What is the difference between good and bad online copy? The answer to that question will ultimately be decided by your readers, if you have any!

Isn’t online copy all about optimising your site for the search engines? No, it’s about engaging your visitors, getting them to look around and maybe even buy something.  You should of course use any opportunities you get for optimisation but please write for people not robots.

Engage your audience

“Content is king” goes the old adage but content for content’s sake can be clumsy and unreadable. It is important not to lose sight of the fact that you need to engage your visitors to keep them on your website.

Think about your message but also think about what your customers want to know. This is just as true of the “About Us” page that describes your multi-national stationery company as it is of the unique product description that you write for your top selling Staple-matic 5400 XL.

Writing for your customer is crucial, think about why they would want this product or service then promote the features and benefits as well as your unique selling points. Be careful to avoid a “me, me, me” style of writing – focus on your customers, their needs and talk about them.

SEO and online content

In a world of SERPs it’s too easy to get hung up on SEO techniques and start writing content targeted directly at Google.

The urge to use your keywords can seem overpowering! Pretty soon you have forgotten about engaging customers and you are making the mistake of writing for the search engines rather than people.

Overusing keywords will water down the focus of your copy and in the worst cases STOP IT MAKING SENSE (which runs the risk of alienating your customers). What’s more Google can identify this kind of keyword stuffing and may even penalise you for it!

Providing the best possible customer experience is something that Google (and you) believe is paramount.

How to write for the web

Writing for the web is slightly different to other styles of writing as people’s online reading habits are quite unlike the ways in which they interact with regular media.

Writing good copy is by no means complicated and here are a few rules that will help you write great content that will be loved by both customers and the search engines: See?

  • Prominence of keywords – your keywords should feature in headers, the first sentence and if possible the last sentence as well.
  • Density of keywords – you need to see a good repetition of keywords whilst keeping your copy natural and readable, up to a maximum 2% density. If you are unsure about your keyword density you can analyse your copy by pasting it into the text box on: http://textalyser.net/. Don’t be tempted to overuse keywords as this will spoil the readability of your page.
  • Readability – copy should be easy to read and not contain technical jargon. People have a much lower attention span on the web and you need to take into account different reading abilities as well. Ideally it should be understandable to an 11 year old.
  • Ideal sentence length – sentences should be no more than 11 words long where possible. Re-work multiple comma sentences so that they only include one, this helps to keep things concise and readable.
  • Paragraph size – keep paragraphs as short as possible in order to break up the copy and make things easier on the eye. One line paragraphs can really work well.
  • Use sub-headings – this will help your readers to scan the copy for useful ideas that resonate with them.
  • Highlighting – You should also make good use of bold, italic and underline to emphasise your points. Don’t forget to highlight your keywords too as Google sees highlighting as an SEO signpost.
  • Write for your customer – copy should be customer focused and not use too many “I” or “we” words. The “we we” tool is very useful for testing this: http://www.futurenowinc.com/wewetext.htm.

Another thing to remember is people’s attention span is limited so don’t labour your point, knowing when to quit is extremely important.

In conclusion

When writing for the web just remember that you are trying to engage your audience as well as looking for opportunities to optimise your site for Google.