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Copywriting vs. Content Writing: What’s the Difference?

Content is everywhere. Well-structured words show up on web pages, blog posts, white papers, social media posts, pay-per-click ads, email, direct mail, print ads, brochures, and more. You need content. 

Here are some things to consider about copywriting vs. content writing and why you need them both to grow your business.

Two Different Strategies

Copywriting and content writing can both:

But how they go about doing that, and when they get results, differs significantly.

Copywriting is designed to inspire immediate action with measurable short-term results. Copywriting is a call to action.

Content writing is geared toward nurturing your target audience and building trust by providing valuable information designed for search engine optimization.

Think of content writing as a television show and copywriting as the commercials.

Varying Lengths

Copywriting is typically short-form, such as an email, social media post, landing page, or brochure. They’re emotionally charged to get the reader to do something, such as click here, buy now, register today, etc.

Content writing is long-form, meaning it’s between around 2,000-5,000 words. Rather than pushing for instant purchase or action, the idea is to build relationships slowly and gain domain authority over time.

You accomplish this with blog posts, white papers, ebooks, and more.

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Keywords

Print marketing materials don’t rely on keywords; keywords are strictly for digital marketing and are critical for copywriting and content writing.

In content writing, you need keyword strategies. You determine what your audience is searching for online, and then you provide that content for them. You’re solving a problem, giving away information, or entertaining. 

When a user enters a query into a search for your topic, your goal is to show up as close to the top of the search engine results page as possible.

The same is true with ads. Your keywords matter.

Aside from indexing and displaying your content based on keywords, Google also checks to see if your keyword strategies align with your pay-per-click ads and landing pages, which is why all of your copywriting also needs to center around the same keyword strategy.

A copywriter needs to understand the essential elements of the keyword strategy, but it’s the content writer who has to be an expert in the art of search engine optimization.

The Sales Technique

Copywriting is quite direct in that it’s sales copy. It’s also called marketing copy to convert traffic to leads or sales.

Content marketing is more like planting a seed that grows over time. There’s ultimately going to be a sale (multiple, most likely!), but it takes time to cultivate. There is no product to sell, only branded content.

Content Strategist and Content

Marketer

There is some overlap between copywriting and content writing, but many people mistakenly think that one writer can handle multiple roles. In addition to a copywriter and a content writer, you may need to employ the services of a content strategist and a content marketer.

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Your content strategist is the one who comes up with the keywords, keyword phrases and lays the groundwork for the rest of the team.

The content writer picks it up from there, generating the long-form blog post designed to nurture leads.

Next, the copywriter produces the verbiage for social media posts, pay-per-click ads, landing pages, and other sales copy.

Then, the content marketer steps in to publish the content across social media platforms and pay-per-click advertising.

The Importance of Unique Content

Unique, original content is crucial in your digital marketing endeavors. 

Original content helps your website gain more search engine authority and establishes you as an expert.

Syndicated content, or that which is published on more than one website, can hurt search engine rankings and lose trust with your readers.

Examples of Copywriting:

  • Advertising copy
  • Billboards
  • Brochures
  • Catalogs
  • Direct mail
  • Paid ads
  • Postcards
  • Sales letters and emails
  • SEO landing pages
  • Social media posts
  • Taglines
  • Video, t.v., or radio scripts
  • Website copy

Examples of Content Writing: 

  • Articles
  • Blog posts
  • Books
  • ebooks
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • User guides

What to Look for in a Copywriter

  • Understands target market and customer persona
  • Accurately represents the voice of your brand
  • Firmly grasps the detailed marketing goals
  • Writes clear, clean copy
  • Simplifies complex ideas
  • Invokes emotion with storytelling techniques
  • Understands search engine optimization
  • Crafts persuasive, short-form content
  • Works according to deadlines
  • Complies with reasonable revisions

What to Look for in a Content Writer

  • Maximizes visibility on search engines with keyword strategies
  • Creates engaging long-form content
  • Substantiates content with research to include facts, figures, and statistics
  • Structures content for readability and indexing
  • Knows English and proper grammar
  • Uses natural vocabulary
  • Contributes new content ideas
  • Works within deadlines
  • Offers reasonable revisions
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Interview Questions for Writers

If you plan on working with a specific writer vs. an agency and are looking for the best fit, interview a few. Here are some questions to ask writers in an interview:

  • Why do you think you’re qualified?
  • What types of writing have you done before?
  • What do you know about keyword strategies and SEO?
  • What do you think of our existing content?
  • What content would you suggest for us, and why?
  • What is your writing process?
  • How much time do you invest in researching, writing, and editing?
  • How do you receive feedback, criticism, or requests for revisions?
  • How many revisions do you include with your price?
  • Have you missed deadlines before? If so, why?
  • How do you write about topics that are new to you?
  • What’s your favorite type of writing?
  • What’s your least favorite?
  • What project are you most proud of?
  • What’s the biggest writing mistake you’ve made?
  • How do you overcome writer’s block?
  • How do you handle multiple projects?
  • How do you measure your success?

The Bottom Line

Frequently Asked Questions

It’s easy to confuse copywriters vs. content writers. Sometimes, they do overlap. But there’s a distinguishing difference between the two.

Copywriting is the hard sell. It’s emotional, persuasive copy designed to trigger an immediate action from the reader. This style of writing is for fast results over short time spans.

Content writing is informative, long-form, to rank on the search engines. It’s a long-term strategy to generate leads organically over time.

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