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The Ultimate Guide to Copywriting for Your Business

Copywriting is a fundamental part of your marketing toolkit. Your business is more than simply the product or service you sell. It is a story that you weave for potential customers: if the story is convincing, leads turn into customers. If the story is phenomenal, those customers become loyal brand ambassadors.

Remember the Mac vs. PC of the mid-2000s? The copywriters behind these commercials and ads built a story: PCs were for stuffy, uptight, middle managers, while Macs were for easy going, laidback, creative types. Many people (even those who on paper might seem to fit the PC archetype) want to see themselves in the Mac story… and so became loyal Apple enthusiasts.

Marketing successes like Apple don’t happen by chance. They’re the result of careful study, research, optimization… and creativity.

In this guide we’ll dig into what copywriting is, different types of copywriting, why it’s important, and what you can expect when working with an agency copywriter.

What is copywriting?
  What is the difference between website vs. online vs. digital copywriting?
  Email copywriting
  Conversion copywriting
  Direct response copywriting
  Retargeting copywriting
  SEO Copywriting
  Sales Funnel Copywriting
Copywriting versus content writing
Why is copywriting important?
  Copywriting checklist
Working with a copywriter
  What does a copywriter do (in digital marketing)?
  Benefits of hiring a copywriter
  How to find the right copywriter
  What to expect when working with a copywriter
Conclusion

What is copywriting?

Copywriting is a wide field. Copywriting can be found anywhere there are audiences to be reached, including:

  • Online
  • In-print (e.g. newspapers, magazines, leaflets, brochures)
  • In physical spaces (e.g. billboards or public transit advertising)
  • Broadcast (TV, radio and increasingly podcasts)

For our purposes, we’re going to focus today on defining copywriting as it relates to digital marketing.

What is the difference between website vs. online vs. digital copywriting?

Cat meme website

You may hear different copywriters use different terms to describe what they do: “website copywriter;” “online copywriter;” “digital copywriter.” Broadly, there’s a lot of crossover between these three terms.

Website copywriting is, simply enough, copy produced for your website.
Online and digital copywriting encompass website copywriting, but also refer to the broader range of copywriting that takes place in digital marketing.

This may include emails, direct response, sales funnels, SEO copywriting and more. We’ll define the common forms of digital copywriting below.

 

Email copywriting

Email copywriting is pretty much what it sounds like: using email to sell to your leads and customers.

Email is one of the more established tools used in digital marketing and it still has one of the best ROIs. For every $1 spent on email marketing, you can expect to earn $38 back. That’s a return of 3800%

Email copywriting typically encompasses different sequences and campaigns that target different outcomes:

  • Welcome Emails: Sent when someone signs up for your email list. Introduce yourself to the customer & begin building a relationship with them.
  • Newsletter: Sent on a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly). Provide value to the customer and establish your company as a trusted authority.
  • Lead Nurturing: Series of emails sent to move warm leads through to making a purchase.
  • Automatic: Triggered by certain behaviours, automatic emails respond to customer behaviours eg. signing up for a webinar, downloading an e-book, leaving an item unbought in their cart, follow up post-purchase, etc.
  • Promo: Sent to highlight and sell a product, service, or sale promotion.
  • Re-engagement: Sent to segments of your list who have not clicked through or engaged within a defined time frame. Intended to reconnect with cold leads.

Email copywriters are skilled in thinking about all the elements of an email marketing campaign including:

  • Crafting subject lines and previews that increase open rates
  • Structuring emails around specific calls-to-action
  • Segmenting your email list and targeting emails
  • Running A/B testing and analyzing results
  • Understanding industry trends
  • Capturing your brand voice

 

Conversion Copywriting

Donald Duck counting money

In marketing, whenever a target takes a specific, desired action they are said to have “converted.” Marketers and copywriters treat conversions as a key performance indicator that signals how well copy is working.

