While some business owners use the terms “copywriting” and “content writing” interchangeably, the 2 are very different beasts.
This article will lay the key differences on the line, explore the aims and benefits of each, and the impact they’ll have on your business.
Then, once you can differentiate the two and understand what they can offer your brand, you can make your decision between investing in high-performing copywriting or content writing.
What Is Copywriting?
Let’s start with defining both of our key players. First up: copywriting. If you’re scratching your head and asking yourself “what exactly is copywriting?” you’re in luck.
With so many definitions of copywriting out there, it can become overwhelming and confusing to truly understand what copywriting is.
So, here’s the reality in as simple of terms as it gets:
Copywriting is writing that converts.
Yep. That’s it. Sounds simple, right?
Well, the definition of copywriting is simple.
You’ve likely heard phrases like “copywriting is words that sell,” or “copywriting is salesmanship in print.” While that’s not wrong, it’s also not 100% right, either. Why? Because conversion doesn’t always equal sales.
What Is Conversion?
If conversion doesn’t always mean sales, what does it mean? Conversion is about taking someone from one level and converting them to the next level.
Let’s take it out of context. Imagine you were playing a video game. In that video game, you need to work your way through 5 different levels until you defeat the bad guy and win the game.
From level 1, you need to defeat a sub-villain with magic. Once you’ve defeated that sub-villain, you level up to level 2. Essentially, by defeating the sub-villain, you’ve converted to the next stage.
You go from level to level, completing tasks, until you’re at the end and you’ve completed the whole game.
Now, let’s tie this example in with business. Your level 5 is your highest priced offer. But for most people, they can’t just start a game on level 1 and skip levels 2, 3, and 4. They need to work their way through the levels, right?
So, in this case, they’ll need to go through various different hoops (for their own buyer behavior) to then “complete the game” (ie: buy your highest ticket offer).
In copywriting, this can mean taking a website visitor (level 1) and turning them into an email subscriber (level 2). This isn’t strictly a sale. But it is a conversion. Because you’ve got them one step closer to making a purchase.
Can Copywriting Be “Words That Sell?”
Absolutely it can. Copywriting on sales pages, for example, use a sub-category of copywriting called Direct Response Copywriting.
The aim of this is to make sales. And while making those sales still count as conversion, it’s focused on taking someone from their current stage of the buyer’s journey straight to level 5 of the game (ie: making a purchase.)
It’s important to know that this isn’t the case for all copywriting projects, though, and is exclusive to direct response copywriting.
What Counts as Copywriting?
By now, you understand that copywriting centers around conversion. But where would you have seen copywriting before? You’ll have interacted with (and almost certainly been converted from) copywriting in the following places:
Examples: RunKeeper (below):
Examples: SofaLush (below), Monday.com (below).
What Is Content Writing?
Okay, we now know what copywriting is. So, what’s content writing?
If copywriting is all about words that convert, where does that leave content writing? Content writing might convert. But it’s not the main goal. The words don’t revolve around getting someone to take action.
While it’s super important that your content includes a call-to-action, it doesn’t mean that the piece of content has a dominant purpose of conversion.
Instead, content writing aims to provide value. This can be in different ways, by:
- Educating the reader
- Entertaining the reader
- Inspiring the reader
If Content Writing Isn’t About Conversion – What’s The Point?
If you’re thinking that, due to content writing not revolving around conversion, there’s no point in it, it’s time to erase that stance from your mind.
“Content is king,” has been a phrase that has circulated the world of marketing for many, many years. And for good reason.
While content may not have a sole purpose of conversion, if you have a solid content strategy in place and you’re being consistent, you may find that your content can be a revenue stream all by itself.
Say, for example, you’ve launched a babysitting business and you run a blog.
Over time, you’ve published 200+ articles surrounding childcare, safety tips, and baby-care information. As your blogs are being viewed, your inbox will be swarmed with bookings in your area.
Why? Because people trust you. They know you can care for their child, because you’ve been educating others on how to do so.
It positions you as an expert in the industry, builds that all-important trust, and makes your brand far more appealing.
Whether you choose to do this via blog articles (like this example), social media posts and captions, or white papers (lead magnets or resource libraries), the whole point of content is to grow brand awareness, relationships, and trust. Those three components are fundamental for business growth.
What Counts as Content Writing?
We know that websites, sales pages, ads, and marketing emails fall under the realm of copywriting.
So, what formats count as content writing?
3. White Papers:
Examples: 5 Steps to Rid Your Business of Payroll Stress (ADP,) Win More Business With Fewer Sales Resources (Infor,) Interactive Content Across The Buyer’s Journey (i-on Interactive Inc.)
Which Is More Important: Copywriting or Content Writing?
This is the reason you’re here, right? Knowing which type of writing is most important for your brand’s growth?
