Heather Lloyd-Martin is the pioneer of SEO copywriting.
A 20-plus year veteran in the space, she has helped countless businesses generate more traffic and sales with SEO-friendly content.
But the term “SEO copywriting” is perhaps a bit of a misnomer.
Is it SEO content writing? Is it copywriting? Is it both? If there is a difference, does it matter?
These questions have popped up time and time again within the SEO community. The fact is, the difference does matter – as these two types of writing can bring very different results for businesses.
Let’s finally put this question to rest and uncover when SEO experts should turn to content writing versus copywriting for their projects.
Both Writing, Different Results
Both SEO content writing and copywriting have to do with the words on the page, but they each serve their own distinct purpose.
This distinction matters because helps you determine which method you need to employ in order to achieve the desired results.
Confusing the two – or ineffectively combining the two – will likely lead to subpar results. It’s worth considering the difference in order to choose the right method (and writer) for your project.
What’s the Difference Between Content Writing vs. Copywriting?
With SEO content writing, the primary goal is to generate organic traffic via search engines.
With copywriting, the primary goal is to convert traffic into leads and sales.
Are both content writing and copywriting capable of doing both? Absolutely. But the difference really comes down to what you are trying to do and which method does it better.
Therefore, it’s best to consider the immediate and end goal of your project, and then find a writer who is able to achieve those goals the best.
Is There Such a Thing as ‘SEO Copywriting’?
If SEO content writing and copywriting are different, where did “SEO copywriting” come from?
My belief is that the term “SEO copywriting” is a result of many SEO experts confusing the two types of writing.
This is supported by the fact that when I casually surveyed a Facebook group of SEO experts on what SEO copywriting is, I came back with some very different answers:
Some SEO pros said the two types of writing are one and the same.
Others said they were different. Others said there was an overlap.
Overall, there was no consensus on what “SEO copywriting” is or whether it even exists.
However, there’s no doubt that the term “SEO copywriting” itself does exist and that users are actively searching for it online.
But What About ‘SEO Copywriting’ Being a Highly Searchable Term?
Since “SEO copywriting” is a term that the industry uses, it’s no wonder that it has become a highly searchable keyword.
SEMrush shows “seo copywriting” as getting 880 searches per month, slightly ahead of “seo content writing” at 770 searches per month.
People are clearly using this term to find content service online. So, any smart SEO content writer or SEO content agency would be savvy to target “seo copywriting” to attract more traffic to their website.
The cycle continues.
However, the search intent behind this keyword is a bit muddled.
- Are people looking for website content services?
- Blog posts?
- A sales page copywriter?
- Ad copy?
It can be hard to tell.
For instance, as an SEO content writer myself, I often get SEO agencies inquiring about copywriting, Facebook ad copy, social media copy, sales pages, etc.
While these projects do involve content, they don’t necessarily involve SEO. Rather, they require sales copy – something that may or may not be outside of an SEO content writer’s wheelhouse.
While “SEO copywriting” is a term in the SEO industry’s vocabulary, it’s still important to make a distinction between SEO content writing and copywriting. This is because the method you choose should be the best fit for what you are trying to accomplish with your content.
And once you know that, you can hire the right type of writer to get the job done.
When to Hire an SEO Content Writer
You hire an SEO content writer when you want to attract more organic traffic to your website through high-quality, keyword-optimized content.
This is a writer that both understands SEO and knows how to writing content that’s informative and compelling. However, they don’t necessarily know how to write for conversions.
SEO content serves a variety of purposes, including:
- Increasing a website’s keyword rankings.
- Driving clicks from the SERPs.
- Attracting high-authority backlinks.
- Directing users to other pages on the site.
- Converting website visitors into buyers, subscribers, or leads.
Therefore, you should hire an SEO content writer to write your website content – mainly, webpages and blog posts – if you want to increase organic traffic.
There are other residual benefits of hiring a great SEO content writer.
Great content can drive social shares, keep users on your website for longer, and improve conversions. It can also help you establish authority in your niche and drive awareness of your brand.
Types of SEO Content Projects
SEO content writers tackle specific types of content projects – projects that typically have an end goal of increasing organic traffic. Sometimes, the goal may also be to attract links to your site.
SEO content writers typically handle content like:
- SEO-friendly blog posts.
- SEO-friendly service pages.
- Local SEO content for businesses.
- Service pages.
- PPC landing pages.
- Link building content.
- Guest posts for SEO.
Every SEO content writer or agency is a bit different. They may choose to take on additional content writing projects like general blog post writing (not for SEO), social media post writing, ebooks, or even video script writing.
The important thing to note is that if your immediate goal is to increase organic traffic, you’ll want to hire an SEO content writer.
If your main concern isn’t traffic, but how to convert that traffic into sales and leads quickly, then you’ll want to hire a sales copywriter.
When to Hire a Copywriter
Surprise! There are actually many, many different types of copywriters, just as there are many, many different types of copy projects.
Think about all the different platforms out there that require copy; Google ads, Facebook ads, landing pages, social media posts, print ads, billboard ads, sales pages, product pages – the list goes on and on.
