SEO vs. Conversion Copywriting

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If you’re reading this, chances are you want people to find your business – and buy from you when they do. To make it happen, you know you need digital marketing. More specifically, you need effective copy and content.

But the world of online marketing is a maze of jargon, buzzwords and abbreviations like “SEA”, “SEO”, “PPC”, “Conversion Rate Optimization”, “Growth Hacking” and “Copywriting”. If just the thought of it leaves you cold, you’re not the only one.

In this article, we’ll help you cut through the buzzwords and make sense of the marketing muddle. Together, Laura, our German SEO strategist and copywriter, and Sabine, a conversion optimisation and copywriting specialist will answer questions like:

  • What is SEO and how is it different from SEA?
  • How do you know if you need an SEO or conversion copywriting specialist?
  • If you hire an SEO copywriter and a conversion copywriter, will they just argue the whole time?

Even if you’ve been in business for years, these insights will help you take a more targeted, efficient approach to future copy and content projects. You’ll learn how to get the most from your time, effort and budget – whether you work in a corporation, startup, non profit or NGO, in the public or private sector.

What you’ll discover in this article

What is SEO? — A brief definition

Which kinds of copy and content benefit from SEO?

SEO copywriting: how to get it right

What is Conversion Copywriting? — a definition

How to measure the success of conversion copywriting

Which kinds of copy and content benefit most from conversion copywriting?

Conversion copywriting: how to get it right

Conclusion: SEO and conversion copywriting – the ideal partnership

Checklist: SEO vs. Conversion Copywriting – what kind of support do you need right now?

What is SEO? — A brief definition

According to the Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, SEO is “the process of making your site better for search engines.” It’s also “the job title of a person who does this for a living: “We just hired a new SEO to improve our presence on the web.”

(Advance warning, unlike most other search engines, Google provides lots of practical advice – so this article may seem a little Google-heavy.)

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What’s involved in optimising a website for search engines?

Here’s how Laura Filz, our green SEO consultant, defines SEO (our translation):

The term … describes all SEO measures and strategies used to help your website to rank as high as possible on the search engine results pages. With the aim of generating as many website visits as possible from potential customers.

This article is about achieving “organic” search results. What does that mean? Imagine someone types their chosen search term into a search engine like Google, Ecosia or DuckDuckGo. SEO is about getting your page to appear high in the results list through cleverly optimised content. This is considered “organic”.

Search Engine Advertising (SEA), on the other hand, gets your page to appear high in the results list by paying the search engine to promote it. You can spot these listings because they’re labelled “Ad”.

An example of SEA: The Ecosia search results for "heated keyboard" include two ads near the top of the page.
An example of SEA: The Ecosia search results for “heated keyboard” include two ads near the top of the page.

PPC (Pay Per Click) is a special kind of SEA. It’s a billing method commonly used in online marketing when budgeting for campaigns. In her Ultimate Guide to PPC Marketing for Hubspot, Christina Perricone explains:

Pay-per-click, or PPC, is a form of advertising that allows you to pay a fee to have your website on the search engine result page (SERP) when someone types in specific keywords or phrases to the search engine. The SERP will display the ads you create to direct visitors to your site, and the fee you pay is based on whether people click your ad.

So, in essence, you’re buying visits to your website.

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Why SEO matters

When someone visits a search engine, they look for information, instructions or products because they want to achieve an outcome (also known as task completion).

Put simply, SEO connects readers with the content they’re looking for to complete their task. Despite the name, it’s not really about the search engine at all. In fact, we optimise our content to help the person who’s searching the internet to fulfil their goal.

While this may sound simple enough, it’s really not. In his Drum article about the top 5 content marketing trends of 2023, Gavin Jordan says: “[I]t’s amazing how many content marketers still fall at this first hurdle. They provide information – yes – but it’s not information that anyone is actually looking for.”

In other words, the goal of SEO is not just to bag the top spot of any search results page, regardless the search terms used. It’s about creating content that ranks well for relevant search queries in relevant search engines.

How do you know for whom and in which contexts your content is relevant?

Gavin Jordan has some useful pointers:

A lot of the time, the line between content that thrives and content that dives is relevance. Content marketers who look inwardly (What can I say about my business? Why is my product/service so valuable? What are the benefits of my offering?), will always lose out to those looking outwardly (What is the target audience interested in? What are they searching for? What do they want to engage with?).

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Which kinds of copy and content benefit from SEO?

As you may know, SEO is super useful if applied to (almost) all of your website copy – from blog articles and landing pages to the home page.

