Copywriting vs Content Writing: What are the Key Differences and How to Choose the One That’s Right For You?
Copywriting is essential to every business’s marketing strategy. Your website, ads, social media, emails, and more will all need a copy, and the entire profession has been around long before the internet dominated traditional advertising.
But with the rise in digital marketing, content became king. Content is an important part of search engine optimization (SEO) and organic traffic for businesses. With that came content writing, which is distinct from copywriting.
Let’s examine the differences between copywriting and content writing, why it matters, and which is the right choice for you.
Copy StatisticsThere’s no question that copy is essential to your business. The words you put out for your business have a direct impact on your customer retention, conversion rate, and brand reputation.
Here are some statistics to drive the point home:
- Copy has twice the impact on landing page conversions than design
- Pages with bad grammar have an 85% higher bounce rate
- Personalized CTAs perform 202% better than basic CTAs
- Businesses with effective writers can get up to 7.8X more traffic
What’s the Difference Between Copy and Content?While many think copy and content are the same, that’s far from the truth.
In a nutshell, the difference between copy and content is that content is used in marketing, while the copy is used in advertising. This gets complicated because advertising is part of marketing. You can create marketing content without a copy, but all marketing copy is content.
Copy is the text that may be used to hook the customer’s interest or convince them to take an action, such as signing up for an email list, making a purchase, or subscribing to a service. The purpose of the words is where the difference lies.
So, content may contain copy, but overall, it’s information that’s being delivered to the audience with a purpose. This could be for entertainment, humour, art, advertising, or awareness – but there’s always a purpose.
Content can also be more than words. Infographics, sounds, videos, images, animations, and other visual creations are technical content. A copy will always be words and words alone.
Content marketing can comprise a number of mediums, including:
- Videos on YouTube
- Articles or case studies
- Social media posts
- Marketing emails
Copywriting vs. Content Writing Examples
Copywriting is about convincing people with concise and powerful words and phrases. Ultimately, copywriting is trying to sell with strategic words. Some examples of copywriting include:
- Social media ads
- PPC ads
- Display ads
- Landing pages for ads
- Product or service page copy
- Sales emails
- Website forms
- CTA buttons
- Web menus
- Video scripts
- Chatbot scripts
In some cases, copywriting has to be powerful in the fewest words possible, like with CTAs or headlines. Every word counts, and it takes a strong understanding of the emotional impact, brand strategy, and the audience to deliver.
A Microcopy is specific to user experience (UX) design and it includes all the small bits of copy that help the user find their way to the action the creator wants them to complete. The action isn’t always sales – it could be navigating to the next page, completing signup, and more.
Content writing is used to educate or entertain the audience, providing information for them while boosting brand awareness and authority. Ideally, the content serves the audience’s needs and prompts them to return to learn more, building a lot of potential leads.
Examples of content writing include:
- Complete guides
- How-to articles
- Case studies
- Op-ed pieces
- Social media captions
- Website “about” pages
- FAQ pages
Content writing uses a combination of branding, emotions, storytelling, and SEO. It’s also less direct in its ROI, since the audience may encounter a lot of content over a long period before completing an action.
For this reason, content writing is more about providing value, not prompting immediate action. Businesses should be using content writing to help their customers, gaining the benefits of better brand awareness, brand loyalty, brand authority, organic traffic, and eventually, a completed action.
Are Content Writers Copywriters?
A content writer is NOT a copywriter. The purpose of content and copy is different, so the writing and the writer are different.
Of course, many copywriters can also write content and vice versa. Writers tend to specialize in certain areas or industries, which is usually what they do best, but they likely have broader writing skillsets.
6 Key Differences Between Copywriting and Content Writing
1. Copywriters Sell – Content Writers Inform
Copy is used to make the sale – the goal is persuasion. Content does all the rest, attracting the audience, holding attention, demonstrating a business’s ability to solve problems, and laying the groundwork for future sales.
2. Copywriting Uses Emotions and Urgency – Content Writing Uses Engagement
Copywriters are trying to inspire immediate action, such as buying a product, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading an asset. This means leveraging urgency and scarcity into a headline or short copy to get fast action.
Content writers are trying to build engagement with the audience and position the brand as a reliable and trustworthy source of information.
3. Content Writers Focus More on SEO
While SEO may be part of copywriting, it’s not the focus. Content writers need to consider SEO in virtually everything they do, and most topics come from search terms and keywords that align with business goals.
If you’re considering a content writer, the best way to tell if they excel at SEO is by looking for optimization in their content. The keyword should be found throughout the copy, in the headline or title, and through subheadings.
