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Copywriting vs Content Writing [Key Differences and Similarities]

Lisa Hoffart

Copywriting vs Content Writing [Key Differences and Similarities]

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Table of Contents

A writer is a writer, right?

Not so fast. Would you say that a journalist is the same as the author of a book? A scriptwriter? 

Didn’t think so.

Turns out, there are tons of different types of writing, and they all serve different purposes. Imagine that.

Types of content writers

When it comes to websites, though, there’s two types of writing that are extremely important, even though they have different goals: copywriting and content writing. But a lot of times, you’ll hear these two words interchangeably, even though they really are not the same thing.

Let’s get more into why, and at the same time clarify the similarities and differences of copywriting vs content writing.

Copywriting and Content Writing

Content writers can often write website copy, and copywriters can often write SEO-focused blog posts. This explains why sometimes you might hear the terms “copywriting” and “content writing” used interchangeably. 

While they both refer to writing, the difference between copywriting and content writing is as follows:

  • Copywriting is conversion-focused content (that convinces a user to take any action, like fill out a form with their contact information) that is short-form, written for a webpage or landing page.
  • Content writing is educational or informational content that is long-form, such as an article.

Examples of copywriting include:

  • PPC ads
  • Social media ads
  • CTA buttons on a website or landing page
  • Sales emails
  • Titles and headlines on a webpage
  • Pop-up messages
  • Chatbot scripts

Examples of content writing include:

  • Blog posts or articles
  • White papers
  • Ebooks
  • Press releases
  • Newsletters
  • Case studies
  • Reviews

That being said, when you compare copywriting vs content writing, you’ll find similarities. Both need writers that understand your brand voice and tone, your business, and your target audience. This may mean providing a demo of your product or access to internal resources that explain more about your brand and customers. In short, be prepared to answer some questions — the more the writers understand your business, the better content they can write for you!

Content Writing vs Copywriting

Content Writing

Copywriting

Focused more on long-form content that provides more information on a topic, process, or answer to a question

Short-form content is often preferred for web pages to keep readers engaged, and help with scanning/readability

Less salesy in nature and more informative and educational

Focuses more on convincing the user to convert (take an action) like fill out a form, sign up for a free trial, or reaching out to a salesperson

Can use emotional appeal to illustrate a point or convey importance, but typically less than copywriting

Uses more emotional appeal within the writing to create a sense of urgency, FOMO (fear of missing out), and to aid in convincing the reader to take an action

Very SEO-focused, since the main goal of most content is to both serve reader search intent and rank highly on search engines

Can cross paths with SEO, but writing is more focused on engaging and convincing the reader

Copywriter vs Content Writer

Copywriter vs content writer

Two things can be true about copywriters and content writers: copywriters can often write long-form content such as blog posts, and content writers can often write short-form content like landing page copy. 

But while these two types of writing professionals share many of the same skills, it’s their approach to writing that typically sets them apart.

Copywriter Skills

The name of the game for a copywriter is being able to craft short, pithy headlines and copy that acts as a roadmap for readers, guiding them through a webpage and highlighting, with words, different points of interest. Like a sign on the side of the road that tells you where to turn, the copywriter is telling the reader where they need to click next. This means that copy is targeted toward customers that are lower in the digital marketing funnel, typically in the decision phase.

To effectively move customers towards conversion, the copywriter must craft attention-grabbing headlines. Headlines should follow these conventions:

  1. Use as few words as possible (a general rule is that a headline should be 12 words or fewer)
  2. The title or main headline at the top of the page should capture the entire context of the page
  3. A headline for a section should introduce that section, and flow seamlessly with the rest of the headlines on the page

Headlines are arguably the most important pieces of copy, as they outline the flow of the page aside from being eye-catching and engaging.

And while it helps for a copywriter to have a basic understanding of SEO, it isn’t an absolutely required skill. If they can incorporate a highly-searched keyword naturally into their copy, then it’s a bonus, but generally, a copywriter is focused more on crafting convincing and engaging copy rather than trying to rank in search results — that’s what content writing is for.

Content Writer Skills

Writing helpful, educational content is the name of the game for content writers. They are less focused on selling (although it’s not uncommon for a blog to have a CTA or two) and more focused on providing information. Content writing is a combination of branding, storytelling, and SEO, meaning that a content writer must be able to carefully consider all of these elements in every piece of content they write.

Another important skill for a content writer to have is to understand search intent. When someone types a query into Google, what information are they looking for? The content writer can determine the answer to this question through keyword research.

In a nutshell, keyword research is the process of finding highly-searched and relevant keywords that an audience is likely to use when typing out their search queries. They use content marketing tools such as Semrush, Ahrefs, Moz, and more to research and gather a list of relevant keywords that match their audience’s search intent. A single piece of content should focus on one core keyword (the most relevant and highly-searched word or phrase used when searching a topic) as well as a list of some variations, or synonyms, of that core keyword.

But wait, let’s take a small step back and go through the quick and dirty surrounding search intent. While a bit trickier to explain, search intent is basically the context behind a search query.

At a high level, there are three different types of search intent:

  1. Informational — the searcher is looking for knowledge or education on a topic
  2. Transactional — the searcher is ready to make a purchase and is looking for the right product or service
  3. Navigational — the searcher is looking for the location of a business or other organization, or they want to visit a specific website

It’s the content writer’s job to understand the relationship between the keywords they are using in their content, and how they relate to the search intent of their reader. If they can nail this, then the content has a much higher chance of ranking highly on search engine results pages.

Copywriting vs. SEO WritingCopywriting vs SEO writing

Copywriting

SEO writing

Focused on converting

Focused on ranking on search engine results pages

Used for advertising

Used mainly for educational and informative content, such as blog articles 

Can use keywords, but they aren’t as much of a focus

High focus on keywords, which are used strategically throughout the content

Focuses on getting the user to take any action once they land on the page

Considers search intent

Copywriting and SEO writing might be focused on different goals, but it’s important to understand that they are both parts of a holistic marketing strategy.

Pro Tip: Content writing brings users to the website organically through search results, while copywriting captures those users and convinces them to convert.

This means that one won’t be successful without the other; they both need to be included in your overall inbound marketing strategy.

Conclusion

It’s true that copywriters and content writers share many of the same skills, but it’s important to understand the nuances that set these professional writers apart. Copywriters are more focused on crafting pithy, short-form pieces of content that aim to convince, while content writers craft long-form SEO-focused content that is meant to inform and educate an audience.

Oftentimes, a content writer will also be able to write short-form, convincing copy, and a copywriter will also be able to write long-form, SEO-focused content. This is likely because the two professions align so closely in skillset, that a professional writer on either side can competently do both. With that in mind, copywriting and content writing are still different professions, and not all writers will be trained in both types of writing.

If you’re thinking about hiring a writer that claims they are both a content writer and copywriter, and you want them to do content writing, copywriting, or both, here are some things you can look for:

  1. Are there clear differences between the content writing vs copywriting samples? Do they follow different strategies?
  2. Is the content writing too salesy, or the copywriting too educational and not convincing?
  3. Overall, does the writer demonstrate a clear understanding of the differences between copywriting vs content writing in their work?


By the way, if you’re looking for an excellent team of writers for your next copywriting or content writing project, or both, then reach out to us at Roketto. We'll be happy to speak with you.

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Lisa Hoffart

Lisa Hoffart

Lisa Hoffart is a professional writer with several years of experience crafting well-researched content for a wide variety of industries, from legal, real estate, technology, and more. Lisa is a huge technology geek that loves video games and computers. In her free time, Lisa enjoys sewing, crafting, and hanging out with her cat.