Updated: Mar 27
If you're looking at adding written content to your website, you might be wondering what the difference is between copywriting and content writing. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably by those who need an array of services, and don't have time to get specific about which is which. But, understanding copywriting vs. content writing is the first step in making sure you're developing — or, investing in — the appropriate services for your website.
So, how are copywriting and content writing different exactly? Let's find out.
What is Copywriting?
Copywriting — also known as sales writing — is a type of professional writing that is focused on persuading the reader to take a specific action,. This "action" can be anything from making a purchase, to taking a survey, or signing up for a webinar. Essentially, you want the reader (your target audience) to do something that will turn them from a lead into a converted lead. Though there may be a few steps to take them through the entirety of the sales funnel, any written content they see along the way is likely done by a copywriter in the form of "copy".
What is a CTA? Though the goal of any copy written piece is to get the reader to take action, nearly all pieces of copy will literally have what's called a "call-to-action", or CTA at some point in the copy. This may be a sentence or two — that can be positioned on your page in a number of ways (i.e., lightbox, subscribe form, etc.) — that sums up what you want them to do. Think: "Want to learn more about how to start investing in real estate? Sign up for our webinar, here." By the time the reader has gotten to the CTA, they generally have an idea of what they'd be signing up for.
This is the goal of the copywriter — to use persuasive language to get the reader on board.
Common Questions About Copywriting Services
What are the Benefits of Copywriting?
When copy is done well, it can have a number of benefits for your business. These include — but, aren't limited to:
Increases conversions and sales
Drives lead generation for your business
Help understand how leads and returning customers are engaging with your products and services
Are a more affordable way to bring in leads compared to other forms of advertising
When to Use Copywriting
Copy is used to get the reader to take action — or, to drive them to your site in the first place (remember — brand awareness is a goal of copywriting!). But, the how, why, and when businesses choose to implement copy may depend on what stage of their business journey they are at and what the goal is at the time.
For example, both a startup and a long-running business can use copywriting to their advantage. But, where a startup might use copy to help kick off their business — perhaps via long-form SEO blog posts, or crisp sales pages — a long-running business may invest in copywriting services when they want to sell their products — maybe through a email marketing campaign or via targeted social media copy.
Copywriting can be done for any business in any industry; it's just important to know what the goal of your copy is before you get started. And, investing in copywriting services can help you not only understand when and how to use copy, but it takes a seasoned copywriter to know how to sell to your audience simply through words.
What is Copyediting?
When talking about the differences between copywriting and content writing, we sometimes hear the term "copyediting" as well.
So, without trying to get too into it, copywriting copywriting involves the creation of original written content for the purpose of promoting a product, service, or idea, while copyediting involves reviewing and revising written content (or previously written copy) for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and clarity. Companies may need a copyeditor to review materials for publication they've already written, or they may use both to help ensure nothing gets overlooked.
Examples of Copywriting
These days, there are hardly any limitations on what's considered copywriting (though, there is also "copy content" which might have the same incentive as copywriting, but comes in the form of other types of content, i.e., video content).
You might see copywriting used in advertisements, sales pages, and email campaigns, as well as:
Sales pages/landing pages
Social media posts
Copy snippet (think: when a bank has a button on a credit card application form that says "submit" — this would be the copy!)
Features of "Good" Copywriting
No two businesses are the same, so what might be considered "good" copywriting for one business could be less appealing for another.
But, there are some general "good copywriting" principles that are followed by a company using in-house copywriters, or for businesses that are looking to seek them out:
"Good" copywriting should:
Be clear, concise, and compelling.
Grab the reader's attention and hold it, while also delivering the information or message in an effective and efficient way.
Include a strong headline(s), subject line(s), or points/argument(s) that resonate with the reader.
Tailored to the specific audience.
Use language and tone that is appropriate and engaging for that audience, while sticking to the voice of the brand.
Visually appealing, using formatting and layout techniques (i.e. bullets, block quotes, short paragraphs, etc.) that help to draw the reader in and keep them engaged.
Convey the desired message and persuade the reader to take the desired action.
On that note, "bad" copywriting usually means:
Being too cliche or original.
Trying to convince the reader to take too many actions.
Being too long and not concise.
Not having a clear CTA.
Using incorrect grammar and punctuation.
Being too sale-sy. Though the goal of copy is to ultimately get the reader to buy something or engage in something, potential leads tend to look the other way if they feel the company has no shame in selling to them outright.
Keep in mind that just because virtually anything can be copy, doesn't mean it should. Some marketing materials for your business should be there merely to offer some value or entertainment to your audience, without necessarily trying to persuade them to take action. This is because too many sales can actually turn your audience away. If you want to write non-copy content, then this is where content writing comes in. Stay tuned!
What is Content Writing?
Content writing is written content that's focused on providing informative and valuable information to the reader, in order to keep them engaged in your brand — rather than directly promoting a product or service. Content writing, if done well, can also be used to bring in leads at the early stages of the sales cycle. Though they may not be buying anything soon, content writing is an opportunity to get them hooked.
