Content Writing vs Copywriting; Similarities and Differences


With the growth of online marketing, the differences of content writing vs copywriting have become blurred.

Both disciplines require almost the same skillset making it hard to decide what to implement in your marketing strategy.

So which is which?

The most significant difference between the two is based on their objectives.

Content writing is intended to offer the most helpful answer to a query brought forward by a reader. In comparison, copywriting aims to get the reader to take a specific action.

Yet that’s just the tip of the Iceberg.

To understand the differences better, let’s define copywriter and content writer.

Who is a copywriter?

A copywriter writes content with advertising and marketing in mind.

Their goal is to convince a reader to take a particular action or persuade them to indulge in something.

They do this with the least words possible. Why? Nobody likes reading salesy content. So you got to send the message fast and precisely.

They strive to communicate a service or a product appeal as quickly and effectively to convert a reader to a customer.

And they do this by writing short-form content that is captivating, interesting, and memorable.

No wonder some copywriters spend hours or days searching for the perfect copy headline that will stick in people’s minds.

Who is a content writer?

A content writer creates informational content to educate, inform, entertain, or instruct a reader.

Content writers focus on what people are searching for on Google and write long-form content offering valuable answers to the target audience.

They try to convince a reader of an argument so that by the time the latter leaves the blog page, they have the best answers to their questions.

In the process, a content writer builds trust and authority because most people will value your site as the go-to place for specific queries.

Due to similarities in skills required for both content writing and copywriting, one can blend both skills in any project

For instance, an email campaign, which is primarily a copywriter’s job, can be made informative by writing content responding to a subscriber’s question; use of content writing in a copywriting project.

On the other hand, when writing a blog post, mostly a content writing project, one can include Call-to-action buttons to convert readers into subscribers.

Yet, it is still necessary to understand where either should be used to form the basis of making your decision-making process because each of these has different goals and different results.

Content Writing is long game Copywriting short game

Content writing involves writing informative content, which despite promoting user engagement, it does not convert immediately.

It gradually establishes trust and promotes the brand as a reliable source of information.

This usually takes time because Google does not highly rank any blog post. You must prove your website contains valuable content that gives users a great online experience and answers their questions.

Meanwhile, good content lays a strong foundation for copywriting.

Copywriting aims to convert visitors into subscribers and then customers. So when it’s done on a trusted and authoritative blog, it can be very successful.

Copywriters create a sense of urgency and inspire an emotional response. They work to convince people to take action immediately so that they can convert think.

Yet, their work will be futile on a blog that hasn’t built a good reputation.

SEO Content Writing vs. SEO Copy Writing

Site Engine Optimization is integral in every website that wants to rank. So it’s not a surprise that both content writers and copywriters can base their work on this strategy.

Yet, either of the two has a different approach to SEO based on their goals.

A content writer focuses on keywords that get the most search on Google. They engage either free or premium keyword research tools to discover what’s popular on the internet.

Using these key phrases, they create content that answers or provides comprehensive information with search intent in mind.

For instance, the SERPs of the keyword “backlinks’ is a list of high-quality blog posts defining backlinks and giving more information on how to get hold of them.

content writing vs copywriting google backlinks serps
Backlinks SERPs

To rank for such a keyword, a content writer must curate a blog post because all top results are blog posts. Also, they must keep in mind the searcher’s intent; to understand backlinks and know how to get backlinks.

They must then optimize their content to soothe Google and offer readers value and a great experience.

Likewise, copywriters must take into account the necessary tactics to soothe Google. But their approach is a little different.

Instead of focusing on SERPs, they get their ‘keywords’ from customers’ word of mouth.

Websites with user-generated content such as e-commerce sites with product reviews and social media platforms such as Reddit are excellent sources of this data.

They scan for specific common words used by customers that express emotions and pain points to build a list of “buying triggers.”

They then use these keywords to curate their copy.

For instance, this question of Reddit reveals a pain point of a Paleo protein bar customer

Content writing vs Copywriting Reddit example
Reddit; excellent source of copy ideas

Brian Dean uses these words to build buying triggers list and write a copy headline that attracts customers facing a particular problem. Here’s is the outcome.

brian dean copywriting sample
Copywriting sample

So the difference between copy and content can be attributed to the strategy of curation. While SEO Content writing focuses on ranking for keywords searched by ‘googlers’ using helpful and optimized content, SEO copywriting focuses on attracting clicks through empathetic words from customers.

Content writing vs Copywriting skillsets

Both copywriting and content writing requires refined writing skills.

Which means mastery in grammar, good vocabulary, and fluency. It’s integral for communication.

However, copywriters use their mastery a little different from content writers; to communicate with few words and persuade readers into action.

