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Copywriting 101:
The Ultimate Guide to Creating Effective Copy


Margarita LoktionovaMar 03, 202316 min read

Copywriting is at the heart of marketing and sales. It highlights benefits, answers objections, and sells products and services. Like a crocodile biting at your foot, it’s snappy, engaging, and—above all—persuasive.

This guide will give you everything you need to know about copywriting, including a number of useful tricks and techniques you can use.

We’ll also look at the labor market and what it means for you as an employer or copywriter.

Read on to find out more in this Copywriting 101.

What Is Copywriting?

What Is Copywriting?

Copywriting is the strategic art of using words to influence, persuade, and ultimately guide readers or users toward a specific action.

Whether it's a click, a sign-up, a purchase, or any other desired outcome, effective copywriting is the driving force behind these actions.

Let’s find out what copywriting means in marketing, what function copywriters perform, and when your business might need their help.

What Is Copywriting in Marketing?

Copywriting is sales in written form: a persuasive type of writing that attracts the reader’s attention, holds their interest, and sparks or taps into a desire or need. It then tries to get a sale.

Copywriting can be found in newspapers and magazines, in online publications, and in the scripts of radio and television commercials.

The bottom line: If you want someone to buy something from you online, hire a copywriter.

What Is a Copywriter?

What Is a Copywriter?

Copywriters are pro writers who create messages that turn heads. They connect directly with a company’s target audience and are laser-focused on selling with their words.

Sure, copywriters are great writers. But they are also often experts in neuromarketing, psychology, sales, and rhetoric.

According to Semrush research, the top five responsibilities of a copywriter are to:

  • Reflect the brand voice and brand guidelines
  • Develop long-form and short-form content
  • Collaborate closely with other teams
  • Build a unique tone of voice
  • Brainstorm and develop creative concepts
When Is a Copywriter Needed?

When Is a Copywriter Needed?

While many businesses and other organizations are tempted to produce their own copy, there is a lot to be said for hiring professionals.

When you need to refresh old marketing methods that are no longer working, copywriters will be able to get your messaging back on track.

Smaller companies especially can benefit from using outside experts. For them, it’s often more economical to work with someone on a project-by-project basis than paying a full-time salary.

Other times to bring copywriters on board to work with you include:

  • During new publicity campaigns
  • When creating a brand voice for your business
  • When creating high-value landing pages
  • When producing high volumes of content and campaigns
Why Is Copywriting Important?

Why Is Copywriting Important?

Effective copywriting can have a dramatic impact on lead generation for your business.

High-performing CTAs, ads, and other assets will lead to a lower cost per lead and a higher conversion rate.

Think about ad campaigns that don’t perform well and end up draining your budget. In many cases, this happens because the copy is not powerful or relevant enough.

But what if you could get the maximum value of every dollar instead?

Besides, high-quality copywriting ensures that the message is delivered the right way that resonates with your audience.

What’s the Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing?

What’s the Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing?

Though copywriting and content writing often go together, there are some differences between them.

Content marketing can be found in blogs, podcasts, and videos, among others. Copywriting is often seen in sales pages, ads, and targeted emails.

Content Writing vs. Copywriting

Content writing is when businesses create valuable (e.g., entertaining or educational) content. This might include articles, guides, social posts, emails, and other formats which can be easily shared.

Their aim is to build trust, answer your customers’ questions, and convert prospects into clients or customers—and also to keep existing customers coming back for more.

Copywriting is focused on writing persuasive calls to action. These are designed to push customers into making a specific decision. This might be buying something or signing up for an email subscription.

So is copywriting marketing or sales? While it still falls under the category of marketing, it certainly is closer to a sales skill.

Types of Copywriting

Types of Copywriting

There are many different schools of copywriting. The following is a brief list of different copywriting disciplines:

Marketing Copywriting

Marketing copywriting is used to deliver clear and succinct messages in a voice that sounds natural to the particular brand.

This type of copywriting can be found on web sales pages, TV, and anywhere else words are being used to sell products.

Here’s an example of a funny and attention-grabbing billboard ad from Oatly:

Copywriting example - Oatly

Social Media Copywriting

Copywriting for social media sees writers hone messages for companies’ social media pages. Sometimes this means writing messages with character limits, video copy, or captions for photos. No matter the format, social media copywriting requires sticking to the brand voice and considering platform specifics.

Here’s an example of an engaging social media post by Unbounce:

Copywriting example - Unbounce

Brand Copywriting

Brand copywriting is used to establish your organization’s origin story. Also known as brand messaging, it communicates your vision, ideals, and values clearly to your target audience.

