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What are the different types of copywriting?

Read Time 17 mins | Written by: Wendy Woodhead

Whether you're looking to flesh out the content on your website, in your marketing materials or simply earn money from your writing, you might be curious about the different types of copywriting.

Unlike journalism, copywriting involves creating any piece of text that is used to promote a product or service. It is typically found in advertising and sales materials but can have less obvious forms such as informative guides and articles.

In this article, we explain what copywriting is, the different types of copywriting and how to develop your copywriting skills.

Table of contents

  1. What is copywriting?
  2. Where does copywriting appear?
  3. The different types of copywriting

    1. Sales copy
    2. SEO content
    3. Web content
    4. Technical content
    5. Creative copy
    6. PR copy

  4. The importance of purpose
  5. Mastering different types of copy is a marathon not a sprint

What is copywriting?

Copywriting is a type of writing that focuses on creating promotional materials, such as advertising, brochures and sales letters, that are designed to persuade the reader to take a specific action.

Copywriting is all about using words to influence a reader's opinion and ultimately get them to take the desired action. This type of writing requires a lot of research, creativity, and strategic thinking.

Copy can be created by copywriters working in a variety of capacities:

  • in-house marketing departments within companies and organisations
  • marketing agencies managing several clients
  • freelance copywriters who work one-on-one with clients

Where does copywriting appear?

Copy can be found on any kind of material (online or offline) with the purpose of persuading its reader. As such, it's usually used on materials with a sales or commercial intent, including:

  • web pages
  • blog posts
  • online paid advertising
  • social media posts
  • email newsletters 
  • digital banner ads
  • print/online adverts
  • leaflets
  • brochures
  • billboards
  • street-level posters
  • radio and TV jingles

The different types of copywriting

Not all copywriters write all kinds of copy. In fact, many new copywriters start broad before finding what kind of content they excel at and building a whole career around it. While there is some overlap, here are just some of the kinds of copywriting that exist:

1. Sales copy

Perhaps the most obvious kind of copywriting, sales copy makes up the bulk of information we come across each day. It includes:

  • information on adverts
  • advertorials online or in magazines
  • product descriptions and packaging
  • promotional material (leaflets, brochures...)

Copywriters producing sales content need to be able to showcase a range of skills. These include the ability to tap into an audience’s subconscious, understand what will appeal to them and write creatively and persuasively.

However, it also requires the ability to synthesise a lot of information into a handy and easy-to-digest format. Sales writers need to research the nitty gritty details of a subject but only draw out the most important benefits and features. It’s also important that sales writers have excellent grammar since errors can make a company seem unprofessional.

Better Than Success has some excellent advice for success in this field: “you need to master the art of writing sales copy without sounding salesy. The best way to do this is to just tell the truth about your product. What problems does your product or services solve and how does it add value to your target audience?”

2. SEO content

Every business that wants to do well online needs to incorporate search engine optimisation (SEO). This is the strategic use of keywords or search terms that will help them get found on Google's (or another search engine's) results pages. Therefore, SEO is only found in online content such as:

  • web page content
  • product descriptions
  • blog posts
  • paid advertising

Strategic thinking is critical. A skilled copywriter needs to be able to get into the mind of a company’s typical customer and think like they do. They also need to know how to find the search terms a certain audience will use to find the product they are looking for.

When you’re writing a piece of SEO content, you still need to be able to employ creativity and insight, which means you’ll need to have strong research skills. However, your focus is also on ensuring the right terms are in there, which is a balancing act. No one wants to read a piece of content which is blatantly stuffed with keywords. And neither does Google.

3. Web content

Web content is the meat of the internet and can encompass both sales and SEO copy. However, great web content is also that which inspires, informs, engages and ultimately converts. You’ll find it in:

  • landing pages
  • blog posts
  • long-form articles
  • thought-leadership pieces
  • social media posts

To write great content, you’ll need to be able to tell a story through your copy which is ultimately still geared around the products or services you're positioning. This brings together elements of sales writing, technical writing, creative writing and SEO.

To be clear, writing for blogs, online magazines and even social media isn’t solely about the product. It’s about building relationships with your potential and established audience. Therefore, it’s generally recommended that the best way is to give readers something insightful, useful and interesting. This encourages readers to return and facilitates sharing because they know they’re not constantly being bombarded with promotional content.

Insightful content could be ‘how-tos’ and tutorials, engaging articles and tips, research/news-led content, infographics and videos. Generally, the more digestible and easy to understand the better, and sentences should be non-complex and register low on the Flesch-Kincaid scale.

