The Sarky Type – content with more bite

Some of us are too busy to care about the nuanced points of content writing and copywriting.

I’m not at all busy. I hate being busy. Charge more, do less. Fuck. Yes.

Most people running a business (busy or not) don’t know (and don’t care) about the endless debate between content writing vs copywriting. 

It bores the living shit outta me too, tbh. 

Just like Bobby Brown, it’s your prerogative to avoid that particular writer’s discussion, but having a basic understanding of this thorny issue will make your website content much better. 

Content writing.

Website content writing is SEO optimised text that attracts organic traffic.

Its entire purpose is to get you found by the right kind of people. Blogging is a huge part of content SEO and it’s considered (by me, at least) as the long game to attraction.

If you blog, think about the process.

I’m guessing you research the topic. You figure out the keywords you want that post to be found for and I dare say, you SEO the bejeesus out of every aspect of that post. Once it’s done, you promote the life out of it.

All that is part and parcel of brand awareness.

I nearly typed ‘bland awareness’ which for many is so apt.

All this content is building a reputation. 

And a reputation sets you up as an authority, which in turn, cultivates trust (lest we forget the E-A-T principle of SEO).

This is a drip-feed of information about what you do and what you sell to potential customers. We do that, not only on the basis that they will find us but also, remember us.

Content marketing works in a similar way to TV ads. 

You’re constantly reminding prospects who you are so when they need that thing you sell, they’ll know who to turn to.

All this happens over a long-ass period of time. 

Producing online content is relentless. It’s hard graft. But a website without a content strategy is a lame duck, and without it, your organic traffic efforts are fer nuffin’.

Copywriting.

So, you’ve got some potential clients mooching around on your homepage, great, but now you’ve got to do something with them. 

We need to give those visitors a reason to stay and we absolutely want them to take some kind of action – an action that we have orchestrated.

Direct response copywriting is how we convince customers to do that thing. 

If you want to sell a product or get a blog sign up, you write using that technique. And it’s a technique that has hard and fast rules.

(I struggle with rules. I’m not great with authority either.)

Unlike content writing, copywriting has a short term goal.

And that goal is to elicit a decision from the reader. A decision that requires some urgency, in the same way, that infomercials want you to act now to get that half-price Dormeo mattress.

Content writing and copywriting are similar.

Both techniques require you to know your target customer like your own mother.

If you don’t know your own mother, sorry. 

Content writing and copywriting are only effective if you establish a problem that you can solve.

Both also ask that you speak directly to your client. In the same way that you might have a one-to-one conversation.

Why do you need both?

Selling a product and attracting organic traffic are two different things.

The writing style you use is determined by the pages of your website, the purpose of which can vary.

A landing page, for example, has one purpose, a short term goal that requires urgent action. You’ll predominantly use copywriting on those kinds of pages.

A blog post is all about long term brand awareness so you’re much more likely to adopt content writing techniques to engage your audience.

Can you combine content writing and copywriting?

The marketing technique of mixing shit up has already been invented and it has a snazzy name… wait for it… 

Brand Response.

Christ.

Brand Response is the marketing communications industry’s Genius of the And. It sounds too good to be true. It asks us to live with two apparently contradictory ideas at the same time. It can be defined simply as a strategic and executional campaign approach where brand-building drives response and this response, in turn, builds the brand in a virtuous circle of effectiveness.”

Marketing Society

In summary, you’re getting both short term and long term goals in a single hit.

You’re doing the thing of creating a buzz around your business – building on the desire to want to be remembered for a long while to come, whilst asking of those reading your content to do something immediately after the fact.

You can do exactly that with your blog.

The dark art of merging both content writing and copywriting to murderous effect. 

I’m clearly thinking about my own blog.

If you apply the rules of direct response, all the while keeping your brand awareness sensibilities, you’ve got the basis for a cracking business blog that not only informs but converts.

Interestingly enough, direct response copywriting is often long-form, and according to Crazy Egg, it outperforms short-form by 30%. 

Oh, and the grandmaster of advertising, David Ogilvy said something along the lines, “The more you tell, the more you sell.”

What a wordsmith. Sadly, he was nowhere near as pretty on camera as his nephew. 

So, what do you do now?

Well, I suggest you mull all this over.

Take time to fully appreciate how brilliant using both techniques (and even merging the two) could be for your website.

If you’re still on the fence about employing someone to write for your business, then you’ve either missed all my other posts / you have no money / you refuse to understand the value.

If however, you’re starting to see the proverbial light, click here to find out more.

Seems like I missed a golden opportunity to write about What is SEO content writing at the start of my career. Pretty fundamental to what I do, right? I know, I’m a schmuck.