For example, Patagonia does a great job sharing the background story of its founder to translate its mission:

Copywriting example - Patagonia

Direct Response Copywriting

Also known as conversion copywriting, direct response copywriting is all about inspiring the intended audience to do something once they have ingested the information.

Very often the main goal is focused around buying something.

But it can also push readers to sign up for a newsletter or give a social media follow. Or perhaps take advantage of a free promotion.

Here’s an example of a product sign-up banner from Buffer:

Copywriting example - Buffer

Technical Copywriting

Technical copywriting is used for writing marketing materials, such as case studies, brochures, and product guides, for technical industries.

These could include construction, manufacturing, or engineering.

It requires copywriters to have very in-depth knowledge of their subject field.

The following example from JetBrains showcases how technical copywriters work with advanced concepts to create landing pages and other assets.

Technical copywriting example - JetBrains

Public Relations (PR) Copywriting

Copywriting for public relations, often simply called PR, is focused on promoting, informing, and influencing the target audience.

That audience can often be made up of journalists and other members of the media.

Your aim is to get them to amplify the message by writing about the company, product, or service.

Any of these examples of press releases from PR Newswire can give you an idea of what this type of copywriting entails.

PR copywriting example - Aetna

Thought Leadership Copywriting

Thought leadership copywriting is often produced by ghostwriters who are creating articles on behalf of founders, company leaders, and topical experts.

The aim is to promote the named author as an expert in their field and establish their reputation either among the industry or target audience.

This type of copywriting can also be seen as content writing.

Here’s an example of a thought leadership article published by Refinitiv:

Thought leadership copywriting example - Refinitiv

Email Copywriting

Email copywriting is like direct response copywriting, but delivered to the audience’s inbox.

Copywriters creating emails have to produce sharp subject lines. These get readers to open the message in the first place.

The rest of the copy aims to convince them to make a purchase or commit to another action.

Here’s an example of a marketing email by Uber:

Email copywriting example - Uber

What Is Copywriting for SEO?

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, is the process of improving website traffic, often by using target keywords and specific search intent in text.

SEO copywriters produce copy to both drive traffic and push readers to take a specific action.

Unlike other SEO practices, such as blogging or content marketing, SEO copywriting is used to build leads that generate sales rather than purely focusing on traffic.

For example, it can involve creating copy for landing pages optimized for specific keywords.

Here’s an example of a landing page by Mailchimp optimized for the “email marketing platform” keyword.

Copywriting for SEO, example - Mailchimp

The page lists the benefits of the product and offers a way to sign up to try it—classic SEO copywriting.

Top 6 Copywriting Best Practices and Strategies

Top 6 Copywriting Best Practices and Strategies

Like baking a cake, if you want to be a successful copywriter, you need to prepare and follow a recipe.

The following is a list of six of the most important tips for writing strong, clear copy.

1. Know Your Audience

You’ve got to know who you’re writing for. What are your audience’s buttons? How can you push them into following a call to action?

Start with studying all materials you have available about the target audience—e.g., data from surveys, customer interviews, buyer personas, and segmentation.

You can also run additional research.

First, you can analyze social media platforms, read updates in Facebook and LinkedIn groups, and follow Reddit and Quora threads.

For instance, imagine you’re writing copy for marketers working in healthcare.

Head to LinkedIn and search for “healthcare marketing” groups and join them to check questions and comments posted by the members.

How to understand you audience by analyzing social media groups

Regularly checking copy created by the competition can also help you get a better idea of what clicks with your customers.

You can use tools like Semrush’s EyeOn to keep track of all content updates by your competitors.

For example, you can see all new ads published by your rivals and analyze their copy.

How to analyze your competitors' ad copy

Finally, there’s a lot of useful audience data on various analytics platforms.

For example, Google Analytics and social media analytics can show you who is on your website or social channels.

You can discover their location, interests, age, and gender, among other things. This helps you better target your copy.

As a starting point, head to Reports >> User >> User Attributes >> Overview

How to find information about your audience on Google

Another method, which is especially essential for SEO copywriting, is to research target keywords.

It’ll help you understand what questions your customers ask and what things they’re searching for.

You can do it by using tools like the Keyword Magic Tool.

For instance, imagine you’re writing a landing page for a brand selling hiking boots. The tool will show you different keywords you may want to include in the copy.

How to find and analyze keywords

Such analysis feeds your writing and helps you connect with your audience on a deeper level.

2. Focus on Benefits and Value

Your copy should show users how you can solve their problems—and why your product or service is the best option for that.

Move away from simply highlighting features, and focus on demonstrating the end value.