Note: a conversion does not necessarily mean making a sale (although it can).

Conversion may also mean:

  • Clicking a button or link
  • Sharing content to social media
  • Signing up for an event
  • Filling in a survey
  • Downloading a lead magnet
  • Signing up for an email list

Conversion copywriting is laser-focused on increasing your conversion rates. Joanna Wiebe, who is widely credited with coining the phrase, defines conversion copywriting as a three-part process:

  1. Research and discovery
  2. Writing, wireframing, and editing
  3. Validating and experimenting

While all copywriters to some extent use a similar process, for conversion copywriters each stage will be focused on figuring out what will incentivize customers to perform the desired action.

 

Direct response copywriting

If you’re familiar with traditional copywriting, you may think that conversion copywriting sounds very similar to what is often referred to as direct response or direct mail copywriting.

And you’d be right.

Spiderman - Meme Copywriter

Both direct response and conversion copywriting are focused on prompting a response or conversion. Both are results-oriented and highly targeted. When it comes to direct mail, this kind of copywriting (as you can probably guess) takes the form of physically mailed sales leaflets or promotional materials.

What’s the difference between the two types of copywriting? In our experience, it’s pretty nuanced, and mostly about where copywriters do their work.

Conversion copywriting is generally considered to be exclusively linked to digital marketing. Direct response copywriters tend to have experience in traditional marketing but may also work in digital marketing.

 

Retargeting copywriting

Retargeting copywriting is the art of writing pay-per-click and paid social ads that aim to re-engage or re-direct customers.

Here’s an example. Senior copywriter Ailsa Bristow looked at a sneaker brand after hearing about them on a podcast ad.

Now, the following ads appear on her social:

Cariuma product copywriting

Retargeting works by tracking customers who land on your website but don’t convert. According to Neil Patel, most customers won’t convert the first time they land on your website (even if you have the best conversion copywriter on your team!). But rather than seeing those folks as “lost prospects,” retargeting treats them as warm leads.

In the above example, you can see that the copy can be brief when retargeting. But the same techniques all copywriters use are clearly there:

  • Targeted audience: People who have looked at shoes on the Cariuma website
  • Clear call to action: “Shop now”
  • Persuasive language: “forgot something?”; “your favourites”; “free shipping”

The ad is carefully designed to get a customer back to the website and to make a purchase.

SEO Copywriting

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Copywriting is copywriting that seeks to improve a website’s ranking on search engines such as Google.

Backlinko offers a great, simple definition:

“SEO copywriting is writing content that Google can understand. And, at the same time, that content needs to be the type of content that people want to read, link to and share.”

For many people, SEO = keyword stuffing. However, a good SEO copywriter knows that not only is keyword stuffing not the best way to improve how your website ranks, it can in fact harm your business.

Rather, a good SEO Copywriter will target copy around relevant keywords, but also focus on the following:

  • Readability
  • Engagement
  • Authority
  • Low Bounce Rates
  • Links and Backlinks
  • Click-through Rates

All of these factors will impact your SEO and a good copywriter won’t resort to black hat strategies that may damage your reputation.

 

Sales Funnel Copywriting

The Sales Funnel describes the process you move people through when selling your product or service:

Sparked Digital - Sales funnel

Sales funnels are at the core of most marketing strategies, and many people are familiar with the principles of AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action).

However, putting AIDA into practice takes skill. That’s where a sales funnel copywriter comes in.

A sales funnel copywriter will craft the copy at each stage of the funnel to move prospects through the funnel through to conversion. They’ll often use many of the tools we’ve already talked about elsewhere such as email, web copy, paid social etc.

Copywriting versus content writing

Before we move on, a quick word about the difference between copywriting and content writing.

Copywriting and content writing are two closely linked fields. They often draw on the same skills and are used in tandem with one another.

However, there are important differences to understand when you are choosing whether you need a copywriter vs. a content writer.

