What's the difference between copywriting and content writing?

Updated: May 11

Much like oranges and tangerines, labradors and golden retrievers... content writing and copywriting get mixed and confused all the time... don't they?


How many of us haven't said “biscuits” instead of “cookies”? Or confused a labrador with a golden retriever? Perfectly understandable! They’re both light brown, similar size and have a cute face.


However… Much like biscuits are usually crunchy and sweet or salty, and cookies are buttery and sweet, or labradors have shorter hair and tend to be more active than golden retrievers, so is copywriting very different from content writing even though they have many things in common.

Content writing means creating valuable content to attract and convert leads into customers — and customers into repeat buyers whereas copywriting has a very specific objective: drive action.

They complement each other and help drive traffic and conversions, but they also have different goals and sirve a different purpose in the marketing mix.


So, how are they different?


Long-term versus short-term

Content writing shows benefits on a long-term basis because it’s meant to inform and entertain readers, and help build a community, whereas copywriting should give results on a short-term basis.


Exciting headlines, enticing CTAs, taglines that stay with you and help build a brand, ad copy that converts, or landing pages that sell special limited offers - all examples of texts that are meant to get people to do something. Whether it’s buying, clicking something, opening a newsletter - it’s all meant to drive an action now.

Objectives

Copywriting involves the creation of texts meant to persuade readers to take some type of action so its goal is to turn potential buyers into customers. On the other hand, content writing is meant to build awareness about a brand, educate and strengthen a community.


In fact, effective microcopy is at every corner, making us do things without us even realizing it. Back in 2010 Facebook changed the “Become a Fan” button on Fan Pages to “Like” because their studies showed that people are more prone to click “Like” than commit to “Becoming a Fan”.


Research has shown that including the word “because” along with a reason for people to do something, has increased compliance from 60% to 94%.


That’s the magic of copywriting. It’s these seemingly small things that make the difference between content and great copy.


Style of writing

If content writing is a Sunday paper that speaks to you, informs you about the latest trends, and makes you laugh at the gossip section, copywriting is the love note you got in high school inviting you to meet in the school yard.

A good Sunday paper will entertain you and even create a need to repeat that purchase and get next Sunday's paper too, while a secret date in the school yard will just get you to run to the yard.


These communications are very different and their styles of writing are very different also. If content writing can be anything from creative and free-flowing, to informative and technical, copywriting is to the point, since it’s designed to convey important information and motivate the audience to take action.


While they’re definitely not the same, content writing and copywriting complement each other. In an ideal world, you connect with your audience by delivering high quality content, and then you guide them towards a certain action with persuasive texts and enticing copy.


They’re hardly the same but you can see how well they work together if done right.


But that’s just me… thinking out loud.