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Copywriting vs Content Writing: What’s the Difference?

Copywriting vs content writing: the terms are often used interchangeably. 

And to be honest, it’s taken me a while to figure out the difference between the two.

My eureka moment came when I discovered not how they are different, but rather what they have in common.

Both copywriting and content writing are forms of persuasive writing.

The difference how you write the call to action and the time frame in which you expect the reader to respond. 

Copywriting vs Content Writing: Different Time Frames

#Copywriting vs content writing: what's the difference? with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #FreelanceWriting

Copywriting uses words to persuade readers to take a specific action and to do so quickly. It’s about the short game – that is, getting the reader to act right now by addressing a single need or desire.  

Content writing uses words to persuade readers with quality, relevant information. But it’s different from copywriting in that content writing is about the long game – that is, engaging your target reader repeatedly over time so she comes to trust you and be interested in your product or service. 

Content writing is part of a marketing strategy. Good content attracts and converts readers into customers. When your content provides good information, you build an audience of followers. As you continually and consistently offer reliable, quality information that they need over time, you build trust with these followers. They recognize your credibility. Ultimately, your content equips your readers to engage, to participate, to purchase, to give, to support, to volunteer, to become an advocate, or otherwise take action.  

  • The point of a piece of copywriting is to persuade you to act right away.
  • The point of a piece of content writing is to persuade you to continue to engage over time.

But in both cases, the goal is persuasion. 

Copywriting vs Content Writing: Different Formats

Because each has a different response time frame, copywriting and content writing projects are best suited to different formats.

Kinds of Copywriting Projects

Copywriting projects have a straightforward objective: get the reader to act immediately.  Because of that urgency and focus, successful copywriting projects speak directly to one single need. How does your offer solve that one problem for the reader – and solve it now? This kind of persuasive writing is typical of sales pages, ads, direct mail, sales letters, sales emails, and appeal letters. 

In terms of mechanics, your copywriting project must have a clear call to action. Effective copywriting tells the reader exactly what to do to fix her “problem” and then makes it easy for her to do so.  

Kinds of Content Writing Projects

Content writing projects have a different objective – to cultivate a relationship with the reader so that when she is ready, she will act.

Relationships take time to build. Because of that, content writing pieces inform, entertain, and teach readers, preparing them to engage with a product or service. Content writing pieces are delivered in blogs, podcasts, emails, autoresponders, books, e-books, articles, white papers, social media posts, to name a few.

Like copywriting, content writing projects speak directly to a reader’s needs, wants, and feelings and provides a way to solve the problem. The response can be now or later. (That’s why copywriting is considered to be a subset of content writing.)

The point is to build a long-term relationship. That’s why effective content writing is conversational and useful. You want your reader to come back over and over to your content. Yes, you’ll offer a call to action, which can be an invitation to readers to click, comment, respond, buy, give, opt in.  But the key here is engagement.

Copywriting vs Content Writing: What’s the Difference?

Respond now or respond later - either way, copywriting and content writing both require persuasive writing. They’re on different “schedules,” but otherwise, they’re not such different animals after all.

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