“What is copy?”
My wife asked me this a few days ago.
I had been going on and on at dinner, hands gesturing, spittle flying, talking about something work-related. She waited patiently until I was finished to ask.
Her question jarred me. It had been a while since I’d thought about what “copy” is. And in that moment, my immediate reaction was to remember how I used to hate the word.
It always felt … pretentious … to me.
I used to hear phrases like “ad copy” and “website copy” and cringe. I’d think:
“Just say ad text or website text. Who calls it ‘copy?’ That doesn’t even make sense.”
Then I started working for Copyblogger. I also binge-watched Mad Men right around that time.
Needless to say, I quickly got what “copy” meant. And it’s made all the difference.
It’s also easy to take for granted.
Because it’s easy to get so focused on the latest content marketing technique that we overlook the most important element of any single piece of content marketing that actually works: the writing.
So let’s refresh …
What is copy?
Copy is a type of writing intended to drive a specific action.
Email copy includes words sent in an email that have a specific goal in mind (getting you to click on a link, for example).
Website copy includes words published on a website that have a specific goal in mind (getting you to fill out a contact form, for example).
Ad copy includes the words I read during a podcast ad spot that have a specific goal in mind (getting you to buy tickets from SeatGeek, for example).
There is text — flaccid, lazy, directionless text.
And there is copy — words with a purpose that drive a result.
Copy’s for closers.
Who should write copy?
I mean it.
Even people who aren’t marketers will benefit from internalizing copywriting principles.
Take my aforementioned wife. She has an accounting background. She works as a consultant. Unless she someday branches off on her own, she’ll never have to write one word of marketing copy.
Yet every day in her job she encounters situations in which she needs action to be taken. Thus, she needs to understand how to write words that will drive the specific actions she needs. In other words, she needs to be able to sell the person on the other end of her email on why they should take the requested action.
It’s all copy.
And the fundamentals of good copywriting — empathy, clarity, diction, focus on benefits, etc. — apply to any situation in which you want (or need) a person to take a specific action.
When should you write copy?
Any time you want (or need) someone to take a specific action.
Where should you write copy?
Any place words are used to drive a specific action.
- A blog post (like this one) in which you have a very specific and beneficial action you want readers to take — more details on that in a bit
- A podcast — to convince someone to join your list or support your sponsor
- An ebook — to drive readers back to your website or to connect with you on social media
- A video overlay — to drive subscriptions or donations
- Even direct mail flyers, which professional copywriters have been using for decades with great success (otherwise you wouldn’t keep getting them in your mailbox!)
The examples could go on for weeks, and they aren’t constrained to the types of online content you and I spend our days creating.
But you didn’t come to Copyblogger to have me convince you to consider subtly slipping copywriting into your text messages and personal emails … although, if you’re hoping to drive a specific action, why wouldn’t you?
You came to Copyblogger to learn how to write words that work, and how to communicate those words over time via a content marketing strategy that teaches people what they need to know to do business with you.
Which leads to our next question …
Why write copy?
Because all good content marketing starts with good copy.
Content marketing without good copywriting as its foundation is like a house built on a sink hole. Sonia said it best.
You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t trying to convince other people to pay attention to, and possibly invest in, something you know or something you’ve built. Those are specific actions. Smart copy is how you’ll drive them.
How do you write good copy?
What should you do next?
If you’re a serious content marketer who knows the value of great copy — the kind that people will pay big bucks for — then our Content Marketer Certification training may be perfect for you.
But don’t guess right now if it’s right for you. Find out for sure.
Enter your email address below and we’ll send you some information before we reopen the program. Then you can make an informed decision before you make a commitment. We’re opening the doors again soon, but they’ll only be open for a short period of time.