How to Write Good Web Copy
Everywhere, right across the internet, there are sites dedicated to telling people that ‘content is king’ (thanks go to Bill Gates for creating the current headache) and ‘to succeed, you have to have great web copy’.
These pages all say the same thing; to attract visitors, and to get ‘ranked’, you just need to create amazing content. Oh, well that’s okay then isn’t it? I’ll just go ahead and get started.
If it were that simple everybody would be doing it, and you know what? Not everybody is. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, hardly anybody is.
When you are looking for things, within similar niches, how often are the same websites appearing in the results list? If getting ranked, and in turn discovered by the right people, is as simple as creating ‘great content’ then why isn’t there more variety in the search results lists?
One thing that these listed sites have in common is engaging content, but what exactly is engaging content comprised of? How did these guys get their copy so far up the rankings?
Everybody says that you need to write good copy for your website, but nobody tells you how to do it. It’s no big secret, copywriters are not going to go out of business if the truth slips out (copywriters are usually hired simply because site owners do not have the time or resources to do it ‘in house’). So why the veil of secrecy?
Writing great content – It’s no secret
Whatever the reason for the seeming lack of transparency, the truth is that it isn’t that hard if you know the basics and how Google search works (a whole other topic in itself).
We are going to touch on the more important aspects here, hopefully without drowning you in detail; although, you may want to bookmark this page so that you can come back later.
Know your subject
Blindingly obvious? Maybe, but not everybody can claim to know everything. When writing your content, do your research (even if it is your niche) and make absolutely certain of your facts – giving citations where appropriate. Writing good copy for your website is not just about writing until your fingertips bleed.
Too many times I have seen articles that on the surface seem very well put together, but a proper read through begins to reveal the holes. Wikipedia is sometimes seen as a bit of a joke, with articles there full of holes in terms of fact and logic. You cannot afford to allow your content to go the same way.
Aim for depth
You may have come across a new search category called ‘In Depth Articles’, created by Google.
These are related articles, to the ones you are searching for, that Google believes contains more information for those that are looking for it. These could be informative posts, instructional articles… basically anything that the creator has gone to lengths to more fully explain something to his audience. This kind of article obviously carries more ‘weight’ and so Google categorises them separately for ease of discovery.
This is exactly the kind of ‘sweet spot’ that you need to be hitting. Articles of this nature are always in four figures in terms of word count. If you are in a heavily populated niche then your word count should be higher than the average ‘in depth’ to maximise its chances of appearing in this ‘super category’. A minimum of 1k is obvious, 3k is probably too much (who wants to read that much in a sitting?) but there are no set rules to length, at least none that Google are sharing.
Images – use them
You should not ‘overpopulate’ your content with images, use them sparingly, but you should include them – especially if you do decide to aim for depth. Images should fit the style of your site, not just the post, and should be edited for alt tags and other SEO techniques; these can only usually be done through the ‘backend’ of your site, so keep this in mind if your content is created by a third party.
Make sure, also, that any images that you do use are actually available for use and are not copyrighted in any way; if in doubt, create your own or get somebody else to.
Link to other resources
Link building isn’t dead, you just need to change your methods. By linking to relevant, and I repeat – RELEVANT, external content you are enhancing the experience for your reader and so are providing greater insight. Google ninjas (i.e. the web crawlers) are getting much better at recognising context (a small part of the semantic web, otherwise known as Hummingbird) and the relevance of any links contained within the text.
Sites that you linked will receive what is known as a pingback, which lets them know that they have been linked to – and who by. If they then link back to you, in an article of their own, then that is called a backlink and it provides your content extra ‘authority’.
One thing to look out for though is the no-follow tag set to your link. ALL external links should be set to ‘no-follow’. This stops web crawlers from following the link, and ‘stealing’ rank juice from your site. Rank juice, by the way, is a kind of informal measurement of how much value Google places on your site – the more you have, the better it is for you so don’t let the crawlers give your juice to another site and no-follow your links.
No-follow also tells Google that you do not endorse the content the link points to. This is similar to saying, ‘the views expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of this company…’
Edit yourself, and be brutal
It goes without saying that you should proofread everything before you click publish, but make sure that you take your time and do it properly. Check your grammar, then your spelling, then go back and read it to yourself to make sure it all makes sense.
Authors sometimes leave their drafts for days, weeks and even months before proofreading their material. Obviously this is a luxury that you cannot afford, so make sure that you do it properly the first time around and do not spare yourself – be brutal and delete whole paragraphs if that is what it takes.
Answer a specific question
Ask yourself, ‘what will potential customers actually be typing into that little search box?’. Google introduced semantic search a while ago now, but it’s becoming increasingly important for writers to take notice and create web copy that is tailored for it.
The question that this article is answering is fairly obvious, it’s in the title, but sometimes that is not the case. Context is everything, and Google is getting extremely clever in recognising it in the searchers question and in the answer that you are trying to provide.
Once you have isolated the question, formulate the answer carefully and try to answer it as fully as possible. This should include links to outside resources, and internal ones too if you have them.
In conclusion, a word from our sponsors…
Not really, but if there were affiliate links in this article then I would say so – you should too.
Don’t try to sell anything, either directly or as an affiliate, through an article without telling the reader what is happening; nobody wants to feel as though they are being hustled, and it’s a great way to lose visitors.
You should have plenty of information here, and there is even more in the provided links, for you to get started writing that great web copy that you have always dreamt of. Or not. Either way, you are hopefully a little more enlightened now than when you started.