Everything a Copywriter Does That You Probably Didn’t Realize They Do

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I’m Courtney Fanning the copywriting and brand strategy brains behind Big Picture. I use my literal master’s in selling stories to help 1:1 clients and DIY students write purpose-driven copy that sells and scales. 

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Written by Courtney
Copywriting & brand strategy brains behind Big Picture.

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When you think of a copywriter, you might picture someone typing on a typewriter, cigarette in hand, creating catchy slogans like Mad Men’s Peggy Olsen. But modern-day copywriters do so much more than sling syllables. Copywriters are the unsung heroes behind the marketing and communications that drive businesses forward. So what does a copywriter do?

Copywriters can write landing pages, websites, sales pages, email sequences, onboarding client/course communications, launch ads, product descriptions, pitch decks, and so much more.

But first things first…

What is copywriting?

Copywriting is the art and science of crafting persuasive and compelling text, or “copy,” for marketing and advertising purposes. It’s about creating messaging that attracts attention, speaks to a desire or problem, and encourages readers to take a specific action—like buying a product, signing up for a newsletter, booking a discovery call, or downloading an app.

Copywriting is not the same as content writing. Copywriting focuses on crafting persuasive and compelling messaging to drive specific actions (as seen on websites, landing pages, and ads). Content writing, like blog posts and newsletters, informs, educates, and entertains an audience without pushing an urgent call-to-action action.

Why is good copywriting important?

Good copy is essential because it can make or break a marketing campaign or business website. Effective copy not only communicates the value of a product or service but also builds a connection with your audience, fostering their trust and loyalty. 

What does a copywriter do?

A copywriter’s role spans SEO, UX design, marketing strategy, sales psychology, and much, much more. Copywriters blend creativity with strategy, empathy with analysis, and artistry with precision. Here are the myriad skills and tasks a copywriter handles, many of which you might not have realized.

User Experience Layout and Microcopy

User experience (UX) is all about creating websites and apps that are easy to use and navigate. UX copywriting enhances the user’s experience. Copywriters work closely with designers to ensure that the copy and design are working together to provide clear and concise instructions and information.

(P.S. Which comes first, copy or design? It’s ALWAYS copy, and here’s why.)

UX used to be a design-centric role, but website copywriters (in particular) get in on the action because good UX affects readability, which affects your conversions.

Microcopy refers to the tiny bits of text that guide readers through an interface, like button labels, error messages, wayfinding, and tooltips. Microcopy can reduce user friction and clarify “what will happen next?” Though small, microcopy plays a significant role in user satisfaction and overall experience. Copywriters craft these snippets to be helpful, friendly, and in line with the brand’s voice. 

Copywriters usually make the first call on which pages appear in your website’s navigation bar, the drop-down strategy, and whether you should have a button CTA or hyperlinked text. We decide on the header strategy (see SEO below) and make all preliminary layout suggestions. We’ll suggest where icons or images would be helpful to expand on ideas or “show” what we cannot “tell”. 

We also look at heatmaps to see where users are growing fatigued, what’s getting clicked that shouldn’t (or should, but is getting ignored,) and then work with designers to iterate. 

On-Page SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the backbone of writing for the web. It starts with keyword research to identify terms and phrases your clients and customers use to find products or services like yours. Copywriters integrate these keywords into your copy to improve search engine rankings. Not only are we writing copy that is engaging and informative, but we’re also pulling double duty and using keywords and phrases in your titles, headings, and meta descriptions—all while sounding human.

I didn’t touch SEO until I became the sole marketer at a tech company and suddenly found myself having to explain why we needed to use the header phrase “software design and development agency” instead of “if it lives on the internet, we’ll build it.

Developing this skill is like following a moving target, but dang if the SEO tools I use on every single client project aren’t magic.

(P.S. What is “Off-Page” SEO? Off-page SEO refers to actions taken outside of your website to impact your rankings within search engine results pages (SERPs). This includes increasing backlinks, guest blogging, podcasts, and any marketing activity on another website or platform that links back to your site.)

Sales and Behavioral Psychology

Persuasive copywriting involves using various techniques to convince readers to take a desired action. This includes using strong headlines, appealing to emotions, addressing pain points, and providing compelling calls to action.

To write persuasive copy, a deep understanding of behavioral psychology is essential. Copywriters study how people think, what motivates them, and what triggers their buying decisions. This knowledge allows them to craft messages that resonate on a psychological level.

