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  1. Kimota wrote on

    D’oh, no soup for me then!

    Although I agree there is a distinct difference between copywriting and web content writing, I would debate the definitions, especially the SEO focus which should only ever be one aspect of any web copy.

    i agree that copywriting is for ‘customer’ pages, complete with calls to action to generate a sale. But content writing is far more than creating bland filler articles for SEO juice. This blog is content, rather than copy and I’m sure you have it for reasons other than just SEO. (And it’s far from bland and unread.)

    A web content writer understands how to create content that attracts traffic – whether through blogs, articles, news centres and even videos, slideshows, podcasts and other forms of content (that often still requires the skills of a writer at some point).

    Producing content that has the desired effect, of encouraging traffic, creating a relationship with the reader and generating a positive reflection on the brand through association is very much a skill – and an underrated one at that!

    Sure there are plenty of filler articles out there and writers churning them out for chump change. But then the same is true of copywriters churning out crap product webpages that fail to convert.

    So, copywriting is a sales process with calls to action, and content writing is any other content designed to attract and engage the target marekt and bring them to the site.

    can I have some soup now?

  2. James Bull wrote on

    The way I try to describe the difference is that “web content writing” is copywriting with additional considerations, for example information architecture and the differences between reading printed and online information.

    Writing boring material and expecting no-one to read it is neither copywriting nor web content writng. It’s bad writing.

  3. Glenn Murray wrote on

    @kimota and @James Bull, you can both have soup, because we simply disagree on the definition.

    I DEFINITELY don’t see my blog as content writing. It’s copywriting all the way through. Yes, it attracts traffic, creates a relationship with the reader and reflects well on my brand. But it also sells something: my brand, my writing skills and, ultimately, my services. And by BOTH those definitions, it is, in fact, copywriting, not content writing. This is actually something I’ve been discussing with Darren Rowse a lot recently (stay tuned for more on that), and he agrees: good blogging IS copywriting.

    I’m not just drawing an arbitrary distinction here, either. Unfortunately, I’m talking about a service a very common service. The client asks: “We don’t want you to write customer-facing copy. We’re only interested in search engines.”

  4. James Bull wrote on

    Seems to be another one of those things for which people in the web industry are yet to develop a clear, universally accepted definition.

    No wonder our clients sometimes get confused.

    Now I’m off to make my soup.

  5. Franki Nguyen wrote on

    Though I’m no writer, I tend to agree with James on the definition of web content writing.

    People just don’t read the same way on screen compared to print, and this is the main difference. Most “Writers” (at least the ones I’ve dealt with) tend to think that every word on a web page will be read, from top left to bottom right, but this is hardly ever the case regardless of how compelling the copy may be.

  6. Franki Nguyen wrote on

    as a side note, I’ve not brought SEO, marketing, et al related into the topic as these needs to be tackle on a per strategy basis.

  7. Aprill Allen wrote on

    Interesting debate. I see copywriting as being any form of writing where the end goal is selling something. Whether it’s an artist statement (that sells the artist), a case study, item descriptions, etc.

    Web content – I see that as articles, blogs, and any other sort of writing on the web that doesn’t have a commercial purpose. I see my own personal blog as web content but it isn’t boring or naff, I hope. It’s definitely read, according to feedburner, but it isn’t used to generate income.

    Some blogs have a commercial purpose and that’s where I’m a bit up in the air – it’s a bit of both.

  8. Micky Stuivenberg wrote on

    Well, as a specialised web copywriter who operates under the name ‘Content Writer’ (and my website is even http://www.contentwriter.com.au) I really have to disagree with you here, Glenn.

    I do not distinguish between “web copywriter” and “content writer” but I do see a clear difference between copywriting for print and for the web.

    Yes, there are lots of people who call themselves “content writers” who only care about creating content for search engines. And much of it is quite bad and uninteresting or stuffed with keywords. But please don’t put all content writers in the same box and try to make out that the words “content writer” by themselves mean anything less than “web copywriter”.

