What is Copywriting? And is all content a form of copywriting?
Many people confuse copywriting with all forms of good, engaging content. And this of course, is not true. Others think it's something to do with compelling attention-grabbing words, hooks, and headlines—While those are forms of copywriting, there's much more to it.
Put simply, copywriting is the words or text that incite or persuade a reader (or viewer) to take action. This can be the words leading up to a call-to-action, (think landing pages, product descriptions, ads, or commercials) or the call-to-action itself. Actions such as:
Subscribe to a service or email list
Make a purchase or buy a product
Read an article/email (in the case of headlines and subject lines)
Enroll or sign up to a membership
In other words, any text with the intention of getting the reader to take a specific action is considered copywriting. Almost everything else, is considered content. One exception would be slogans and taglines that marketers usually enlist a copywriter to help with. Taglines don't necessarily invoke a call to action, but they are an essential element of a brand's messaging.
Note: Engagement doesn't fall under an action for copywriting purposes. Engagement is connecting and building relationships with your community or audience and a strategic form of content and social media marketing.
Content is any form of medium that informs, educates, engages, establishes expertise, or connects with a reader—without the intention of directly selling to the reader or getting them to take action, such as any one of those listed above. Different forms of content helps brands stay connected with their audience and more receptive to a brand's CTA when an offer is made.
Of course, CTA's can be incorporated within or at the end of good content.
While content is used strategically with a long term intention of selling, it still differs from copywriting itself. Copywriting is only one element (and an essential one) of content marketing.
Why Businesses Need Copywriters
The realm of marketing doesn't exist without copywriting, but sadly many businesses think they can skip this step. Copywriting, or as it's commonly referred to as, copy, is essential to any brand or business both in its sales and its messaging.
Copy directly engages with a reader and should incite a response and action. After reading/watching a business's website, ad, commercial or offering, they want to sign up, buy, or enroll because the brand has communicated clearly through words that have directly connected with their readers' pain points in a way that the reader (or ideal client) will want to respond to the call to action.
Behind the Scenes of Good Copywriting
What you'll commonly hear about copywriting is that it should be "clear, concise, and compelling," but this doesn't even begin to explain the key elements of good copywriting. An effective copywriter will first spend hours studying the brand's mission, tone, market, and audience—Here's what a copywriter does before they even begin writing:
Study the Brand's Mission: The intention and mission behind the brand is the first key element of good copy as it will be carried throughout the messaging of the brand.
Study the brand's tone: An experienced copywriter will begin by studying the brand in-depth and take time to fully understand the brand's tone and messaging. A great compelling piece of copy may work for one brand, but might not make sense for another. The tone of the messaging must be brand-specific.
Study the brand's audience: An experienced copywriter will also take the time to understand the brand's audience and ideal client profile. They will take time to understand what the ideal client's pain points are so that the copy can be formed around the audience's needs and how the product benefits them.
Study the brand's market: Copywriters will also take the time to understand the market and the brand's competitors to know how to add differentiation and stand-out messaging.
Essential Elements of Good Copywriting:
Empathy: Good copy speaks directly to the reader. But it can't do so unless a copywriter puts themselves in the ideal client's shoes. What do they really need? And how can the messaging speak directly to their pain points and express how the product or service meets those needs?
Creativity: Because there is so much competition in our digital age, the level of creativity in copywriting is crucial. Many people (or many AI tools even) can write a catchy or compelling line, but the creative brand-specific elements that make the messaging stand out are essential.
Clarity: The reader should never, ever have to reread the copy to understand the point or call-to-action that is trying to be made. The copy should speak directly to the client as if they know exactly what the client needs and how they can help solve their pain points.
Specificity: This is the most commonly missed copywriting element. The copy should be ultra specific. Just because it sounds great, doesn't mean it's clear to the reader. The more specific, the better.
For example: "We help you work more efficiently." How? Why? When and why should I care? This could be for a lawn mowing service or a software. Not only is it not specific in what it does, it's not specific to the product. Ideally, copy shouldn't be interchangeable between brands.
With specificity: "ChatInvoice sends out invoices automatically when you mark the project complete. The result: less busy work, more time for priority work."
Good copywriting is meant to speak directly to client's pain points and direct them to the way you or your product can help solve their problem. It should never, ever be full of falsely hyped words or filled with empty promises.
Brands should never make guarantees or statements on how to 10X something if it's not proven and in their power to do so. Selling comes from presenting a solution for your client's problems, not in compelling them to buy through manipulative words.
How Copywriting is Evolving
Gone are the old cliche lines: "Are you sick and tired of the same old routine? Are you waiting for your dream life? Have we got the solution for you!" While these salesy, infomercially lines are unfortunately still used, it's important to understand that languages and people's perceptions are constantly changing. It's crucial to be "a markerter of our time." You can't use old messaging tactics in a new age. Staying current is essential.
While people are beginning to tire of the same old clickbait (yes it still works, but reception is evolving.) People are longing for authenticity connection. And while these two words are thrown around a lot, it's essentially what good copywriting does. It knows how to connect genuinely with clients.
It's not just about selling anymore—Clickbait will do that, yes—But it won't build long term customers. Good copywriting shows that you truly understand your customers and you've created a product or service to help them.
In the age we live in, very little is constant aside from change. As short form content becomes the norm, language is evolving too. Most premade courses and books will need to be continuously updated to stay relevant. Copywriting will continuously change as we change.
Copywriting can't be learned solely from one course or book. It takes continuous practice and studying what works and what doesn't in markets that are constantly changing. While copywriting is an element of certain aspects of content marketing, it's not the same thing.
Good copywriting showcases your brand's personality and makes your product or service stand a part from the rest, and convert potential buyers into clients.