Content & Copy: What Are They and Why Should I Care?

By Marty Schneck, August 21, 2015

Peanut butter and jelly. Pen and paper. Sugar and spice. Kim and Kanye.

Content and copy.

Separate, they’re two very different beasts. Together, they form the perfect writing strategy. But what’s the difference between copywriting and content writing? And why should your copywriting strategy be any different from the content you write?

So many questions, so little time!

What Are Content and Copy?

Some people just assume that content and copy are the same thing. Both involve writing blog posts and news stories, but each has a very specific purpose that makes it unique.

Content is exactly what it sounds like; it’s the bulk of your blog writing. Content tends to be informative, at times entertaining, and most importantly engaging. It creates value for the reader, and brings them further into your sales funnel. As Copyblogger puts it, “content marketing is blogs, white papers, and viral video.”

Copy, on the other hand, is shorter. Or at least, it’s supposed to be. Copy is also a key component of writing, except it’s meant to sell. Your copy should attract the reader’s attention and make them act on a whim.

What’s the Difference?

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Content tells, and copy sells. Each serves a different purpose, rooted in the goal you’re trying to achieve.

Copywriting works in situations that call for quick decisions to be made. You’re trying to use your writing skills to… I don’t want to say trick… but to trick readers to act.

In these situations, people normally act on what Daniel Kahneman calls System I Thinking. System I thinking is “fast thinking,” where readers will use quick judgments (like heuristics) to make a decision. It’s more impulsive.

This is why entire algorithms exist to help you plan a headline. Your headline needs to play on innate emotions and ticks that will make people click without really thinking about it. This is the art of copywriting.

System II thinking is the opposite. This is deliberative thinking, and results in rational decision making. Your content marketing caters to this by being both informative and captivating.

Let’s say you tweet “Download this free ebook now for 30 great Twitter tips!” This is an exciting and persuasive call-to-action, so I click on it and download the ebook. I wasn’t really thinking about the time it would take to read, or if I even needed 30 Twitter tips, but your headline copy got me to click anyway.

Once I commit to reading the ebook, however, I switch to deliberative thinking. I want to learn what these tips are, I want to learn how to improve my Twitter game and get more interaction. This is why there better be content in that ebook, not copy.

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Why Should I Care?

You’re a marketer, aren’t you? The whole point of writing is to get someone to read what you write, and to come back for more. Convince someone to enter your sales funnel, then give them a reason to stay.

To be an effective writer, you need to master both of these techniques. Copyblogger said it best again: “Content without copywriting is a waste of good content” and “Copywriting without content is a waste of good copy.”

Let’s say you create a killer infographic, but write copy for the entire thing. You won’t be taken seriously. Why? Well, if your infographic does nothing but support your product or your brand, it isn’t actually informative (which means it’s not really an infographic).

It won’t be useful to anybody, and nobody will subscribe to your blog or enter your sales funnel. It should be full of content, useful information that will be of value to the reader. Hopefully then you’ll get some subscribers.

Likewise, if you write the most boring tweets and emails about the infographic you just wrote, nobody will click to it. If you don’t capture the reader’s attention right away, and convince them to go to your infographic, they’ll overlook your work completely.

How Should I Use Them?

Together, when the situation calls for them. Use content when you want to engage the reader. Give them value where they deserve it. Use copy when you’re trying to sell your brand, product, or your content.

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Copy is usually best at the beginning and end of each step of your funnel. Persuade people to read your content, give them a reason to stay, and then persuade them to move forward. Email a CTA for your blog post (Click here to read more!), provide quality content to engage your readers, and provide another CTA at the end (Subscribe to our blog for more updates, or Download our ebook for more info!).

Related Post: How to Engage Your Audience with Long-Form Content Marketing

To be most effective, become a master in both content writing and copywriting. Understand when it’s best to use either of these. Both content marketing and copywriting are practically fields of study, so continue to read up on guides that teach you best practices.

Once you can use both effectively, your writing will go from Kim Kardashian to KIMYE, which we all know is way better.

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Marty Schneck

Marty Schneck

Marty is the former Digital Content Specialist for eZanga and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied marketing. He thinks he’s a reality show superstar. (We think so, too.) Marty describes himself as a “foodie, beer ethusiast, coffee connoisseur, and Kardashian.” Not necessarily in that order. More Articles by Marty Schneck