But SEO principles also matter on other platforms and search engines:

  • Video platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo
  • Podcast platforms like Apple Podcasts
  • Google Play Store and Apple App Store
  • Ecommerce platforms such as Amazon,, Etsy or eBay
  • Hotel platforms like

So it pays to get a basic understanding of SEO — even if you make most of your sales through a platform rather than through your website.

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SEO copywriting: how to get it right

SEO copywriting is only a small – but indispensable! – part of search engine optimisation. To help clients understand SEO, Laura usually divides it into three areas: technology, links and content.

This section will introduce you to the basics of SEO. But this is a dynamic and ever-changing field, so we can only scratch the surface here.

Core technical principles of SEO

Crawlers, keywords, markup

In terms of tech, here’s the most important thing to remember: search engines need to know and read (“index” and “crawl”) your website. That’s where keywords come in – search terms that users type into Google and other search engines. Used on your website, they show the crawler what your web page is about.
We recommend using keywords in the following seven places on each web page:

  1. In the title (the bit of text that will later appear on the browser tab)
  2. In the meta description
  3. In the first few words on the page
  4. A few more times in other places on the page
  5. In the H1 heading (the large headline at the very top of the page)
  6. In exceptional cases, if this is not possible: in the H2 headings
  7. In the file names of images used on the page.

However, very few websites consist only of text and images, and search results today contain many different media: from maps and shopping offers to FAQs. For search engines to understand this more complex content, you need to “add structured data markup”.

Google explains what this is in the SEO Starter Guide:

Structured data is code that you can add to your sites’ pages to describe your content to search engines, so they can better understand what’s on your pages. Search engines can use this understanding to display your content in useful (and eye-catching) ways in search results.

Enjoy geeking out about details like these? Then you may want to dive into semantic HTML markup. It helps crawlers find and process images.

But if the topic sends you to sleep, (and you’re in good company, by the way!) you can still optimise your images for search engines by using meaningful file names and alt text.
Simply follow Laura’s instructions for optimising your images (our translation):

Only use high-quality image files.

Always change the filename of your images to something meaningful before uploading, e.g. from “DSC845.jpg” to “website-copywriting.jpg”.

Use the keyword in your image file names – at least for the first image on your page.

In the alt text, describe in natural language what you see in the picture, using the keyword (125 characters max).

Make sure your image files don’t exceed 200KB – otherwise long load times will negatively affect your ranking.

Your content needs to work on mobile devices

Since 2016, Google has been ranking websites based on their mobile versions first and foremost. In March 2021, Google even started indexing the mobile version instead of the desktop version (known as “Mobile First Index”). So it’s essential that your website works properly on smartphones.
Here are a few tips on how to make your website smartphone (and therefore search engine)-friendly:

  • Use responsive web design. This means that your website automatically adapts to different screen sizes. Modern CMS like WordPress and themes like Divi are usually already optimised for this.
  • Even if your English teacher would roll their eyes, keep paragraphs to three sentences or less. We read differently on screens, and big blocks of text are daunting on small devices.
  • If in doubt, use a larger, thicker font – one that stands out against the background. For Word documents, you may feel comfortable with a font size of 12. But you’d need a magnifying glass to read that teeny-tiny text on a smartphone (or get finger cramps from the frantic pinch-to-zoom).
  • Regularly test your website on different devices and in different browsers: Do your text and imagery display correctly?
  • Leave enough white space between images and graphics.

This Google tool will tell you if your site is mobile-friendly: Mobile-Friendly Test

And if you’re connected to Google Search Console, you’ll find more tips on optimising your website for smartphones there.

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External links demonstrate your authority

Ever received an email from a stranger asking you to link to their content from one of your blog posts? Those requests are not only annoying – they show a common misunderstanding about link building.

Laura explains: “Backlinks show a search engine how trustworthy and high-quality your site is. So it’s about your reputation on the internet.”

So even though search engines do consider backlinks (links to your website from other people’s pages), it’s not just about the quantity, but the quality. The authority of the referring site is important, and search engines are constantly finding ways to detect and sanction spam — including backlink spam.

Internal links structure your page

With all the talk about backlinks, it’s easy to forget to create internal links between pages on your site. They help search engines understand your website’s structure – and its depth of expertise on the keyword topic, says Laura (our translation):

Internal links … are important so the crawler can find and read all your subpages. They serve as guideposts – both for the search engine and for your visitors. Internal links will help them find their way around your website and get to their destination quickly.

In a nutshell, links help search engines recommend high-quality websites to readers. Keeping this in mind will make it easier for you to find the right balance between backlinks, internal links, and other SEO techniques.

