It’s easy to get caught up with widgets and plugins, sliders and menu options when you’re developing your own website or blog. But is this the most important element to a successful dotcom?

If you’re not publishing your best material, all the online gizmos and gadgets in the world won’t make people come to your site.

Here are our top 5 tips for creating content to make your site win.

1. Who?

The golden rule of writing good content is ‘always put your readers first’.

Find out who your audience is and write to them. Trent Dyrsmid has collected a list of tools you can use to investigate who is visiting your website. You don’t have to be in big business to do some market research.

Create your ideal reader; imagine one or two people who you want visiting your site. Think about their age, gender, income, social and marital status, personal outlook – and be specific!

Sarah Mitchell provides some excellent suggestions to help you create detailed ‘buyer personas’. These are the people you are writing for, and if you don’t think they’ll be interested in what you’re about to publish, don’t publish it.

2. Why?

Context is everything.

How are you helping? What need are you fulfilling?

People go online for very few reasons really: they want to be entertained, they are after debate, they want to be part of a community or – most of all – they have a problem they need a solution to.

By ‘problem’ I’m talking about a need for information. This can take many different forms – from a how-to for crafting to an infographic on tech stats. Christine Anameier discusses why you need to understand the context for your content, and how this can influence the form and tone of your content.

If you’re not answering one of these four very generalised needs, think about how you can change your content to be helpful to your audience.

3. What?

The type of content you publish – the way you present your information – will determine how well received it is. People are time and attention poor. They don’t want to risk wasting their time reading something online that might not help them.

Make sure the way the reader is going to receive your little nuggets of help is crystal clear from the start. Tell the reader how much help you’re going to give them.

“How to” articles always draw readers. We know – just from the title – that we’re going to get help on how to do something.

“Number” pieces are also popular. Like this one, ‘5 ways to…’ or ’15 types of…’ or ‘ 7 things to do…’ give the reader a sense of finite reading they’ll have to do.

Don’t shy away from using ‘cliched’ titles – they’re cliched because they work. Jon Morrow has created 52 headline templates with tips on how – and why! – to use them. Writing to these formats is not only good for the reader, it helps you focus on your point for writing in the first place.

Oh, and always make lists of odd numbers (unless it’s a Top 10). Don’t ask me why, but they’re better than even numbers.

4. How much?

The amount you write is completely up to you and what seems to be best received by your readers. It used to be that either very short, 200-word pieces or giant, 2000-word essays were popular, but more and more, we’re seeing ones of 500 words coming to the fore.

Darren Rowse asks “How long should a blog post be?” and explores the pros and cons of both long and short blog posts.

Test out different length pieces and see how your readership responds.

More important is how much you put in a paragraph. Reading online – from a screen – is a completely different exercise to reading from a hard-copy page.

Large blocks of text on a screen will put people off immediately. Also bear in mind how much of your audience will be reading from mobile devices. People don’t read giant long-form paragraphs on their phones or tablets. It’s just not practical.

Keep your paragraphs to three – possibly four – sentences and no more than about 50 words. Don’t fear the single sentence paragraph.

5. Be accurate

Accuracy is so important; I don’t just mean with your facts but with your language too. Keep it concise, use good grammar, and make sure you’ve left your reader feeling satisfied by the end.

Grammar might not be your cup of tea, but if you want to make your writing seem as professional as possible, you’ve got to get this stuff right.

Try online software like Grammarly.com to check your work if you’re not comfortable with grammar. Here’s an article covering some of the more common grammatical errors. There’s even a downloadable cheat sheet.

If you want to be a grammar pro, Grammar Girl provides ‘quick and dirty tips’ and even has a podcast so your eyes can have a rest.

Most important of all,

You’ve got to write about what you love. Passion trumps all when it comes out in your writing. And your readers will sense it too.

Tell a good story to connect with your readers on an emotional level and you’ll have a readership that will never go away.

