Two distinct strategies that many people confuse or mix up:
- Content marketing.
They aren’t the same thing, although both intertwine with each other in benefits and results.
Think of it like this:
- Content marketing gets your prospects invested in what you do.
- Copywriting makes them want to follow up on that investment with action.
That, right there, is the key difference.
And here’s the magic of both:
When you mix the best of these two strategies together, awesome things start happening.
Your content won’t just be educational and valuable for your readers – it will also make them want to take action.
That action could boost your likes and shares, increase your social media following, grow your email list, AND best of all – lead to sales.
It’s also why these two strategies are so perfect for each other.
They make each other more powerful.
The right content marketing meshed with stellar copywriting could give you success in the form of 4.5x the leads you had before. To that, add 3.5x more traffic if you create content consistently, according to HubSpot.
Let’s go a little further, though.
What are the nitty-gritty differences between content marketing and copywriting? How do you blend them together in a winning formula?
Creating the copy can be the most challenging part of great content marketing. I totally get it.
So, let’s talk about it.
Grab a mug of your favorite hot drink (coffee, tea, etc.), and dive in with me.
Content Marketing and Copywriting: What the Heck Is the Difference?
You can use them together, but they’re not the same thing. Here are the major differentiators between content marketing and copywriting.
Content Marketing: Many Tactics, Various Ways to Succeed
Content marketing is about creating content that nurtures your readers. The content you provide is served to prospects with the end goal of building trust and loyalty with them so they’ll turn into customers.
Educate them concerning their pain points, and they’ll end up turning to you for more solutions.
That’s content marketing at its core, and it can be done through a wide array of tactics – think blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, email campaigns, and more.
It’s about creating content (which can mean writing, but also all kinds of other production methods) and distributing it so your prospects become customers and stay customers.
Copywriting: Using Writing to Motivate the Desired Action
Copywriting, on the other hand, is about using your writing to strategically spur the reader to do something.
Good copywriting is not annoying. It sells whatever you want to sell without the reader realizing they’re buying in.
Good copywriting is gently yet irresistibly persuasive.
It helps move the prospect to sign up for your email list, click on your link or ad, follow you on social media, make a purchase, and more. As such, it’s used for stuff like landing pages, sales pages, ads, and direct mail campaigns.
Great copy is essential to content marketing.
Content marketing copywriting is cohesively intertwined. Think of it like this:
What Happens When You Apply Great Copywriting in Content Marketing?
What do better results look like with these two strategies?
For one, engagement.
Look at this blog example from Intrepid Travel, an adventure travel company based in Australia.
The blog is called “The Top Destinations for Travel in April.” This could easily get very same-y and unoriginal, as there are scores of similar blogs out there.
However, what keeps you on the page is the copywriting.
Check out this intro:
It invites you to stick around and keep reading without actually saying any such thing.
It also promises what you’ll find in the series of guides: “Your easily digestible list of places to visit, things to experience, and amazing weather to chase around the world.”
The blog copy also cleverly links to where you can book one of the company’s travel adventures:
On the sales page for the “8-day Best of Jamaica” trip, more compelling copywriting entices you to imagine exploring this locale:
“Experience the island in all its Caribbean colour, from Rastafari and reggae to the gorgeous unspoiled coast.”
Finally, there’s a call-to-action at the end of the blog that urges you to check out the other guides in the series:
It’s not just informative, fun, interesting content – it’s content with a purpose.
This content is working hard for this company. It’s providing value for their audience, but it’s also urging them to take multiple actions throughout the blog.
This banks on the solidity of the writing and research. If these two things were sub-par, then you wouldn’t feel inclined to click on anything within this content piece.
But, since both are on point, Intrepid Travel can use that built-in trust to get you interested in taking the desired actions.
To put it simply, content marketing and copywriting are holding hands and skipping together into the sunset in this blog post.
Now you may be wondering:
How do I get these same results?
How do you create awesome content marketing copy?
Well, my friends, I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve that can help you get there.
6 Essentials to Nail in Your Content Marketing Copywriting (Or, How to Appeal to the Online Reader/Buyer)
1. Use the Flow, Luke
If you want your online writing to be a little more engaging…
If you want to draw in readers and make their eyes compulsively move down the page…
Flow is crucial.
Use the flow, you must.
Writing with great flow on the internet is markedly different from writing with great flow elsewhere.
