In marketing, you’ll often encounter content writing and copywriting. It’s easy to mistake the two for one another, but once you know more about each of them, you’ll see that they’re distinct writing styles. To better understand this, here’s a guide containing the six big differences between copywriting vs content writing.

Key Takeaways

  • Information vs Persuasion: content writers aim to inform, while copywriters aim to persuade.
  • Length: Content writing is usually longer, while copywriting is usually shorter, but there are exceptions. 
  • Emotions and Feelings: Copywriters pull on the reader’s emotions and feelings to convert them into leads or customers. Content writers usually don’t focus on this. 
  • SEO Focus: SEO strategies frequently exist in content writing, while direct response copywriting does not have a SEO focus.
  • Different Traffic: Content writers target top of funnel traffic, copywriters target lower-funnel traffic.
  • Grammar: Content writers need to adhere to grammar rules, while copywriters strategically break them often.

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Information vs. Persuasion

The most significant difference between copywriting and content writing lies in the intent. First, copywriting involves the art of persuasion since its goal is to sell something, whether that be a brand, product, or service. This is why you’ll notice that copywriting usually focuses on persuasion, and features and a clear call to action (CTA) at the end to push readers to do something.

On the other hand, content writing focuses more on delivering valuable information to an audience for a specific purpose, such as to entertain, educate, or promote awareness. It’s especially popular as an inbound marketing technique, search engine optimization (SEO). With SEO, the objective is to increase your organic presence on search engines, without ads, and acquire more traffic.

To distinguish the two more easily, check out these examples of copywriting vs. content writing:

Copywriting ExamplesContent Writing Examples
  • Product pages
  • Email newsletters
  • Sales emails
  • Google ads
  • Social media ads
  • CTA buttons
  • Blog posts
  • Whitepapers
  • Case studies
  • News articles
  • Podcasts
  • Interviews

Generally, copywriting is advertorial in nature, while content writing is informative in nature. However, though they have different goals, they also go hand-in-hand and support each other. Where content writing drives traffic to your website and web pages, copywriting turns those visitors into leads or paying customers later in the funnel.

Length

In most cases, copywriters produce short-form copy while content writers produce long-form content. Copywriting aims to engage with readers and move them down the sales funnel, so it should be brief, concise, and punchy. You need to create maximum impact and hook your audience as fast as possible.

As for content writing, you have more leeway with length since you need to explain your topic in more depth. While you might be able to catch your audience’s attention and persuade them to act in a few sentences, you’ll need more context and examples to educate the reader. Otherwise, your content may fall short in providing value.

While it’s common for a copy to be short and content to be long, there’s no hard rule on the required length for either writing style. What’s important is that you deliver your message successfully. For example, advertising specialty products may require longer copy since the benefits may not be as self-explanatory. In this case, you’ll need to spell them out clearly to convince people to buy the product.

Conversely, content may sometimes be in short form if you’re communicating a single point and appealing to readers with a short attention span. This is especially true in social media, where posts are usually shorter to make them digestible and easy to read while users browse through their feeds. It’s important to mention that not all content writing needs to have an SEO focus.

Emotions and Feelings

Given that copywriting and content writing have different purposes, they also employ different tones. Copywriting tends to be informal, conversational, and, most importantly—elicits an emotional response. 

Emotions play a huge role in influencing people’s purchasing decisions. Emotions are the reason people prefer certain brands over others, even though they aren’t necessarily the cheapest options in the market. Hence, the most effective sales copy taps into the power of emotions to move people to act. Marketers use a range of emotional triggers, from trust to guilt to fear, to elicit action from their prospective customers.

On the other hand, content writing is usually more formal and logical. While the exact tone may vary based on the nature of the topic, it’s less emotion-provoking since the content is primarily designed to provide information.

Take a look at these examples to see the difference:

  • Copywriting: Get a free copywriting e-book today—only for the first 100 subscribers!
  • Content writing: Psychological marketing is the practice of incorporating psychological concepts and principles into your marketing efforts to influence buying decisions. It requires a deep understanding of consumer behavior—how your customers think, feel, rationalize, and make decisions. 

The copywriting example above uses the principle of scarcity to create a sense of urgency among readers. Given the exclusive nature of the deal, it gives the impression that you’ll miss out on the offer if you don’t grab it now. In other words, it triggers the fear of missing out (FOMO) and compels people to take action quickly upon seeing it.

Compare this with the content writing example, which lacks the same emotional impact since it merely provides information about the topic.

