Page Rank Joy

I experienced a rush of pure geek joy this week when I found my website had been blessed by Google with Page Rank !

My Page Rank of 4 has come after several months of online marketing efforts.

As a copywriter who specialises in writing for the web, it is has been hugely useful to monitor my own site’s progress in the SERPs . I have read the theory on web marketing but it’s great to experience it for myself and learn what actually works.

Can you catch this?

I’m still reading Can I Change Your Mind? by Lindsay Camp (in case you’re wondering; my only chance to read books is when I commute, which doesn’t give me much time at all!).

I found another interesting idea in Lindsay’s very entertaining book, which I think all writers can benefit from. Lindsay suggests that the most direct and clear writing is not always the most effective way to get people to understand something.

To quote from the book (Lindsay is in turn quoting his friend David Stuart’s “famous ball-throwing analogy”):

“If you and I stand a metre apart and I throw a ball to you very gently, you will almost certainly catch it. If, on the other hand, you stand 30 metres away, and I chuck the ball as high in the air as I can, catching it will be a lot harder. But which catch will be a more rewarding experience? Which will you be more likely to remember?”

The connection to writing is explained:

“Writing that expresses meaning ‘indirectly’ is like the ball thrown high into the air. There’s a risk you may drop it. Good writing is about judging how difficult to make the catch.”

I really like the idea of throwing words to people, and judging their ability to catch them. A well judged throw gives the catcher a memorable experience. A badly judged throw is something you’ll both want to forget.

Don’t waste my time – lessons from a persuasive writer

I’m reading Can I Change Your Mind? – a book about persuasive writing by copywriter Lindsay Camp and came across something that resonated with my experiences of writing for clients.

Under the heading Losing sight of the intended result Lindsay discusses how clients keen to shout about their new “manufacturing process, award for innovation or bottling plant outside Kettering” often force a copywriter to mention them.

Now sometimes the new manufacturing process or bottling plant can be great things that attract attention or help convince your customers that your business is right for them. But all too often these bits of information are forced into copy because the client is proud of them, not because they serve a purpose.

Lindsay goes on to advise aspiring persuasive writers to “tell your reader what they might be interested to hear rather than what you want them to know.”

Quick Copywriting Tip #2

Is your copy full of “we”?

If you find lots of “we”, “us” or “our” in your copy, it’s a sure sign that it’s self-centred, and not focussed on your customer.

You should have copy littered with “you” and “yours”. These words generally indicate that your copy is aimed in the right direction (your customer’s!).

Click here for a more in-depth look at this subject.

Understand Grammar – Writing Tip #4

Grammar Crisis in Sainsbury’s

Grammar and spelling are a writer’s tools. Just as a plumber must understand and own a set of tools, writers must have a good grasp of grammar.

If grammar troubles you, I recommend reading Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. It’s a classic (and very short) book on using English well.

Once you get writing, ask another writer to read your work. Ask for feedback on your style as well as your content.

Practice writing and your grammar will soon improve.

(Picture courtesy of Richard Leeming)

Even the boss can blog (with a little help)

Blogging has revolutionised the way organisations communicate with their clients and peers.

CEOs are blogging about their work. Organisations are opening up, creating greater transparency in their dealings with customers.

Anyone in business that wants to blog must understand that the key to a blog’s appeal is honesty.

Readers accept that the CEO may need an editor, but they won’t accept ghost-written posts from an office junior. Blog content must always be high-quality, pertinent material, direct from the boss.

Copywriters make perfect editors – leaving your voice and your message intact while weeding out errors and improving readability.

Are Copywriters Partly to Blame for Shrinking Vocabulary?

“Instead of stretching minds, worlds – including the world of words – are being shrunk to fit them.”

So writes Lynsey Hanley in the Guardian.

Lynsey’s article discusses society’s growing inarticulacy, and the way in which our education system is designed to suit capabilities rather than challenge them.

This got me thinking because copywriters are taught to use simple, plain English, to avoid baffling an audience they want to persuade. While this is clearly a sensible approach for business communications, copywriters should be wary of over-simplifying their writing.

We may eventually be left with too few words to adequately express ourselves.

Quick Copywriting Tip #1

Be positive.

Always say what is, rather than what is not.

So instead of “We will never be beaten on price,” you could say “Unbeatable on price.”

The second version turns a very negative statement into a positive one. Positive messages are better because it makes you sound more optimistic. The second version is an altogether sunnier statement.

Simple Web Design – Usability is Key

I’m a big fan of the Steve Krug approach to web design.

His popular book – Don’t Make Me Think – espouses the view that web users do not want websites that make them think. He goes so far as to say that users will be actively turned off difficult websites, clicking away without a second thought.

Web design should take this into account, making the most of conventional features and functions that people already understand.

Conventions such as:

  • Links are blue, changing colour after you click them
  • A list of links runs down the left hand side of each page
  • The logo is also a clickable link to the home page

It seems obvious to me that web design should make website use as easy as possible.

Why challenge your users?

After years of web use I know that some web designers have other things in mind. Web designers may want to impress their peers with the latest technology, flashy graphics or unconventional layouts.

