While similar, the difference between copywriting and content writing lies in their purpose, strategy, and value. Many people confuse these two types of writing not knowing that the distinction alters the price tag attached to the work, the goals of a writing project, and results when looking to outsource your business’ written communications.
Knowing the difference is especially important if you plan to write copy or content for your own business. It’s even more important if you want to outsource your marketing (specifically the words!) so you can choose the best person for the job.
Traditionally, copywriters worked in advertising because copy is essentially sales writing. Copywriters primarily create copy with the intent of selling a business or brand; their products or services. Copywriting is direct and persuasive. It presents a challenge and solution and encourages readers to buy. Above all, copywriting inspires action.
You might have heard people refer to it as “sales copy” because the goal is to generate sales.
Some email campaigns
Some social media captions
Sales video scripts
Sales landing pages
A lot of work goes into carefully selecting words for copy. It’s much more than pretty words on a page. Copy needs to appeal to human emotion, create a meaningful connect at first glance, and motivate readers to continue through the sales pitch. It’s a perfect balance of marketing strategy and creative storytelling.
For example, let’s look at evergreen website copy. A good copywriter doesn’t just choose a fun tagline for your homepage, write a bio about the business owner, and slap a list of services. When writing website copy, a good copywriter will develop a brand strategy first. This should include your key positioning points, overall messaging, business goals, a value proposition, and a brand personality summary… at the very least! I provide this and so much more within my done-for-you packages.
From there, we can write strategic sales copy for your evergreen website pages. This copy should guide the reader through your website, meeting them at each stage of the buying journey. The goal is to generate leads on autopilot.
See why it costs more, takes longer, and is worth more?
Another example: Email funnel sequences and sales pages. Both require strategic sales copy, a strong understanding of the target customer, and an aspect of storytelling in order to build trust and make the sale.
Content is a relationship builder rather than an action driver. It’s an engagement tool of an overarching marketing strategy used to attract, educate, or inspire potential customers through content like blogs.
In many cases, content writing doesn’t even mention the brand or business that is producing the work. If you do know the business, they likely don’t offer a sales pitch at every turn (they might offer an incentive in exchange for your email though!). While in a piece of copy, you will know exactly who you’re buying from immediately as you read.
Blog posts and articles
Digital features: magazine, newspapers
Some email newsletters
Some social media captions
Video and podcasts scripts
Content lives online to generate traffic and build trust. In the long-term, this promotes brand awareness and indirectly influences buyers. Copywriting, on the other hand, focuses on the sales goal of the piece of copy in question. Along this idea, content lets readers know we exist; copy transforms readers into buyers.
For example, this blog post is a piece of content. The overall strategy of my blog is to drive traffic to my specific services, build awareness, and educate. However, I’m not trying to sell you something specific in this single blog post. I’m building trust with you, fostering our relationship, and earning credibility by providing valuable information for free. See how this works?
Another example: Instagram posts. The best performing Instagram posts aren’t trying to sell something, but start conversations or give a glimpse into every day life. These are the relationship builders, rather than the sales drivers.
Content writing still requires a strategy, but it’s more of a big-picture vision rather than selecting each individual word based off clearly defined reasoning. In general, content writing costs less per project or per word because it’s the overall strategy that offers the value. The content itself, while needing to be of a certain standard, is much easier to write. In business, you might see this reflected in the structure of a package. For example, the consulting might cost just as much as the actual writing because the strategy is the most valuable.
Content writing pieces are building blocks to achieve the overall goal. With copy, every single word is selected for a specific purpose and copywriting packages based on word counts reflect that level of detail.
Content writers can be people who are skilled writers, but lack a marketing background, as long as the individual who creates the overall strategy possesses the marketing experience. Often, content writers are skilled in the topics they write about rather than writing or marketing. However, copywriters need to be expert writers and marketers in order to write copy that connects with your target audience. In most cases, they are expected to learn the topic over the course of a project.
Knowing this, it makes sense to see I’ve structured my own services into three areas: copywriting, content marketing, and consulting. Of course, the lines blur in some areas because life is lived in the gray. However, knowing the distinction helps businesses determine the goals of their writing projects and the appropriate avenue to choose when outsourcing. You also need to know this distinction if you plan to write any copy or content for your own business.
Do you have any questions about this? Leave them in the comments below!
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