Content writing and copywriting sound like interchangeable terms, and while their domains may overlap on occasion, they’re two different things that serve two distinct functions. Put simply, good content writing engages the reader by providing informative and educational content about your industry and brand. Good copywriting compels the reader to take a specific action, such as buying a product, signing up for an email list, or subscribing to a blog.
So which one do you need when clients come to you to boost their business online: a content writer for your website or a web copywriter? The answer depends on the goals and objectives of the client’s campaign.
Nearly 100 percent of the time, though, you need both a content writer and a web copywriter. Here’s why:
Why You Need a Content Writer
Customers love buying things, but they hate the feeling of being sold. Navigating this dichotomy is one of the most challenging things in marketing. The most successful campaigns don’t push products and services on customers. Rather, they give customers a reason to buy and make them feel like it’s their idea.
That’s where content writing comes in. Rather than always trying to sell, sell, sell, content writing provides value to the reader.
Let’s pretend your client runs a mortgage brokerage. The client wants to increase their online presence and capture leads from people searching the internet for information about mortgages. You help the client set up their website. Now it’s time to populate it with content.
Purely sales content doesn’t give the customer what they’re looking for, and it doesn’t inspire their confidence. There’s a time and place to switch into sales mode. But that comes after your client has built a rapport with the customer and earned the customer’s trust.
The way to build rapport and trust with a website or blog is through content marketing — using a well-defined content strategy to get a customer visit a page or fill out a lead form. It gives the customer something of use to them — such as detailed explanations of different mortgage types – without requiring anything of the customer in return.
It also establishes your client as an authority in their niche. It’s easier to sell to clients after you’ve demonstrated the depth of your knowledge and competence. According to Caleb Chen, Founder at The Highest Critic, “content writers are usually/ideally subject matter experts in the industry for which they’re going to be writing content. This allows them to bring context and expert opinion to their content when compared with a copywriter. Generally, a content writer will be more costly than a copywriter.”
Why You Need a Web Copywriter
Anyone who has ever watched a sales movie understands the importance of closing. Remember the iconic scene with Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, where he delivers the ABCs of sales: Always Be Closing?
ALSO – What is Copywriting?
It’s true. If your client doesn’t use their content to compel a specific action, then they’re essentially just a free source of information.
That’s why good copywriting goes hand in hand with good content writing. Your client’s content writing establishes trust and provides value to the reader. Their copywriting calls the reader to action and closes the sale. Says Chen, “copywriters are generally people who have a solid writing and editing skill base and can be trusted to write grammatically correct copy for any purpose — but don’t often have experience in the industry for which their copy is being generated.”
While the two types of writer vary in their expertise, their skill set, and often, their cost, the interplay between content writing and copywriting forms the crux of a winning online marketing campaign.
A Place for Both in the Customer Journey
By now you understand the difference between copywriting and content writing in a theoretical, goal-oriented sense: content provides educational, valuable, and relevant information about a brand, while copy is used to convince audience members to take an action. But what does it look like in practice?
Sunny Ashley, CEO of Autoshopinvoice, helps put the concepts on more accessible ground: “The difference between the two boils down to their end goals and deliverables. The end goal for content writers is to enhance SEO and build a following. Their content is targeted more towards the top-of-the-funnel. Their performance is ultimately judged on things like page visits and keyword rankings.
Conversely, a copywriter’s is to convert leads into sales. Their content should be less about brand awareness and more about persuasion and calls-to-action. Conversion metrics, form submissions, and new signups are better indicators for success for copywriters.”
Content: First Steps Toward Your Marketing Goals
Content writing serves a few different purposes, including audience awareness, brand recognition, and lead generation. It comes in a wide variety of different packages, from emails and social media posts to blog posts, press releases, well-researched white papers, and e-books.
Imagine you’re building a campaign for a new brand. You don’t have an audience that you can send sales letters or conversion-optimized emails to, so you have to start at square one with a content marketing campaign. You hire a writer to write content related to your brand, something with mass appeal to your audience; preferably, something that brings to light a problem that can be solved by the products or services you’re selling.
Once you have a strong, engaging piece of content, you can strategically deploy it in ways that will best reach a cold “top-of-funnel” audience.
Whether it’s via paid traffic on Google or Facebook, organic social media, an email campaign, or successfully ranking for your target keywords, the next step is driving traffic to your content. When a prospect clicks on a link in any of these channels, they might be taken to a landing page that advertises what they’ll be able to read or download in exchange for submitting some simple information, like their name and email address or phone number — this is called gated content.
