Copywriting Basics For The Emerging Writer

importance of user intent and writing guidlines for copywriters and the emerging writer for websites and online publications

To be successful, there are a handful of basic copywriting concepts to understand and follow. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, brand manager, new to copywriting, or emerging as a content strategist for websites, these fundamentals apply. Follow them to improve your writing and reach more goals. 

What Is User Intent For Copywriting?

This topic probably deserves an entire article, but for the sake of a quick read, I’ll keep it short. User intent, (and micro intent), aid in the identification of your target audience. (Also referred to as keyword intent or searcher’s intent.) Intent engages emotion, digs deep into the motivation of searchers, and aims to answer a specific question. It’s a focal element of the writing process that many writers miss. Simply put, it’s a plan to ensure that published content aligns with what a specific audience is searching for.  

Here are some user intent examples and the questions they aim to answer:

  • Informational (who, what, when, where, why)
  • Transactional (buy, purchase, order, coupon)
  • Navigational (brand or product names, products)
  • Commercial (review, compare, rate, attributes)


Where To Find User Intent

There are paid software tools to get the job done. (SEMRush) But the best place to begin, and at no cost to you, is to use the free tools. (Mostly provided by Google.)

    1. Enter a keyword in the search bar. The search results (SERPs) that follow are a direct reflection of intent.
    2. Continue to dig with search features like “people also ask” and Google’s “auto-suggest.”
    3. Don’t forget Google tools for keyword research and trends.


Analyze the findings and incorporate them into outlines and strategies. (Write an entire piece based on your findings!) Weave the keywords, even the semantic ones, into page content. Do this in a variety of ways. For example, you can arrange paragraphs to cover each focal point. You can also place them as keywords for anchor tags that link to deeper content. Lastly, apply them to visual aids because they work great for alt tags.


Writing Strategy VS Writing Outline

Writing strategies and outlines serve different purposes. Outlining can be considered an informal “pre-writing” task. It is a tool for organizing ideas, outlining work, mapping out thoughts and developing concepts. On the other hand, a writing strategy is a more formal approach that addresses the BIGGER picture. Typically, a content strategy is created to cover the specifics, including defining the audience and user intent, setting up proper messaging formats, defining platforms, and overall alignment with the goals and objectives of each piece. (The “who, what, when, and where details.”) Strategies will vary. 

Here are examples of questions that Leaning Tree Marketing has used:

  • Has the target audience and intent been defined?
  • What platforms will the piece be posted on?
  • Who will be the key contributors?
  • What is the writing style/type?
  • Have style guides been reviewed?
  • Have goals and KPI’s been determined?
  • Are experts available for interviews? 
  • When will it be published?
  • Will it require visual aids?
  • How will it be promoted?
  • Is it optimized for SEO?  
  • How will it be tested? 


What Are Style Guides?

Most clients have a brand and writing style to adhere to. Style guides are those “writing rules,” and standards for generating citations and formatting across documents. They cover grammar, color specs, tone of voice, and everything in between. Using guides will ensure that content is consistent and cohesive.  If a business uses them, copywriters and editors will be the first to know. Below are the two most popular styles guides used.  

  • AP (Associated Press) 
  • CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style)  


No Guides, No Worries!

Not every writing project has a style guide to follow. Develop your own style to use when guides are not required. In the right situation, it’s perfectly fine to experiment! As an experienced SEO and content writer, I have a style and tone of my own. It’s based upon a culmination of words and choices that portray how I would think and talk in real life. It doesn’t follow any standard or guideline. (Other than adhering to Google algorithm updates.) My writing has improved over the years. Taking everything into consideration, yours will improve as well.

Editing And Proofreading

It’s great to get creative with website content, but one of the easiest ways to undermine credibility is by overlooking the editing and proofreading process. Attention to detail is crucial. AI tools have simplified this process, especially for punctuation and grammatical errors. But, AI is not the solution for all proofreading goals. It’s helpful to get another perspective to review and refine copy. I like to say, a “second set of eyeballs.” Before publishing, ask for a client’s quick review.  Be accepting of their feedback, even if they phrase things differently. Sometimes their viewpoints interfere with the overall content strategy and use of keywords. If you don’t agree with their findings, be prepared to justify your positioning. Welcome friends or colleagues to read it over. Or, take a break. It’s funny how a break can give the writer a fresh set of eyes as well. 

What Are The Most Common Types of Writing?

There are genres of writing referred to as “writing types.” They represent the overall purpose of your writing. Some have unique objectives and require a special set of skills. For example, a journalist is more likely to use investigative/opinion pieces to cover news stories and events. Bloggers can be creative or informative, depending on the audience and intent. Online content creators dabble in the widest variety of writing types. This is why identifying the audience and setting the tone is so important. (Every writing project will require a different set of skills as well.) Although there is far more to explore, the three writing styles noted here are the most commonly used for business.   

    • Expository Writing: Technical writing is meant to be factual and read in online textbooks, business pieces, as well as blogs/articles and websites.  


    • Persuasive Writing: Mostly found in advertising pieces but can also be found in online reviews, blogs/articles, and website content.


    • Descriptive Writing: Creates an image in the mind of the reader through blogging, advertising, and product descriptions.


What Is SEO Copywriting?

Content is a powerful method of communication. It’s also a part of nearly every ranking factor important to Google. All of the points covered thus far are important to writers. But this is where SEO copywriters go above and beyond a primary writer.  SEO Copywriting involves both writing and technical skill sets to ensure that Google can read and understand what is published. (So important!) The job requires a keen understanding of how SEO optimization works and how to implement best practices to improve search engine results and organic traffic. In this role, keyword research and positioning strategies intensify. Metadata, headings, content, internal links, URLs, and more on-page elements are SEO optimized for website pages, ads, and other online platforms. Long-term data analysis and continuous performance testing are routine to ensure that content performs. 

Final Thoughts On Copywriting Fundamentals

Whether planning a new website or updating an existing one, or writing on another platform, it’s important to keep the copywriting fundamentals top of mind. Equally so, digital copywriting must be engaging, relevant, and easy to find. Make it valuable to the reader so that they want to “click” or share it. (Quality over quantity.) Follow writing and content “best practices” and be adaptable to different platforms, audiences, styles, and…clients! Although this may seem like a lot of information in the beginning, it will all come together over time. You’re confidence and writing experience will be evident in the pieces you produce! For additional help, learn about the content services Leaning Tree Marketing provides.