If you believed that content writing and copywriting were the same thing, then you'd be wrong.
While they are types of writing, their purposes and techniques are poles apart. In this article, we'll explore the key differences between copywriting and content writing so that you can determine which one is best suited for your needs.
When you learn the differences, you'll have a deeper appreciation for the kind of content you should write. And you'll get better results from your marketing because you'll choose the right formats for different goals.
Copywriting is all about persuasion. Its purpose is to sell, whether that be a product, service, or idea.
Whenever you click on an ad, and it takes you to a landing page, the content you see there is most likely in the copywriting style. The goal is to get you to buy something and to buy right away.
That's copywriting in a nutshell.
Content writing, on the other hand, is about educating or informing the reader.
You're not necessarily selling anything; you're just providing information that might be useful to the reader. This type of content might appear in the form of an article, blog post, or even a social media update.
Now that you know the key differences between the two let's drill down and explore how to optimize each type of writing for different purposes.
This section will help you get specific examples of how copywriting and content writing differ from each other.
1. The purpose
The first key difference is the purpose of the writing.
As we've seen, the purpose of copywriting is to sell, while the purpose of content writing is to educate or inform.
However, both these formats are useful for other goals like lead generation, building brand awareness, and more.
2. Tone of voice
The tone of voice you use will be different for each type of writing.
Copywriting is all about persuasion, so the tone of voice is usually more direct. The style is also more salesy, which means using words like "buy," "get," and "special offer."
You also use the imperative voice when copywriting. For example: 'Buy this product today and get an additional 10% discount on your next purchase.'
Content writing, on the other hand, is more about building relationships. The tone of voice is usually informal and friendly.
In the case of writing blog posts and articles, you want to avoid using the imperative tone or sales-like approaches as that will put your reader off.
However, this doesn’t mean that you never use an imperative tone or use a copywriting style ever in blog content. At the end of your blog post, you might use create a call to action saying “Leave a comment below” which is in the imperative tone. The key is to know when to use different styles of writing.
3. Time frame for creating results
When you're copywriting, you want the reader to take action right away. That means your writing must be persuasive enough to get them to take the desired action. Almost as soon as they’re done reading your copy.
If you place an ad online and your ad copy doesn't convince at least 1-3% of people to buy, then you're losing money. Copywriting goals are typically short-term, and you're expected to generate real sales from it within days and weeks.
Content writing is more about creating long-term results. The goal is not necessarily to get the reader to take action right away but rather to provide them with information that will be useful to them in the future.
A person who reads a helpful blog post or signs up for your email newsletter may not take action for weeks. But when they're finally ready to buy, your brand will be top of mind.
4. Performance measurement
A major difference between copywriting and content writing is how you measure success.
When copywriting, your success will be measured by conversion rates. In other words, how many people take the desired action (e.g., make a purchase) after reading your copy.
Content writing success, on the other hand, is measured by engagement metrics such as page views, time on page, social shares, and so on.
Another key difference is that the results of your copywriting efforts are easy to track. If you place an ad online and your audience sees it, clicks on it, and buys your product, you can track that using Google Analytics or other similar tools.
Content writing is harder to track as the results are often not immediate. Your audience may see a social media update today, share it with friends, and one of their friends might visit your website later to buy from you. It can be impossible, at times, to track the original source of the sale.
5. Writing style
The writing style for copywriting and content writing is also different.
As we've seen, copywriting is all about driving sales and other conversion metrics. That means you must be very clear about what you want the reader to do.
Your copy should be persuasive, which means using power words, active voice, and so on. You also have to be very concise as you don't want to waste the reader's time.
Content writing, on the other hand, is more about building relationships and providing valuable information. So your content will be slightly different. You still should use power words in your headline and use the active voice as much as possible.
But unlike copywriting, you don't have to be as brief. You can afford to be a little wordier as the goal is not necessarily to get the reader to take action right away.
6. The use of psychological triggers
Because copywriting's goal is to drive sales immediately, you have to hook your audience's attention and engage them emotionally.
This means using specific techniques that are known to have a powerful psychological impact on readers.
For example, it's well known that there are two main things that motivate people: the desire for pleasure and the drive to avoid pain. It's also documented that people are more motivated to avoid something painful rather than to go after something positive.
And copywriters use this knowledge effectively when crafting messages.
For example, have you ever come across a sales letter that starts with something like this:
"Don't make the same mistake I did. I wish I had known about this sooner. I wasted so much time and money on methods that didn't work. "
This is an example of a negative psychological trigger known as the fear of loss. The copywriter is trying to get you to identify with their story and then tap into your fears so you'll take action to avoid making the same mistakes.
While content writing can use similar methods, it's not as intense or frequent. The goal is not to get the reader to take action right away, so there's no need to use such powerful psychological triggers.
7. The call to action
The call to action (CTA) is perhaps the most important element of copywriting.
Your CTA is what tells the reader what to do next. And it has to be very clear and concise. The last thing you want is for the reader to get to the end of your message and not know what to do.
Ideally, your CTA will be something that's very easy for the reader to do. For example, if you're selling a product online, your CTA might be something like "Buy now" or "Add to cart."
If you're driving traffic to a landing page, your CTA might be something like "Sign up for my free course" or "Download my free e-book."
Content writing doesn't need large or strong commitments from readers. If you're adding a CTA at the end of the blog post, it's usually a gentle request to leave a comment, sign up for your newsletter, or follow you on social media.
8. Where copywriting and content writing are used
And finally, one of the biggest differences between content writing and copywriting is where they're used.
Copywriting is usually used in sales pages, landing pages, email marketing, and direct mail. It's also used in ad copy for search results pages and social media.
Content writing is used in blog posts, articles, web pages, and email newsletters.
However, this doesn't mean that copywriting techniques are restricted to ads and landing pages only. You could use copywriting tactics on your pricing page, and 'BOFU' posts or Bottom of the Funnel posts where the audience is on the verge of buying and you're providing them with reasons why they should buy your product. ]
And it's rare for businesses to link to a blog post in an ad, but this serves a purpose too. If you want to build your brand image, then using blog-style or content writing approaches in your ads and landing pages is useful.
Copywriting and content writing are two different approaches to creating written content.
Copywriting is all about convincing people to buy from you. Content writing is about creating long-term outcomes such as brand building, thought leadership, and lead generation.
Both have their own distinct goals, techniques, and style. And both can be used to achieve different objectives.
So, the next time you're create written content, think about your goal and which approach will help you achieve it.