questions your readers are asking. You can also use them to create guides and other types of informative content.
Write for readers first
The mistake many novice SEO writers make is that they write for search engines first.
While it is important to make your content “crawlable”, one of the main things Google mainly looks for in content is relevance. For your content to be relevant, it has to be written for humans, not search bots.
Another reason SEO writing needs to be reader focused is that Google algorithms rank content based on user intent.
The advantages of writing for your readers are that you get many backlinks (if your content is good) and social media shares. Both factors help your content rank higher, thus becoming more discoverable.
Pay attention to algorithm changes
Because search engine algorithms are always changing, SEO writing best practices are also always changing. This makes it mandatory for SEO writers to constantly upgrade skills.
These just a few of the main concepts that are central to SEO writing. It is a very broad field that needs more space than this to fully explain.
Copywriting vs. SEO Writing: The one big similarity
Copywriting and SEO writing may be two different disciplines, but they do have common ground. Besides the fact that both require serious writing chops, they also have one common goal—to drive your business forward.
The main goal of both copywriting and SEO writing is to attract, engage, and convert leads.
But they approach that goal from different angles.
Let’s look at those differences, shall we?
Copywriting vs. SEO Writing: The main differences
Now that you have an idea of what copywriting and SEO writing are, we can zoom in on the major differences. This will help you as a marketer to know which kind of writing is needed for a particular project.
The biggest difference between copywriting and SEO writing is the way the writing is consumed.
You could say that both types of writing are optimized to meet the reader or consumer where they are—SEO writing meets them on a webpage, while copywriting may meet them on a TV commercial, printed ad, or the product labeling.
Of course, both types of writing can be consumed online, and generally, SEO writing is more comprehensive and can be found in longer-form content like articles and blog posts, and it seeks to answer a question your potential customers may be having.
On the other hand, copywriting happens in a specific brand voice you use when talking about your product and its benefit.
Another big difference between copywriting and SEO writing is the audience each kind of writing is aimed for. SEO writing is mainly crafted for people who are at the top of the funnel—those who are still investigating a certain problem.
But that is not to say it is only used there. It is also used at every other level of the funnel to draw in people to your products and services.
Copywriting, on the other hand, is mainly aimed at leads that are already warm and are leaning towards buying or even ready to buy. Good examples of such marketing collateral are landing pages and sales pages/letters.
Copywriting and SEO Writing: Two sides of the same coin
One question some marketers ask is which of these two writing disciplines they should use. The answer is both. That is, use both where they are needed.
An effective marketing campaign needs both copywriting and SEO writing in order for it to succeed. Like a bicycle, if one wheel is missing, you won’t go very far.
Copywriting and SEO writing are two different disciplines that are crucial to every business. A proper understanding of both will help you, as a marketer, know how to plan and execute an effective strategy.
If you’ve gleaned some valuable information from this post and want more, why not check out this list of SEO strategies—of course, not forgetting about the rules of good copywriting—that you can apply to your emails this year.