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Old fashioned typewriter
copywriting #contentwriting

Copywriting VS Content Writing

Paul Kiernan

The title of this article is a little deceptive; When you set up one thing versus another, there implies a winner and a loser. The outcome will show that one is superior to the other. In the case of copywriting versus content writing, that’s just not true. One is not superior to the other. They are both problematic, and they are both highly effective when used correctly.

Question: Who said writing is writing?

Answer: No one. Not one person who knows anything about writing, its power to affect, change minds, improve, sway or sell.

The title of this article is a little deceptive; When you set up one thing versus another, there implies a winner and a loser. The outcome will show that one is superior to the other. In the case of copywriting versus content writing, that’s just not true. One is not superior to the other. They are both problematic, and they are both highly effective when used correctly.

There are, however, subtle, essential differences between the two in terms of purpose, use, and even length. In this article, we will discuss;

  • The primary differences between content and copywriting
  • How they can impact your digital marketing
  • Emotional impact
  • And anything else we feel like spouting off about

Let’s get started by defining the two genres clearly and simply.

What is Content Writing

In the shell of a nut, content writing is planning, writing, and editing web content. This typically implies the writing is for digital marketing purposes. It can include but is not limited to writing blog posts and articles, scripts for videos and podcasts, and content for specific platforms, such as tweetstorms on Twitter or text posts on Reddit or captions for Facebook posts.

The primary purpose of content writing is to educate and entertain the masses. With well-crafted content, you can entertain your readers while giving them some helpful information that may be applicable to their lives or their work. This blog, for example, is content writing. It is informative, giving you information about the topic of content and copywriting and, if you’re in a generous mood, it can be considered entertaining. One out two ain’t bad, sports fans.

Content writing can encompass more, and its definition can stretch to white papers, e-books, case studies, newsletters, email news articles, and more. Content writing is a vast category, and when done well, it can certainly grab attention and get people to your website and keep them interested in you and your product or company. It can set you up as an authority and cause people to come to your site for purely informational/educational purposes. And, once there, they may buy a thing.

What is Copywriting

Now, shaving with Occam’s razor, at its very core, copywriting is bits of text for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing. The product, called copy or sales copy, is written material that aims to increase brand awareness and ultimately persuade a person or group to take a particular action. Like, buy a thing. (See above).

The main purpose of copywriting is to persuade readers to take some sort of action concerning your company, product, or campaign. If you’re trying to sell garden weasels, for example, then you’ll need copy that will persuade the reader that this weasel is the only weasel and that no other weasel will be as weasely in your garden and this weasel. If you were to attach a verb to copywriting, it would be to persuade.

This blog is not copywriting because it is not trying to persuade you to do anything at all. It just wants you to read it, think about it, and move on. Sure, it wouldn’t mind if you called it now and then, maybe sent a card, you know, let it know you’re thinking about it, but, that’s okay, it knows you’re very busy.

Copywriting can encompass PPC landing pages, PPC ads, social media ads, product pages, website sales copy, short message service ads, and more. Wherever there’s a product that needs to be sold, a service that needs to be rendered, you can be sure that good copywriting is nearby to lend a persuasive hand.

How They Impact Your Digital Marketing

How a piece of writing will impact your digital marketing strategy will depend on the purpose of the writing you seek to use. The purpose of the writing needs to be specific, or you may not get the results you’re hoping for. Without purpose, the writing can be aimless and pointless. Unmoored and borderline insane. No one wants that. Do they?

Content writing and copywriting are differentiated mainly by their purpose. Once you have the purpose of the writing you need clearly in your mind, then it becomes easier to ask a writer to execute the project. Whereas if you say to the writer, “could you just write something here,” the writer will freak out, read Russian novels till the wee hours, drink strong black coffee, and question their very existence on the planet. Either that or they’ll eat your face.


If what you need is a text ad, you’ll want a nice bit of copywriting because its purpose is to persuade and get the reader to take action. Whether this is online, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Bing, WhatsamattahYou, (We made that last one up, all apologies to Bullwinkle), copywriting in a text ad will serve the purpose of encouraging the soon to be loyal customer to take action, click a link, go to a site, sign up for a newsletter and the like.

Content Writing

On the flip side of the coin, if you’re looking to set yourself up as an expert or you want to entertain and inform simply for the sake of entertaining and informing, then you’re going to want a tender, juicy bit of content writing, which pairs nicely with one of these wines.

Emotions in Motion

Never underestimate the power of an emotional response. Do you think Hallmark is upset when people cry at their commercials? No, they aren’t; they leap for joy and do everything they can to recreate that emotional response. Hell, they went from commercials to an entire channel devoted to making women weep. I don’t. I mean, I never cry at commercials or Hallmark Christmas movies. But that’s because after viewing that commercial with the old couple, I had my heart cryogenically frozen to be thawed only when there is a cure for emotions.

