Whether you are a business owner, marketer, or customer casually browsing the internet, you often encounter the terms copywriting and content writing. And when you do, some questions inevitably come to mind.
Do they mean the same things? If not, how are they different?
There are those who think that the two terms are identical and use them interchangeably. Others are on the opposite end of the spectrum. The truth is somewhere in between, as both marketing techniques share enough similarities and differences that some confusion is understandable.
But before settling this content writing vs. copywriting debate once and for all, take a look at each marketing tool separately.
What is Copywriting?
Copywriting has been around for as long as businesses have been trying to convince consumers to buy their products or services. It is a part of a long and rich tradition in advertising and marketing, taking on many forms from radio ads to print collateral to commercial jingles.
With the emergence of the internet and many other marketing channels, copywriting has evolved significantly and maintained its relevance. It has shifted to modern advertising platforms such as search engine ads, display ads, web development, landing pages, and other forms of digital marketing.
It is clear that as technology continues to advance, copywriting will evolve accordingly. But there is one thing that will not change:
A copy, in whatever shape or form, needs to sell with urgency.
To do this, a copywriter needs to send the target audience a message powerful enough to compel them into taking profitable action. To be more specific, the reader must be persuaded to buy a product or hire a service immediately after an encounter with the copy.
What is Content Writing?
Content writing has the same marketing goals as copywriting, which is to influence potential customers into taking profitable action. However, the journey it takes is not as straightforward.
Initially, content is meant to help its target audience meet a specific need, which could mean many different things, depending on the searcher. It could be in the form of information that answers relevant questions about a product, service, or the industry it belongs to, or an entertaining piece that generates more interest in a given topic.
In general, content is something useful to the searcher, but does it help a business? The answer is a definite “YES,” and here’s how:
While it is true that content writing is focused more on providing a solution as opposed to making a sales pitch, it succeeds in achieving one important thing – building trust between your brand and your target audience.
Content writing presents a unique challenge of its own in that it has to attract your target audience and convert them into loyal customers without openly selling the products or services that you offer.
The best content writers are adept at telling a compelling story about your brand without mentioning its name explicitly, making you an impartial and credible authority in the industry. This gives you a higher chance of converting visitors into customers and customers into repeat buyers.
Content Writing vs. Copywriting: What is the Difference?
While both marketing tools aim to generate traffic and convert leads, they go about it in distinct ways.
Purpose: Content Informs While Copy Sells
In its purest form, content writing is not meant to directly sell a specific product, service, or brand. Above all, it is designed to help consumers meet a particular need.
In the context of a B2B or B2C market, this means providing information that helps the target audience make a decision, whether it is choosing which products a consumer should buy or determining which service provider a company should hire.
Content writing generates the idea and tries to influence, but its attempt at selling a product or service is not explicit.
In contrast, copywriting is much more direct with its efforts in selling. An effective copy convinces the target audience that they need a specific product or service, compels them to click the button and propels them toward a decision, which is to make a purchase.
The immediate response is an online purchase, a call to schedule an appointment or consultation, or whatever your marketing goal is.
Method: Content Educates While Copy Persuades
For every copywriter, the goal is to induce a sense of urgency and encourage a strong emotional response, enough to compel a reader to take action immediately, whether it is to buy a product, download a file, sign up for a newsletter, or any other action that will lead to profit.
It is not enough to convince the target audience that they need your product over all the other brands, but that they need it now.
On the other hand, content writing aims to build an engaged audience by establishing trust between your business and the reader. The best way to do this is by creating content that positions your brand as a reliable and credible source of information in the industry.
Results: Copywriting is More Immediate While Content is Long Term
While content writing is more focused on providing information, its ultimate goal is still to convert. An increase in sales is the eventual consequence of effective content, making it a long term but nonetheless effective approach.
It may be a bit trickier to measure the return on investment for content writing as its effect is not as immediate, but the impact is both substantial and undeniable. It generates organic traffic to your website, which ultimately leads to more conversions. It is a great way to level the playing field, especially for brands that have not yet gained traction in the market.
On the other hand, copywriting is more appropriate for achieving big returns in a short period. A great copy has the ability to tap into an overwhelming need that exists in every potential customer as they actively search for an immediate solution.
You can tell right away if the ad written by a copywriter is effective based on key metrics such as click-through rates and open rates and you can adjust your campaign accordingly.
Style: Content is Usually Long-Form Whereas Copy is Short-Form
A copywriter usually writes short-form materials such as ads, slogans, taglines, billboards, catalogs, TV and radio commercials, jingle lyrics, and other copy of similar nature.
In contrast, content writers produce articles, blog posts, e-books, newspaper pieces, magazine features, podcasts, and content for film or TV. In some instances, it overlaps with the material written by a copywriter, but the idea is that content is usually longer than a copy.
Optimization: Content is More Focused on SEO than a Copy
While there is such a thing as SEO copywriting, content writing is more focused on the optimization process. It is an inbound marketing strategy designed to generate more organic traffic as opposed to the more immediate increase in sales that copywriting drives.
Content is optimized to maximize positive user experience while increasing your page’s visibility to search engines. In this regard, a content’s SEO process is similar to laying the groundwork for sustained sales in the future.
Immediate Impact: Content Generates Traffic While Copy Drives Sales
Driving organic traffic is what keeps content marketers up at night, while copywriters are more focused on converting these visits into customers or high-quality leads.
In this paradigm, there are some overlaps between the two, as each strategy can contribute to both marketing goals. At the end of the day, an increase in sales is the ultimate goal of both activities. This fact blurs the line further and contributes more to the confusion when it comes to discussing content writing vs. copywriting.
Still, marketing experts would love to give you the best of both worlds with one strategy or the other, but the fact remains that content is best for generating organic traffic while a copy is best at selling a product or service.
It is easy to confuse content writing with copywriting. Hopefully, the above differences can help you distinguish one from the other better.
Content Writing vs. Copywriting: Which One Do You Need?
If you look closely, the difference between content writing and copywriting is night and day, at least when it comes to significant metrics.
“Content generates traffic, whereas copy converts. This premise may sound too simplistic, but it is fairly accurate.” – Chris Genge, President
Each strategy is capable of achieving the other’s goal, but it may be limited in its effectiveness. Consumer behavior is too complex that there is no single solution that fits all. You could not use just one tactic and expect to get the best of both worlds. This brings us to the next important question: Which one do you need more?
The answer to this question depends on your business situation. If you have a website that is struggling to attract visitors and you are having trouble reaching your target audience, then content marketing is a better option. It would help build your brand image and put you top of mind with potential customers. The return is not immediately visible, but implement it well and your brand will be on its way to becoming an industry leader.
On the other hand, if you have many visitors but it does not translate to more sales profit, then copywriting would help you more in achieving your business goal. It can help convert readers into high-quality leads and paying customers.
It is important to note that there is a time to inform people and help them find the solution to a problem, but there is also a time to convince, persuade, then convert them. Part of a sustainable business strategy is to give and take – you have to give so you can get something in return.
The best way to ensure the success of your business is by using both strategies.
You must invest in content that delivers value to your target audience with no strings attached, or at least none that are too obvious. However, you must also build on this foundation and try to reel them in with a persuasive copy. If you a more effective solution, you must be efficient in both strategies.