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Bloggers versus Copywriters: 8 Reasons why Bloggers do it Better

Posted By Darren Rowse 19th of August 2010 Writing Content 0 Comments

A Guest Post by Glenn Murray from Divine Write.

It’s true. Bloggers do it better. The good ones do anyway.

See for yourself: Choose a handful of your favorite blogs and a handful of static websites, and compare the writing.

(TIP: Try to choose sites that look professionally designed, as they’re more likely to have professionally written copy.)

Which ones grab you? Which ones keep you reading? Which ones are friendly and full of personality, and make you feel like you’re part of a conversation, not on the receiving end of a lecture?

Guaranteed, it’s the blogs. (As a copywriter myself, this is a painful admission. But it’s true.)

It seems counter-intuitive, I know. After all, most copywriters write for a living, whereas most bloggers just wish they did. And most copywriters are trained, qualified, experienced writers, whereas most bloggers are trained, qualified and experienced at something else entirely.

So why are your favorite bloggers writing more effectively than most copywriters? I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I see 8 main reasons…

1) They know what they’re writing about

Most copywriters write about something different every day. Especially freelance copywriters. And it’s rarely something they’re even interested in, much less something they know a lot about. Sure, we can interview our clients ‘til the cows come home, but there’s only so much you can learn that way. (That’s why the best copywriters are those with a lot of life experience and broad business experience.)

Your favorite bloggers, on the other hand, are writing about their own niche expertise. They know their subject matter inside-out, and they’re passionate about it.

So they’re more informative, accurate and helpful.

2) They have a more immediate and real incentive

Most copywriters write about other people’s products and services. Rarely their own. And they’re usually paid by the hour or by the job. Very few of us write for royalties or on a performance basis. In other words, we get paid for our work, not for our results.

Your favorite bloggers, on the other hand, are selling their own stuff. (Yes, this applies to affiliate links and banner ads too. The end product may not be theirs, but the click is — the click’s their product.) And they get paid only when they write effectively. When they engage their readers and compel them to act — e.g. click a banner ad or click thru and buy an affiliate product.

So they’re more results-focused.

3) They know their audience

Most copywriters have only a relatively vague knowledge of their audience. They don’t get to meet readers or even talk to them. And half the time their clients aren’t any better informed. Even when they’re the business owner, they tend to know their product a lot better than they know their audience.

Your favorite bloggers, on the other hand, know their audience intimately. For a start, there’s a very good chance their readers are like them, with similar interests and goals. (The readers are reading their blog, after all!) They also interact with their audience on Twitter or Facebook, and in their comments.

So they know what to say to their audience and how to say it.

4) They’re not writing for clients

Copywriters have to write for their clients, because the client is the gatekeeper. It can be the best copy in the world, targeting the actual audience perfectly, but if your client doesn’t like it, it won’t see the light of day. Copywriters always have this nagging at them. It’s like one of those cartoons where there’s an angel sitting on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Only in this case, there’s no angel. Ask any copywriter and they’ll agree that most clients have no idea what their audience really needs to hear. They know about their product, and they want to talk about all the stuff they think is cool, even if their target readers won’t give two hoots about that stuff. And then you have the old-school grammar-nazi: “You can’t start a sentence with ‘And’! I know because my high school teacher told me so in 1964.” Don’t get me started on the old-school grammar-nazis…

Your favorite bloggers really have it over us here. They write direct for their readers. There’s no suit-wearing, check-book-wielding, middle-aged middle-man, getting in the way. There’s just them and their readers.

So they write what needs to be written.

5) They get immediate and real feedback

Sure, we copywriters know when our clients are happy, but we rarely hear anything about what our readers think. Or how they respond.

Your favorite bloggers are on the front line. They know what their readers think and how they respond, because they have access to comments, click-thrus and subscription stats, not to mention Twitter, Facebook, and so on.

So they’re more responsive to their readers.