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Usability: essential for SEO content

In the SEO fundamentals, Google emphasises that optimising content is mostly about making sure people have a pleasant experience interacting with your website:

Google’s automated ranking systems are designed to present helpful, reliable information that’s primarily created to benefit people, not to gain search engine rankings, in the top Search results.

For example, they recommend creating useful 404 (“page not found”) pages or developing a clear structure for the page:

Similar to writing an outline for a large paper, put some thought into what the main points and sub-points of the content on the page will be and decide where to use heading tags appropriately.

But don’t stop there. Even with a sophisticated structure, many people write in a way that completely disregards the needs of their audience, German SEO and Google Analytics consultant Alexander Holl complains (our translation):

Example 1: You want to address advanced and expert users – but you’re building a glossary with basic information on your site.

Example 2: You’re a doctor looking to address new patients. But your articles read like medical treatises.

His advice: “It’s not just about your ranking position. It’s crucial to achieve a high correspondence between the user’s chosen search term, the snippet (the way the search result is displayed) and the relevance of your landing page.”

In other words, if you want content that performs for your business, a list of keywords is simply not enough. We’ll come back to this in the conversion copywriting section.

Always ask yourself: Which keywords suit you/your organisation and the readers you want to reach? Only with this information in mind can you create content that is truly relevant and useful.

This is important because search engines track how people interact with your content. Your ranking position is impacted by that behaviour:

  • Do they bounce (leave the website after viewing just a single page)?
  • Do they complete a task, such as filling in a form?
  • Or do they stay to enjoy a piece of content, such as an article or a video?

In summary, the Google SEO Starter Guide lists the following self-assessment questions:

Is my website showing up on Google? Do I serve high-quality content to users? Is my local business showing up on Google? Is my content fast and easy to access on all devices? Is my website secure?

As you can see, SEO is a simple idea… but achieving success involves mastering a lot of moving parts. Having a solid SEO strategy in place will make things much easier. And if you don’t enjoy the topic you’ll at least enjoy the extra traffic!

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What is Conversion Copywriting? — a definition

Conversion copywriting is relatively well known in the US tech sector – but not necessarily beyond. The term was originally coined by Joanna Wiebe, the founder of Copyhackers. She describes it as “[a] form of copywriting that treats copy like your scalable online salesperson.”

Here at From Scratch, we find that definition a bit narrow. We prefer a broader perspective that covers the entire customer journey:

Conversion means “transformation”, “shift”, “change of mind”. In marketing, the term mostly refers to the conversion of people that are ‘just browsing’ into customers. Taken more generally, conversion optimisation is about getting people to do something. Someone who “converts” takes action. While that action will often be a purchase, it could also be signing up for a newsletter, signing a petition, or attending a free event.

This definition may seem simplistic. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Yeah, but isn’t copy always trying to get people to do something?”

Except for pure information or entertainment formats, you’re right.

For much of the 20th century, however, advertising copy was more about being creative. When evaluating a piece of writing, people looked at how surprising, new or memorable it was. Whether an advertisement or poster sold more products or had a real-world impact was less important.

This was partly due to the fact that results like that were tricky to measure. In marketing, this is still known today as the “attribution problem”.

Since the 2000s, a lot of advertising and distribution has shifted online – where we have the tech to measure the impact of our copywriting. For example:

  • Analytics tools like Google Analytics or Plausible show what percentage of website visitors have clicked a button.
  • Social media platforms record how many people have interacted with your post.
  • Dedicated links or UTM tags track which campaign is sending traffic to your website.

That’s why conversion copywriters – just like SEO copywriters – work predominantly in online marketing.

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How do conversion copywriters work?

As Joanna Wiebe explains in her video course on LinkedIn, conversion copywriting is based on science. Conversion copywriters stay at the cutting-edge of their craft by reading books and academic studies on psychology, sociology, marketing, linguistics and neuroscience.

Conversion copywriting projects usually follow a 3-step process:

  1. Research & Discovery
  2. Writing, editing & wireframing
  3. Testing & validation

In Research & Discovery, we use practices from UX research, linguistics and ethnography to gain a deep understanding of the people we want to convert. One important element of this research is finding out about your audience’s language.

  • How do they express themselves?
  • What words and phrases do they use to talk about the topic?

When writing and editing, these insights help us to mirror readers’ emotions and present facts in language that will convert them. Incidentally, this also helps in determining the right keywords for SEO.

In phase 3, we conduct our own experiments to empirically test and validate the impact of our ideas. This helps to avoid copy that’s creative — but won’t convert. Some of these experiments are also used in growth hacking.

