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WHAT IS COPYWRITING: DEFINITION BY A COPYWRITER

Have you ever wondered what makes certain words and messages more convincing than others? What is copywriting and what makes it so important for businesses today? I invite you on a copywriting journey into a world of words, copy that sells, and one too many tools, to answer that exact question. You’ve found the right place if you are:

  • An aspiring copywriter trying to sort through all the advice, guides, and courses;
  • A small business owner who wants to land before the competition in search results or who simply wants to create more compelling messages;
  • A manager who’s wondering if their company should invest a mountain of resources into copy.

But it won’t be all about copy. We’ll talk about content and where it crosses paths with copywriting, how to find and plant your flag in the golden mean, and most importantly – the benefits you can squeeze out of your efforts.

A Bit About the Copywriter

Hi! My name’s Maria, and I’ve been a copywriter for 6 years now. In 2021, I went on a sabbatical, published a book, and thought I’ll never go back to copywriting after writing myself empty. Yet, here I am, still making a living by writing words made to sell. I found a great place to grow my skills and finally decided it’s time to share my knowledge with anyone who might find it useful.

I have experience in writing for the casino, fintech, fashion and lifestyle industries, dropshipping and digital products, and now I’m a content expert in the educational industry on topics regarding programming, digital marketing, and graphic design. Every time I start a new project, I start university all over again and graduate with all the key knowledge. That’s how much learning and research goes into what is copywriting today to make it work.

Now it’s time to do the research and share the knowledge I have on copy, and we’ll start with the basics!

What is Copywriting?

If you scour the Internet, you’ll find one copywriting definition for every Google Search result you get when you ask the search engine what is copywriting. To define copywriting, I believe you have to experience it first. But for the sake of the argument, let’s pinpoint one thing the results have in common. Copy has a specific, measurable, commercial end goal. It can be selling a product, getting newsletter subscribers, selling a subscription, a service, etc. Whether it’s long-form (such as affiliate marketing reviews and blog posts) or short-form (e.g., sharp and short ads on social media), copy features the same thing – a CTA.

Ah, there we go, two minutes into this post, and we’re already dealing with teeth-grinding marketing abbreviations.

CTACall-to-Action is what copy leads to. The closing remark of your work, the way you prompt your target audience to act, make the next step on their journey – a subscription, a purchase, etc.:

That’s not simply a CTA, but a way you can start supporting me. But it’s mainly a way to demonstrate CTAs. Truth is, CTAs don’t have to be only buttons, prompting specific actions. They can also take the form of an anchor text – a clickable part in the text. I can refer you to a great resource on anchor texts by Ahrefs you can read on your own time.

What’s important to remember is that not every anchor text is a CTA. But if I want to prompt you to send me an email to collaborate on book reviews or copywriting topics, I’d suggest you check out the collab page. And that would be a CTA in the form of an anchor text.

Even though buttons still appear to have a bigger impact on conversions, CTA anchor texts come organically. You should not underestimate them in your copy because they can feel less aggressive than buttons.

The Goals of Copywriting: Conversion

Conversions are what every business strives for. Those can be monetary or not. There’s a wide variety of end goals you might want to achieve when a visitor lands on your website (or comes across your ad and clicks it):

  • Making a purchase;
  • Subscribing for a service;
  • Signing up for your newsletter;
  • Clicking a button;
  • Creating an account;
  • Sharing your content;
  • Downloading an app, a resource, etc.

The type of conversion you want to achieve depends on your type of business. Let’s see some very basics examples:

A small business owner wants their article on the benefits of candles to convert as more sales of their candles made after visitors read their content. A hosting company wants their product or landing page to feature enough attractive information to make people subscribe to their services. A copywriter or a content creator offering freelance services wants to make visitors reach out and commission them, etc.

In other words, conversions, as defined for your business, are the end goal of copywriting. You craft copy with the purpose of making its audience take the desired action. There are different types of copy that fit different purposes, and below we’ll go over them!

