Copywriting is a well-known buzzword in internet marketing, but what is copywriting really? It’s words strung together with the intent of getting the reader to do something. It’s that simple. Some people try to dress it up with fancier words or by adding extra steps but there really aren’t any.
If your writing is conversion-focused, it’s copy.
Because copywriting is such a universal term it gets thrown around a lot and sometimes misused. But the truth is, it’s actually difficult to mislabel something as ‘copy’ in the digital marketing world. After all, if it’s text on a website, it’s probably conversion-focused in some way. Because of this, many content writers also identify as copywriters and vice versa.
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What Does a Copywriter Do?
In addition to actually writing, most copywriters spend much of their time doing research. The type of research will depend on the type of writing they’re doing, but usually some part of it is market/audience research and another part is researching their niche(s).
Depending on how specialized they are and what types of businesses or agencies they work with, copywriters may also need to have excellent collaboration skills. They may be required to work closely with web designers, programmers, search engine optimizers, and many other professionals in and around the world of marketing.
How to Get Started Copywriting
Copywriting can be a surprisingly difficult field to break into. While technically anyone can become a copywriter, it’s a highly specialized skillset that few people take the time to properly understand. If you’re already a strong writer, it’s easy to learn the basics and that’s really the only skill you need to write copy. But doing effective market research and actually landing high-paying copywriting jobs or clients is much harder.
In order to start in this field, first realize that just about everything you write in a professional context is copy. If you email your boss, it doesn’t matter if you’re asking for a promotion or making a simple suggestion – it’s conversion-focused copy either way. If you write a review on your blog, the whole point is to get your readers to click the link and check out whatever you’re reviewing, or possibly related products. If you write a post on your facebook page, the idea is to get people to interact with it.
The more you understand that most professional writing is copywriting, the easier it will be to start practicing relevant skills. It may also help if you decide specifically what type of copywriter you want to be. Although most copywriters practice similar skills, there are a number of distinct types.
If you want to learn more about copywriting, I recommend grabbing a copy of Clickbank’s copywriting guide.
Common Copywriting Jobs
While it’s possible to work as a general copywriter, many marketers find that success is easier to achieve in a specific field or niche. Here are some common copywriting jobs you may see advertised by local agencies.
Sales copywriting most commonly comes in the form of writing ads. In digital marketing, that could mean writing for text, image, or even video ads. It can be used to target customers at any state of their journey, from brand awareness all the way to post-purchase marketing to create repeat business. Sales writing is frequently combined with all of the other types of copywriting, but it also stands on its own.
SEO or Search Engine Optimization writing is the act of creating copy in a way that is friendly to both humans AND robots. It’s one thing to be able to optimize a piece of web content for search, and another thing entirely to optimize it for conversions. If you can put the two skills together seamlessly enough, you can create extremely valuable blog posts and web pages that will generate business while you sleep.
Web copywriting is closely related to SEO, and the two can be the same under certain circumstances, but they also stand apart. For example, some websites are not optimized for search and receive all of their traffic through paid media or other means. These types of sites can afford to focus solely on creating conversions, and this is web copywriting in its purest form. Web writing is most frequently applied to landing pages or “squeeze” pages. Squeeze pages do not necessarily need to be optimized for search because they’re usually used as a second or third step in a funnel.
Direct Response Copywriting
Direct response focuses solely on creating immediate action in the reader. If you want to create an effective ad for a limited-time deal or sale, you need a great direct response copywriter. While many copywriters focus on the entire buyer journey and nurturing customers throughout, direct response copywriters almost always target the stages leading up to the “sale” or conversion they’re focused on achieving. Because of this direct response copywriting is often viewed as the most difficult and advanced form of the craft.
Technical copywriting could also lay claim to the title of “most difficult”, depending on the topic. This type of writing typically focuses on explaining and selling products and services that are difficult to understand or master. An example might be someone who writes reviews and tutorials for 3-D printers. This is much more technical than, for example, writing reviews and tutorials about marketing. Technical copywriters usually have a background in whatever niche(s) they work in which gives them the unique ability to do what they do.
Creativity is used classically in television commercials. The creators of story-oriented ads and product jingles are creative copywriters. But creative copywriting can be applied in many of the other ways as well. In fact, in most circumstances all copywriters can benefit from applying the skills associated with creative copywriting. Creative writers are excellent at brainstorming and building ideas for sending buyers on a compelling journey.
While there are easy to define differences between the types of writing listed above, there are strong similarities between them as well. For example, almost all copywriters use frameworks or ‘formulas’ to help them create copy more quickly.