Growth hacking is a collection of practices from SEO, conversion rate optimisation, content marketing and social media marketing designed to minimise costs while increasing awareness and sales – and ideally, ‘go viral’.

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Hey, wait a minute: is conversion copywriting ethical?

Conversion copywriters often talk about “persuasive copy” and “triggering the right emotions”. From an ethical marketing perspective, that kind of lingo seems manipulative.

It’s also ineffective: cunning persuasion and playing on people’s emotions won’t bring about lasting change. It only leads to impulse purchases and rash decisions people later regret — which has a negative impact on the company, the individual and the planet (due to the waste of energy, money, and resources).

At From Scratch, our focus is on showing people we understand how they feel. We don’t want to foist feelings on them that they’re not experiencing. Rather, we want to help them focus their existing emotions in a way that allows them to take meaningful action. We don’t create or convince them they have problems, but acknowledge their existing challenges – and help them find the best solution for themselves.

This means that we don’t persuade, but inform/convert them. We respect our readers enough not to force a particular point of view on them.

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How to measure the success of conversion copywriting

As the name suggests, conversion rates are a key metric when evaluating conversion copy. Usually shown as a percentage, it tells us what proportion of all readers performed a specific action. And that doesn’t necessarily mean sales. Nick Knuppe, former Product Marketing Manager at Mollie, explains:

It may be useful to distinguish between micro-conversion and macro-conversion: Micro-conversion: A potential customer actively engages with your company; for example, by following you on social media or signing up for your newsletter. Macro-conversion: A potential customer becomes an actual customer by purchasing one of your company’s products or services.

Usually, conversion copywriters work with comparative values:

  • Start by recording how many people have pressed the button to date
  • Make a few changes
  • Record what percentage of visitors have pressed the buttons since the changes
  • Assess what we can learn from this

This also explains why conversion copywriting is mostly about increasing conversion rates – rather than achieving a fixed number, say 2,000 clicks. Here are some useful examples by Joanna Wiebe:

Emails that bring in more than three times the paid conversions, homepages that double sales, landing pages that increase leads by 25% or more. These are the kinds of results my team and I get using conversion copywriting.

Conversion copywriting and conversion rate optimisation (CRO)

It’s rarely sufficient to simply change a few words and check the back end of your website to improve conversion rates.

As Sabine explains in her conversion copy audit of Mello’s German landing page, you have to look at and optimise the entire process – the entire user experience – including the procedures behind it. Otherwise, the copy might promise something that the product and service experience can’t live up to.

In our High Fidelity programme, we combine conversion copywriting with extensive conversion rate optimisation measures. In addition to working on your copy and content, our team of experts also reviews your technology, product range, internal processes and other factors that can improve conversion rates.

Nick Knuppe gives a long list of examples:

Here are some of the main reasons why potential customers might abandon their carts and cause the conversion to fail:

  • your website takes too long to load
  • the registration/login process is too lengthy or overly complicated
  • payment options are too limited
  • buttons or teasers get in the way and distract the shopper
  • shipping costs are too high
  • links don’t work, or something goes [wrong] when redirecting the customer to your payment provider
  • the payment process seems unprofessional or non-secure (for example, it does not use https protocol)
  • Captcha verification questions
  • texts contain errors (either incorrect information or grammatical errors)
  • the page design is too hard to read (for example, due to a poor choice of text sizes and colours, cluttered appearance or confusing layout)

inappropriate advertising tactics (for example, when an ad leads your customer to expect something that the checkout process does not ultimately fulfil).

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Which kinds of copy and content benefit most from conversion copywriting?

In theory, it makes sense to use conversion copywriting techniques whenever you want people to take action.

And though conversion copywriting is most commonly used in online marketing, we’re no longer limited to the digital sphere. New attribution techniques allow us to measure the success of printed texts such as brochures, posters or magazine ads.

In contrast to SEO, though, conversion copy also works with content that won’t (or should not) be indexed by search engines, such as sales and landing pages in complex marketing funnels, marketing and sales emails, social media posts and online advertisements (SEA and PPC).

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Conversion copywriting: how to get it right

While this article can’t replace a course to certify you as a conversion copywriter, here’s a little insight into the key principles of conversion copywriting.

The Rule of One: conversion copywriting in a nutshell

If you know this rule, you’re already a huge step closer to writing copy that converts. Contrary to the Sith rule, it demands that any piece of copy should:

  • be written for a single person (persona) (if you want to appeal to many different personas, you need dedicated copy for each one)
  • make a single promise (e.g. your offer saves CO2 emissions OR money, not both at the same time)
  • promote a single big idea (e.g. “The internet uses too much dirty electricity” OR “Green hosting doesn’t have to be expensive”)
  • contain a single call to action (sometimes two are possible, but they should point in the same direction in your persona’s customer journey — e.g. “Trial” and “Subscription” in the software industry).

