• Lindsey McCaffrey, Writer, Editor

What's the Difference Between a Copywriter and a Content Writer?

You've probably heard the terms "copywriter" and "content writer" thrown about many, many times.

Personally, I use them interchangeably: I consider myself both a copywriter and a content writer.

(Plus, using both terms on my website is great for SEO purposes.)

But what is the actual definition of a copywriter? And the definition of a content writer?

Moreover, is there really a difference between the two terms?

Some people think so.

What is a copywriter? What is copywriting?

According to the five experts below, copywriting is strongly focused on sales and getting readers to take immediate action.

Here is how they interpret the meaning of copywriting:

"Copywriting means creating compelling and high-valued content that purely aims at pitching your sell an idea..."

- Alan Smith, tech blogger

"Copywriters are usually used as advertising vehicles, typically specialising in short-form copy, such as straplines, headlines or press ads."

- Nicola Churchill, Koozai

"Copywriters...are pure sales writers....PPC ads, emails and autoresponder sequences, landing pages, short or long-form sales letters, video sales letters…this is where a copywriter shines."

- Katie Yeakle, direct response marketing expert

"Copywriting gets a reader to take a specific action. Sometimes that’s making a purchase, but it can also be subscribing to your email list, signing up for your content library, or calling you for more information....Copywriting is sales pages, ads, and direct mail."

- Sonia Simone, co-founder and Chief Content Officer

"The best example of pure copywriting is still advertising, where copywriters hone unique skills in creating ads designed to get us to take a very specific action: click a link, make a phone call, visit a store, etc. The main goal of most copywriting is to sell — this is especially true of direct response copywriting, where top copywriters can earn tens of thousands of dollars for writing a single successful direct mail letter."

- Don Sadler, freelance writer

What is content writing? What is a content writer?

Stripped down to the basics, content writing is still marketing-driven. However, it is less about sales, and more about providing useful information.

Here, in their words, is the meaning of content writing:

"[A] content writer is a person who writes textual narratives (content) for the purposes of publication: in print media, such as magazines or brochures....However, in the world of digital, content writers...are responsible for writing extensive blogs, website content, white papers, e-books, e-brochures, etc....they need to be well aware of current SEO trends, Google Analytics, and many more tools which involve extensive preparation and research prior to publication."

- Vesna Savić, Pop Art Studio

"Content writing....demonstrates expertise. Talking about your industry with a level of authority and knowledge shows you know your stuff. They come to see you as an expert. So when the time comes that they need your product or service, you’ll already have placed yourself ahead of the competition."

- Richard Holmes, Good Funnel

"Content writing informs....[and] recommends....Content writers want you to know....more substance and less flair [than copywriting]."

- Ryan Schaefer, kglobal

"While copywriting is pretty blatant in its sales tactics, content writing is a little bit sneakier. Its purpose is still to provoke an action, but the big difference is that the text is informative and useful to the reader, whether they buy a product or click on an ad."

- Scripted blog

"The job of content to keep your audience engaged and provide them enough information to keep them coming to your website or blog again and again. Content writing can entertain them, educate them, inform them, offer solutions to their problems, hold conversations with them and make it possible for them to find your website and individual pages on search engines."

- Credible Content blog

One style is not enough

Is it possible to be just one thing - that is, a copywriter OR a content writer?

Absolutely - especially if the writer only focuses on ads and sales, or excels in writing longer-form content.

But keep this in mind: because content marketing is today's marketing, it's no longer enough for businesses to just put out sales copy.

Sure, copywriting is still necessary. But copywriting on its own is not necessarily going to achieve things like:

  • Differentiating your brand

  • Building readers' (or your target audience's) trust

  • Helping you establish yourself as an expert in your industry

  • Demonstrating you understand your target market's pain points

Conversely, your "content arsenal" may not have as much impact if it only contains content writing and no copywriting.

It's all about balance.

Find someone who offers both copywriting and content writing

When you're looking to hire a writer for your marketing and/or sales needs, try to find someone who offers a balance of both copywriting and content writing services.

After all, you don't want your target audience to feel like they're constantly being "sold" to (e.g., if a writer only specializes in copywriting); or that they have to do a lot of digging to get basic information (e.g., if a writer only specializes in longer-form content writing).

The beauty of writing for businesses is there are times when it is appropriate to insert a sales angle into content marketing (like a blog); or to employ a content writing style into certain sales pieces (like a case study or brochure).

Therefore, ideally, you want someone who can:

  • employ both copywriting and content writing styles, and

  • easily "cross over" and adapt their writing from one style to another.

And an added bonus: a writer who provides both copywriting and content writing services can create a greater number and range of products for your business!

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below!

"Ottawa writer for hire" Lindsey McCaffrey is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and content strategist for businesses and non-profit organizations. Learn more about Lindsey here.

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© 2020 Lindsey McCaffrey, Writer, Editor, Content Strategist.