  • Purpose: The primary purpose of copywriting is to sell (or convert). The primary purpose of content writing is to build brand authority and inform the reader.
  • Form: Copywriters usually work on short-form writing such as ads, emails, web copy, landing pages, etc. Content writers tend to work on long-form writing such as white papers, blogs and articles, ebooks, reports, etc.
  • Analytics: Copywriters’ work can often be tracked over the short-term (data related to the effectiveness of an ad, email campaign, etc). Content writers’ work tends to be part of a longer-term strategy, often building around evergreen content linked to SEO targets.

Both copywriters and content writers are:

  • Laser-focused on the audience
  • Tuned into your brand voice and style
  • Careful researchers
  • Informed by data

You will often find that many writers work across both copywriting and content writing, due to the interlinked nature of the two disciplines.

Why is copywriting important?

Investing in copywriting delivers strategic benefits to your business and is a key component of any marketing strategy. Why?

  • Copywriting drives sales. Good copy will turn your product or service into a “must-have” by emphasizing the benefits to the customer. Copywriting can be used at each stage of the sales funnel, and for other critical conversions you want to incentivize.
  • Copywriting builds customer loyalty. When done right, copywriting has the capability to help you build strong relationships with your customers. Personalized email sequences. Targeted and useful blog content. A brand voice that resonates. All of these factors and more can help customers feel that they know, like, and trust your company.
  • Copywriting sets you apart. The way you communicate is one way you can set yourself apart from your competitors. If you’re in a crowded market, eye catching headlines, clickable emails, and snappy ad campaigns can all be part of breaking through the noise and getting noticed.

Copywriting checklist

Given the importance of copywriting, how do you know if your copy is currently working or not?

We’ve put together a checklist that will walk you through how to assess your copy. Take any piece of copy or content, and check whether it meets the following criteria:

  1. When I read this copy, I can easily identify who the target audience is
  2. This copy clearly identifies the benefits of our product or service for our users
  3. This copy differentiates us from our competitors
  4. I can easily scan this copy and understand the core messaging
  5. The copy is well formatted and laid out according to best practices for digital marketing
  6. I feel like a human wrote this copy not a machine or corporate committee
  7. This copy directly addresses the audience (uses “you”)
  8. This copy is free from jargon or overly technical language that doesn’t speak to the audience
  9. This copy is free from cliches
  10. This copy is concise, clear, and direct
  11. There are no grammatical or spelling errors in this copy
  12. This copy includes persuasive elements, such as social proof or data
  13. I can clearly identify the “Call to Action” and it is easy to understand what next steps the customer is asked to take
  14. The CTA is set up to make it easy to commit, either through offering a free quote, consult, trial or a guarantee

If you are assessing a piece of currently existing copy (such as your web copy or a currently running ad) you will also want to dig into your analytics as this will give you insight into how well your copy is performing.

 

Working with a copywriter

kermit typing quickly

As is probably now clear, copywriters do more than just tap away at their keyboards all day. A good copywriter is a strategic partner for your business who will produce copy that aligns with your growth and revenue goals.

 

What does a copywriter do (in digital marketing)?

We’ve covered some of the many different types of copywriting that are common in digital marketing.

Most copywriters follow a detailed process as they produce copy.

Here at Sparked, we take the following steps:

  • AUDIT: We examine your existing copy, brand and voice guidelines. We also study your analytics and establish a baseline that we’re working from.
  • STRATEGIZE: We ask you lots of questions. At this stage we want to pin down the desired goals for the copy and draw on your expertise. We’ll also conduct research at this stage, and offer our insights about how best to meet your targets.
  • CREATE: We write, edit, and refine our copy. We walk you through what we’ve created and the decisions we’ve made. We’ll edit again as necessary based on your feedback.
  • LAUNCH: Your copy goes live.
  • OPTIMIZE: We track relevant analytics, report on A/B testing, and refine our strategies for later iterations and future campaigns.