The Copy Collective is a collective of Australian, New Zealand and other international copywriters whose versatile copywriting skills range from fundraising, marketing and online copywriting to corporate and government writing, feature and speech writing, as well as editing and so much more.

From this week Google will downgrade search results on mobile devices if web sites are not mobile friendly. Half your audience is on mobile – so you can’t afford to ignore this change.

You’ve got a super smart SEO strategy but is your website mobile ready or better yet, mobile optimised? If not, get in touch and we can help. Don’t lose your page 1 ranking due to dense, non-scannable copy that isn’t reframed for the mobile screen.

How can you tell if your website is mobile ready (from a copy perspective)?

  1. The first 3 words of headlines are critical – if your 1st 3 words say “All you need…” (or similar) you’re not ready.
  2. Copy is scannable – can you “speed read” key messages? Can you see your strengths at a glance? No? You’re not ready.
  3. Does your content look and read great on mobile? Or are sentences cut off mid-point? You’re not ready.


  • Does the page resize for mobile?
  • Does it work as well on an iPad mini or similar as a full-sized tablet?
  • Do all your forms and links work on mobile?
  • Are all your buttons labelled?

Are there any widgets or modals embedded in your website that aren’t mobile friendly?

Wherever you find yourself, we can help. Get in touch today…

The Copy Collective is a collective of Australian, New Zealand and other international copywriters whose versatile copywriting skills range from fundraising, marketing and online copywriting to corporate and government writing, feature and speech writing, as well as editing and so much more

If you go to the Australian government’s website for the National Transition Strategy you will be greeted with pages of boring government-speak about:

“improved web services”
“the provision of information and services online”
“an important milestone for government”
and “whole-of-government”.

Continue reading

Federal Government departments are required to make their websites comply with standards that make them accessible to people with disabilities. Here we introduce our new e-Accessibility training videos Part 1 and Part 2… and it’s on us.

“At The Copy Collective, we’ve noticed that many government websites don’t comply, as yet, with the guidelines in regards to copy,” CEO Dominique Antarakis said.

“We thought we’d help out by making free training available to everyone, so that the government didn’t have any excuses not to comply with its own policy. We also think that accessible websites are great for all businesses, not just government.”

The Copy Collective is a 5-person business based in Sydney. As part of the company’s Disability Discrimination Act Action Plan, they wanted a practical way to show that small changes could help everyone. The team thought they would start by helping the Federal Government comply with its own Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy.

Today, The Copy Collective announced the release of two training videos designed to assist copywriters and government departments to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). Federal government agencies are encouraged to meet the guidelines for their website content by December 2014.

“We’re not doing this because we want jobs rewriting Federal Government websites; although that would be nice,” Ms Antarakis said. “We’re doing it because we want to show that simple changes to copy can make a big difference to access.”

“The training we offer is in-depth and detailed. The presenter, Monica Seeber, is one of our freelancers from Perth. She is our resident accessibility expert. Having experience with disability in her own family, Monica is very committed to access and so are we.

“We’ve provided 2-hours of training, free of charge. We’d like the Government to make the videos compulsory viewing for all their comms and web teams.

“Making website copy accessible for all just makes good business sense,” Ms Antarakis said.
In two hours, the online e-accessibility training takes users through the principles of WCAG 2.0, how these principles will affect websites, and how to create content that meets WCAG 2.0 standards. The YouTube videos are fully captioned and there are downloadable PowerPoint and Text versions of the presentation slides available on Scribd.

Comply by December 2014
The Copy Collective supports governments, NFPs and businesses to comply with the WCAG 2.0. While the compliance imperative is important and it is great to ensure content is available and accessible for all, the steps to make sites accessible have the side benefit of also helping organisations with their search engine optimisation (SEO).
Providing this complimentary training is part of The Copy Collective’s commitment to an inclusive society under its Disability Discrimination Act Action Plan.
The Copy Collective encourages people to set aside the time to watch the training videos and understand how the WCAG 2.0 applies to organisations. Trainees will also get the resources and tools they need to make changes to their web copy .
The Copy Collective can be contacted for further support to make website copy accessible. Please note: you don’t need to book any work with The Copy Collective to enjoy the complimentary training!