    I focus on quality copy/content for people’s websites – content that is clear, concise, interesting, persuasive and everything else good web copy needs to be. It focuses on the benefits to the customer, just like in ‘normal’ copywriting. And it includes clear calls to action. And yes, if my clients care about SEO, I incorporate their targeted keyword phrases in their content and their Title tags and I can even do the keyword research for them if they want.

    But please understand that 99% of people who contact me to have content written for their website are business people who take their websites very seriously and don’t just want some random words on there just to get better rankings. They want quality content/web copy that appeals to their target market and leads people to buy or contact them with enquiries. And that is what I, as their professional web content writer, will write for them.

    You may make that distinction for yourself and proudly call yourself a copywriter if you think that content writer is somehow degrading, but I quite resent you trying to persuade others to agree that a “content writer” by definition delivers inferior quality copy.

    There, I had my say! :-)

  9. Adam Franklin wrote on

    It’s an interesting debate over the definitions.

    I share Glenn’s belief that unless copy adds value, Google will out-smart spammy articles quite quickly.

    I also came across this stat in a presentation by @nickf and @rainaterror called 10 Commandments of User Experience:
    “95% of your web users do not read 80% of your content.” According to them, this makes your content even more important!

    In my mind, regardless of how you argue the toss over the definitions of content writing and copywriting, good copy is vital whether it’s sales or relationship focussed (and usually these go hand in hand anyway).

  10. Maree Kimberley wrote on

    The goal, for me, is always good writing that achieves its purpose. Whether I’m writing web content (that’s the term I prefer to use) for my personal blog or for a client’s website, I focus on writing engaging copy (yes, I use that word too!) that will help the target audience complete a task. I incorporate a range of elements into that writing, including keywords, calls to action, appropriate and meaningful headings and links – all the elements that make up good web writing. Whether you call it content or copy is really beside the point. What you need to focus on is good writing.

  11. Glenn Murray wrote on

    NO ONE GETS SOUP! Except Maree! ;-)

    Wow! This was just an off-the-cuff email that became a blog post, for want of time. I think a few of the comments show it too!

    Ultimately, I think we all agree. There’s good writing and bad. We all think we do the good stuff. Yeah? So the only question remaining is what do we call the bad stuff? As per the second para of my answer above, that’s is the distinction I’m talking about: the writing of content for search engines verus the writing of content for people (with an implicit agenda to sell).

    We have a name for the second. I obviously got the name for the first wrong. What should we call it then?

    I called it ‘content writing’ ‘cos I was sure I’d seen the distinction floating around before. I certainly didn’t call it that because I see my writing as any different from @Micky’s or @kimota’s.

    Micky, you’re probably the best person to ask: Is there any accepted definition of ‘content writing’? To me, what you do is copywriting. It seems my definition is way off base.

    To be honest, I don’t give two hoots what we call it, so long as I get soup! (Unless, of course, it potentially undermines someone’s business name and domain — sorry for that Micky — completely unintentional.)

    :-)

  12. Glenn Murray wrote on

    Oh, and if you want your avatar to display here (we’d love to see your pretty smiling faces), you can create a Gravatar and will automatically appear here if you use the same email address. Go to http://en.gravatar.com/.

  13. Micky Stuivenberg wrote on

    Thanks Glenn, apologies accepted. :-)

    I don’t think it’s possible to get the whole world to agree on exactly which words mean what. Different people will always interpret things differently anyway.

    To me, content writing = web content writing = web copywriting. No difference.

    But just “copywriting” lacks the web component. I see myself as a copywriter for those who need e.g. brochures written but a web copywriter or content writer for people who need website copy/content.

    Then what about that (bad) type of writing of content that is mostly just for search engines? I don’t know. How about:

    * SEO article writing; or
    * bulk content writing?

    Because most people who are after the cheap stuff just to increase their rankings usually want articles rather than content for their main web pages and they want a lot of it (bulk).

  14. Rachel wrote on

    I’m late to the party as usual. And I think all the soup is gone.

