Copywriting Vs Content Writing: What’s the Difference?

woman writing in a notepad with a laptop on a table

Two of the most widely-used terms you’ll come across in marketing are ‘copywriting’ and ‘content writing’. Both words are often used interchangeably, but do they mean the same thing? (Hint: they don’t’). As a writer who offers both copywriting and content writing as a service, I thought I’d share my experience of how the terms are used, what people usually mean when they talk about them, and what the main differences are between the two.

The Similarities

I often hear people in marketing using the terms ‘copywriting’ and ‘content writing’ like they’re the same thing. And in many respects they are very similar. Both terms refer to the act of writing. They’re both usually used in the context of marketing. And they’re often used to refer to ‘online’ content, as opposed to print.

Another similarity is that they usually feed into a wider marketing strategy. Both copywriting and content writing can help generate leads and increase customer engagement, and they’re both highly effective in their own ways.

The confusion usually comes in when the terms are used interchangeably to mean the same thing.

What is Copywriting?

Depending on who you ask, copywriting can be defined in a few different ways. Personally, I like to define copywriting as encouraging people to take action through writing.

In general, copywriting is used in commercial contexts. For example, it’s usually used by businesses to generate leads, improve conversion rates, and increase customer enquiries or subscriptions. It uses various techniques to create a sense of urgency, or to appeal to a reader’s emotions. Copywriting also tends to consist of shorter texts than content writing and is more concerned with inspiring immediate action. These short texts can also include the slogans and text writings on the brand’s logo design or features on other branding elements. If companies haven’t done this already, it’s best to use a professional logo maker to cut down time and costs while making a logo.

Copywriting can include, but definitely isn’t limited to:

For a good overview on the craft of copywriting, check out this video from Creative Spark:

Although there are several different types of copywriting (and copywriters), there are common characteristics that bind the skill together. It aims to deliver messages in a clear, understandable (yet nevertheless clever) way, which often involves simplifying complex information.

What is Content Writing?

Whereas copywriting encourages readers to take immediate action, content writing is more focused on the long game. It provides readers with useful information in order to lay the foundation for future engagement. It can be used to encourage action, but usually in a more indirect way. Content writing also usually deals with longer texts than you’d typically find in copywriting sales messages.

For example, we might define a blog post to be an example of content writing. Although the primary purpose of the post might be to provide useful information, inevitably, a well-written, genuinely helpful piece of content will encourage people to explore further and check out the brand behind the writing. As such, we might define content writing as a tool for strengthening brand awareness.

Content writing can include (but isn’t limited to):

Content writing usually forms part of a larger content marketing strategy, where businesses aim to increase their online presence through publishing regular content. Many content writers also incorporate SEO best practices into their writing to ensure that their content ranks high in Google searches.

For a good introduction to content writing as a profession, take a look at this video from Julia McCoy from Content Hacker:

Copywriting Vs Content Writing: The Key Differences

Here’s a snapshot of what I see as the key differences between copywriting and content writing:

  1. Copywriting inspires action, whereas content writing informs .
  2. Copywriting uses persuasive language, creates a sense of urgency and appeals to a reader’s emotions.
  3. Content writing inspires action indirectly, laying the groundwork for future engagement
  4. Copywriting often aims to make complex information simple. Content writing usually explores topics in more depth.
  5. Copywriting generates leads, whereas content writing strengthens brand awareness.
  6. Content writing is typically more concerned with keyword research and SEO.
  7. Copywriting tends to deal with shorter texts, whereas content writing is usually concerned with longer word counts.

In a Nutshell: Copywriting Vs Content Writing

So, what is the difference between copywriting and content writing? In a nutshell, copywriting is used to encourage readers to take action, whereas content writing is used to strengthen brand awareness. However, the terms are often used interchangeably, and although they do mean different things, there are elements of crossover between the two.

What do you think? How would you define the terms ‘copywriting’ and ‘content writing’? Do you notice the terms being used interchangeably more, or less often nowadays?

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Jamie Thomson

Jamie Thomson is an award-winning senior copywriter and the owner Brand New Copy copywriting studio. With over 15 years professional writing experience, he helps companies engage with their target audience through tailored content strategies and exceptional copywriting.

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