Appointing a Good Copywriter (and keeping them!)

“I have always found it interesting… that there are people who regard copyright infringement as a form of flattery.” – Tom Lehrer


Poor internet or brochure content reduces your sales leads, you just don’t know it has!

What Makes Copy-Written Content ‘Good’?

For a simple yet complete definition of ‘great content’, look at Google’s content quality guidelines. Their five core criteria are:

The content;

  • Is of use to the reader and educates them
  • Is more valuable and useful than other sites
  • Is believable
  • Is well written
  • Creates interaction

Many companies pay a great deal of attention to the first point above and then neglect all else. The written word, when badly constructed, focuses on products and benefits, offered up in such a boring way that readers drift off instead of engaging.  Web content must be more than a repeat of facts and the criteria above provides the basis of what to look for when hiring a copywriter or looking at out-sourcing to self-employed writers.

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What to Look for in Your Copywriter

Let’s begin our profile of the ideal copywriter with reference to Google’s five quality criteria again.

Is of use to the reader and educates them:  The copywriter must be able to communicate accurate information with clarity and precision. If your company markets a technical product or service, then you will need a writer who is competent in this area.

Is more valuable and useful than other sites: If your product or service is technical or difficult to understand, you ought to seek a writer that has proven expertise in this area. The next point below is relevant to the first two.

The writer must convey authority: This is a definite necessity in B2B writing (business to business), wherein insufficient relevant experience in the writer quickly becomes obvious. An ideal candidate is a competent specialist in your area of business.

Is well written: Amateur copywriters have little or no training and make basic mistakes in usage, exposition and grammar. Such flaws are always irritating to the reader and reduce authority, but more so in fields where a company’s expertise is the core of their selling proposition.

It is vital that the management team define the company’s style of conversation and tone, this enables different copywriters to be judged against the baseline.

In addition to these criteria, other things to look for in a copywriter:

  • Works to time
  • Accurate whatever the timescale
  • Takes feedback well but is assertive with their own competence
  • Quick learner
  • Understands search engine optimisation (SEO), conversion rate optimization (CRO) and how to incorporate good practice into web pages
  • Can create work on their own that is credible and consistent with the company voice
  • Is more concerned about the results achieved and created by the work than creating the perfect piece

The relevance of these last guidelines vary; e.g. an e-commerce website requires good CRO knowledge.

Appointing a Good Copywriter: The Audition

The best way to screen and assess a copywriter candidate is to give them an actual assignment.

We would suggest an assignment, with a 4 day deadline, gives an opportunity to evaluate the candidate in action, and get an extremely good sense of how well he or she works with you as a client and their technical skills. It is always appropriate to tell candidates you’ll pay for the work if you use it.

How much to pay?

Copywriting is like all things in life: you get what you pay for. Companies that scrimp with copywriters tend to be the ones that don’t understand the difference between excellent and poor content. Good copywriters are not cheap, and marvellous copywriters get very high pay.

Copywriter training and induction

Once the copywriter is recruited, whether employed or self-employed—you need to help them understand your industry, company, services, competitors, products and strategies whether sales or marketing.  It is your responsibility to help them learn all these elements and your business plan and marketing plan (assuming you have them!) will assist this process.

The Article Brief

The copywriter needs an excellent creative brief to work from. The brief is an outline document that provides the vital facts the writer must have to allow them to finish the job. It should include:

  • The title
  • A 3-4 line view of the aim of the article
  • An outline of the target customer
  • An explanation of what action is required of the reader
  • The overview discussion points
  • Additional talking points
  • Precise call(s) to action
  • Links to references or other documents used in research
  • Keywords for SEO
  • Size of the article and how long it should take an average reader to absorb

An excellent creative brief gives the writer an all-round look at the objective, in addition to specific instructions for creating the piece. The test of an excellent brief is if the originator looks at the article and says, “I didn’t know what I wanted to say, but this is exactly it!”

Creative brief tip: Listen to your copywriter

Companies never produce excellent briefs from the off. However, by paying attention carefully to comments from the copywriter, one can identify the opportunities for improvement in the future.

The real opportunity for us all is to understand how ‘good’ is ‘good enough’ for our readers. Correct English is vital, but if you are fixing car paintwork, your content doesn’t need to come from the annals of a BBC newsreader!

Pay by the project not the numbers of words.  You want clarity and brevity rather than padding!  Seek expert help and support from skilled copy writers and your content will flow!

Thoughts on appointing a good copywriter from Yorkshire Powerhouse
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