You’ll want to hire a copywriter when your primary goal is to convert traffic into sales or leads. This traffic may be organic, but it may also be social media traffic, paid ad traffic, direct traffic, and so on.
Therefore, you’ll want to hire a copywriter who specializes in the exact type of copy you need and knows how to convert that specific type of traffic.
For example, a Facebook ad copywriter may not be a pro in writing print ad copy, or vice versa.
The research, targeting, writing, formatting, and launch process can be completely different for each type of copy project.
Types of Projects Copywriters Take On
When your focus isn’t SEO – but sales – you’ll want to hire a copywriter that’s an absolute pro at the specific type of copy you need.
This will be entirely based on the project at hand.
Some copy projects that copywriters typically handle include:
- Facebook ads
- Instagram ads
- Social media posts
- Email campaigns
- Print marketing materials
- Video scripts
- Sales pages
- Newspaper ads
- Product descriptions
- Non-SEO landing pages
- Business names and taglines
- Website copy (brand messaging)
- Whitepapers or product demos
- Call-to-action buttons
- On-site navigation copy
Typically, you’ll be able to find a skilled copywriter by doing a Google search of the specific type of copy you are looking for.
However, some projects can be so niche that it can be hard to find a copywriter that fits the bill. In that case, you can search for a general copywriter and ask in the are experienced in that type of project.
Remember, the success of any marketing campaign depends on a copywriter’s ability to write converting sales copy. Their process should involve conducting market research, writing copy that resonates with that audience, and including calls-to-action that entice users to buy.
Words from a Sales Copywriter
Expert sales copywriter Tori Reid chimes in to offer her take on what is the primary difference between SEO content and sales copy – and why SEO professionals need to hire a writer who is skilled in one or the other:
“In a nutshell, SEO content is built to drive traffic. SEO writers use Google’s keywords which are built on viewership data. Or, “who clicked to view/read articles that used this word”.
Sales copywriters, on the other hand, tend to get their “keywords”, phrases, and topics directly from the buyer’s and target audience’s mouths to build a list of “buying triggers” to use in the copy. We then plug these buying triggers into different formulas that are built specifically to convert the audience into a subscriber or a buyer.
Yes, SEO content can get conversions (sales, opt-ins, etc.) but when comparing it to copywriting, it’s not nearly as consistent and there’s a reason for that.
Look at it this way: someone could likely hit a home run with a tree branch… but that doesn’t make the tree branch a baseball bat. That baseball bat has one job. Help the batter hit the ball as far as possible. And because this is the bat’s only job – and only focus – it’s gotten incredibly good at it over the years. No professional player would in their right mind choose a tree branch over a baseball bat.
SEO content is “built” to drive traffic. Sales copy is “built” to drive sales.
So if you want sales copy, no professional in their right mind would choose an SEO content writer over someone who’s spent years specifically studying and refining the art of writing to sell.”
While SEO experts and business owners would love to get the best of both worlds – content that’s made to attract organic traffic and get a high conversion rate – the reality is that SEO content is best at driving traffic and sales copy is best at selling.
There can be an overlap, but it’s rarely, if ever, 100%.
Don’t Cram Your Copy Full of Keywords!
SEO experts that do try to get the best of both worlds often try to optimize their sales copy with their target keywords.
If your primary goal is to convert traffic, do not do this. It can significantly hinder conversions, as those keywords can interrupt the natural flow of the sales copy.
At the same time, your audience may be using those terms to search, but it doesn’t mean those words will trigger them to buy.
Trust your sales copywriter to do what they do best – convert visitors to buyers – and leave the keywords out of it.
How to Find the Best SEO Content Writer for Your Project
Since you’re a fan of Search Engine Journal, it’s likely that one of your main goals is to improve your website SEO. Therefore, the majority of the content you create will likely be SEO content in the form of webpages or blog posts.
Find a Writer Who Knows SEO
If that’s the case, you’ll want to find a content writer who thoroughly understands SEO and can write content that’s of interest to your target audience.
Ask if Your Writer Understands Conversion Copywriting
Additionally, it’s preferred that this writer at least knows the basics of conversion copywriting so they can do their very best to convert that organic traffic into subscribers, customers, and leads.
They may not be a sales copy pro like a professional copywriter would be, but they can still write content that converts better than 90% of the other keyword-stuffed SEO content out there.
Ask for Examples and Case Studies
Because your goal is to increase organic traffic, you’ll want to find a writer who can provide examples and proven case studies that show that they know what they’re doing.
Ask if they can provide traffic or keyword ranking stats, or even conversion stats if available. There are tons of great writers out there, but not all of them know how to write to attract organic traffic.
Reach Out to Your Network
One of the best ways to find great SEO content writers is to reach out to your network and ask for a referral.
These people will be able to vouch for the writer’s expertise, potentially saving you time and money versus hiring a random writer you find online.
Need a writer for your project? Be sure to know the difference between SEO content writing and copywriting so you choose the best writer for you.
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All screenshots taken by author, September 2019