What’s the difference between content and copy and why does it matter?
There are copywriters. There are content writers. Copywriters may write content, and content writers may write copy. But SEO-building content is a different creature to sales-oriented copy. This blog post explores the differences of content and copy and why both should be part of your marketing plans.
One of my first copywriting gigs was to write insurance-related blog posts. I got paid about $10/hr to write bundles of 10 posts each month (which was pretty cool – the whole “people pay you to write?” blew my mind).
But this was a stepping stone. I was more interested in sales and conversion copywriting, and soon moved away from mere blog posts. Sales-focused marketing material, as far as I was concerned, was the “real action”.
Sure, I did the odd blog or three for existing clients and knew they were good for SEO. But the posts I wrote for my site were more a labour of love than a “gotta do it for the biz” kind of thing. Blogging was something I just didn’t take super seriously.
That is… until I took a second look at Kate Toon’s “Recipe for SEO Success” course. Watching a few of her videos, it suddenly dawned how valuable blogging is.
When I regained my senses, I poked around further. If I was going to dive into blogging, I wanted to know what else you could do with them.
Turns out you can do a lot!
Blogs, huh, what are they good for?
A lot more than absolutely nothing.
SEO is a great reason to flail away at your keyboard on a regular basis, but there’s more to blogs than just Google ranks. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.
You may not have noticed my name’s not Angela Denly.
And yet, here I am, posting on her blog.
Well, SEO and search rankings are two things people love to talk about when it comes to websites. And blogging – both on your site and others – can play a huge part around how your site appears in search results.
Building backlinks: when other sites link to yours, search engines take notice. One way to nab an SEO-building link? Guest blog, like this. Most people are happy to post content on their site if it’s useful and relevant. Just make sure you ask first before writing a 3,000-word epic. On the other hand, try to avoid shady practices like buying backlinks, as it makes Google unhappy.
The “freshness factor”: Here’s a reason to bring the bloggy love back home. Google bots love when new content is added to websites. Updates attract the “spiders” (bots who scan sites for new things to include in search results) and help your pages climb those oh-so-competitive search rankings.
New keywords: Your homepage can’t possibly rank for “all the keywords”. If you do your SEO homework, you’ll rank especially well for a couple, so-so for a few others, and that’s about it. So how do you rank for other keyword phrases you want to target? Write about them really really well, so your blog post jumps up to the top of relevant search results.
Funnily enough, blogging in an exhaustively excellent way just happens to be also great for…
Want to show people you’re an expert in your field?
For writers, one of the best ways to show people you know what you talking about is to…
Yep, it’s a huge advantage professional writers enjoy: their trade is also how they build authority.
Fruit jugglers are not writers. Hairdressers aren’t either. That doesn’t mean they can’t blog. When you love a subject, you find a way to express it. People notice. It’s a powerful thing.
But as writers, there’s no better way to show you walk the talk than producing highly valuable, highly relevant content that has potential clients (and other “influencers” in the market) sit up and take notice.
Build your own social network
Blogging builds up vital SEO juice that gets you noticed when people “do the Googles”.
But it’s not the only way people find you.
Each blog post you create and share on a social media network – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest (or all of the above) – is another opportunity for people to share, notice, comment on and generally engage with your content.
Bonus! Hubspot calls blogging and social media a “symbiotic relationship”, and it’s a fitting phrase. You not only have a shiny new blog post that draws the “oohs” and “aahs”, you can also spin off a series of social media posts that not only promote your post, but your business in general.
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to put effort into your blog, such as putting a face to your otherwise faceless brand (side note: this is something Angela is fantastic with in her blogging. See exhibit A and exhibit B just for starters).
Some businesses are practically powered by their blogs, such is the power of first-class content. But there are times when you need a little more “oompf” or a different strategy to tip visitors into prospects or customers.
So… about that sales copy
We’ve talked a lot about blogging. But how do sales-focused marketing materials, like sales or landing pages, emails and even websites play their part?
The short answer would be “to make money, duh”.
That’d be correct, but it’d also be incomplete. So let’s dig a little deeper.
If SEO and increased authority are done well, they’ll help your cause on the sales front.
But they’re indirect methods of improving conversion.
If you want direct conversions, you gotta sell. It’s as simple as that.
That said, the term “sales” can be a little bit disingenuous. We’re not always chasing the almighty dollar. “Conversion” might be a better term, as it has a much wider scope: persuading someone to sign up to your email list, downloading a free report you’re offering, watching a video, or starting a free trial (among other things).
As the focus on conversion has grown in recent years, the term “conversion copywriting” has become popularised. A kind of younger sibling to the old-school direct response copywriting, it’s squarely focused on persuading people to act.
Of course, blogs and conversion copy can both compel readers. But that’s often not the primary purpose of a blog. Conversion-focused copy is about one thing alone: convincing prospects and visitors to act.
I like to think of blogging as a “swiss army knife” way to market your business, and sales copy the single-blade “survival knife”. Blogs do a myriad of things, such as help people find your site and demonstrate your expertise. But when you use a sales page or sales-focused website, the sole intent is to pitch a proposition designed to get the “yes”.
Build a Relationship
Didn’t I just say conversion copy was purely about getting people to act a few paragraphs up?
But there’s more than one way to skin that proverbial cat.
And one of the best ways of selling to prospects is to NOT sell to prospects. At least, not straight away.
Most people aren’t willing or prepared to stump up cash to businesses or faces they’re not familiar with. As Billy Joel once famously sang, it’s always been a matter of trust.
So taking the time to build rapport with people, showing them how your business is different, and giving them plenty of value with zero expectations (something the superstar entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk is a big fan of doing) is a great way to build that relationship.
Of course, as “Gary Vee” says, you’ve also got to ask for the sale at some point. But by establishing the relationship earlier, your chances of converting those prospects into loyal customers get a massive shot in the arm.
Are you using both sides of the coin?
At the end of the day, content and copy are different approaches to the same goal: marketing your business better. If you’re not using both blogs and sales copy in your marketing masterplan, should you be? If you are using both, can you track your marketing results for each? And what can you do to strengthen copy or content that’s under-performing? (*cough* hire a professional content or copywriter? *cough*)
About Dean Mackenzie, Owner of Dean Mackenzie Copywriting
Dean is a freelance copywriter trained in direct response methods – methods focused on selling. Most of his work centres on landing pages, emails, websites and sales pages.
He also enjoys speaking about himself in the third person and a jolly good cup of tea.