A lot of people ask me the difference between copywriting and content writing and others say they didn’t know there was a difference. Someone told me they thought it was all the same and that people just used different words to describe the same thing. The reality is that copywriting and content writing ARE different, and each has a purpose.
So, which is relevant for your business and will there be a big contest to see which one can fight to the top of your to-do list? Not if I tell you a bit more about the differences between copywriting and content writing and where you might need one or the other or a mixture.
There are differing views on copywriting vs content writing, but here are my views as a writer of both.
Copywriting and content writing
Firstly, I’ll explain the differences to give you an idea of what we’re talking about. Copywriting and content writing have different purposes, and knowing each and applying it to your content goals can clarify what you need for your business.
You need a content strategy rather than just bashing out content all over the place, especially if you’re going to pay a writer. Once you understand the difference between copywriting and content writing, you can plan your content.
What the devil is copywriting?
Copywriting aims to sell and persuade your customers to take action (that might be in a product, service or an idea). It aims to appeal to the customer and sell the benefits of a brand to convent sales. This is done in many ways but includes emotion to appeal to the potential buyer and solve their problems—effective copywriting highlights your brand, what you can offer and makes a sale.
Content writing is different
It certainly is. Content writing focuses on being informative. It’s where you provide information for your audience, customers or potential customers. Using content writing, you can inform them about your insights, expertise or you can essentially teach them something. Content writing should attract individuals, educate or entertain them and keep their attention.
Are they alike at all?
There are similarities between the two. Both are required to make a lead or a sale. Both require strong writing skills, a consistent tone of voice and an understanding of the audience you’re writing for. Content writers should demonstrate expertise and build trust through their content, which may ultimately lead to sales.
The next step is to consider your business and where you might need a copywriter or content writer. Or both if you fancy it. If it’s any help, the Content Marketing Institute 2020 survey showed that 93% of B2B marketers used blog posts or short articles as part of their content strategy, 77% used email newsletters, 68% used case studies, and 54% used E-books. Content is king as I keep hearing.
Websites – Your home page will contain words that need to persuade your potential customer to buy from you regardless of your product or service. While they may inform, lengthy descriptive text is not the aim of the home page. You want to appeal to your potential customer’s problem and convince them that you can solve it.
The same applies to a website landing page. Educating your audience with lengthy content is not the aim here! Copywriters should select and arrange the right words to make a sale.
Email marketing – Like website copy, you want emails to persuade readers to take action with urgency. It’s a vast area for potential sales growth, and according to Hubspot, 59% of individuals said their purchasing decisions are influenced by marketing emails.
Killer headlines should encourage readers to click into the email body because they just have to see the special offer or find out what’s inside. If you have a list of subscribers, these are a brilliant way to entice them into buying from you (and updating them on new products/services/events and business highlights).
Other examples – Copywriters will also write product descriptions, adverts, sales letters, slogans and social media content. These are all short-form copy and are designed to use minimal words to impact and drive sales significantly.
Content writing examples
Blogs – Who doesn’t love a blog? Many of us enjoy reading them, but they have to have a purpose. I see so many blogs that lack any real purpose, and sorry to say, but there are a lot of poorly written (dare I say lazy!) blogs out there. But wow, are they popular. 77% of internets users will read blogs, so it’s a waste if you don’t include invest in them.
Before you invest time writing a blog (or paying someone to write it), think about what every blog aims to do. For example, this little number I’m currently writing aims to educate and teach you something.
What is your blog post going to do? If it’s purely for entertainment purposes, that’s fine, but it needs to appeal to a broader audience, not just be you chatting away about something that has no link to your brand or business.
Articles – Like blogs, articles need an objective. They tend to be longer and (sometimes) more formal than blogs. They are a great way to educate your reader, share information, give tips, refer to evidence or research and engage your audience.
Both blogs and articles, written well and SEO optimised, should drive traffic to a website leading to sales over time.
White papers – A white paper gives solutions to an argument and is great for lead generation, thought leadership and might give you a marketing edge. Written well, white papers show your expertise and authority in a chosen area and answer big questions and provide information (such as statistics) to support the arguments.
You could write one if you want to highlight a problem that your business can solve, but they’re not going to be suitable for every business and often not relevant.
Case studies – These may not be at the top of your content list if you’re starting out, but they can be a beneficial addition to your business content collection.
Case studies essentially tell a story about the issue, who had the issue and the solution provided by, yes you! If written well, they can highlight how you assessed the problem and how your product or service solved it.
There feels like a bit of overlap here between copywriting and content writing. Yes, you need to ensure the case study sells you as a business and encourages readers to be customers, but the content writing of educating and informing your reader is what shines through.
Case studies endorse your brand, and by using an existing customer experience (make sure you get permission first!), you’re giving a testimonial about how amazing you are. They’re also another piece of content to add to your website, and we know that search engines love new content, so everyone’s a winner!
E-books – E-books (electronic books) are a great way to entice customers to sign up to your subscriber list as you can ask them to sign up to receive the E-book. Everyone likes a freebie, don’t they? They provide information about a subject and can be anything from about ten pages long and are effective lead magnets.
Before you start your E-book, consider what your audience wants to read about. You could look at your most popular blog posts and expand on the subject you used. Whatever your subject, choose something that will help your customers.
And while they are often compared to white papers, E-books tend to be more like a ‘how-to’ guide and less formal than white papers.
What about SEO?
SEO is everywhere it seems and is no stranger to certain forms of written content. Although it features in website copy, it tends to play more of a part in longer-from content like blogs and articles. By optimising SEO in such content, it drives organic traffic over time. It’s then up to the copywriting content to nail the sale.
Do I need a copywriter or content writer?
It’s a fair point. Once you know the type of content you need for your business, you can search for the right person to scribe it for you. Some writers will be dedicated copywriters, others focusing on content writing, and then there’s those like me who do both.
When you’re looking to hire a writer, speak to them about whether they are a copywriter or content writer and find out where they specialise and ask to see examples of the area you need.
So there you have it, a rundown of the main differences between copywriting and content writing and the different content you can use to grow your business. It’s worth spending time on your content strategy to ensure you start with the right content for your business and the stage it’s at.
Get planning, think about whether you have the skills and time to write your content and get building it!