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“Start with Who”, or: Why Simon Sinek probably isn’t a conversion copywriter

Simon Sinek’s famous TEDx talk and his book “Start with Why” have made “Why?” the focus question for many companies.

From a conversion copywriting perspective, it’s not a helpful approach at all. Instead, the first question we need to answer should be: Who are we writing for? — Start with Who.

To know which promise, big idea, and call to action to choose for the Rule of One, we need to know which are most relevant to the person we’re writing for. If we don’t know who that is, we can’t answer any of the other questions. If you’re thinking, “I know who my customer is, but not what matters most to them”, we discuss that in the next section.

To give an example: Sabine rewrote the British insurance company With Jacks website in 2018. With Jack provides insurance for creative freelancers in the UK. Before the 2018 revamp, their website was designed to explain why With Jack is better than other insurance companies:

With Jack's USP on the old homepage explains what is special about this insurance company: It's approachable. "Business insurance on a first name basis."
With Jack’s USP on the old homepage explains what is special about this insurance company: It’s approachable. “Business insurance on a first name basis.”

But there was a problem: Few freelancers realised they’d benefit from being insured. So, despite it being catchy and creative, the copy didn’t resonate with the audience.

Based on her research, Sabine was able to define a whole new messaging hierarchy to correspond with the lived experience and desires of creatives. At the same time, the copy contains enough facts to empower readers to make an educated decision:

The new hero section of With Jack's homepage speaks directly to the needs of freelancers: "Be a confident freelancer".
The new hero section of With Jack’s homepage speaks directly to the needs of freelancers: “Be a confident freelancer”.

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How to find out what readers think about your topic

People assume that conversion copywriters are Google Analytics pros. And yeah, analytical-quantitative skills can be helpful – but they’re far less important than qualitative research skills.

Interview techniques, planning and conducting surveys and “message mining” allow for more useful insights than numbers and data – because in order to write good copy, we have to develop our empathy and understanding.

Neil Patel explains this in his YouTube video:

The way you want to get started… is with qualitative data. Qualitative data is feedback from individuals. Analytics like Google Analytics will only show you so much. You need feedback from people to figure out why they’re not buying. When people are coming to your website, why are they leaving?

In her conversion copywriting audit of the German Reflecta.Network landing page, Sabine lists the insights we need to write copy that converts:

  • What is our audience thinking about when they land on this page?
  • What questions do they have?
  • What difficulties are they facing? What challenges and desires drive them?
  • How can I use my copy to mirror those thoughts – so they realise I understand exactly what’s going on for them? This part’s really important. It’s probably more important than advertising, catchy slogans or placing Google Ads. Because only if your landing page can convince people that you understand their reality and are one hundred percent on their side – only then will they feel truly cared for.

Conversion copywriters, therefore, start any project by doing in-depth research and analysing the results using tools and models. One of the best models was first introduced by Eugene Schwartz in his legendary 1966 advertising classic, Breakthrough Advertising. His Five Stages of Awareness show the journey that needs to take place for a person to buy or convert:

Infographic showing Eugene Schwartz' 5 Stages of Awareness: 1. Unaware, 2. Problem aware, 3. Solution aware, 4. Product aware, 5. Most aware
The earlier the awareness level of your target reader, the longer the copy needs to be to make the desired impact.

We use the Five Stages of Awareness to plan messaging strategy, content marketing strategy and entire marketing funnels. Nyasha Gwatidzo’s newsletter landing page is one example of how Sabine achieved a 60% conversion rate using the Five Levels of Awareness.

Usually, we start at level 2, when our audience has recognised a problem and is looking for a solution: We

  • meet them in their search
  • show them our recommended solution
  • introduce them to the product or service on offer
  • make sure they have what they need to decide if the offer is right for them
  • optimise the registration or purchase process so there’s no unnecessary friction – and the reader can complete their task.

Sometimes the goal is to create awareness in the reader. In those cases, we start at stage 1. Moritz Kopp describes this work as follows (our translation):

One serious mistake that’s often made in marketing is to try and “sell a solution”. And yes, that’s basically correct. But before you can sell a solution, you first need to sell the problem. Your readers need to first understand why they should even care about your product or company.

