Writing great copy is incredibly hard. These helpful guidelines tell you some of the characteristics of great copy and will help you to improve your own.
Keep It Short
Your average visitor on the web wants information quickly and can be put off by a long title, let alone a lengthy article. Keep it short and to the point so you don’t scare away visitors. Give the reader the information quickly before they have a chance to move on. Your first paragraph is a great example of this; make it exciting and grab the reader’s attention.
Keep It Simple
Don’t make readers struggle to decipher what you’re trying to say. Keep the language basic so that every reader will understand what you’re trying to say, without the need of a dictionary and thesaurus. In truth this isn’t really about intelligence, but more the multi-cultural, international nature of the internet. English won’t be every reader’s first language, and they won’t necessarily share the same culture either, so take it easy on the colloquialisms too.
Vague to Specific
Being specific and precise is great, especially for SEO, but if an article seems too in-depth initially then many readers will head for an article that seems more digestible. Make sure your article starts out generalized, drawing in the most possible readers, then gets more and more specific as it goes on. In this way people can give up and move on when they have had enough, but you keep their interest longer overall, and they are more likely to stay on your website.
Don’t Copy and Paste Print Copy
Print copy has entirely different principles to web copy. An underlying aspect of web copy that you should ALWAYS have in mind while writing is search engine optimization (SEO). Be wary of copying print text; it is much harder to adjust print copy than simply re-write it. Your copy will be far superior if you read the whole article, understand its message and aims, then rewrite it for the web using the print copy as a reference while you write.
For more on how to write with SEO in mind, read SubHub’s article SEO Tips – Your Search Engine Optimization Questions Answered
Multimedia Dos and Don’ts
Autoplay video and audio on any page, ever!
Decorate text with irrelevant images
Use images to replace text
Cram in lots of photos
Use relevant multimedia elements
Use images to expand on the text
Use images to explain or represent the text’s message
Use at least one image/video on every page
I’m sure we have all been on a website that suffers from messy formatting or is littered with advertisements. People will judge a website by its appearance and won’t trust websites that haven’t had sufficient effort put into their appearance. Use a consistent “house style” for your site and be sure it looks professional. Advertising can be a great source of revenue, but keep it low key and low volume — visitors don’t like being spammed.
Break Up Block Text
Readers are easily scared by block text. Make your copy accessible by breaking up text with the following:
bullet points – a great way to break up text. See?
tables – also good
headings – ensure these are keyword-laden to help your SEO
embolden important sentences – draws the eye and interests the reader
add images, videos, fact boxes, etc
add hyperlinks – interior or exterior, they’re all good
Keywords aren’t just for titles. The keyword density of your article is of utmost importance to search engines. Whether your keywords appear in your headings, sub-headings, emboldened text is taken into account. Take this into account whilst writing.
Readers Over Search Engines
As much as you should be aware of SEO, it is critical that you prioritise human enjoyment over search engine optimisation. Remember that search engines are just a means of getting people onto your site. The copy then needs to read well and interest those people. It can be easy to lose sight of this. Don’t fall into that trap.
Always a risky one for an article to mention with the possibility of instant hypocrisy. It is a very important exercise though. Nothing says unprofessional like a typo or a blatant misuse of their, there, they’re for example. Don’t rely on yourself for this one — get friends or colleagues to have a read too; they will spot mistakes you have missed.
This guideline is twofold:
1. Write about what you know – Your content must be unique and useful. The best way for you to do this is to write about your passion, interest or area of expertise. You will be surprised by how many people will share your interest and could be willing to pay for your content.
2. Write in your own natural style – Copy that is considered great often makes it seem like that person is talking to you. The way to achieve this conversational intimacy with the reader is to write in your natural way — let it flow like you are talking, and so it will sound.
Asking for feedback and comments on your copy can be scary. There are, and always will be, online trolls who tell you that you are wrong, stupid or behind the times. Ignore trolls but listen to genuine readers. They will tell you what they liked or didn’t understand. This will help you improve your copy — and answering their questions or writing a follow up article will please them and keep them coming back for more.