Copywriting - An Outdated Concept?

Image by Yogendra174

Image by Yogendra174

Last week, I was lucky enough to write the first ever guest post on the blog over at SERPd (a new competitor to Sphinn). I tackled a particular bugbear of mine, the fact that copywriting is overlooked as an essential SEO skill. Despite generally positive feedback, one comment stopped me dead in my tracks:

“Copywriting is an outdated concept and signifies low quality. I’d add a writing category instead and merge it with blogging. The best thing would be a holistic content creation category.”

That’s a big statement to make. Is the concept of copywriting outdated? Does the mere phrase conjour up thoughts of terrible articles slapped together by unscrupulous scrapers or preening prose gurgled out by failed journalists?

Maybe we should all just call it a day and embrace new roles as holistic content creators?

Is copywriting an outdated concept?

There’s no point beating around the bush here. I’ve got a vested interest in saying no, and I’m going to say it. There’s no way copywriting as a concept is outdated. Written communication isn’t something that goes out of date. As long as people are writing, typing or scribbling in the dirt with a stick, there will be a market for the skills of a professional writer.

But that’s not to say that the good name of copywriting hasn’t been battered and bruised.

Is copywriting synonymous with low quality?

I’ve just done a Google search for “copywriting services”. The top sponsored result reads “Original copy for £8 per page”. The pages of any forum with a copywriting section are crammed with people writing English as a second language offering scraped articles for a few pence.

But does that mean the term signifies low quality? I don’t think it does. Just as the SEO market is seemingly infested with snake-oil merchants, there are a number of companies offering copywriting services that aren’t up to scratch. But we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The actions of a minority isn’t reason enough to discredit a whole field. The scrapers and mills aren’t so prevalent that they’ve tarred the good name of copywriting entirely. If you ask the average person in need of content, they’ll be looking for a professional copywriter with good references.

So, the term copywriting needs to go?

Holistic content creator doesn’t really roll off the tongue. It’s too unwieldy for a category on a social bookmarking site, let alone a business card. People have argued for and against the term, but copywriting works. It defines what we do – a copywriter writes copy after all – and it’s a term that still breeds confidence in clients.

Despite the actions of some bottom-end content generators, copywriting isn’t obsolete. And if you think it’s a signifier of low quality, you’ve been doing business with the wrong people.

What do you think? Is copywriting obsolete? Do we even need to defend the term? Join the debate in the comments section below.

11 Comments comments for "Copywriting – An Outdated Concept?"

  1. Mel says:

    I think this is a ridiculous statement to make about copy. Someone who clearly isn’t educated in what it means… why suggest naming it ‘holistic content creator’ it’s bizarre, long-winded and doesn’t make any sense.

    We are copywriters.

    • Andrew says:

      I think the holistic content creation guff is a suggestion for a SERPd category as opposed to a new job title. But that doesn’t make it any less bizarre. I’m not exactly sure what it means.

  2. Alconcalcia says:

    Copywriting is not obsolete, no, and never will be. What is much rarer though these days, particularly on the web, is true creativity. It’s become so easy for anyone to slap any old nonsense up on a web page for free, just to have a presence, so that’s what a lot of people do. Alternatively, some people use a copy factory that’s churning out stuff for 2p a word. No surprise then that in the eyes of some, copywriting has lost its value as an art form. God forbid these people learn to draw, or someone invents a program where you can design almost anything for virtually no money at all.

  3. LOL. Voted up for linking to me 😉
    OK, point taken. There certainly is a need for talented copywriters but still the term is limiting. I can’t imagine that you have several different people for the copywriting, the blogging and the creation of other types of content in the average Joe company. Even if there is a team, they will have several different tasks.

    Also compiling a list for link bait, devising a tutorial or creating an infographic isn’t exactly copywritig anymore. You can do these even without a blog so it isn’t exactly blogging either.

    Copywriting sounds like writing sales copy nobody ever reads. Also SEO copywriting often ends up being artificially sounding keyword rich content.

  4. Andrew says:

    Completely agree with many of your comments, I have spoken to many web designers and web development ‘experts’ who do not consider the copy that they are putting in their site, and do not seem to care if this copy is engaging for website visitors or designed to make the pages look good in Google!

    That said, this ‘experts’ tend to be writing for other people and don’t care about the ‘webby’ results of their site, other than it looks good and pretty!

    Designers and developers that are designing for themselves or their own business, tend to understand the benefits of copywriting and look at it properly!

    Copywriting is a great title 🙂

  5. Kirvan says:

    As a professional copywriter I hope the answer to your original question is a resounding no.

    It is true without doubt though that SEO has ‘cheapened’ the art of copywriting, but not many people realise the ranking benefits of well-written and informative content.

  6. Given the fact that I am still asked by people if copywriters are the ones who put that little “c” next to the date of their work, I have to say that copywriters have always been underestimated, misunderstood, and often maligned even by their so-called peers in the marketing and advertising industries. If I wasn’t so damn old, I would pick another profession, such as lion tamer or poet laureate. But I imagine those choices would also have some serious downside risks. Truth is, the invasion of the left-brained SEO content providers is upon us. And it’s going to be worse than bedbugs!

  7. Andrew says:

    Obviously the article is written by someone ridiculous.

    I’d have hoped that I’d perhaps just have used some of the copywriting experience I have to make it fairly obvious that I don’t agree with the original comment (not made by the author) and that I’ve only asked the question to stir up debate.

    But please, feel free to read the first paragraph, skim over the rest of the content and assert that I’m uneducated. That’s the sort of knee jerk comment that keeps me writing.

  8. Therese says:

    To clarify my comment: I was referring to the quote: “Copywriting is an outdated concept and signifies low quality. I’d add a writing category instead and merge it with blogging. The best thing would be a holistic content creation category.” I thought this quote was taken from an article -wasn’t referring to you as the article/blog writer. I was referring to the person who originally wrote this statement on this blog. Sorry for the confusion.

    I do agree with Mel and others who said that copywriting is NOT obsolete nor will ever be.

  9. Pete says:

    I’m getting more and more enquiries for ‘content writing’ or ‘text writing’. These are the ones I know are almost certainly going to offer peanuts and are looking for quantity not quality. Which is why I am, and always will be, a copywriter.

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