Copywriting fundamentals: 10 buzzwords you need to know

Photo of author
Written By Monica Seeber

One of the fantastic things about the Internet is the amount of new information and ideas there is to learn everyday. One of the downsides is the amount of new information and ideas there is to learn everyday.

If you want to keep up with the latest and greatest in digital copywriting, content marketing, and social media management, then here are 10 buzzwords you really need to know.

1.     Backlinks

Search engine optimisation is more than just keywords. Algorithms used by the likes of Google and Yahoo examine several factors to calculate the ranking of pages when returning search results. One of these is backlinks.

Backlinks are also known as inbound links because they link to your website and thus the traffic is inbound to your domain. Put another way, a backlink occurs when a third party website links back to yours.

Backlinks are assessed as an indicator of the trustworthiness; the more backlinks to your site, the more trustworthy it is. Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as just the numbers; your backlink profile is more than the sum of your backlinks. I recommend you check out Google’s Penguin 2.0 Algorithm: The Definitive Guide at Search Engine Watch for more information about backlinks and what they mean for your link profile.

2.     Brand journalism

Brand journalism is the development and production of brand news content in the style of traditional, mainstream journalism. It can go as far as establishing an onsite newsroom, staffed with editors and journalists, or a publication division that creates content and coordinates print and digital distribution.

Horizons Magazine published by RAC WA, and Cisco’s technology news site The Network, are both examples of brand journalism.

For most businesses, brand journalism is more like an evolved company newsletter: the focus is on providing useful, unbiased information to consumers that is more than just company and product updates. The key here is focusing on the consumer – not the brand.

For an enjoyable crash course in brand journalism I suggest you listen to the entire back catalogue of the Brand Newsroom podcast.

3.     C-suite

This is our C-suite: CEO Dominique Antarakis and COO Maureen Shelley

C-suite is the collective term for the traditional executive positions within a company such as chief executive officer, chief operating officer, and chief financial officer. It may reference the use of the word “chief” in these titles but it also applies to equivalent titles such as managing director and president.

Jenna Goudreau at wrote C is for Silly: The New C-suite Titles and observes:

In the past few years, the c-suite has exploded its members, knighting nearly every department head with new, inventive chief titles likely dreamed up by the marketing team.

Most of these titles seem to identify human resources objectives and include “chiefs of happiness, people, diversity, culture, talent, observance and employee engagement”. Yet very few of these “chiefs” have any real power within a company.

The C-suite is the decision-making body of a brand or company – it does not include people with “vanity titles”. Whether that is a single director or a board of chiefs, they are the people you go to when you need approval for finance or a project. The C-suite are the people with power.

4.     Content economy

The film “Sneakers” was released in 1992. It’s a heist caper, but instead of stealing money the thieves are stealing an encryption decoder. Towards the end of the film, Cosmo (played by Ben Kingsly) tried to convince his one-time friend Martin (played by Robert Redford) to join his cause. Cosmo argues:

The world isn’t run by weapons anymore. Or energy or money. It’s run by little ones and zeros – little bits of data… It’s all about the information!

Cosmo wasn’t far off. Security and surveillance aside, a lot of commentators are convinced we now live in a “content economy”. But what on earth does that mean?

Simply put, an economy is the processes a society/community/country uses to determine what is produced and how it will be distributed (this definition is taken from What is an economy/economic system?).

And content? Content is the presentation of information. The traditional definition is “the subjects or topics covered in a book or document” (from but in the era of digital technology it also includes formats such as video and audio recordings, blog posts, social media feeds, infographics, and more.

In a content economy, the currency used to facilitate the production and distribution of resources is content. Tom Channick on VentureBeat observes:

A surprising transformation across the media industry has happened in the span of a few years as content has emerged as the central currency linking brands and publishers.

Brands are becoming publishers and publishers are selling themselves like brands. Goods and services are sold to consumers via content marketing, and more businesses are creating content sharing arrangements with distributors in order to grow their audience.

To paraphrase Cosmo, it’s all about the content.

5.     Content marketing

This blog is content marketing.  There. I said it.

If you want to know about content marketing then you really can’t go past the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). CMI was founded by Joe Pulizzi – who practically invented the term “content marketing” (he said so on the This Old Marketing podcast) – and is arguably one of the most recognised content marketing organisations in the world.

