What is the difference between copywriting vs content marketing?

by Alice Hiley

What is the difference between copywriting vs content marketing?

Whether you’re a startup looking to create a content strategy or a writer hoping to launch a copywriting career, you’ll need to know the difference between copywriting vs content marketing. What do the two have in common, and what are the best approaches to each?

In this article, we define the two practices, explore the differences and the techniques you need to borrow from each practice to make your copy and content as successful as possible. You’ll find there is a lot of overlap between the two terms and the skills you require to implement them. But first, let’s start with the basics…

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Copywriting vs content marketing definitions

Though they may seem similar, the two practices are different. If you’re wondering what is the difference between copywriting and content marketing, it’s helpful to understand the different definitions: 

Copywriting definition

Copywriting aims to directly and immediately lead the reader to take a specific action: whether that’s subscribing to a newsletter, calling you for more information, or buying your product. Effective copy will include a call to action and will be geared toward compelling the reader to complete that action.

Daniel Throssell defines copywriting as:

“The definition of copywriting is ‘salesmanship in print’. Copywriting is using words to persuade people to take some kind of action, such as clicking on an ad or purchasing a product. For this reason, it’s one of the most important aspects of marketing. It’s also why professional copywriters are the highest-paid writers on the planet.”

In a nutshell? “Copywriting is re-arranging words to make things sell better. It is a text form of salesmanship.”

Examples of copywriting

Some materials where copywriting is used include:

  • direct mail
  • sales pages
  • blogs
  • web pages
  • ads

Content marketing definition

There are numerous definitions of content marketing out there; however, it generally involves creating and sharing free, multimedia content across various business channels, such as blogs and social media posts. The principal aim is to attract readers to your site and encourage positive brand recognition, usually over a long period of time.

As Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute defines it:

“[Content marketing is] a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Examples of content marketing

Some media where content writing is used include:

  • videos
  • podcasts
  • infographics
  • blogs
  • thought-leadership pieces

What is copywriting? A closer look

Copy is created by writers on behalf of a brand or business, to achieve specific goals – usually promoting the business’s goals, message, values, and products.

Copywriting should always centre around a call to action, and by the end, readers need to have a clear idea of what you want them to do next.

Copywriting communicates with a brand’s target buyer persona in order to strengthen B2C or B2B relationships – but it is always written with a specific reader in mind.

Using content marketing techniques in copywriting

Here are the ways you can use good content marketing techniques to inform your copywriting:

  • Ensure it’s enjoyable to read: It’s important to produce copy that works as a sales pitch, but if it’s too dull, monotonous or packed with jargon, your bounce rate will be staggering. Yes, copywriting is essentially advertising, but you need to disguise all that overt promotion behind fascinating, readable storytelling.
  • Find ways to be generous: Ideally, readers will finish scrolling through your copy and think to themselves, “I can’t believe they gave me all that information for free.” Presenting yourself as a brand that generously shares its expertise is a surefire way to garner devoted readers.
  • Write for humans, not just search engines: SEO skills will guarantee your copy gets found by the right audience. But all that tricky, technical work is useless if readers feel bored, intimidated or alienated by what they’re reading. Write copy that includes the level of depth and nuance that human readers appreciate.

What is content marketing? A closer look

Content is chiefly created to relay information and can take the form of text, audio, video, imagery, social media and many more mediums. Content marketing has the long-term goal of portraying your business or brand as a credible, trustworthy, authoritative figure within your industry.

People who read your content may not make a purchase or sign up to a mailing list directly afterwards; that’s totally fine. However, they may follow your blog or bookmark your site, because they recognise you as somewhere to turn to for fascinating, informative content. You’ve therefore cemented your brand in their minds – a great result.

If the results are not what you’d hoped, it may be because you’re producing materials which work well as pieces of content – articles that are insightful and enjoyable to read – but which are not successful as pieces of copy. Here are some copywriting elements which might be missing from your content.

Using copywriting techniques in your content marketing

Employing the below tips could help improve your content marketing:

  • Craft a captivating headline: Very few readers will ever find out the valuable insights, facts and teachings your content has to offer if you give it a dull headline. The headline needs to instantly grab the reader’s attention, provoke their curiosity, and make it impossible for them to scroll past. Follow these foolproof tips to frame magnetic headlines.
  • Include a strong call to action: Content marketing doesn’t need an explicit call to action in the same way copywriting does – you don’t have to include phrases like ‘click here’, ‘contact us’ or ‘buy now’. But if you don’t suggest some next steps – such as gently nudging viewers to read another one of your blogs or to check out your site’s homepage – they’re likely to click off your content and forget about you completely. Make sure you don’t lose them forever by planning out a journey for them to follow which will turn them into loyal readers and, eventually, repeat customers.
  • Write well: It sounds blindingly obvious, but it’s still worth mentioning. Talented copywriters are skilled at boiling down complex concepts into their most simple components. They use white space, simple language, subheadings, and short sentences to avoid overwhelming readers. To be accessible to as many people as possible, your content needs to do this, too.

What is the difference between content marketing and copywriting?

The main differences can be summarised as:

Content marketing:

  • Focuses on creating and distributing valuable and relevant content to a target audience
  • Aims to build brand awareness, establish credibility, and engage with the audience
  • Can take various formats, such as blog posts, social media posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, etc.
  • Typically focuses on informing and educating the audience rather than selling a product or service directly
  • Supports the overall marketing strategy of the brand or company

Copywriting:

  • Focuses on writing persuasive and compelling language to encourage a specific action
  • Aims to generate leads, conversions, and sales
  • Can take various formats, such as advertising copy, sales emails, landing page copy, product descriptions, etc.
  • Typically uses emotional triggers and persuasive language to drive the audience to take action
  • Supports the overall sales and marketing goals of the brand or company

Whatever you’re writing, you need to bear in mind the key principles and skills copywriters and content marketers use to make their words a success. While there are some key differences between the goals and purposes of these two types of content, an awareness of how they intersect is a vital element of the best marketing strategies.

✏️ If you’re looking for a team that can help you with your copywriting or content marketing strategy, speak to us at Copify today.


Main image credit: Brooke Cagle

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Alice Hiley

Alice recently graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing and joined Copify in 2018. You can see her writing on Clippings, contact her on LinkedIn or chat to her about books on Twitter.