6) They’re not writing for themselves

There’s no getting around it. Copywriters see themselves as artists: They love to write for the sake of writing. Unfortunately, this means a lot of copywriters value the art more highly than they value the commercial imperative. They try to make everything sound poetic or clever or witty or profound. Usually what readers actually want is simple, informative logic. (Sure, there’s an art to turning something complex, obscure and illogical into something simple, informative and logical, but c’mon guys, sometimes a sentence is just a sentence.)

Unlike copywriters, your favorite bloggers probably see themselves as business people or entrepreneurs, not specialist writers. They write only because it’s a means to an end.

So they don’t muddy the waters with pretentious writing.

7) They’re not writing for their teachers

I think I was wrong in point 5. There’s not just one devil sitting on the copywriter’s shoulder, there are two. One’s their client and the other’s their high school English teacher or college Literature professor. Sadly, most of us are taught that complex writing is quality writing. I remember when I started out as a professional writer in 1994, this was the very first thing I had to un-learn. Readers don’t want complexity, they want clarity.

Your favorite bloggers would probably rather spend their time counting their money than writing complex prose. (And most of them probably weren’t paying attention to their high school English teacher anyway!)

So they write more clearly and concisely.

8) They follow best practices

Most copywriters don’t follow best practices. Even those who know what they should be doing usually don’t have the freedom to do it. And the rest are too tied up in misguided rules, bad habits and blissful inexperience to get it right.
Whether they know it or not, your favorite bloggers do follow best practices. Some may have taught themselves those practices, some may have been taught by a copywriter, some may just have a sixth sense. But they all follow them.
So they know how to write very well.

So what’s it all mean?

It means your favorite bloggers write better than most copywriters because they aren’t pressured into writing badly. Nor do they write badly simply out of habit. They have the freedom, the incentive and the understanding to write what their readers need to hear, and to follow the best practices most copywriters overlook.

So they’re more likely to say exactly the right things, in exactly the right way.

Now excuse me while I duck for cover…

Glenn Murray is a specialist SEO copywriter. He heads copywriting studio, Divine Write. You can contact him on Twitter (@divinewrite) or by phone on +612 4334 6222. Visit http://www.divinewrite.com or for further details.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Hey Glen,

    You just made me feel extremely good! :)

    Looking over at all the professional sites vs. blogs. I really enjoy reading the blogs because like you said they write with passion. Thanks for putting this together. I guess you’ll have to duck from the copywriters.

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  2. 9. The are personal and sincere.

    Suc a big difference between writing for the search engine or for a real person. When I am writing, I try to picture just 1 person, that is the guy/girl where I am writing for. I try to deliver a message just to him/her, nobody else. That is what works the best.

  3. When writing, I always try to write as if I am talking personally to a person about the topic of interest. Works well in engaging the audience. Of course proper line breaks and emphasis works.

  4. Well, you’re in for it now :)

    I’m a blogger who also does copywriting, but I agree with you– provided we throw the majority of the 45-million or so blogs out there out of the equation. Let’s face it – there’s a lot of really bad writing out there.

    If we just look at the cream-of-the-crop bloggers though–I’ll gladly read their work any day over most copywriting. For me, it’s because I can sense the personality behind the words, while even the best copywriting tends to feel a bit plastic to me.

  5. Wow, the more I read, the more I want to disagree – but then again, you wanted that, didn’t you ;) I have so much to say, I’m going to take the opposing side in a post at Men with Pens.

    I will say this:

    Bloggers may have more compelling storytelling talents from time to time, but I have to say that most bloggers can’t write web copy worth a dime. (Sorry, but it’s true.) When we searched for a new copywriter for the team, we got hundreds of bloggers applying… and none could actually do copywriting work.

    So are bloggers better? For blogging, yes. But there’s a huge difference between the results of a blog post and the results of a good piece of copy.