As ethical marketers, we recognise the value of this approach more for social issues such as the climate crisis, social inequality or animal welfare — and less for creating artificial demand for consumer products. (Just imagine selling the “problem” that leads to the purchase of diet pills – not something we’d ever want to get involved in.)

Tip: Discover how to find out what your customers really think step by step in our e-book

As you can see, a large part of conversion copywriting isn’t even about writing copy. In fact, we’re only just getting started on the writing part in the next paragraph.

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Conversion copywriting 101

Conversion copywriting thrives on formulas and audience quotes

Once Research & Discovery are complete, we’re ready to start phase 2: writing, wireframing and editing. This is where our extensive prep work proves to be a time saver. In a way, we let our audience write the copy for us. By assembling selected fragments from interviews, message mining and surveys, we make sure our wording is on-point.

Proven frameworks and formulas such as “Problem, Agitation, Solution” (PAS) help us get the structure and logic right. This way, we can enjoy creative freedom in the details.

In conversion copywriting, clarity reigns supreme

Creative advertising copy, tone of voice work and journalistic storytelling achieve their effect by leaving certain things unsaid – and letting readers connect the dots or fill in the gaps. They appeal to the imagination, use ambiguous expressions for the sheer fun of it, or create the desired atmosphere with poetic language.

And sometimes, conversion copywriting uses these techniques as well. However, clarity is always paramount. Neil Patel confirms:

Smart copywriters know that their job is to write good copy that sells. As a result, they’re sharply focused on clarity. This means that they eliminate every detail – no matter how tiny – that may decrease their conversion rate.

No surprise, then, that our editing process begins and ends with clarity and readability checks.

Copy before look & feel

In most copywriting disciplines, it’s a designer who creates the structure and layout (wireframes) for a website, ad or email. In conversion copywriting, the basic low-fidelity design is the job of the copywriter. Joanna Wiebe explains why:

… copy leads design. That’s not because copy has got some sort of higher status, but because an email, ad, or page doesn’t exist to showcase design. It exists to get a yes from the person interacting with it. And that’s copy’s job. Start with what you need to say and how you need to say it. Wireframe that, then work with design to bring it to life for your prospect.

Calls to action: less is more, later is better, direct is clearer

Speaking of wireframing: button placement is probably the number one cause of conflict between web designers and conversion copywriters. That’s because many designers advocate using more buttons (CTAs) than the conversion optimised wireframe. Nils Koppelmann, German expert in conversion optimisation and UX, shares our opinion (our translation):

Many landing pages are cluttered with various CTAs – which, unfortunately, rarely helps to get people to take action. Here’s why you don’t want to have a CTA at the top of the page – or if you must have a button, then you don’t want to have more than one: people first need to understand your offer, and you need to deal with their objections first.

Often, opinions also differ about the button copy itself. Experiments have shown that clever wording tends to be of little use. Instead, the call to action should directly ask for the step you want people to take.

Neil Patel gives the following example:

to get a higher conversion rate, simply ask readers/customers to do exactly what you want them to do. If you want them to write a comment, just ask them to leave a comment – a specific prompt question can help.

It’s our audience, not personal taste that decides whether conversion copy is any good

Copywriters from all countries and specialisms have probably experienced this: Having worked hard on a draft, it’s finally ready. But your CMO – or if you’re a freelancer, your client – doesn’t like it.

This difference in opinion causes friction in the working relationship. The question is: Whose taste counts more – the copywriting professional or the budget holder?

The third phase of conversion copywriting avoids this dilemma by testing and validating the copy to make sure it performs. In Joanna Wiebe’s experience, a thorough conversion copywriting process can create new wording and messaging that feels uncomfortable or scary at first. Only by validating such ideas and sharing the data can we dispel or confirm any feelings of unease.

It’s about minimising the risk of something going wrong – while opening up a creative playing field for a new approach:

Basically with validation, you put your risky messages in front of a small audience and gauge their reaction before exposing those messages to more of your audience. The more different from the norm that your message sounds, the more likely it is to get a reaction, and validation helps us ensure that reaction will be a good one.

In addition, this phase protects us from adopting so-called “best practices” without examining them. Yes, some well-intentioned articles on the internet promise outstanding results. But do those practices apply to our readership, our industry and our specific topic? There’s a real risk in following best practices to the letter, compounded by the potential to make mistakes or errors of judgement out of ignorance or lack of skill.

This is the reason many founders fail to write their own copy based on marketing courses, as Neil Patel explains:

One of the important lessons I learned early in my blogging career is that there is no single rule for improving your conversion rate. No matter where you get advice from, you know that no one can guarantee specific results. I might set up a split testing campaign today and get a 34% click-through rate on my headlines, whereas you’ll get 44% or less than 10%, even if you and I follow similar strategies. Much of the result depends on skills and on your niche or industry.

