Digital Copywriting Dos and Don’ts
A Best-Practice Guide to Copywriting in Digital Marketing
What is the role of a Digital Copywriter?
A digital copywriter writes text content for digital media, including websites and social media outlets. Text content for news and advertising media is traditionally known as ‘copy’ because it had to be copied for typesetting purposes in the production process, hence ‘copywriter’.
Help! I need guidelines to best practice in digital copywriting!
Here is our list of dos and don’ts. Ever intent on accentuating the positives, we here supplied twelve dos and just eight don’ts.
- Stay focused on creating a positive experience for the reader rather than on trying too obviously to flatter the ego of the brand you are promoting, which may not create a good impression on discerning target audiences
- Try to convey enthusiasm and positivity in your voice, both about the products or services you are promoting, and about the reader you are addressing – enthusiasm can be contagious provided that it comes across as genuine and not phony, while a negative or depressing tone is likely to lose readers’ interest and confidence
- Include, in appropriate places, enough relevant factual information about the products and services you are marketing to answer likely questions the reader may have
- Use clear language that gets its message across unambiguously and is not confusing to the average reader
- Unless your aim is just to convey short, loose soundbites as advertising slogans, and except when you are writing headings, try to write in complete and grammatically correct sentences – poor grammar reflects on what you are selling by associating it with a lack of professionalism in the eyes of those who notice your mistakes
- Use appropriate punctuation according to British English standards when writing content for UK websites, including commas to break up long sentences in logical places, hyphens within compound adjectives, single inverted commas around quoted words and phrases, and double inverted commas to denote direct speech
- Check your own spelling, punctuation and text formulation, preferably before you put new content live – a final copy edit is never a bad insurance policy against typing and editing errors
- Adopt a voice and messaging that is compatible with the brand you are promoting and its market positioning, taking into consideration the demographics of its existing or ideal customer base
- Structure your marketing web pages and articles in a logical fashion from the standpoint of both SEO (search engine optimisation) and UX (user experience), starting with a heading that is rich in relevant keywords, and continuing with a lead-in to grab the reader’s attention and interest, preferably addressing the reader by asking a question, before getting into the more detailed sections for those wanting to learn more, each of which should be prefixed with its own keyword-rich and relevant heading
- Close your web pages with a call to action that encourages the reader to make contact, purchase a product, or read related articles, depending on the marketing goals of the particular page
- Edit the formatting and layout of your pieces, in HTML view if you need total control, to make them look their best on the screen in terms of spacing, sizing and indentation
- Provided that the settings of the CMS (content management system) you are using allow it, make creative use of colour to manually highlight occasional words and phrases you want to be noticed, which may include link text – don’t go overboard, though
- Strengthen the SEO value of your main website pages and articles by composing a custom title tag and meta description for each one, instead of allowing your CMS to auto-generate them.
- Use colloquialisms and slang that a significant part of your brand’s target market may not understand or may be turned off by
- Use swear words or language that is only appropriate for adult audiences unless you know this is expected by your particular target audience – otherwise you may alienate readers
- Make discriminatory comments or those likely to offend – this includes remarks that may be perceived as sexist, racist, ageist, lookist, homophobic, transphobic, or religiously divisive
- Use in-jokes or references that rely on specific pieces of cultural knowledge not all your target market will possess, especially when you are creating permanent pieces of marketing content such as static web pages (you may adopt a somewhat freer hand with humour in informal blog posts and on social media, where it doesn’t matter as much if not everyone understands a particular joke or cultural reference, so long as it is not offensive)
- Rely on non-specific or impressionistic language in page titles and headings, since this will diminish the SEO value of your content
- Use jargon or acronyms that may not be understood by readers without explaining them, though it is fine to use common technical jargon and acronyms that your target readership can reasonably be expected to be familiar with
- Misuse words or punctuation! For example, you should never use apostrophes before an ‘s’ that denotes the plural form of a noun, even if the noun is a number written in numerical form. The decade that began in 1960 and ended in 1969 is the 60s, not the 60’s! If you feel unsure about any point of punctuation, grammar or spelling, don’t be afraid to ask an expert or look up the answer in a credible reference source
- Copy text from other websites or from printed sources and pass it off as your own or think you can make small changes without anyone noticing where you took the rest from – this is plagiarism and may land you in legal trouble for breach of copyright. If you are inspired by content found elsewhere, you must either quote short passages within quotation marks, with traceable attribution to the source (directly linking if the source is online), or paraphrase entirely in your own words.