  6. First, a disclaimer. I’m a copywriter and have been (on and off) for the past 17 years. That said, I agree with many of the points you raise. Blog writers do indeed have more passion for their subject matter most of the time, because they’re writing about topics very near and dear to them personally and professionally. (Ironically, we copywriters often have to become bloggers ourselves in order to satisfy that same intrinsic need.) Bloggers engage with their audience in a way copywriters can’t and, as a result, have a more intimate understanding of the people who read their words.

    But I do have to take issue with a couple of your claims. First, as a copywriter, I don’t consider myself an artist in the “high art” sense of the word. When I’m in copywriter mode, I’m writing for my client and my client’s audience. Do I want to provide the best writing I can? Of course, I do. I’m a writer. Good writing is important to me. But does that mean I’m out to win a Pulitzer Prize with every website or display ad I write? Of course not.

    In most cases, good copywriting means keeping things simple and engaging. Nothing complex and flowery, unless that’s what the client wants. Sell the sizzle, not the steak? Yes. But not at the expense of losing readers and selling nothing at all. If my writing becomes too clever, cute, pretentious, or complicated, my clients stop calling me. And that’s not good.

    Copywriters aren’t writing for our high school English teachers either (unless we’re working on copy for an educational site — and even then, we still might take some liberties). As a copywriter, my primary goal is to help my client reach whatever goals they’ve established for their campaign. That might mean selling more widgets or increasing awareness for their cause. Whatever the goal, my words have to match it, or I’m not doing my job. And if I’m not doing my job, my clients stop calling me. Yada yada yada.

    Like many of my copywriting peers, I follow best practices for whatever medium I’m working in. Does that mean cookie-cutter results? No. It simply means I tailor certain stylistic elements to the type of writing I’m producing. All with the overarching goal of providing the client with a positive ROI.

    To be fair to copywriters, your argument in general is one of apples vs. oranges. A blogger’s purpose, typically, is to entertain and inform. A copywriter’s purpose is to sell. Your reasons for visiting your favorite blog differ dramatically from your reasons for visiting a company’s website. So of course most people will consider the blogger’s words more engaging and personal. That doesn’t make the copywriter any less of a writer. Just different.

  7. Hey Glen – you make a few very good points. But to actually have some solid validity behind your statements you need to add some sort of non-subjective metrics.

    Bloggers do what better? Make something more readable?

    I would guess that the top bloggers have conversion rates of 1-2% from reader to commenter. The top copywriters have conversion rates ranging from 2-10% from reader to BUYER!

    Additionally, you’re comparing “favorite” bloggers with random copywriters. Of course the top bloggers are better!

    How about comparing the average blogger to the average copywriter? Or the top 100 bloggers to the top 100 copywriters?

    I think you’re onto something REALLY interesting – comparing bloggers to copywriters. But it would be much cooler if you dug in a bit deeper rather than scratching the surface.

  8. Jay Chiat says: 08/19/2010 at 3:25 am

    I’m not reading any blogger writing something as compelling as the Old Spice Guy campaign. That character was born out of exceptional writing. And the campaign has delivered a 106% jump in sales. I’m not seeing bloggers delivering anything close to that for a major brand.

  9. Wow! What a fantastic post, Glenn.

    The points you highlight hit home – and I’m guessing that’s exactly what makes blogging a distinct profession than copywriting.

    I like James’ take on this – “But there’s a huge difference between the results of a blog post and the results of a good piece of copy.”

    Not only are the results different – the upstream factors – why, what, for whom – are also different for bloggers and copywriters.

    Can can commercial pilot command and steer a ship? Not really – because the two need a mutually exclusive set of skills.

  10. James and I are on the same wavelength here. These are two different kinds of animals you’re comparing here, zebras and hyenas.

    You’ve got some great points about both, especially #4, which really ties our copywriting hands, but even that doesn’t level the playing field.

    You know (or you should) a copywriter’s task is much different than a blogger’s. True, they’re both selling ‘stuff’, but a qualified (and good) copywriter will craft something for their clients that will sell circles around what the blogger’s selling. And they’ll do it over, and over, and over for each very different client.

