Copywriting and SEO writing are core components of any content marketing strategy.

“Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first.” – Wendy Piersall

In this article, we’ll take a look at the differences between copywriting vs SEO writing, when to use them and how to nail each form.

Read on to discover:

  • What copywriting is?
  • What SEO writing is?
  • How and when to combine the two?

Let’s dive in.

What is Copywriting?

Copywriting is a core part of any content marketing strategy. It’s the art of creating great copy (written content) that gets the reader to feel an affinity with or interest in your brand – and, ultimately, to take a specific action, like signing up or buying something. 

This means that the copy you write must be engaging, persuasive and pitched just right for your target audience. This applies whether you’re writing blog posts, email copy, ads, social media posts or any other kind of content. 

What is SEO Writing?

As you can tell from the name, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) refers to a set of techniques that aim to improve your page’s performance in search engines like Google. 

That means you’re not only thinking about how to make your copy engaging and compelling – although that is still very important. You’re also structuring it in ways that a search engine (especially Google) likes and rewards.

Exactly what works for SEO changes all the time. Google is notorious for changing its algorithms with little notice, which can seriously scupper a carefully implemented SEO strategy. However, there are some strategies that stand the test of time.

The biggest one is keyword research. This means figuring out which words and phrases are searched for most commonly by people looking for information related to your product, service or business type. You can then build the content around these keywords or phrases, attracting more people to your site.

Start by creating content “buckets”, i.e. core topics related to what you do or sell. For example, if you sell wine, your content buckets might be things like “wine tasting”, “pairing food and wine”, “fine dining” and so on. 

Next, go to a Keyword Search Volume tool, such as Search.io. Google Adwords recently restricted this incredibly useful feature, but a number of free alternatives have sprung up in its place.

Here, you can test out a bunch of possible keywords, like so:

The system will tell you how often people search for the term, on average, on a monthly basis:

As you can see, this tells you that people are four times more likely to search for the phrase “pairing wine with food” than “pairing wine and food”. They’re nearly 10 times more likely than that to search for the simple term “wine pairing”. That means you will show up in far more searches by incorporating the term “wine pairing” into your copy and especially your page header.

Does that mean you should only bother with the really high volume search terms, though? Nope. Take the phrase “what wine goes with Chinese food” on this list. Sure, it only gets 110 searches in the US each month, but if you type the exact-match phrase into Google, it only displays 15 results.

That means you are far more likely to be able to break into the coveted first page of Google for this precise term. If you do, all of those 110 people per month will see your page displayed – and many of them will click. That’s a far better hit rate than you can expect if you compete for the high-volume “wine pairing” but end up on page seven.

Once you have your search terms, you need to figure out how to work them into your content. 

For this, you can make use of another free tool: Answer the Public. Simply type in your search terms and the website will automatically generate hundreds of questions, comparisons and phrases based on things that people really do search for. 

Many of these will sound awkward and weird, but others will give you a spark of inspiration, helping to generate page headings and titles for blog posts:

Final Thoughts: Mixing the Two

This brings us to the crux of the matter: copywriting vs SEO writing. They are not mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite. If you’re writing copy for online, it certainly makes sense to increase your performance in search engines. 

What’s more, SEO writing is really a form of copywriting in itself. The same rules about drawing in the reader and making them excited about what you do still stand. Keywords don’t replace that.

Having said that, there are plenty of times when SEO is irrelevant to the copy you’re writing. 

Think about how the person reading it would discover it. Is this something you envision them stumbling across while researching a topic on the internet? Then sure, make it SEO-rich. But if it’s gated content or something they receive by email, forget the SEO considerations. Focus instead on the effect your words create on readers, not machines.

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