What is Copywriting: Types of Copy

As I mentioned in the beginning, copy can be short or long, and each piece can have different goals. Whether you want to learn how to incorporate it into your business and marketing strategy or want to become a copywriter yourself, it’s good to be aware of the most common types you can use:

1. What is Copywriting for Brands

Today brands can’t survive if they can’t tell a good story. Copywriting for brands, big or small, goes beyond the snappy messages and CTAs. This is a two-piece puzzle in which all parties must invest:

  • Brands – you should know your audience, the messages you want to send them, and your voice. You’re either about to develop a voice that caters to your audience or you already have one and need to use copy to strengthen it. Every page, post, every piece of copy must be modeled according to the same voice.
  • Copywriters – if you want to work for an established brand, you must know their voice. You must enter their ranks as if you’ve been part of the company since its creation. That happens by reading tons of already existing copy produced by the brand. If you want to help an unknown company or your own small business – be clear on the voice you want to project with your copy. That’s a decision you can’t make on your own, it comes from cooperating with the brand itself.

When the puzzle is complete, you want to see one thing – a strong message that gets an emotional response. Emotions create associations and turn one-time purchases into loyal customers.

2. Educational Copy

Some of the most valuable pieces of copy you’ll create revolve around educating others. If you’re in the market for environmentally friendly candles, craft copy that explores these topics, why they matter, and how you answer/solve these problems with your products.

Educational content doubles as a solution – it gives straight answers, adds value, and can convince your solution is the right solution. It can help you position yourself as an expert and your business – as the authority in your niche. That way you gain the trust of your audience.

Sooner or later, your competition will start coming to you for your opinions, as well. If you’ve ever dipped your toes in the world of copywriting, you’ve probably gone to authority sites such as:

I know I have. And my personal recommendation is to take as much as you can from their resources on digital marketing, copywriting, content creation, and SEO.

3. Social Media Copy

Social media is, undoubtedly, the most powerful tool for digital marketing. You can use it to distribute your copy, gain a bigger following, more customers, etc. It’s the way to directly communicate with your audience. That’s why it’s important to establish a social media presence.

But different networks need different copy. Slapping the same piece across all your channels won’t work. Focus on adjusting it to the specific formats. The copy you’ll use on a Facebook post won’t work for an Instagram story or a TikTok video, let alone the character-constrained Twitter. LinkedIn prefers more formal, business-oriented copy with high added value, while YouTube requires you to sit in front of a camera, or at least record audio.

Here are a couple of key takeaways when you think about ads and social media copy:

  • Know where your audience’s at – if you’re a B2B company, focus on LinkedIn and Twitter; B2C companies reign supreme on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. No point in trying to reach your audience with tailored copy where they aren’t.
  • Adapt your voice – you must make your brand voice and messages fit the medium they’re in. That takes a bit of experimentation so that you don’t completely escape your original voice.
  • Be clear & concise – no matter the social media network, your copy must have a CTA, a clear action your audience must take when they come across it.

If you remember one thing, remember this:

Copy for social media is action-focused. You have scarce opportunity to grab the attention – use it. Learn to make people stop and act, learn to be persuasive, even if you think it feels aggressive.

4. What is Copywriting for Email

Same as social media copy, emails require a very specific content format. The worst thing you can do is slap your latest blog post in your newsletter as is. Emails must have not only short subject lines but also a short and to-the-point body.

Emails are still a hot tool for conversions, despite being around for ages. Mastering quality email copy is not an easy task, but you must start somewhere. Adapting copy for emails is an art form and can boost your conversions. If you’re an aspiring copywriter, sign up for several popular newsletters and keep an eye on their email tricks and patterns.

5. What is Copywriting for SEO

Though the best thing you can do today is to write for humans and not machines, SEO still plays a major role in successful copywriting efforts. Everyone wants to rank at the top of the results, and Search Engine Optimization is your way to the top. But gone are the days when unreasonable long-tail keywords made copy unreadable or a single keyword appeared in every other sentence.

  • Long-tail keywords – 3+ word queries that have low monthly search volume and are easier to rank for through your copy.
  • Keyword stuffing – the excessive use of keywords on a page with the purpose of influencing the page’s rank in Google’s SERP.

Using relevant keywords (KWs), including long-tail ones, can happen organically. It must not hamper the reading experience. Not to mention, Google becomes better and better at semantics – even if your text lacks a certain KW, it might still rank higher for it simply because of semantics. This means Google recognizes your copy as relevant to certain search terms, without you explicitly adding them.

When you strive for creating valuable, helpful copy, and cover your technical SEO basis, you have a spectacular chance to rank higher. SEO copywriting is still relevant. You simply have to do it by putting the people before the machines.