    The badly-written blogs in the blogosphere far outweigh the ones that showcase great writing. And yes, we know there are bad copywriters as well.

    To make an outright claim that bloggers write better than commercial copywriters is more than a little off-base given the two very different professions.

    For example, I write differently on my blog and website than I do for clients. After all, that’s what they pay me for.

    Can’t wait to see the opposing POV from James C.

  11. Great post, with good arguments! I am so with you on the point about the old-school grammar nazis and how English teachers can screw up one’s writing abilities (oh, wait…)

    Writing needs to be simple and to the point. Sure, it can be creative at times and make people think “Hey, that was a cool sentence,” … but extensive complex constructions and long words don’t serve to get a message across, they just serve to confuse.

  12. great reason for the writers. the copywriter can’t be equated by the origin writer. the writers writes not underpressure, more inspiration.

  13. Very interesting post.

    I hear there is already a bounty on your head from the copywriting syndicate.

    I think you may be right on one point for sure. Bloggers often write with passion. If someone wirtes with passion and decent technical skill, it can be a lot better than someone who writes with incredible technical ability but no passion.

    Flat writing, not matter how skillful, is still flat.

  14. David says: 08/19/2010 at 7:35 am

    Comparing the best of bloggers to all copywriters is not really a fair equation. Aditionally, their texts are usually very differents kinds of texts so they are not really comparable.

    Actually, I think bloggers often do write for themselves. This is the reason why so many bloggers are repeating eachother without saying anything new. Copywriters however, will have to take into account their customers and their clients. A good copywriter will try real hard to find the right fit for the topic and the audience.

    The reason why blogs are often more interesting to read is indeed because they are more personal and bloggers (usually) really know there topics. However, even for top bloggers, I find that this does not at all mean they write better. Actually, I think their writing is quite bad at times. It is just compensated for by the informal, personal tone, the snack size text and clear question/statement-answer format many blogs follow.

    What I do believe though is that copywriters could learn a few things from bloggers: being more informal, being more personal and being more to the point. But bloggers better writers? Hm, I’m not so sure.

  15. LOL

    I see you hiding behind the sofa!

    Seriously, great post.

    In fact, I am going to post the link to the forum where a writer said that bloggers were not really writers!

    Ha!

  16. Love it, Glenn.

    Point five does it for me. As a copywriter AND a blogger, I can thank my blogging for my improvement. Why? Because I can immediately gauge if it’s what my readers really want to hear about. If it’s not, I know about it – and I can fix it.

    It’s just about impossible to do this with my professional copywriting work. My clients might rave, but will their readers? Is the copy achieveing what it should? If it’s not, who’s going to tweak it? What are the conversion stats?

  17. Good bloggers use copywriting techniques every day. Good copywriters have to create great content, even if they only work for clients.

    We merged these two categories together almost 5 years ago over at Copyblogger. I don’t think there’s a real dichotomy.

    There are effective writers, and ineffective writers. That’s it.

  18. I’ll add something else to that list – a lot of us salt these posts with our own personal experience which adds a lot of weight to what we say. I did a sponsored post recently for a hotel chain and was able to add my own personal recommendations to the post basically because, by pure coincidence, its the hotel chain I usually choose when I’m travelling around the UK (if I’m honest I hold them in such high regard I’d have done the post for nothing – like most of my posts – but they were waving money in my face so what the hell!)

  19. Grammar Nazis…if I start seeing bloggers using that term at least I know where it started.

    I think that there’s two sides to this argument, and there’s no doubt given that if a copywriter was given free range to write his or her own stuff, she would be a master at it.

    For bloggers we all start off with a learning curve. But the good thing is that we learn it from real life experience.