Now, this is where things get sticky. In technical terms, copywriting evokes an emotional response, whereas content writing does not. This is important because some smart guys at Harvard once did a study, and they discovered that 9 out of 10 consumer’s purchasing choices are driven by emotion. They also discovered they don’t know how to use a comb.

So, if you want to sell, it makes sense to get your potential customers feeling something. When they feel, they connect; when they connect, they usually take action. So, to make them feel, you’ll want to employ good copywriting. Evoke emotion and drive the customer to action.

Some emotions that copywriting can evoke are security, a sense of belonging, pride, and everyone’s favorite, instant gratification. Because lord knows we can’t wait two seconds to get the thing that the other guy got three seconds ago. Instant gratification is a very real, very powerful emotion. If your copywriting can create a need and satisfy that need for instant gratification, give your copywriter a lovely gift like a cake, or a puppy, or a derringer.

Now, here’s the tricky part.

Content writing can also evoke an emotional response. Yup, it can. You know this to be true. If you post something on Facebook and get a buttload (which is an actual measurement, it’s 126 gallons) of “likes,” there’s that shot of dopamine that gives you a boost. You feel popular and pleased. That’s emotion. Likewise, if you read this article and something makes you laugh, that’s an emotion. It’s also an indication that you probably need professional help.

I know what you’re thinking, “But, Trixie, if they both evoke emotion, what makes them different?” Well, first off, Trixie is my stripper name, and secondly, it comes back to purpose.

The purpose of copywriting, the reason for its existence in the world, is to create an emotional response that will trigger an action. Whereas content writing is here to entertain and educate, if emotions come into play, that’s just collateral yumminess. The purpose of one is different from the purpose of the other. Be specific about your purpose, and all will be well. Capisce?

Size Does Matter (we couldn’t resist)

When it comes to copywriting or content writing, you’re going to want to pay attention to size. And it doesn’t matter what you think; a pica is a pica.

The length of your copy or content is going to be vital if you want the most impact. When comparing the two, content writing will typically be longer.

With content writing, remember the purpose is to inform, educate or entertain. Sometimes all three at once. Put that in your sock, and … never mind. Since there is more heavy lifting to do with content writing, it will be longer. Depending on the topic at hand, your passion for it, and how witty you’re looking to be, a piece of content can range from anywhere between 500 words to ten million words. Kidding, unless you’re Tolstoy, you’ll want to keep your content within the boundaries of 2,500 words.

Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.
Leo Burnet

When talking about copywriting, remember Polonious’s immortal words in Hamlet, “Holy sh*t, Hamlet just stabbed me.” No, what you really should think about is his words; “Brevity is the soul of wit.” When producing copy, hit and run, get in, get out and leave them wanting more. You’ll want your copywriting to be tight, concise and get your audience acting, doing, clicking, buying, signing up. Short and to the point.

Anything Else We feel Like Spouting Off About

Like most things we question in life, how long to wait to go swimming after eating a tuna fish sandwich, when is it too late to RSVP, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? The answer is not hard and fast.

Copywriting can be educational. Content writing can be short and elicit emotions. Vin Diesel can make a good movie. No, no, that’s not true at all.

The lines are not completely clear, but using copywriting where content writing fits or where copywriting is called for can destroy your marketing campaign and confuse the bejesus out of your audience.

Knowing the precise purpose of the writing you want before going into the project will allow you to hit the right target audience and garner the best possible results.

The Deceptive Title

As we stated at the onset, the title of this piece is deceptive. One is not better than the other. There is no winner or loser as this really isn’t a competition; it’s merely an exhibition, no wagering, please.

Copywriting and content writing each have a vital purpose and a clear place in your marketing arsenal. Knowing which is which and how to use them to their best potential is the thrust of this article. The real winner here is you.

Awww! Aren’t we all winners when you really think about it? No, I use Ted Kaczynski as proof.

Copywriting and Content Writing by ThoughtLab

Don’t go it alone. Writing is a nasty, vicious, unpredictable beast, much like a Chihuahua after a bottle of tequila. Putting a piece of content where a block of copy should go may not seem like that big a deal but, it is. It can mean the difference between a potential customer coming to your website or just scrolling on by.

Lucky for you, ThoughtLab has writers. Yup, good writers that can craft content or weave copy and get results. They can spin yarns that will hold people fast and give them some entertainment, or they can give you tight, precise sentences that make people’s fingers itch to click that CTA.

Contact us here at ThoughtLab and set up a free consultation. Knowing content from copy is just half the battle; writing it well is the other half. That’s what we do best.