What is a Copywriting Framework?
A copywriting framework (also known as a copywriting formula) is a pre-arranged sequence of written elements. Using a copywriting framework allows you to implement the same tried-and-true tactics over and over again, and therefore write faster. The most popular framework I know of is AIDA. AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. Sometimes ‘Attention’ can be substituted for ‘Awareness’.
The idea of AIDA is that you start with something that will grab a reader’s attention, follow up with elements that will hook their interest and drive desire, and finish off with a call to action that creates the behavior or conversion you need.
Why Use Copywriting Frameworks?
Copywriting frameworks are useful because it’s always hardest to start writing with a blank page. When you use a framework, you always have a starting point – you know the structure, and you can even copy/paste the structure into the page so it’s not blank, then replace it with the actual copy.
What are the Best Copywriting Formulas?
AIDA is the most frequently taught and utilized framework I know of. It’s used frequently because it’s simple and powerful. There are many others that are equally valuable though. The ‘best’ copywriting formula will always be defined by the specific needs of the situation.
Here are some more common copywriting formulas I see often in online advertising:
PAS – Problem, Agitate, Solution.
I see this framework a lot in YouTube ads, because for most in-stream ads on YouTube the creator only has five seconds to grab your attention. If they don’t convince you to watch the whole commercial in the first five seconds, you’ll skip the ad and they’ve lost a potential lead.
PAS involves presenting a problem, ‘agitating’ the problem (for example making it worse by needling pain points), and the presenting a solution that solves the problem.
Classic openers for Problem, Agitate, Solve include:
“Do you ever (insert problem here)?”
“I used to (insert problem here)…”
“(Problem) was ruining my life…”
PAS is also a great formula for short to mid-length text ads. You can easily executed PAS in three sentences.
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WHW – Why, How, What.
Why, How, What is an ideal framework for even shorter ads, such as single-sentence text ads or 5-15 second videos. In this formula you lead with the most compelling part (the why), follow up with a convincing ‘how’, and finally sell the ‘what’.
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Real Copywriting Examples From 2020
The internet and digital life have created many different types of copywriting which fall under blanket terms such as “web copywriting”. Here are some often overlooked of places where copywriting can be used effectively.
Having a powerfully worded popup on your website can be the difference between a big email list and a few penpals. It’s important that you follow mobile-friendly popup strategies and have an appealing looking popup, but it’s also important that your optin creates a strong impression. Which copywriting formulas can be applied easily in the space of a sentence or two? Figuring that out will make it easier to draft a compelling popup.
Landing Pages / Squeeze Pages
If you want your website visitors to stay on the same page where they opt in (for example, on a blog post full of affiliate links) it makes sense to use a popup optin. But in many other cases higher conversions can be reached by sending the user to a landing page or “squeeze” page. Squeeze pages can be used as the second or third step in a sales funnel. You can use ads, content or sidebar links, social media, and every other form of traffic to drive people to your landing pages.
Social Media and Search Ads
Whether you’re using Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, Google ads, or another form of digital paid media, implementing strong copywriting will save you a lot of money. It can also help you target the right kind of customer or client. If your ads are purely focused on creating as many conversions as possible, you’ll end up with a varying quality of customer. But if your ads focus on speaking directly to the type of person you want to sell to, you can save yourself a lot of hassle down the road.
You can see examples of ads any time by scrolling through your Facebook feed or Google searching something that has buyer intent (such as “best wool socks”).
Video ads are nothing new, as they’ve been around almost as long as motion pictures themselves. However in modern digital marketing video ads have morphed into something new. While the classic television/cinema ad approach of building a story-oriented ad to play on the audiences emotions can still work, many viewers see right through this approach these days.
Because so many people understand conventional marketing techniques, it’s often more effective to be up front and honest with your audience. That’s why so many YouTube ads feature nothing more than an individual talking to the camera. These types of ads are easy and cost-effective to create, meaning that large businesses no longer have as much of an advantage in video advertising.
You can see a wide variety of video ads on YouTube just by searching for and watching popular videos relevant to your niche. If you want to see ads, choose the channels with the most subscribers, as they’re more likely to be monetized. Alternately you can click on any ads that appear above the organic search results.
Final Considerations For Understanding Copywriting
To break it down, copywriting is:
- Conversion focused
- Highly versatile
- Present in most modern web content
- A skill almost anyone can learn, but few take the time to master
Want to learn even more about copywriting, what it is, and how to implement it effectively? Tap this to grab a copy of Clickbank’s copywriting guide.
Did my explanation of copywriting leave you with any lingering questions? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.