4. Copywriting Is Short-Form – Content Writing Is Long-Form
As mentioned, copywriters are responsible for a lot of short-form copy that requires a great deal of precision with words, like ads, slogans, and taglines. Content writers focus more on a long-form copy, such as blog posts, articles, magazine features, whitepapers, and newsletters. While some of these may overlap, you can see the clear difference between them.
5. Copywriting Is More Measurable Than Content Writing
The effectiveness of a copywriter is pretty clear when you look at the metrics. An ad with a lot of open rates and click-through rates is a good indicator that the writing is effective.
Content isn’t always as obvious, especially in the short term. SEO and content marketing takes time to see returns – they’re about building a foundation for the future. Likewise, the benefits gained from content have a longer shelf life and continuous payoffs compared to an ad or tagline.
6. Content Writing Drives Organic Traffic – Copywriting Turns Traffic into Leads
Instead of viewing content writing and copywriting as a rivalry or competition, it’s important to understand that they’re two sides of the same coin. Content writers drive organic traffic, which copywriters can convert into leads or sales.
A Note About Grammar
Before we get into this, let’s be clear – grammatical errors should be avoided as much as possible, no matter the type of writing. There’s no excuse for not proofreading your writing and correcting typos, transposed words, and simple mistakes like using “you’re” when you meant “your.”
Grammar has a big impact on your audience and often disrupts the flow of the piece, not to mention that it reflects poorly on your brand. If you don’t have the attention to detail to proof your own work, what kind of dedication do you put into your products and customers?
Now, here’s the thing – copywriting allows for some grammatical errors. Copywriting doesn’t have to be perfect to be effective. In fact, sometimes grammatical errors can be used to be more emphatic or persuasive, such as with incomplete sentences.
This is also done for practical reasons since some ads and other short copies have tight word counts. The only way to include all the pertinent information is to remove some unnecessary words or punctuation, but the point is still getting across to the customer. You may also have a copy that uses grammatical errors as a way of sounding more conversational and aligning with the brand voice, such as saying “got a minute?”
This doesn’t usually apply to content. You have plenty of words for content, so there’s less of a need to remove unnecessary words to fit a tight word count. Grammatical errors are also more likely to be disruptive to readers when they’re coming across them in a 500-word piece vs. a short ad.
How to Get the Writing You Need
If all this talk of copywriting and content writing has you concerned about your own marketing efforts for your business, relax! Copy is important, and so is content, but you can get both with your current resources.
1. Learn to Write
Writing content isn’t the same as writing a dissertation for an English PhD or a bestselling novel. You also have a unique advantage – you know your product and business better than anyone else. If you can pitch your business or product to a customer, you can write about it.
Now the fun begins. All you need from that point is some solid writing skills, which you can gain through online writing courses. You can also find a lot of pointers and advice from free resources, such as blogs and SEO newsletters.
You also have plenty of tools at your disposal, such as Grammarly. You can use these tools to improve your writing and correct grammatical errors. Then, proofread yourself to find mistakes, awkward sentences, and inconsistencies. You will improve over time.
2. Hire Professional Writers
If all else fails and you really can’t write for your business, consider outsourcing your writing to professional writers at an agency. With most agencies, you have the added benefit of dedicated content writers and copywriters, as well as writers with niche experience.
Writing is professional work, so it should be done by professionals. Even if you have the writing skills, devoting your time to your own writing takes away from time running your business, and that can lead to mistakes, delays, and burnout.
Remember, the writing you put out for your business is an investment. Potential customers will encounter your copy and content online, and they’re judging your business by it. Make sure you make the right impression.
When Should You Hire a Content Writer vs. a Copywriter?
If you choose to outsource your writing, you will need to determine which type of writer you need. Both content writers and copywriters will be well-versed in marketing principles and will understand your audience and how to speak to them.
Beyond these skills, the talent of a copywriter vs. a content writer is different. Copywriters have a thorough understanding of how to leverage emotions to make a sale and may have a background in advertising. Content writers have an understanding of how to use language and storytelling to plant a seed with the audience and provide relevant information. Content writers may have a background in creative writing or journalism.
So, you should hire a copywriter when you need to sell. A skilled copywriter can create copy that drives sales for your business and knows how to communicate your value to prospects. Most copywriters have familiarity with different industries and target markets, so they understand how to use keywords and sell within a few short lines of copy.
When you want to engage, turn to the content writer. A good content writer can tell a story and provide value to your customers. Many content writers have a thorough understanding of SEO and know how to include keywords within the content without sounding unnatural or disrupting the flow of the story.
Copywriting is done to sell and content writing is driven by storytelling. There’s a time to convince, persuade, and convert, and a time to be in it for the customer. As you craft your marketing strategy and set goals for your projects, you can determine what needs copywriting and what needs content writing for success. Then, writers that have an impressive copywriting portfolio will help you choose the right type of writer who can help you execute your strategy and connect with your customers.