Now that you understand the differences between copywriting and content writing, you’ll be able to weigh up your options with far more accuracy.
The truth is: neither one is more important than the other. Copywriting is fundamental to business success.
But without content, you’re going to have a far harder time in allowing your ideal client to trust you. And without trust, you cannot physically make sales. It’s as simple as that. o, realistically, they are both absolutely crucial if you’re hoping to grow your business. But, let’s take a look at your options.
Option 1: Investing In a Copywriter
What deliverables can they provide?:
A copywriter can create copy for your website, sales pages, landing pages, marketing emails, and/or ads.
What is their process?:
Every copywriter’s process is unique to them. However, the vast majority of copywriters have these components inside their process:
A Discovery Call
Usually, copywriting projects will start with a Discovery Call. This is your chance to get to know the copywriter, ask questions, assess their experience, and generally decide whether you want to work with them. Remember, though, that copywriters will be assessing whether they’re the right person for the project, too. It goes both ways.
Filling In a Brief
Once you’ve decided you’re going to work together and have signed a contract, (some copywriters will require an up-front payment, too,) it’ll be time for you to fill in a brief. This will vary from copywriter to copywriter, but the brief makes sure that your copy is on-brand, focused, and captures what you, as a business owner, feel you need. Many copywriters will then proceed with a call to talk through your answers and ask any further questions.
The majority of copywriters will agree that the research phase takes almost as long as the drafting phase. Why? Because any copywriter worth their title will know that the more research you carry out, the clearer the image of the ideal client, market, and competitors. The more you know, the better informed your copy will be. And, as everyone knows, specificity sells.
Drafting And Editing
You’ll then begin seeing drafts. Usually, the first draft is a skeleton and your copywriter should stress this. It’s very unusual that the first draft is also the final draft. You’ll be asked to provide feedback on their work. It’s important to be honest during this process, because without feedback, a copywriter won’t know which areas to adjust. After providing this feedback, the copywriter will edit the piece. Some copywriters have unlimited rounds of revisions while others provide a set number. Exceeding that number may be possible, but will likely be chargeable.
Once you’re happy with your deliverables, your copywriter will begin their offboarding process. For some, a simple email stating that you are happy with your copy is sufficient. For others, you may need to sign your project off using a sub-contract. This will depend on the copywriter and their individual process. Most copywriters will then ask for overall feedback using a feedback form. This will help them improve their service and understand their strengths.
These writers are suited to you if:
1. You’re launching a new product or service and you require a sales page with instant responses to the words.
2. You’re placing emphasis on your website and overall website strategy. You’re sending a whole lot of people over there and it’s currently producing no results.
3. You find that the words on your website and/or marketing emails are boring, don’t capture your brand well, and aren’t converting.
4. You feel “icky” when selling. It makes you feel uncomfortable, and you’d rather have a sales page or website to send people to so it can do the sales-work for you.
Option 2: Investing In a Content Writer
What deliverables can they provide?
A content writer can write the words on your blog articles, newsletters, social media captions, white papers, and/or case studies.
What is their process?
As with copywriters, content writers will each have their own unique process. You’ll spot that many of the milestones are the same, but the components and tasks within those milestones will differ between the two types of writing:
A Discovery Call
As with copywriters, most content writers will begin their journey with you with a Discovery Call.
While a copywriter will focus on the main conversion goals of the project, a content writer is more likely to dig deep into your current content strategy, what has and what hasn’t worked, and the level of work that needs to be done to put your brand on the map with the content you’re outsourcing to them.
Filling In a Brief
Most creative services will require a brief. A copywriting creative brief will ask different questions to a content writing brief. This is because the two forms of writing have different goals.
Therefore, the way it’s written will differ, too. You may be asked about other brand’s content that you like. For example, if you were working with a content writer to build and optimize your blog, you may provide links to other blogs that you enjoyed.
While copywriters will spend a large chunk of time getting to know your ideal buyer, a content writer will – although still perform this research – spend more time on analyzing your current strategy. They need to understand what has and what hasn’t worked, along with seeing the metrics to prove this.
If, for example, you were working on a blog-building project together, the content writer may run an SEO audit on your current articles. That way, there is a base-level to work with when you build upon it together.
Some content writers will then dive into keyword research. Others believe it’s not the content writer’s role and an SEO strategist should do so. This depends on your content writer and their experience with SEO.
Drafting And Editing
Content writers will then get to work on creating your content. Based on the research, the brief, the brand, and your goals, your content writing should be compelling, captivating, and valuable.
The content writer will make edits based on your feedback. Some content writers have a specific number of revisions that are built into your package. There tends to be a limit of 3 rounds of revisions before additional revisions are chargeable.
Continuation of the Process
Unlike copywriting projects that have a start and end date, content is a component of your business that will always be expanding.
Take, for example, your website. The words on your website count as copywriting. There is a start date and an end date with this project. Once the website has been written, you won’t need to change it massively over time.
