The Difference Between Copywriting and Content Marketing: More than Just Splitting Hairs

difference between copywriting and content marketing

What’s the difference between copywriting and content marketing?

Is there one?

And most importantly, why should you care?

Yes, there’s a difference. And yes, you should care.

Dispelling the copywriting vs. content marketing confusion will help you figure out how to get the most bang for your buck. You’ll find out which services will be the best fit to achieve your goals and grow your business.

Confused? Blame Industry “Insiders”

People “in the industry” like to throw around terms that are alien to the outside world.

It’s effortless to do this. You bury your head in this stuff all day producing and staying on top of all the latest industry trends, and it gets hard to “turn it off” when it’s time to relate to prospective customers like a normal human being.

I touched on this in my education as marketing mistake post. I’m guilty of this sometimes if I don’t watch myself. When it comes to your niche, maybe you are too.

A lot of people aren’t clear on the difference between copywriting and content marketing. If things are a little fuzzy for you, don’t beat yourself up about it. Industry insiders spit incomprehensible jargon back and forth at the speed of a telenovela actress, and you probably got hit with some of their spittle.

No fear, though. Let’s get to the bottom of this…

Different Strokes for Different Folks

If your house is on fire, do you call the fire department or your favorite pizza joint?

The answer’s obvious.

(Tell me it’s obvious…please?)

Both the fire department and your favorite pizza guy can help you out, but in dramatically different ways. One of them saves your children’s stuffed animals and the watch your grandfather gave you from imminent destruction. The other fills your stomach with bread, cheese, and your choice of toppings.

That’s how copywriting and content marketing works. Both types of those services can help you expand business, but which one’s best for you right now (of if you’re better off going at it solo) depends on your most pressing priorities.

Let’s take a look at what copywriters and content marketers typically do for their clients. That way you can get a better understanding of the exact kind of help you need – if any.


Like what happens to a lot of industries that have been around for a while, what a “copywriter” is changes depending on whom you ask.

To a lot of businesses that hire them, “copywriters” are the professionals who use words to motivate people to act in a way that’s profitable to them. The key elements are: 1) using words; and 2) motivating people to act in a way that’s (eventually) profitable.

This seems like a sensible definition of what copywriting is to me, and covers everything from sales letters, emails, landing pages, etc.

How can a copywriter help you?

My general advice: consider hiring a copywriter if boosting conversions is your biggest priority. Copywriters excel in working people down your marketing funnel. They can help you get more leads into the top of the funnel too, but their expertise shines in optimizing existing funnels.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is using information to get more people to find out about your business. This content can be written, audio, or video. And it can entertain, upset, or educate people. It can do any and all of those things (in any and all of those forms) as long as it gets more eyeballs onto your website.

You should only hire a content marketer if you: 1) want more traffic; and 2) are willing to play the long game. It takes consistent content creation and distribution – weeks, months, or years – to expand awareness and build your authority in your niche. If you’re looking for more immediate wins (that can still pay off down the line), you might be better off hiring a copywriter.

Content marketing is the best way to build your brand organically. You don’t have to hire an outrageously expensive “brand awareness” team or logo guy. You just have to put out top-quality content consistently. Good content marketers can help sniff out what your ideal customers will find interesting and create that stuff for you.

It takes a while to get a content machine going, but the results pay off in spades Awareness turns into likability, and likability turns into trust. Trust turns into dollars in your pocket.

A Growing Overlap Between the Two

Copywriting and content marketing are two different things, despite people’s best efforts to muddy the issue.

But that doesn’t mean they’re mutually exclusive.

Copywriting and content marketing can and do work quite well together. Professionals can combine elements from both areas to get you more traffic and conversions.

Consider a company blog post. That kind of thing – from picking a topic to writing the post – typically falls in the “domain” of content marketing. But that professional could get better results for you if they used copywriting techniques like compelling headlines, bullet-points, and a call to action at the bottom of the post.

This type of blending and synergy of techniques will create the best results for you. That’s why I recommend you hire an open-minded professional who’s willing to mix and match to better address your problem.

Unless you have a very specific project in mind – a sales page, for example – I’d look for someone who can blend those worlds into a savory traffic and conversion soup. Why wouldn’t you, when you could get the best of both worlds?

Stop Worrying about the Differences. Start Making Money.

Service professionals have the nasty habit of being careless with their words. If they aren’t careful, it’s easy for them to assume everyone knows exactly what the hell they’re talking about. And they make terms like “copywriting” and “content marketing” interchangeable when they shouldn’t be.

Hopefully you have a better idea what to look out for and the best services to move you closer to your business goals. Unlike the Fortune 500, you probably don’t have millions of dollars to burn on marketers or outside consultants. The decision to hire a copywriter or content marketer means real money to you, and I get that.

Bottom line: don’t be afraid to ask questions. The better you can understand exactly how different service providers can help you, the smarter you can be with your limited budget.

If you have a question about any of this stuff, just leave me a comment below and I’ll help out in any way I can!

Photo Credit: paul bica via Compfight cc