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Copy vs. content – what’s the difference and why does it matter?

You might have heard the terms ‘copywriting’ and ‘content writing’ used interchangeably. In fact, there are differences between the two, and knowing that can help you understand how best to use copy and content to your company’s advantage.

Copy vs. Content – different approaches, complementary outcomes

Copywriting is all about persuasion. The ultimate aim of copy is to make a sale – maybe not right now, but soon. Examples include ads, eDMs and social media posts related to marketing campaigns, as well as the text on company websites. Copy drives people to take a specific action – like a page, buy a product or sign up for a membership. So metrics for success are usually clear-cut and measured in the short term.

Content, on the other hand, is meant to inform rather than persuade. Typically longer than copy, content can take the form of articles, blog posts, white papers and case studies. Having a steady stream of insightful content can help you define your brand, share more about your product and establish your credibility as an expert in your field.

Even if people don’t immediately purchase your product after reading one blog, they might come back to you for more valuable advice. This process of relationship-building can eventually help your business earn the trust of your audience and convince them to try out what you’re offering. In this sense, there is some overlap with copy – the end goal is still to gain customers but content plays the long game.

Secrets to success

A good copywriter knows how to create need. Why must people have this product? What desire does it satisfy? What problem does it solve? Effective copy takes your target audience on a journey that leads them to a specific destination. Pique their interest. Recognise their needs. Explain how your amazing product checks all the boxes. By the end of the text, the audience should know exactly why they can’t live without your product.

Another important ingredient for effective copy is a sense of urgency. Persuade people to act immediately with a clear call to action (CTA) like ‘request a demo today’ or ‘book now’.

Content on the other hand isn’t about pushing people towards an immediate action, so it’s no place for a hard sell. Focus on adding value through your content, whether that means being educational, entertaining, inspiring or all of the above! Take the opportunity to craft a broader narrative about why you created your product, why it’s relevant to the world and why people should use it.

Let’s say you’re a software company that just developed a great planner app. Your target market might be interested in articles with helpful tips on getting organised and boosting productivity, or an interactive quiz on personal working styles with results linked to your app’s features. The key is to sustain your audience’s engagement in the long term and demonstrate your ability as a solutions provider to address market needs.

Copy vs. Content – common ground

Although copy and content have different forms and objectives, they share some core qualities that always apply.

Know your audience

It is vital in both cases that the writer understands and caters to the target audience. You can’t grow leads or drive sales if you’re not connecting with the right people! Know your target audience’s needs and desires. Know what they’re looking for, whether it’s a list of useful hacks or a well-researched industry report.

And get the tone and language right for your reader – a lifestyle brand aimed at Gen Z won’t sound the same as a corporate services provider.

Emotion is more persuasive than fact

A list of boring facts is not going to get people excited about your brand. Emotion is a powerful way to connect with your audience and galvanise action. So dig into those feelings and push those emotional buttons.

Pick the right key words

Don’t forget search engine optimisation (SEO). Beyond establishing brand identity and describing an enticing product, your choice of words has an impact on whether your copy/content is seen at all. Using appropriate key words throughout your website copy and content posts will boost your pages in search results and make it easier for your target market to find you.

Ultimately, your business needs both content and copy so it pays to master both. You’ll just need to wear slightly different hats.