Words, Words, Words

Readable Copy

One of the biggest problems for people wanting to create a website for their business or organisation is the issue of written content. Frankly, a great number of websites will never reach their potential, through lack of content.

“Can’t I pay you to write it for me?”

The short answer is, “Yes you can.” If your assumption is that a web designer will provide copy and you are willing to pay for their time, that’s great. If you use Kernow Design to write your copy you will get readable text that is optimised for search engines (see Search Engine Optimisation). But even then, no copywriter will know your business or organisation as well as you do. So there will need to be one or more interviews to kick-start the copy-writing process.

To start the writing process, we find that an interview is invaluable for several reasons.  It helps us understand how to break down the website logically into pages that cover the main themes of your organisation. It helps us to understand what your organisational ‘culture’ and language is. We can also get a good idea of the type of visitors you expect so we can use an appropriate reading level.

To see what we mean by this last point, try using this page to check some text.

If we run the text above the link on this page through it, we get the following results:

Grade Level: 9
Reading Level: standard / average.
Reader’s Age: 13-15 yrs. old (Eighth and Ninth graders)

This might seem rather low for a business website; but bear in mind that people generally read online differently from the way they read books. They scan. They speed-read. They are looking for links. Good copy takes this into account and also avoids you losing the bottom, say, 25% of readers who are not so able. It does this without diluting or obscuring your message.

“What about brochures and printed literature?”

The reading level for printed material, especially brochures and prospectuses, will usually be higher than that expected for web-based content.

For this reason we, at Kernow Design, are in a unique position to help you. Our owner has a master’s degree in linguistics and over a decade’s experience delivering business and marketing communications training. This experience can be applied to annual reports, marketing materials and many other written communications.

Producing coherent, structured, concise writing is a skill and using it will create a good impression on readers. At Kernow Design, we will help you to get your message across in ways that will reflect well on your organisation.

“I’m a pretty good writer – I can do this”

Frankly, if you can, then you should. No-one knows your business and clients better than you. Websites based on Content Management Systems will give you the ability to create your own content. If you have the time to learn how to use them, and the time to actually use them, then that is ideal.

But, even so, it is worth having a copy writer look at the content. Simple typos and punctuation errors can slip through. If they do they create a bad impression, undoing all the good work achieved by your text.

Furthermore, your text should be created with a view to its optimisation for the other type of ‘reader’ of your website, the search engine…

“What about regular and ad hoc updates?”

We strongly recommend that you keep your site regularly updated. New content will keep return visitors engaged, making your site a regular destination for your customers and clients. Perhaps you will be informing them of new offers, perhaps you will write an article that they want to share.

Whatever it is, it will need to be well-written, “sticky” content. That is to say, content which people will want to stop and read.

At least as important is that fresh content and regular updates will help your site hit as high as it can on search engine rankings. You can read more about this in the next section.

Whatever your content needs are, just remember that at Kernow Design, we can help you with professionally written copy.

Search Engine Optimisation

Here we will talk about google, on the understanding that the info below applies to all search engines. Most people are aware that, in order for their website to perform well in google searches and bring traffic, they need it to be optimised for search engines. But what does that mean? And how is it done?

An optimised site is one that will rank as high as possible on SERP (Search Engine Ranking Pages) for relevant keyword searches. Ideally this means your site is on page 1 of google. It’s necessary to say “As high as possible” because an awful lot depends on the competition.

The Competition

Imagine you are a start-up selling personalised engraved dog-tags in Cornwall. Getting to Page #1 on google for the term, “personalised dogtags” amongst people in Cornwall who are searching would not be especially hard. This is because it is an uncommon combination of keywords applied locally. Very few people in the country offer this service.

On the other hand, if you sell second-hand cars in the Southwest not only are you competing for position against all car dealers in the South-West, but also against national chains. It would require a lot of investment of time and money to get anywhere on the first page.

So how can we help? Leaving ad-words out of the equation for now, there are three ways we can help:

1 – Removing Common Errors

Many websites are seriously hampered by a having a variety of very simple problems. Part of the Kernow Design basic package is to address these:

  1. They are not a secure site.
    Google tends to penalise sites whose domain name is prefixed by http:// not https:// (the secure variant).
  2. There are a lot of broken links within the site.
    Internal and external links that produce the dreaded 404 error will affect your ranking.
  3. Important images do not have alt-text.
    Increasingly google is ranking higher those sites which are accessible to users with a variety of issues. e.g. Partially sighted people using screen readers.
  4. No use of headings and meta descriptions.
    Without going in to too much detail, google tends to highly rate well structured sites where everything is clearly labelled and described. The items mentioned here all achieve that.
  5. Copied or spammy content.
    Google is very good at spotting copied content and attempts at “keyword stuffing”; repetitive use of keywords to try and ‘game’ its algorithms. Sites doing it are penalised.

2 – Encouraging Organic Growth in Ranking

Increasingly today google is working on improving its ability to put popular, useful and interesting content in front of its users. It is getting better at identifying pages and sites that contain useful, well-presented information. This means that the following will assist your site’s ranking. Please bear in mind that these are not a quick fix; they take time and patience. It is very useful to think in terms of growing a plant from a seed. There are no shortcuts (other than relatively expensive ones).

  1. Fresh content posted regularly.
    If a site appears to be ‘dead’ with no fresh activity on its pages, it will quickly fall down the rankings. Ideally a new post featured on the front or key pages per month (or less) will see gains in rank.
  2. Links from respected sites in a similar domain.
    Links to your site from reputable sites will enhance your ranking. Such linking sites could be a trade association of which you are a member or a well-known review site. You will, of course, need to ensure that you maintain those linked pages on your site.
  3. Producing ‘repost-able’ evergreen content.
    If you can produce content about a subject of which you have some useful knowledge then you may greatly increase your site’s reputation and authority. Articles which are popularly linked to on your site should be maintained and allowed to draw in traffic and back-links. Analysis of which items on your site are drawing back-links is very useful to help you decide which content needs ‘pruning’ and which needs preserving.
  4. Regular analysis of what works and what doesn’t.
    All of the above techniques are useful but, to get maximum benefit we need to analyse traffic. Do we get ‘bang for the buck’ from the time and effort spent posting new content? What do our visitors like? What is ignored?