To add to the confusion I often talk about copywriting – just when you wanted some goddam clarity!

OK, let me start by clearing that up.

There is a difference between content writing and copywriting.

Content is anything you decide to pop on your online spaces.

That can be text, videos, images, whatevs. And SEO content writing attracts traffic to your online home – namely, your website.

Copywriting is used when we want our visitors to make a fairly swift decision. Download or buy a thing, for example.

This post is about what I mostly do, SEO content writing. Here’s a breakdown of what that involves.

1. Brilliant writing. 

Nothing else matters if your writing ability is that of a pissed, illiterate octogenarian. 

And yes, I know we all decide what we think brilliant writing is and it will be a fine balance between the content you like to produce and the stuff your audience wants to consume.

Engaging copy is the only way to get the SEO job done.

As an SEO content writer, I think you should be upfront with your audience. Use a style and tone that demonstrates exactly who you are in business. Sure, writers have their tricks. It’s their job to evoke an emotion, they know power words and aren’t afraid to use them. They’re down with dwell time, they can make users hang out on your website a little while longer. Just enough time for them to buy all the Disney themed goods in your online store.

I have an adult friend that lives and breathes Disney. It’s hard to believe we’re pals but opposites attract.

All that good stuff happens because of words.

Hiring a content writer (and a copywriter) will be one of the best business decisions you’ll ever make. And if you don’t think it’s important, you’re not serious about getting seen by the people who want what you’re selling. 

Or you don’t understand the value. That’s why I’m here, to show you.

You might have a GCSE in English and write grammatically correct business emails but that doesn’t make you anything near a content writer. Like any skill, it takes practice. And even if you do practice, being able to be the voice of a brand (even your brand) is something you might not be able to do.

Writing as you speak is difficult.

My husband, for example, is witty and smart but when you read his Facebook posts he sounds like a 10-year-old with developmental delay. None of his personality shines through.

And before you get all offended, I was that 10-year old with developmental delay.

Writing well isn’t just about the lengthy stuff.

Microcopy – the words on your meta titles for example could be the difference between clicking on your link or scrolling past to your competitor. Don’t misjudge the power of those short phrases, those little nuggets of star copy on your CTAs. Your business slogan, if you have one will be one of the most difficult pieces of text to come up with. Having to describe what it is you do in one phrase is fucking hard but it defines your entire business.

2. Target market.

“Know your audience like your own private parts” is a business maxim I like to live by. 

As a business owner knowing who your product is for is fairly basic stuff. You’ve probably researched, tested, and mind mapped your way through a business strategy so there really should be no doubt as to who’s buying your shit. At the very least, you sort of know who your potential client is.

Sorry, what’s that, you don’t have a niche?

Listen cupcake, you have a niche because not everyone wants what you’re selling. In the same way, not everyone thinks you’re smokin’ hot. Sure, your clients might be from different sectors but there’s a commonality that links them, so don’t test my patience. 

Don’t forget your competitors. 

Google your industry keywords and see who’s landing on the first page. Nosy around their website and make notes on what they’re doing right, also, what they’re doing wrong. Pay close attention to their online copy. How well is it written? How does it make you feel? And how clear is the objective? Imagine you’re a prospect of theirs, can you figure out what it is they’re selling? Is it easy to buy? Can you guess what audience they’re appealing to?

So many bloody questions.

3. Formatted content.

Sexy, compelling wordage is all well and good but the writing alone won’t win the day.

If you’ve written 2000 words I would presume you’re not going to dump that in one huge chunk on a webpage. Please tell me that isn’t going to happen. Break that shit up! Make it easy to read. Short paragraphs make people happy. Overloading your static web pages with a shit-ton of text will make people leave your site.

Here’s a little summary of things to do when arranging your copy:

  • Add purpose-driven, catchy headings and subheadings
  • Add internal links
  • Add relevant images with SEO optimised titles
  • Add CTAs where applicable

You’re doing all this for a better user experience. That folks is SEO.

A part of formatting the content also involves some technical SEO aspects.

I’m talking about the content writing that is specific to your business website. That means getting dirty with the way parts of your site is structured and how well optimised it is for content visibility.

I know, boring right?!

4. Keywords.

It follows that a website is already targeting certain keywords. If yours isn’t, I don’t know how to deal with you. There are different sorts of keywords and I can’t be arsed to list them all but here are a few.

Broad keywords.

Also called competitive keywords. Think about your industry terms. Those words and short phrases talk about what it is you do. 

