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The Ultimate Guide to Copywriting

Whether you are a copywriter or are looking to hire one, it’s easy to misunderstand the role of this broad art form. How can you use copywriting efficiently when it covers everything from brochures and posters to social media posts and webpages? Make no mistake: Copywriting is done to sell. Once you conceive of all copywriting as a means of making sales through the written word, it’s much easier to envision its role in your business — or write effective copy yourself.

A Basic Glossary of Copywriting Terms

Before we dive into what makes copy effective and how copywriting works, let’s go over some basic terminology:

Copy: the set of words used in an advertisement or promotional materials.

Tone: the overall feeling of the copy, e.g. authoritative, conversational, formal, casual

Voice: the unique combination of words and structure that expresses the author’s (or company’s) personality

Lede: the opening sentence or paragraph of a piece of copy; usually, where the author identifies the problem faced by the consumer

Hook: the sentence or paragraph that nabs the reader’s attention, perhaps by teasing a solution or relating to the consumer in a customized way.

CTA: short for “call-to-action,” a short sentence or phrase that convinces the reader to make an action (usually a purchase)

Types of Copywriting Products

Copywriting is an umbrella term for a wide variety of products that are used in different formats and platforms. Copywriters usually specialize in one or more of these products. Here are the most common ones.

Product description: A blend of descriptive and persuasive copy that accompanies a product listing on an e-commerce site or catalog. Product descriptions should emphasize the unique selling propositions (USPs) of the product while relating to the consumer’s problem they’re trying to solve.

Slogan:  A concise, compelling sentence or phrase that accompanies a marketing campaign. Slogans appear prominently on ads of various types. They typically offer a value proposition to the consumer, such as by helping them envision a better future with the product or service that’s being sold. 

Tagline: A short, memorable phrase that accompanies a brand name. Taglines differ from slogans in that they are linked to the overall company name and don’t change from campaign to campaign. For example, Coca-Cola’s tagline is “Open Happiness,” but one of their slogans (for Coke Zero) is “Real Coca-Cola Taste and Zero Calories.”

Internet Ad: A set of copy, including a title, description, and link, to be entered into digital advertising platforms. This copy usually accompanies an image and must be short, to-the-point, and highly compelling. There are character limits that copywriters must work within, and the copy needs to be strong and direct to nab the attention of people browsing the Web.

Landing Page: A set of paragraphs and one or more CTAs to be formatted as a designed webpage. Landing page copy typically blends a brief description of a campaign with quotes, testimonials, or other social, proof. The CTA is entered at a strategic point in the layout.

The Business of Copywriting

Copywriters should expect to constantly grow and refine their skills. As new social networks and digital technologies emerge and new generations come into the market, copywriters need to be flexible enough to accommodate changing formats and audiences. Ideally, a copywriter specializes in one or more products in one or more markets. For example, you might focus on writing product descriptions for beauty companies, or taglines for marketing agencies. 

When hiring a copywriter, provide them with as much information as possible to guide their work. It’s their job to communicate your company’s message, but you’ll need to make sure that they have your brand kit and any other relevant information. If you do this, you’re likely to get matching copy even if multiple writers work on your materials. 

Copywriting is a robust, flexible form of writing that helps your business make sales. It’s worth the time and investment to do your research and craft compelling copy that sells. Remember, unlike other forms of writing, copywriting is meant to convince a prospect to go from wayward visitor to loyal customer!

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