    My definition of web content is all the stuff that goes on websites (to educate, to inform, to sell, to persuade). I don’t think web content is limited to words, either (but that’s a topic for another day). I think of web copywriting as a subset of web content writing; sales or persuasive web content writing.

    Some web content is crap. It is crap because it is not planned, not well-written, is wrong or irrelevant. Some of it is crap because it is generated by machines, or people who can’t write, solely for the “benefit” of search engines. I call that crap Search Engine Optimised Spam or SEOS for short.

  15. James Bull wrote on

    I’m going to go a bit off-topic here….

    I think that content/copy writers like us should be collaborating to develop some industry-standard definitions and explanations of “content”, “copy” etc., their applications and how to tell good from bad.

    Perhaps we could do this under the umbrella of the AWIA.

    It’s in our professional interests, and ultimately the interests of our clients too, to have an educated market. I really think that developing a common vocabulary would help us all.

    I don’t think we’re very far away from it at the moment. Any differences of opinion I’ve read above seem to be the result of trying to compress various ideas into a brief blog post and even briefer comments.

  16. Rachel wrote on

    Hi James

    You may or may not know I’ve been making noise over at AWIA about industry standards.

    While I think it is difficult to enforce standard terms we can certainly make things clearer than they are now!

    This probably isn’t the place for it but I’d like to chat about it further. Maybe I’ll catch you on the Port 80 forums?

  17. Glenn (Owner) wrote on

    Thanks for the suggestion James. Happy to chat about it here (or somewhere else).

    I certainly think it’d be helpful to have some standard terms. (If only so I don’t offend anyone else! ;-) Mind you, I wonder how much of an influence AWIA has over the majority of copywriting clients. I find most of the people who have no idea are smaller businesses. I’d wager most have never heard of AIWA…?

  18. Rachel wrote on

    Glenn, I think you’re right in that AWIA won’t necessarily directly influence our clients’ understanding of terms.

    However if we (as members of AWIA) agree on terms we can also prepare info sheets and resources to give our clients. Much like the great SEO resource someone wrote…I can’t remember who that was… *ahem*

  19. Glenn (Owner) wrote on

    Ah yes, good point. (That WAS a great resource, wasn’t it?!)

  20. James Bull wrote on

    @Rachel: Fantastic. I’ll send you an email and take it from there.

    @Glenn: I agree with you. I would say that AWIA has no influence over clients, and little influence in the industry at large. The reason I suggested AWIA is because it’s there (although so is WIPA). If, say, the AWIA website had a document with some definitions and explanations it would be a central resource to which anybody in the industry could refer, include in client proposals, etc. In the long run, this should benefit AWIA by helping to make it more relevant to more people.

  21. Aprill Allen wrote on

    I think industry standards and definitions are a great idea for those of us involved in it. I agree that clients wouldn’t be fussed but it would help if they could talk to more than one copywriter, or content writer, and hear the same answer from each one.

    Less confusion overall.

  22. Charles Cuninghame wrote on

    This is how I see it…

    Content is a generic, catch-all term for everything that appears inside a web page template i.e. text, images, video, audio, etc.

    (Although you could easily argue that elements of the template, such as navigation labels, page headers, taglines, logos, etc., are also content.)

    Copywriting is selling in print (and in video and audio).

    Therefore all website copywriting is content but not all website content (I’m talking about just the text here) is copywriting. For example an online customer user manual is not copywriting, but it is content.

    In my book there’s no such thing as ‘non-visitor-critical pages’. I call that ‘site bloat’. It should be pruned immediately.

  23. Karri Flatla wrote on

    It’s semantics, yes?

    And the client doesn’t care much about our incestuous arguments over one definition versus another.

    The client just wants results.

    HOWEVER, our job as service providers is to coach our client toward deeper understanding and ultimately ownership of the marketing process. That includes an educational component. I’ll happily own that piece and deliver it in a way that fits the client’s current understanding and paradigms.

    Will the client read and embrace “industry definitions?”

