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Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing

The Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing

If you’ve ever found yourself staring at a menacingly blank screen, you know that writing is tough. It’s not about whipping up a good email to a coworker or posting to social media. Writing for business, especially marketing, requires a few special skills.  First, we need to describe the difference between copywriting and content writing.

Over the last ten years, I’ve seen many people confuse the two terms, especially in the freelance world of small business. Knowing the difference between the two will save you hours of frustration and hundreds of dollars. The goal is to help you avoid paying for writing services that aren’t fit for your goals.  Before you hire a writer of any type, it would be a good idea to make sure they can do the kind of writing you need. 

It’s All About Your Intent

What needs to be written? Websites can be informational, sales-driven, or meant to generate leads.  Further, each page can have its purpose and KPIs.  Blog posts are generally informative, but there should always be a point to them. All your posts should be connected to a campaign built around a goal, such as getting more email signups or free sample requests. 

If you intend to sell, you will want to use copywriting formulas designed, tested, and proven to bring results. 

If you intend to inform, educate, entertain, or delight, you’re looking for content writing.  This skill does not require any unique formulas, except the one your writer uses to stir up those creative juices. 

What Skills Are Required for Copywriting?

When looking to hire a writer, first determine intent. It’s always a good idea to look for a versatile writer – someone who knows the difference between content creation and copywriting (Ah-hem – hello there, friend; that would be someone like me). Most businesses do best with a great copywriter, who is generally well-rounded in all kinds of writing.  These are the talented folks who write your:

  • Advertisements
  • Landing pages
  • Campaign emails and texts
  • Sales materials

Skills needed to do this job well are distinctive, and they include:

  • Empathy to write for people you’ve never met to get them to act
  • An understanding of the formulas that work, and an ability to determine which are best for each project
  • Attention to detail because the wrong phrase can tank your reputation
  • Organization because there are a lot of marketing pieces in any given campaign
  • Excellent research skills
  • An ability to think outside the box

What Skills Are Required for Content Writing?

Content writing is a bit different. There’s a lot of pressure involved with writing sales copy, whereas the strains are less pronounced in materials that aren’t directly related to a return on investment.  For example, we won’t convert anyone from the About page, but we can keep them there for a while and guide them to the funnel’s next page, such as a product landing page.  Content writers usually write materials like:

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Informational web pages
  • Social posts (not ads!)
  • General newsletters
  • Documents, policies, and articles

In essence, the difference between copywriting and content writing can be summed up in one word: Intent.  If you intend to sell or provoke an action, you need copywriting. If you’re looking to inform or delight, you’ll want content writing. 

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