While content writers can play around with long-form content to engage with readers, copywriters must send their message fast and effectively.

In terms of writing with empathy, both a copywriter and a content writer must put themselves in the audience’s shoes first.

  • What do they want?
  • What are their desires?

Then they must shape their work to tackle these questions head-on

A copywriter will do so by focusing on the features of a service or a product and the benefits that a customer will accrue from using it. Knowing the pain points of the customer thus is the basis of good copy.

A content writer who understands a visitor’s intention on their site will be generous with well research information to give the answers they need.

But what splits copywriters from content writers?

Technical Skills.

Mastery in copywriting requires a sales or marketing specialization and considerable experience too. It’s the factor that determines whether a copy sells or not.

As for content writing, advanced SEO skills calls the shots. Great content optimization

  • Increases ranking keywords
  • Increases clicks from SERPs
  • Attracts high authority backlinks

All of which leads to more traffic.

Either way, the goal is to get more people to engage with a brand online.

Copywriting vs Content Writing Examples

Copywriting projects come primarily in short form. They are designed to communicate instantly and initiate action. They include

  • Display ads
  • Taglines and Slogans
  • Email Campaigns
  • Billboards
  • Sales Letters
  • Landing pages
  • Product description

Content writing projects come in long-form since they are meant to entertain and encourage user engagement. They include.

  • Articles
  • Blog posts
  • Magazine features
  • Email Newsletters
  • E-books
  • Whitepapers
  • Service pages

Do you need both Copywriting and Content Writing?

It’s hard to be successful in online marketing without combining copy and content. They may have different objectives and results but are a potent combination.

Yet, most marketers don’t know how to blend the two from the beginning of a marketing campaign.

For instance, if you focus on content writing and ignore copywriting, you’ll produce too much ‘nurturing content’ that creates loyal customers who haven’t reached the point of wanting to buy from you.

It’s kind of like a friend zone. Someone likes you a lot, enough to hang around you all the time, but they don’t see you as relationship material. It sucks!

If you pitch a product, you will be disappointed at the number of people who buy despite having a huge fan base.

Also, if you implement copywriting earlier on in your campaign with little or no content foundation, you’ll hardly convert. Customers who have not engaged with your content enough cannot trust you to give them value.

So the best way to avoid either scenario is by blending both copy and content.

You start by going hard on content writing while implementing pre-framing copy, which transforms your audience into potential customers.

Just like a guy who entertains the company of a girl but makes it clear early on that they are relationship material.

Be careful, though, to separate the structures of copywriting and content writing. Applying content marketing principles while on a copywriting project will not give you the results you want.

For instance, by cramming keywords in your copy, you interrupt your sales copy’s natural flow and reduce its punch and persuasiveness.

Simply because people are searching for specific keywords does not mean they will be triggered to buy.

If you get too salesy on your content, your readers will see your intentions from far. They’ll realize you’re selling them rather than helping them.

Great copywriting has a perfect balance between marketing and creative storytelling, while great content writing informs and offers value.

This single post is an excellent example of content. I’m not trying to sell you anything. I intend to educate you on the differences between content writing and copywriting.

Considering the delicate matters, you might need to hire a copywriter and content writer.

Do you need a separate Copywriter and Content writer?

Since the skillset required for both jobs, it might be reasonable to hire one professional offering both services, mainly if you’re limited on budget.

But don’t expect to get results as good as you would by hiring separately.

First, there are several types of content writers. To get the most value from your investment, you must pick a professional who excels in the content type that suits your audience.

Likewise, there are seven types of copywriters. A technical copywriter might excel in writing copy for tech brands but fail in creative copywriting for a youthful brand.

Getting one person who can excel in both of these multidimensional fields is almost impossible. One side is bound to suffer.

This is why you should consider hiring separately. Let them do what they do best.

That’s why buildings are set up with the help of two separate professionals; an engineer and an architect. Both have mastered their trade and will cooperate to build.

Hiring one professional that claims to do both means you compromise on brand trust or conversions.

If you’ve chosen to higher both, how will you identify the best writer?

Hiring copywriters and content writers.

Don’t just hire the first copywriter you come across on freelance platforms. Gauge a number to see who works best for you.

Ask for samples and conversion statistics to identify whose work gets the best results.

Also, find out if they’ve specialized in the specific form of copywriting that serves your audience write.

Similarly, a content writer must prove their worth by providing samples that you’ll scrutinize to identify whether they are good at SEO through the on-page optimization of their previous work.

About El Gwaro

El Gwaro is a content writer and HubSpot Certified Content Marketer. He blogs about meaningful content creation that adds value to people. When he's not writing, he enjoys watching combat sports and fantasizing.

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