One of the most lucrative paths a writer can take is into the wild, winding world of tech copy. However, tech copywriting can be intimidating! Especially for writers more familiar with plot devices or poetic meter than HTML. You might be thinking FML!—there’s just so much to know, and those more book inclined than tech savvy may seem to be at a disadvantage.
Fret not. This guide will break down even the most complicated elements of copywriting for tech companies into three essential areas of knowledge:
- Content – what the writing is about
- Audience – who the writing is for
- Voice – who you’re writing as
Having a firm grasp of these three areas will set you up to write intricate and powerful tech copy, across a wide range of verticals and for just about any client and purpose.
But first, let’s define what exactly tech copy is, in and of itself.
What is Tech Copywriting?
Tech copywriting can mean different things to different people. Some may assume “tech” is short for “technology.” And often, this is the case. Technological innovation fuels the growth of the internet, and many companies make their hay selling new gadgets and software online.
But that’s just one part of the picture. To many copywriters, “tech” means “technical.”
In other words, it covers a wide range of writing that involves a level of detail far beyond common knowledge. Tech fields often involve the sciences, but can branch out to things like finance, law, or even hobbies (sports analytics, cooking, etc.) Most importantly, “tech” has less to do with subject than with scope. It's a deep analysis rather than a surface level summary.
Content: What is the Writing About?
Herein lies the biggest ostensible challenge for those trying to write tech copy: it seems you need to have a vast array of knowledge in fields you might be totally ignorant about. Often, tech writing topics look like material you need to take a few college courses on to even start thinking about. But all that prerequisite knowledge isn’t always necessary.
As we’ll touch on in the audience section below, your target reader may share your own ignorance on a topic. And as we’ll touch on in the voice section, the client may be positioning its pieces less like academic articles than plainclothes, “for Dummies” style explainers.
Research and Bring Yourself Up to Speed
Expertise is not something you have; it’s something you do. Researchers across a wide variety of fields reach the level of “expert” through a constant practice of seeking out answers, finding them, and comparing their findings with what other researchers are saying.
Notice all the progressive (-ing) verbs in here? Knowledge isn’t something you achieve once, then call upon at will. Active learning is a constant, continual process.
To write effective tech copy, you’ll need to practice knowing by conducting research:
Start with basic Google searches using keywords related to your topic. Look for a baseline source to understand the background and discourse surrounding your topic:
- Encyclopedic sources (including even Wikipedia)
- Governmental sources (for law especially)
- Competitors (but don’t cite them!)
Then, start digging deeper. Look into any more specific articles cited by or linked to in the baseline sources. Read multiple accounts and perspectives to get a sense of:
- Who the most important experts are
- What the most important concepts are
- How it all relates to your assigned topic
When tasked with writing a piece of tech copy, the amount of background knowledge you have on the topic is only as big a deal as you make it. And even if you have background knowledge, you can’t rest on your laurels; you’ll need to find recent sources and up-to-date information that might even contradict what you thought you knew before. That’s why everyone needs research.
Audience: Who Is the Writing For?
Copy doesn’t exist in a vacuum; copywriting is writing to and for an audience. Just like screenwriting assumes an audience of TV or movie viewers, tech copy assumes an audience with questions about various technical subjects. For example, they might be wondering how to build a home computer or what kinds of insurance they need for a motorcycle.
Your job as a tech copywriter is to answer their questions. But it’s also to turn those answer-seekers into customers. To do that, your copy needs to meet them where they are.
So first, you need to know who they are:
- How well defined is the expected audience—is there an “ideal” reader?
- How much expertise and what kind(s) of knowledge does the ideal reader have?
- What kinds of hobbies or interests do the ideal or expected readers have?
- What are the demographics of the audience (age, race, gender, location, etc.)?
Questions like these will help you know how to talk to your audience. They’ll make clear just how much you need to explain and what kinds of references they’ll get and appreciate.
Cater to Human and Robot Readers
Copywriting isn’t just about reaching an audience; it’s also about expanding the audience your clients can reach. If your ultimate goal is answering readers’ questions, you first need to make sure that readers are finding your answers before other sources.
You’ll need to master the art and science of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
When you search the web using Google or any other search engine, the results you find come in an order that’s determined algorithmically. The search engine uses bots to crawl across the web and index pages, then ranks results for any given search based on internal metrics.
Unfortunately, these metrics are kept relatively secret, and they change all the time. However, two constant factors that are always important for SEO are:
- Relevance – How closely related a webpage is to the search terms entered. This includes the exact phrase searched, as well as linked phrases commonly searched for together.
- Authority – How trustworthy a website is. This includes its content history, such as the amount of content published and the frequency with which other web sources cite it.
The best way to nail relevance is using keywords early and often. Make sure to signpost with keywords and phrases throughout your tech copy, but always keep it organic in feel. For authority, it’s worth noting that no one article will have too much of an impact. However, you can help clients build authority with a high volume of high quality (thorough, detailed) content.
Voice: Who Are You Writing As?
The last area you need to focus on to nail any tech copy you’re writing is voice. In any kind of writing, voice is the umbrella term for various characteristics that make your writing yours.
But copywriting is unique in that the “you” is often invisible. You’re often doing some form of ghostwriting. Unlike a news article or personal blog, the name in the byline might not be yours. And even if you are credited, you’ll still need to take on characteristics of the platform you’re writing for. In other words, you’ll need to become your client and write as them.
Put Yourself in the Client’s Shoes
To take your tech copy to the next level, you’ll need to research the client you’re writing for.
First and foremost, get a sense of the way they position themselves by talking with individuals in the company. If there are any manuals or guides about style that a company keeps for internal purposes, they may be willing to share them with copywriters.
Then, you need to read as much as you can of their published writing. Read carefully and note the particular verbiage you see. Look to pages and documents like:
- “About us” and mission statements – To understand the overall feel of the company. Look for values and any overarching themes. What is important to the company?
- Product and service descriptions – To track the exact, specific ways they talk about their offerings. Look for which (kinds of) descriptors and metrics the company likes to feature.
- Blogs, articles, and social interactions – To get a sense of scale and scope, depending on context. Look at how different a blog post is from a response to a customer’s question on Twitter. What level of depth do articles typically reach?
Across these genres, look for what transcends. Even the most granular details can make a huge difference. For instance, you should know if your client uses oxford commas. If there are any special spellings or turns of phrase they use for their offerings, you should use them as well.
Nail Your Tech Copy with Copycat Copywriters
Copycat is a group of scribes committed to improving the quality of writing across the internet. We’re a full-service copywriting agency built on the idea that powerful copy comes from talented writers dedicated to research and craft, along with pain-staking editing.
Our dedicated tech copywriters are comfortable taking on any subject matter, no matter how detailed. Some of our specialties include:
No matter what the content is about, who the audience is, or how the voice should sound, Copycat Copywriters will deliver. Contact us to see how strong your tech copy can be!
Forbes. Three Reasons Why Active Learning Will Drive The Workforce Of Tomorrow. https://www.forbes.com/sites/anantagarwal/2019/07/09/three-reasons-why-active-learning-will-drive-the-workforce-of-tomorrow/
Google. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide. https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7451184
UMGC. Writing for an Audience. https://www.umgc.edu/current-students/learning-resources/writing-center/writing-resources/getting-started-writing/writing-for-an-audience.cfm