Benefits of hiring a copywriter

We know that growing businesses often have lean marketing teams and no dedicated copywriter on staff. But there are tangible benefits of hiring a copywriter for small and medium sized businesses:

  • Work with a highly-skilled professional who can bring technical expertise to complement your internal resources
  • Benefit from continually updated skills and knowledge (critical for the fast moving digital marketing world)
  • Free up your existing team to focus on your core business
  • Gain insight into your audience, their behaviour, and habits
  • Build trust and authority with your audience
  • Implement targeted campaigns backed by data
  • Receive excellent ROI

Hiring an agency can have additional benefits, especially for small to medium businesses. Agency copywriters give you access to experts in their field, without you taking on the costs and risks associated with hiring a full-time, permanent team member.

 

How to find the right copywriter

If we’ve convinced you that you want to hire a copywriter you’ll want to make sure you find someone who is the right fit for your business.

Here’s some things to look out for:

  • Do they have experience working in your industry?
  • Do they have experience working on the types of copy you need produced?
  • Do they have a portfolio or samples they can share with you? Does the work meet your standards?
  • Can they point to the ROI they have generated for previous clients?
  • Do they book an initial call with you? Do they ask insightful questions about your business and goals?
  • How much do they charge?

Make sure you avoid copywriters who raise red flags, including:

🚩 Their own website is poorly written or filled with errors
🚩 They are unwilling to provide samples or a portfolio
🚩 They dodge your questions, leave your emails unanswered
🚩 They are only interested in word count and don’t ask any questions about your business (most professional copywriters do not charge by the word)
🚩 They cannot tell you how their copy will meet your goals
🚩 Their plans seem outdated
🚩 They are reluctant to meet or have a phone call with you
🚩 They do not appear familiar with SEO

Willy Wonka meme

What to expect when working with a copywriter

At Sparked, we believe that bringing on an external copywriter should feel like bringing on a trusted partner. If you choose to work with us, you can expect a team who wants to understand your business and goals, and has the skills and expertise to help you grow.

When you’re working with a copywriter as part of your digital marketing, you should expect:

  • Someone who is familiar with user behaviour and how copy interacts with UX and design
  • Someone who is willing and able to optimize content based on analytics
  • Someone who can implement SEO best practices
  • Someone who commits to doing the groundwork and research necessary to get results

In order to have a successful partnership with a copywriter, you should also be prepared to invest some time in clarifying what you need. This may include:

  • Drafting or updating your buyer personas
  • Preparing any relevant market research you have available (or being prepared to allow the copywriter to undertake new market research)
  • Defining your goals and objectives for the project or campaign
  • Knowing your scope, budget, and timeline

Don’t worry, however, if you don’t have everything figured out before your first meeting. You can expect a professional copywriter to walk you through a process to discover everything they need to know to get the job done.

 

Conclusion

We all learned how to write in grade school. You may be a highly skilled writer. It can be tempting to think your copy is something you can just DIY.

But as we hope we’ve shown throughout this guide, copywriting isn’t just about having good writing skills or being creative (although those are certainly prerequisites). It’s also not about swanning around, drinking scotch, and waiting for the genius idea to arrive, a la Don Draper.

Don Draper winking

In digital marketing, copywriters draw on research, technical skills, and a highly-developed knowledge of how to write for the web. This helps them build a coherent story around your brand that is irresistible to your target audience.

While these skills can be learned, you may not want to divert your team from the day jobs in order to learn how to become proficient copywriters. That’s when bringing on a copywriter can save you time, boost your conversions, and make your life easier.

At Sparked, our copywriters are part of a multidisciplinary, tight-knit team. That means we can always provide copywriting as part of an integrated digital marketing offering, where you’ll have access to experts across copywriting, marketing strategy, SEO, UX and more.

Want to learn more about how Sparked can bring a professional touch to your copy? Contact us and one of our friendly team members will be in touch soon.

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