Compare this to a content writing project like blog articles, and you’ll spot that there is no end date. You’ll continuously need new blog articles to grow your content base.
So, once one article is done, your content writer will repeat the process from the research phase and create new articles.
How many will depend on your package and agreement. You’ll also have to determine how long you want this retainer to last. For example, you could hire a content writer for your social media captions. This package may span over 3 months and include 5 social media captions per week. It’s up to you and your content writer.
These writers are suited to you if:
1. You already spend much of your time on a content distribution channel and you want to expand your content expertise. For example, you could be spending a big chunk of your time on Instagram marketing. You’ve always wanted to launch a blog but you simply don’t have the time to do both.
2. You want to drive more traffic to your website. Particularly if you’ve paid for a website designer, copywriter, or website developer. There’s little point in investing in a fantastic website if you’re not getting any traffic to said site.
3. You’re struggling to educate your readers without sounding like an academic essay.
4. You have no idea how to implement a content strategy and rely on guesswork to get you through. Your results prove this, and you’re ready to up-level.
5. You’re understanding that content marketing plays the long-game. Unlike copywriting, which aims for conversion there and then, content writing takes time to build up an ROI. But if you’re dedicated to achieving these results, then it can be extremely transformative.
Copywriting Success: Statistics
Doubting whether you need a copywriter? Let’s take a look at some statistics that prove how important it is to get your copy right.
1. 74% of website users pay attention to the quality of spelling and grammar on company websites.
What this means for you: To make it worse, 59% of website users would avoid doing business with a company who made obvious spelling or grammar errors. You can’t rely on hoping no one sees your errors.
If a website visitor spots spelling or grammar mistakes in your copywriting, you’ll be found out. Trust me. Whether you’re B2B and aiming at companies or B2C, SPaG (spelling, punctuation, and grammar) will help build or trash your reader’s trust levels.
2. On sales pages, more copy (so long as it’s written well) could actually boost your sales by 52%.
What this means for you: Moz tested their copy in terms of length and made this discovery. Longer-form copywriting is important for sales pages. However, it’s about writing words that create an impact, hold attention throughout the page, and are structured in a way that walks through the Buyer’s Process. This is incredibly challenging for non-copywriters.
3. On average, 543,000 new businesses are started every single month.
What this means for you: Competition is fierce. Chances are, you’re gaining a whole load of competitors every month. And there’s a strong likelihood they’ll be investing in high-performing copywriting. Don’t get left behind and get ahead of your competition before you gain even more competitors.
Content Writing Success: Statistics
Equally, if you’re edging closer to investing in copywriting rather than content writing, I’m going to play Devil’s advocate and introduce you to three content writing statistics.
4. Positive headline changes can increase your number of clicks to 10%.
What this means for you: You need to be well-versed in crafting headlines that stick, resonate, and grab your reader’s attention. Headlines alone are an art-form that content writers know well.
5. Up to 81% of marketers are planning to increase their use of original written content.
What this means for you: Nowadays, it’s not enough to be good. You have to be different. With so much content swimming around the internet, users can drown in overload. That’s why it’s so crucial to create written content that is truly unique. This isn’t easy for non-content writers. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons why some content fails.
6. Blog articles that contain more than 2000 words are far more likely to gain strong results.
What this means for you: if you want to get a return-on-investment (which, by the way, doesn’t always have to be a financial return. You can gain an ROI in terms of your time, effort, and energy, too,) you’ll need to create longer-form content writing.
But it’s not just about random words. Each word needs to feed into your overall goal, be laced with strategy, and hold the attention of the reader from the beginning to the end. A tricky task even with short-form content.
When you need to start writing 2000+ words, it becomes incredibly challenging for non-content writers.
So: Content Writing or Copywriting?
We’ve reached the end of our article, and you’re probably weighing up your final decision. Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong answer. It’s highly dependent on what your brand needs for growth and success. In my opinion, every brand out there needs both copywriting and content writing.
So, instead of asking yourself “copywriting or content writing?”, you should instead ask yourself “which should I invest in first?”
In which case, it’ll depend on your deliverable. A strong website, for example, which counts as a copywriting project, will be highly beneficial to build your blog on.
However, you don’t strictly need a website if you’re investing your time and money into social media marketing.
Take a look at your overall marketing strategy and wider business plan. Revisit your long-term and mid-term goals, and make your decision from there.
Liz Slyman has worked as a digital marketing executive and copywriter over the past decade. She worked for a multitude of companies from startups to mid-sized businesses to working as the VP of marketing for platinum-selling, award-winning artists, and is now teaching copywriting courses. Liz founded Amplihigher by leveraging an understanding of the nuance of language in marketing, a content marketing and copywriting agency, designed to connect consumers to companies in a way that results in next-level brand expansion.