Copywriting Vs Content Writing: What’s the Difference?

One of my favorite debates within marketing circles is the difference between content marketing and copywriting. Although one approach is definitely more sales-oriented, while the other is designed to add value, don’t they both basically have the same function? Or is the difference black and white? And does one approach have more ROI than the other?


Have I mentioned lately that marketers tend to be overthinking nerds?


If you look at the question from a traditional marketing perspective, you would see that content marketing is content that is written purely for electronic media and is intended to share value in the form of shareable content for the reader. It’s a long-term relationship with your reader that creates customers, repeat business, referrals, etc. Copywriting, on the other hand, is traditional advertising in its purest form— it’s Don Draper with a snifter full of brandy, writing commercials, sales pages, ads, and direct mail pieces that inspire the consumer to take a specific action, usually in the form of a purchase. Of course, today, Don would be holed up in his home office, sipping cold-pressed juice, and creating copy that incites the reader to join his email list, call for more information, or sign up to access his vast library of content, but I digress.


Content Isn’t Everything

Nothing makes me roll my eyes more than the expression “content is king.” It’s not. If no one is reading your content, here are some reasons why:

You Offer No Value

Why should people keep returning to your website? If you don’t explicitly offer some kind of value, they won’t be back anytime soon. Your content also needs to gradually build a rapport with your audience. One of my favorite expressions that I use frequently in my copywriting class is, “you have to shake people’s hands before you reach for their wallets.” I believe this wholeheartedly. Your content should build a relationship with your consumer.

Your Content Isn’t True to Your Brand’s Personality

So many brands try to be everything to everyone. In fact, they get so wrapped up in trying to be clever, they forget why they went into business in the first place. Consumers are amazing at figuring out when a brand isn’t totally authentic. And they don’t like it.

Your Headlines Suck

There are two reasons why headlines may work against you—they’re either boring or they don’t offer value. Cutesy and/or lame headlines don’t inspire clicks, and they won’t sell your product, either. Clickbait is another thing to avoid. There is nothing more frustrating than clicking on a sensational headline and eventually being duped. Clickbait stopped working in 2009.

Ask Your Reader to Do Something

A basic tenet of copywriting says that you must have a clear call to action. ALWAYS ask your reader to do something, whether you want them to leave a comment, buy your book, sign up for your email list, etc.


Copywriting Only Gets You So Far

If it Sounds Like Advertising, STOP

Readers are smart—they like to buy, but they hate to be sold, so stop trying to sell. Make your content enjoyable to read. Make it a must-read. Just stop trying to be the next David Ogilvy and produce great content that is a pleasure to read.

Share Freely

Sharing your knowledge, humor, perspective, etc. is what makes a blog great. Offer up the white papers, links, videos, etc., that your audience is looking for. Become an indispensable resource.

Stop Worrying So Much About SEO

One of the things that drives me circus-freak-crazy is when people try to write for search engines, rather than for people. Stop. It. Now.

Instead, write something great first, and then make it search engine friendly. And while we’re on the subject of SEO, please stop the time-honored tradition of incorporating odd keywords into your copy. The only thing it does is make your content awkward to read.


So how about you? What’s your take on the great content vs copywriting debate?


Let me know in the comments.

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