Content writer vs copywriter: what’s the difference?
It’s a question anyone embarking on a writing career must ask themselves – what’s the difference between a copywriter and a content writer? There are some definite distinctions, but the two terms and the kind of writing they produce can also be interchangeable. And, what’s more, the two disciplines can be used to great effect when combined.
Content writers are the people who write long form strategic content that ties in with content marketing plans. Most often they’ll be found working on web pages, blogs, articles and native advertising, although they do also work offline on press releases and brochures. Their content aims to be informative, answering reader questions while discreetly promoting products or services.
This kind of content tends to be a slow-burner as it reaches its goal of building a readership, garnering trust and encouraging loyalty over a period of time. That’s why evergreen content works so well, as it only needs to be written once but stays relevant over a long period, with perhaps just a few periodical tweaks.
Content writers also use data to produce content that’s relevant to the readership and drive online traffic. By understanding the target readership and what they search for online, they produce content that solves a problem or has a benefit for the reader. The best content writing is optimised for search engines and the best content writers factor in keywords, links and meta seamlessly.
Purposes of content writing
- To drive traffic to your website and increase engagement
- To help the reader understand your product/brand
- To engage and generate interest in a product/brand
- To place the brand as an expert by educating the reader
- To hold a conversation with the reader through blog comments or social shares
- To create a valuable resource that readers will return to
Qualities of a good content writer
Balanced – Content writers are able to inform and entertain at the same time, making ordinary or complicated topics interesting. They can also write in a detailed way, so as to answer all of the reader’s questions, but be to the point.
Planners – Content writing is often one part writing and two parts research, particularly when writing authoritatively on a subject the writer is not an expert in. Content writers must also work from a content strategy so content can be planned at the most effective time.
Put the reader first – Content writers integrate keywords and links into the content so the message is unchanged and the sales push remains invisible.
Contrary to content writers, copywriters are all about being direct, grabbing attention and persuading with short, snappy sales pitches. As copywriters generally produce short form copy like standout website or newspaper adverts, smart headlines on a tube poster or memorable TV adverts, they have to persuade in a limited space or time.
This means that every word counts, so they must ensure that they engage the reader – often through the means of humour, plays on words and attractive propositions. Copywriters always ask for an immediate action as a means of following through on the sales pitch, be it a click here, scan this QR code, visit today or don’t delay calling.
A similarity with content writers is that copywriters have to know their audience well. This becomes perhaps even more pertinent when you can only use limited words. Copywriters can often be more colloquial and informal in the way they write in order to fit with the mindset of the consumer. They need to make a connection between the brand and the target audience through limited characters.
Purposes of copywriting
- To promote an idea or lifestyle
- To grab attention
- To create an emotional connection or feeling of association with the brand
- To place the brand in a desirable way so readers think “I want it!”
- To encourage the reader to take action
- To do all of this in just a couple of lines!
Qualities of a good copywriter
Concise – A copywriter will make a connection, provide a solution and encourage action all in only a few lines of text.
Witty and forward-thinking – Humour is a big draw in the kinds of sales messages copywriters produce, but they also need to be original, creative and draw on modern life.
Connect with the reader – Copywriters must speak in a way that engages the reader instantly and reaches out to the brand’s target audience.
Similarities between copywriting and content writing
Sometimes the distinction between the two forms of writing isn’t so clear cut. It’s apparent that both content writers and copywriters have to keep to the point, no matter how much space they have on the page.
They also need to be versatile and able to shift between projects, adapting their writing to fit a brand’s tone of voice and meet the customer’s expectations. The copywriter needs to understand the reader to engage them to buy, while the content writer has to target them with the correct keywords and provide the answers to their questions.
Although the two job roles tend to be distinct, there are times when the same writer can do both. On a website, a writer might need to use the soft selling technique of a content writer when writing an informational blog, but the harder sell of a copywriter when penning a promotional product or service page.
There are also many instances when the two writing forms work well together, using elements of each in the same piece. When producing long form content, the writer should always include a snappy and keyword-rich headline that draws in readers. They should also include the kind of specific call to action that prevails in copywriting, be it to opt-in to email, share or subscribe to the content.
It might seem like two different breeds, but perhaps copywriters and content writers aren’t so different after all. They may even be able to learn a lot from each other.