    Vincent Ng
    Conversation Arts

  20. Stupidly, I keep coming back here to post a comment, then thinking, “Nah, save it…” Back again… “Nah, save it…”

    Just you wait, buddy ;)

  21. I agree with you, Bloggers are more human really, where as copybloggers are just driven by deadlines and payments

  22. I tend to agree with Brian. Good writing is about connecting with people. Whether you’re a fiction writer creating connections to, and between, characters; or a copywriter connecting with a potential customer; or a blogger connecting with a niche readership—it’s all about relating in that moment to make someone turn the page, click “buy now” or subscribe.

  23. Top thinking:) Have to say I agree but the ideal scenario is a passionate blogger who also happens to be a decent copywriter!

  24. (Aaah, we meet again at Problogger … !)

    I really hear you about the English teacher looking over your shoulder. As a copywriter I am constantly striving to UNcomplicate my writing. It’s hard because hey, wordplay is so much fun!

    Really great topic here. Perhaps one day the 2 worlds will collide elegantly and profitably.

    *sigh*

    Karri

  25. PS to the naysayers here: the point is not so much to compare one blogger’s conversion rates to one copywriter’s (a pure comparison here would be tough though not impossible). The point Glenn is making is that to write compelling copy is to WRITE FROM the GUT without being condescending or trite. Cutting through the noise and connecting with people online in a powerful way is a terribly valuable skill. Bloggers, by definition and context, have a little more “license” to do this.

    Clients often think they know what they want the copy to say and to FEEL like. But bloggers HAVE TO KNOW (if they want anyone to read/comment on/buy from their blog).

    Copywriters WANT to know but all to often client politics get in the way. Not ideal but a reality of the profession.

  26. The best writers, be they copywriters or bloggers or both, know how to grab attention and get
    people talking. Well done on both counts, Glenn :)

  27. >>Really great topic here. Perhaps one day the 2 worlds will collide elegantly and profitably.

    They already have. I know a handful of early Copyblogger readers who are quietly making millions at the intersection of copywriting and blogging.

    Ultimately the missing ingredient is business skills. Not some “this” versus “that” mindset, but rather a strong content model that makes money.

  28. Too true Brian!

    But do you think the “lessons” go the other way too? i.e. are copywriters (and marketers) learning from bloggers?

    I know … 3rd Tribe Stuff … :)

  29. Karri, absolutely. It’s really all one thing when it comes to content that works online. It has nothing to do with what you refer to yourself as.

  30. sounds like you’ve been working with some pretty crappy copywriters.

  31. The points made are all valid, though I do believe that great bloggers possess some of the same skills as good copywriters.

  32. i do the same. I try to keep everything original and clear to my readers

  33. All good writers, be they copywriters or bloggers or both, know how to get attention and how to get people talking.

    Well done on both counts, Glenn :)

  34. Hmmn.. so what does that make us bloggers/copywriters? LOL :) Great post, and sooo true! Even though I can write slick copy, I much prefer blog style writing.

    By the same token I much prefer reading a product review from a blogger rather than a sleek sales letter. For one thing there is a trust factor… if you’re a blogger I like it’s already there..a sales letter must establish it “cold” and unless you’re THAT good… you can really muck it up. :)

  35. Oh you are a brave man! I admire your gall. I often let off little bombs on my blog and dive for cover too… but it’s the architects who go for my throat… one cannot have an opinion on design or design codes unless one is university qualified… apparently. Great topic. A-M xx

  36. The difference is the soul. Most copywriters don’t write with soul in it unlike bloggers, you feel the intense or how lowly the blogger is. You enjoy reading and seem you connect while you read. One more thing, I don’t want to get a dictionary every time I encounter a very deep word. LOL.

  37. Amen to that!

    The last one about best practices is one that really held me. After all I can’t be PR4 without learning from you!

  38. That is why I am here to hear your own experiences rather than other article that are produced from someone who has not had any in-depth experiences with.

    I do agree that bloggers’ article has its own insight that is from their life experiences on curtain niche :-)

  39. I tend to feel the same way as Brian.

    >>There are effective writers, and ineffective writers. That’s it.

