Content Writing vs Copywriting – the What, How, and Why

Understanding the difference between content writing and copywriting can be hard, especially if you’re new to professional writing. This blog post will cover the key differences, the practical definitions of both methods, when they should be used, and some tactics on how to apply them properly.

We should start out by making it clear that copywriting vs content writing is not a question of which one is ‘better’ or more challenging, and that SEO content writing is about much more than what’s covered in this blog. Both types of content serve a specific purpose and you’ll need to master different (yet related) skillsets to become good at either. So, let’s get to it.

The Key Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing

The main difference between copywriting and content writing is what they should achieve (and how you go about achieving it, but we’ll get into that later). The purpose of copywriting is to convince a potential customer to take the action the company wants them to, which is usually buying a product or service. It’s marketing at its most essential.

The purpose of content writing is to provide value to the reader by the text itself. It’s not directly selling a product, but providing the reader with the information they are looking for (or even just entertaining them). Down the line, it will lead to an increase in organic traffic and an increased conversion rate, but that’s not the only purpose of the piece of content.

It’s supposed to drive traffic because of the content itself (hence, content writing) and not be focused only on a product or service. Subtly raising brand awareness is a feature of content writing. Of course, in the digital era, both copywriting and content writing can’t disregard SEO, but that’s not the focus of this blog.

A Practical Definition of Copywriting

For a long time, copywriting was the only form of professional writing that most companies used for their webpages. Blogs and similar informative pages (which would later develop into content writing) were mostly in the sphere of personal blogs or a long-winded social media post (think early amateur chef blogs and page-long Reddit posts).

There’s a good reason that copywriting was dominant in the early digital marketing era – it focuses on direct and short-term results. An email campaign, print ad, or social media post are clear examples of copywriting. Your job as a copywriter is to get the customer to buy a product or subscribe to a service. You need to hit all the right notes in as few words as possible.

It’s not exactly a new concept and it far predates the digital era. Any type of ad you can think of can be considered a form of copywriting. From someone passing you a leaflet for your local hairdresser to a billboard advertising the county fair, it all falls under the umbrella of copywriting.

Some Copywriting Tactics

However, there are major differences in how you go about your sales pitch. This particular blog is not dedicated to copywriting tactics and methods, so we’ll just provide some short examples. By the quality of the text, we’ll divide copywriting into poor, average, and good.

A poor version of copywriting will simply be a long-winded way of saying that product X is the best. An average copywriter may give compelling reasons for why product X is the best and compare it to other similar products, subtly stressing the key advantages and benefits.

A good copywriter, on the other hand, will focus much less on product X. They will write a story related to the product, include a few witty slogans, and sell ideas. They will use emotional trigger words and weave them into the text, guiding the reader to relate their fantasies with the product.

Coca-Cola writers are some of the best in the business, so let’s use this Coke commercial as an example (don’t watch it yet). As it’s a video and so a different medium than a text, a lot of other factors and features are used to make it compelling. However, we’ll use it as it’s the pinnacle of marketing and focus on the script.

Thinking logically, what are the factors you would consider when getting a drink? It’s probably something related to the taste, price, and possibly health factors. Now watch the ad and count how many times any of those were referenced.

Not once. They are telling a compelling story and selling you the idea of family, commitment, overcoming hardship, etc., and tying it in with drinking Coke. Of course, drinking Coke has absolutely nothing to do with any of those things, but that’s irrelevant.

They are selling fantasies and doing it perfectly. This is what every copywriter should strive for, just via a different medium.

A Practical Definition of Content Writing

Content writing, conversely, is not about directly selling anything. It is about providing valuable content. A good content writer should know how to inform and engage the target audience and, if there’s room for it, entertain them.

The goal is to drive organic traffic to a website from a particular subset of users. The content needs to address the questions the readers have. To do that, the text needs to be well written and accurate. When you are working as a content writer, you aim to establish the brand you are working for as an authority on the subjects you are writing about.

Eventually, that traffic will lead to conversions, if you do a good job. So, unlike copywriting, which is essentially a sales pitch, content writing is about writing engaging and informative texts that answer questions and address issues of a specifically targeted audience, that are directly or tangentially related to the products or services that a business owner wants you to promote.

So, a website that sells boots has no need to post blogs that explain how the latest Google update affects affiliate websites. On the other hand, if a digital marketing company were to post such a blog, it could lead the boot sellers to their website and turn them into clients, which is their business goal.

This is why content writers should primarily focus on the quality of their texts. The texts are meant to be read and shared. It’s not about inciting strong emotions in the reader and getting them to buy the product. It’s about making them go – Aha, these guys know what they’re talking about, let’s see what more they have to say.

Down the line, that will make the readers trust the brand and get them to engage with the company itself. In essence, content writing is a long-term method for raising brand awareness and has shown to be the most effective method for increasing customer engagement online.

What Writing Method Should You Use on Your Website?

In short – both. As was stated initially, content writing vs copywriting is not about which one is better. They are different types of writing. A brand that wants to be successful and outstrip its competition should utilize both methods in its marketing campaign. So, apply copywriting tactics to your blogs and content writing methods to your marketing copies.

Think of it like this – a convincing sales pitch is only useful if people can see it. Conversely, there’s no use in having good content that leads readers to a product or service if there’s no competent sales pitch. It’s all about getting quality content and finding the right balance.

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