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A Beginner’s Guide to Copywriting + The 5 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid

Momina Asif

August 15, 2022

Flashback to 2019. 

It was my first day as a writer in the marketing department of an IT company. I was understandably nervous. 

I met with my manager, and after intros and a briefing, he said, "So, this week, we are focusing on developing copy for this landing page," and I was a bit like this: 

My face was doing that while my brain was thinking, "Umm, what’s a copy?"

So, to ensure you can avoid that awkward situation, we’ll cover the definition and many use cases of copywriting, along with the difference between content writing and copywriting.  

What is copywriting? 

Copywriting is the art of writing words for the sole purpose of conversion. Good copy convinces people to take action

You're relying on copy every time you want a prospective customer to click a link, sign up for a newsletter, call a number, or buy something. 

According to Alex Cattoni, Founder of The Copy Posse, "Copywriting is the foundation of your brand and secret sauce to your sales." 

In short, copywriting is writing marketing and promotional material to motivate readers to take action—buy, click, subscribe, sign-up, or visit.  The next logical question would be, what does a copywriter do?

Let’s move on.

The history of copywriting

Let's go back in time for a minute. 

The first copywriting example is believed to be in the late 1470s during the Babylonian times. The first printed material to sell a prayer book was created in 1477. 

Fast forward a couple of hundred years to the early 1600s. With mass printing in full force, brochures and pamphlets start to see the light of the day. 

In November 1665, the first English paper, the Oxford Gazette, was printed with room for several advertisements. Then came John Emory Powers (1837-1919), considered the world's first full-time copywriter.

After Emory, other influential copywriters like Robert Collier, David Ogilvy, and Leo Burnett came. And now, copywriting has changed significantly with the rise of the internet and digital marketing. 

Starting as advertisements in newspapers and magazines, modern copywriting is now everywhere—websites, social media, emails, billboards, and online ads. And although copywriting has evolved to adjust to these new mediums, it’s stayed the same at its core. 

The basic principles of copywriting still involve empathy, building on your reader's emotions, and storytelling. We’ll delve deeper into these in the following sections. 

Copywriting vs. content writing: what's the difference?

Content writing focuses on engagement and brand awareness, using educational content like blog posts, eBooks, white papers, and YouTube videos. On the other hand, copywriting is one-directional and is written strategically with a single focus and CTA. 

Let's take a deep dive into some of the main differences between content writing and copywriting. 

  • Length 

Let's start with an obvious one. 

Content writing focuses on long-form content like blogs, eBooks, press releases, and white papers. The purpose of these pieces is to educate and inform your audience and build brand awareness. 

Copywriting uses fewer words to prompt your readers to take a desired action. Since copywriting is more strategic, it needs to land the message quickly before your audience moves on. Copywriting can include advertisements, web page content, email campaigns, and social media content. 

  • Purpose 

Content like blogs, whitepapers, or eBooks intends to inform and educate your readers about your product or service. You are writing to help them learn about the topic and promote engagement with your brand. 

With copywriting, the purpose is to convince your readers to take action and buy from you. Copywriting is direct and one-directional, with just one goal—creating a sale. 

  • Emotion 

Copywriting relies on emotion to elicit action from readers. You want people to make immediate decisions, and you do so by provoking curiosity, fear of missing out, desire, scarcity, or need. 

On the other hand, content writing focuses on building an engaged audience. You want to establish trust and respect with your readers and write authoritative content to position your brand as a reliable and engaging source of information. 

Benefits of hiring a copywriter 

Wondering if you can make a successful career out of copywriting? 

Yes, yes, you can! 

And that's because every business on the planet needs copywriting services in one way or another. And if you are looking to pitch to your dream clients and convince them to hire you, here are some of the many benefits of hiring a copywriter. 

  • Boost sales 

Perhaps the most flashy benefit, your copy (ideally) directly results in sales and conversions. 

Effective and compelling copy can help businesses finalize more transactions and encourage more of their audience to buy from them. 

  • Increase engagement with audience 

Persuasive copy helps generate more interest in your product or service and business. You create more audience engagement and brand visibility by writing compelling content for your clients. 

  • Boost your search engine rankings 

Writing SEO-optimized copy that grabs your reader's attention is a craft. Good copywriters use search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to boost your website's ranking so it shows up higher on search engines, resulting in more views, clicks, and hopefully, sales.

