Copywriting vs content writing – Know the difference and how to choose the right one for you

Last checked and updated on December 23, 2021

It’s no surprise that most writers have their own specialty and forte. While some may create copy, others create content. You may be asking, well isn’t it all the same? Aren’t words just words?

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The short answer is no. Writing is not just writing. There are many types of writing (and writers) and we’re about to discover the differences between them.

The terms copywriting and content writing are often confused as being one in the same. However, these two writing staples are hardly interchangeable as they are actually quite different in the individual purposes they each provide.

Getting to know the difference between the two will help ensure you not only know which will best suit the needs of your project, but it will help you hire the right person for the job. But first let’s define copy and content so you have a clear understanding of the differences between the two.

Copy vs. Content

A catchy phrase that writers have used over the years to help them remember the distinction between copy and content is: Copy sells, content tells.

Copy is short-form language that is meant to sell. Copy is written to draw attention from the reader and asks the reader to take action. The lofty tone of copy is also all about YOU and works as a one-way communication.

Content is long-form language that is meant to teach or inform. It is genuine and empathetic in tone and is created to entertain the reader and draw the reader’s attention by providing information. Content is all about your prospects  and is more conversational than copy.

What is copywriting?

Now that you are clear on the difference between copy and content, let’s define copywriting. Copywriting is using words to sell people on a certain brand, idea or ideology. It is all about persuasion and the power of using words to sell. You are creating something that will persuade and entice your reader to do something to benefit your sales or business.

Think of copywriting as the sales voice that calls to your potential clients. It is marketing and promotional copy used to convince your readers that they need a product or service. 

Your reader will need to trust that you are genuine in your messaging and have something they need. In a way copywriting may feel less personal and strictly business. The copy tends to be more direct with the underlying intent to sell a product or service and should include a call to action.

Some examples of where you will find copywriting are:

  • Sales emails
  • Marketing emails
  • Website sales copy
  • Paid advertisements
  • Postcards

Do you see the common denominator? Copywriting is tied to sales and the benefits to your business.

What is content writing?

Content writing is the art of creating content and using storytelling to breathe life into a business. Content writing targets entertaining or educating your audience. It is all about the showmanship, the storytelling, the art of informing without the sale pitchy feel tied to copywriting. This type of writing works to build a trust factor with your reader.

Examples of content writing include:

  • Blogs
  • Newsletters
  • Articles in magazines
  • White papers
  • e-books
  • Social media posts
  • Scripts for podcasts or videos

The commonality here is the entertainment or informative intent behind these types of pieces.

Who to hire: copywriter vs. content writer

Now that your project is ready to go, you will need to decide which type of writer to hire to get the job done right. First, consider the scope of your project and the intent. 

What do you hope to gain with the copy you are requesting? Regardless of who is writing, you want the copy to attract the reader and keep their interest. Once you are clear on what you want, then you are ready to decide on who to hire.

When to call a copywriter

Contact a copywriting agency if you are looking to sell something on your website through the use of ads, emails or direct response mail. They can create copy— usually using short-form style—to help raise awareness about your brand or if you want to create educational materials.

If you are looking to drive sales or entice lead generation with your copy, then a copywriter is what you need. Writing that is meant to compel action should be sent to copywriters. Common content types include advertisements, brochures, city pages, landing pages, print ads and collateral, website copy, and more. The effectiveness of their writing can usually be measured in the short-term.

What makes a good copywriter?

Finding the right writer is like hitting the jackpot. A good copywriter should offer some or all of the following:

  • They understand the audience
  • They use the right voice for your brand
  • The have the talent to explain complex ideas in a simple way
  • They understand SEO
  • They can craft short-form copy that sells

If you’re interested in learning how to write your own copy as a business owner or transition into a career as a copywriter, take online copywriting courses and hone these skills.

When to call a content writer

Content writers create content used to create connections and educate and inform the reader. This is their main goal. They write using the long-form style and will often have expert knowledge of SEO. The effectiveness of their writing typically is a longer-term strategy. 

What makes a good content writer?

The best content writer for the job should be able to offer some or all of the following attributes:

They can effectively create long-form content that makes an impression

They write in a way the keeps the reader engaged

They organise content in the most relevant way

This one vs. that one 

To conclude, let’s do a quick review of the differences discussed above between copywriting and content writing.

Copywriting is used to entice the reader to take some sort of action that will benefit your business, whereas content writing is used to inform the reader.

When done correctly, copywriting will offer some sort of a solution to the reader…it is a problem solver! It will not only speak to the reader, but its purpose is to lead them to the next source through a call to action. This could be a sales funnel or place to purchase products or services.

Brand engagement is also tied to copywriting—and good copywriting can persuade and has the power to influence the reader. Your reader should feel compelled to take it one step beyond the current page and click to other pages of offers that will benefit your business.

Content is your go-to when you are seeking a longer-form piece used to entertain or educate your reader. This content will have a long-term influence over the reader and should gain their trust, as it is typically written in an empathetic and genuine tone. 

Ready, set, write!

Knowing the difference between copywriting and content writing is the first step to ensure you receive the best possible copy for your project. And hiring the right type of writer to create your copy is based on this knowledge. 

Though copywriting and content writing may seem interchangeable, they each clearly serve distinct purposes which are designed to impact your business or goals. 

And while you may find a writer who is capable of creating both copy and content, having the knowledge of who is the best fit is always a step in the right direction.

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