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Why Copywriting is Important… And Why You Probably Can’t Do It Yourself

Copywriting is a curious art. Virtually everyone in the ad-business world is literate, so it’s easy to assume that all of us can write with the best of ’em. Ask non-specialists to design a logo or code JavaScript and they may lack the basic skills to even start working. But, writing—we text and email all day, don’t we? Doesn’t that qualify anyone to write ads and websites?

Not really. Don’t get us wrong, there are plenty of great writers out there. Yet even great writers steeped in college lit courses or seasoned in composing long-form stories might never come across the principles of advertising writing that make for excellent print collateral or website design. So if you can afford it, shell out some money for professional copywriting. Here’s why it’s important.

Copywriting Sells

Imagine talking to a car salesman who makes you feel like you’re trapped and withholds information from you. You’re probably not going to buy a new Lexus from this person. Now imagine that the salesman is charming without being pushy and seems knowledgeable rather than hungry. That guy might get you to sign on the dotted line today. The same fundamentals of salesmanship apply to the copy on, say, your website, which amounts to a conversation with your audience that should be enjoyable for them.

The balancing act here is to connect with users as fellow humans while also observing the more technical to-dos of UX/UI copywriting—optimizing keywords, avoiding duplicate content, weaving in external links, and uploading metadata into the CMS. Fusing SEO (search engine optimization) strategies with a relatable voice will help your audience A) find you and B) like you, which tends to amplify your brand awareness and lead to higher conversions.

Copywriting Improves CRO

So far, we’ve talked about SEO, but a related term, CRO (conversion rate optimization), is equally important. SEO is the process of luring an audience to your site. CRO is the process of urging that audience to take a certain action on your site—be it buying your vampire lust novel or signing up for your seminar on how to enter the arbitrage business. 

Smart copy helps inch up your conversion rate percentage, since it fulfills a salesperson-tour guide capacity of establishing trust, clarifying the USPs that separate you from your competitors, using language that caters to distinct user groups, and so on. Your copy, in total, is your brand voice. If people love that brand voice, you’re on your way to retaining a base of customers who purchase from you again and again.

(Good) Copywriting Wards Off Calamity

A strong copywriter should serve as a QC gatekeeper, saving your brand from the marketing equivalent of that gauche-pickup-line moment that can bruise your rep. Companies don’t like to admit how many times their campaigns flop, but they do—all the time. Look at this ad that Mr. Clean ran in 2011. The design appears to depict a mother teaching her daughter (with joyous exuberance) how to do house chores, while the copy reads: “This Mother’s Day, get back to the job that really matters.”

As you can imagine, that ad faced swift backlash. We don’t know who wrote the copy, but our guess is that it was someone with a tin ear whose insensitivity may have cost the client a heap of money. Because competent Head of Copy directors know what effective campaigns look like, they also know what disasters look like. So they earn their paychecks in part by finding the best phrases that bubble up in the first-draft creative stages and cutting everything else. Ergo, they often talk to their teams like this: “Keep working on this tagline. Bury this concept and don’t ever show it to anyone. Wait, this idea might have legs …” 

Copywriting is Always Changing

In our humble opinion, writing a 10,000-word story is sometimes easier than fitting the perfect 10 words onto a billboard for a scrap metal yard client, finishing up a landing page for a patent search startup, and then knocking out a blog for a beards-and-brews shop—on any given Monday. With the long-form story, you can at least sink into the storyline and narrate from a single perspective. Whereas when you’re juggling copy assignments, you’ve got to master the chameleon-style art of shuttling between a range of brand voices and account strategies.

As a copywriter, you know that your billboard headlines can be longer and more ad-like, your landing page copy should fill in the knowledge gaps of the users who read it, and your blogs should be chunked into an information hierarchy. And you know how to write in all these formats in a tone that drives the appropriate result—whether it’s conveying information in an About Us page or sounding CTA-oriented in paid media

That even veteran copywriters can struggle with aligning voice, format, and client goals may be the most compelling reason to hire a veteran copywriter: They oversee the sometimes boggling responsibility of making sure that your links are accessible, that you’re leading with benefits-driven language, and that every last H3 subhead helps boost website optimization.

Copywriting Requires Research

The word “copy” is prefixed in front of “writer” for a reason: In practice, copywriting often amounts to winnowing vast reserves of information into a few sharp lines. You’re not exactly copy-pasting what the client has already written, but you are distilling existing content down to its essence. Which means that before they can even write a single line, copywriters spend a lot of their time researching everything from licensing deals to the patient access journey in healthcare to the great chestnut blight of the twentieth century.

So if you need copy written on a bevy of subjects, bear in mind that you really have two jobs in front of you: First, becoming a quasi-expert on a given niche. Second, condensing your newfound expertise into writing that grabs people’s attention and influences their buying habits. Because even if you’re an authority on a certain subject, you may not be an authority on how to convey that subject with a few core insights. Copywriters do all the research about your brand to pinpoint why it matters in a way that nudges your audience further down the marketing funnel.

You Just Can’t Hack It

You’ve probably heard the term “hack writer” before; it derives from “hackney,” or a horse that you could hire for cheap. If you underinvest in copywriters, you may end up with a stable of hacks, rushing out a high volume of words that produce a low caliber of brand. Remember, one daft headline on a site or one typo on a book jacket can torpedo an entire messaging strategy. When you hire a worthy copywriter, you’re not only getting a deep researcher—you’re also teaming up with an editor who reviews the orthography of each piece of content with such rigor that your business always sounds svelte and sophisticated. For that reason alone, leave the writing to the pros.

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