Sadly, ground-breaking formats and novel structures may mean a learning process for a user who doesn’t want to learn.

Make it Easy on Your User

Functional sites, designed with usability at the fore, can be beautiful in their simplicity.

Rather than forcing your users to struggle through something new, work with what web users already know.

Simple, Common Sense Copy

My approach to copywriting follows the ideas of Steve Krug. I want people to use the websites I work on and I want them to find them simple to understand.

The easier my copy is to read, the more likely your users will buy, register or understand the message.

(Thanks to Andy Budd of Clearleft for the book recommendation!)

Seth Godin’s Admirable Approach to Marketing

“If you buy my product but don’t read the instructions, that’s not your fault, it’s mine.
If you read a blog post and misinterpret what I said, that’s my choice, not your error.”

– from Seth Godin’s recent blog post – The posture of a communicator.

I like Seth’s approach to marketing. He doesn’t go looking for chances to blame a consumer for getting something wrong.

Not all marketers are as generous as Seth.

I’ve heard the opposite sentiment expressed by prominent web marketers, and it surprises me.

The “if the customer screws it up then it’s their problem” attitude is still prevalent among marketers.

Copywriters play a key part in taking a business message and passing it on (correctly) to the customer. One of the challenges of writing copy is making a message clear, concise and understandable by all.

New Site, New Blog

Welcome to the revitalised home of Leif Kendall’s copywriting blog!

After finding my blogging feet at, I decided it was important to step into the fast-flowing river of the internet and get my own domain.

With the help of Madhava and Premasagar of Dharmafly – social web development –  I have been able to hop over to my new domain with ease.

I would also like to thank everyone involved in WordPress (and Will Wilkins for Moo Point) for giving people like me a wonderful method of communicating on the web.

This site will be used as a forum for discussing copywriting in all its forms – from web content to blogging to brochures to ads to speech writing.

If you have any writing questions, please leave a comment below and I will blog a response.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Crafting Copy for Success

The Search Intensifies

SEO – Making Sense of Optimization

One of the most interesting and potentially confusing aspects of web copywriting is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Since entering the world of copywriting I’ve done a great deal of reading and spent a long time making sense of all the different opinions on this subject.

Pure Evil

It’s understandable, given the high stakes of search engine marketing, that people are desperate to climb up the search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s also understandable that some people want quick fixes, or cheats, to get to the top. People are tempted by the dark side!

So, after researching SEO and talking to colleagues, I would like to present a summary of my thoughts so far. I’m hoping anyone with an opinion will comment on this subject!

With a Little Help from Experts

A special thanks to Madhava and Prem of Dharmafly – social web development – for their input on this post!

Read the rest of this entry »

Will Your Project Benefit From a Copywriter’s Fresh Perspective?

Luminous Idea

Strange Practices

Copywriters exist to help you sell. But you will find that one unexpected bonus of employing an outside copywriter is often great ideas.

When you explain your enterprise to an outsider you will often highlight strange practices, things taken for granted or accepted as the norm.

A New Brain

A freelance copywriter will look at your project with fresh eyes, unbiased by prior knowledge of your company. So there is a good chance they will see possibilities that were invisible to your staff.

Picture courtesy of Tiago Daniel Silva

Who Needs Copywriters? – A Quick Look at the Benefits Copywriters Deliver

Hot Type

You may have wondered: who needs a copywriter?

The question arises because people think that anyone can write the words for a web site. Many people imagine that writing for the Internet is a simple process of adapting business literature to suit the web.

Often, the task of writing a company’s corporate copy, the text that represents their online identity, falls to a person within the company who is best at writing well. That may be a middle-manager with a gift for poetry, or a secretary known for her accurate spelling, but rarely does the task of copywriting get the full attention it needs.

Writing for the web requires more than traditional writing skills. In fact, many writerly traits must be restrained when writing for the Internet.

A copywriter must also work with the following (and more) in mind:

And that is in addition to good grammar, clear style and perfect punctuation!

I will be discussing the elements listed above in more detail in future posts. In the meantime, if you intend to write for your site, get studying!

Image courtesy of Andrew Beierle

Concise Copy: The Copy Reducer

Axe Family by Mark and Marina

Do you enjoy wasting your customers’ time?


Then remember that the best way to say something is generally the shortest. People are busy, and they don’t want to waste time while you gradually get to the point.

I recently worked on a treatment for a film with Charlie Southall of Dragonfly Productions , and one of the ways I improved the document was to whittle ideas down to their essence. The reader is then swept along to the end, without a chance to get bored.

This is the introduction before editing:

The opening sequence and introduction of the video is extremely important. Its aim is to create an initial impact, therefore hooking the audience, drawing them in to want to watch on. Its aim is also to make a clear and impact full statement. This opening statement is that the Red Cross are ready and able to help in emergency situations.

And here is the streamlined version:

It is vital that the opening scene makes an impact. Viewers must be hooked from the start to ensure their attention throughout. The first message this film will deliver is that the Red Cross are ready and able to help in emergencies.

When editing text, always ask yourself what it is you are trying to say. This will help identify any unnecessary sentences. Isolate pointless copy and chop it out!

(Picture courtesy of Mark and Marina)

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