You can find six definitions of content marketing on CMI and a further 21 definitions provided by content marketers on

The gist of it is: instead of selling products and services directly to consumers via advertising and traditional marketing, brands produce and curate useful and interesting content for their target audience. Over the long term, the brand becomes a familiar and trustworthy resource and consumers reward the brand by purchasing and using their products and services.

Naturally, content marketing can be done well and it can be done poorly. The key is figuring out the types of content your brand audience wants and the best way to deliver that content to them.

6.     Digital native

A digital native is a person born during and after the widespread adoption of digital technologies. It was first coined by Marc Prensky in 2001 in the paper “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants“. While the paper discussed challenges in education, the concept of “digital natives” has been widely adopted in diverse fields including marketing, research, and human resources.

Digital natives grow up with digital technology and typically were born post-1980. However there is no exact cut-off because digital technologies and their applications spread at different rates according to geography, politics, socioeconomic factors and the like. Digital natives are balanced by “digital immigrants” who didn’t grow up with digital technology and thus adopted it later in life.

The key point to remember about digital natives is: just because somebody grew up with the technology doesn’t mean they know how to use it. Digital literacy varies so don’t assume people who grew up with the technology know more than those who adopted it.

7.     Growth hacking

When people use the term “growth hacking” what they mean is… Something to do with start-ups and growing audiences…

Well, there is no standard definition. Wikipedia maps the history of growth hacking and goes through as many definitions as there are years since 2010 (when the term was first coined), and Quora has 39 answers to the question “What is growth hacking?” There is a lot of variance but common themes are using non-traditional marketing techniques, an emphasis on “virality”, minimising expenditure, and coding or engineering.

There’s a lot of debate about what growth hacking is, if it is actually something, and if that something is a good thing. Sarah Pirez at TechCrunch looks at “When Growth Hacking Goes Bad“; David Rowan at Wired Magazine asks if growth hacking is “hype or the holy grail for startups?” and Mark Macdonald from American Apparel argues that growth hacking is “the future of marketing“.

But really, the only person who truly seems to understand growth hacking is Dilbert:

Dilbert comic strip. The first panel shows an employee approaching their manager saying,
Dilbert comic strip from Thursday July 10, 2014. Nobody really knows what growth hacking is.

8.     Intelligent content

Intelligent content is the next evolution of content, and no – it does not involve content becoming self-aware and trying to take over the world!

Ann Rockley, founder of the Intelligent Content Conference, defines intelligent content as:

structurally rich and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable.

To really understand what that means, you should read Robert Rose’s “Intelligent Content Demystified: A Practical, Easy-to-Understand Explanation” on the CMI website. However a simpler explanation is to imagine a digital library (much like current online library catalogues and databases) that includes all of your content, is easily searchable (by computers and humans), and is fully automated so relevant content is displayed to a consumer without a person first searching for it.

It sounds awesome.

9.     Native advertising

Native advertising is paid content that matches a publication’s editorial standards while meeting the audience’s expectations.

The above definition of native advertising is thoughtfully provided by Demian Farnworth at in a post that examines 12 examples of native ads (and why they work). It’s a good read and is as enlightening as any other discussion out there.

Of course, what’s a new catch phrase without its nay-sayers? For an alternative view, Robert Rose argues that native advertising is neither “native” nor “advertising”. It’s also a regular point of contention on the That Old Marketing podcast he co-hosts with Joe Pulizzi.

10.   White paper

And for our final buzzword: the white paper.

“White paper” is derived from “white book”: an official publication of national government policy.

It can be a guide or report that provides information to assist readers understand a specific issue or problem, or it can be a persuasive paper written to argue on behalf of the author’s position or philosophy on an issue.

Within the context of government, a white paper is often used to present the evidence and arguments for a government policy, with the aim of persuading readers that said policy is a good one. In the context of business enterprise, it’s more likely to be a guide or report presenting new information on a relevant topic, or offering guidance on a product or service. Business white papers have a distinct marketing flavour but that doesn’t make them any less useful.

Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab provides a handy Powerpoint that discusses the basics of writing white papers.

And that’s the end of the list – thanks for sticking with it! If you’d like to learn more about the fundamentals of copywriting, then make sure you follow us on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. But right now you can read an introduction to web accessibility or learn how to become a published author.

The Copy Collective is a collective of Australian, New Zealand and other international copywriters whose versatile copywriting skills range from fundraising, marketing and online copywriting to corporate and government writing, feature and speech writing, as well as editing and so much more.