When you write an article to publish on your website, how can you be sure if it counts as copy or content?
How about when you write a social media caption, an email, or a landing page?
It may seem odd to ask these questions, but my goal is not to simply test you on which term to use when talking about the writing in your business. Rather, I want to help you understand the key differences between copywriting and content writing. That way, you’ll know which skills you need to build or outsource.
Copywriting and content writing are slightly different skill sets, and it’s key to master both (or find someone who can help you do so) if you want to have success when it comes to attracting clients and winning sales.
If you’ve been using the terms “copywriting” and “content writing” interchangeably, you’re not alone. Many entrepreneurs mix them up, so let’s set the record straight.
In this article, I’m going to start by defining copywriting and content writing. Then, we’ll explore how to effectively use each type of writing to improve your brand’s messaging.
What’s the difference between copywriting and content writing?
Let’s start by understanding what each type of writing entails.
Copywriting (which is commonly abbreviated to “copy”) is the practice of creating any piece of writing that’s used to persuade or sell. This is why you’ll often see a copywriter work on sales copy for websites, advertisements, social media, and more.
Conversely, content writing refers to writing that’s used to educate or entertain an audience, like this blog post. While someone may read content and be inspired to buy your product or service, it’s not the main goal of content writing. A content writer may work on projects for a brand’s blog or podcast.
Since copywriting is focused on driving sales and content writing is meant to inform readers, it’s clear to see why you need both as an entrepreneur. To be effective at writing copy and content, it takes a unique set of skills.
No matter if you want to write your own messaging or you’re looking to outsource it to a professional writer, it’s helpful to know what sets each type of writing apart so you can ultimately elevate your brand’s message through both sales-focused and informational writing.
Content writing creates a strong brand foundation that builds trust
Content writing is essential to building a memorable brand. Without fresh and interesting content, you may struggle to position your brand in a competitive market.
Since content writing isn’t focused on sales, you have the unique opportunity to lead with value. This is why many content writers focus on creating only the highest quality educational content that will build trust with their audience.
A great example of this is Beardbrand. Instead of simply selling beard grooming products, they’ve created countless hours of YouTube video content for potential customers to enjoy. This ranges from beard grooming tips to beard style tutorials to lifestyle content.
As they generate content on YouTube, more people are able to search and find their product without having to buy their products. However, YouTube is one of the biggest reasons why they’ve been able to grow their e-commerce business to over $120,000 per month.
Trust me, content writing is worth your time and it can often lead indirectly to sales when you’re consistent with your efforts! Content writing will help you build a stronger connection with your audience even before they become customers, which will help when your clients are more ready to take in the sales-focused copywriting on your website.
Copywriting turns that trust into sales by generating revenue
Unlike content writing, copywriting is only successful when it inspires an audience member to take action. However, most people may not be willing to take action the first time they’ve been asked.
That’s why you need content and copy working together to grow your business. Once you’ve invested enough of your time and attention into content, you’ll be primed and ready for the copywriting process.
As a copywriter, your job will be to turn your audience’s initial interest and trust into a well-crafted sales pitch. If that feels scary, think of selling as a way of serving your audience. Your product or service is meant to be a solution to their problems, so this will make the selling process feel more natural.
Over time, your content writing style may stay relatively the same, but your copywriting will need to be optimized over time. Otherwise, you may be leaving sales on the table without knowing it. It’s good to continue promoting your content while tweaking your sales copy every few months.
If you’re looking to make improvements to your copy, you can start by changing your headlines, description copy, calls-to-action, and more. Since copywriting performance is easier to track than content writing, that is exactly what makes it the perfect place to experiment and enhance your messaging.
Copywriting relies on urgency while content writing is evergreen
Have you ever seen businesses use limited-time offers and discounts to entice you to immediately make a purchase? You may have used these same pricing strategies in your own business.
In the copywriting world, discounts and special offers are often used as urgency tactics to generate more revenue. When someone experiences a sense of urgency, they may be more likely to take action because they’ve been given an incentive.
