If you find yourself confused by the differences between a content writer vs a copywriter, you will be joining a big club! Amidst the industry jargon and the two overlapping terms, understanding their distinction can be tricky. Think about it like comparing tangerines to clementines: they’re both types of mandarins, but, although they share some similarities, both have slightly different tastes.
A copywriter's ultimate objective is generating sales and/or increasing conversion, by selling ideas, emotions or ideologies linked to products. The aim is to convince the reader to take action and – when done well – to create on-point branding, by pinpointing the brand's strengths. Copywriting is advertorial in nature and has been even called salesmanship in print.
Content writers, on the other hand, are more focused on establishing productive engagement of the audience by generating interest. The pieces content writers work on can be informative, entertaining, educational or instructive. Content writing is usually designed to strengthen the brand-reader relationship, so that, over time, leads can eventually turn into customers. It's more journalistic in nature, but it still subtly adds tremendous marketing value, particularly over the long-haul.
Put simply, the copywriter's end goal is sales, and the content writer's is brand loyalty.
Copywriters are in the business of persuasion, since their goal is to entice the reader with an end result. Hence, they are more linear, one-directional and strategic regarding their material. They use psychology and more emotional, interactive, forceful, even edgier language as a straightforward call to action.
Content writers, however, are more conversational, multi-directional and SEO-driven, as the aim is to create a relationship and provide the best possible user experience, while also appealing to the Google Gods to recognise the content and return it in search results. Think of it as a chat with your friend or advanced storytelling, with the focus being on revealing the personality behind the brand.
Content Writer Vs. Copywriter Footprint
In case you haven't realised it by now, both disciplines are equally important parts of a complete content strategy, and inseparable parts of a strong overall marketing campaign.
Content implicitly creates brand awareness. It increases traffic on a company's sales page through likes/shares and adds trust and value to a business, making it easier to boost sales.
Copy then comes like an explicit offer and serves as a sales tool for your already warm leads (who you drew in with the content), using a call to action (CTA) to increase revenue.
Aside from the differences explained above, there are also some distinguishing technical details worth mentioning:
While flexibility and sticking to tight deadlines are essential skills for both, it appears that content writers usually have longer lead times than copywriters. The latter can receive a last-minute copy order at any time, without the luxury of a working extension, as they work for short-term goals. Content writers are more likely to plan their workload in advance, with the help of management software such as Asana or Trello, content calendars, timelines and workflow diagrams.
Brevity is crucial for copywriters since they write marketing material, used mostly in campaigns for promotional and persuasive purposes where they have a shockingly short space to attract readers’ attention. That doesn’t mean that they don’t take on long-form copy as well, but the art of persuasion is generally achieved by keeping the message short.
Even though copywriting and content writing are often carried out by the same person and even for the same company or project, another distinction lies in whether the content is online or offline. A copywriter’s list includes, but is not limited to ads (on and offline), email campaigns (online), slogans (on and offline), headlines (on and offline), billboards (offline), SEO content (online), TV/radio commercial scripts (on and offline), brochures (offline), landing pages, and social media (both online).
Likewise, a content writer’s list includes, but is not limited to social media posts (online), magazine/newspaper articles (on and offline), blog posts (online), email newsletters (online), books (on and offline), podcasts (online), TV, film, and radio (all on and offline).
Having a solid understanding of the different skill sets and roles of a content writer vs. those of a copywriter is essential, in order to provide more targeted content for fixed marketing goals. However, the merging of elements from both writing styles into holistic content materials is becoming increasingly popular, especially amongst content writers aiming for the best of both worlds. Copyblogger said it best: “copywriting without content is a waste of good copy,” and “content without copywriting is a waste of good content”.