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Copywriting vs Content Writing

What’s The Difference and Why Does It Matter?

Copywriting vs Content Writing: What’s The Difference and Why Does It Matter?

People use the words content writing and copywriting interchangeably. So, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were the same thing.

But in fact, content writing and copywriting have fundamental differences.

Understanding these differences is important to make sure you’re doing each one properly—and can therefore effectively capitalise on the potential of both to boost your business.

While copywriting has been around since the dawn of advertising, content writing has become a buzzword in more recent years, with content creation becoming a central part of digital marketing.

You’ve probably heard the much-quoted words of Bill Gates: “Content is king.” In today’s world, producing and distributing content plays a significant part in all marketing campaigns.

But that’s not to say copywriting has taken a back seat. Compelling copywriting continues to be of central importance if you want to communicate with your customers—and, more importantly, to get them to buy your products or services.

Here’s everything you need to know about copywriting vs content writing.

Content Writing: What is It?

Content writing is basically creating written content to entertain or educate readers. It’s less about driving sales and more about inspiring and engaging your audience with informative or motivational writing that keeps their eyes on your page.

Content writing can take various forms, from blog posts, white papers, press releases, and e-books, to news articles, case studies, and social media posts. It can often function as a stand-alone content asset, rather than part of a broader marketing strategy.

In fact, this kind of content often never actually mentions a company’s product, service, or brand.

So, if content writing isn’t about selling anything, then what’s its purpose?

Content writing isn’t about getting people to buy directly but more about laying the groundwork for future sales.

You’re getting people interested in what you have to say, spreading awareness of your brand, cultivating a distinct brand voice, building trust, and establishing your authority and credibility—all of which will help you to move them down the sales funnel later.

One essential type of content writing is SEO content writing. This is essentially when marketing teams create keyword-focused content—filled with specific high-search terms that indicate to search engines that it’s valuable and useful content.

This kind of content is comprehensive and high-quality, designed to answer a user pain point. SEO content will also involve link-building, attracting high-quality backlinks from other sites, and directing users to internal web pages.

Copywriting: What is It?

If we now look at what successful copywriting is all about, it will become clear that content writing and copywriting are quite distinct.

Remember Mad Men? Don Draper and his team were all copywriters. They used words to get people to buy.

While content writing is about engagement and piquing interest, copywriting is more sales-focused, designed to get the reader to take action—usually to buy something.

However, it could also be to encourage them to subscribe to a newsletter, schedule an appointment, request a demo or quote, or leave their contact details.

You’ll find copywriting on landing pages, pay-per-click ads, social media ads, product descriptions, and any other sales copy on a website. Slogans, taglines, promotional video scripts, and billboards will all use copywriting skills to drive sales.

Compared to content writing, which is a long-term strategy, slowly building interest around your company, copywriting is more about short-term goals with significant returns, i.e., increased sales.

Typically, different pieces of copywriting work together as part of a wider strategy to funnel users along the pipeline towards the eventual purchase.

In terms of tone, copywriting is usually informal, conversational, interactive—and, of course, highly persuasive. It’s written with a clear call-to-action and focus in mind. Copywriters will spend a lot of time considering the exact wording of a CTA to get it just right.

How Content and Copywriting Are Different

Now you understand a bit more about what content and copywriting are, here’s a helpful summary of how they differ.

  • Purpose – this is the main difference between copywriting and content writing. Copywriting is a means to drive sales, and its success can be measured by how many sales are generated. Therefore, it needs to be convincing and persuasive. Content writing, on the other hand, is about engagement. How many people are reading your content? How long do they stay on the page? Do you get many comments or shares on social media?
  • SEO – content writing can often rank higher in search engine results compared to copywriting because search engines perceive it as more valuable and trustworthy for readers. There’s no apparent commercial intent. It’s more informational.
  • Length – content writing is usually significantly longer than copywriting, which may just be a short advert or product description. Shorter is better for sales, with pages under 200 words having the highest average conversion rate. Meanwhile, content writing must be more detailed because it aims to inform and educate. The more comprehensive it is, the better it performs in terms of SEO. Hence why it takes more time than ever to create blog articles, with the average writing time in 2019 now at 3 hours and 57 minutes, a 65% increase from two hours and 24 minutes in 2014.
  • Emotions – while all good writing triggers emotions, copywriting is particularly reliant on generating certain emotions in readers, often using words that create a sense of urgency or scarcity, for example, to persuade readers to act.
  • Measuring effectiveness – the success of copywriting is more immediate than with content writing. If your sales go up, your copywriting is working. For content writing, the effect will become more evident in the long term.
  • Sales funnel – copywriting and content writing are focused on different parts of the sales funnel. Content writers aim to drive organic traffic through SEO-optimised content that gets viewers on to the page. Copywriters will then turn these visitors into leads or conversions.
  • Tone – copywriting nearly always uses a conversational tone of voice, whereas sometimes content writing will be more formal, such as whitepapers or e-books.

