Content Writing vs. Copywriting: Which is Which and Why You Need Both



Content writing and, indeed, content marketing strategy, are relatively new terms, fueled by the adoption of the internet, the rise of e-commerce, and the need to maintain relevance as search engine criteria change with new algorithms.

Copywriting, however, is a term that’s been around for centuries, and in many ways has a much wider reach, since it’s used for both internet-based and traditional media communications. Copywriting’s overarching goal is to drive brand awareness.

Content writing should do that too, but its primary goal is to demonstrate brand and corporate values and the solutions a product offers. Here’s a succinct differentiator:

Copywriting is designed to convert traffic into leads, or even better, sales.

Search engine optimized, or SEO content writing, is designed to generate organic traffic from search engines.

What is Content Writing?

In order to generate that organic traffic, content writing “needs to either inform, educate, or entertain” its readers, all while maintaining brand voice and values. While copywriting succinctly refers to the brand experience (“Wheaties — The Breakfast of Champions”), content writing focuses on using the keywords ordinary people to find information on the web. Those keywords are used when researching potential purchases, and content writing is about using those keywords in a natural way to not only drive traffic to a site, but to keep people on the site for as long as possible.

What is SEO Copywriting and How Does it Differ?

While copywriting focuses on the brand attributes that relate to the user experience —- which is why lifestyle advertising is so incredibly effective — content writing focuses on product benefits and attributes. In the case of breakfast cereals, those attributes include taste, sugar and fiber content, and calories, while the major benefits are ease of preparation and time savings.

In other words, without traffic generated by content writing, copywriting doesn’t have a chance to do its stuff. When you do a search on “best breakfast cereal,” Wheaties does show up — eventually, in an article titled “100 All-Time Breakfast Cereals” at number 12 and on page two of Google’s search results.

If you search the phrase “Breakfast of Champions,” Wheaties shows up on page five of the search results — after pages of articles on the novel of the same name by Kurt Vonnegut and the ironic Urban Dictionary definition of what “champions” really breakfast on.

When you’re talking about a cold breakfast cereal with as long a history as Wheaties, you may not need to worry so much about search engine optimization. Almost a century of advertising, word of mouth recommendations, and 70 years of high-profile athletic sponsorship that has included Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali and, most recently, Serena Williams, may well be enough to keep Wheaties’ market share where it needs to be.

Perhaps, though, you don’t have a century of word of mouth and advertising behind your new breakfast cereal, and your brand positioning focuses on health benefits rather than taste. In that case, you’re going to want not just a clever slogan (copywriting), you’re also going to want to make sure your new breakfast cereal has a chance of being found early in search engine results (content writing). This is especially at certain times of year, like in January and February, when people are looking to make lifestyle changes.

Devising a Digital Content Marketing Strategy

And that’s where content writing comes in as an integral part of a digital content marketing strategy. A copywriting approach to marketing Wheaties might feature a video or audio clip of Serena Williams saying she won’t get out of bed without Wheaties to look forward to for breakfast. But a content writing approach would focus on the importance of breakfast, Wheaties’ wholesome ingredients and how they meet our nutritional (and therefore our performance) needs, and the convenience of the Wheaties’ solution to the problem of breakfast: oatmeal is good, but cold breakfast cereal is fast and easy, and that may help you make the lifestyle change that turns you into a breakfast eater.

Overlap between Copywriting and Content Writing

There’s a lot of overlap between copywriting and content writing. But while copywriters create ads, both online and for traditional media (print, radio, and television), content writers write articles, blog posts, newsletters, and other long-form texts that aim to illustrate brand value and thought leadership.

Slogans, taglines, media releases, catalog copy, sales letters, direct mail letters, and jingles are all things copywriters produce that content writers tend not to.

Instead, content writers focus for the most part on longer-form content, including case studies, e-books, and white papers. They’ll often produce email newsletters curating the best content from the brand’s site or from around the internet. The best content writing uses researched search terms sprinkled throughout the copy in a natural way to drive content to the site, and resembles editorial writing much more closely than advertising copy.

Why Content Writing Matters

And the reason this matters: 51% of web site traffic is generated by organic search. And 40% of revenue is generated from organic traffic. This is why learning how to develop a content marketing strategy is an essential part of any modern business’s marketing plan.

Converting Leads to Sales with Content

One other major difference between copywriting and content writing: content created by content writers will be used by copywriters to convert leads to sales. Relatively hard-hitting, targeted emails to potential customers will include offers of content writing that’s being made exclusively to those who are willing to trade an email address and/or a phone number for the sake of learning more about the subject matter rather than the product itself.

Content writing for computer anti-virus and ad-blocking software will focus on best practices to keep your computer secure, the growing need to be vigilant when surfing the internet, and the latest tactics the unscrupulous are using to trick people into clicking. Copywriting will tell you that a brand’s software will do the best job of thwarting malicious intrusions.

Content Writing and Copywriting Work Together

Content writing isn’t designed to replace copywriting. Rather, it works hand-in-glove with copywriting to provide depth and valuable information that clearly demonstrates a brand’s values and positioning and encourages consumers to begin the journey down the sales funnel that will lead to their becoming customers.

Creative content strategies backed by competitive research and strategic planning and adjusted based on metrics form the backbone of successful digital marketing. At Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing, we focus on the story your brand wants — and needs — to tell.

To find out how a creative content marketing agency can create an effective content strategy using both content and copywriting trends, contact us today!

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