When implemented as part of a strong holistic marketing strategy, content writers will strategically place relevant CTAs in the text. For example, this blog post may feature an ebook with more specific information about marketing and copywriting. The CTA is secondary, though, as the primary objective is to educate the reader.

SEO Focus

Both copywriting and content writing are used for digital marketing. However, between the two, content writing plays a bigger role in driving SEO efforts for many reasons. For one, the goal of content writing, aside from sharing information, is to satisfy their search intent.

Search intent is the “purpose” of a user’s online search. Understanding this is essential every time you develop content with an SEO focus, since it helps you provide relevant information to readers.

Generally, there are four types of user intent:

  • Informational – users is looking for information on a specific topic
  • Navigational – user is trying to reach a particular site or page
  • Commercial – user is thinking of buying something but wants to research and evaluate brands first 
  • Transactional – user is looking to buy a product or service  

Most examples of SEO content writing fall under the “Informational” type of intent, and are structured to answer questions your readers have about your topic of expertise.

Tailoring your content to one or more of these types of user intent will make your site more visible to users and improve your SEO success. Overall, with a strong content strategy, you can build your brand’s authority and reliability.

Conversely, copywriting doesn’t emphasize SEO since it focuses more on selling. While you can also apply certain SEO principles like keywords, this isn’t the main goal, and often weakens the effectiveness of driving impulsive actions. Instead, copywriters are more concerned with creating emotionally-charged content to convert their audience.

Given this, content writers should have extensive knowledge of SEO and keep up with the latest Google updates to optimize their content effectively. You’ll also need to research their topic comprehensively and analyze competitors to outperform other sites on search engine results pages (SERPs).

As for copywriters, it’s also useful to understand how SEO works, but the true test lies in your creativity and ability to trigger action with just a few words. To achieve this effect, you must dig deep into your target audience and analyze your customers’ needs, pain points, motivations, and goals.

Different Traffic

As hinted earlier, copywriters and content writers cater to different types of traffic. However, this doesn’t necessarily make them isolated from each other. Rather, they support each other by engaging with readers at different levels of the sales funnel. At the top of the funnel, content writers produce valuable and high-quality content to drive organic traffic. Lower in the funnel, copywriters attract and convert traffic directly into leads or sales. 

Overall, content writing is more of a long-term strategy. With direct response copywriting, you can immediately measure results through key performance indicators (KPIs) like CPA and ROAS. However, it’s not as clear-cut with content writing. It’s more challenging to measure content in the short term, so you need to give it time to see results. 

When you leverage content writing, you’re not directly selling a particular product or service. You’re indirectly generating sales by positioning your brand as a valuable and reliable source of information. In the long run, this helps drive conversions.

Grammar

Finally, the last difference between content writing and copywriting is grammar. When writing content, you need to follow grammar rules and minimize errors, which influence your text’s clarity and readability. Straying too far from conventional grammar can disrupt people’s thoughts—or worse, throw them off and make them stop reading. 

Another important reason to use good grammar in content writing is its impact on quality and comprehension. For one, misspelled words, missing punctuation marks, or poorly-constructed sentences don’t give the impression of high-quality content. In fact, they can even make your content or website look less credible or authoritative, which diminishes your brand’s reputation.

Moreover, poor grammar makes it difficult for readers to understand what you’re trying to say. Again, this defeats the purpose of content writing, which is to inform and educate your audience. So to avoid these unwanted scenarios, remember to proofread your content at all times to check for errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  

Now, as important as grammar is in content writing, the same isn’t necessarily true for copywriting. In fact, it’s a common practice for copywriters to deviate from grammar rules to sound more conversational. Of course, this isn’t to say that you can ignore grammar completely, but that you can break a few rules to appeal more to your target audience. 

For example, take a look at this ad:

trubrain ecommerce ad example
Source: Facebook Ad Library

As you can see, the copy above breaks two grammar rules:

  • First, you’ll find that the overall text contains multiple sentence fragments, such as “brain food in a bottle” and “from mellow to extra strong.” Grammatically, you should avoid fragments in formal or academic writing since they lack a subject, verb, or both. However, when it comes to copywriting, fragments are highly acceptable as they make your text more conversational. They also help you emphasize certain points to get your readers’ attention.
  • Second, notice the part that says “all 4 types” in the third paragraph. Instead of spelling the number four, the copy used the numeric character. Doing this is permissible since you may sometimes be working with a limited character count. Additionally, 4 is more eye-catching and easier to read than four, so it’s more effective in sending your message.
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Zack Miller