I must admit this title is a bit cheeky. It hasn’t actually got me a job. Yet. But it will! In the long run anyway. The fact is I’ve been asked by a potential employer to write a bit about what I’ve learnt on the subject of digital copywriting. And possibly, it might help me land a job. So without further ado let’s get started.
My top ten digital copywriting tips
1. Know your audience
Before you begin, educate yourself about your audience, your product and more specifically, how your product will satisfy your audience’s needs.
Make it human and tangible. Try using a ‘which means…’ exercise to take you somewhere new. For example, Advertising Executive A uses Product B to do their job more efficiently… which means they impress their boss… which means they get a promotion… which means… You get the picture.
Getting to know your audience will help you identify your single minded proposition and refine your communications. Creating audience archetypes and visualising these when writing can help keep your copy focused.
2. Identify your keywords
Assign specific keyword phrases to your website’s various pages – ensuring each page has its own function. This will also help you align your page content.
Include your phrases in key locations such as urls, titles, descriptions, headlines, links, image tags and body copy.
Don’t go overboard though. Write for people first. Overusing keywords in an unnatural way diminishes reader-friendliness and is frowned upon by search engines – potentially penalising you in page rankings.
3. Keep it short
A lot of what you write won’t be read. Studies show only 16% of web users read pages word for word so keep your copy short. Use short sentences, paragraphs and words.
This also applies to email and social media. Email subject lines between 0-49 characters have higher open and click-through rates. Facebook posts with 80 characters or less receive 66% higher engagement. Facebook wall posts with less than 40 characters receive 86% higher engagement [source: buddymedia]
4. Make it easy to scan
Most users seek out a website with a goal in mind and scan pages to find relevant content. Help them scan easily by formatting your copy in digestible chunks. Long blocks of copy tend to overwhelm readers so break them up. 78% of users’ attention is occupied by headlines, summaries and captions so use these wisely.
Bullet points are effective. Even then users typically see about two words for most list items so keep them short with important words up front.
5. Link away
Use contextual and navigation links to help readers and search engines understand the topics and themes of your copy. Point to related content both internally and externally.
Think about your anchor text for links. Does it accurately reflect where the link will take the user?
6. Pour your heart out
Start by writing down everything you want to say without censorship. Pour your heart out. Then get brutal and start cutting. Question every paragraph, every word.
7. Inverting pyramids
Use the journalistic, pyramid style of writing. That means starting with the most important information. As I mentioned most people won’t make it to the bottom so don’t bury your lead down there!
8. Get active!
Use the active voice when writing. That is, say: ‘Ten customers bought the product’ rather than ‘The product was bought by ten customers’. “To be” verbs, such as “is,” “was” and “were” are indicators of the passive voice.
A useful little tool to identify your copy’s voice is Aztekera’s “To Be” Verb Analyzer.
9. Don’t brag
Use neutral, objective language. Web users are busy and they want facts, fast. Avoid exaggerated or boastful marketing and institutional speak. And skip the introductory ‘welcome’ copy.
10. Check again
Proof your copy carefully for spelling and grammatical errors. Don’t just rely on your spellchecker as this can miss out of context spelling errors. Read your copy out loud to identify clunky phrasing.
Finally, don’t swamp your readers. Leave them feeling positive. This naturally extends to how they feel about your brand as they interact with your online content. Simplify people’s lives – don’t complicate them.