For example, ‘web designer’, ‘branding photographer’ or ‘stamp licker’. These will yield lots of organic traffic BUT they’re called competitive for a reason and that reason is every lady and her pussycat in your industry is targeting them too. The chances of you being found on the first page of Google for ‘branding photographer’ is pretty slim. If you service a certain area, focus on adding locations to your broad terms. For example, if you google ‘SEO content writer Oxford’ you’ll see me on the first page.

Long-tail keywords (LTKs).

This is where knowing your market comes into play so for all those with niche aversion this might hurt a bit. 

LTKs are detailed phrases that describe exactly what it is you do. Have a think about what you offer and who’s buying it, for example, I’m a ‘funny business blogger’ for business types who want ‘business copywriting with personality’. These are just two of the many variations of phrases based on what I do. If you haven’t guessed, my niche is people who want the LOLs in their writing or at least want to avoid dull, cliché laden business copy. They can be from any sector, niche marketing isn’t necessarily industry-specific. And yes Karen, narrowing your market means reduced traffic but the traffic you get will be the kind you want.

So, detailed keyword phrases equals a higher conversion rate.

Keywords with user intent.

Match up your targeted keywords with your prospects search behaviours. You have three kinds of user intent: 

  • Navigational: find a specific website/page
  • Informational: find info around a topic
  • Transactional: find a service/product to buy

Google one of your terms and see how the search results coincide with the three types of intent. If you want to know more about this, read my blog post on this very subject.

5. Your brand.

“I don’t have a brand”

Don’t wind me up. You sound like the niche dodgers. You do have a brand because you run your business using a particular style. It makes no difference if there is one of you or an entire organisation, you have a brand, that’s it. There’s a reason why the brands you know and love stand out, and if you’re doing your brand awareness bit well, you’ll be standing out to people too.

Lemme tell you something, there are thousands of generic and unimaginative businesses out there.

Again, google your competitors. Read their terrible copy, they’ll suck the joy right out of you. Pour over their social media content. Let it fortify you, let it make you bolder, fearless even. Develop your unique selling thingy, use your personality as the basis of your business. Just add some damn flavour! You don’t have to be outrageously different, just do what you do and do it, bloody well. 

6. Consistency.

Everything I’ve mentioned requires you to keep doing it. SEO is only successful when you make a consistent investment. 

Sorry, there are no quick fucking wins with SEO.

Blogging is an excellent example. Your blog is one of the most important things for SEO content writing but only if you’re committed to writing often. This is your prime spot for adding long-form content. Detailed, easy-to-read blog posts that are helping your audience. When people are searching with informational intent they will find the answers on the web via a blog post. Never, for the love of cheese-stuffed pizza crusts underestimate how important a blog is to your website. 

Your goal is to add focused content around your industry. You’re building an online library of specific, useful information. You should be targeting new keywords and phrases based on each new blog post and for each new service or product.

Conclusion.

What is SEO content?

“SEO is dead”

Whatever you say person who knows fuck all about SEO.

Similar people might also say that SEO isn’t a factor in client-focused, engaging content. That’s probably because they have antiquated views on content SEO which conjures images of keyword cramming. And you damn well know that I’ve told you over and over not to stuff keywords onto your site like DDs into a 32A cup.

SEO content writing is engaging content.

It’s always about writing for a human and never about trying to cheat an algorithm. Understand the value of beautifully written words and if you can’t do it for your business hire someone to do it for you.

SEO copywriting

In truth, this post is to remind me what the hell I’m doing as an SEO copywriter and content writer. It’s also to help those who might hire me. If that isn’t you, go and do something else. 

Putting the ‘writing’ into SEO copywriting and content writing.

Forget about SEO for just one moment and let’s talk about words. I’m not bad with words, I enjoy writing them.

They’re fun to be around – much more fun than any human even the ones I think are interesting and/or bangable.

And unlike the people in my life, they’re easily manipulated. I put them in whatever order I want and sometimes magic happens.

I’m making the point that writing well is the greatest gift you can give to your website and online environs. SEO-optimised text – with zero writing ability is keyword cramming. And that reads like shit.

Going keyword bonkers is shooting yourself in the SEO foot.

Don’t be this mug:

“We are artisan bread makers in Hull. We bake our artisan bread on-site in our bakery in Hull. We are passionate about artisan bread and are the leading artisan bread supplier in Hull”

I think you’ll agree, that was terrible.

Here are my three degrees of SEO copywriting and content writing:

  1. Get seen: be visible to those who want what you offer
  2. Attract clients: hook in prospects with excellent writing
  3. Build trust: show what you know and people will buy

Ok, I need to clear this up: SEO content writing attracts people to your yard (website) and copywriting compels them to take some kind of action whilst they’re there.

If you wanna know more about the difference, go here.

Who’s all this writing for?

