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Content writing versus copywriting

By Sara Desharnais
August 26, 2020

Two highway signs. One says "copywriting, 1 West, Persuasive Street," with an arrow pointing left. The other says "Content writing, 2 East, Informative Avenue" with an arrow pointing right.

In today's marketing world, it's not a luxury to have a writer—it's a necessity. And not just one writer, either. You're going to need at least two. Why two?

First, let's introduce the writers—a content writer and a copywriter. Both are instrumental in modern digital marketing, but for very different reasons.

What is content writing?

Content writing is all about sharing information. In his video on the subject, business entrepreneur Dan Lok suggests that you "Think of content writing as preselling."

You want to engage with your audience by giving them answers to their questions. You want more likes, more shares, and more fans—but most of all you want a reputation as an expert in your field.

Content marketing can give you that, and it can take many forms. On your social media accounts and blogs, you can produce articles, videos, infographics, and more—all focused on sharing your knowledge with your audience. The idea is that, when the time comes to buy what you’re selling, they will think of you first because they already trust you.

Take the John Deere magazine, The Furrow. Since 1895, the company has published this magazine purely to help farmers. Inside are articles about farming and agriculture.

John Deere knows their customer base, and they are not using The Furrow to sell them anything. They build trust by presenting stories and useful information. They hope that this will reflect on the kind of support you get when you buy something from them.

What is copywriting?

Copywriting is writing for the sole purpose of persuading your reader to act. Copywriter Dan Kennedy called it “selling in print.” This is an exercise in psychology. To sell, you must know your audience and their pain points.

What are the benefits of your product? What is in it for them? They don't really care if a computer has a 500 TB SSD drive, and a 5–20X faster read/write of their data. They want to know that it will save them hours per week, so they can get more done with less stress.

Copywriting doesn’t have to nudge positively. You can also use the fear of missing out (FOMO). "Limited supply!" and "Sale ends tomorrow!" are phrases that instill a sense of urgency to get your reader to “act now.”

But FOMO is useless unless there is a clear, singular call to action (CTA) in your copy. (Yes, just one.) The CTA isn't necessarily “BUY NOW!” It could be as simple as asking the reader to sign up for an email list. Or to register for a webinar the company is offering.

Both of which are likely avenues for content marketing. Which goes to show that content and copy work hand in hand.

street signs: content writing and copywriting

They're different but they work together. You know, like peanut butter and jelly.

Your content gains your readers trust, so that when they see your copy, they already trust you and feel less resistance to giving you their business.

"Whether you're a content writer or a copywriter, stay in your lane, hone your craft," advises copywriter Alex Cattoni in her great video explaining the differences between content and copy. She praises each as unique, individual jobs.

Personally, I prefer content. I'm good at writing these blogs, and I enjoy providing you, reader, with some insight into the marketing world. (And of course hoping you'll trust me, and the company I work for.) Act now! Operators are standing by! (Oops, slipped out of my lane.)

Sara Desharnais


Sara loves everything about words! She is an avid reader of the fantasy genre and is one of our proud Hufflepuffs. Sara brings quality and consistency with her zealous proofreading and copyediting skills. She wields her own brand of punny humor, and her frequent spontaneous giggle outbreaks are an integral part of the MarketReach culture.

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