Category Archives: Copywriting Thoughts

What do you understand by copywriting?

There are many writers who cannot/do not draw a distinction between copywriting and content writing. Originally the word “copywriting” comes from advertising whereas, content writing, as far as I know, is a more recent terminology mostly used for creating online content. Although I might be wrong because even for newspapers, magazines and even course books, what you do is write content. Anyway, about copywriting.

Copywriting is basically content written to promote a product, a service or an idea. Copywriting can be done for a website, for a radio advertisement, for a print publication advertisement and for television. In copywriting you have to come up with highly engaging, entertaining and contextual content whose primary purpose is to increase sales or promote an idea. Writing blogs and information articles cannot be called copywriting, but it surely is content writing. Even on your website whatever content you publish that prompts your visitors to do business with you is copywriting, including your sales copy.

The thought came to my mind that although I’m writing content for various business websites, I never draw a distinction between a home page, the primary pages and information pages, although I charge more for the homepage and the primary pages (product descriptions, services, profile, about us etc.). A big reason perhaps is that the client is not bothered about what I call it. He or she simply wants text that helps him or her sell more. But if the client really wants to appreciate the criticality of the content he or she is publishing on his or her website, then he or she must understand the fundamental difference between content writing and copywriting.

Copywriting is about selling

As I mentioned above, the primary purpose of copywriting is to sell/promote a product, a service or an idea. It can exist in the form of a story that eventually leads its audience to the final goal – purchase of a product or a service or an endorsement of an idea. If you simply produce text then it is called sales copy and when you write it for audiovisual advertisements you call it a script. Since copywriting helps businesses sell, some copywriters can ask exorbitant amounts of money for coming up with even a couple of paragraphs. Copywriting does the job of educating the audience and selling the idea at the same time, although selling the idea is of utmost importance.

Content writing is about informing

From the perspective of websites, content writing paves way for a more effective copywriting, or vice versa. You first inform your audience with content writing, and then you sell your product or service with effective and compelling copywriting.

So which is important, copywriting or content writing?

Going by the amount of money charged by copywriters, I would say copywriting is much more important compared to content writing, but this doesn’t mitigate the role of content writing. If your audience is not informed it is all the more difficult for your copywriting to work.

Am I a copywriter or a content writer?

I can wear both the hats, I mean that’s why I’ve been writing sales copies and I always write the homepage when I take on a content writing assignment. On the homepage the primary purpose of your content is to engage the visitors, inform them as concisely as possible, and get them hooked to your website. The text must be informative as well as entertaining. It must be created keeping in mind the core audience (techy, geeky, spendthrift, miserly, etc.). It must be able to convince. I manage to achieve that.

Is it true that an online copywriter shouldn’t charge according to the time he or she spends on the project?

I recently read on another blog post (by a relatively well-known copywriter) that online copywriters commit a fraud by charging or quoting their clients according to the time they are going to spend on the projects. I think it depends on the situation and the kind of project you are working on. I mean you cannot impose your own way of working on other people and if they refuse to toe the line you label them as frauds.

Of course a well-established copywriter charges less for the amount of writing he or she does and more for the value he or she brings to the table. But not every copywriter or content writer is in that position and neither does every client understand this concept. They simply want their writing jobs done. This is not an ideal situation but then we don’t live in an ideal world.

Clients come to you either through reference or directly. If they know you and if they are aware of your reputation (and your rates) they consciously make a decision whether they want to work with you or not. In such a situation when they are paying you they are actually paying for your work. They want you to deliver them what you’re known to deliver to other clients. They are not paying you for the time you’re spending on their projects, they are paying you for your experience and reputation. In such a case it doesn’t make sense to talk in terms of an hourly rate.

On the other hand if your clients come to you by simply looking for a copywriter or a content writer you both have to quantify the work in terms of number of pages and number of hours and there is nothing wrong in that. The clients aren’t bothered what a big shot copywriter you are; they just want a couple of pages written and if you don’t write them they can easily get them written by that guy in China or Pakistan, all said and done.

Does it mean in terms of your career you put yourself in a vulnerable position? Certainly and I don’t advise you to get in a position where you can be easily replaced. But hey, even if you are currently in such a position the main point is getting as much work as you can and delivering quality to your clients even if you have to work on a single page.

