What do copywriters do, and why do businesses need them?
Yikes, gotta get this one right.
So, you want to know what us writers do all day? Well, when we’re not out fighting crime, solving rubix cubes blindfolded or providing the office eye candy, I’d like to to think we’re quite a useful bunch for a business to have around.
This article will focus on a copywriter’s core responsibilities, and what value they bring to the company table. It will also clarify, once and for all, the difference between copywriters and content writers.
Let’s just hope it reads well.
The difference between copywriters and content writers
Two roles, both alike in dignity, in your digital marketing team, where we lay our scene.
While quoting Shakespeare is the most cliche thing you can do in an article about writing, this new and improved opener from Romeo and Juliet has two important takeaways:
- Copywriters and content writers are not the same thing.
- Their contributions are equally important to your digital marketing efforts.
Let’s unpack these ideas a bit further.
While the terms ‘copywriter’ and ‘content writer’ are often used interchangeably, the types of writing they produce perform different functions:
- Copywriters: These folk are primed to pitch your brand directly to your target audience. They’re experts in finding that killer verbal jingle that will sell your service, product or idea. As well as traditional advertising media such as billboards and TV commercials, these are the people behind your social media ads and marketing emails.
- Content writers: Content writers generally sit much further up the sales funnel. Their content emphasises thought leadership – positioning your brand as an industry authority and drawing prospects to the next stage of the buyer journey.
Thus far I’ve spoken about the roles as if they’re performed by different people. While for some businesses this may be true, in reality it’s likely one writer wearing different hats (varied headwear is another copywriter role prerequisite).
This article is about copywriters, so we’ll take the job description above and leave content writing for another day.
What do copywriters do?
Consumers only see the fruits of a copywriter’s labour – powerful, promotional content that seeks to prompt the reader into taking an action.
However, there’s a lot more to this than simply putting digital pen to paper. A good piece of writing is likely to have gone through the following steps before it appears before your eyeballs:
1. Strategic brainstorming
In order to create a message that resonates with your target audience, a copywriter needs to know who this is. Ideally, your content strategists will have created user personas that provide crucial targeting info such as ages, genders, interests and pain points.
Equally important is your brand style guide. This is a copywriter’s instruction manual, detailing essential editorial building blocks such as tone, style and reliable citation sources.
As we’ll see a little later, this isn’t a one-way street – the process comes full circle, meaning that copywriters can play an important part in informing future strategic decisions.
2. Subject research
At first glance, research may seem to be more the domain of your two-ebooks-a-week content writers. However, the ability to amass and distill relevant source information is equally important for copywriters.
This is especially true if your business offering is complex. In this instance, getting to grips with new products or services is likely to involve a lot of reading, and perhaps even interviews.
Some copywriters take this a step further and move into the realms of technical writing. These expert wordsmiths specialise in taking particularly jargon-heavy or technical subjects, and making them accessible to all.
3. Copy editing
A great way to sort the sheep from the goats when recruiting a copywriter is to ask what editing experience they have.
This is important for two reasons:
- Self-editing – Your copy needs to be flawless. Grammatical gaffes, myriad misspellings and clunky constructions distract from your message, preventing it hitting home. If your copywriter has editing experience, they’re likely to be more critical of their own work, making for higher quality output.
- Peer editing – Importantly, editing experience doesn’t mean experience as ‘an editor’. Not all businesses can justify having one senior editor, but having writers who can reliably check each other’s output is invaluable when it comes to efficient production.
4. Sourcing imagery
Depending on your departmental setup, your writers may have responsibility for sourcing on brief imagery to accompany their scribblings.
Why does your business need a copywriter?
So, what material difference will someone with these skills make to your business. There are a number of reasons why a copywriter can be a real asset to just about any company:
1. Creating a powerful brand image
Your copywriters have a huge part to play here. Trusty style guide in hand, their writing should speak the language of your consumers, both in terms of the words they choose, and the topics they address.
2. SEO wizardry
While pleasing your target audience is goal number one, your copywriter will always have one eye on impressing the internet’s master of ceremonies – Google.
Why does this matter? Well, according to the Australian Postal Corporation, Aussies spent $213 billion on online goods in 2017, an increase of 18.7 per cent from the previous year. However, with so many companies vying for the top slots on search engine results pages (SERPs), good writing alone won’t cut it. A seasoned copywriter will possess a number of tricks to rub the algorithm the right way, and help your business cut through the noise.
When it comes to SEO, a copywriter help can by:
- Stress testing keywords: While your strategy team will have defined priority keywords using tools such as Google Console, your copywriter can take these insights a step further. They can analyse competition on keywords for individual pieces by examining SERPs and seeing where the best balance between relevance and competition lies.
- Including the necessary HTML tags: As intelligent as Google’s crawlers are, they’re not human. Take images and videos as examples – without the appropriate tags a bot can tell that these elements are present, but that’s about it. A copywriter can signpost these features to Google so that they contribute value to your content from an SEO perspective.
- Optimising your formatting: Your writers can glean information from existing SERPs that will help your content rank. For example, taking information from Google’s ‘People Also Asked’ box and building it into your subtitles will increase the value from a user perspective, and therefore in SEO terms as well.
3. Helping to build out strategy
As mentioned, copywriters play more of a role in digital planning than simply following advice from content strategists.
They can help influence the direction of future campaign strategies as a result of one of their core responsibilities – research.
Those hours spent picking through endless SERPs mean that we writers have a deep understanding of digital marketing trends within a given industry. Crucially from a strategic standpoint, this means we know:
- How our content is doing: If we’re continually searching industry related terms and our own work is never popping up, something is wrong. This could indicate that keyword research is off the mark, or that a change in style is needed to capture imaginations.
- Where the gaps are: By looking at our work next to that of industry competition, writers are perfectly positioned to find gaps in the available content. Exploiting these value vacuums is the stuff of strategy dreams, helping to build the idea of your brand as an authority voice that consumers can trust.
Phew, that was stressful. How did I do?