October 4, 2019
If you ever had this dilemma, don’t fret. You’re not the only one.
In fact, most people who aren’t SEO copywriters or content writers never suspected there was a difference. Or, if they did, they never really cared.
However, knowing whether you need an SEO copywriter or an SEO content writer is about more than being pedantic. It’s about getting the right person for the right job. And without overpaying.
Let’s take a look at the basics.
Copywriting versus content writing: brothers, not twins
As you can see, ‘writing’ is part of both names. Which makes something obvious: both copywriters and content writers write.
But they write different things.
Google Answer Box gives us a good place to start:
If you only take into account this definition, you may think that a copywriter can only work in a ‘traditional’ advertising agency, the kind that creates commercials for TV, radio and print media.
But the term has evolved to include people who create texts for the web, too. And not just what we typically refer to as ads. Some of the things a copywriter can help you with include:
- PPC ads copy (like Facebook or Google Ads)
- Sales pages
- Email campaign copy
- Video scripts
- Ecommerce product descriptions
- Website copy
Briefly put, a copywriter creates texts designed to sell. Ideally, without a second touch point.
Add ‘SEO’ in front of copywriter and the list above will shrink to only include copy that can be optimized for search engines, like website copy or sales pages.
What’s left for SEO content writers, you ask? Well, pretty much everything else your digital strategy might need.
Wikipedia gives us a broad definition: a content writer is a person who specializes in providing relevant content for websites.
Pretty much like a copywriter, with a significant difference. The texts a content writer creates are not designed to sell instantly. Content writing is better suited for your top-of-the-funnel tactics.
Some of the things a content writer can help you with include:
- Blog posts
- Website content
- White papers
- Case studies
- Social media updates
If you add ‘SEO’ to the name, everything they write for you should be search engine-friendly. Of course, some of these (like white papers and e-books) can’t be SEO-friendly.
SEO copywriters vs SEO content writers – whom do I need?
If the list of collaterals each of them can create for you is not enough, ask yourself this: does the text need to sell instantly?
You should never hire a content writer to create a sales page, for instance. This kind of copy should be designed for bottom-of-the-funnel leads who are ready to convert. Or to convince someone who’s never heard of you or your products to buy them right now.
Buying is key here. The form of the copy matters less.
PPC ad copy is short and snappy. A sales page is much longer and takes the reader through an entire process. But they both have the same goal – a purchase.
On the other hand, blog posts, white papers, e-books and certain pages of your website don’t need to sell instantly. They can be excellent tools for lead generation, lead nurturing or loyalty campaigns.
This is where SEO content writers come into play.
What they create is designed to rank high in search engines and entice the reader to check out more stuff on your website. SEO content is the gateway to your sales funnel.
For instance, let’s say you want to rank for ‘landscaping company in Tampa’. What should you start with? A blog post (written by an SEO content writer) or a sales page (written by an SEO copywriter)?
Depending on your competition and the current SERP landscape for this query, you could go for either. But:
- ‘Landscaping company in Tampa’ is not exactly a sales-ready keyword. You may attract traffic that’s just browsing or looking for ideas for their own garden. They are at the top of the funnel and will be better served by a blog post optimized for this query.
- A blog post is much easier to rank because you can go long-form and add plenty of outbound and inbound links.
- Your sales page could be optimized for ‘landscaping company in Tampa prices’ or ‘affordable lawn services near me’. These queries depict a user that’s ready to buy and likely to only need a well-written sales page and a convenient price offer.
Have you decided on whether you should go with the sales page or the blog post? Great! Now let’s talk money!
Which one is cheaper: SEO copywriting or SEO content writing?
Typically, SEO content writing is cheaper than SEO copywriting. Of course, prices vary widely from provider to provider, but if you choose the same agency for both, you will most likely get better prices (per word or page) for content writing.
Why, you ask?
Well, there are a few factors that are ultimately related to how people price their work:
- Value-based pricing: this is a type of pricing that catches on in more and more industries. In a nutshell, it means that you are charged for the value a service or a product has for you. A sales page will (if written properly) bring you actual, cold, hard cash. A blog post may or may not generate leads or sales and its ROI is harder to prove (typically, you shouldn’t talk about the ROI of a single blog post, but about your whole content strategy). Consequently, you will pay more for copywriting.
- Different set of skills: most copywriters are formally or informally educated in marketing. They don’t just need proper grammar and research skills. They also need to understand your audience so they can help you sell to it. At Idunn, the agency I run, a marketing background is a hiring requirement for both copywriters and content writers. But this is the exception, not the norm.
- Ultra-specialization: the most expensive copywriters are those who specialize in a single industry or niche. Of course, there are also specialized content writers, but they tend to be scarcer.
Wrapping things up
Ultimately, both SEO content writing and copywriting are supposed to sell – if done properly, of course. And, in most cases, you can’t have one work properly without the other.
The purpose of this article is not to help you choose between the two. It’s to help you assign the right person to the right task and to prevent you from overpaying for skills and expertise you don’t really need.
But if you don’t want to go through all this on your own, you can always hire a digital agency that has both SEO copywriters and SEO content writers on staff. This way, there’s much less hassle for you and you’re sure that each of your projects is hired by the right person at the right price.
If you’re looking for such an agency, let’s talk. My agency hires top content writers and copywriters so you don’t have to spend ages finding and vetting them.
Adriana Tica is an expert marketer and copywriter, with 10 years in the field, most of which were spent marketing tech companies. She is the Owner and Founder of Idunn. In October 2019, she also launched Copywritech, a digital marketing agency that provides copywriting, SEO content writing, and strategy services to companies in the tech industry.