In the realm of advertising, the power of well-crafter words has always been instrumental. Effective communication can shape an audience’s perception, drive user engagement and underpin the success of a brand.

Two crucial areas of this communication are copywriting and content writing. On the surface, they might seem more or less the same, but in reality, both have separate roles and serve for diverse marketing purposes. 

Put simply, content writers build relationships and brand loyalty through engagement, while copywriters drive sales and conversions through marketing content (ergo, copy). A thorough inspection shows many other unique benefits to each one.

Hence, understanding the difference between copywriting and content writing is not just an exercise in semantics. It penetrates every aspect of business communication with your audience and is of the essence in achieving your business goals and structuring your overall content marketing strategy.

Now, let us explore the key differences between content writing vs copywriting.

Differences In Purpose

The divergence commences at the level of purpose, with content writing informing and copywriting promoting.

Content writing is fundamentally about informing, educating, or entertaining the audience. This is often manifested in creating valuable content that deepens the reader’s knowledge or offers fresh insights into a particular subject matter.

For instance, a blog post about the benefits and sources of omega-3 fatty acids would be a task for a content writer. The piece would explore the topic in-depth, shedding light on why this nutrient is so essential and listing various abundant foods, perhaps even including tips on how readers can incorporate this food into their diet.

In other words, a content writer informs, providing value for free before asking for anything in return to establish trust about the brand with the reader.

Conversely, copywriting is more focused on content marketing. A copywriter crafts persuasive text designed to prompt the reader to take a specific action, whether signing up for a newsletter, purchasing, or changing their perception of a brand or product.

To illustrate, consider a marketing email promoting a new health supplement rich in omega-3. It would highlight the advantages of that specific product, emphasizing its unique selling points, and ending with a compelling call-to-action (CTA), prompting readers to purchase or learn more about the product.

Thus, copywriting has clearly established marketing purposes, mainly to persuade readers and convert them from potential customers into full-fledged clients.

Differences In Matters of Format

Both copywriting and content writing are presented in a distinguishing format, the former relying on shorter. 

Copywriting is typically shorter because of its focus on narrowed-down types of content, such as ads, emails, landing pages, social media captions, and video scripts. To grab the reader’s attention within a limited word count or a short span of time, the copywriter uses short-form copy that can more readily evoke immediate action.

Consider the brief yet persuasive text ad you might see at the top of a Google search page or a compelling script for a 30-second commercial. They are concise, impactful, and laser-focused on getting the audience to act like clicking on an ad, checking out a product, or changing how they view a brand.

To contrast, content writing encompasses mostly long-form content creation, such as blog posts, articles, eBooks, and white papers (detailed reports on a specific topic that presents a problem and provides a solution). A comprehensive topic exploration becomes more feasible by delving deep into a subject.

For instance, this blog post; a whitepaper detailing the implications of a new tax law; or an eBook that tells you step-by-step how to get more valuable leads, starting from the structure of a funnel and ending with the managing long-term leads, would all be the works of a content writer.

Differences In Voice Tone

The tone determines how readers perceive the content. Copywriters have a compelling and weighty tone to convert readers, while content writers aim for a more casual and relaxed tone to engage prospective customers at the top of the marketing funnel.

Content writing usually adopts an informative and conversational tone without putting direct pressure on the reader. In doing so, the tone turns into a tool to engage the reader and foster a connection with them, so they feel a sense of trust with the brand. This makes it more likely for them to engage with it more frequently, potentially leading to future sales.

For example, a blog post on a company’s website that offers practical advice on using their products effectively would utilize this tone. It’s friendly, helpful and is there to provide value rather than pushing a hard sell as a part of the content strategy.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have copywriting that adopts precisely that persuasive, sales-driven tone, which could be more of a soft sell or a hard sell. In either scenario, it would be designed to strike a chord with the audience and convince them to take action.

A piece of sales copy speaks directly to the reader’s needs or desires, highlighting the benefits of a product or service in a way that resonates with them. Then, it strikes and pushes them to act.

That’s what a landing page for a product launch or a sales email for a time-limited does. They use powerful language to outline the unique selling points, address potential objections and create a sense of urgency that encourages immediate action.

The Goals of Copywriting vs. Content Writing

Regarding business goals, the main difference can be put in several words for each type of writing.

Content writing attempts to establish the brand as an authority in its field by providing value to the reader and building its trust with them. No immediate sales are made here because a relationship pays off in the long run, and that’s what the goal is.

Take a company that consistently publishes high-quality content through blog posts on topics relevant to its industry. It attracts visitors and garnishes a reputation as a trusted source, ultimately leading to the company being the first one readers think of when some time passes because they know what it gives them for free and can only imagine what it would be like when it’s paid.

On the other hand, copywriting drives conversions and immediate sales by creating compelling marketing copy that convinces readers to (very often) act before it’s too late. The goal is immediate engagement – subscribe to a newsletter, make a purchase, book a consultation, or just click on a link to learn more.

Nowadays, these goals can get intermingled, depending on the marketing teams’ strategy. For instance, some companies focus on writing copy blog posts that push towards action while providing outstanding value in their marketing emails.

Audience Differences

The target audience in copywriting vs. content writing depends on the scale.

For starters, copywriting targets a more narrow group of people. It’s aimed at a specific segment – potential customers who might be interested in particular products or services. 

Online stores do that through promotional emails based on the user activity on the website. It can also be done by bringing up certain aspects of the service that solve clear-cut problems for the user in a series of emails or social media posts.