Smart Blogger addresses this in one of their best posts ever.
In this piece, they tell you exactly why your flow needs to work differently online.
Basically, reading online involves a barrage of distractions. Notifications, ads, pop-ups, enticing links, and more all jostle each other for your attention.
Maybe that’s why most people online don’t read in-depth.
Instead, they tend to scan and skim the page in an F-shaped pattern, according to a Nielsen study:
Therefore, you’ve gotta write the way they read.
If you do it correctly, your audience will do more than skim. You’ll lull them into reading the whole page.
So, here’s how to use flow, according to Smartblogger.
May the flow be with you.
Great writing flow online begins and ends with paragraph structure:
- Make paragraphs shorter.
- Break up sentences according to the rhythm of the piece. Don’t write in a monotone – vary your sentence lengths, paragraph lengths, and wording.
- (This is what a boring paragraph looks like. The sentences are all a similar length. They all have a similar structure and style. It gets repetitive quickly. It leads to reader abandonment.)
- Use one-line paragraphs to emphasize important thoughts.
- Don’t break up your paragraphs at awkward times. Try to keep your thought trains coherent.
- Smartblogger has an excellent example of awkward paragraph breaks:
2. Always Be Optimizing
Here’s another key for copy in content marketing.
Good copywriting that’s not search engine optimized will not earn as much ROI as you’d like.
If you want those returns (hello, rankings + leads!), you have to use SEO and make sure your copy is optimized and search-ready.
It’s not just about targeting keywords in the headline and body of your copy, though.
SEO is also about how you approach content creation in the first place, before you ever write a word.
For instance, how are you coming up with blog topics to write about?
- Are you going off a random list you dreamed up?
- Or are you basing the topics you cover (and the keywords you use) on what your audience wants to see and user search intent?
I’ll give you one guess as to which method gets better results.
Once you have the right topics and some good keywords, the copywriting can be much more effective. It will appeal to people, first and foremost, but it will also get indexed, which will increase your chances for visibility and exposure to more people.
Need some scope for that?
Well, consider the fact that over 64,000 searches are performed on Google every second of an average day.
If you’re not angling to get a piece of that seriously huge search engine traffic, you’re fishing in the wrong pond.
3. Make Your Copy Stupidly Easy to Read + Scan
What’s another tactic you can use to make sure your content marketing copy does its job?
Here’s a good acronym for this tip:
You have to keep your page layout and formatting simple to keep your copy easy to read.
If the copy is stupidly easy to read, your visitors won’t bounce immediately because they’re confronted with a daunting wall of text:
Via Elegant Themes
As you can see, walls of text are unnecessarily complicated.
Here are some tips on how to simplify your copy for ease of reading:
- Breaking up your paragraphs can help drive home your ideas and introduce clarity. The white space in-between acts as breathing space for the eyes. (It’s also a great technique for flow, which we’ve already discussed.)
- Subheaders help organize your content so readers immediately get the gist of what you’ll cover in an article or blog post. Make sure they’re in a slightly larger font or in bold so they stand out.
- Lists, bulleted and numbered, can help further break up and simplify long paragraphs.
- Consistency in formatting helps give your copy a unified look. Use the same styling and spacing for all like elements throughout your content – it will look nicer, but also helps with comprehension.
4. Write Like You Mean It
Of course, the content marketing + copywriting formula is nothing without the addition of skilled writing.
When I say “write like you mean it,” I mean write the way you know you can.
Use all the skills in your arsenal. Don’t phone it in. Put in your best effort every time you sit down to write content, and aim to really speak to your target audience.
According to Neil Patel for CMI, advanced skills like these are necessary for great copywriting – whether on its own or infused into your content marketing:
- Simplifying a complex topic for your audience
- Creating content and copy that’s easy to read
- Transitioning between ideas seamlessly, so the reader never feels jarred
- Composing introductions that hook readers
- Writing conclusions that do their job well, whether you want to sum everything up or leave your reader with questions to ponder
- Choosing the right vocabulary for the right context
- Using a style and tone of voice that appeals to your audience
Not every writer is capable of these things.
But the best copywriters are, and they strive to use these skills consistently in all their work.
5. Stay User/Audience-Focused
More specifically, your audience first.
That has to be your main mantra for content creation and copywriting.
If you write for search engines first, your copywriting and content will show it.
It will be really, really obvious.