Where does SEO come in? SEO — or, search engine optimization — is a tactic that's used to help "optimize" content writing in order to organically bring in leads and drive traffic to your site. When this is done well, more people will come to your site, and the more people that come to your site, the more likely you'll have leads that will eventually (read your copy!) and convert. SEO helps companies become discoverable, so your audience can find you.
Even though SEO is an important feature of content writing, it can also be used in copywriting, being implemented into sales pages, product descriptions, etc.
Common Questions About Content Writing
The Benefits of Content Writing
Raises brand awareness
Establishes your brand as an authority in your industry
Builds trust with your audience
Increases website traffic and potential customers
Engages your audience
Helps to foster a community of loyal customers
When to Use Content Writing
If you're wondering when to use content writing in your business, well the answer is — whenever you can! The nice thing about content writing is that you don't need to be selling any products or services (yet), so you can simply let your audience know, "Hey, I'm here!"
If you're just starting out, content writing can help you define your audience and niche. By producing a certain number of high-quality content pieces, you can learn about who is engaging with you and why (though, data goes a long way here, too), while also telling this audience (and, competitors), that you are to be trusted in this space.
Anytime you want to...
Establish yourself as an authority in your field.
Drive traffic to your website.
Go "viral" (though, attempting this isn't recommended).
Generate soft leads
Build brand awareness.
Provide something of value
...use content writing!
Like copy, though, content writing can be hard for some businesses to get started on and continue on. And, with so much content out there already, it can be hard to know how to set yourself apart and gain your audience. But, an experienced content writer will know how to help you achieve this, either via consulting or by doing the content themselves. That being said, similar to copywriting, there are some general content writing best practices that can go a long way.
Examples of Content Writing
Content writing can be seen in blog posts, articles, and website pages, as well as:
Information on trends and statistics in your industry
Social media posts
Features of "Good" Content Writing
Is informative and valuable to the reader
Keeps the reader engaged
Offers the reader an experience they can't get at a competitor
Is easy to access/share with a wider audience/community
Is well-organized and easy to follow with a reader-friendly template that's consistent across the site, including images, links, subheadings, bullets, etc.
Is tailored to the specific audience (or helps you figure out who that is)
Is free of spelling and grammatical errors
And, not-so-good content writing is: usually:
Overly promotional or salesy
Poorly written, with unclear or confusing language
Doesn't stick to the company's brand voice
Is disorganized or difficult to follow
Is not tailored to the specific audience
Uses inappropriate tone or language (unless, of course, that resonates with your audience)
Copywriting Vs. Content Writing: What's the Difference?
Let's review. Copywriting is a type of writing that persuades the reader to take action. Content writing, on the other hand, does not have this goal outright; instead, it's used to educate and engage readers about who you are, and why they should trust you as an authority in this space.
Think of content writing as part 1, and copywriting as part II.
So, with this in mind, though all copy is a form of content writing, not all content writing is copywriting.
I'll say that again.
Not all content writing is copywriting. But, all content writing — in some way — can be turned into copy, if you just tweak it to inspire your reader to take action. And, just because copywriting has the goal of getting the read to click on a CTA, that doesn't mean you should hold back on including some aspects of content writing: i.e, stay true to your brand voice, demonstrate that you're an authority, and provide some love for your audience.
For example, you could write an eBook merely as a form of content writing; something you want to provide to your readers to educate them on some of the latest trends happening in your industry.
But, you could also use that same eBook as a giveaway in order to collect emails (i.e., "sign up with your email, and we'll give you this free eBook!).
Again, a skilled copywriter/content writer will know how to do this swiftly. The best part? Oftentimes, you can repurpose your content for copy. (You can also repurpose all of your content writing for other content writing pieces, and all of your copywriting for other copywriting initiatives.) Don't reinvent the wheel.
Do I Need a Copywriter or Content Writer?
At some point, most businesses need a variety of content writing and copywriting in order to achieve their goals. But, some businesses may require more help with one than the other, For example, if they're just getting started, they may need some help producing a series of content writing blog articles to raise brand awareness (this could also work as re-brands for legacy businesses). But, if a business is launching a product or service, it might be time to put their copywriting hats on.
Not sure what or who to use to help you? Ask yourself...
Do I want my readers to buy something or sign up for something or do I want my readers to know a bit more about who I am? You might need content writing.
Do I need to get my reader to TAKE ACTION or do I want to share something with my readers with no strings attached? You might need copy.
Do I want to bring in new leads but also plan to convert them? Then you might need content writing and copywriting.
Understanding the differences between copywriting vs. content writing might already be something you're familiar with. But, actually getting it done can be another story. There are many tools out there to help businesses successfully write both copy and content for their business. But, this can be a time-consuming and challenging process; and, also expensive if you're not quite sure what you need.
By investing in a content writer or copywriter — or someone who can do both — you can allocate your time elsewhere, while having peace of mind that you're achieving goals in the meantime.
Or, by investing in professional content/copy strategy, we can help you make sure you're on the right track so no resources go to waste.
We want to provide you with convincing copy and compelling content. Visit my services page to learn more.