Ask Noelina: “What’s the Difference Between Content Writing and Content Marketing?”

Difference between content writing and content marketing

Ask Noelina is a series dedicated to answering questions received from clients and colleagues about content. If you have a question you’d like answered, let me know.

Overview

  • Content marketing and content writing share the same goal: attract and retain your audience with engaging, high-quality content.
  • But their duties differ. Content writers write well-researched, high-quality content (think: newsletters, blogs, social posts, etc.). Content marketers curate all content formats and are in charge of the entire content lifecycle for each piece – i.e. content strategy, creation, distribution, and analytics. 
  • You can think of content writing as a piece of the overall content marketing puzzle.
  • Both content marketing and content writing are mutually dependent on each other.

Content writing, copywriting, content marketing. They’re all terms you hear floating around if you stick around the digital marketing world long enough.

At first glance, they may seem to be synonyms of the same general concept: Creating content that connects and converts. 

But when you dive into the specifics, you’ll see there’s more to them than what meets the eye. This is especially true when it comes to content marketing vs content writing.

This specific question – “What’s the difference between content writing and content marketing?” – is one I’ve been asked repeatedly during “Pick My Brain” sessions as of late. 

So, I thought I’d take some time to clear the air some and provide my two cents on the matter.

Table of Contents

What is content writing?

For starters, I define content writing as curating high-quality, well-researched content that nurtures readers along in their journey.

In other words, content writers create an engaging, brand-aligned experience for readers using words. (The key concept here is via writing. Remember this for later!) 

There are many deliverables content writers produce. Some of the most common are:

  • Articles
  • Blogs
  • Guides
  • Social posts
  • Other content marketing assets


Their process may differ slightly for each deliverable. 

Usually, good content writers start by studying a brand’s style, tone, buyer personas, and other internal assets before even touching a project.

Once they have a good understanding of the brand and its offerings, then they’ll advance with the actual work at hand. 

Depending on the project, this could mean finding credible online sources, reaching out to industry experts for unique quotes, creating an SEO outline, translating all the information into an engaging piece, and then finally editing for clarity.

(These content writing tips for beginners and pros are a good, quick synopsis of what skilled content writers know how to do instinctively.)

En fin, it’s not a light task.

But please do remember one thing: the goal is to write content that a) satisfies the audience and b) advances business goals. 

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is all about creating an engaging content experience that educates and entertains your audience. 

This content experience includes all content formats, such as guides, blogs, social posts, webinars, newsletters, emails, white papers, and more. (Those last two deliverables actually align closer to the work of a copywriter. But that’s a post for another day…)

A high-level overview of what a content marketer does is as follows:

  • Strategizing what type of content to create when, where, and WHY
  • Creating the content (or outsourcing its production)
  • Developing effective distribution plans to meet the audience where they’re at
  • Analyzing the results to see what went well and what didn’t


This entire process is repeated for every single piece of content created.

Yes, it can take time. But when content marketers have a good grasp of the brand and its audience, they’ll start to pick up on trends. And by doing so, the whole process quickens. But until that happens, it’s a lot of trial and error.

In general, content marketing is a very involved trade that requires an intimate understanding of the brand, its offerings, and its ideal clients.

So, what’s the difference between content writing and content marketing?

They share the same goal: attract and retain your audience with engaging, high-quality content.

But each profession’s duties differ.

Here’s what I mean…

Content writers are responsible for writing content. (Remember the key word I mentioned earlier, writing? This is where it comes into play.) 

On the other hand, content marketers are in charge of content strategy, creation, distribution, AND analytics. Their work spans the whole content lifecycle.

Plus, content marketers work with all forms of content assets. This includes webinars, roundtables, podcasts, and more. Their work isn’t limited to written content. 

(Notice how I didn’t say “content marketers are in charge of content strategy, WRITING, distribution, and analytics?” That’s why.) 

Are there some content writers who do more than writing?

Of course! For example, some content writers strategize and come up with their own blog headlines to write about when given just a primary keyword. Others even repurpose and distribute the content post-writing to drive traffic to it.

But doing more than writing isn’t technically in a content writer’s job description. By strategizing and distributing content pieces, they’d be dipping into the work of content strategists and promotion specialists. (And could – therefore – charge more for those services.) 

Content writing vs content marketing

Final thoughts: Content writing and content marketing go hand-in-hand

Both content writing and content marketing complement each other. 

A content marketer can’t live without (knowing or outsourcing) content writing. Good content writers put words to content marketers’ initiatives to nurture readers along in their journey. 

And without content marketing, content writers’ work wouldn’t form part of a bigger picture. Personally, I believe it’d have less impact as there wouldn’t be a strategy and promotion plan to drive traffic to what they’re curating. 

In other words, the content writer would be creating content for the heck of it (kind of like throwing spaghetti against a wall and hoping it sticks).

After sharing my thoughts on content writing vs content marketing, I often get asked a follow-up question from other content writers: “Which one should I pursue?”

Here’s the short answer to that…

If your goal is to understand more about the entire content lifecycle, I encourage you to dive more into the fundamentals of content marketing.  

But if you’re interested in solely writing, continue as a content writer by all means! Work to improve yourself in the trade, and explore new content avenues as they arise.

No one path is “better” than the next. It’s your career. Own it for what it is. 

Do you have any other burning questions about content marketing vs content writing? Ask away in the comments below! 

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