Let’s say you just finished a four-year stint in the weeds of new wave academia, brushing up on communications or English. Maybe you decided early on you wanted to change the hearts and minds of a cynical, North American body politic. Perhaps you studied Kerouac, Hemmingway, even tapped the canon of Western philosophy, got the long and short on true enlightenment thinkers like Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau — and now you want to go out into the world and make a difference.
Maybe you wanted to become a real writer, pen the great American novel and reap the financial spoils of a solid six weeks or so on The New York Times best-seller list. Maybe you tried to turn your passion for writing into a teaching career — went back to the universities and ivory towers that spawned your newfound knowledge of language and/or the arts.
Then, maybe you realized these institutions are more mired in red tape and bureaucracy, runaway political agendas and the whole naked utilitarian crusade than you had bargained for. Besides that, how are you going to hack it in the real world off of the modest earnings of an adjunct until you get your big full-tenured break? How much money are you going to make on that novel? Anything? Perhaps it’s time you went ahead and sold out, suited up and put your skills to work in a different way.
“Aha!” you think. “Copywriting!”
Surely, you’ve grown up admiring the craft of like blue-chip print ad campaigns, clever magazine spreads with bold slogans — many of them may have influenced your own decisions in buying sportswear, German automobiles and having milk on hand. Perhaps you’ve fallen for the lore of the whole 1960s Madison Avenue ad scene and fancy yourself in some Midtown high-rise, beating out the meter on a swank luxury handbag commercial, coming up with all manner of bohemian-chic one-liners and product tags. This is all going to work out after all.
Not so fast. Before you decide to step into the neo-corporate world of new wave content strategy, copywriting and digital ad space, there are some things you should consider. The landscape has changed; gears have shifted. There are whole philosophic overtures on the nuance of influence and what it takes to win stock in the hearts and minds of a 2019 consumer public. Also, print is “dead.”
But none of this is to say you should pack it all in and give up on yet another pseudoliterary pipe dream. I can help sort things out with a few tips on how to make it as a brilliant copy kid in 2019.
With the emergence of all things internet and the increasing culture share attributed to bloggers, social media influencers and digital brand ambassadors, we’ve seen a departure from traditional ad channels like TV, direct mail, news and magazine ads to a whole new era of search engine optimization (SEO)-driven articles, paid social content, email marketing and pay-per-click ads. These new media outlets are cheaper, easier to access and more adaptable to specific audiences than traditional ad methods, and they provide more data too.
This is why now, more than ever, startups and e-commerce culture have fighting chances for market share against established companies, and why brands like Dollar Shave Club, Blue Apron and Casper are changing the way we think about things as simple as hygiene and sleep. To write for brands like these, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Intent Is Everything
With this whole new frontier of SEO rank, Google algorithms, pay-per-click (PPC) copy and social media advertising, we’re no longer searching out our audience and hoping to resonate in the context of like interstitial ad space or overpass signage — our audiences are now coming to us, and they’re coming to us for answers. In the growing ecosystem of the World Wide Web, there are so many opportunities to identify with our target demo’s buyer persona, anticipate needs and grab their attention, be it through a search engine or social media platform. This means crafting copy around the solutions your products and services provide over the features that help reach them.
For example, if I’m selling running shoes, I want to anticipate search queries like “how to improve my mile time” or “how to build endurance.” Then, I need to answer these questions with great blog headlines, PPC ad copy elements or social media captions that address the issue with copy, like “improve your mile time with light-weight, spring-activated soles” or “comfort-flex construction for endurance running.” This applies to both organic and paid content.
I think the most common misconception in this new era of online content and copywriting is that it is based around some nebulous formula for keyword optimization. While this may have been true in the earlier days of search engine history, this theory doesn’t hold nearly as much weight with today’s SEO algorithms.
Having spoken with engineers at big-name search engines, I can tell you the tech they’re employing now is far superior in its ability to recognize quality content — we’re talking super spiders and web crawlers that scan the thesis of your entire page, using artificial intelligence to determine the value of your content and rank it accordingly.
That said, once you anticipate the intent of your audience, you should provide them with real, genuine content to help address their queries or needs. Don’t focus on stuffing your articles with long- and short-tail keywording.
Hopefully, this article gave you some things to think about and expectations for what it means to be a copywriter in 2019. Sure, there have been some changes in how we’re connecting with consumers, but the tenets of effective copy remain the same: Know who your audience is. Anticipate their needs. And deliver the best solutions in ways that resonate. After that, you can go crazy with all the wordsmithing you’ve been waiting to unleash.
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