Of course, great content, along with other content marketing techniques, will mean that consumers do return – so the result is a win-win. The consumer is given interesting and engaging content and the business is rewarded with a stronger and more loyal audience.

4. Technical content

There is another less sales-oriented aspect to copywriting, and that is technical. While the intention is still to produce content that promotes company findings or the best use of a product, it is very distinct from sales copy. It is found in:

  • white papers
  • in-depth industry guides
  • product manuals and tutorials

Technical writing may often necessitate in-depth knowledge of a subject, or at least a willingness to put in a lot of research. It could cover various specialist topic areas such as science and environment, health, marketing, finance, politics and government.

In the words of Radix Communications:

“The technical writer is a rare and valuable species: a hybrid of techie and writer, they not only know which bit plugs into what (and why you really don’t want to plug that bit in there), but they can explain it clearly and simply to the end-user.”

Excellent grammar is a must, as is an ability to relay facts and reference these appropriately, stick to the main points/argument of the piece, as well as ensure your content is comprehensive yet widely understood.

Many companies and organisations commission white papers to make findings or research widely accessible, or industry guides to help consumers of specialist products.

Read More: What's the difference between a content writer and technical writer

5. Creative copy

Creative content is what we’re most familiar with in terms of advertising. It’s largely used in:

  • jingles
  • advertising slogans
  • TV and radio ad scripts

These pieces of copy are short but highly effective. They require you to think outside of the box to make an impact. You might not actually do all that much writing (most slogans are only a handful of words long), but you’ll understand buyer psychology and be able to think fast and come up with slogans and turns of phrases that have the capacity to become cultural references.

Read More: Best Christmas marketing taglines of all time

6. PR copy

Public relations covers anything that represents a business or organisation to the public and can fall under marketing or communications departments. Content produced for PR includes:

  • press releases
  • company statements
  • sponsorship/partnership marketing materials

The emphasis in PR content is to portray a company in the best light possible. This might be through writing and issuing a press release to raise awareness of a new product or service in the hopes it will be picked up by the press or to attempt damage control after negative publicity.

As events can change quickly in the life of any business, PR writers need to have a cool head and be able to write in a neutral, journalistic tone of voice. Getting across the details is crucial while finely balancing this with maintaining and promoting a positive image for the company.

The importance of purpose

The above are just some of the most recognisable types of copywriting that you're probably familiar with. Though, of course, as technology evolves and new markets emerge, so too will new forms of copywriting. But what lurks behind every great piece of copy? The purpose.

Copy is infinitely bound up with sales, so a good understanding of the sales funnel and where your target customer is in that funnel helps you create the most effective copy. Content strategist Fiona McEachran defines the different types of copywriting in much more sales-focused terms: lead generation copy; order generation copy; and engagement copy. In doing so, she demonstrates how copy should be targeted towards buyers at the specific point in their customer journey.

For example, if you're targeting a customer at the very start of their journey when looking to purchase a new laptop, you might need to create a more informative blog post comparing models and spec. But if they've already done their research and visited several product pages on your site, then you might need to send a persuasive sales email that summarises the benefits of the devices they've looked at to help them make the decision and checkout.

The approach you take will be different because of not only the type of copy (blog post vs email) but the purpose behind it. Understanding that and going about communicating it in the most effective, customer-friendly way possible is the key to writing great copy.

Mastering different types of copy is a marathon not a sprint

If you’re just starting out as a copywriter but dream of making it a successful career path, you need to build up your strengths in writing for a range of types of content and avenues. While landing your first copywriting job can be difficult, you can volunteer your services to local organisations or businesses or even join a content platform. All of this experience will help you to build up your portfolio so you can grow your career.

If you're a business looking to use copywriting to promote your company, gain brand visibility and even climb through the search pages, then the same advice still stands: practice makes perfect. You could choose to go on a copywriting course or hire your own internal copywriter. Or you could choose to outsource your content to an agency who can write quality, compelling, search-friendly copy for you quickly and on demand. 


Image credit: Silke Remmery, ‘Newspaper’

 

 
Wendy Woodhead

Wendy is the Account Director at Copify and a qualified copywriter and proofreader. She has spent six years copy editing and copywriting for B2B and B2C clients and has experience in freelance and in-house arts marketing and digital content creation. Wendy likes to write about language and literature, digital marketing, history, current affairs, and arts and culture. In her spare time she enjoys yoga, reading and writing fiction.