Copywriting v. Web Content: The Difference & Why It Matters

If you’re just starting to look into hiring a writing service, then you’ve probably come across a few new phrases: content writing, web content, and copywriting. What exactly do these terms mean? Is there actually a difference between general “content writing” and SEO copywriting?

Everyone you talk to is going to offer different answers to these questions. That being said, here’s some food for thought that can at least provide you with a background for getting into the discussion…

What Is Web Content?

(Better question: What isn’t web content?) Web content is anything and everything you come across online. Unless you’re reading the blog of a dedicated enthusiast, then you’re probably reading something that somebody else has paid for. Generally speaking, there are five different types of writing services that may have been hired to write the content that’s on your screen. This content could be:

  • Blog posts
  • Websites
  • Social media posts
  • Meta descriptions
  • PPC Ads

If you’re reading it, somebody was probably paid to write it. How does web content differ from copywriting? Web content can be a catchall term, and catchalls don’t necessarily generate results.

What Is Copywriting?

Copywriting on the other hand is much more specific. Copy unlike content is written with the explicit intention of selling something. Some forms of copy (like direct mail) are pretty straightforward about the selling. Other forms of copy are much more discreet. Great copy comes off as informative and valuable (and usually is), while its ultimate goal is to sell a product or service.

In the online world, most copywriting is search engine optimized. SEO copywriting helps the message to get into the right place at the right time. Of course, loading up your copy with SEO terms isn’t very pretty. Plus, it just doesn’t work…

3 Reasons SEO Keyword Stuffing Doesn’t Work

I recently came across an interesting article from Forthea, an internet marketing agency, that puts three SEO keyword stuffing myths to rest:

  • Any reader can recognize keyword stuffing. Web pages stuffed with keywords come off like junior high essays. They’re awkward, clumsy, and nobody wants to read them. Your keyword-stuffed copy might attract visitors to your website, but visitors are probably not going to click around and end up buying something from you.
  • Search engines are highly sophisticated. Google always says that “the single most important thing to do” is to provide high-quality content on your site. They aren’t kidding. Google is getting more sophisticated every day. SEO copywriters have to be much more skilled than they once were. (More on that below.)
  • Online reputation is everything. Lastly, it’s hard to recover from a bad online reputation (in Google’s eyes and – more importantly – in your customers’ eyes). Don’t hire a writing service that will stuff your content with keywords; both Google and your site visitors will make you pay!

Two Writers: Wordsmiths & Typists

In short, here’s what it comes down to… broadly speaking, there are two kinds of SEO copywriters out there: wordsmiths and typists. The typists generally know how to create all of the different types of content. For example, they know how many characters a PPC ad should have, and they know how the layout of a blog post should appear.

The wordsmiths have this same knowledge, but they also know how to be sly. They understand that there’s more to writing SEO copy than hitting some “perfect” keyword density. They know that there has to be story and personality in a piece of writing. Wordsmiths can see the bigger picture that extends beyond SEO copywriting.

But… if you ask someone else, you just might get a completely different answer – which is what makes writing for the web so exciting in 2013. A lot’s changing in this industry, and the changes are happening fast!

What’s your take on copywriting and content writing?


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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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