How to Write for Different Mediums: Digital

October 23, 2015

In our last post, we discussed best practices for traditional copywriting, covering everything from print ads to radio spots. It’s a great read, so take a second to check it out. Knowing what works in traditional copywriting is essential before moving into the digital space.

Ok, now that we’ve covered that, let’s talk digital. When it comes to creating online content, many of those traditional guidelines still hold true. Good sentence structure, clarity and adherence to brand style are just as important for digital copywriters.

So what’s the difference? Much of it comes down to differences in technical skillsets, and I’d venture, an increased comfort with all things wonky.


The Problem with SEO Copywriting

If there’s one thing you should take away from this post, it’s this: digital copywriters are not SEO copywriters.

Good online communicators know that you should ALWAYS write for humans, not search engines. As you look at websites, you can usually tell which ones a good digital copywriter wrote, and which ones someone who only focuses on SEO did. The latter are often clunky to read and feel robotic. The result? A site that’s disingenuous—the kiss of death in the digital age.

Content strategy and search strategy must be developed together, with content strategy as the guiding force. How does your website benefit your user? Does it provide new information or a new way of engaging with the information? Is it easy to use and understand? There’s no point in showing up first in rankings if you have nothing to offer users when they visit.

Once content strategy is agreed upon, the digital copywriter, interactive designer and development team should work closely together to ensure that SEO best practices are being carried throughout each stage of the process.


Catering to a Distracted Audience

When it comes to digital copywriting, you must accommodate multi-taskers. So keep it simple and break content into easily digestible pieces. My biggest pet peeve is when companies treat their website like an online brochure, with no regard for user experience and ease of navigation. The more you make me work to find what I’m looking for, the faster I’ll leave.

With Instagram, text messages, calls from Mom and inbox notifications at the touch of a finger, it’s important that your content instantly grabs their attention. Once you’ve hooked them? Give users something to engage with—not just read—to keep them on your site longer. Experiment with polls, video galleries, quizzes and more to see which types of content your audience is most interested in.


The Standard Rules of Writing Still Apply

Quality of writing is extremely important as search algorithms continue to get smarter. If your website is littered with spelling errors, poor sentence structure and unoriginal content, Google will dock you in the rankings. Simple as that.

Yes, you’re writing for web, where videos of hamsters eating tiny burritos are commonplace. But that doesn’t mean the rules of grammar fly out the window. If you’re going to break the rules, do it intentionally and in a way that connects with your target audience. And remember: they’ll know if you’re faking it. Throwing in some ill-conceived hashtags is a telltale sign that you’re trying too hard.


And Then Things Get Technical… 

Each component of digital copywriting is dictated by technical requirements. From SEO metrics to the strict character counts of Google text ads, understanding specs and following the latest guidelines is a nonnegotiable.

A strong digital copywriter understands that these specifications are requirements, not suggestions, and adheres to them religiously. They’re comfortable getting painted into a very tiny box and figuring out something special to do with it. Character limits become a part of daily life, and as much as your soul may ache when you write Facebook ads in title case, you do it because it works.

If you’re working with an agency that’s good at digital, they’ll be up to date on the latest specs and newest placement opportunities. From banner ads to LinkedIn InMail placements, they should be well-versed and provide strong rationale for their creative strategy.


Digital Copywriting in Summary…

Just like in traditional copywriting, smart content is king when it comes to digital. Make sure that every choice you make is backed by your content strategy. That means not using Meerkat just because it’s trendy. If it doesn’t resonate with your audience, you don’t need it.

Lastly, once you’ve found what works, don’t stop! Not only is fresh content essential to keeping users coming back for more, it’s also crucial to ranking well in search.


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