    Mmm, doubtful.

    No more than I’d read my accountant’s glossary of terms or whatever.

    Cheers :)
    Karri

    PS: Are crazy Canucks welcome at the AWIA Forum? :)

  24. James Bull wrote on

    @Karri: You’re right, customers won’t (and neither should they) care about our incestuous arguments over definitions.

    I can’t speak for others who’ve contributed to this discussion, but from my point of view it’s got a lot to do with getting us all singing from the same hymn book. I see that as an important step towards the education of the market and an improved awareness among potential clients of the nature and value our work.

    I wouldn’t read my accountant’s glossary of terms either. However, I can be pretty sure that any accountant to whom I speak will use the same terminology.

    As April said above: “I agree that clients wouldn’t be fussed but it would help if they could talk to more than one copywriter, or content writer, and hear the same answer from each one.”

    Feel free to join the discussion at http://forums.port80.asn.au/showthread.php?p=104147

  25. Shae wrote on

    Wow. I didn’t realise when I asked the question it would cause such debate it would stir. Great feedback. Thankyou.

  26. Glenn Murray wrote on

    Hi Shae. Yeah, definitely no soup for YOU! ;-) Seriously, though, your question sparked a conversation that obviously needed to be had. So thank YOU!

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  28. Christine Miranda wrote on

    I agree with the distinctions of the two, the only thing that I disagree with is the fact that content writer’s work is boring. I am both a copywriter and content writer and I really find content writing enjoyable. Maybe the decision if it is boring or not is with the one who do it.

  29. Kat @ WCR SEO Perth wrote on

    From an SEO experts point of view, there is a big difference between a copywriter and a writer that purposely writes content for the net. The latter needs to bear in mind the relevent search terms that people are using when searching the net as well as the user experience itself. I guess there are also two categories of web content writers, one who does work with seo experts considering the right keywords and the other.

  30. Keshav Arora wrote on

    Hi!

    I hope that most of my seniors here are wrong. I believe in basics so I think the copy means ‘A thing made to be similar or identical to another’ as stated by Google search.

    And the same Google identifies the ‘Content’ as “The things that are held or included in something”.

    It concludes Content Writing is much better than Copywriting as the latter includes creating something identical. You all guys have just assumed what to say instead of researching and that is the biggest part that makes Content Writing much better than the Copywriting as it includes research, innovation.

    I am working as a Team Leader (Content Writers) and I have a lot of guidelines laid down in my current company. Starting from researching to writing an effective content, addition of keywords in a better way without distracting the readers, and following the norms like Grammar Check, QA, and editing followed by a QA Score Card and Feedback; I have all items in place.

    When we order online for freelancing the content writers are required to create the original content not created earlier in any format or language, whereas the copywriters are required to rewrite the content in such a way that avoids plagiarism.

  31. Peter | SEO Malta wrote on

    If you write boring content just to get traffic, your users will get bored and click away. It’s always best to write good content because that way you’ll have nothing to worry about.

    If you’re buying content/links on some dodgy blog, then you can get away with writing boring rubbish because it’s not going to get you any traffic.

  32. Christophe wrote on

    Have great web copy is just as important giving good information. The web is all about information and from an seo point of view it also means that it must read legibly and not just be for the spider bots to get more traffic. Getting more traffic is one thing but if its reads like a 4 year old wrote then your bounce rate is going to skyrocket..

  33. Mark from Malta wrote on

    More than copy writing, I would look for professional local content writers. Localization these days play a major role in search engine ranking and you need a professional person who knows the subject inside-out especially for in-depth articles!

  34. Barbara wrote on

    I think the problem is with the overused buzzword “content.”

    Content is used to mean both “whatever is contained in and delivered via digital media” and “everything that isn’t specifically an advertisement.”

    I think the best way to avoid the problem is referring to “content” as what it actually IS. E.g., you can put “sales copy” on a Web page or you can have “an article,” “a white paper,” etc. The word “content” subtracts meaning rather than adding it.

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