Becoming Awesome at Copywriting: Differentiating Digital Content Writing from Copywriting

Copywriting and digital content writing are completely different ball games. These are metaphors but one’s rugby, the other is ice skating. You can get better at copywriting today to catch your customers’ attention and connect with them more personally. 

How? 

  • Find the right topics and angles
  • Use the right voice
  • Place the right Calls to Action at the right spots
  • Use the right words
  • Shorten or increase the length of sentences
  • Intelligently use pictures
  • Use keywords
  • Create blurbs and quotes
  • Research and use SEO Meta Tags

It might sound like cherry-picking but they’re all part and parcel of being a powerful digital content writer today. 

When I started out writing articles, I began with traditional publishing. After wiggling my way into writing competitions, I set my sights on magazines, daily newspapers, and corporate publications. 

I’ve always wanted to be a prolific writer. Someone with poise and a distinctive style, a writer recognized for the stuff people wanted to read. My ideal publications? Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, TIME, Vogue, GQ, or even the rumor-milling machine that was Seventeen and Tiger Beat. I was a teenager. 

As I progressed through my timeline of thoughts and experiences, the metamorphosis began.

I’ve since evolved (obviously). After reading this article on Copyblogger about the 21 Productivity Hacks from 21 Prolific Writers, I was reminded, yet again, about how important it is to find your Zen; it’s just as important as getting into the groove. Being in your element is about being switched on sometimes and doing absolutely nothing, daydreaming even, other times.

“It seems we can credit daydreaming, subconscious incubation, and even boredom, with important roles in our ability to regularly produce innovative, original work.”

– Keiton Reid, Copyblogger

Knowing How to Copywrite to Sell

Vogue, Bazaar magazine on a white carpet
Source: Alex Maloney on Unsplash

There are too many writing styles to copy and as someone who was writing blog articles for myself, individuals, and companies, there were too many things showing up at my doorstep that surprised me. 

I was roped in to do copywriting work that sells

I had zero ideas on how to do that. I was told that it was easy to pick up but hard to deliver. That was it.

My journey into this realm began with my employment at 2 dotcoms of the early days. 

Stay with me. 

I was paid pennies for the dollar and my main objective was to spam as many people as possible. But the work helped me stick the landing when it comes to producing web content.

Using a 2 prong approach, I learned how to write digital content that impressed the readers (reviews, fun interviews, product descriptions, advertorials) while trying to wheedle my way into search rankings of countless search engines. 

Take Charge of Both Readers and Search Engines

Back then, there were MANY other search engines like Lycos, Altavista, Yahoo, Webcrawler, Excite…they quickly faded out with the forceful simplicity of Google. They were portals and we worked to find our way into both their algorithms and RSS feeds. 

By joining online communities, I was shown the reality and inner workings of those search engines. Because there were many loopholes, there were plenty of go-arounds. 

So, writing digital content and blog articles meant inserting keywords into both the blog content or review AND meta tags as many times as we could. 

For the record, don’t do this. It spells death for your website now.

Copywriting for Sales

two men shaking hands
Source: Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

“It doesn’t sell, it doesn’t sell, it doesn’t sell!

That’s what I heard most during my early days as a newbie copywriter and I kinda hated hearing both the criticism and the word ‘sell’

In my head, I was inwardly protesting the fact that I was even required to sell anything – “I’m not a salesperson”, I argued, “I am an aspiring prolific writer. Please. There’s a difference.” Yeah, I was quite a puffed up piece of work.

Then one day, a higher-up told me this – everyone is selling something. In other words: get over it, you self-absorbed, entitled kid.

To put things into perspective, even if I was a prolific writer for a magazine, I was selling the magazine. And if I was an author of fiction, I was selling a book. When you’re auditioning, interviewing for a job, buying new clothes, you’re either selling something or someone is selling it to you. 

It changed my perspective. This is about advertising. Of course, it has to sell.

Since my launching pad was being a digital content writer who wrote to impress, not sell, it was quite a paradigm shift. 

What I discovered was that copywriting takes more thought and time than article writing. As opposed to writing a news piece or review, which are both fact-based, when one writes marketing copy, there’s placement, research, personality, headline, summary, and of course, for the first time, visuals

I never had to work with a graphic designer or creative director before this.

“The best copywriters are the most tenacious researchers. Like miners, they dig, drill, dynamite, and chip until they have carloads of valuable ore.”

Writtent

It was also the first time I tried to be funny. Ha.

Writing, Rewriting, Re-Re-Writing, Re-Re-Re-Writing

woman writing on her laptop, touching her head

Find angles, be entertaining, get their attention, make it snap, crackle and pop, say more with less, use controversy, and what’s the Unique Selling Proposition (USP). It was an archipelago of pain points for a writer who wanted to write as she pleased. 

It was no longer just about writing. Copywriting was much harder than I thought it was because I’ve never had to edit in and out everything from the title to headlines to content the whole day. It was hellafrustrating.

The thing is this – keeping at it, taking breaks when needed, and making it work is also triumphantly satisfying!

It’s like breaking into the psyche of the readers and potential customers. Taking a peek into their minds, reading their thoughts, predicting their emotions and actions…and delivering. 

I was hooked.

Digital Content Writing is Expository Style of Writing

The most common type of writing style is expository. 

Based almost completely on facts, it explains concepts, imparting knowledge and experience, and appeals to a generally wider audience. Much like this article which is both expository and narrative. 

The expository style of digital content writing does not usually focus on the opinions and stories of the writer; instead, it’s all about relaying information. 

Copywriting is a different beast altogether because it is both persuasive and descriptive.

