Is traditional copywriting dead?

Is the latest “Google Plus” news making you think that traditional copywriting is dead – and it’s all about social?

I received this note from a talented SEO copywriter:

“It’s really true that it’s important to do what one loves – and because I have ADD, I find social campaign management/monitoring, etc. to be extremely difficult, staying on top of Twitter and Google+ and FB and LinkedIn and StumbleUpon and YouTube and and Hootsuite and hash-tags and likes etc. ;-) It’s downright painful for me and I’d rather chew glass I’m afraid… 

Is there a place for an SEO Copywriter who has very strong skills in writing website core content, email/landing page campaigns, blog posts, case studies, reports, ebooks, etc. (which is a heck of a lot) — and not do social posts/monitoring too? I was recently asked to submit a proposal for a social campaign and I’m actually dreading it. I don’t even want the project. “

If you cut your teeth on traditional print copywriting, this may really hit home. Once upon a time, you may have been writing catalog copy (for print catalogs,) direct mail pieces and display ad copy.

Today, you’re being asked to research keyphrases, keep up with the latest search engine changes and watchdog social media campaigns.

Which leads many copywriters to ask the question “Is traditional copywriting dead?”

The answer is no. Not really. But things certainly have changed.

Many folks know that I cut my teeth on print copywriting. Long before we were Googling, I was writing ad copy for a local newspaper and developing marketing collateral for screw compressors (really.) Moving to an online environment was a very different experience 14+ years ago. Readability rules changed – since people were reading off of a monitor, that meant presenting the content in a slightly different fashion. Skill sets changed – I had to learn how to research keyphrases and segment them by buyer’s intent. And yes, I did have to keep up with the latest search engine changes and learn the technical lingo.

I think the definition of “copywriter” (and “copywriting”) has changed and morphed over the years. Today, a copywriter may still choose specialize in print communications (print is not necessarily dead and can still gain some great returns.) Or, a copywriter may love writing emails, landing pages and special reports. Or, some copywriters (sometimes called social media writers) may love tweeting, Google+-ing and Facebooking.

At the same time, how we write what we write goes back to traditional copywriting techniques. Show, not tell. Make sure your reader knows “what’s in it for her.” Know what makes your reader tick. The list goes on and on…

So “traditional copywriting” isn’t dead. There’s just more opportunity.

Does this mean that you, as a copywriter, need to embrace and do everything? No. It is perfectly OK to tell your clients, “I specialize in X copywriting” rather than tacking on Y and Z and gritting your teeth the entire time.

Having said that, there are some things that you may want to consider:

If you’re working online, it’s crucial to keep up with the latest search engine changes. Sticking your head in the sand because SEO is “too technical” can hurt your clients (something may change that you need to know about) and makes you look dumb (you want to be able to answer your clients’ questions.) It doesn’t mean that you need to be an expert. Just know what’s going on.

If you’re getting a lot of requests for X, partner with another copywriter. If you’re a print copywriter, the smartest thing you can do (assuming you don’t want to learn how to write online) is work with another copywriter. Then, when a client requests something you don’t like to do, you can hand it off to someone you know and trust. You could even build up a powerful virtual agency with this technique. Imagine being a “one-stop shop” for print, online sales pages/email and social – wow!

Always try something new – but be gentle with yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in the “I don’t want to learn that – I’m already overwhelmed” trap. And yes, it really is easy to overwhelm. Choose one “thing” a quarter that you learn more about. Maybe it’s learning more about SEO copywriting. Or try setting up a Google+ account and build your Circles. Or if you’re more of a sales writer, try your hand at an ebook. Trying things new keeps you fresh and curious. And besides, you may discover that you actually like whatever you just tried – and you can develop a brand-new profit center.

Are your clients asking about SEO and you need to know more about it? Do you have a print background and need to learn how to write online? Check out my SEO Copywriting Certification training for step-by-step help.

Photo gratitude to tj scenes