Should copywriters call themselves copywriters?

May 24, 2023 •
Feature image for blog post about copywriter job title

This article is for people with tricky job titles, not just copywriters

This post is for the copywriters out there. But if you have some other niche job title or your business does something most people have never heard of, I think you’ll still find it interesting. (There may be some learnings here around keyword research that you could apply to your own business domain.)

It was inspired by a LinkedIn post

I read a LinkedIn post this morning from an Australian copywriter saying we shouldn’t call ourselves copywriters. That our job is to write clearly, and because very few people know what “copy” is, calling ourselves copywriters is kinda the opposite of what we’re supposed to do for a job.

I was going to comment, but I lost the post

I started writing a reply to that post, but because I knew it would be a long one, I wrote it in my notes app (NoteJoy, if you’re interested!). Unfortunately, by the time I got around to posting my comment on the original post, LinkedIn had automatically refreshed my feed, and no amount of scrolling brought the post back. (I don’t know the copywriter’s name, unfortunately, so I couldn’t just search for her.)

Anyway, below is the comment I was going to reply with. (Unnamed Australian copywriter on LinkedIn, this is for you!)

Here’s what I was going to say…

“I think you’re right that most civilians don’t know what a copywriter is. And there are definitely some who think we can help with copyright and trademark legalities. (I’ve had that discussion many times!)

And by extension (and with a quick check on Google Keyword Planner), we can deduce that more people know, and are searching for, “writer” than “copywriter”. For example, there are 14,800 average monthly searches for “writer” in Australia, and only 9,900 for “copywriter”. And there are 1,000 monthly searches for “freelance writer”, and only 720 for “freelance copywriter”.

But I think it’s important to remember that “writer” means many things to many people. Journalists, biographers, ghostwriters, travel writers, technical writers, resume writers, novelists, songwriters, medical writers, speech writers, screenwriters and editors… They all call themselves writers. Even some historians, poets and researchers do.

So when a civilian says “writer”, they could mean any of these vocations.

Naturally if we want to be clear when we talk about our job title, we need to differentiate it from all the other writer types out there. And the obvious way to do that is to include the type of writing we do. For example, a website copywriter could use “website writer”. Problem is, by the time prospective clients are looking for someone to write their website copy, most have already figured out they should be searching for a website copywriter. There are 320 monthly searches for “website copywriter” and only 260 for “website writer”. Similarly, there are 110 monthly searches for “website copywriting services” and only 10 for “website writing services”.

So if you use only the terms a layperson might use, you’d actually be shooting yourself in the foot. Especially when it comes to SEO.

Of course, you COULD target both. i.e. You could target the industry terms (“website copywriter” and “website copywriting services“) AND the layperson terms (“website writer” and “website writing services”). And all things being equal, this is probably what I’d recommend.

But in the freelance copywriting world, all things are NOT equal. Firstly, you have only so much time in your day. What would you have to sacrifice in order to target the layperson terms too? And secondly, if you do target the layperson terms and you manage to rank for them, chances are you’re going to attract visitors who are very new to the world of copywriting. They’ll be shocked by how much it costs and they’ll need a lot of hand-holding. And while those clients are just as worthy as the old hands, there’s no denying they’re not the sweet spot for most copywriters. Given the choice, any copywriter is going to choose the big budget easy job over the small budget hard job.

Long story short, I think we’re best to use the established terms. The only time I’d favour the layperson terms would be at parties and family gatherings, when you have to tell your Nan or your husband’s drunk workmate what you do for a living.”

Got a better suggestion?

If you have a better suggestion about how to handle tricky job titles, please comment. I’d love to hear it! 🙂

Feel free to comment...
comment avatar
Julie wrote on May 25th, 2023

Thank you. It's not something I thought about before reading this, but it makes sense, and I understand a lot more now about how that differentiation would impact the search for (and finding) what I'm looking for.

comment avatar
Paul MvcDonald wrote on May 25th, 2023

Interesting how this affects being found more easily. Something to think about in many industries.

comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on May 25th, 2023

Yeah, definitely. Also applies to other businesses too. For example, do all prospective clients of a digital transformation provider know they need a digital transformation provider?

comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on May 25th, 2023

Yep, you have to think about more than just the terminology. Also need to think of the searcher's intent and what searcher's you want to attract.

comment avatar
Justin wrote on May 26th, 2023

I couldn't agree more! When conducting keyword research, we need to consider not just the search volume of the keywords, but also their intent and target audience. During the keyword research phase, we should try to filter out audiences with low conversion rates.

comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on May 26th, 2023

Definitely! It can be tricky sometimes, though. E.g. Someone searching for "copywriting" may be a small business owner looking for a copywriter or they may be a copywriter, themselves, looking for a copywriting job. I suppose the trick is to go for the low-hanging fruit first. Target "copywriting services", because you know almost everyone who searches for that will be after a copywriter. And in the process, you'll also be targeting "copywriting", as a secondary.

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