Copywriting and Content Writing: What Are the Differences?

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To create a strong, robust marketing strategy, you will need to know the difference between copywriting and content writing. Whilst some marketers use the terms interchangeably, they both offer vastly different results. The former will see your conversions soar, and the latter will increase brand awareness and customer engagement.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the seven main differences between content writing and copywriting so that you know which one you need to use and when. Let’s get started!

1. Purpose

First and foremost, the main difference between copywriting and content writing lies in their purpose.

Copywriting is all about selling a product, service or brand to a target audience. Whether you’re crafting the subject line for an email promotion or coming up with a new call to action for your website, you’re using your words to persuade people to take action that will ultimately end in a conversion.

Content writing, by comparison, is a lot more complex. It’s about creating a brand identity that customers can trust and relate to, increasing brand awareness and generating organic traffic. This can be done through:

  • Informing and entertaining customers with valuable content
  • Demonstrating industry knowledge and expertise
  • Building up an online presence through SEO
  • Engaging with customers through social media

That’s not to say that content writers aren’t trying to sell anything to their target audience; they’re simply taking the time to build a foundation of trust first.

2. Emotion vs trust

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The secret to getting people to take immediate action is understanding what makes them tick and manipulating their emotions accordingly. Copywriters do this with a careful mix of heuristics and cognitive biases.

An example of this is when businesses offer customers a final chance to buy a specific product. By making customers feel like they might miss out by not making a purchase, copywriters create a sense of urgency that pushes them to convert.

Whether it’s through evoking feelings of fear, desire or happiness, copywriters can convince consumers to:

  • Download a free trial
  • Subscribe to a newsletter
  • Buy a product/service

But what happens to consumers who aren’t easily manipulated or ready to commit to making a purchase? This is where content writing comes into play!

To nudge consumers further through the marketing funnel, content writers need to prove the value and worthiness of their brand. They do this by creating content that is informative, relevant and relatable to their target audience.

If consumers can find the answers to their questions and pain points through content, they’re more likely to engage with a brand. Each piece of content slowly but surely helps to create a strong, trusting relationship that might eventually lead to a conversion.

3. Marketing funnel

There are three stages in the marketing funnel:

  • The awareness stage is where customers know they have a pain point but aren’t sure how to deal with it
  • The consideration stage is where customers realise that a brand might be able to help them
  • The decision stage is where customers are looking for evidence to validate their decision to buy a product

Copywriters are hyper-focused on the decision stage and target people who are almost ready to cross the finish line and make a purchase. With some persuasive copy and a direct CTA, these writers can give consumers the final nudge they need to convert.

Content writers are interested in nurturing consumers through every stage in the marketing funnel. They engage potential customers with content that builds their awareness and trust, and ultimately help them conclude that making a purchase is the right choice for them.

4. Format and length

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Though it depends on the subject matter and writer in question, copywriting and content writing usually involve very different formats and lengths.

Examples of copywritingExamples of content writing
PPC ads
Social media ads
Landing pages
CTA buttons
Product/service pages
Website pop-ups
Sales emails
Sales pitches
Intercom scripts
Video scripts
Blog posts
Email newsletters
Case studies
Social media posts

As you can probably guess from these lists, copywriters tend to have a much shorter word count limit than content writers. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that in some cases, copywriters have only a few words to grab the attention of potential customers.

Due to this limit, copywriters must choose their words carefully—ensuring that they are direct enough to trigger a strong emotional response in consumers that elicits immediate action.

In contrast, content writers need a much higher word count than copywriters, usually 500 to 3,000 words, to provide valuable information that addresses consumer interests, concerns and pain points.

5. Calls to action

CTAs are the bread and butter of copywriting. You won’t find a shred of copy online that isn’t accompanied by a CTA like:

  • Buy now
  • Subscribe today
  • Start your free trial

Copywriters don’t want consumers to think long and hard about their decision. They want to use persuasive, emotional hooks to speed up the decision process and convince customers to convert immediately. As a result, their CTAs are very direct, to the point and, at times, commanding.

When it comes to content writing, CTAs are used sparingly. Most content does not require a call to action—its purpose is simply to inform, entertain or instruct readers in some way. When CTAs are used, they generally tend to direct readers to other pieces of content that will provide further information:

  • Find out more
  • Check out our services
  • Learn how

These CTAs are much softer and more subtle than those used by copywriters. Content writers are always aware that many readers aren’t yet committed to making a purchase, so they must be gentle when guiding them through the marketing funnel.

6. Research

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Copywriting relies heavily on understanding a consumer’s wants, needs and pain points. The more a writer knows about their audience, the easier it will be to craft the perfect words that resonate with them. As a result, copywriters need to delve into buyer personas, psychographics and other heavy data.

They also need to develop a strong understanding of their brand’s products/services to highlight the features and benefits to potential buyers.

Whilst content writing does involve audience research, it focuses more on SEO. To increase organic traffic, rank highly on the SERPs and boost brand awareness and authority, content writers must:

They also require a strong understanding of their industry, not to mention topics that interest their consumers.

7. Strategy and result

Generally speaking, copywriting follows a short-term strategy that culminates in fast, measurable results. Once a PPC ad, website pop-up, or landing page is up and running, you can look at metrics like click-through rates, open rates and conversions to quickly determine the effectiveness of your copy and CTAs.

In contrast, content writing requires a long-term strategy that takes much more time to bear fruit. Optimising content for SEO, increasing organic traffic and generating brand awareness isn’t something that occurs overnight. By taking the time to build up a foundation of valuable, evergreen content, however, brands can slowly expand their customer base and become industry leaders.

Why is it important to understand the difference between copywriting and content writing?

As we’ve established, both writing formats serve different purposes and offer varying results.

If you want to increase conversions, you’ll want to utilise more copy in your marketing strategy. If, on the other hand, you’re interested in building up a loyal customer base and increasing your brand’s authority, you’ll want to write more content.

Make no mistake, though; you will need to use a careful balance of copy and content in your marketing strategy to make a lasting impression on your target audience, meet your sales objectives and build a strong online presence.