    Good writing is about connecting. Good bloggers connect with their niche readership, good copywriters connect with a target “customer”, good fiction writers connect readers with their characters.

    If you relate well with your audience in that moment then they’ll subscribe, click “buy now”, and keep turning pages.

    I do find that #5 has a big impact on the process, though. Without the measurement of immediate and real feedback of tweets and comments, it’s hard to know if your copywriting is hitting the mark as well as it could be.

  40. Hi Glenn,

    I would add that us bloggers write to entertain to a certain degree. I got my little run in copywriting, to learn the ins-and-outs of the trade, but once you understand the main tactics, it comes down to trying to ”convince” people to do something – convince them really hard.

    Blogging is more free, whether you write for fun or to promote an affiliate product, entertaining your audience comes first I believe and it’s a great way to enojoy what we do. We should never push too hard on our readers. My two cents ;)

  41. Pretty strange! I just learned about Glenn this morning on twitter and here I am reading a blog post by him. Wow! karma, or something.

    Guess I must be a blogger because I haven’t a clue how to write and don’t get paid for it. It that another difference. Copywriters get paid and only a few bloggers do?

  42. I guess I love blogging because I can pretty much write like I talk.

    Although I’m a published writer, blogging is like a breath of fresh air after having to be so anal about grammer, spelling and not using slang.

    Although if I notice something misspelled (how do you spell THAT?) I have to fix it!

    LOL- Steve, any blogger can make money- it just takes a little effort: Check it out!

    http://www.bloggingbizmom.com

  43. Truth indeed. Copywriting is essentially just commercial and without soul while really good writers or bloggers write for art’s sake so they do it better.
    But of course copywriters can be proud of their craft -I’m a freelance copywriter too.

  44. Did you intend to offer eight reasons why no one should hire you as a copywriter?

    Just curious…

  45. As both a copywriter and a blogger I can tell you that you just need to be a good writer and know the fundamentals of copywriting to be good in either area.

    Good bloggers would not be good bloggers without knowing the basics of writing good copy and marketing inside and out.

    After all, they are trying to get their readers to click, purchase, or sign up for something. Without that skill, they are just ranting about a hobby with no endgame in sight.

    I think this assumption that you can only be one or the other is completely false.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  46. Wow Glenn,

    I’ll disagree. As someone on both sides of the fence, I have to say that many of the points you make are for hack copywriters, not professionals.

    At the end of the day, it just boils down to good writing. Some bloggers do it and some copywriters do it. And then some folks just do a good job writing link bait. Heh.

    All my best,
    Rich

  47. Interesting points. I agree with Jean’s comment that there is a lot of really bad writing by bloggers out there. On the other hand, some people come to blogging with terrific writing skills.

    In terms of the grammar-Nazis, two points: (1) blog writing is conversational. We often use phrases and fragments in conversation or in oral presentations, and (2) lots of great writers learn the rules before they feel free to break them for effect. (They know exactly what they’re doing and why.)

  48. Thank you, Glenn!

    I’m printing this post out, dipping it in gold, and passing it out to all my clients. (I am a writing consultant and coach for coaches.)

    I encourage my coaches to do their own writing and not hire the professional outside writer for so many of the reasons you outlined.

    I feel vindicated! (And just a tad conflicted since I used to be a copywriter a million years ago.)

  49. Fiona Wren says: 08/20/2010 at 2:51 am

    I was going to post all the reasons I don’t agree with what you’re saying, but I think Carl Thress said it for me – right down to the apples and oranges and the deal about “high art.” I don’t consider copywriting a high art, but I’m a strong advocate of plain language and simple storytelling, and I spend a lot of time arguing those points with my clients (so yes, I do agree with your point about clients muddying the waters).

    Personally, I would much rather read a blog than a corporate site, but they serve two entirely different purposes in my mind. And just as there are a lot of ineffective sites out there, there are as many truly atrocious blogs.

  50. I am both and this really provided clarity on the difference. Now, I can sell my services better because of these differences.

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