I compiled 8 of my most used behavioral psychology tips to make your copywriting more persuasive in this post. Most copywriters use The Priming Effect, instinctually (a.k.a. using brand words to evoke a desired feeling or action) but I often have to teach and reiterate the importance of The Focusing Effect with my C3 students

Business Alignment

Effective copywriting aligns closely with your business’s goals and objectives. Copywriters must understand these goals to create copy that drives consumer actions toward your business goals, whether it’s increasing sales, building brand awareness, or differentiating yourself within your market.

We’ll often conduct competitor analysis to understand what others in the industry are doing. We’ll also build out your core brand messaging strategy to help you identify opportunity gaps, craft audience persona messaging, and dial in your communications strategy. If you’re a Big Picture client, we develop your 5Ps or the 5 brand pillars that act as the litmus test for what is and is not on-brand in your marketing.

Becoming Brand Voice (and Tone) Chameleons

Every brand has a unique voice and tone reflecting its personality, values, and desired perception. Copywriters are not only responsible for capturing and maintaining this voice across all communications, ensuring consistency and authenticity, but we know how to employ the often vague voice and tone adjectives/buzzwords, in real life.

Two brands might describe their voice using the same descriptors, yet sound completely different in practice. That’s because there is nuance found between the lines and it’s a copywriter’s job to dial in the frequency and employ the voice in the right way at the right time so it resonates with the right people.

Systems Thinking

Copywriting isn’t just about writing; it’s about strategy. This involves planning content that meets business goals, appeals to the target audience, and fits within a larger marketing plan. 

Copywriters perform systems thinking on so many levels. First, they are developing a communications strategy that satisfies every brand touch point. If you think of your brand as an umbrella, you have offers, products, podcasts, newsletters, courses, programs, speaking, social media, etc—we have to come up with language that says, these all belong to the same family. Everything is connected under the brand umbrella.

Copywriters also think about your business model and how you fit into other systems. We look at whether your offers build off each other, how one funnel leads to the next, if you have any missing pieces of the puzzle or gaps we need to address. If you have offers that serve two distinct audiences, we advise you on how to silo these offers on the page so the right person clicks on the right offer, and follows the correct path.

We’re also looking at the systems within your industry. If you’re a coach, your audience is following a very different mental model and habits than someone looking to hire a photographer—but they also have a lot of the same base motivations and a copywriter can clock these motivations and draw on them in your messaging.

Data Analysis

To ensure all efforts are paying off, copywriters measure the effectiveness of their copy. This involves tracking metrics like conversion rates, click-through rates, and heat mapping or engagement levels. By analyzing this data, we can refine and iterate. Copy is never one and done. You start with a solid foundation and then track and optimize in perpetuity. 

Visual and Verbal Strategy

Few copywriters are pure word nerds. Good marketing copy combines visual and verbal elements seamlessly. Copywriters work closely with designers to ensure that the words and visuals complement each other, creating a more powerful and cohesive message.

We know the image of a human face increases feelings of trust, the use of icons and grids creates pattern recognition and enhances readability. Whether a website, app, or landing page, we use header hierarchy to draw your eye down the screen and incorporate brand elements to make the content delightful to read and experience.

Here are 6 Copywriting Tricks That Have Nothing To Do With Words.

Platform Specialists

Different marketing channels require different approaches. Copywriters tailor your copy to fit the unique requirements and constraints of each platform, whether it’s an Instagram caption, Facebook ad, blog post, long-form sales page, or a sales funnel email sequence.

Editing and Proofreading

Editing and proofreading are crucial steps in the copywriting process. Copywriters catch errors, improve clarity, and ensure that the copy is polished and professional.

NOTE: Copyediting is different from copywriting, which is different from developmental editing. 

Copyediting involves correcting grammar, spelling, punctuation, and syntax, and ensuring consistency in style and formatting. It improves clarity and flow at the sentence and paragraph levels.

Copywriting focuses on crafting persuasive and compelling text to drive specific actions. It is used primarily in advertising and marketing materials.

Developmental editing addresses the broader structure and content of a document. It involves evaluating and improving the overall organization, coherence, and logical flow, and may include restructuring sections and refining arguments to enhance the overall impact and readability.

The future of copywriting

Copywriting is a vital role within the larger marketing ecosystem and doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Copywriters are more than good writers—they are adept marketers, salespeople, behavioral observationists, business analysts, and technologists. The next time someone asks “What does a copywriter do?” the answer is a lot of everything.

Copywriting will continue to be influenced by technological advancements, AI capabilities, and consumer expectations. But no matter the evolution of the copywriting trade, there will always be an emphasis on storytelling and brand narratives to connect businesses with the humans they serve. 

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