So, I’m a B2B SEO content writer and copywriter.

In plain English, I write search engine optimised content and copy for other business types.

That sounds really lame and implies there’s no fun in the writing. Not so, I only pen brilliantly engaging content and copy for businesses that view themselves as misfits and agitators.

I apologise if I overexplained that, I blame mother. She gives me endless details about mundane events, like meeting deaf Anne at Tesco:

“You remember deaf Anne – she lived at the bottom of grannies garden”

Deaf Anne sounds like a hedgehog.

“Had two sons. Married a welder”

Nope, I still have no idea.

“She was a part-time pirate. Liked to drink shots and dance naked at the Legion.”

Putting the ‘SEO’ into SEO copywriting and content writing.

I’ll try to make this quicker than a teenagers’ first time.

Content SEO.

Content has its own SEO category because it’s IMPORTANT.

And yet, keywords are all people talk about. The only keywords I really get giddy for are the long-tail sort (LTK) because they get to the heart of what you’re really all about. 

For example, why be an ‘accountant’ when you could be an ‘accountant helping big earners with tax avoidance schemes’. Seriously though, why be an accountant? 

I think I’ve made it pretty clear, writing shit-hot words is SEO copywriting and content writing but that also includes:

  • Understanding why you create content 
  • Knowing your audience like your own private parts
  • Being savvy about your prospects search behaviours

Technical SEO. 

I don’t fiddle with the arse-end of websites, and I don’t write code (I google code). In terms of content writing, the (sort of) technical aspects of SEO that I dabble in are:

  • Permalink structures (the links for each post/page)
  • Meta titles and descriptions (the snippet that shows in the search results)

On-page SEO.

SEO is about making what you’re selling, easy to find but also, easy to consume. Text-dumping on a page without formatting is a shoddy way to behave. When I write something nice for you I’ll also be doing this:

  • Creating a hook-worthy title
  • Laying down some subheadings 
  • Recommending internal links
  • Suggesting outbound links (to back up any claims made)
  • Add keywords
  • Include a CTA (Call To Action)

Adding the LOLs to the copy.

Humour sells.

Some of us like to laugh, and we remember the ad campaigns that made us snigger. I write copy for businesses that want that. Humour is subjective and so is great branding.

I’m telling you now, you shouldn’t try to be the everyman in your industry.

It doesn’t matter if your business sells to other companies or the great unwashed, you need to decide who’s buying your product. A client will usually give me a starting point (favourite comedian or funny brand) as inspiration and off I go, giving them that thing. It’s like acting only I don’t have to leave the house.

Here’s how I work.

Having to deal with rubbish clients grinds my gears but it means I’ve refined my process to avoid the dickwads. I now get the prospects I want.

What I need from you.

A sense of humour and a lot of information. I’m going to ask you questions, lots of questions, and some might be tricky to answer but answer them you must for I won’t be able to produce top-notch ‘hilarious’ content without those answers.

Research.

I online stalk your business. I research your industry, the chosen topic, and your target market. I check out your potential clients’ search behaviours, and research long-tail keywords that are relevant to the copy.

Writing.

I’ll be writing as you and based on all the info I gather, you’ll get original wordage for your brandage.

First draft.

I understand you’ll want to make sure I’m giving you what you want. I’ll hand you the first draft to check through and you’ll get to pop all your suggested edits under each section of the copy.

But…

TRUST your writer.

Some folks like to act as editor-in-chief when they get the first draft, it does something to their brains. If you’ve hired me to write words, chances are you’re not very good at the job yourself.

The original content needs to remain the same. I won’t accept a draft back if it’s been tampered with.

The deal is, I edit my own work. You’re not paying me to edit yours. And if you harbour desires to write, don’t hire me and start a personal blog.

There might be times when I disagree with your suggestions.

I’ll always give you a decent reason, it’s up to you to accept my ability to know how to write content over yours.

Some of your ideas might work – in truth, you’re much more likely to hamper the copy with unnecessary words and clichés. In reality, it will take more time to edit your version of the text than mine.

Proofreading.

This is the right time for suggested edits and grammatical fixes.

But not by you (or me) – someone qualified. Humans are shit at spotting their own mistakes. Doesn’t matter a damn if they write for a living because writers are humans too (yes, even me). Having fresh eyes on the text is something I won’t do without, and it will make your new copy infinitely better.

Completed project.

Hello to shiny new content. Pretty isn’t it. Having a focused brief and rigorous planning stage means there will never need to be endless rewrites. You get one chance to moan about the work, so make it count.

You’ll probably moan less if you hire someone you like and whose ability you trust and value.

If that someone is me, hit the button.