The roles of a copywriter vs content writer are often misunderstood, and although there is some overlap, they are very different. The biggest distinction is their purpose: copywriting involves writing for the sake of marketing or advertising, whereas content writing entertains and engages the reader so they stay with a brand.
If you’re looking to engage a content writer or copywriter, it’s important you know how these roles differ because their aims and skillset are slightly different. To help us answer the question 'copywriter vs content writer - what is the difference', let's start by exploring each role along with the way that they overlap, how each professional works and some questions to ask if you're not sure who to hire.
Copywriter vs content writer - what is the difference?
Let's begin by defining each role:
What is a copywriter?
A copywriter is a master of persuasion, using language and words to convince readers to take a specific action. Whether that’s encouraging the reader to engage with a company, download a report or buy a product, they often specialise in SEO copy, sales writing or direct response advertising. Traditionally, copywriters worked in advertising spaces, so the types of material a copywriter produces can range from digital ads and print advertisements to emails, landing pages and brochures.
One of the top qualities of an excellent copywriter is their ability to write in an interactive and conversational way, focusing on short-term goals that offer big returns. A great copywriter will also be able to craft CTAs (call to actions) and headlines which persuade customers to make a purchase, schedule an appointment or sign up to a newsletter.
The role of a copywriter is often more straightforward than a content writer, but it can make or break a business.
What makes a good copywriter?
A number of copywriters focus on writing for specific industries, which means they often have a very good understanding of what a certain market needs to hear in order to take a specific action. But let’s take a look at the other skills a good copywriter will have:
- Able to explain complicated ideas clearly and concisely
- Able to think about a product or service creatively to grab attention
- Able to write captivating headlines
- Experience researching the benefits of a product or service and creating copy that sells these
- Able to inhabit a specific brand voice to connect with readers
- Understanding of the basic SEO principles
- Knowledge of buyer psychology and how to use persuasive copywriting techniques
- Knowledge of the sales funnel and how to target their copy
David Ogilvy, one of the most famous copywriters of his time, said:
“When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”
What is a content writer?
Unlike a copywriter, a content writer focuses on producing content which educates, informs or entertains. Also concerned with creating engagement with the audience, over time they build trust in a brand, strengthening the relationship between the company and the reader. The majority of content writers are experienced in online marketing and can write content for a number of different channels, including social media posts, blog posts and e-books.
Excellent content writers are good at storytelling and can often write blog posts that still convert customers without directly mentioning a brand. A content writer also has the skills to position a brand as an authority on a specific topic, granting the business credibility as a leader in a subject or industry.
What sets content writers apart from copywriters is their knowledge of content distribution networks and publishing platforms. Most content writers also know how to use editorial calendars and understand various writing terminology.
What makes a good content writer?
The best content offers something of value to readers that they typically can't find elsewhere in quite the same way. To ensure this level of engagement, and that the content is easy to find online, a content writer will need to have the following skills or attributes:
- Experience creating engaging long-form and thought-leadership content
- Experience performing deep research for different subjects
- Experience connecting bigger ideas or creating a strategic approach to content
- Able to generate and write about fresh ideas to offer a new perspective
- Excellent knowledge of grammar, punctuation and English rules
- Able to structure and format content to ensure it’s easy to scan or read
- Knowledge of how to use SEO principles and keywords appropriately
Demian Farnworth, the former Chief Content Writer at Copyblogger, says:
“Here’s everything you need to know about creating killer content in 3 simple words: Clear. Concise. Compelling.”
So, what is the difference between a copywriter and a content writer?
You might be forgiven for thinking is content writing the same as copywriting. Put simply, copywriters drive sales while content writers build trust. Clearly, however, there is some overlap between the two and many will use the terms copywriter and content writer interchangeably.
With social media and the internet providing even greater access to information, some people will argue that a content writer can be anyone – a blogger, a CEO, an executive – as long as they have knowledge on a certain subject and they can write about it in a way their audience will understand.
However, it’s important to note that the best content writers will be close to the topic they’re writing about and be able to write to inform and engage first and foremost. Unlike a content writer, a copywriter is usually considered a professional wordsmith, with specialist skills to produce compelling copy that drives readers to take action and benefits the company in greater sales.
How content writers and copywriters work
In no uncertain terms is one profession easier than the other here, but there are some differences which can be overlooked, whether you’re looking to hire a writer or you’re looking for writing work yourself.
For example, although this isn’t definitive, content writers usually have more flexible deadlines and more time to create content than copywriters. This is usually because their work can require more research and formatting, especially when you consider they specialise in long-form pieces.
A copywriter, on the other hand, can sometimes be called upon at the very last minute to provide short-form copy, so they’re used to working more reactively. However, this doesn’t mean content writers shouldn’t practise writing to tight deadlines or that copywriters will never have the luxury of an extension.
Although copywriters and content writers have different responsibilities, it’s important they strive for the best of both worlds by combining strategic writing with excellent copy.
Do I need a content writer or a copywriter?
Ultimately, most content writers and copywriters work on a range of content and borrow skills from each other. Sometimes it simply comes down to preference whether a writer will define themselves as someone who writes content or copy.
If you're still not sure whether you need to hire a content writer or copywriter, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you need someone to write content that engages readers and drives conversions (content writer) or someone to write persuasive and snappy copy for sales and advertising (copywriter)?
- Do you need someone with an understanding of SEO strategy to help content reach its target audience (content writer) or someone who can work on online and offline content (copywriter)?
- Do you need someone with strong research skills to create insightful content and thought leadership pieces from scratch (content writer) or who is more versatile and creative and can help position the benefits of your service (copywriter)?
- Do you need someone who can adapt their content to a range of platforms, such as social media and blogs (content writer) or someone who primarily works in web pages and print marketing materials (copywriter)?
Before you hire your next copywriter or content writer, take a close look at these definitions to determine what it is you’re hoping to achieve.
✏️Whether you’re looking to hire a copywriter or content writer for your next project, enquire about our content creation services at Copify today.