6. Product Copy

We’re racing towards currently unnecessary specifics, but we must note that product pages are some of the most important pages you can have. Your copy must be polished and high-quality. And while it’s supposed to be promotional, remember this:

Create copy for product pages with the customer in mind.

Apart from promotional, product pages must be customer-centric to achieve the desired results – conversions. Remember that your product or service (or the ones you’re writing about) is supposed to solve clients’ problems. Here are the main characteristics of a good product copy:

  • It addresses customers’ pain points;
  • It introduces the features as solutions to those pain points;
  • It explains how the features solve customers’ problems.
what-is-copywriting-product-copywriting-example-mailchimp
Source: Mailchimp

I particularly enjoy Mailchimp’s general product copy you can find right on their landing page with the motivating “Outperform your last campaign” slogan. To inspire yourself for improved and converting product pages, don’t shy away from seeing what your immediate competitors do.

At this point, you’re probably wondering why am I insisting on calling all of this copy, since every time I mention it, it can be easily replaced with “content”. That’s exactly what we’ll be exploring below – the difference between the two and can you craft content that sells, now that we’ve somewhat removed out of the way this convoluted explanation of what is copywriting!

What is Copywriting vs. Content Writing

After 6 years as a copywriter, I’m confident the lines between copy and content writing are getting less and less visible. We’re taught copywriting is made to sell, while content is made to educate, entertain, and engage.

Truth is – content writing is just another type of copy writing. When you ask yourself what is copywriting, you might as well treat is as content made to sell. Every piece of content, be it a fun post, a lengthy educational blog page (such as this one), or simply an article has a variety of CTAs. They might not be as obvious as the BUY NOW button on a product page. But they come with their own specific goals.

Content can urge people to engage, to explore additional resources, or straight up lead to a conversion page. The main difference is that content writing is not as salesy. In my book reviews, I can afford to be conversational, light, and not that matter-of-fact or straight-to-the-point. That’s because I treat my book reviews as content and not copy made to sell.

Yet, you can still find copywriting elements – like the prompt to leave a comment or the promos of my book in the footer, or even the ability for users to leave a rating for the book on my review. And that’s how content slowly turns into copy.

Not to mention the shift towards writing copy with the user in mind. Today, copywriting should not only sell, but also be useful, educational, and entertaining. Sounds familiar? That’s why, when writing copy, think of it as content that should bring additional value to the readers, instead of simply nagging them to BUY NOW or CLICK HERE.

That’s mainly because of storytelling – one of the most powerful tools of every brand and copywriter. And the topic of our next point!

Storytelling in Content & Copy

We, humans, love stories. That’s both a fact of life and a subject of science. Good storytelling makes us all more cooperative and ready to say “Yes” to any offer. But remember that storytelling is as much about your target audience as it’s about you and your brand, if not more.

No matter who you are or what’s your background, you must’ve heard about the monomyth, the template for all stories there are and will be – the Hero’s Journey. And while that’s a narrative template for works of art, today it finds its way into marketing. Through what is copywriting today and they way it evolves into and relates to content.

What you should remember at this point is that storytelling in marketing treats your customer, your ideal persona, as the hero. The product or service you’re creating content for is the reliable sidekick that brings value and solves problems.

Telling stories through content is an art form and takes time and practice. If you can shape a quality narrative that elicits an emotional response from your audience, you’re on the right track to creating successful content and copy.

We’ll cover storytelling and what is copywriting with the purpose of telling stories in more detail in upcoming posts. But speaking of success brings me to the final point of this article. Measuring success.

Measuring Successful Copywriting

Success is subjective. It can present itself as private jets, paid bills, a good work-life balance, you name it. Content and copy, though, can be measured objectively. Every piece of content you produce must have an end goal. While this is a creative field of work, it involves a lot of metrics and measuring.

Relevant metrics are yours to define (although I promise, we’ll talk about it here). What values you consider successful, are yours to define. Everything depends on the type of business you’re running, and the products/services you offer. And that includes your services as a copywriter. In general, content and copy can be considered successful if they fulfill the goals they’ve been created for.

What goals have you set for the variety of copy and content pieces you create? Are you even creating content, and if not – what are you waiting for? Content is king!

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I’m a copywriter by work, reader by heart, writer by night & a daydreamer all year round. I dabble in graphic design whenever time’s left. I breathe words and try to weave worlds.
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