Memoirs Of A Handsome Copywriter

07 March 2019

Posted in: Agency Content Culture

It’s been a year since, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I first joined the ranks of Seeker Digital. And I’m not the same person I was then. I’ve lost a beard, gained weight, and learned a lot about what it means to be a digital copywriter.

To celebrate my one-year anniversary with Seeker, here are just a few things I’ve picked up.

What surprised you the most?

What surprised me the most about the world of SEO and digital marketing is just how fast-paced it is, and how important it is to businesses.

Before I started at Seeker, I was a consumer. I searched on Google, and clicked on the entry that ranked the highest, or looked the most useful. It didn’t matter to me how that page got there, I just let Google do its thing.

But now I realise just how much work goes into affecting those results and what Google looks for in high-quality content. And it’s changing all the time — the search query I made five years ago returned very different results to the one I made today.

For me, it’s akin to brushing my teeth every day for years, and then watching that toothbrush episode of How It’s Made and realising how complex toothbrushes actually are.

I haven’t brushed my teeth the same way since.

How have you changed?

After a year of working at Seeker, I’m much more aware when I search online. When I browse a website, I think about its E-A-T quality, its on-page SEO, its page speed, UX, and so on.

I’m also more appreciative of great marketing. I always enjoyed a good ad, but now I know just how much hard work goes into creating a slick infographic, cool PR asset, or long-form blog post.

And since last September’s BrightonSEO, I’m much more cognisant of the massive role that Google plays in our digital infrastructure.

The search engine and Facebook have been in the headlines a lot of late, with many pundits pointing to them as responsible for the death of digital publishers. As a content marketer, I’m conscious of what impact that has on my work and that of Seeker.

What did I learn?

I’ve learned a lot over the past year. So what lessons would I give my younger, slimmer, more hirsute self? Well…

You will get imposter syndrome

My path to Seeker Digital was hardly conventional. My first job post-graduation was as a door-to-door charity fundraiser, working on commission only. It was about as fun as it sounds, and I lasted a week.

After that, I worked in a cafe over Christmas, then got a job working in finance for a multinational law firm. As an English Literature graduate who needs a calculator for the easiest of sums, I was a little bit out of my depth.

Three years on, I got myself some work experience and a part-time job at Penguin Random House. A year after that, I joined Seeker. Hardly the traditional copywriter trajectory.

I found that doing a job you love leaves you with serious imposter syndrome, a niggling self-doubt that makes you wonder if you’re really cut out for this job.

And that’s fine.

Imposter syndrome is an unpleasant necessity. Rather than letting it drag you down, use it to spur you on and earn your title. It’s a marathon, not a sprint — learn every day, and that critical inner voice will gradually turn into a whisper.

Ask stupid questions

As Mr Garrison once said: “there are no stupid questions, just stupid people.” This is absolutely true — sort of. The stupid people are the ones who don’t ask stupid questions.

By asking stupid questions, you get to grips with the basics. You learn more about the industry through a one-to-one conversation, rather than by reading a blog post that probably makes it even more confusing.

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So rather than pretending to know everything in a conversation or presentation, and then hurriedly looking up terms you don’t know later, just ask.

Tweet your heart out

In October of last year, Twitter announced a drop of nine million monthly active users in its third quarter. While use of the social platform is apparently down (but no doubt buoyed by the tweets churned out by Trump’s tiny hands), the digital marketing world seems to buck this trend.

The truth is, SEOs, PR professionals, digital marketers, and content creators love Twitter.

If the platform has 326 million monthly active users, it’s a safe bet that at least a third of them work in digital marketing. Twitter is a great place to stay up-to-date with the latest industry happenings, with conversations spanning everything from algorithm updates to social media hacks.

And because no-one wants to read about what I had for breakfast on the 14th of October in 2014, I created a separate Twitter account dedicated solely to following the digital marketing world.

Here are just a few of my favourite Twitterers (that you need to follow too):

  • Rand Fishkin: Moz co-founder, SEO expert, and cultivator of great hair, Rand is the Nostradamus of search engine optimisation, and is well-versed in the state of SEO today.
  • James Whatley: Digitas UK’s strategy partner and digital marketing thought leader, James regularly delivers cutting-edge insights into everything digital (as well as some on-point Netflix recommendations too).
  • Jon Payne: as well as being a fantastic game show host, Jon is technical director at Bristol agency Noisy Little Monkey and a vibrant addition to your Twitter feed.

Read a variety of industry publications

A digital copywriter creates content — but they also consume it. There are countless resources out there that provide insightful, concise, and useful content about digital marketing.

Of course, with higher volume comes decreased quality, so try and find the diamonds in the rough. Here are my favourites:

  • HubSpot: so much more than just a SaaS brand! HubSpot strikes the right balance between concise and informative, and I’ve returned to its blog time and again for some SEO insight.
  • Search Engine Land: aside from being a theme park that needs to be built, Search Engine Land is also a one-stop shop for everything SEO.
  • ProCopywriters: a recent find for me, ProCopywriters is a copywriters alliance that regularly shares hacks and insight into everything copy, from freelancing tips to content pointers.

Time-poor but hungry for more? Download Feedly. The news aggregator collates the best content from a range of publications for you to quickly and easily read on the go. Ideal for long queues, delayed trains, or relaxed toilet breaks.

Many of these publications offer email newsletters too, delivering useful content straight to your inbox. While the idea of willingly letting more junk mail into your email inbox might seem counterintuitive, trust me — it’s worth it.

Find a writing method that works for you

Some people can sit down in front of a computer and churn out 1000 words in an hour. Others need two hours, punctuated by cigarette breaks and timed by the Pomodoro app. And others still prefer to hammer out a first draft, then leave it overnight to give it a fresh pair of eyes in the morning.

Everyone has their own preferred method of writing. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Personally, I prefer peppering my content with swear words to help my writing flow — each to their own.

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Experiment with different writing methods and try out some productivity hacks to speed up the process. Not everything will stick, but when something does, your productivity will gradually increase.

Shit words on a page are better than no words at all

There’s nothing as frustrating as seeing that text cursor silently winking at you as you struggle to put words on paper.

Get words on the page. Even if it’s not fact-checked or poorly written, it’s better to have something to work with than nothing. When you’ve got words down, you can finesse and fine-tune. You can make what you’ve got better, rather than struggling to create something out of nothing.

In essence, it’s easier to turn a shit sandcastle into a good one than to have no sandcastle at all.

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It’s been a busy year for this digital copywriter. I’ve learned a lot, and hope to learn even more in 2019. Hold onto yer butts.

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