According to Kissmetrics, “When you take the time to develop your story, your writing mimics the natural tone you would use in a conversation.”
This is absolutely true. They give a great example of a huge company that majorly failed at this basic tenant of good copywriting in this great post, “10 Things You Can Learn from Bad Copy.”
Read this about page from LEGO and tell me if they didn’t lose sight of who their audience is:
This reads like an encyclopedia entry about LEGO, not a bio written for their customers and fans.
Your content marketing copywriting must put your specific audience first in every detail. You can’t risk losing them at any stage of the buyer’s journey. Maybe LEGO, a giant, international brand, can afford it, but you can’t.
6. Don’t Neglect the Little Details
The little details are what set good copy apart from great copy in content marketing.
And, when you have great copywriting in your content, you’re packaging it up as beautifully and appealingly as possible.
After you create content that’s substantial, valuable, and high-quality, you have to dress it up. You gotta spend time on the wrappings, the trimmings, the ribbon, the bows, and the decoration.
This is what sells it. This is what makes people stop, scan, and ultimately read your content.
When you put lots of effort into every tiny aspect, that means you pay attention to each piece of the puzzle: headlines, subheaders, calls-to-action, intros, and conclusions.
Let’s start with the headline.
The Headline: The Attention-Grabber, Curiosity-Inducer, and Hook
An example of an awesome headline via Smartblogger.
If you can’t be bothered to spend time on your headline, your readers won’t be bothered to read your content.
Overwhelmingly, the headline is the hook. It sets the tone for the content it looms over. If the headline sucks, why would anybody look deeper and keep scrolling?
The stats back that up. On average, 80% of people will read your headline, but only 20% will continue on to read the rest of the post.
This is a spot in your content where good copywriting can pay off ten-fold… even one-hundred-fold.
If you want to motivate prospects to read more, the headline is where it starts.
The Subheaders: The Unsung Blog Post Heroes
Subheaders may seem small in the scheme of your content, but they can easily make or break it.
Here’s where content organization and formatting come into play.
If you use subheaders correctly, they logically split up your words and paragraphs, making them easier to read and scan for meaning.
If you use subheaders like a boss, they do all of the above AND they entice your readers to stop scanning and read, read, read.
Beware, however, of using subheaders that provide no context/meaning, or that get too clever. Smartblogger has some great examples and tips that may help you craft great subheaders.
For an example of subheader mastery, look at Jon Morrow’s content. His subheaders are crazy-good. Here’s an example from one of his pieces on Copyblogger, “7 Bad Writing Habits You Learned in School”:
The Calls-to-Action: The Words That Work Hard
Your entire content piece, no matter what it is, works hard for you, from the first sentence to the last period.
However, if you want it to work harder, your calls-to-action need to be on-point.
If copywriting as a whole is about inspiring action, then calls-to-action are copywriting that’s focused down to a laser point.
These are the movers and shakers of your content. They can be simple, but they always need to be effective.
What does an effective CTA look like? Check out this ConversionXL post to see great examples of both good and bad CTAs. Here’s a goodie from KlientBoost:
The Introduction and Conclusion: The Table Setter and Nightcap
Your introduction and conclusion are essential to get right.
The intro sets the table and makes your readers want to pull up a chair and tuck into your feast of words.
The conclusion ends the meal, but it can do it in a lot of ways: It can leave your readers full and satisfied, it can spark their curiosity with further questions, or it can offer them dessert (think lead magnets).
A good copywriter will take time to hone the introduction and conclusion, because these two pieces are notoriously hard to get right.
When you do nail them, they make your content 10x better.
Here’s a bare-bones guide for intro writing from HubSpot:
And here’s a more in-depth guide, including how to finesse your intro, from Neil Patel.
As for conclusions, check out this guide for “How to Go Out in Style with Your Ending” from Copyblogger.
Better Content Marketing Copywriting? It’s in the Bag
Copywriting and content marketing go together like peanut butter and jelly. They’re pretty good on their own, but mash them together, and you have something incredible and memorable.
Content marketing may be the meat-and-potatoes, but copywriting is the salt and pepper.
So, craft great content that provides value, answers questions, and drops knowledge. But, don’t forget to use copywriting to turn those content pieces into workhorses.
Or, to continue the food metaphor, use copywriting to make your content marketing delicious.
Build your authority, make your readers trust you, and then get them to act on it.
That, my friends, is how you turn regular ol’ content into solid-gold assets.