In marketing, “content” and “copy” are often used interchangeably. Writers and non-writers will use one term to mean the other, but there are key differences between content and copy and the functions they serve on your website.
We asked our in-house Content and Creative teams to give us the scoop on content vs. copy. Here’s what we learned: while copy and content have complementary functions, each serves a distinct purpose, especially when the focus is on SEO.
Content educates while copy sells
Content marketing, or simply “content,” exists to educate audiences and build credibility. The purpose of content on a company’s website is twofold: to provide answers to frequently sought out questions that people ask via search engines, and to boost the website’s presence in search by answering these user questions. This specific type of marketing intent is to serve the reader or end user.
Good content should inform, establish trust between the reader and the company, and act as a thought library for readers (and the company!) to refer to. Content is about creating a track record of reporting the facts through data and firsthand accounts.
At Hennessey Digital, our Content team is responsible for designing clients’ overall content strategy around their business goals. We have a fully-staffed team of writers, editors, and publishers who handle everything from designing clients’ content strategy and creating content to supporting and optimizing clients’ business goals through content.
How to write quality content
Quality content is the engine behind any successful SEO strategy. Our team gets to know our clients’ businesses and their competitors to create content that answers the questions that people have about the client’s field of expertise.
For our legal industry clients, we focus on specific practice areas for the metro area the client is in (and surrounding areas they serve, if applicable). We research and identify keywords to target for ranking in search engines, and once we know the keywords we want to rank for, we write content that both educates visitors and establishes the client as an authority in their field. This lets the reader know that the legal query they are researching can be facilitated by the law firm.
Good content addresses the questions that people are coming to your site to find answers for. If you’re a law firm, examples of visitors’ questions might be “do I need a lawyer if I’m in a car accident?” or “what can I do to protect my rights if I’m injured at work?”
To make sure the content we write for clients is accomplishing the goals we set, we use tools like SEO Writing Assistant from Semrush to check how many times we’re using specific keywords compared to top-ranking pages. Tools like these can be used as a guide for monitoring pages’ competitiveness. (And check out our tips on how to optimize content for SEO!)
Simply put, content writing is writing with a purpose. It educates the reader, supports an SEO strategy, and, ultimately, brings in leads.
Examples of content writing
- Blog posts
- Ebooks and white papers
- Press releases
- Case studies
The purpose of content
Our content team frequently leans on Bill Gates’ famous mantra “content is king,” coined in an essay he wrote over 25 years ago. Even in 1996, Gates saw the internet as a “marketplace of content” and knew that online content needed to be focused on the end user. He wrote, “if people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will.”
Content informs, entertains, educates, and offers utility. It attracts audiences and provides them with in-depth knowledge and answers to their questions. Content isn’t just for marketing, though, and brands and employers use content to streamline and solidify their voice, communicate to customers and employees, and have information ready on demand.
The immediacy of digital advertising can be daunting. Marketing in real time is a challenge, but a good content strategy supports these efforts. Thinking about this one step further, content is like free advertising through search engines. Although it’s not really free, it’s a lot cheaper than copy used for commercials, billboards, ads, and print collateral.
How content and copy work together
While content is there to inform, copy exists to persuade and sell. Content is created to educate leads, and copy converts those leads to sales.
Good copy incites action: click the button, call, buy, or subscribe. “Conversion copywriting” is a redundant phrase as the purpose of copy is always to convert passive visitors to your website into paying customers.
Copy should be clear, tell a compelling story, and get the reader to act. Every word is essential and should compel the reader to keep reading. Great copy empathizes with the reader and puts their needs first, framing the offer as the solution to their problem.
When we hear “copywriting,” we think of impact statements and shorter lines of text in strategic places to get the reader to feel a certain way. Think about big, bold headlines that grab attention and the micro-copy that appears in call-to-action buttons. The right words in the right place at the right time can get visitors to perform the action you want them to: click, buy, subscribe, or keep reading.
Copy creates a voice for a brand: it gives it a personality and forms an emotional bond between the reader and the company. Although content can certainly be creative as well, copy is known as the more creative medium of the two, winning the hearts and minds—and wallets!—of the people it reaches.
Examples of copywriting
- Calls to action (CTAs)
- Packaging copy
- Website copy
- Core messaging
With website copy, there are many factors at play that can affect your website’s performance. Hennessey Digital’s Creative team designs websites for clients that turn web traffic generated by our SEO techniques into powerful conversion machines.
Copywriting best practices
When it comes to SEO, what’s considered best practice for writing copy? The purpose of each webpage influences how much copy is there, and, just like content, user intent should always come first. On the homepage, you need a clear explanation of what you do (and how you help solve user problems) and a strong call to action. Include keywords in the copy, but remember: usability matters more than word count.
Presentation of copy is key to your message landing with your audience. Big chunks of text are a turnoff for readers, so make sure copy is broken into easily digestible pieces and are presented in a visually appealing way. White space is good! Instead of a long list, break items out into bullet points so that the eye naturally wants to keep moving down the page and reading.
Make sure your visuals are also working in tandem with the copy. The best websites and landing pages are a result of the graphics and the copy coming together at the same time. A message is memorable when the design lends itself to the words on the screen. Because memories are associated with emotions, great advertising copy will raise readers’ dopamine levels and pull at the heartstrings, priming them for the action you want them to take (click, purchase, enroll, etc.)
Although content and copy are different concepts, there is definitely overlap between the two. What do content and copy have in common? Both content and copy can work to enhance your website’s SEO and improve your spot in search engine rankings.
Content and copy in SEO strategy
Copy and content must be relevant and answer users’ questions. Relevant content incorporates targeted keywords into the information it provides and is crucial to be able to move up in search results.
Hennessey Digital uses a “long-term, long-haul” approach to SEO strategy. We perform a page-level and keyword gap analysis to see what pages of content might be missing and which existing content pages should be updated with new information.
Different businesses have a range of content needs and budgets, and we produce anywhere from 10 to 400 pages of content per month for our clients. We write brand-new content as well as revise legacy content for clients to keep their information fresh and encourage repeat visitors to their website.
Is your content up to snuff? Our Content team shares a short list of checkpoints for your content to be successful:
- Title tags no more than 74 characters
- Meta tags at 160 characters
- Keywords in the header as well as the content
- Content is written around a specific goal
Content and copy work together to drive traffic to your website and turn visitors into leads. Both are necessary for growth. And both have a role in growing your audience and increasing conversions.
Content gets people to your site, educates them, and answers their questions. Copy makes people feel understood, converting them from a visitor into a customer—and a fan of your brand