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Conclusion: SEO and conversion copywriting – the ideal partnership

How are SEO and conversion copywriting different?

SEO and conversion copywriting are independent disciplines that have different goals and use different methods.

For example, the topic of “navigation” is more important in the field of SEO:

The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly find the content they want. It can also help search engines understand what content the website owner thinks is important. Although Google’s search results are provided at a page level, Google also likes to have a sense of what role a page plays in the bigger picture of the site.

— from the Google Starter Guide

In direct contrast, conversion copywriting sometimes recommends hiding the navigation to focus reader attention on taking action.

Topics such as internal and external links, search result preview, markup for structured data or the frequency of certain keywords are all but irrelevant to conversion copywriting. In contrast, SEO is less concerned with questions such as how people make decisions, which button copy is more likely to attract clicks or how to optimise an offer so it resonates.

These differences are also reflected in some key figures used in measuring SEO and conversion copy. From Laura’s list of SEO metrics, only ‘time on page vs. bounce rate’ is relevant in conversion copywriting. CTR is also an important value, but more in the context of email or on-page micro-conversions.

The following figures will tell you if you’re on the right track:

Ranking: Is your website’s position on search results pages improving?

Click-Through-Rate/CTR: How often is your page clicked on in search results? (Relative to how often your page appears in search results.)

Time on page: How long do visitors stay on your web page?

Bounce Rate: How many people leave your website after viewing just one page?

Organic Traffic: How many visitors can you attract to your website without using SEA (search engine advertising)?

Another important difference: short-term versus long-term outcomes. With enough traffic, conversion copywriting can produce results very quickly, in as little as 6 weeks.

However, a reputable conversion copywriter will never guarantee success. Despite our best efforts, an intervention designed to optimise can have an unexpected negative effect on the conversion rate. The important thing is to learn from the results. This attitude of continuous improvement is baked into the scientific-experimental nature of Conversion Rate Optimisation. Here at From Scratch, we call it “Learning = Winning”.

SEO is more long-term, but involves fewer risks. We generally recommend a timeframe of 6-12 months for SEO measures to have a lasting effect.

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How to make SEO and conversion copywriting work together to promote your business

Conversion copywriting is about getting more clicks, more signups, more orders, higher order values, more signatures. We want to entice people to act. In contrast, SEO is about creating visibility. We want people to visit your site and become aware of you in the first place.

These complementary goals make SEO and conversion copywriting perfect partners: SEO gets people into your shop or office — and conversion copy is the talented salesperson that makes your dream customer feel at home.

Plus, most SEO and conversion copywriting methodologies play nicely together too.

We always optimise for people

SEO and conversion copywriters agree: “Your website is not about you, it’s about your target group,” writes Laura (our translation). Google confirms: “Designing your site around your visitors’ needs while making sure your site is easily accessible to search engines usually produces positive results.”

And Alexander Holl elaborates on how SEO contributes to conversion optimisation by improving the user experience (our translation):

One aspect of optimisation that cannot always be attributed directly to (sustainable) search engine optimisation is that it also leads to better websites:

Improving page speed -> reduction in bounce rate, increase in pages/visit, higher conversions

Optimisation of internal linking -> reduction in bounce rate, increase in pages/visit, higher conversions

Better information architecture -> reduction in bounce rate, increase in pages/visit, higher conversions

Link marketing -> more relevant traffic, better and more relevant interconnectedness, higher trust

Keyword research -> development of a user-friendly information architecture

Snippet Optimisation -> analysis of the most important USPs

Optimisation always starts with thorough research

Nadine Stelzer, our German copyediting expert, says many marketing texts lack authenticity:

When focusing on too many voices, our own fades. Because the way we connect with the reader lacks humanity, the copy seems mechanical. This is all down to our fear of lost opportunities and external judgment, and lack of confidence in our own approach. The result being, we don’t end up reaching anyone. And then the copy has to be reconsidered, planned and rewritten.

SEO and conversion copywriting are based on research – which helps prevent this from happening. When we understand exactly who we’re speaking to, we can tap into our empathy and write authentically. Part of that research in both disciplines is discovering the stage the reader’s at in their decision-making process. It makes a big difference whether your audience is in a very early phase of research, comparing different options, or ready to hand over their credit card.

