Copywriting v. Content Marketing : What’s the difference?

Back in 1998, when the Internet was all shiny and new (and referred to with awe as “the information superhighway”), I was hired by a search engine company to write web copy. Our department of brave new online writers was known as “Editorial,” based on the newspaper model. The word “content” hadn’t crept into our vernacular—yet.

But the digital revolution made strange bedfellows of journalists, software engineers and product marketing managers, and it soon became apparent we wouldn’t be “writers” in the traditional sense. The web demanded a brand new thing, blurring the lines between editorial and sales, promotional materials and original news articles. There were new widgets and whazzits with dancing graphics to accompany our web copy, which soon morphed into something called “content.” Our department became the “Online Media Group,” and we wordsmiths became “content creators.”

Content marketing would eventually follow. And that’s when the confusion began…and persists even today. So what IS the difference between copywriting and content marketing?

What is copywriting?

Copywriting attracts and engages consumers. It informs, inspires and persuades them. Then, it motivates them to take action—e.g., download a white paper, subscribe to an email list or share a post. It takes both short and long forms. It may be as simple as a headline above a graphic or the caption below a video, or as in-depth as a long-form, direct-response sales page. Copywriting has long been considered advertising or promotional writing, though even more “editorial” forms of writing (blog writing, article writing, case studies) on the web incorporate elements of copywriting. That’s the digital world we’re in, where competition for consumers’ eyeballs and mindshare is keen.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is part of an online marketing strategy to deliver the right messages at the right time, using the right vehicles, to reach your target audience. It involves learning what messaging resonates with your customers (i.e., what problem does your product or service solve? how does what you offer improve lives?), creating content around that messaging and then deploying that content using channels frequented by your customers. Content marketing considers what information the customer needs to know along the path to conversion. Savvy content marketers employ content marketing analytics to determine which kinds of content and distribution channels work best to attract and engage their customers and prospects.

Copywriting is an essential part of effective content marketing. They go hand-in-hand. If you’re creating bang-up copy without a content marketing plan, you may be missing the opportunity to reach a broader audience. If your content marketing doesn’t include professional copywriting, you may be swimming in the same oceans as your customers, but failing to capture their attention or move them to action. Here at Wordsmithie, we’d be delighted to help your business craft compelling, customer-centric copy that helps make your content marketing efforts successful. It’s a marriage made in digital heaven.

ABOUT Heidi LaFleche

Heidi launched her writing career as a newspaper and magazine journalist—most notably as a Boston correspondent for People magazine. She transitioned into marketing communications for business, helping clients find the right words to engage their audiences. Heidi is a Senior Editor for Wordsmithie, and also runs her own freelance writing business on the side. She writes within a range of industries including technology, healthcare, financial services, legal services, education and nonprofits. Her slogan: “Every business has a story. Let’s tell yours together.”