Content writing can do that as well, though it usually caters to a broader audience because its role is to engage those interested in a larger topic. Such can be blog posts about the latest trends in an industry, attracting casual browsers and industry professionals alike.

Search engine optimization (SEO) Approach

Oh, search engine optimization is the favorite of many. Yes, content writing is all about SEO, and yes, copywriting can utilize SEO practices too, but it prioritizes conversions.

Content writers write content predominantly found on public pages like the blog section of a website to attract organic traffic to the website by improving its visibility. That’s why blog articles should be optimized for search engines

An SEO content writer would therefore have to perform research and incorporate relevant keywords, using proper meta tags and ensuring the content is accessible and easily navigable.

Copywriting can also be SEO-friendly, but it needs to be optimized for conversions and user engagement. In contrast to SEO content writing, SEO copywriting works only when the text is already persuasive enough for readers to engage with calls to action because that is the essence of effective copy.

The Research Process for Copywriting and Content Writing

There’s no going around it – one of the critical skills required in both copywriters and content writers is research, though the difference lies in the kind and depth of research.

Copywriting deals with digital marketing, so having a deep understanding of your target audience – their needs, desires, and pain points- is essential. Studying successful copy from similar campaigns, be they yours or your competitors’, also helps you determine the why, what, and how.

A landing page has a lot of information – features, benefits, addressing concerns, solutions to issues, and more. To get to the point where the writer can make those sound compelling and call to action, they need to conduct market research, surveys, and analyze customer data to find out what resonates with the target audience most.

Content writing involves more extensive research into the subject matter because it has to verify from various sources how accurate some information is. Depending on the topic and its complexity, this might even mean reading scientific studies, expert commentary, government reports, or documents and synthesizing all that information into a comprehensive, easy-to-understand article.

An article should be simplistic but not superficial. It would yield more value when it touches upon fundamental principles, explaining them in a way any kind of reader understands so that when the time comes to use technical terms and complex data, they do not give up on reading further.

And for that, extensive research would be required from the writer’s side so that they can use layman terms. 

Crafting Headlines for Copywriting and Content Writing Purposes

Headlines are slightly distinct in copywriting and content writing. The former looks to make a value proposition based on the long-term strategy, while the latter strives to grab the reader’s attention. 

Copywriters must quickly convey their message and make a striking offer in the headline, motivating the reader to continue reading. It’s often more straightforward regarding benefits or results, setting expectations in just a few dozen characters.

Content writers, meanwhile, use headlines to spark the curiosity of the reader and entice them to read the article. It often includes the main keyword for SEO purposes and provides a clear idea of what the content will cover.

Call-to-Action (CTA) Differences 

Writers create content to instill an impression on the reader, and call-to-action (CTA) plays a part in that. Copywriters use it almost constantly, and content writers – only sometimes.

In content marketing, you have to ask the reader to take a shot at something sooner or later. That’s where a statement or instruction encouraging the user to take a specific action comes into the picture.

Copywriters use CTA because when creating short form content, you need to accentuate something, and that happens through a clear call that pushes toward making a change. For instance, a landing page or a marketing email will generally include at least one call to action like “Buy Now,“Click here to reserve your spot,” and so on.

The same doesn’t apply to content writers, at least not necessarily. They can put a CTA or two at the end of an article or between paragraphs, but it would be subtle. That could be checking out other articles, leaving a comment, sharing the post, or sometimes, directly making an inquiry.

Brand voice In Copy and Content

Finally, a brand’s voice is what separates it from everyone else. That’s why it has to penetrate through the competition when used by copywriters and leave an impression of personality within a content writer’s text.

Maintaining a consistent brand voice that aligns with the company’s identity and values is necessary for copywriting. Otherwise, readers can need clarification on who the brand is instead of focusing on what it represents. The copy should reflect the brand’s personality and speak only to its target audience, whether creating content for an ad, email, or product description. 

A more playful and informal brand voice would come packed with puns, jokes, or casual language. In contrast, a more serious and professional voice would use formal language and focus on presenting factual information.

The base content writing skills also include being able to write in a brand’s voice, but only to a certain extent. The overall voice should be maintained, but it could be spiced up with a touch of the individual writer’s personality, allowing for more flexibility.

Considering the length of an article, many companies avoid imprinting a strong brand voice within their blog pieces because it can take much longer to complete the text when you add all the other steps, like research, editing, and review.

Still, some differences do appear even then. A post offering professional advice might adopt a more formal, authoritative tone, whereas a post discussing the company culture might be more informal and personal.

Frequently asked questions

Is copywriting more important than content writing for a business?

That depends on your approach, but in most cases – no, since both content and copy serve different purposes in the overall marketing strategy of a business. 

What’s the main difference between content writing and copywriting?

Content writing drives engagement and traffic by providing value through mostly free, long-form content while copywriting drives sales and conversions through enticing, short-form marketing materials.

Can the same person be a content writer and a copywriter?

Yes, there are many professionals who possess the required skill set to operate in both areas. However, suppose you have a business and wish to cut costs by relying on a single person to do both, depending on the volume of work. In that case, you might have to realign your expectations with limitations like the time needed to produce a specific volume of each type of content.

Can a piece of writing serve both educational (content writing) and persuasive (copywriting) purposes?

Absolutely. Suppose you can make your marketing content provide more value and your educational content prompt towards action whenever adequate. In that case, you can build trust more effectively and increase conversion rates even further.