About the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0)
The WCAG 2.0 guidelines were released in 2008 to implement user-friendly web content for people of all abilities.
The guidelines cover the full range of Web content that a user is likely to access — from images and graphs, to videos and podcasts, to the structure and design of each page. Each guideline has three levels of accessibility: A, AA and AAA. Level AAA is the highest level of accessibility.
Compliance with WCAG 2.0 is part of the digital inclusion framework referenced in the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy.

eAccessibility webinar part1
eAccessibility webinar part2
eAccessibility slides part1
eAccessibility slides part2

Here at The Copy Collective, we’re big fans of accessibility – in the ‘real’ world and the virtual. In this three-part series, Perth-based contributor Monica (@thebigmeeow) will introduce you to the basics of e-accessibility and how you can make your content user-friendly for all abilities. Here we introduce our new e-Accessibility training videos Part 1 and Part 2… and it’s on us.

First there was the word.

Then there was the Internet.

And when the word and the Internet got together, they made the World Wide Web.

The Internet is the physical network made up of computers and routers and phone lines and server farms and deep-sea cables. The World Wide Web is all the information that we access using the Internet. And the “word”? Well, that’s “01110111 01101111 01110010 01100100”.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is responsible for developing Web standards. Their mission “is to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure the long-term growth of the Web” (W3C Mission).

If the Web is an “information super-highway” then W3C is like the Department for Infrastructure: they write the guidelines and technical specifications for designing and building new roads and regional developments.

The Web standards cover all aspects of the Web:

  • Web design and applications
  • Web architecture
  • Semantic Web
  • XML technology
  • Web of services
  • Web of devices
  • Browsers and authoring tools.

For most of us, we don’t know what any of that means – and we don’t really need to (if you would like to know more, the W3C Standards page covers each topic in greater detail). Web developers and graphic designers mediate most of our interaction with the Web; and all we have to worry about is the speed of our Internet connection.

The power of the Web is in its universality.
Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect”.
Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

Unfortunately, not all Web content is created equal – and not all content is available to everybody. For some people (especially people with a disability) they’re not just worrying about the speed of their Internet connection, they’re also thinking:

“Will this webpage trigger a seizure?”
“Can my screen-reader make sense of the text?”
“Does this video have captions or a transcript?”
“Is this information written in a language I can read?”

Within the Standards for Web design and applications, the W3C created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG10) were released in 1999, and were then revised and succeeded by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) in 2008.

There’s a lot of information in those guidelines. If you print them out, there’s about 34 pages of information. You can access the full WCAG 2.0 for free on the W3C webpage.

WCAG 2.0 covers the full range of Web content that a user is likely to access on Web pages, from images and graphs, to videos and podcasts, to the structure and design of the pages themselves.

WCAG 2.0 structure

WCAG 2.0 is structured around four broad principles (also known as pillars):

  • Perceivable: Web pages and content must be presented to users in ways they can perceive.
  • Operable: Web pages and navigation must be operable.
  • Understandable: Web content and the operation of Web pages much be understandable.
  • Robust: Web content and pages much be interpreted reliably by a range of users, hardware, and software – including assistive technologies.

These four principles are then broken down into 12 guidelines:

  • Perceivable
  1. Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
  2. Provide alternatives for time-based media.
  3. Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
  4. Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.
  • Operable
  1. Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  2. Provide users enough time to read and use content.
  3. Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
  4. Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
  • Understandable
  1. Make text content readable and understandable.
  2. Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
  3. Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
  • Robust
  1. Maximise compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

Those 12 guidelines are broken down further into 61 “success criteria”. That’s a lot of criteria!

