Copywriting vs content writing – the big (and not-so-big) differences

If you’re looking to grow your business (and, let’s be honest, who isn’t?), perfecting your content is a crucial piece of the puzzle. And that’s going to take a whole lot of writing. But do you need copywriting or content writing? And is there even a difference? In short, yes. And no. Let me explain.

What’s the difference?

Copywriting and content writing often are confused. Both are vital tools in your marketing toolkit and both are all about using writing to achieve behaviour change.

There’s so much overlap between the two disciplines that it’s often not even worth distinguishing the two.

But, here we go anyway.

Download Guide

Think about it like this. Content writing helps you build relationships, copywriting seals the deal. Copywriting is often used in what’s called ‘outbound marketing’, where brands blast out messages. Content writing is part of inbound marketing, a slower-burn approach that brings people to you and builds trust.

Copywriting – crafted messaging to push action

In an ad agency, copywriters don’t just write things. First, they come up with concepts. They think up the stories you see on TV ads, the hooks for the radio or the smart billboard headlines you drive past.

Copywriting uses psychology and human behaviours, pulling in brand messaging and tone of voice to speak to customer pain points. It’s intended to bring in sales – indirectly, by building a brand or directly, by getting people to buy now!  

A good copywriter will also bring that approach to the static pages of a website (like the home, about or service pages), and bring services to life in brochures, sales emails and digital ads.

Content writing – giving away value to build relationships

Surprise, content writing does a lot of the same stuff as copywriting. It just happens in a slightly different way. A great content writer can subtly weave in a brand’s key messages, embody a tone, understand the psychology of the target and come up with clever hooks to get people reading. So far, so similar.

The key difference is that content writing is intended to bring people in by giving away ideas, inspiration, information and entertainment – this blog is content writing. Its goal is to connect with you, establish trust and build a relationship. It’s (hopefully) entertaining or useful, and there’s no real push to buy. That’s the point.

Content and copywriting – same, but different

Copywriting and content writing are separate skills – although great copywriters will be able to crack out decent written content, and vice versa. That’s because, where it matters most, they’re not different at all. Great copywriters and great content writers will understand people. They’ll know how to use words to connect emotionally, whether that’s in a billboard header or a 4000-word ebook.

Sarah Gully