What’s the difference between content writing vs. copywriting?

May 13, 2022 | 6 minute read
Michael McNichols
Senior Content Manager
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TL;DR: Get a primer on how copywriting and content writing differ in structure and what they’re trying to achieve. Learn:

  • Where to do copywriting and content writing
  • Where they might mix within content marketing projects
  • How knowing their differences can sharpen your writing

What type of marketing content creation are you doing?

All types of writing have a structure.

A press release, comic book script, screenplay, news article, and so forth. I’d even argue a Facebook status has one, but you can wait for when I’m bored on a Sunday afternoon for that.

In school, you might have used the five-paragraph structure for a paper. The first paragraph serves as an introduction and features your thesis statement. The following three paragraphs build your argument, and the last one makes your conclusion. 

Is that the only way you can write an essay? Certainly not, but it gives you something to work with and a jumping-off point for trying something different.

Structure matters in copywriting and content marketing

Function denotes form.

If you take karate, boxing, or tae kwon do, your typical fighting stance has your weaker hand and leg forward, so you can put your hip into striking and kicking with your power side.

Bruce Lee did the opposite because he favored speed over power.

Similarly, function and intent dictate how you write.

You can express an idea in a probably infinite number of ways. But, to achieve a reaction from the reader and make the most of your medium,  a formula or framework helps.

Within the framework, you have freedom, probably more than you know.

However, you write a subject line or title the way you do for a reason. It’s the same with a headline, dialogue, descriptions, and everything.

Does room for experimentation exist?

Sure. You can try different things in the framework or even go outside of it, if it somehow helps you achieve your goals.

I’d advise you to learn the basics first before trying something really out there.

See how to better collaborate, edit, write, share, and publish content marketing and copywriting projects. Find out what a content management system (CMS) and why you need one

Copywriting versus content writing

If you work in marketing and do some type of writing, it probably falls into one of two categories: copywriting and content writing.

What’s the difference?

Copywriting PERSUADES.

Content writing INFORMS.

Is there overlap?

Of course. Sometimes, the same type of phrasing can work for both. Or you inform to persuade.

Content marketing often involves a mix of copywriting and content writing as well as essay writing, journalism, blogging, and more.

As I said before, get the basics down before worrying about that sort of thing.

So, if function denotes form, what does that mean for copywriting versus content writing?

Why copywriting and content writing differ

Copywriting is the tip of the proverbial spear. I hate using that cliché, but it fits here.

If you’re doing some type of demand generation, such as email writing, creating a landing page, social media copy, or even an ad, you’re:

  • Enticing or intriguing someone
  • Provoking a reaction
  • Getting them to take another action

And where does this person end up?

Probably where they can experience content, such as a guide, infographic, video, product tour, etc.

Since this person is already interested in what you’re selling, you don’t have to keep outright persuading them. Persuade by informing.

Give them the details they want on how they’ll achieve their end goal. That’s how you sell them on what you’re offering.

Now, what does all this mean in practical application?

How copywriting works

Let’s use ads as an example.

Paid ads need to be as direct as possible and focus on end results.

If the end result your customers want is better quality of leads, depending on the character count and tone you’re working with, your ads might say something like:

  • Get hotter leads
  • Stronger leads, quicker sales
  • More qualified leads

Someone clicks onto that paid ad’s link and goes to a landing page. A landing page is still demand generation, still copywriting, but gives more details.

The first thing someone will see is the headline, so it has to tie into what the ad was promising:

  • How to improve the quality of your leads
  • Enhance your lead scoring
  • Get stronger leads with “product X”

The rest of the landing page makes the argument that you’re directing the reader to something that will get them stronger leads, so they click through at the end.

What NOT to do with the headline?

Something like this:

  • A lead management solution built for B2B marketing speed
  • The best lead management tool in the world
  • Better lead scoring!

Why?

The first headline isn’t about the audience and doesn’t speak directly to them. It’s about the solution. A landing page is about the audience and not the solution. It makes an argument for what you’re offering.

If someone can get better lead management without a solution, they’d do it. You’re convincing them this is the way to get what they want.

And “built for B2B marketing speed?”

Do real people talk like that? It sounds like someone is trying to sell you a used car. If someone said something like that to you in person, you’d think they were weird and not want to do business with them.

The second headline? It again talks about the tool and makes a ridiculous claim you or really anyone can’t back up. It’s exaggerating, and anyone can tell.

Now the third headline? With the exclamation point?

Is it really that exciting to have better lead scoring? Would anyone think so?

So, why is that exclamation point there?

Write better than that!

See, I just used an exclamation point. It makes it seem like I’m scolding you about a purposefully bad headline I wrote and not you. That wasn’t what I intended, but the exclamation point made it seem that way.

Always take care with exclamation points.

Need help with email marketing, copywriting, and campaigns? Find out how Oracle Marketing Consulting can set you up for success.

How content writing works

Anyway, you make your argument, and the reader clicks through on the link at the landing page’s bottom.

Now they come to content.

Is it a guide? Something like, “The Essentials of Lead Scoring?”

A blog called “7 tips for better lead scoring?”

A video about “Lead scoring best practices with product x?”

All are possibilities.

You give the reader the information they want, but still make it as much about them as possible.

How will your solution help them? What tips will make their job easier? How will reading your blog help them make more money?

Lay it out for them.

(Like I’ve just tried here.)

Final notes on copywriting and content writing

Once you’ve done all the hard work, writing, editing, and rewriting, you still need to take a couple more steps.

1) Check your work while it’s staged or in preview. Copy and content look different on word docs than on pdfs, staged emails or landing pages, and so forth.

2) Use A/B and multivariate testing to see what content, copy, and offers your audiences prefer. What subject lines work? What headlines? And on what times or days did publishing or sending it out seem to get the best response?

3) Track your results with analytics, so you can keep improving. 


Find out more about the ins and outs of content marketing and the the types of content audiences look for. Check out:

If you’re looking for help on copywriting and creative on campaigns, see how Oracle Marketing Consulting can help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael McNichols

Senior Content Manager

Michael McNichols is a Senior Content Manager for Oracle Digital Marketing. He has over ten years of experience in professional writing and has been widely published.


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