Copywriter vs. Content Writer: 7 Key Differences

copywriting vs. content writing

In this article, we breakdown 7 key differences between a copywriter vs. content writer. What role does each play in building a successful brand? 

Storytelling matters, now more than ever

These days, the most successful brands are storytellers. They appeal to the human dimension of marketing through storytelling and empathy. They gain our gain trust, inspire action and get us to believe in their mission. 

But, storytelling is part of an ongoing relationship with customers — and it’s a two-way street. Before you actually start selling anything, you’ll need to establish trust. Customers need to know that your number one priority isn’t to sell them, but rather to help them. 

It’s a balancing act; one in which copywriters and content writers play different roles. They both, however, are important in building meaningful connections with customers. 

Whether you’re building your team in-house or working with an agency, it’s good to understand the differences between a copywriter vs. content writer. Doing so will help you hire the right person to tell your brand’s story.  

Copywriter vs. content writer infographic

Here’s a simple infographic to highlight the key differences between a copywriter vs. content writer. 

copywriter vs. content writer infographic

7 key differences, according to the experts

1. A copywriter sells, while a content writer informs 

A copywriter sells your target audience to your brand. On the other hand, a content writer informs, educates, entertains, or instructs readers. 

Sonia Simone, founding partner of Copyblogger Media further explains the difference. “Copy, traditionally, is what we use to make the sale. To use Albert Lasker’s phrase, it’s salesmanship in print (or pixels). Its aim is to persuade” says Simone. 

“Content does everything else. It attracts an audience, engages their sustained attention, demonstrates your ability to solve their problems, and paves the way for an eventual purchase,” she says. 

2. Copywriters create a sense of urgency and inspire emotional responses

Copywriters want to people to take immediate action. For example, they’ll want readers to download something, signup for a newsletter, or buy a product.

“To win the click or the sale, you must not only answer the reader’s question of ‘why this?’, but also ‘why this now?'” explains Nick Wolny, Director of Content at Super Connector Media.

“Copywriters thread urgency and scarcity into a headline to elicit fast action,” he says. 

Conversely, content writers want to build an engaged audience. As we mentioned above, they want to establish trust and position the brand as a reliable source of information.

3. Content writers lay the groundwork for future sales

Even though they’re not trying to sell a product or service directly, content writers are still concerned with selling. Sales are an indirect result of producing valuable content. 

Not sure if a blog can have a measurable ROI? Alex Turnbull, CEO and Founder of Groove proves otherwise. 

“Trust is a huge driver of buying decisions in any industry. Blogging, for Groove, was a really effective way to build that trust before we had much of anything else to show,” says Turnbull. 

“Our presence online has been massively impacted by the success of the blog, and it has driven referrals and signups from customers who otherwise might have never heard of Groove,” he says.

4. Content writers are generally more focused on SEO

Content writers are usually hired to drive inbound traffic. So, stellar content writers are great at SEO. They’ll help you choose topics based on search terms that align with your business goals. 

When you’re hiring a content writer, it can be hard to tell just how much they know about SEO. Victor Ijidola of Premium Content Shop shares a helpful tip for screening and recruiting the best SEO content writers; look for focus keywords in their writing samples. 

A focus keyword is the main search term a page is optimized for. This keyword should be included in the page title, the first header (H1) and throughout the body copy. It should also be distributed throughout subheadings. 

“Look through their samples; see if they have optimized any content piece for a specific keyword in the past so you can know if they’ll be able to do the same for your content,” advises Ijidola. 

5. Copywriters write short-form copy, while content writers write long-form copy

Copywriters write copy for: 

  • Ads, online and off
  • Slogans and taglines
  • Web page content
  • Email campaigns
  • Television or radio commercial promotional and advertising scripts
  • Video scripts
  • Catalogs
  • Billboards
  • Postcards
  • Sales letters
  • Direct mail letters
  • Jingle lyrics
  • Social media

Content writers write longer-form content like: 

  • Articles
  • Blog posts
  • Newspaper pieces
  • Magazine features
  • Press Releases 
  • White papers
  • Email newsletters
  • E-books
  • Books
  • Print magazines
  • Podcasts
  • Television
  • Film

Some of these areas overlap, but you get the idea. 

6. Content writers contribute to a long-term strategy 

You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly if a copywriter writes an awesome ad. Metrics like click-through rates and open rates are a good indication of that. 

Content isn’t always easy to measure in the short-term. Good content strategies (like white hat SEO strategies) take time to pay-off. 

“An SEO you should trust is the one that tells you that this stuff takes time,” says Jon-Mikel Bailey, CDMO at Wellspring Digital

“Because it does. If you look back over all of the algorithm updates from Google in 2013, there is one constant… a better user experience”

If that hard truth tests your patience, consider that the value gained content from blogs and articles has a longer shelf life. Unlike an ad or email, blogs and articles have staying power that continues to pay off over time.

7. Copywriters drive organic traffic, copywriters turn that traffic into leads. 

This last point sums up the differences between a copywriter vs. content writer. Copywriters drive organic traffic, while copywriters convert traffic into sales or leads.

Jessica Foster, founder of Keys&Copy explains that there can be an overlap, but it’s rarely, if ever, 100%.

“While SEO experts and business owners would love to get the best of both worlds – content that’s made to attract organic traffic and get a high conversion rate – the reality is that SEO content is best at driving traffic and sales copy is best at selling,” says Foster. 

Copywriter vs. content writer: wrapping it up

There comes a time to convince, persuade, and convert people. But, it’s definitely not all the time. Allocate time to delivering value with no strings attached. 

Content is like karma — you’ve got to give to get. 

Need help tell your brand’s story? Get in touch.

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Jenna Alburger

Jenna Alburger

Marketing Strategist / Co-Founder @ Outlier Creative

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