Thursday, February 4, 2010

Short Copy Rules

Short Copy: Writing and Editing for the Web

There are all kinds of reasons to write short copy. For a website, it is essential.
  • Short copy aids scanning. Most visitors to your website will – at first at least – be scanning.
  • People are in a rush and short copy is less complex, easier to absorb.
  • Short copy is more inviting to the eye, especially to the lazy or rushed eye.
  • Longer copy creates boring gray blocks of text, short copy breaks up the gray with white.
  • Short copy tends to be written more in the vernacular, which is less formal and more relatable.
  • It’s easier to encapsulate individual messages or points into short bits of text.
  • Writing short forces you to edit down to your essential point and use the active voice.
As a writing process, write as you normally would, then edit down. You can tighten text very effectively simply by changing to the active voice. Using the active voice also makes your copy more assertive and more lively, your message more direct and compelling. Short, active copy makes strong sell copy. Use it wisely.

Use bullets to create lists of your points, and try to edit each bullet into one line of text. Because short copy tends to read more casual, it’s all right to break more formal writing conventions – just don’t overdo it. You want informal, not sloppy or unsophisticated. You may, for instance, begin a sentence with “but” or “so” or end it with a preposition, depending on your organization’s style.

Writing short copy involves shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs. You may be forgiven for one- or two-sentence paragraphs, two- or three-word sentences. Break paragraphs into thoughts, sentences into statements. Observe the KISS principle: Keep It Short and Simple!

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Role Page Titles Play in Searches

Page Titles: More Than a Sell Line

A page title is far more than a sell line on your Web page. It should immediately tell the reader the main topic covered on your page, and it should be keyword rich. This shouldn't be a place for your company name as much as a place to tell what your company is about. It has huge effect on SEO (search engine optimization) or SERPS (search engine ranking).

Very often I see websites list a business or company name on their home page. For SEO that may be effective if someone already knows your business or company name, but many times as a business you’re trying to attract new customers. How can they find you? If someone new conducts a search and they don’t know your name but they will search for what you offer, they may not find you because your emphasis has been on your company’s name. That could be fatal.

For the home page, you can actually accomplish both by positioning a keyword for what your business offers first and your business name second: Doohickies – Joe Smoes. That way, someone looking for doohickies will find you among stores or business that sell doohickies, and someone looking for a store or business named Joe Smoes will find it.

Inside the site, where you break your pages down into more definitive services or products, your page titles should be even more specific: Red Doohickies or Metal Dookickies or European Doohickies, using keywords you know your customers will use to try to find you.

When someone is building your website, make sure they have thought of this. Many designers, developers, and writers put more thought into how pretty the site looks or reads than in how well someone can find it. Many aren't versed in building a site for search engine optimization and may, in fact, gloss over the subject.

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