Then gradually you build your brand and people begin to recognize you. Once they know what value you can deliver you can charge for the value instead of the effort you’re putting in.

10 ways of generating interest in your readers

If both the roads are safe and the drive smooth, would you take the shorter way or the longer one? Time is short and sweet, definitely the shorter one, most of us would agree. Longer distances are good if you are on a vacation, you want to tune yourself with the nature and spend some quality time driving. Now, think your reader is the driver of the car and the roads the writing. If you are penning down something for the daily news, columns about technology, climate, retail etc, reports, etc – your reader will like the short road. For novel, thesis, poetry, stories or sometimes elaborate literature articles – the longer route with minute details, flowery language is the key. It’s as simple as GIVE WHAT THEY WANT. So, here we go, giving you what you are looking for – 10 ways of generating interest in your readers:

  1. Identify your reader – If you know your reader well, you can work in that direction.
  2. Interesting headlines – If you have a nice headline in tune with your article half the battle is won. Headlines should be appealing and innovative.
  3. Opening batsman is important – A good start is as important as the opening batsman to his team. A good start will ensure that the reader begins to read your work.
  4. KISS – Keep it short and simple. We all know about this golden rule, but do we always follow it? This is the key to the shorter route.
  5. Avoid jargons – Only when absolutely necessary use jargons and technical terms.
  6. Visual appeal – Break your article into short paragraphs and use a readable font. Readers, usually lose interest in long winding paragraphs.
  7. Flowery language – Again, if this is what your article and reader demands, put it to good use.
  8. Give facts – State facts and numbers as much as you can; as it gives your reader the real picture.
  9. Examples – Oh, my personal favourite. Give examples and try to relate the subject with the reader. Examples help them to identify with the topic and generate curiosity and interest.
  10. Closing paragraph – It is the general tendency to read the start and end; and glance through the middle of the article. Write an impressive closing paragraph, which will the hearts of your audience.

Use these golden rules as per your need, just to correct as per the need of your reader and you sure have a winning piece.

A good list of killer headline creating formulas

You have won half the battle if you’ve created a good headline for your website or blog post. It’s all the more important in the times of social media and social bookmarking where your well-prepared headlines can attract lots of attention. Having said that, do pay close attention to the following when you are creating your next killer headline:

Don’t create a headline just to create attention

This proves counter-productive and incites lots of WTFs if your headline doesn’t match your content. Make sure your headline truly represent the message of your blog post or web page.

Use your main keywords in the headline

It not only helps your search engine rankings but also helps you better represent your message. Take for example the headline of this blog post — it clearly tells you that the post intends to tell you some good ways of creating highly effective headlines.

Enough of my ruminations, head to this excellent post on Copyblogger titled 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work.

Is your content a noise or a voice

There is content, and there is content. In the conversation economy (fueled by social media and social networking websites) the content you publish on your website can make or break your business. It depends on what direction you want to take, whether you want to be a noise, or a voice.

Low-quality content turns your content into noise. What are the traits that tell you that you’ve got low-quality content?

  • Your search engine traffic doesn’t increase.
  • Even if your search engine traffic increases, your conversion rate remains poor.
  • Nobody finds it useful, relevant or topical.
  • Your repeat traffic is very low.
  • Nobody promotes your links but you.
  • Not many people link to your blog or website.
  • Nobody talks about what you publish.
  • Even if people promote your link, it is due to some controversy regarding your views or opinion.

High-quality content on the other hand gives you a voice. Whereas people tend to ignore a noise, they pay attention to a voice. So what features of your content make it a voice?

  • It improves your search engine rankings for relevant keywords.
  • Your visitors find your content useful and they subscribe to your RSS feed updates or email newsletter, if available.
  • People share your links with their visitors, followers, friends and colleagues using social media and social networking websites and they respect your opinion.
  • The other bloggers and publishers love to link to your content as valuable reference.
  • You are eventually able to establish your authority.

As a professional content writer and online copywriter I’ve observed client fall into the "noise" content trap when they quickly want to improve their search engine rankings without putting sufficient emphasis on the quality. Sure, noisy content does increase your search engine traffic, but then that traffic is simply a crowd. Only quality content, content that carries a voice, gets you customers and clients, and loyal readers.