What if you could confidently write any piece of your website or social? What if you knew without a shadow of a doubt that it was worth the effort because it would achieve your goal of either nurturing your audience or converting them into paying clients?
Understanding the goals and strategies behind copy and content writing, including the differences between them, can give you exactly that peace of mind – whether you outsource or do the writing yourself.
“Wait,” you ask, “Isn’t everything I write for the web called copywriting?”
Good point. Yes – among the average business owner, copywriting is usually the word that’s thrown around regardless of whether they’re writing their sales page, blog, or latest Instagram post. However, there IS a difference, and if you don’t know it, it can make the difference between a business that’s just a side hustle, and one that brings in 6 figures. You’re missing out on one of THE most powerful ways of growing your business effectively.
But you’re not going to miss out – right now, you can save time, energy and money in getting more of your ideal clients with this one piece of knowledge: the difference between copy and content writing.
The Key Difference between Copy and Content Writing
Copywriting includes anything you write with the goal of selling someone as a direct result of reading it.
Sales pages, sales emails, Facebook ads, and posts with a clear “Buy now” instruction are all forms of copy.
Content writing falls under the umbrella of content marketing. It includes anything you write with the intention of attracting an audience and building their trust by offering free value and education. The immediate goal is not to sell, but to bring in leads (prospecting) and nurture the relationship so they buy your offer when it IS the right time (for you and for your client).
Blogs, stories, newsletters, social media captions, podcast and video scripts are all examples of content writing.
In other words:
Copywriting = selling
Content writing = prospecting
Why does the difference matter to you?
There are 2 main reasons:
1. Techniques mark the difference between copy and content writing
There’s a lot of psychology and practice that has gone into developing formulas for copywriting in particular, so knowing what you’re doing makes the difference between no clients at all, and a stream of them flooding in and excited to invest in you. Just knowing that copy and content writing are different and serve different goals can make it much easier to find resources that teach these forms of writing in the first place. You can critically evaluate “expert” blog posts you’re skimming through, a book you might purchase, or a writing coach like me.
You’ll also understand the psychological strategies behind why copywriting is so heavily structured compared to other types of writing. Understanding this can reduce the resistance you might feel as a creative entrepreneur to the idea that copywriting is “formulaic.” When you understand the formulas, you actually find that its structure gives you ample room to play and speak to your ideal client from an inspired place. All with the benefit of converting them into a customer.
2. Outsourcing to the best writer for the job
If you’re going to hire someone to do your writing for you, make sure they’re going to get results (in addition to being pleasant to work with!)
When bringing in a feature writer (who gets a byline on your blog, for example) or a ghostwriter (who can do a variety of copy or content writing in your voice), you want to make sure they’re the right person for the job.
Since copy and content writing are different types of writing with unique techniques and intended outcomes, it matters that the writer is trained and experienced in whichever area they’re writing for you. Many writers choose a niche, so they have a very narrow area of expertise – but they do it incredibly well. So if someone only does copywriting – or even more specifically, they only write high ticket sales pages – they’re not the correct person to create a content marketing strategy and SEO-friendly blog posts. While they may say they can do any type of writing, as a savvy business owner, it doesn’t make sense for you to hire them to do your content.
In the world of content writers, you’ll find that some of them simply do the writing: they don’t take responsibility for including SEO best practices in the text or adding keyphrases. If your goal is to get your website to rank on Google and for your blog post to pop in front of your ideal clients eyes went they need you most, you’ll need an SEO-friendly content writer. That is, if you’re not willing to pay yet another subcontractor that’s an SEO specialist who’ll go back in and edit the blog post for SEO. So knowing what good content entails will help you figure out if your content writer is the right fit for you blog too!
Now, if you’re looking to develop a relationship with one writer who’s a partner on your team and knows your brand inside out, they do exist. BUT we’re a rare breed. Instead of niching to a particular writing type, we’re versatile writers who instead niche to a certain client avatar.
For example, in my case, I’m both a copy and content writer, and where I niche is with long term, specialized partnerships with a select few purpose-driven businesses. This adds massive value to my clients, including:
- Consistency in their brand voice
- Saving them time because I know their voice and offers inside and out
- Easy client nurturing because there’s a set process for writing that I produce for them on a regular basis
- Ensuring SEO best practices throughout their website
- And most importantly, they can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing their expert partner (and friend) is taking care of all their writing needs for them.
Now that you know what the difference is between copy and content writing, you can accurately evaluate if your potential writer is qualified and prepared to support your needs. Ask them about sales pages and newsletters – they should either declare themselves an expert in one, or speak with good knowledge about the techniques and psychology for each type of writing.
Critically, if they don’t understand the distinction between copy and content writing themselves, they are NOT qualified to write either type. We’re in this industry – we have to know this jargon and their associated skills. Just like the average entrepreneur, we might use “copywriting” in passing to describe all web writing, but if you ask a writer directly to distinguish copy from content and they can’t, walk away.
Where people usually get stuck:
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this question:
“I see how content writing is authentic – it’s telling stories and giving amazing free value and education that also gets them interested in me. But if copywriting is selling, isn’t it always kind of sleazy?”
As a business owner who believes in your product or service, you can stand strong in the knowledge that it’s a DISSERVICE to the people who need you if you don’t make it easy for them to:
1) find you + like you = content writing
2) invest in your offer = copywriting (+ consult calls)
You must do BOTH for the people who need you. They’re searching for you and your transformational help – it’s your responsibility to make it easy for them to find you, and believe in you enough to invest with you.
I also know you will never write copy that’s sleazy because:
- Good copy acknowledges your ideal clients where they’re currently at. It names their pain without adding to it. This lets them feel seen. Regardless of whether you get the sale, good copy at least helps them find a little inner peace because they can say, “I’m not alone.”
- Good copy also includes statements where you help them imagine solutions to their pain or dissatisfaction. You connect with their dreams and affirm to them they’re possible.
- You got into this business to serve people – your heart is in the right place, and you can only STAY in this business if you earn money by… serving people. It’s a cycle and an exchange of value.
- Plus, you’re asking the question about how to stay authentic (and not sleazy) with your people. You have a good sense of intuition around this topic that won’t steer you wrong.
Did you know the difference between copy and content writing before reading this article? Please share this post with a fellow business owner and spread the knowledge!