What’s the Difference Between Content Writing and Copywriting in Digital Marketing?

What’s the Difference Between Content Writing and Copywriting in Digital Marketing?

Jessica Michael
Published on
In this article, we’ll explain how both copywriting and content writing support digital marketing and what the differences are between the two.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing includes any kind of marketing, promotion or advertising that happens on the internet. Any time you are promoting a product or service through an online channel, you are participating in digital marketing.

Nowadays, digital marketing is a near-universal marketing tactic for most companies and organizations, and it's growing every year. In fact, according to The CMO Survey, companies plan on increasing their digital marketing budget by 9.9% in 2024.

From social media advertising to email marketing campaigns to online promo codes, digital marketing is an inescapable part of sales. Both copywriting and content writing are important for any company's digital marketing strategy, but they serve different purposes and help support marketing goals in different ways.

What is copywriting?

Copywriting is the composition of text for marketing and promotional materials. Good copywriting is descriptive, engaging and encourages consumers to buy goods or services.

Creative copywriting takes into account the audience you're trying to reach, the nature of your product, and your marketing end-goals. It will also vary depending on the marketing channel-- a social media ad will have different copy than a sales email, for instance.

  • Audience: B2B and B2C copywriting often have different emphases. For example, if your company sells SaaS solutions to other businesses, you'll want to use industry-specific language and have a call-to-action, like a demo sign-up, that makes sense for a bigger ticket service. If you're selling make-up products directly to consumers, you'll want punchy language and catchy slogans that direct consumers to purchase.

  • Product or Service: Knowing who is most likely to buy what you sell is an important part of any marketing strategy. It's also important to understand the product or service well enough that you can convince potential buyers to engage. Figuring out a product's or service's most important features and how to best convey those via text is a critical component of copywriting.

  • Marketing Goals: It may seem obvious that the goal of marketing is to get people to buy what you're selling. However, more refined marketing goals lead to better targeted promotional campaigns and are easier to track in terms of success rate. Are you looking to increase click-through rates on your social media posts? Do you want people who land on your website to buy a specific product? Is one of your goals to increase sign-ups for your newsletter? Your copy should amplify your goals and lead consumers in a compelling direction.

  • Marketing Channel: Website copy serves a different purpose than product descriptions or social media posts. Length of copy, how in-depth to get, and what you are writing about will all depend on the channel you're writing it for.

Examples of copywriting

Copywriting applies to any text that appears on promotional materials or advertisements. That's a lot to cover. Here are examples of some of the most common types of copywriting:

  • Email campaigns

  • Website copy

  • Social media ads

  • Product descriptions

  • SMS ads

  • Print ads

  • Promotional materials such as brochures

What do copywriters do?

Copywriters are responsible for creating promotional text, but not all copywriters work in the same way. 

In-house copywriters versus freelance copywriters

Copywriters who work in-house are employees of a particular company and generally work on all types of copy that the company needs, from product descriptions to landing pages. They know the brand inside and out and are familiar with the company's products and services. Large companies that generate a lot of copy benefit from having copywriters on staff that can keep up with the company's demands while staying true to brand messaging.

Freelance copywriters work independently and have a broad base of experience from which to draw. They are a great option for small to mid-sized companies that don't create enough copy to justify a full-time staffer. A good freelance copywriter will take the time to learn a brand's voice and can utilize their breadth of experience to create compelling campaigns.

By industry

Some copywriters specialize in B2B or B2C copywriting specifically. Others have experience in a particular industry, such as real estate or healthcare solutions. Working with a copywriter that already knows your industry means they will be familiar with language and audience and can craft copy that will speak to your target consumers more effectively.

By channel

Copywriters can also specialize in types of copywriting. A copywriter may work with companies on social media ads and campaigns. Another might specialize in SMS ads or website copy for landing and product pages. These copywriters understand the format and intention of each promotional channel well and should be able to easily implement your goals.

Many copywriters work across multiple industries and channels. If you are a copywriter, be sure to provide plenty of copywriting samples on your digital copywriting portfolio that shows potential clients your professional experience and areas of expertise.

What is content writing?

Content writing is the creation of text-based content that educates and entertains your target audience. It can be used to drive sales by creating value and engagement but is not primarily focused on marketing ito the degree that copywriting is.

Because content writing is more about education and generating interest, it is often longer in format. And while copywriting should take SEO best practices into account, content writing is number one when it comes to increasing SERPS, getting your website to rank, and your social media to trend.

