Both copywriting and content writing play an important role in the marketing strategy of virtually all successful businesses. Together, they enable businesses to find and engage new prospects, convert them into paying customers, and build sustainable long-term relationships that drive value for all parties.
But many executives––and even marketers––lack clarity when it comes to the distinction between copywriting and content writing. This can result in hiring the wrong type of writers, writing that fails to connect with your target audiences, and ultimately, marketing strategies that don’t deliver the results you need.
There’s no hard line between copywriting and content writing; it’s a spectrum, and different types and styles of writing fall at different points along this scale. But if you want your marketing campaigns to deliver optimal results, it’s important that you understand some of the key distinctions between the two types of writing, and know how, when, and where to apply them across your marketing stack.
Let’s take a closer look at the key differences between copywriting and content writing, and break down what you should look for when working with both types of writers.
What is Copywriting?
One way to think of copywriting is any writing that directly relates to sales or marketing. Effective copywriting drives action from those who read it: whether that’s signing up for a demo call, buying a product or service, or even something as simple as entering their email address.
Copywriting talks directly about the features and benefits of a product or service, and imbues meaningful emotions that inspire the actions that convert prospects into paying customers. Examples of copywriting include:
- Advertising - both online and offline
- Landing pages
- Prospecting and transactional emails
- Sales materials, including letters, slide decks, and more
- Scripts for audio and video advertising - like podcasts and TV ads
What is Content Writing?
Content writing informs, entertains, and engages readers. One of the primary goals of content writing is to drive new traffic to a website, which is achieved through a close focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Done well, content writing enables businesses to build relationships with prospective customers and portray themselves as the experts in their field. Great content provides a lot of value to readers, educates them on topics they care about, and subtly nudges audiences towards the conclusion that the businesses’ products and services can solve their problems. Examples of content writing include:
- Blog posts
- White papers
- Press releases
Key Differences Between Copywriting and Content Writing
The distinctions between copywriting and content writing amount to much more than just the format that the writing is presented in. There’s a range of other factors that delineate the two, and you should be aware of them as you consider whether you’re looking to work with a copywriter or a content writer.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the key differences to be aware of:
Tone of Writing
The tone of any type of writing should be driven by both your audience and your brand, but it’s also true that there are some pretty clear distinctions between the tone of copy and content.
Copywriting is more sales driven, and will often use action-focused language that focuses on the features and benefits of your products and services. The tone will often be more conversational, with short, direct sentences. Good copy elicits emotion in those who read it: excitement to buy a product, or the fear of missing out if they don’t buy your services.
Content, on the other hand, is more educational in nature. It seeks to tell a story, entertain the audience, and build a narrative. The tone might be more formal as content writing often explores more complex ideas, but this isn’t always necessary.
Length of Writing
Copywriting tends to be much shorter, punchier, and more concise than content writing. It will succinctly but powerfully summarize key issues, such as the customer pain points you solve, or the value drivers of your products and services. Copywriting may make use of bullet points, numbered lists, or other more visual elements, including graphs and tables.
Content writing can be long. In the case of a pillar article that acts as the foundation of a topic cluster, a solid piece of content writing might be 5,000 words or more. A typical blog article might be more like 1,200 words, but as with many things, this is case-by-case.
Many writers provide copywriting and content writing services, and it’s true that there’s a lot of crossover in the writing skills required to effectively write either type of content. Both types of writing demand research, an understanding of the audience, strategic nous, and duh, writing skills. But there are a few key skills that help to separate copywriters from content writers.
Copywriters might have a background in sales or marketing, and have the experience to understand how to effectively position products and services. They’ll be comfortable structuring landing pages and email campaigns to drive action, and should have the ability to put themselves in their audiences shoes and empathize with their needs.
Content writers have many of the same skills, but are also likely to be better researchers, having an uncanny ability to seem like an expert on any random topic with just an hour or two of research. Great copywriters also possess a strong knowledge of technical on-page SEO, and know how to structure their content to appeal both to readers and search engines.
Impact on Business
Given time, all great writing will have nothing but a positive impact on your business. But of the two types of writing, it’s often the case that copywriting has a more immediate, measurable impact.
Take an example of rewriting a landing page. Refreshing the copy alone might immediately double your conversion rate, making it easy to quantify the impact of effective copywriting in tangible, dollar-based terms.
Content writing often takes longer to have an impact on your business, but this impact compounds over time. With commitment, it’s possible to build a powerful inbound growth machine on the back of effective copywriting.
Remember, an effective content writing strategy lays the foundation for future sales and business development opportunities. It’s impact should be tracked over a period of months, and yes, should also be measured in tangible, dollar-based terms. After all, your content could get all the eyeballs in the world, but unless it directly correlates with an increase in revenue, it’s not much help to your bottom line.
Which is Right for My Business: Copywriting or Content Writing?
Virtually every business needs both copywriting and content writing. Content writing drives a lot of organic traffic, and over time, establishes a solid relationship with prospects. It’s the job of copywriters to turn that traffic––and all other traffic––from prospects into closed sales.
Often, that requires different writers, but if you find the right person or collective, it’s possible that they can handle both. The good news? If you’re reading this article, you’ve already found Hire a Writer. We provide both copywriting and content writing, paired with the content marketing strategies they need to be successful.