Writing for the web is nothing new. Many online writers have been doing it for years, with many different titles. SEO writers, copywriters, bloggers, journalists, whatever. There are slew of people out there writing content that ends up online.
That’s great news for writers because it gives us an opportunity to find a niche market that fits our experience level, style, and unique skill set. But the wide spectrum of styles can create a nightmare for publishers looking to hire a “writer.”
When hiring a writer for their blog, a publisher or marketer may think that hiring anyone with writing experience will do, but that’s not always the case.
Writers with a background in traditional copywriting, journalism, or worse, SEO stuffed blog writing, may not know how to immediately jump in and deliver the exact type of content that a modern blog needs.
So it’s important for both publishers and writers to understand that there is a big difference between copywriting, journalism, basic web writing, and real, modern-day blogging.
Not All Copywriters Are Bloggers
Many times writers label themselves copywriters simply because the term writer feels too vague. I received a B.A. in Writing and trust me, it’s much easier to tell someone I’m a copywriter rather than explain the type of writing that I actually do.
Copywriting is a label that most people know and recognize, but don’t fully understand. Dictionary.com defines a copywriter as, “a writer of copy, especially for advertisements or publicity”, while Wikipedia calls copywriting, “the act of writing copy for the purpose of advertising or marketing.”
In other words, copywriters write text that is used for advertising, marketing, and driving sales.
Blogging is not copywriting. The main purpose of a blog is not to encourage a direct action, and blogs are typically not written to sell a product. But that doesn’t mean that blogs don’t help initiate conversions. Blogs attract and engage an audience and build brand awareness which do help initiate sales, but blog writing is at a much higher point in the sales funnel than copywriting.
Let’s pretend a writer has been recently hired to write for a blog about Manhattan hotel reservations. You would not write something that overtly sells the city such as this copy.
Like this example, most copywriting uses language obviously to either sell something or encourage a reader to do something. And while bloggers can also use language to lead to a sale or action, they don’t do it in such an obvious way.
Bloggers bring attention to the object and show it in a positive light by weaving it into articles that are not marketing ploys or advertisements.
If you were writing about traveling to Manhattan, some other ways to approach the topic would include blog posts such as:
- A Long Weekenders’ Guide to Seeing Everything in Manhattan in Three Days – This would include a detailed timeline of how to spend three days in the city. It could include detailed visitor’s information about each location to make it a valuable resource.
- 16 Weird but Awesome Things Your Never Knew About New York – This could list oddly known facts that tie into a benefit for someone visiting New York. This make readers, even those who weren’t thinking about visiting New York, see the benefits of visiting the city.
- 4 of the Best Weekends to Find Yourself in NY – This list would need to include weekends that aren’t obvious (i.e. not Labor or Memorial Day). By tying four uncommon weekends to big events happening in NY, you are making this a different take on an ordinary topic.
All of these topics show visiting New York in a way that would make people want to visit the city, but none of these topics overtly sell the city and directly encourage a reader to visit.
Not All Journalists Are Bloggers
Journalist is another popular term for labeling writers. As with copywriter, journalist is a familiar term that people understand. When choosing my career path, I originally wanted to be a journalist (and write non-fiction articles for magazine) and a storyteller (and write fictional stories for books). Those were the only two writing labels I understood, or at least thought I did.
Dictionary.com defines journalism as, “the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news,” and Wikipedia refers to a journalist as someone who, “collects, writes, and distributes the news.”
The real truth is that journalism is more reporting than it is writing. Some journalists are writers, but not all journalists are writers.
A successful journalist breaks news stories by performing extensive research and reporting. And while yes, news reporting is an aspect of blogging (sometimes a major aspect), the level of reporting is not quite as deep.
Blogging requires that the writer keep up with the industry, but because most bloggers don’t have the time or resources to break major news stories, they must relay the news in other ways. So if you were writing for a lifestyle blog about Tampa, you would not write a post like this.
This is clearly a journalistic article as it gives very specific details and quotes about the incident. The article is also written in the inverted pyramid in that it gives the very important information first than flushes out with less important information at the end.