A good content writer will be well-versed in SEO and will need to understand how to research keywords, best lengths for content to rank, and how to create the type of quality content that gets picked up by algorithms and search engines. They'll be able to include these aspects while still creating content that your target audience will understand and find interesting and informative.

Examples of content writing

Any informative text-based content can fall under the umbrella of content writing. That said, here are a few of the most common forms of content writing:

  • Blog posts

  • Articles

  • White papers

  • Newsletters

  • Tutorials and guides

  • E-books

Other types of content writing may target shareholders and partners or include in-office resources for staff such as training manuals.

What do content writers do?

Content writers may help companies in several different ways. 

By creating SEO-based content

SEO-based content helps websites rank higher on landing pages, which draws more traffic to a company's or organization's website. This automatically increases the chances that a potential consumer will find the product or service being offered.

By creating value-based content

Value-based content is all about educating your audience, although the end goals may differ depending on the type of content. For example, an article in an online magazine or news outlet is designed to engage readers with a particular topic and attract them to the media outlet itself. A white paper on a website may serve to educate potential customers about a product or service and what impact it has on the world, which may inspire them to move forward with a purchase. 

By creating materials for partners and employees

Content writing may also include training manuals, guides, and tutorials that companies use within the organization. Shareholder newsletters or educational information meant to be shared with partners can also be written by content writers. These types of content writing are often done with in-house content writers or by freelance content writers that are working closely with the company to format informational content in a clear and instructive way.

Content writers, like copywriters, may specialize in a particular industry or type of content writing. Many professional writers that write for magazines and newspapers also work with companies on content writing. 

How to know if you need a content writer or a copywriter

The reality is, most companies and organizations in this digital era need both content writing and copywriting. However, it helps to know what type of writer you need for your most important projects.

Promotional or advertising campaigns

Do you have a particular marketing campaign that you want to launch on one or more of your digital channels? Perhaps you are launching a social media campaign and want to make sure your ads and posts are consistent and on brand. Maybe you want to send an email blast out promoting a sale or new offering.

This is where copywriters excel. They can work with you to develop copy that is consistent across channels and will be effective at persuading potential customers to buy your product. They can even develop the text to go with your visual assets, like banner ads or social media posts.

Informational materials

If your company is working on creating or updating company-wide or department-specific informational assets like training manuals or employee handbooks, working with a content writer can ensure continuity and clarity. Shareholder newsletters, white papers, and e-books all benefit from seasoned content writers who understand how to collate and organize information in a meaningful way.

Building out your blog

Content writers can help you build out your website's blog by crafting SEO-forward blog posts that educate your customer base while simultaneously increasing your search engine ranking. Consistent blog posts are a great way to gain more visibility for your site, and well-written articles help give your product or service more validity with consumers.

Descriptive copy

Product descriptions and a bulk of the copy on your website can be summed up under this umbrella. Copywriters make sure they describe products, services, and company information in a concise and persuasive way. They'll go beyond just providing information to invoke emotions and connections that will lead a consumer to your call-to-action.

If you are a company trying to figure out what type of writer to hire, it helps by defining the project or projects you'll have them working on. The more concise and related to sales the writing needs to be, the more likely it is that you need a copywriter. If your project is focused on information building, a content writer is the way to go. It can also help to research copywriters and content writers that specialize in your industry or in the type of project you have in mind.

Fortunately, there are many great copywriters and content writers available, and writers often specialize in a combination of content writing and copywriting.

So you want to be a content writer or a copywriter

One of the best ways you can turn an interest in writing into a well-paying career is by becoming a content writer or a copywriter. By combining your love of words with an understanding of digital marketing, you can help companies and organizations launch products, sell services, and engage their audience.

In general, if you have more interest or experience in marketing, copywriting may be the way to go for you. Many copywriters also become digital marketers so that they can help plan digital marketing strategies for their clients.

If you enjoy long form content, are good at research, and are willing to invest time learning SEO best practices, becoming a content writer is the best option. Content writing can be an especially good choice for writers and journalists who want to make money writing while still building their portfolio for magazines and newspapers.

Many writers choose to do both copywriting and content writing. If you have expertise in certain industries or digital marketing channels, you may choose to specialize along those lines rather than focusing solely on content versus copywriting.

Getting clients as a content writer or copywriter

However you choose to design your writing services, having an excellent digital writing portfolio increases your chances of landing the clients you want. A great writing portfolio showcases writing samples and case studies so potential clients have a chance to view your work.

It's also a great way to highlight your professional experience, the industries you work with, and the type of content or copywriting you excel at. Portfolios are an excellent digital marketing tool you can create to promote your writing business. Learn more here.