You know about SEO and digital marketing. You’ve been cold-emailed by an agency or two offering content strategy and weekly blog posts. You know your website’s not as strong as it could be...
But all this talk about content and copy—what’s the difference? Why does it matter? What do you really need to know about writing online?
The answer—like with anything interesting—goes as deep as you’re willing to dig. What follows, therefore, is by no means exhaustive. But here’s the basic difference between content and copy, and how to approach online writing as a storytelling ethos.
(If you’re anything like me, you’re picturing pecan pie hot from the oven; more chocolate-chip than corn syrup, like mom makes. That devil’s bargain of desserts...)
But no, I’m talking about P.I.E. The hunger-inducing acronym explaining Why Writers Write:
Remember middleschool? They were trying to teach us the vital structures of storytelling at the time we were least interested in anything they had to say. Good thing I taught middleschool long enough to learn it.
The Purpose of Writing Online
All writing has a purpose. The purpose of producing content is to deepen readers’ understanding of you and your product/service. To stand out as an authority in your field. Build trust and form connections between the solutions you offer and the problems they have.
Content means ongoing output of relevant information for your audience to consume. It offers value and promotes brand recognition—and it's required for competing on search engine optimization (SEO). Fresh content gets you found online and continually indexed by the algorithms that power Google. So you get seen by more eyes.
Good Content Can Replace Ad Spends
Content writers achieve ROI by incorporating the keywords and phrases people use searching for solutions to their problems. We figure out the benefits of your product and we leverage those into stories that captivate readers. The more content available and the more eyes reading your website, the more likely your content will show up organically in searches. Without spending money on ads.
Sounds easy enough. And it is. But the plot thickens. The trick is in the strategy. What are you trying to achieve through your content? Whom are you trying to reach?
A kickboxing gym, for example, wants to reach not only people searching for “kickboxing near me” but also “hotel workouts” and “healthy foods for losing weight”. You capture that traffic with content. (E.g. original recipes and workout routines and stories about kickboxers). Each piece of keyword-targeted content widens your funnel toward the hub of your digital marketing. Read more about content.
Then, website copy is how you guide them from your font of knowledge toward your life-changing offers.
Website Copy Explained
Functional words on your website are copy. Anecdotes in a marketing email are copy. Offers in a lead magnet are copy.
But blog posts are content. Social media feeds are content. In general, content is part of your inbound marketing strategy. Bringing people to your website based on answers they're looking for.
The difference is, webcopy is more about the essential brand story & voice stuff. It's permanent. Brand defining. Audience targeted. Whereas content is informative and topic-based, copy is the living voice of your website. A concierge that never sleeps, but directs the visitor's next steps toward satisfying a need.
Though it ranges in length, detail, style, and delivery, the purpose of compelling copy is to captivate and convert.
Get the reader to click links. Buy a product. Sign up. Contact. Or any other Call to Action (CTA).
Everything on your standing website should be part of that pathway. Anything else is just wasted words, specious space, overlooked opportunity.
Powerful types of website copy include:
This is where you nab our attention. You have about .99 seconds to keep us in. You’ve got to move us. Access our initial emotions. Through storytelling.
This isn’t your resume. It’s an opportunity to build trust in your expertise, deepen connections, and lead readers to your services. Start with a personal anecdote. Lead into your problem solving and background. Tell your founding story. Read more about brand storytelling.
Here’s where you share the benefits (not just the features) and how your business solves their problem. Still storytelling—not just a list. How does their life change when they click your CTA?
Address the point points of your Ideal Customer Avatar. Not just actual factual logistical questions. And every FAQ answer should link somewhere deeper.
Offer value to those smart enough to join your contacts. And hint at hidden benefits, the community they’ll be joining, the opportunities for learning.
Why It Matters
Truth be told, it doesn’t matter that much. Content vs copy is a mainly a semantic conversation for copywriters. A way for us to narrow down our niche, specialization, and services. (And get found online using our own cool copywriting keywords and longchains.)
But it’s all just words arranged for emotional effect. It’s all storytelling.
Some copywriters only write blogs (content). Some specialize in product descriptions (copy). Either way they’re telling stories—just in different formats.
The best ones focus on story and narrative elements as much as research, meaning they’re more deeply client-focused. They’re there to drill down to the core of your business and extract the ore they’ll use to delight and enchant your audience.
There’s no one better to tell your story than you. And writing online is the most important thing you can do for marketing your business—after quality control and customer service. Got a few extra hours a week? Transmute them through words into gold.
TLDR: What You Need to Know
The tricks and game theory of SEO change all the time—whenever Google finishes an update. But the essential elements remain the same:
Keep it fresh
Keep it valid
Keep ‘em clicking
Keep ‘em coming back
Selling has always been about storytelling. Website content and copywriting is just one particular arena. Tell good stories that engage your audience and you’ll weather any algorithm.
The principles of good storytelling don’t change. Capture attention. Introduce the stakes. Build connections. Raise the stakes. Solve the problem. Set up what’s next.
Get people to your site. Teach them something. Tell success stories. Fill their thoughts with interesting ideas and give them a clear path toward your helpful services. You know...whenever they’re ready to receive the brilliance.
Ready to write? I know the feeling. Don’t lose momentum!
Need a little boost? Start with this Ideal Customer Avatar template