How Content and Copywriting Are the Same

While copywriting and content writing differ in crucial ways, they do have some similarities.

  • Both are about establishing a connection with the reader, and the writer needs to use empathy to create this bond.
  • Both are most successful when the writer keeps the reader’s needs and desires in mind during the creation process. This ensures the writing is relevant and hits a nerve with the intended audience.
  • Both will use stories to get a user’s attention and keep them reading. By encouraging us to use our imagination, stories can be a significant hook.
  • Copywriting and content writing both require close attention to detail. They need to be well-written and have undergone extensive proofreading and editing to eliminate errors that might put readers off and create the wrong impression.
  • Similarly, both need to be engaging. This means avoiding jargon or dense or dull language favouring powerful words that trigger readers’ emotions and keep them interested.

Ultimately, both copywriting and content writing have the same goal in mind: to generate leads and sales. They just do so more or less directly.

Examples of Copywriting vs Content Writing

Salesforce

The CRM solution company Salesforce demonstrates the difference between copywriting and content writing when comparing its homepage to its blog.

The homepage is full of imperatives and calls to action, as well as catchy and concise copy designed to get the audience interested.

Salesforce

Meanwhile, the blog includes many articles where the connection between the subject matter and Salesforce is not always obvious. Selling services is not the purpose of these articles.

Instead, Salesforce is positioning itself as an authority in its field with various informative and educational articles on topics that matter to its audience.

Salesforce

Waitrose

Similarly, we can compare the Waitrose homepage with its Inspiration page. The former is all about leading the customer down the sales funnel. It’s neatly categorised into different products and includes copy promoting sales and offers, as well as a range of CTAs with action verbs such as browse, read, and listen.

Waitrose

Meanwhile, the Inspiration page is a curation of news articles, recipes, food trends, and nutritional advice. The aim is about educating the reader with detailed and helpful information and motivating them to start cooking.

Waitrose

Oliver Bonas

Finally, we can compare the product descriptions on the Oliver Bonas website with the company blog.

This product description for an armchair, for example, starts by setting the mood. It hooks the reader by getting them to imagine how this chair might brighten their room, using evocative words such as tactile and cosy. It then goes into more detail about the chair’s physical features, before listing specifications in an easy-to-read and clear way. This is what readers value most when they’re considering buying.

Oliver Bonas

Meanwhile, the blog is not about selling anything. It’s about providing inspiration and useful decor tips for the reader. This article about home lighting, for example, is full of helpful insights. While there are still references to Oliver Bonas products, they’re integrated into the content in a way that doesn’t feel too pushy or overtly sales-y.

Oliver Bonas

Copywriting vs Content Writing: The Difference Matters

So, copywriting and content writing are similar but definitely not the same.

The next question is, do you need both?

Obviously, you need sales copy if you want to drive business. But do you need to create content as well? Does your company need to employ the services of both a copywriter and content writer?

In short, the answer is yes.

Content writing boosts engagement and loyalty. Copywriting drives conversions and sales. Both depend on each other. And while increasing sales might be your short-term goal, securing customer loyalty and attracting new customers is equally vital to a successful business in the long term. Therefore, both copywriting and content writing are both important. More than that, they’re natural allies.

It’s essential to be clear about the differences between copywriting and content writing to optimise both for your readers. Copywriting is a form of content, but content writing isn’t copywriting. Thinking that it is can be damaging for your relationship with your reader and your SEO. If you understand that each one has different goals, you can be more focused on ensuring it achieves its objectives.

Content and Copywriting in One Neat and Simple Package

At Lime Copywriting, we understand that content and copywriting are distinct and require different skills and a different focus. Our team of writers can create both effectively and successfully, adapting as necessary to meet your goals and helping to both boost engagement and drive sales.

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