Think of how words impact your organization’s ability to achieve its goals. You have a website that lauds your accomplishments and outlines your value proposition. You have a blog that showcases your expertise. You have social media profiles on multiple channels that help you connect with your audience.
All of these things are driven by words written by someone. These words are put down on a page, website, or blog post to persuade your reader to do something. Maybe you wanted to inform them, educate them, or convince them to take an action like making a purchase. But all of these words have a specific purpose in mind.
Regarding the words behind your organization and brand, two terms are often used interchangeably: copy and content. Copywriting and content writing are components of any company’s promotional and marketing efforts. However, both of them are used for different purposes.
What Is Copywriting?
Copy is a term for the words that make up your website, fact sheets, social media profiles, or anywhere else you have written material. The words within your website’s landing page, ebook, or any other materials are all copy.
A copywriter often studies persuasive techniques to help them arrange those words in a powerful, compelling way to get the reader to do something. The main drive behind copy is often tied to sales. Understanding that, let’s look at how that differs from content.
Examples of copywriting can include:
What Is Content Writing?
Content is any material your business produces that is meant to convey something to your audience for a reason. Some of these reasons include:
More often than not, content is made up of copy. Sometimes, there is no copy involved (a wordless graphic or video are both examples of content). What separates content from copy is that in order for content to have value, it should have a specific reason for existing.
These are often tied to the company’s website, though platforms like Medium also exist to host organization blogs.
Emails can be sequenced and aimed at different segments of your audience, depending on the purpose of the specific email.
Infographics use numbers, visuals, and copy to tell a story.
Videos often contain written scripts that contain copy – these are then used to convey or explain an idea with visuals included.
Often brief (but not always – think longer, thought leadership-type posts), social media posts are a popular content format for many businesses.
One of the fastest growing digital content formats, podcasts are audio content that can last as little as a few minutes or as much as multiple hours.
Content marketing is the practice of when organizations develop content to build awareness for their business and brand.
What's the Difference Between Copywriting vs. Content Writing?
So with both copy and content defined, let’s dig into what differentiates copywriting from content writing.
Copywriting is Meant to Sell
The intent of copywriting is to sell – whether that’s a product, service, or subscription. Copywriters arrange words persuasively to elicit a specific response from their readers: they want them to make a purchase.
Copywriters use strategies such as highlighting the product or service’s benefits to highlight why the reader needs to buy. They’ll use words to tap into powerful, primal emotions. They want to tell a story demonstrating their understanding of the reader’s unique pain points, painting the reader as the hero of that story using the product or service in question to solve their specific problem.
Content Writing is Meant to Inform
Content writing is not quite as direct as copywriting. Content writing aims to inform, educate, or entertain your reader in such a way that they want to learn more about your company. Perhaps you’re sharing information with them they haven’t learned anywhere else, establishing yourself as an authority in your space. That establishes trust with your reader, causing them to want to engage with you more.
Entertainment value also plays an important role in content writing. If your audience is consistently entertained by your content, they’ll want to come back for more. You can use these additional opportunities to highlight your organization and what it does best.
Whereas copywriting looks to cause an interested buyer to make a sale, content writing creates business leads by creating interest and awareness.
How Does Copywriting vs. Content Writing Relate to SEO?
Understanding the distinction between copywriting and content writing, let’s take a closer look at how search engine optimization (SEO) relates to both.
SEO is the practice of identifying your audience’s target keywords and integrating that throughout your content. This will lead people using search engines to (hopefully, if you’ve done your SEO right) your content.
It doesn’t relate to copywriting as much as content writing. Your keywords are often woven into your various content pieces across all your channels and platforms. This includes blog posts, social media profiles, and web content like your landing page.
Copywriting isn’t the heart of SEO, whereas content writing has SEO as one of its main pillars for success. SEO isn’t a necessary part of every piece of content – sometimes, if the goal is to entertain, it can get in the way. But more often than not, content writers will take some care to ensure the right keywords are included within their content.
The Bottom Line on Copywriting vs. Content Writing
It’s easy to understand why many people often confuse copywriting and content writing. There are similarities between the two, and some of the same general principles apply to both. But the distinction is critical to developing engaging copy and content. By understanding how they differ, you’ll find yourself in a better position to produce better copywriting and content writing results.