Side note: the writing on landing pages tends to be a mix of content and copy; it continues to engage the audience while using the value of the content to persuade them to take the desired action.
Now, you’ve put together a list of leads and you’re starting to grow an audience that has engaged with your brand and is looking forward to what you’ll give them next. That’s when it’s time for marketing copy to take the stage.
Copy: The Hitter That Cleans Up the Leads
Writing copy is all about understanding what the audience wants to hear in order to take the next step in the buyer journey. Luckily, having all clicked on the same piece of content, your audience is filled with prospects that have similar priorities to each other.
Conversion-based sales copy is then deployed through email, direct mail, and other channels that directly advertise the products or services of the brand. It also fills the pages of your website so that anyone who visits is automatically engaged by compelling writing. In this case, copywriting follows up on the awareness of the customer’s problem, strongly positioning your brand as the solution.
Christian Antonoff, a content writer at Independent Fashion Bloggers, says, “the copywriter’s role is to sell products and services by appealing to your senses and emotions. They write persuasive copy targeting brands, selling the notion of needing them in your life.”
But What About Writing that Serves Neither Purpose?
This is actually a trick question: writing that is neither copy nor content has no place in today’s digital marketplace. Some marketing managers will look at certain types of writing and see it as filler; placeholder text to take up space on a page. But, this is a counterintuitive way to think about writing. After all, if any text on your website, blog, or emails isn’t being written to accomplish a goal, what’s the point?
Are Copy and Content Becoming Less Distinguishable?
At the same time, as the world of digital marketing continues to evolve, finding a writer with skills in copywriting and content writing becomes increasingly valuable. Google’s search engine algorithm gets more sophisticated with every new update, becoming better equipped to find and elevate valuable content of all kinds up the list of search results. As the burden shifts away from the rigid guidelines of SEO, the lines between copywriting and content creation will blur even more.
And, there’s mounting evidence that Google values pages and content that have strong engagement metrics. People engage with good content if it provides value to them, but they’re more likely to visit other pages on your site and convert if you also employ strong copywriting. Using both types of writing together can help you boost your overall engagement.
As Isaac Hammelburger, Owner & Founder at SearchPros.co, puts it, there’s no better time for a diversified skill set as a writer: “As the marketing world continues to evolve, the roles of content and copywriters are blurred, but this is exactly what people need now. Writers have to learn a little bit of the other side to take full advantage of their talents.”
Some feel that the difference between the two is nearly obsolete. Adriana Tica is the Founder and Owner of Idunn, and having worked with writers for a long time, is beginning to see them as indistinguishable. “Both of them actually need to write copy and content that sells and converts”, she says. “A blog post with a cleverly placed CTA can convert as much as a long-form sales page. An insightful white paper can bring a lot of sales if written and marketed correctly -— we’ve seen this happen for a lot of our clients. Our point of difference has always been that we create both copy and content that aligns [with] our clients’ financial goals. And we know that both content writing and copywriting can bring sales and conversions.
So, Do You Need a Content Writer or Copywriter For Your Project?
As we’ve discussed, both types of writer have a role in moving your audience through the customer journey. But, what type of content should you assign to each type of writer?
Here’s a quick summary.
You’ll want to send content that is meant inform and engage to content writers. Common content types to send them include articles, blog posts, ebooks, guides, white papers and social media posts. You may also need to find a subset of content writers – technical writers – if you have complex documents to create like how to manuals, reference documents, etc.
Writing that is meant to compel action should be sent to copywriters. Common content types include advertisements, brochures, city pages, landing pages, print ads and collateral, website copy, social media updates, and more.
Mentioned earlier, but one example of the line between content writing and copywriting getting blurry is advertorials. These are short content pieces that look like blog posts or personal stories, inform them reader, but then also compel them to take action. These are very common on Facebook now.
The easiest way to determine if your client needs a content writer or a web copywriter is to ask this question:
Is my client looking to build their brand and become an authority in their industry, or are they trying to close the sale and compel customers to take a particular action?
Chances are, they want to do both. And for that reason, having a winning content writer and a winning web copywriter on the job is vital for producing a successful campaign. The outlook for the future suggests that finding a writer who can master both skills will give your client the agility to accomplish their marketing goals even more easily.
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