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

Writing is an effective and engaging way to tell a story and inform, persuade, or educate the reader. In the world of digital marketing you’ve most likely come across the terms copywriting and content writing. While they might sound similar and seem to be interchangeable, there’s more than meets the eye. 

The difference between copywriting and content writing

Copywriting and content writing are both forms of writing, but there are several differences that set them apart from each other.

The main difference between copywriting and content writing is that copywriting aims to persuade; content writing aims to inform.

  • Copywriting usually contains concise and consumer-friendly language; content writing tells a story with a visible page structure and long-form text.
  • Content writing aims to build relationships over time with the audience; copywriting facilitates commercial transactions.
  • Copywriting targets consumer needs in an accessible and easy way; content writing answers questions and creates information-rich content with high search engine optimization (SEO) value.
  • The effectiveness of a copywriting strategy can usually be measured in the short term; content writing generally contributes to a long-term strategy.

There can also be some overlap between copywriting and content writing. For example, copywriting is generally considered to be short-form, but you’ll probably come across longer-form copywriting styles and vice versa. 

What is copywriting?

When you’re deciding what purchase to make between two similar items from different companies, what influences your buying decisions? There will most likely be images of the product, specifications, and dimensions, or customer reviews and testimonials. While they can all influence the decision, powerful and compelling copywriting can set a business apart from its competitors and convince the visitor to choose their product or service. 

Effective copywriting describes what the product or service is like even before the customer experiences the service or holds the product in their hand. You can think of copywriting as written text for the purpose of advertising and marketing. The main purpose of copywriting is to drive leads and sales, and a copywriter often uses emotional connection or relatability to persuade the reader to take action. This is achieved with emotive language and a relatable tone. 

For many visitors copywriting can be the final ‘push’ needed for them to trust a business, continue down the buyer journey, and eventually become a loyal and returning customer. 

Examples of copywriting and how it’s used

While great copywriting will depend on various factors — like the business, the industry it’s in, and what action the audience is encouraged to take — there are several tried and tested features of copywriting that copywriters will often utilize.

Apple – Sharp, simple, and witty 

The average attention span of consumers is decreasing. Apple understands this and keeps the copy on their website concise and sharp, which quickly commands attention. Bite-sized sentences get the information to your brain as fast as possible.

Apple’s AirPods homepage (source)

Duolingo – Understanding the audience’s pain points and goals is vital

Duolingo understands that while most people want to learn a new language, time and costs can prevent them from making a start. Their copywriting reflects their goal and what their audience is trying to achieve — to make learning fun, free, and effective.

Duolingo’s homepage (source)

Glossier – Drive sales by including a call to action (CTA)

Ultimately, the main goal of copywriting is to convert a visitor into a lead or customer. A CTA can encourage someone to take action like subscribing to a newsletter, joining a membership, browsing categories, or completing a purchase. 

Glossier’s homepage (source)

There are many other features of successful copywriting, and a great copywriter will frequently incorporate several depending on the message they want to communicate. Copywriting can be found across many platforms, and businesses will often utilize an omnichannel approach. These include:

  • Ad copy
  • Emails
  • Newsletters
  • Website copy
  • Social media 

What is content writing?

When you’re looking for an answer to a question, or you want to learn more about a certain subject, where do you go? You might browse YouTube, visit your local library, or ask the people around you. But more often than not you’ll turn to the internet. This is where content writing comes in. 

Like copywriting, content writing can also drive sales — but that is not its primary purpose. Simply put, content writing is the creation of written content that informs, educates, and entertains readers. When a business has well-written and insightful content, this can increase its reputation and credibility, showcase its expertise, and build a strong relationship with its audience.

Content writing can add value to any business. Because of this, content writing is often in the form of a blog, article, or another long-form text linked to a website and shared on other platforms like social media. When the reader is browsing through their search engine or social media and clicks to read it, they’ve now been introduced to the business, their website, and what they can offer. 

Words are powerful, and content writing is no different. Effective content writing gives readers a glimpse into what a business or brand is all about. 

Examples of content writing and how it’s used

Just like copywriting, great content writing will be dependent on what the business wants to communicate and its specific content strategy and marketing goals. However, there are several tried and tested features a content writer will often use when writing.

Writing Studio – understand the audience; target what they search for

Content writing is often industry-relevant and searchable, so the target audience can be reached. Writing Studio is a content writing agency, so we’ve got blog posts covering content marketing tips, SEO, and more.

Writing Studio’s blog homepage (source)

Starbucks – Tell a story

While not all content writing types are in the form of a story, the content writer will aim to get across a bigger message or idea. Starbucks connects with its customers by keeping them up to date on the latest news and feel-good stories.

Starbucks Stories homepage (source)

Refinery29 – Shareable content 

Content writing is value-rich. Because of this, blogs and articles can be easily shared across social media platforms. Refinery29 reposts their articles from their website onto their LinkedIn page to re-engage their audience and drive more traffic to their website. 

Refinery29 LinkedIn (source)

While blog posts and articles are usually the most popular content writing forms, there are many different types of content writing strategies a business can use. These include: 

  • Blogs
  • Articles
  • Website copy
  • White papers
  • Ebooks 

Which writing type is best for me? 

Now that we’ve covered copywriting, content writing, and the difference between the two, you might be wondering what writing type is best for you. Usually, a mixture of both is used within a business’s marketing strategy, but this can also depend on their goals and the platforms they want to populate with written text.

Do you want to increase your website traffic and discoverability? Then implementing a strong content writing strategy will help you improve your reach and engagement. 

Are you attracting a substantial amount of website traffic and leads but they’re dropping off the customer journey? Then adding in or improving the copywriting can be an effective way to convert more leads. 

Do you want to stay competitive in the digital space while building stronger relationships with your audience? Then a combination of engaging copywriting and content writing is the best next step. 

Your use of copywriting or content writing can also depend on the platforms you use. Generally, websites have a mixture of copywriting and content writing, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find an ad or a social media post containing whole text articles or blogs — they’re usually present as links.

The bottom line 

Copywriting and content writing are two elements integral to a successful content marketing strategy. 

While they both help to increase the visibility and credibility of a brand or business, there are also differences that set copywriting and content writing apart. It’s important to know these differences so you can effectively utilize them to achieve your digital marketing goals.

Don’t forget to share this article!

Related articles