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Brands and businesses, now more than ever, need to tell their story. Why is it important? A story helps appeal to and attract audiences, convert leads, build trust, and create meaningful connections with customers.

How a business tells their story determines the success or failure of their marketing efforts.

There are two distinct ways of doing this, either using written content or copy.

The two methods of content creation involve putting down words with a clear end goal. They both need to capture a reader’s attention, be memorable, and drive some kind of conversion.

Unfortunately, many people assume that these two forms of writing are the same and can be used interchangeably; however, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Although the two remain interconnected in multiple ways, copywriting and content writing have distinct differences that make up the building blocks for each, and that’s what brings us here today.

What is Copywriting Vs Content Writing?

Copywriting is the art of writing marketing material that drives conversions and sales. It uses straightforward language to prompt customers to take immediate action, like persuading them to make purchases, subscribe to services, or share vital information.

On the other hand, content writing involves drafting materials that drive productive engagement.

Content writing uses emotional language to reach out to an audience, inform, educate or engage them. Unlike copywriting, content writing isn’t laser-focused on driving sales.

Differentiating Copywriting and Content Writing

In the table below, we highlight the main differences between copywriting and content writing:

Copywriting Content Writing
Purpose Sales-driven Engagement-driven
Form Short-form content Long-form content
Brand voice Copywriters must use a consistent brand voice across different forms of copy A content writer doesn’t have to use a consistent brand voice
Time Instant results Long-term engagement
SEO knowledge Basic SEO understanding Expert-level SEO skills

Sales-driven Vs Engagement driven

The main goal of copywriting is to craft compelling messages that persuade readers to make decisions about the sales process. Copywriters can use dramatic language (buy this!) to achieve this goal or take a subtler route (please share).

Content in copywriting is written with urgency and communicates your product or service’s appeal fast and effectively. As a result, you can rely on copy written content to make a sale now.

A copywriter will bypass talking about your brand and take a persuasive approach to convince readers that they need your products and services, now!

Conversely, content writing answers specific questions or provides solutions to particular problems. Its main purpose is to offer noncommercial value to readers and promote brand loyalty, using friendly and informative content.

Content writing is appropriate when you’re looking to build momentum for your content marketing campaign and make a sale in due time. A content writer uses indirect methods and emotional language to appeal to prospects and build meaningful relationships.

Short Form vs Long-Form Content

Content is the backbone of every successful digital marketing strategy, whether it’s search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, social media marketing (SMM), or email marketing.

These different strategies bring about the need for various types of content to fulfill the purpose of each content creation strategy.

Copywriters are expected to use few words and not take a lot of time to convince readers to take a desired action. Therefore, they write clear and concise marketing material that tells a businesses’ story in a powerful way, increases engagement, and conversion rates.

Examples of copywritten material include:

  • Product pages
  • Website sales copy
  • Social media posts
  • Sales emails
  • PPC landing pages
  • PPC ads
  • Cost-per-mile (CPM) ads
  • Short Message Services (SMS) ads

Content writers are tasked with writing well-researched, lengthy content that provides their audience with value. Considering the purpose of content writing, it’s difficult to inform or educate a reader with short and precise content.

Some good content examples include:

  • Blog posts
  • White papers
  • eBooks
  • News articles
  • Case studies
  • Evergreen articles
  • Social media posts
  • Direct mail
  • Infographics
  • User guides
  • Video scripts

Brand Voice

A brand’s unique voice is essential for achieving its marketing goals. It tells the audience who the brand is, what they stand for, what drives them, and allows the reader to recognize and relate to your brand across multiple platforms.

Effective marketing copy requires a copywriter to wholly embody a brand’s voice in order to communicate a sales message. The voice used in copywriting is one-directional and strategic. It also lacks empathy and doesn’t encompass the copywriter’s personality.

Content writing is multi-directional and allows content writers to include some personality and voice in their work. A content writer must appeal to the emotions of prospective readers, and they need not mention a brand’s name or products.

However, they must position the brand as an authority and grant them credibility.

Content writers aim to create a connection by weaving empathy into their writing while prompting engagement by including some personality in the content they produce.

Short-term Vs Long-term Content Strategy

Copywriters draft content with the intention of eliciting action. To succeed as a copywriter, you must master the art of threading scarcity and urgency into an ad, headline, CTA, direct mail, or social media post.

Copywriting results in immediate sales or engagement, provided the copywriter has used the right language to convince a potential client that the product or service will solve their problem.

Contrarily, content writers aim to drive organic traffic to sell later. As a long-term content marketing strategy, content writers provide brands and businesses with content that:

  • Attracts an audience
  • Engages them
  • Helps the audience solve problems
  • Lays the groundwork for future sales

Blogs, white papers, and eBooks are effective long-term content strategies that achieve the above content goals and build trust for a brand. When trust is established, the content eventually starts paying off and ends up providing value over a long period.

Different Levels of SEO Understanding

SEO is the process of optimizing copy or content to ensure it ranks highly on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).

A basic understanding of SEO is sufficient for copywriters to help them target competitive search terms and phrases that an audience uses often.

Some copywriters have advanced SEO knowledge and are known as SEO copywriters.

As an SEO copywriter, you leverage your SEO knowledge to persuade search engines to rank your website on the first SERP. You can go even further and structure landing pages to persuade leads to convert.

SEO is a significant and essential concept in content writing for several reasons:

  • It provides your audience with value
  • It generates organic inbound traffic and multiple leads
  • Leads to many backlinks

Accordingly, a content writer must be stellar at SEO to be able to choose and use the right keywords for a business website to rank highly on search engines.

Do Copywriting and Content Writing Go Together?

Every brand needs both copywriting and content writing services to stay relevant and achieve a business’s strategic goals. Businesses need content writing for branding and copywriting for marketing.

Copywriting and content writing are like two sides of one coin. Although you cannot use them interchangeably, you need both to succeed.

Even the pros at Copyblogger know this and insist that “Copywriting without content is a waste of good content, and content writing without copy is a waste of good copy.”

Can A Content Writer Be A Copywriter?

Yes. But you will need to put in the time, effort, and practice to learn and develop the desired skill set for both. Unlike many assume, great content writers aren’t necessarily great copywriters and vice versa.

If you’re just starting your career as a copywriter, you can sign up for Small Revolution’s eCommerce Copywriting Course. We’ll teach you how to utilize your writing and marketing skills to write powerful and effective sales copy.

E-commerce copywriting course by Small Revolution poster

We also have an SEO Copywriting Course to help you advance your copywriting career. The one-month course compresses 10 years of content marketing experience and teaches you how to write content for clients, audiences, and search engines.


Photo by Shurkin_son / CC BY

Author

I'm Katrina McKinnon, founder of McKinnon Group and Small Revolution. I'm using my 20 years' experience in building and operating online businesses to create engaging educational materials that helps others become successful online workers. Find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.