This is a great tactic to use if you want to meet a monthly goal, reduce your current inventory, or sell a product for a limited time. It will help potential customers who are on the fence about making a purchase feel more confident in doing so.
Of course, it’s important to think about sales ethics when you are using urgency tactics. As a rule of thumb, try to stay away from overpromising and underdelivering. Make sure you include refund policies, money-back guarantees, or any other additional documentation that gives your audience more peace of mind when they buy from you.
On the flip side, content writing is evergreen, meaning it is just as timely today as it will be years from now. Content writing efforts are typically more sustainable because you can continue to build value over time. With content writing, you don’t need to rely on any urgency tactics because your content will always be available for someone to read.
Copywriting is used for the short term while content writing has long-term value
Since content writing is evergreen, the value of your content will only increase with time. It’s important to have content on your website and blog that can be useful years from the date it was published.
While it’s good to add strategic updates to your content over time, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. For example, when you’re writing blog content, consider adding strategies, advice, and research that will stay relevant into the future.
Copywriting is more valuable in the short term because it is usually focused on making sales in the short term. However, businesses often use the same form of website copy for years, adding only occasional updates. More urgent content like sales pages, however, may not necessarily live on a website long-term. That’s why you’ll also notice that copywriting is typically short form vs. long-form, which we’ll talk about next.
Copywriting is short form while content writing is long-form
Content writing leads to long-form content whereas copywriting is usually more concise. While blog articles may easily be 1,500 words long, the copy on a landing page rarely will be. The same is true when you compare other copywriting projects to content writing.
To illustrate this, let’s look at the different projects a copywriter and content writer might work on:
- Online and offline advertisements
- Sales email campaigns
- Website copy
- Landing page copy
- Sales pages
- Video scripts
- Sales letters
- Direct mail campaigns
- Social media
Content writing includes:
- Blog posts
- Magazine features
- Email newsletters
- Press releases
- Television or film
After reading this list, it’s clear to see how copywriters generally work on short form pieces of writing instead of long-form, unless it’s needed on a sales page.
If you like using as few words as possible, copywriting might be more in your wheelhouse. If you feel a little long-winded or need more space to explain your thoughts, content writing could be a fit.
Copywriting incorporates basic SEO while content writing is SEO-centric
By now, you know that content writing is usually long-form, evergreen, and has long-term value. This makes content writing the best fit for entrepreneurs who are working on their SEO.
Content writing is beneficial for SEO because…
It allows you to incorporate keywords. I’m always talking about the importance of keywords because they’re one of the best ways to increase your likelihood of ranking high in Google. To learn more, you can check out my Simple Showit SEO course.
You’ll see a higher click-through rate. The more users click on your website link, the more likely you’ll be to see better rankings on Google. This is because visitors are showing they are engaged and excited to take action on your site.
It helps you generate backlinks. You’ll get a backlink every time a website links to your own website. This often happens in blog content, so it’s a smart way for you to improve your SEO. Just make sure the backlinks are from reputable websites, and DON’T buy backlinks!
It improves your bounce rate, along with your overall user experience. Since your bounce rate shows how many website visitors have left your site before interacting with it, creating content that inspires your audience to continue exploring your site is important.
Copywriting may incorporate SEO best practices from time to time, but not as often as content writing. You’ll need to understand SEO when you write your website copy, for example, but it won’t be relevant for writing a sales email or social media ad.
Learn more about copywriting and content writing
Now that you understand the key differences between both styles of writing, you might be interested in diving deeper into each. I’ve curated a list of resources to help you create better content and sales copy.
- 8 Website Copywriting Tips You’ll Want To Implement
- Why To Hire A Copywriter For Your Showit Website
- How to Write Copy That Sells by Ray Edwards
- Pre-Copywriting Checklist for Sales Pages from Alex Cattoni
Content writing resources:
- Free Showit SEO Checklist
- 4 Reasons Wedding Entrepreneurs Should Have a Blog
- Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
- The Power of Moments by Chip Heath