There’s a clear difference between content writers and copywriters, but many would argue that the dividing line is more blurred than ever and that the most employable writers need to be masters of both.
What’s the difference?
As a general rule, content writers are there to educate and engage the target audience. They position a brand as a trustworthy and likable authority in its industry and give value by providing expertise, answering people’s search questions, etc. Want to start sending out sales emails? You’ll need an email list first, and you can build that qualified, loyal list through content writing.
Copywriters, on the other hand, look to drive readers to take a certain action and close the deal.
Content writing includes:
- White papers
- Social media posts
- Press releases
- Ad copy
- PPC landing pages
- Product pages
- Website sales copy
- Sales emails and letters
Here’s a closer look at some facets of writing that play out differently in content vs. copywriting.
• Urgency: Urgency is very high with copywriting, which persuades readers to act right away: subscribe today, buy now, etc. Copywriting often highlights scarcity (“only four products left”) and plays on people’s fear of missing out (“the webinar signup closes today”) to elicit a quick response.
Content writers focus on building relationships of trust by providing their readers with high quality content. Content doesn’t press for immediate results but cultivates a loyal audience that can be converted into paying customers down the line. You become their “go to” source for the latest clothing trends or home improvement hacks or recipes, which makes people more likely to buy your products or services in the future.
• Emotion: Content writing focuses more on informing readers than on appealing to their emotions. That doesn’t mean that you can’t start an article on unclogging a sink with some humor to draw your reader in, but you’re going to be less concerned with connecting with your readers’ feelings than with helping them get that hairball out of the drain.
Copywriting draws heavily on emotion, drilling down to readers’ unmet needs and pain points to show how taking a certain action is going to improve their life.
• Grammar: It’s always a good policy to bring out your best grammar—particularly in content writing where you are looking to position yourself as an authority in your industry.
Copywriting employs a little more flexibility with grammar. The famous “Got Milk?” campaign might smash grammar conventions, but it gets people onboard. You might use punchy, incomplete sentences for ad copy or adopt slang that helps you connect with your readers in sales letters.
• Search engine optimization: This is the realm of content writing with blogs and other website content helping companies improve their search engine rankings for certain keywords and phrases. It aims to drive up qualified website traffic and lengthen the amount of time spent on your site (decreasing the “bounce rate”).
While copywriting is critical for making sales, if it mixes unwisely with content, it can hurt SEO. For example, if a reader wants to lose weight, they may seek out a healthy eating blog. But if that blog morphs into a brazen pitch for diet shakes, the reader will bounce quickly.
Writing content vs. copy requires distinct skillsets. Copywriters need to be adept storytellers to connect emotionally with their readers. They need to employ psychology to get in their readers’ heads and figure out what motivates them, what they lack, what they hope for, etc. Content writers need to be authorities on industry-related subjects and engaging enough to keep their readers coming back for more.
But as digital media evolves, the call for writers who are good at both copywriting and content writing is increasing. Consider the example of advertorials, which are really common on Facebook right now. They read like blogs, entertaining and informing the reader, but they also compel readers to take a certain action.
Even in bona fide blogs, a well-executed call-to-action can compel readers to purchase, subscribe, etc. The same with white papers. If skillfully written and marketed, they can both inform readers and compel them to action to support a company’s financial goals.
If you’d like to know how to become a better copywriter to make yourself more diversified and employable, check out our RMBC copywriting training. We’ll teach you how to master the psyche of your target audience so that can connect with them more meaningfully, leverage unique mechanisms, improve your storytelling, and get your readers to act. And best of all, we’ll teach you to write consistently high-grossing copy faster so that you can earn more in less time.