Popular copywriting use cases in 2022 and beyond

Copywriting is used in marketing materials like sales pages, websites, promotional videos, emails, direct mail flyers, catalogs, and advertising campaigns. 

Let's take a look at the various use cases of copywriting below! 

  1. Product/service landing pages

Copywriting is inherently promotional, but this type of copywriting focuses specifically on your product or service.

With a landing page, you need to find your value proposition and consider who you are talking to and what will convert them.

Focus more on your product/service's benefits rather than listing the technical features. You can use Copy.ai's Landing Page Hero Text generator to write a compelling headline that interests users in your offer.  To access this tool, you’ll need to sign up for a free account.

Image Source: Mailchimp 

  1. Sales and marketing emails

Email copywriting focuses on creating content that inspires immediate action. Email generally includes a clear call-to-action (CTA), encouraging the audience to do something specific, like make a purchase. 

An effective email should be short, benefit-driven, and written according to your brand voice and tone. Since email is a more personalized communication, email copywriting involves adding elements to the copy to make the email feel personal to your readers. 

Copy.ai's email subject line generator creates compelling subject lines, welcome and thank you emails, and cancellation emails. 

Here's a great example of an email sent by Weave, an all-in-one communication platform for small businesses. 

Image Source: Really Good Emails

  1. Social media posts

Social media copywriting is done across various social platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Reddit. 

The goal is to get your audience to engage with the posts and follow through (click a link, download an eBook, or register for a webinar). 

And with Copy.ai's social media tools, you get a head-start on creating brilliant copy using tools like Instagram Caption Generator, Instagram Hashtag Generator, and LinkedIn Headline Generator. 

Check out this clever social media copy from Scent and Fire. 

Image Source: Instagram 

  1. Website copy 

From home and service pages to landing pages, website copywriting involves everything you see on a company's website. 

The purpose of website copywriting is to entice visitors to start a free trial, buy your product, or sign up for your newsletter. You also want your website to rank on search engines, so to write effective website copy, you have to optimize it by doing keyword research and strategically adding those keywords to your website copy. 

And if you want to learn how to master SEO copywriting, I have written an in-depth guide here: 

Wondering how you can use Copy.ai to craft fantastic website copy? You can generate meta descriptions and a website CTA in less than sixty seconds. 

Slack does a fantastic job of writing website copy that keeps its users interested, and its CTA immediately inspires action. 

 

Image Source: Slack

  1. Ad copy

You’ve seen this type of copywriting everywhere—billboard taglines, social media ad copy, Facebook Ads headlines, or short scripts for podcast ads. 

Writing ad copy can be a bit challenging. Imagine trying to fit the whole idea behind your product into a few short lines (or sometimes a single line!). 

With strict limits on word count, your ad copy needs to capture your audience's attention and convey the benefits immediately. 

Check out this one-liner ad copy for Corvette. 

  1. Video scripts 

Copywriting also involves scripts for videos focused on generating sales and increasing conversions. 

A great copywriter knows how to capture someone’s attention by using storytelling that invokes human emotion. So, to write an excellent script for your YouTube video, Instagram reel, or TikTok, you’ll need to tell an interesting story. 

How do I learn copywriting?

Now that we have covered several different copywriting use cases, let's talk about how you can learn to write brilliant and compelling copy. 

Copywriting aims to increase conversion rates and boost sales. Still, the best copy out there uses storytelling, builds brand value, and creates emotional resonance—all while guiding the prospect through a valuable buying experience. 

So, how do you learn copywriting? 

To become a good copywriter, you need a few things: 

  1. Empathy 
  2. Creativity 
  3. Passion for writing 
  4. Knowledge of marketing and sales 
  5. Understanding of human psychology 

I cover "how to learn copywriting" in a more in-depth guide in this blog here: 

The 5 biggest copywriting mistakes to avoid 

Either your audience is buying from you (or your client) after reading your copy, or they are not. And guess what? 

Your audience's behavior gives you irrefutable feedback, and you can analyze their input to get quantifiable results. 

With this feedback, you can get back to the drawing board, change things up, test your copy, and grow. And by pushing through this cycle, again and again, your copy truly becomes excellent.  