Features are technical aspects of your product or service (e.g., the shampoo is sulfate-free).

Benefits are the specific advantages that your customer will get due to your product’s features (e.g., the shampoo will work great for people with sensitive skin).

For example, in their “Shot on iPhone” campaign, Apple showcases the actual pictures taken with their smartphones.

Instead of talking about a “high-resolution camera with advanced image stabilization,” they demonstrate the result you can get: a high-quality image.

Copywriting ad example - Apple

3. Write Clearly

The best copywriting is never going to win literary prizes.

It has to be clear, concise, and use simple language.

Use common spellings and avoid exaggeration.

And—where confronted with a choice—always pick common words over rarer, complicated ones.

GoodBetter
With so many achievements under her belt, you would be forgiven for thinking that there’s never been a more fortuitous professional - but in truth, she’s earned her success the hard way.Her considerable achievements come down to skill and not luck, as you might think.

4. Keep It Lean

Editors also tell copywriters to keep their copy “tight.” That usually means:

  • No unnecessary adjectives
  • Short, sharp sentences
  • Clear layout

Every word must be useful. Superfluous words should be deleted for the sake of clarity.

GoodBetter
If you’ve ever thought about buying really good running shoes, then look no further: These airy numbers will give you the edge over the competition, no matter how fast they are.Thinking about buying awesome running shoes?

Airy, fast: These ones give you the edge.

5. Use the Second Person

Try to use “you,” not “we,” in copywriting.

Don’t tell the reader what your company can do for them. Tell them what they can benefit from and how they can have their problem solved.

For example, instead of telling a potential customer that “we can deliver your goods in 24 hours,” say “you can have your purchase in 24 hours.”

See how this email from Canva speaks directly to the reader with “your”:

Copywriting example - Canva

6. Include a Call to Action

Copywriting without a call to action (CTA) is a waste of words.

Make sure your copy includes a call to action that readers can act on, whatever that may be.

For example, you could urge them to buy something, get a free trial, sign up for something, or speak to a salesperson.

Your CTA should:

  • Be easy to find and understand (e.g., “Get a free trial”)
  • Showcase a clear benefit (e.g., “Get a 50% discount now”)

See how this Web Summit email hooks the reader with a sale.

It shows there is scarcity (only 1,000 tickets available) and underlines it with “when they’re gone, they’re gone.” This is a powerful way of sparking a person into action.

The call to action? It’s simple but unmistakable: “Enter the Sale.”

Copywriting example - Websummit

If you find yourself short on time or need inspiration, use the free Semrush Paraphrasing Tool.

It’ll help you rephrase and improve pieces of copy and adapt your text to various channels.

Rewrite your existing text for multiple platforms in a single click. Create high-quality, engaging copy with tone and readability on track. Stick to 3 – 500 words for best results.

Word Count

0/500

Readability

None

Tone of voice

None
Top 7 Copywriting Techniques that Get Results

Top 7 Copywriting Techniques that Get Results

When it comes to writing copy, there are lots of ways to make it catchier.

Here are the most powerful:

1. Use Power Words

Power words like “free,” “now,” or “discover” can help push readers into following your call to action as quickly as possible. Employ these words to be more persuasive.

This list of power words from David Hodder will give you some inspiration.

For example, this is a sample promotion copy by Uber:

"Get your first meal FREE! Order NOW and discover a world of delicious possibilities."

2. Be Emotive

Do not mistake concise copy with boring, cold copy.

Use emotive language to make readers feel some connection to the product or service you are writing about.

Get your readers to laugh, cry, feel empathy, or even feel the fear of missing out, and that’s half the battle won already.

In the example below, the copy is empathetic, using the phrase “a little help.” It’s also aspirational: “Incredible job.”

We also see it as very human/friendly using the conversational “We can so help with that.” For example:

Copywriting example - using emotive language

3. Leverage Social Proofing

“Social proof” is a phenomenon where consumers are more likely to pick the business with more customers, following the herd.

In copywriting, you can do this by leveraging positive reviews, testimonials, case studies, or influencer endorsement, among other things.

This landing page from Sleep.me does a great job of this. It highlights a review from a real-life person and leverages various media (text and video) to translate the message.

Copywriting example - adding a social proof, Sleep.me

4. Embrace the Power of “Yes”

Questions where the answer is yes, especially used in multiples, have been proven to boost sales.

Find out what you can ask your readers that see them answer “yes” every time.

“Have you ever gotten home from a long day at work and just wanted to put your feet up?”

Yes. We thought so.

Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan is a great example of using the power of “yes” to motivate the audience.

See it for yourself: "Ready to crush your personal best? Just Do It."

5. Write Engaging Headlines

The headline for an article, sales page, email, ad, or any other piece of copy can seem like a big deal.

After all, it represents the first bit of your copy that readers—and potential customers—will engage with.

According to Copywritingcourse.com, this headline on a piece of direct mail was the most opened piece of mail for a company called Boardroom, for over three years.

Copywriting example - engaging headlines

We can see why; after all, it hints at a secret you definitely want to know. It would be hard to let this letter go unread.

So, how can you achieve the same effect in your own writing?

Here are some techniques:

BLUF (Bottom line up front): Headlines should allude to the most important part of your message. Make sure that the reader knows what the content is going to be about right away.

Keep it simple: The best headlines get straight to the point. Don’t over-complicate things. Here’s a great example of simplicity in action from Finimize:

Copywriting example - Finimize

Let the facts do the talking: Have you won an award? Or been featured in a big media piece? Make the event or news the focus of your headline and move on to the body of your copy.

Make it personal: Find a way for your headlines to resonate with readers on a personal level to make them engaged with what you want to say.

6. Follow a Copywriting Formula

Copywriting formulas help writers with a framework.

There are lots of good copywriting formulas that act as great foundations on which to build your articles. Here are five frameworks you can use:

AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action

This formula works by grabbing a reader's attention and feeding them useful information to keep them interested.

Then, using that interest, the writer inspires desire within their audience to push them into following the eventual call to action.

Copywriting ad example - AIDA framework

This fun print ad from 1974 follows the AIDA structure. Found on Swipe File, it asks a compelling question, compares the Triumph with other sports cars, and then goes into a sales pitch.

BAB – Before-After-Bridge

This is a simple structure that shows readers how your product or service can change their life.

First you describe the problem or need the audience faces, then what life is like after they use your product or service.

The final bridge section describes how your product or service made solving that problem or meeting that need possible.

Here’s a brilliant BAB example from Basecamp.

FAB – Features, Advantages, Benefits

This formula is very straightforward. First you highlight a feature of your product or service, then describe its advantages.

Afterward, hit your readers with the benefits on offer to push them into taking the plunge on what you are offering.

SSS – Star, Story, Solution

This is a great formula for making copy that resonates with readers on a personal level. First introduce the main character—the real or fictional “star”—and tell a relatable story about the problems they encounter.

Then you can lay out how your product or service provided the solution the star of the story was looking for.

The 4 Cs – Clear, Concise, Compelling, Credible

This framework is incredibly useful and serves as a strong reminder when writing any copy.

Following this framework can keep your copy easy to understand, with good tight sentences. It also reminds you to build strong arguments backed by credible data or other information.

We love this example of a sales page from Great Gym Land. Not only are the headlines concise, but it walks you through the benefits and answers objections logically. We nearly signed up.

Copywriting example - The 4 Cs

See the full page on Swipefile.

7. Use Images

Images make written content more attractive and less dreary than mere text.

Visuals grab readers’ attention and help you tell the story in fewer words.

Copywriting example - using visuals

Source: PETA

How To Write Effective Calls to Action

How To Write Effective Calls to Action

Calls to action are arguably the most important part of copywriting. Here are some tips on how to craft them.

Make It Urgent

Provide a compelling reason as to why your audience should take the plunge now.

You can use power words and grammatical tools like exclamation marks to provide that final push to turn a reader into a customer.

Offer an Incentive

Get your marketing team on board to see what you can add to sweeten the deal.

Incentives could include discounts on products or services or even just access to helpful content.

Think about what you can offer.

Show Your Worth

The best calls to action include the product or service’s value proposition.

Make sure you lay out to readers exactly what they will get by signing up to what you are offering them.

Here’s a clear example of a before and after comparison, including the value (money saved) from Clixlo:

Copywriting example - Clixlo
Top 3 Copywriting Examples

Top 3 Copywriting Examples

Let’s look at three more amazing copywriting examples for your inspiration.

BarkBox

BarkBox is a service providing dog toy subscription boxes.

Thanks to deep knowledge of their audience, they create copy that’s highly relatable.

BarkBox uses language and tone of voice that resonates with their customers. It’s funny, lively, and makes you want to click that button.

Copywriting example - BarkBox

MeUndies

MeUndies is a premium underwear brand known for its fun and quirky copywriting.

Their product descriptions use playful language that resonates with the brand’s customers.

For example:

“Throw caution to the wind in exchange for a Pack of super-soft Undies at the absolute best value.”