Unless our imaginary blog about Tampa is well known for breaking news, this story written as a basic, factual article isn’t going to work. That is what the newspapers are for. But this article is still super valuable, as it is an important piece of inspiration for a blogger.
From this article you can spin the breaking news to show a different element of the story. Ideas that could spawn from this news story include:
- Mystery Monkey: A Timeline of Tampa’s Favorite Primate on the Loose – Format the article so that it is a timeline of each major moment in the story of the mystery monkey.
- Tampa’s Favorite Celebrity Primate – Collect all other stories, photos, videos, memes, etc. that pay homage to the Mystery Monkey.
- If You Encounter the Mystery Monkey, Should You Run for Your Life? – Open the story with the news about the monkey biting a woman, then go into the detail about other monkey related attacks, warnings, or misconceptions.
All of these stories are newsworthy as they relate to the breaking news of the monkey biting someone. But these stories aren’t simply saying the news in a basic, inverted pyramid. Each post provides a new perspective and angle to the breaking news that is interesting from start to finish.
Not All Online Writers are Bloggers
Online writers, SEO writers, whatever you want to call the people who produce content for online mediums are the most understood of all writers. Most have been given a bad name or are linked to poor quality, SEO stuffed content.
The stigma isn’t entirely untrue. There were and still are many online writing jobs that require writers to produce content for the sake of content. While searching for writing jobs a few years ago, I was immediately turned off by this concept of writing for words, not writing for stories.
Following the mass misguided strategy of creating bland, boring, and just plain bad content came a large group of online writers who believe that is the right way to write for the web.
These writers, while experienced are improperly experienced and often stuck in the old mentality that keywords and quantity are king. Those writers believe that just having copy with keywords is good enough. They don’t realize that copy on a website is only good if the content itself is good.
Proper blogging requires writing quality content that people will actually want to read and share with their online friends. So if you were writing for a blog about real estate, a bland, lame article like this wouldn’t be good enough.
This isn’t a bad post by any means. But that doesn’t make it a good post either. Sure, there is useful information in it. It’s easy to read. It makes a good point. But so do these other thousand results, that are all about the same thing.
This is a broad topic that a lot of people care about so you know that people will like an article on this subject. But instead of writing a story that is just like a hundred others, a good blogger will spin it or find a new way to show the same information from a new, exciting, and/or more informed perspective.
Ideas that are better than “Reasons to Buy a Home Now” include:
- 18 Crazy Stats That Will Make You Want to Buy a House Now – Instead of using subheadings to list vague reasons for why someone should buy a house, use shocking stats that will grab attention.
- You’ll Want to Cry When You Find out How Much Money You’re Wasting on Rent – Use the same stats to support a different angle of the information.
- 11 Things You’ll Regret if You Don’t Buy a House Now – By using subheadings that describe situations (In Five Years You Will Have Lost $40,000 in Rent, You’ll Be Stuck In the Smallest House on the Block) to support the facts, you are relaying the same information without telling the same story as everyone else.
Each of these posts share the same type of information, but do it in a way that will make even those who aren’t interested in the topic intrigued. Posting boring blog posts that no one will ever read provides a blog with about as much a blank page. A real blogger should write quality, interesting, shareable blog posts every time they touch the keyboard.
Not All Bloggers are Bloggers
It would be easy if Dictionary.com or Wikipedia could give us a good definition of what a blogger is, but I’m not even going to bother looking. Blogger is a term that has evolved over time (from being a person who shares personal stories to a person who fills a company page with words) and will continue to change over time. Anyone who is a real blogger knows this and understands that progress and innovation is the only way to move forward as a real blog writer.
So before you go hiring a “writer” to create content for your blog, make sure that the copywriter, journalist, or SEO writer knows what it means to be a real, forward-thinking, well-rounded writer.
Finding someone stuck in their ways will likely lead to a blog with holes and misdirection. But if you can manage to find a writer who has experience in all writing categories and knows how to manipulate stories and their approach to stories, you will find a golden blogger destined to increase your blog’s quality and make you proud.