With informational articles, you want to pack as much information and make as big a splash as possible with the space you’re given. 

Let’s say you’re given 1,200 words to pan out an article, you’ll need to split them up into introduction, sections/paragraphs, and then summary. 

And then you need to consider the following if you’re writing and publishing digital content:

  • Spacing
  • Using short sentences and paragraphs
  • Headlines and subheadings
  • Bullets and lists (like this one)
  • Quotes
  • Linked
  • Images
  • Bolding, italicizing, and underlining important words in the article
  • Keywords and their placement
  • Choice of words

If I had one piece of advice for a new article and blog writer out there, it’s this.

Don’t try to be Shakespeare. He won’t make it in the digital content writing sphere today.”

Don’t Just Write Content Because You Have to Write

man listening to a makeshift telephone, cup
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Even if this is the reality of the situation (especially when you’re hired to or this is what pays your bills), the worst thing you can do is to make it apparent to your readers. Those bloodhound editors are also good sniffing this stuff out.

Writing for the sake of producing digital content is going to be blatantly obvious when you’re aimlessly putting words together for the sake of delivering something…anything

It’s great if you have a thick folder of samples and past written, published work, and they might prove to be useful, but it must fit into your Master Plan

In this modern business world, being creative and authentic is awesome. Being proud of your work is cool too. But you need to engage your audience, gain their trust, and encourage sales. Yes, it needs to sell…now or later. If it doesn’t fit into your bigger picture, it’s not going to do you any good. 

For instance, I have a large repository of SEO-ed articles in my HDD and online, but they don’t make the cut now because SEO articles (the ones I used to produce every, single day) no longer work today. They’re verbose. 

In order to keep up with the times, I needed to unlearn old techniques and pick up new ones

Not only do I have to be clever, transparent, and creative when writing digital content or do copywriting work, I needed to try something new to encourage sales or increase readership. 

It might work, it might not. We don’t know until we get there. 

Sometimes it involves reading publications that go against the grain. From the dissenters, the unrestrained rebels
You need to detach from your own ideals to see what’s beyond the fence. The reason is simple: seeing things through the eyes of another, especially someone who does not think exactly like you, will give you a new perspective and spark new, awesome ideas.

How to Appeal to Readers Through Your Copywriting

In the same way people get hooked onto a TV series or book, a digital content writer needs to play with emotions when writing copy, content, or headlines. Some of the most elusive but powerful emotions in a human being are fear, love, greed, guilt, FOMO, flattery, connection, anger, salvation, and many more.

With complementing visuals that appeal to the reader or customer base, you’re in a better position to capture their attention and keep them there. 

The reality is people reading your content are in it for themselves. Think from their perspective, write for them, give them benefits, tell them what’s in it for them if you want to win the copywriting game. Tell them straight about how to solve their problems, save them money, or make their lives happier and better.

“The prospect is primarily interested in himself and his problems and needs, and interested in your product or service only as a means of solving those problems or filling those needs. The prospect is interested in your company only as it relates to your ability to reliably make, deliver, install, and service the product he buys from you.”

Robert W. Bly

While digital content writing and copywriting share some common ground, copywriting is about bringing about a change

A change in stance, belief, attitude, plans, preferences, and action. 

While you may not expect anything to change when someone reads your blog post or article, copywriting carries a heavier weight.

Tips on How to Be Better at Copywriting

You can do a couple of things for a start – set your schedule straight is a good start. Use the Pomodoro Technique and set 25-minute blocks of time to write or stare at the ceiling. Your choice.

Or you can take a page from the playbook of the legendary copywriter, Eugene Schwartz. He was one of the highest-paid copywriters in the world in the 1950s and 1960s. It was almost unheard of at that time. 

You will also get a better picture of what copywriting really is with this article from Digital Marketer.

“As digital marketing has evolved, it has made copywriting more complex.”

DigitalMarketer.com

Also, don’t forget the fact that we need to work around product images, even stock image selection counts for something, with these 15 tips to improve images and boost online sales from GoDaddy. 

Don’t forget to also rethink basic writing tips we all know as writers but may have forgotten and it includes choosing between active and passive voices in our digital content and social media posts.

Now is a Good Time to Engage with Your Customers

To say that things have changed in this past couple of months is an understatement. I’m going to steer clear away from saying that Covid-19 changed the way we write, socialize, behave, think, react, do business, and connect with one another…but I just did. 

You might have spent the last few months more on social media than before and if you’re running a business, now is a good time to engage with your customer base. Yes, get yourself online!

Continue to be a presence in your customers’ lives with digital content, useful articles, enticing visuals on social media, and update them on what YOU’re going through. Believe me, if they’re your customers, they really want to know! 

The worst thing you can do right now is to stick to old ways and risk disappearing from your customers’ sights. So, don’t. 

Stay.


Connect with me if you’re on social media because I regularly update my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Medium accounts. Let’s connect and feel less lonely during this lockdown. If you wish to get in touch with me, it’s simple. Complete this online Google Form and I’ll get back to you in a jiffy. Nobody uses the word ‘jiffy’ anymore, do they? Ah well…

Published by Marsha Maung

I am a freelance writer, copywriter, blogger, social media and online advertising consultant. On the other side of my Universe is a life of being a mother to 2 boys who are always ravenous or mean to each other. They love each other, but if I say that, they'll kill each other. I have been in the internet world since 2000 when I started off with a couple of dot-bombs but they've served me well. Right now, I primarily write for blogs and learning heaps about the ever-evolving world of social media and search engine marketing. Hit me up and we can learn together! Life is better together.

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