Copywriting vs. Content Writing: What Is the Difference?

Copywriting vs. Content Writing: What Is the Difference?

Copywriting and content writing are often mistaken one for another.

Although they overlap because they are two peas in a pod, they are different disciplines. Let’s put it this way:

While copywriting is always content writing, content writing isn’t always copywriting.

We hear you. It broke our brains as well.

Above all, why should you be interested in learning the differences?

For starters, if you’re a writer, this article is for you. Not only is it worth knowing where you blend in with your set of skills, but it’s also professional. As a result, your clients will be satisfied because you’ll deliver what they want.

Still, this post is further meant for website owners. In particular if your future marketing strategies include site enhancement, strengthening your online presence, running projects or campaigns. You’ll understand what type of writer suits your needs best and what to look for.

whether you need services of a copywriter or a content writer depends on your business goals and marketing strategy

The clarification between content writing and copywriting arises with comprehension of their individual writing purposes and challenges.

What Is Copywriting?

Copywriting is an activity or occupation of writing the text of advertisements or publicity materials.

Google Dictionary

Although it’s safe to say that copywriting is as old as the human capability to express thoughts in a written form, copywriting was initially used in books in 1818.

However, copywriting itself didn’t become popular until 1897.

Considered as the father of modern creative marketing, John Emory Powers was the world’s first full-time copywriter. He started out his copywriting career in the 1870s and wrote ads for two department stores before becoming a freelancer in 1886.

The most interesting fact is that the Powers’ style is advised to apply in the modernistic content writing. Powers was best known for his focus on the facts. Also, he used simple language and avoided exaggerations and fine writing because he regarded it as offensive. His writing-style was also known as the “reason-why”.

Image of the Powers' copywriting style
Power’s style magazine ad for Murphy Varnish Co. Source: Wikipedia

But, where does copywriting stand today?

New era marketers use copywriting to call the audience to take action, which brings us to its purpose.

What Is the Purpose of Copywriting?

Copywriting is the art of forceful and attractive persuasion through the use of emotional appeal.

An excellent copywriter crafts compelling conversational stories with one single intent in mind: to convince consumers to take immediate action. Nonetheless, that action can be subscribing to newsletters, downloading resources, buying products or using services, etc.

In general, copywriting is most utilized to create convincing ads, sales letters, email campaigns, pay-per-click (PPC) landing pages, etc.

Since copywriting is interactive, marketeers apply it to fulfil direct short-term marketing goals.

An infograph on how b2b marketers changed their use of content types and formats compared with one year ago
Source: Content Marketing Institute

Why Is Copywriting Important?

Although the specific goal is to sell or “sell”, the role of copywriting is branding.

Effective copies tell consumers why your brand matters and what can it do for them. In this way, you raise brand-awareness, but also strengthen the brand.

And that’s where best copywriters come into the scene.

image showing that copywriting is just one small portion of content writing

What Does a Copywriter Do?

A proficient and superb copywriter identifies what the targeted audience needs and wants to hear in order to take action.

Think about an avid book reader. What would make that person WANT TO BUY a new thriller novel? Hearing that the story is thrilling and chilling? They all are, so what now?

To achieve business marketing goals, a copywriter must:

  • Understand the addressed audience.
  • Apply the correct brand voice to address the readers and connect with them.
  • Create persuasive short-form content.
  • Use simple language to design impressive and enticing copies.
  • Have a firm grasp of SEO.

90% of top-performing B2B content marketers put audience’s informational needs first. (Content Marketing Institute, 2019)

What Is Content Writing?

Unlike copywriting, content writing (CW) is a bit younger and not as nearly as famous or popular. Not even today.

In the past, the term content writing was used for all forms of written content other than advertising. Now, CW refers to web content created to educate, entertain, instruct or inform the audience.

What Is the Purpose of Content Writing?

Used for targeted audience engagement, CW serves to create trust between consumers and the brand, but also to develop readers’ interest in products or services.