As Elmore Leonard once said, "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." 

Here are some mistakes you should avoid when starting out as a copywriter. Let's have a look at them.

 

1. Not knowing who your product is for 

Your product might benefit everyone, but that shouldn't be what your copy says. You need to focus on WHO you are helping and HOW. 

If you try to sell it to everyone, you will benefit no one. 

You make it impersonal and alienating when you don't write copy specifically for a target audience. So, spend less time talking about your product and more about who it’s for and why they need it. 

With your copy, you need to answer three questions your audience will always ask:

  • What's in it for me? 
  • Who cares? 
  • So what? 

And the quicker you answer these questions, the more likely your prospects will buy from you. 

2. Focusing on features, not benefits 

As a copywriter, you must know the difference between features and benefits. 

A feature is something your product has and is. It's properly planned and executed to solve a problem. So, in short, features are factual statements that describe what your product/service is. 

Benefits are the "why" behind a purchase. Benefits describe the value your audience will get after using your product/service and show your business's impact on your readers' lives.

3. Not optimizing for mobile

The second quarter of 2022 saw mobile devices generate 58.99 percent of global website traffic. To give you some perspective, in 2015, only 31% of web traffic was generated from mobile. 

Mobile users are more likely to land on a webpage and exit immediately. One of the reasons for that is that companies are still not optimizing their web pages and copy for mobile first. 

With small screens and big thumbs, mobile users want to navigate a web page and select the CTA buttons easily. Using shorter headlines, bigger fonts, and obvious CTA buttons can make a huge difference. 

You should also make your copy easy to follow on a small single-column mobile screen. 

4. Using big words 

Using fancy and complicated words your audience doesn't know and understand is a big NO. 

According to the Literacy Project, the average American reads at the 7th-grade level. So, your copy is too complex if you write something complicated for a 12-year-old. 

The easier something is, the more likely your audience will understand it and the more likely they will believe it. Your copy aims to get your prospects' attention and carefully guide them through the message until they take your desired action. 

So, you need every sentence to be simple enough that your readers feel compelled to read the next sentence. And as soon as they encounter complex words, unnecessary fluff, or phrases that are too complicated, they are gone. 

5. Making claims without evidence 

Robert Collier said, "We have become so accustomed to hearing everyone claim that his product is the best in the world or the cheapest that we take all such statements with a grain of salt.

Don't make statements if you can’t back them up. 

You risk sounding boastful (or a bit stupid) without proper evidence to verify your claims. Add relevant statistics, customer testimonials and reviews, and scientific studies to support your statements. 

Instead of adding generic statements like "best AI copywriting tool," include how your customers benefit from your product/service. Look at how Copy.ai adds customer testimonials to show they are the best in the business. 

The future of copywriting

Copywriting has been around since Babylonian times. With new mediums in digital marketing, it has evolved from writing ads in newspapers to writing sales emails, advertisements, social media content, and much more. 

And now we have AI writing tools, helping writers create thousands of variations of content in less than 10 seconds. And while I see many people saying copywriters will lose their jobs because of these tools, let me tell you, that's not true. 

No matter the advancement in AI, these tools can't replace the emotional intelligence required for good copywriting. Copywriting is a psychologically and emotionally driven skill centered around creativity and empathy. 

And AI-centric tools are great at allowing content writers to start from a template instead of a blank page, putting tons of ideas together and helping with that writer's block. Still, they are a complimentary service, not a replacement.

Look at Copy.ai. I started using it a year ago, and it has helped me write some of the best blog titles, meta descriptions, and email subject lines, and has helped me just start writing when I got overwhelmed looking at a blank page.  

How? 

By giving me hundreds of variations of copy which I edited, brainstormed, edited again, rewrote, edited some more, and ended up with a fantastic piece of copy. 

What's next? 

Pheww! We’ve talked quite a bit about copywriting, so let me conclude this article by saying, words matter. Copywriting doesn't have to be complicated or confusing. Yes, it takes research, skill, and a deep understanding of your audience, business, and goals, but with practice and continual learning, you can write fantastic copy.  

So, if you are ready to delve into copywriting, get started today. Sign up for free at  Copy.ai to create different types of copy, experiment with what works best, and practice (a lot).  Also, we have built valuable resources to help you become a great copywriter

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