Copywriting or content writing: what is the difference?

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Copywriting or content writing: what is the difference?

If I were a betting person, I’d wager that you’ve heard both terms before but are unsure which is which. You may even be using them interchangeably; you won’t be the first or last to do that. I’ll let you in on my secret; when I first started writing, I wasn’t sure what the difference was either. My clients knew what they wanted me to write about, called it copywriting, and we got the job done. I picked up on the differences quickly and now it’s as clear as day to me. So what is the difference between copywriting and content writing?

Copywriting: the art of persuasion

At its simplest level, copywriting is designed to persuade. Think of any advert you’ve seen on social media, in print or on TV, or the latest website you scrolled through. Copy will often be short and to the point. Its purpose is to convince you to buy. In other words, it’s about driving sales. Catchy headlines, targeted slogans and clever taglines are some of the key trademarks of copywriting.

A good copywriter will understand your clients’ needs and be able to use the right words to convince them to buy your products and services. While less is more is the hallmark of good copy, creating a story to draw the reader in and get them to act is key. Copy is designed to evoke an emotional response, create a sense of urgency and get readers to do something.

You need copy for an advert, a social media post, a sales letter or a website. Although there is some overlap with content writing, it’s copy that will close the sale.

Content writing: building trust

While copy is designed to convert interest to a sale, clients won’t suddenly appear out of the blue, ready to buy. This is where content writers come into play. Content is about creating engagement with your audience. It is about building a relationship with them, so that when they need what you have to offer, they will think of you first.

It is rare that a company offers such a unique product or service that they don’t need to compete with others. Content can help to separate you from the crowd. It will set out your stall, shout about your wares, and draw people in to find out more.

Content writers focus on creating interesting content about you and your products or services. They will do this through blogs, newsletters, long-form articles, case studies and white papers.

Content is designed to be longer, offer more detailed information and answer questions potential buyers may have. It will build trust between you and your audience. For these reasons, content writers will understand SEO (search engine optimisation) and how it can help to single you out from the crowd. Their writing will be natural, well-researched, informative and engaging.

Which do you need, copy or content?

Most businesses will need a little of both. Ultimately, you want a content writer to build a relationship with your audience and a copywriter to convince them to buy. There is some overlap, and many writers can write both copy and content.

If you offer a service, your content strategy will create engagement, offer advice and guidance, and develop trust. That groundwork will keep you at the top of people’s minds. Then, when they are ready to buy, they know where to turn.

If you offer a product, your content strategy will lay the foundations for a future sale. It will inform potential buyers of the merits of your product over those of your competitors. It will help you rise to the top of search engine results so that you can be found when they need you.

Once you are well positioned, copywriting is what will seal the deal. You’ve got people engaged and they trust you. They know what you have to offer and why you’re better than the competition. But they still need to complete the sale. And that is where a copywriter can make the difference.

Still unsure?

Fear not, that’s what I’m here for. Get in touch for a chat and we can sort out what would work best for you. Drop me an email or fill out the enquiry form and I’ll be in touch.

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Christina Petrides is a writer who works with small businesses to develop and create their copy and content. She works across most industries, with a particular love for the environmental and travel sectors. She is also an editor and an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP). Connect with her on LinkedIn or sign up for new blog alerts.

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