96% most successful B2B content marketers say audiences view their company as trusted resource. (Content Marketing Institute, 2019)

Content writing revolves around:

  • ebooks,
  • blogs,
  • social media posts, and
  • other forms of web content that are meant to be viral or at least shared enough.

Its purpose is to compose free but rich and valuable content that reaches the audience. At the same time, that content makes them want to spend more time on a blog or website.

As a result, the more interest someone develops in your content, the more likely is that person to engage with your brand.

image of a quote saying that copywriting talks to people while content writing talks with people
We refurbished a quote from Doug Kessler: “Traditional marketing speaks to people. Content marketing speaks with people.”

Why Is Content Writing Important?

Content writing intervenes where copywriting fails or needs a little push.

But, wait a minute! Why would outstanding copywriting flunk in the first place?

Because people are tired of ads.

Wanna watch a movie? No problem, here’s 15min of it and another 45min of commercials. Hell to the no!

Netflix didn’t gain notoriety cause of its cute tiny ads, but because they recognized the users’ need for someone to respect their comfort zone. No person wants to be sold something the whole time.

In fact, consumers were the ones to dictate the loom of content writing for two reasons:

  1. Creative copywriting didn’t deliver the expected value. (Too much ado over nothing.)
  2. Less confusion and better choice-making between several brands that advertise the same way in their LOB. (For example, which sneakers to buy if all labels describe their products as the best of the best, etc.).

Of course, customers couldn’t have done this on their own. It was Google who first realized that consumers are becoming an enormous part of marketing. Hence, Google developers helped users get what they really want — value.

Smart businesses chose to comply.

55% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority. (HubSpot, 2018)

Marketers who prioritize blogging efforts are 13x more likely to see positive ROI. (HubSpot, 2019)

81% of B2B companies use blog as a content marketing tactic. (Content Marketing Institute, 2016)

43% of B2B marketers say blogging is their most important type of content. (Social Marketing Industry Report, 2017)

So, what must a powerful content writer do to attract and engage the audience?

What Does a Content Writer Do?

Unlike copywriters, content writers have more experience when it comes to online-marketing strategies. Thereby, they’re able to develop captivating content for:

  • social media platforms,
  • ebooks,
  • emails,
  • websites, and
  • blogs.

To produce valuable content, a content writer must:

  • Understand and use SEO to maximize the search engine visibility.
  • Create shareable long-form content.
  • Focus on resolving problems.
  • Provide skimmable and readable composition.
  • Have a strong grasp of language and grammar.
  • Edit, edit and edit content for clarity.
  • Offer rich expertise.
  • Use creative yet simple vocabulary to keep the audience interested.
  • Perform thorough research and link sources to increase the credibility of both the content and the brand.
  • Know how to turn existing text into an infinite stream of fresh content.
  • Comprehend how to re-purpose outdated and inefficient content.

Content writing is hard labor. A clever and resourceful content writer takes hundreds of calculations into account to come up with the perfect equation. We also have an article that will help you understand what it means to be a real content writer.

But copywriting is equally important.

Final Thoughts

Whether you should opt copywriting or content writing depends on your business goals. Both disciplines have their individual advantages in terms of purpose. However, research results show that the perfect combination of both gives the best long-term performance.

The sole use of copywriting wastes good marketing opportunities. Consumers want to understand how your brand can help them. They require proof and reassurance they can believe in the words you’re selling them. At the same time, you can’t always reveal to the customers that your primary intention is to sell, because readers will run from you like the plague. That’s where content writing steps in.

But, be careful.

Keep in mind that your fundamental aim shouldn’t be search engine visibility. If you rely solely on SEO, you will compromise content quality. Likewise, if your only concern is to battle the competition, you risk losing readers. Since the purpose of content writing is to deliver value to your audience, that’s exactly what you need to do.

And while you’re at it, incorporate smart copywriting into your content writing. Steer your audience through connected blog posts. Ask them to subscribe, leave comments or download a free resource.

That being said, share your thoughts in the comment section below. We’d love to know your opinion on this matter. Which is more important when it comes to success, copywriting or content writing?

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