Copywriting vs. content marketing: what’s the difference?

In an online world that demands more content to rank or be discovered, “content” has developed a bit of a bad rap. Some see “content” as quantity over quality, designed to play nice with systems rather than people. In response, many content writers or content marketers now dub themselves copywriters, whether they technically are or not.

But honestly, that’s ok. While they are separate disciplines with their own aims, there’s enough crossover in the skills required to craft good copy or content that many writers do both (and that includes us here at Engage).

But what is copywriting or copy? And what is content marketing or content?

To put it simply, copy converts and content engages.


And both are vital components of the marketing mix of every business.

Do you know your copy from your content?

Copywriting vs. content writing

Copywriting is persuasive writing designed to encourage a customer to buy, sign up or subscribe. It has a strong call to action and engages the reader’s emotions. Ideally, it makes them feel, think, remember and respond. It’s a short-term solution designed to have consumers turn into customers now.

Content writing or content marketing on the other hand, informs and engages. It’s free and valuable content that encourages consumers to engage with your brand. It’s a long play designed to turn consumers into customers, and customers into loyal, repeat buyers. Content marketing is all about the long-term benefits rather than the instant hit of gratification, and it can dramatically increase your average customers’ lifetime value.

Copywriting is ads, landing pages, some emails and videos.

Content marketing is blogs, downloadables, podcasts, social media, some emails and videos.

You get the idea.

When you look at the definition – immediate sales vs higher average lifetime value, might think you should invest all your budget in content marketing. But the two work together and, when done well, take on elements of each other in all content you publish.

You will publish more content than copy

And that’s a good thing.

If you focus too much on the sales, it’s easy for your brand to come across like those TV ads that yell at you about special one-time deals at the discount warehouse this weekend only. No one wants that (except the discount warehouse – it seems to work for them).

To keep readers and customers coming back, there needs to be value for them, and that’s where content marketing comes in.

The added benefit is the more you publish, the more Google sits up and pays attention, and over time, so long as you’re publishing regular and quality content, your rankings will improve and help drive even more traffic to your site.

Copywriting and content marketing work together

The most important component of copy is its ability to make an impact on the reader. It makes them feel and react. That comes through knowing your target audience well and listening to their needs.

And the most important component of content is its generosity. People love those who give freely of themselves, and it’s the same for brands.

But there’s no point giving something away for free if your target audience doesn’t want it.

And there’s no point making your audience feel and react if they have no reason to come back to you.

That’s why copy and content need to work together and take elements of each discipline into every word you put on the page, whether the intention is to sell or engage.

How do you do that?

It’s all about going back to basics.

  • Who are you writing for?
  • What do they want and need?
  • What do you want and need them to do?
  • Why? Where? When? How?

When you know those answers, you’re halfway there.

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