The Google Starter Guide includes an example from football:

Think about the words that a user might search for to find a piece of your content. Users who know a lot about the topic might use different keywords in their search queries than someone who is new to the topic. For example, a long-time football fan might search for “fifa”, an acronym for the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, while a new fan might use a more general query like “football playoffs”. Anticipating these differences in search behavior and accounting for them while writing your content (using a good mix of keyword phrases) could produce positive results.

This is where the Five Levels of Awareness from conversion copywriting come in handy. So we don’t get into an awkward situation where our ideas don’t match the CEO’s goals – as Joanna Wiebe explains:

… we don’t start by jotting down our own ideas. We don’t start by asking our CEO what they want to say. We start with research and discovery, with drumming up the data we need in order to understand what should be written and how to write it. Data is at the heart of conversion copywriting. Research and discovery is stage one of the process. In this stage, you identify what the market and specific segments in that market need to hear from you in order to do really basic things like pay even a tiny bit of attention to you and to do bigger things, like actually buy from you.

Micro-conversions are great performance indicators on your path to success

Both copywriting disciplines use micro-conversions to measure performance. Alexander Holl’s list gives a good overview of events that count as micro-conversions (our translation):

Marking content as ‘very helpful’

Creating a wish list

Subscribing to a newsletter

Leaving a review

Using a store locator

Visiting specific (strategically important) company or product pages

Requesting an information pack

He adds that in SEO, we use bounce rates, length of stay, pages per visit and conversion rates to determine how relevant the search result was for the search intent.

In contrast, conversion copywriting is more focused on the page itself: How convincing is the copy?

Headlines are even more important than you probably think

In SEO copywriting, it is important to use the chosen keywords in H1 and H2 headlines. Google also values “meaningful headings” that “indicate important topics, and help create a hierarchical structure for your content”.

Conversion copywriters nod in agreement with such statements. In fact, one frequent recommendation is to dedicate 80% of your writing time to the main headline and the remaining 20% to the rest of the copy. Nils Koppelmann explains why (our translation):

On average, 8 out of 10 visitors will read the headline. However, only 2 of those 10 will look at the rest of the page. So if you make the main headline sound enticing, you’ll get significantly more visitors to continue reading.

In other words, the headline “sells” the rest of the page. Another type of micro-conversion.

Optimisation is a continuous, iterative process

Search engines regularly revise their algorithms. Competitors improve their ranking. And your new content has to work in the context of all your previous SEO. These are just three of many reasons why search engine optimisation is never “finished”.

It’s the same with conversion copywriting: successful organisations work constantly to improve their messaging. Any copy you publish is an experiment on your path to increasing conversion rates: iteratively evaluating user behaviour data and optimising the copy accordingly.

Nils Koppelmann summarises this way of working succinctly (our translation): “Conversion optimisation is not a project, but a process.” And Joanna Wiebe confirms: “Once you complete an experiment, you then return to the first stage, because optimization is never done.”

If that leaves you thinking: “Phew, I’ll never be able to do that… our company doesn’t have enough time, money, know-how…” – we get it!

But there’s no better time to start than now. Every step – no matter how small – is a win that takes you closer to your goals.

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Checklist: SEO vs. Conversion Copywriting – what kind of support do you need right now?

You need SEO copywriting if…

  • You want to increase the number of organic visitors.
  • You want your website to appear as high as possible in search engines.
  • You want your app to appear as high as possible in the App Store or on Google Play – without paying for ads.
  • You want your video or podcast to appear as high as possible on YouTube, Vimeo or a similar platform.
  • You offer products on platforms like Amazon or Etsy and you want people to find them easily.
  • You want your hotel or guest room to be easy to find on a platform like or AirBnB.
  • Your website frequently appears in search results, but few people click on it.
  • You receive warnings about your website from Google or another search engine.

You need conversion copywriting if…

  • You want to increase the number of micro and macro conversions: newsletter subscriptions, orders, subscriptions, signatures, etc.
  • You get enough organic traffic but visits aren’t converting to sales.
  • You don’t want your sales page or landing page to appear in search engine results because that kind of traffic would mess with your marketing strategy.
  • Your copy is not indexed by search engines — as in most email sequences, for example.
  • You care less about traffic and more about authority or being seen as a “thought leader”.
  • You want to work out your entire messaging strategy to make sure it resonates with the “right” people – and fosters a relationship with them: as customers, supporters, members or subscribers.
  • You want to know how to optimise your offer so that people not only find it, but also want to take you up on it.

At From Scratch, we can support you with both SEO and conversion copywriting.

Book an Impact Day for efficient, results-focused work on your copy.

Or get strategic advice and continuous improvement via the High Fidelity programme.

But first, let’s get to know each other on a video call! Get in touch and let us know how we can help.