In the last ten years that I have been writing content, there were particular occasions when some of my clients asked if I write copy.
This stumped me, as I did not realize back then that there was a difference between content writing and copywriting. I skirted around the issue, and simply asked what they wanted me to do. Despite researching, it was a tad difficult for me to understand what copywriting was until I took a copywriting course.
Now, I do both, and I am going to share with you the differences between these two types of content. If you are a writer, I am hoping this will help you classify your services better. If you are a client, this article should help you decide what kind of writing service you need, depending on your goal.
If you are a small business, you need to hire only one writer who can do both.
What is copywriting?
Do not confuse copywriting with copyright. A copyright is a legal term, which denotes ownership of written material. Copywriting, however, is a writing skill whose main focus is making sales. You typically see these forms of writing in commercials, billboards, and radio scripts. You will also find this in Google and Facebook ads.
Examples of copywriting materials are:
- Product reviews
- Product descriptions
- Landing pages
- Email campaigns
A copywriting material is there to make a reader take action. Companies need this to make sales, or to get leads into their sales funnel. A copywriting material always has a call to action found in the end, like Buy Now, Register for Free, or Download a Free eBook Now.
According to Dan Lok, “Copywriting is closing in print.” It is a skill where you have the ability to persuade the reader, influence his decisions, and make the reader engage.
What is Content Writing?
Content is pretty much everything that is not copywriting. For as long as the content does not aim to make a sale, it is content writing.
Examples of these are:
- How-to articles
You write content to provide consistent value to your reader. Content is mainly used to connect to your readers, improve your credibility, and add value to your subscribers.
The Similarities of Content Writing and Copywriting
Despite this main difference, sometimes there is a blurry line between the two. They do have similarities, too, and it can be confusing for both the client and the writer.
Here are the similarities:
- Use of spoken words – both these two writing types talk to the reader in spoken words, not written ones. The audience is comprised of consumers, not academics. When you write content or copy, you are not supposed to create content in the same way a professor writes his thesis for his PhD.
- Adding Value – the bottom line for both styles is to add value to the reader’s life. The reader should have learned something after reading the content or copy, as both share important information—be it a product or be it about entertainment.
- Generate Leads – both content and copy eventually generate leads. While the copy is focused on making a sale, content is focused on convincing a reader to take action, like subscribing to an email list of a blog.
So, what is really the difference?
The Differences Between Content Writing and Copywriting
To make it easier, we are going to layout the differences on a table. Take note, however, that these differences may be cross-functional. In cases like that, we can call the content as a hybrid.
|GOAL||Make sales||Connect to the audience|
|STYLE||Direct to the point||Supportive content to the actual copy|
- Make sales – when you write copy, it is your duty to convince the reader to buy a product.
- To connect to the audience – the content is leaning towards creating a connection with the audience, and you typically do this by being informative, personable, and being an expert.
- Direct to the point – a copy is direct to the point. You layout the features and benefits of the product, what it costs, and what makes it stand out from the competition.
- Supportive content to the actual copy – you generally need web content to support a copy. For example, you write content about why giving away free eBooks is important in growing your email list. This content supports a copy that aims to sell an eBook writing service or eBook writing software.
- Evergreen – both types should be updated regularly to keep up with the times
What about a hybrid? If you are a writer, you can use the best practices of both types in one article. It is not unusual to find articles with headlines like Top 10… or The Best 10…
Articles like these are hybrids in a sense that they are content, and yet the writers are actually convincing you to pick one of those products in the list.
Do you need content or copy?
My answer to this is you need both. As a business, you need supportive content, and you need a landing page. You also need email campaign materials, which you can automate.
If you are a business, you definitely need copy for your ads on Facebook, Google, and other platforms. You also need landing pages, and only a copywriter can do that. You may also need these:
- Website copywriting
- LinkedIn content
- Video script copywriting
- Brochure copywriting
Your website, however, needs SEO content for search engines to rank it. Your audience also needs valuable content to keep them coming back or to make your website credible. A website that has no content is nothing more than a billboard.
Take a look at the screenshot below. It is the landing page of an affiliate marketer who is trying to sell a product called Vert Shock. The product teaches students how to improve their jumping skills so they can dunk like a pro.
The landing page is the copy. But on the top right, you will see that there are Shoe Reviews, Tools, and Articles. The content of those links is called content.
Do you need different writers to do it?
This depends. Not all content writers write good copy, and vice versa. But there are those who have been in the industry so long that they can shift from one type to another.
For one, I have been a content writer and copywriter for over a decade, and I switch from one to another, depending on what my client needs. I have written for both individually owned businesses and large corporations, both for content and copy.
If you are a small business, you need to hire only one writer who can do both. Big businesses can afford marketing agencies who have dedicated copywriting experts.
As a small business, the costs of paying these agencies may not do you financial justice, most especially so if your profit margins are not as high as the big boys’.
The main difference of content writing from copywriting is that copy aims to close a sale in written form, while content supports the copy and provides value to the reader.
If you are a small business, or perhaps an affiliate marketer who needs content for your blog, you do not need to hire both. Instead, hire one writer who is flexible enough to do both for you. You will save a ton—that I guarantee you.
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