Understanding the Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing  

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Understanding the Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing  

The written word is a powerful tool but it’s also a complex instrument. Brands rely on words to reflect their values, reach their target audiences, and engage potential customers. From enticing advertisements and compelling taglines to informative blogs and enticing social media posts; the words you use have the potential to impact your audience and inspire them to act.

Although the terms ‘copywriting’ and ‘content writing’ are often used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between the two. To learn more, take a look at the subtle but meaningful variations between copywriting and content writing now:

1. Purpose

Before creating either copy or content, you should always identify the purpose behind the project and establish what your goals are. By doing so, you’ll have a clear indicator of whether you need to utilize your copywriting talents or your content writing skills.

Generally, copy is used to persuade the reader and motivate them to act. An enticing tagline or a compelling marketing email are good examples of copywriting. You’ll need to use persuasive and emotive language to encourage the reader to take the next step in the sales cycle, which is exactly what copywriting is designed to do.

In contrast, content writing is typically focused on informing, educating or entertaining the reader. A how-to guide or blog post are examples of content that provide the reader with information they’re interested in, while also showcasing your brand’s attributes. 

2. Value

Both copywriting and content writing can generate enormous value for your business, but what about the reader?

Copy inspires, compels and persuades but doesn’t provide much detail. The tagline used in a smartphone ad might make you want to purchase the device, but how much does it tell you about its functionality and features?

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With content, however, you provide the reader with genuine value. A technical spec sheet tells the reader everything they need to know about a device, while the copy persuades them that they need to buy it.

While your content may encourage the reader to act in a particular way, such as clicking a link or submitting an email address, the content itself provides the user with value, regardless of their subsequent actions.

3. Short-Term vs Long-Form Content

A quick and easy way to differentiate between copy and content is to look at the number of words used. Copy is generally short, and, in some cases, it might only be two or three words long. Despite this, it can be just as impactful as longer content. When you recall the most memorable words associated with a brand, there’s a good chance you’re thinking of short form copy that the company has appropriated as their slogan.

When producing content, writers will typically draft long-form pieces, such as white papers, articles, or blog posts. These can range from 500 words anywhere up to 10,000 words or more, although ‘long-form content’ is usually a minimum of 750-2,000 words.

4. Sales

A company’s ultimate goal is to generate profit via sales and their marketing materials are designed to increase sales by acquiring new customers or retaining existing buyers. However, the way that words influence sales can determine whether they’re ‘copy’ or ‘content’.

Good copywriting has an immediate impact. It spikes a reaction in the reader and entices them to act now. As a result, it can have a direct influence on sales and lead to short-term results. Content writing, on the other, tends to have a slower burn. It nurtures the reader, educates and informs, and establishes the brand as trustworthy, reputable or authoritative, for example. In doing so, it helps the brand build a long-term relationship with the reader and can increase their lifetime value.

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5. SEO

Search engine optimization is a critical issue for today’s businesses. If you want to reach your target audiences, you need to ensure that your webpages and online content is visible on search engine results pages (SERPs). Using relevant keywords on your website and throughout your marketing materials can boost your rankings and increase the amount of targeted traffic reaching your site.

As you might expect, content writers are adept at integrating focus keywords into their work. When done skillfully, the reader won’t even notice that a piece contains multiple mentions of the search term they were originally looking for, yet they’ll feel their query is fully answered by the content.

Copywriting can certainly take SEO into account, but it doesn’t generally have the same onus on incorporating search terms into end product. While a content writer might conduct keyword research before drafting a piece of work, copywriters will usually focus more heavily on the brand or product and the target audience as a whole.

Do You Need a Copywriter or a Content Writer?

Now you’ve got an insight into the differences between copywriting and content, you might be wondering which one you need. The answer, of course, is both.

Despite the variations between copy and content, they go hand-in-hand and are equally important when it comes to raising brand awareness, generating sales, acquiring customers, establishing thought leadership and retaining loyal brand ambassadors.

Businesses use a variety of marketing techniques to engage their target audiences, which is why both copy and content are in high demand. When you’re creating ads, webpages, marketing emails or social media posts, for example, you’ll want a copywriter who can draft punchy, impactful short-form pieces. For articles, blog posts, eBooks, press releases or in-depth features, you’ll need a content writer who can provide the audience with value, establish your brand’s credentials, and send your SEO rankings soaring.

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Combining Copy and Content

Despite their differences, copy and content are inextricably linked, particularly in today’s digital climate. By using one to influence the other, you can ensure that both your brand’s copy and content engages, motives, and informs the reader. What’s more – understanding the nuances and variations between the two will give a greater insight into how copy and content can be combined to deliver maximum results.