Your boss just walked in to say that you have to write copy for the company’s website. It must be compelling and convincing while triggering the customer to respond. The problem: you’re a Dutch technical expert, not a writer. And the technical product copy must be in English.
Technical product expert, novice writer
Your first reaction is ‘huh?’ You were hired for your knowledge and skills in an entirely different field. You know the English ‘jargon’ used in your field of work. Your emails in English do get the message across but are flawed with grammatical errors.
Should you protest? Probably not the right approach; you’re up for promotion and you want to keep your job. Although you work for a mid-sized (SME) company, the company always seems short-handed.
Your voice quivers while you answer: ‘Yes, I’ll do it. When’s the deadline?’
Deadlines keep getting shorter
It’s now Wednesday, 10 a.m., and your boss explains: ‘We need it by Thursday afternoon; and no later than 5 p.m. We want to translate your copy into 5 other languages. The piece should be published by Tuesday.’
You eye your sticky-note ‘to-do’ list. The short deadlines are circled in red. You open your mouth to ask for an extension, but your boss interjects: ‘This has priority because we just decided to launch the product next week, earlier than planned.’
Technical product copy within 24 hours
Seeing your dejected face, your boss offers help. His multilingual secretary will do the editing. Unfortunately, the secretary has a full schedule and asks you to hand in the copy for her review by Thursday morning 10 a.m. ‘So, I’ll only have time to make some changes, no rewriting.’
You take in a deep breath. Tell yourself: ‘stay calm.’ Not one written word and approximately 24 hours to go.
What to do?
One way to solve this dilemma is to pretend you’re having a conversion with one of your English-speaking customers. What would you tell the customer sitting across from you about the product? Write down that conversation in your own words.
For further tips, read this blog post now.
Call a copywriting buddy
Should your boss approach you regularly to write technical product copy for the website, you might want more copywriting advice. Have your boss hire an expert copywriter to teach you the tricks of the trade.
Your copywriting buddy,
Press releases over the past years have played an important role in improving search engine rankings. The game rules for press releases and copy in general have changed since the introduction of the Google Hummingbird update in 2013 (see my blog on how Hummingbird affects copy).
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You have a small rectangle in which to write a story. Your mission: fill this LED-lit object with simple and concise words that convert.
The stopwatch ticks.
Eyes focus on the centre upper half.
Just like an agile whitewater rafter in the Grand Canyon, your (first) words manoeuvre and propel them further. Over the next paragraph, and the next.
Until they reach the finish line.
A finger presses a button.
Whew. Mission completed within eight seconds.
I follow a number of copywriters and one of them is well-known American copywriter Bob Bly (www.bly.com). I certainly enjoyed Bob’s last piece on “Should you write your own copy?”
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Why the Hummingbird update?
Google anticipates that more people will use mobile devices for voice search and natural language queries. Why? Smartphone use is growing rapidly. In some countries mobile traffic has already surpassed desktop and other countries are expected to follow soon. So instead of just matching up individual keywords, Google wants to interpret and understand a user’s intentions (SEO, Hummingbird and more). The focus is shifting from individual keywords to content which addresses the meaning behind a question (What Google’s Hummingbird Update Means for AWAI Copywriters). (more…)
Do you have an awkward feeling that your website’s keyword phrases¹ could be better? Can your target audience easily find your website?
Looking for some handy tips? Well, I am certainly game for any new SEO (Search Engine Optimization) copyediting or writing² suggestions. In creating the right keyword phrases, SEO consultant Jill Whalen’s advice is to think like a reporter. In her handbook “The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines” she advises SEO copyeditors to ask the questions reporters do (who? what? where?). Why? Because the answers to these questions are often the keyword phrases you are looking for. (more…)