Now before you all panic…

Luckily for you, we’ve already done the hard work of figuring out which guidelines are relevant to copywriters. We’ve even put together a couple of videos — so we can talk you though them when you’re ready:
eAccessibility webinar Part1
eAccessibility webinar Part2

You can even download the Powerpoint presentation from the videos.

Join me for my next Blog – Part 2 of Accessibility is Everywhere – where I introduce the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy and share useful things for making your web content accessible.

You have written your book, it’s been published in print and you have 700 copies on a pallet in the garage plus you’ve just listed the book on Google PlayAmazon and in iBook’s. Now you are waiting for the sales and royalties to roll in – right? Ah, no – that’s not how it works.

As I tell our authors, writing and publishing your book is the easy bit, now the hard work starts with marketing.

Back in the day, authors had publishers who would take them on publishing tours and spend $30,000 on a marketing plan for each release. And that still happens. There are authors who have those services available to them. However, these days most authors do their own publicity, especially if they want to make any money.

If you’ve received a $15,000 advance for a 10,000 print run from a major publisher, congratulations and we’ll say good-bye here. If you’re still with me, let’s get down to taws.

I’m assuming you’ve taken my advice and have a good author photo, a readable blurb for your book and social media assets developed. If you don’t have social media assets let’s start with the basics.

Social media assets

You need a website dedicated to your book, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account as a minimum. Depending on the book (cookbooks – think Pinterest, young adult – think Tumblr, business – think LinkedIn) you will need other assets. Stay with the mainstream social media mentioned above and/or Google+Instagram, and YouTube because your time is limited.
You can only manage a certain number of accounts well with the time and resources you have.

Consider using Hootsuite to manage your social media so that you can automate the scheduling of your posts. Use the strengths of your social media assets: share links on Twitter (they get a greater click-through rate), pictures on Facebook and videos on YouTube.

Once you have your assets, you need to maintain them. Try to tweet every day, Facebook once a day, update LinkedIn twice weekly and blog once a week. Add your Twitter feed to your website, so the content is constantly being refreshed (Google loves fresh content).

Add a Google Analytics code to each page of your website so that you can track and analyse your traffic easily.

The great news about all these assets is that they are free to create and operate. You only start adding costs once you start advertising, which I recommend but only once you have all your social media and other digital assets working for you.

Social media is everywhere – so you can be too.

Other digital assets

As an author there are some great sites devoted to books where you can create an account and get your books reviewed. In fact, there is an entire industry devoted to just that. GoodReads is essential. It’s free to create an account and you can add that great author photo, your bio and write a blog that could reach 30 million book lovers. There are other sites but GoodReads is a great place to start.

Your book’s website

Your website is a salesperson who works 24/7 and doesn’t take sick leave. It should be as slick as you can make it. Have a look at the sites of other authors in your genre for what works. Huffington Post surveyed its readers for their favourites and never underestimate the power of independent bloggers and reviewers – they will link to your website.


Now that you are an author, you should make it a goal to write a blog post each week. If you have a WordPress website or blog site, you can put the goal in the settings and it will remind you to post a blog via email.

Content for social media and blogs

Clearly, if you have speaking engagements, book signings or launches you will write about these. You should also have a friend take photos of you signing books and speaking, so that you can include them in your posts.

But what happens when you run out of ideas? Firstly, sit down and write out 10 blogging topics and set yourself the task to write one a week. Next, use the tools built into HootSuite and other sites to curate content for you. Enter a list of key words and it will suggest content for your to post from others. Follow key accounts on Facebook and Twitter and repost and retweet their content: it gives you content for little effort and the other account may return the favour and share something of yours.

For your blog topics think about things that will interest your readers – where did your characters come from? How did you work out which topics to address in your business manual? What is it like being an author? People are interested in your story. So tell a story about writing the book or how you became an author or what prompted you to write the book. Use storytelling, similes (phrases that use the words ‘like’ or ‘as’), active language, metaphors and detailed examples. These techniques will make your posts more interesting.

