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Are you taking your web copy for granted?

Good words make for gooder websites. Are you making sure them words what you do are the good kind, and not the ungood kind?

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Blue Pixel Top Left
Rob E
Posted by Rob E
15 February 2017
   

It was Bill Gates that first uttered the immortal phrase "Content Is King", back in 1996. A casual comment about what was important on the internet, and how he expected money to be made, came to be enshrined in giant glowing letters in the minds of many a marketer and SEO strategist. It's not wrong, by any means, but it does mean that online marketing is completely dominated by something that is so easy to get wrong – writing words.

Until video production is quick, easy and accessible enough to entirely replace the written word on the internet, "content" will still, by and large, mean "copy". Your copy is what people read – and what search engines read, too. It's an essential part of both web design, and digital marketing. A website, or a brand, is only as good as its content, which means it's only as good as it's copy – and a lot of copy is not very good.

Despite spending a great deal of time and money on design, development, SEO and marketing for a website, the words – the bit that tells the story, that earns the search rankings – regularly get taken for granted. The words come along at the last minute to fill in the gaps in your awesome new responsive layout. But they shouldn't.

 

Anyone can write, but can they write well?

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People are usually willing to admit that they don't know how to code, or design a web layout that creates a cohesive user journey – but, because they spend all day writing emails, Facebook posts, reports, and so on, most people think they can write.

Much like there's a difference between a responsive web layout and a doodle on a napkin, there's a massive difference between everyday typing, and professional writing. 

Splitpixel's least-favourite copy quirks

  • Using "whilst" or "amongst" instead of "while" or "among". Whilst it may feel as though "while" is an Americanism, it can feel a bit stuffy amongst more casual language – remember that you want to give your readers the impression they're among friends while on your site.
  • Using exclamation marks too much! Or even really at all! They really do look like they're trying too hard! Just play it cool.
  • Neglecting proper sentence structure, it really breaks up the flow of the piece. When commas and full stops, are in the wrong place. Or random sentence fragments that don't relate to the rest of the paragraph. Splitpixel offer a range of digital marketing services. But seem shoehorned it at random to meet some sort of SEO goal. See? It's just hard to read.
  • Getting numbers wrong. There are 2 ways to represent numbers in copy – which one do you use? The preferred way is spelling single digits out in letters (one, two, three, four, etc.) but using numerals for 10 or higher.
  • If you're doing something, make sure you do it the same way every time. There are loads of copy rules that can be done in a few different ways – whether you use the % symbol or write "per cent", whether you use full stops at the end of bullet points or not, whether you use it's or it is, and so on – neither is really right or wrong. Just make sure you do it the same way every time.
  • Getting they're, there and their, or we're, were and where mixed up, or putting the apostrophes in the wrong place. It's really basic stuff.

Download our guide to creating an effective user experience

 

SEO has changed, you guys

Copy and SEO have a complicated, torturous relationship. Search marketing is based around keywords, and for many years the key to ensuring a website ranked for certain keywords was to cram as many of them into a website as possible – a practice called keyword stuffing. This made for downright appalling web copy – sometimes you'd just see a nonsensical paragraph that was just a list of keywords.

Today, the main offender is still a keyword forced in where it doesn't quite fit. Clumsily constructed sentences that say things in a really inelegant or unnatural way, just for the sake of squeezing a keyword in there. We'd give you an example, but it'd be silly, because Google now actively penalises websites for these sneaky SEO tactics.

As search engines have got more and more developed, they've got better at actually working out what a page is about from the entirety of the content, rather than just picking out specific keywords. They're also better at recognising synonyms and contextual clues – so you don't have to stick slavishly to your list of keywords anymore.

But it would be even worse to ignore keywords altogether. While SEO should never dominate the ins and outs of what you write, copy should always be informed by keyword research and SEO best practice. This is how your web copy will ensure your site ranks well, and can be read by search engines as easily as it can be read by people.

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Proofread everything

There's nothing worse than reading something that's full of typos, erorrs, misspellings and bad punctuation. Yes, that's an everyday reality when reading online newspapers (even the Guardian, whose style guide is an industry standard, is notorious for typos, hence its enduring jumbled-up nickname "The Grauniad"), but that's because they're churning out so much content every day and don't have the budget for sub-editors anymore. When you're writing copy for a new website, make sure you proofread everything, because theres no excuse for mistakes.

It can be quite shocking how often you'll see typos on web copy that would have been picked up by the spelling and grammar tool in Microsoft Word. You should always run a spellcheck, but you shouldn't rely on it – something can always slip through. Web copy should always be proofread, ideally by a fresh set of eyes.

So, don't take your web copy for granted. Make sure it gets as much attention as your design or branding, because the words on the screen are the difference between a site that's pretty but useless, and a site that not only looks great, but is usable and ranks well on search engines too.

 

Can we help?

Just so you know, Splitpixel does words! We provide copy for content marketing campaigns, and for websites – whether we're working with you to write an entire site from scratch, or sub-editing some pages you've put together yourself to ensure they're optimised. Get in touch with us if you have any questions.

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