Copywriting example - MeUndies

Lattice

Lattice is a SaaS company offering a people management platform.

Despite being a B2B business, they use a friendly, enthusiastic, and affectionate tone of voice.

In their copy, Lattice talks about embracing the most important assets of any organization: their people.

They highlight the most important benefit of an HR platform that often gets overlooked—the fact that your employees will actually love it.

Copywriting example - Lattice
How To Become a Copywriter

How To Become a Copywriter

Copywriting takes hard work to perfect but is open to all manner of people. Let’s see how you can become a freelance or in-house copywriter.

1. Research whether you need a degree

Research by Semrush found that almost a quarter of copywriting job ads sought candidates with a bachelor’s degree.

Even so, those degrees can come from many different writing backgrounds.

They include degrees in marketing, creative writing, English, and journalism, to name but a few.

Statistics about the copywriting profession - degrees

However, it’s not a necessity to have a degree to become a great copywriter.

There are many job offers without this requirement, and it’s especially true for freelance work.

2. Commit to improving your writing and your profile

There are multiple ways you can enhance your writing skills and become more competitive. For example:

  • Read. Read all the examples of copywriting you have time to consume. Read books from successful writers on what works for them. Read news articles to get a sense of writing clearly and concisely.
  • Pick a speciality. As we explored earlier, there are many different schools of copywriting. Don’t be a jack of all trades—pick the option you like most and try to specialize in that field.
  • Build your reputation over time. Start simply, taking jobs from job boards and other websites like Copify you can bid on. From there, you can start building your reputation and working with clients directly, cutting out the middleman and working on more ambitious—and more lucrative—projects.

3. Develop a broader set of skills

According to our research, in-house copywriters have various responsibilities beyond simply writing text.

Statistics about the copywriting profession - responsibilities

For example, they also need to research ideas, understand the company’s marketing strategy, develop brand voice, and work with SEO-related tasks.

We also found a number of key copywriting skills that appeared the most in copywriting job postings in the U.S. The top 10 skills we identified were:

Statistics about the copywriting profession - copywriting skills

Of course, lots of other skills can be very helpful for becoming a good copywriter.

These include use of Google Analytics or Excel, among other programs.

4. Create a portfolio

Having a good portfolio is a must for any copywriter.

As you progress through your career, include various types and formats of copywriting projects you’ve performed.

You can use various formats and tools to create your portfolio. For instance:

It’s also a good idea to showcase the results and metrics. These could be, for example:

  • Rankings
  • Engagement
  • Conversion rates
  • Traffic and impressions
  • Leads

5. Apply for in-house job or become a freelancer

  1. There are several ways you can grow your copywriting career.For example, you can start applying for in-house jobs in brands and agencies.Or, you can choose to become a freelancer. To do this, check out project offers on platforms like Upwork and Fiverr.It’s also a good idea to grow your LinkedIn presence and increase your overall social media visibility.

How Much Do Copywriters Make?: Copywriter Salaries

Copywriters can earn good money, especially compared to other writing professions, such as journalists.

According to data from Glassdoor, the average copywriter salary comes in at just over $51,700 per year in the U.S.

Semrush also found that the top salaries in the field maxed out at around $175,000 per year.

How To Hire a Qualified Copywriter

How To Hire a Qualified Copywriter

Hiring a copywriter can help you achieve various goals, from ranking higher in search to generating a higher advertising ROI.

Depending on your needs, you’ll opt for hiring an in-house specialist or working with freelancers and agencies.

Pros of hiring in-house copywriters:

  • Great when you consistently produce large amounts of copy
  • Helps you maintain a specific tone of voice in every content piece
  • Saves time on training and education and ensures higher quality
  • Allows you to work with specialists who know your product and audience

Pros of hiring freelance/agency copywriters

  • Works well when you produce content sporadically
  • Allows you to experiment with various specialists and project types
  • Lets you access copywriters with specific knowledge in different niches
  • Provides more flexibility and potentially lower cost

How To Find a Copywriter

You can use websites like LinkedIn to look for in-house and freelance copywriters.

Besides making a job posting, you can simply search for relevant keywords and reach out to people. For example:

How to look for a niche copywriter

You can also use freelance websites like Upwork and Fiverr and post your projects there.

That’s a Wrap

That’s a Wrap

So there it is, the ultimate guide to copywriting. If you could take away only four things from this guide, they should be:

  • Know your audience
  • Write clearly
  • Include a call to action
  • And engage your readers’ emotions

Now, take these hints and tips and make them your own. You’ll soon be writing brilliant copy and forging a career as a great writer. Good luck!

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