Speaking engagements

Offer to speak at your local writers groupeditor’s society, service club or any other group you think might be interested in your topic. Contact your local council about “Meet the author” events at public libraries.
Visit your local bookshop and see if they will have you speak at one of their author lunches. Browse your local Meetups for groups that may like a guest speaker.

Try and line up at least 12 speaking engagements a year. Aim to sell a set number of books each time you sell. After a few speaking engagements, you will be able to gauge how many books you sell on each occasion. If you sell 20 books each time you speak, then you will need to have 35 speaking engagements (almost one a week) in a year to clear those 700 books out of the garage.


Join societies

In every state in Australia there are societies of authors and publisherswriting centres, book clubs and writers festivals. Get involved, take a stand or stall at any relevant conferences where you think your book might sell.

General publicity

Write a media release for your book launch. Send it to your local paper as well as the major metro dailies as well as bloggers and relevant sites for your topic. Provide professional photographs of you and images of your book cover. Use a wire service such as AAP Medianet or PRWire to distribute your release (this will cost money). If you don’t have a budget for a paid service use one of the free PR newswire services. At the very least, get your release indexed by Google News.

Knock on doors

It’s not very likely but you can try the direct approach to getting your book in bookshops. Try ReadingsGleebooksDymocks (try your local Dymocks first), and independent book stores (check the directories hosted by Australian Independent Bookseller and Danny Yee).

Use a distributor

If you have a print book, send your book to a distributor. Dennis Jones & Associates is the most used service in Australia but you can also try Macmillan Distribution Services, Australian Book Group and United Book Distributors. If you have a specialist topic that you can approach (like Koorong for Christian resources or Co-op for tertiary education).

If you have printed your book through a print on demand service such as Lulu or Blurb, they too will have distribution services that you can pay for.

Marketing calendar

Now you have all your assets developed, your distribution plan in place and a few dates for conferences and speaking engagements plus all those commitments to tweet, post, and blog and vlog (video blogging). Organise all your commitments into a Google Calendar (another free asset). Input your daily, weekly, monthly and ad hoc commitments. You will soon find that you have something pencilled in for most days/weeks.

That sounds daunting but if you aim to be a full time writer, then you’d better get used to putting yourself into the public gaze to vend your wares.

And the best-selling tactic?

The very best thing you can do to sell your first book is to write and publish your second. Think of it as renewing your product line. We all want the latest, the freshest and the most up to date; however, if we can get a bargain we might very well buy an older model. Game of Thrones didn’t become a hit in the first season. Some people are catching on now and Season 1 is selling well in iTunes.

If you’ve got this far, congratulations! You are well on your way to being a successful published author. We wish you all the very best and hope that you become a household name or at least sell all the books you have printed.

Red Raven Books is the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective. Find out how we can help you today.

Thanks to www.clientsfromhell.net

What you can learn from us (well, it was me really; sorry Dominique) being The Client From Hell

Maureen Shelley shares what she’s learned through redeveloping the company’s website

As a writer, I spend a lot of my time shaking my head over other people’s grammar or their attention to detail or their basic inability to keep to deadlines. Generally, there is a lot of muttering over all the things that humans do that means we turn to a professional for assistance with writing.

I was determined that, when we set about engaging a website designer, we were going to do all the things that an ideal client does to make the job of redeveloping our website as simple and straightforward as possible. It was going to be a pleasure, really.You are ahead of me, I know, because you know we did everything that the perfect Client From Hell does.

The Brief

We wrote a beautifully, detailed brief – and then we changed our minds. When we changed our minds we did a 180 and then a 360-degree shift in our thinking. I think we ended up back where we started from but I could be confused. Having a very clear idea of what you want the website to do/be is a very good idea and it is one you should adhere to through thick and thin.

The Deadline

We developed what we thought was a realistic deadline – three months. We’d created that beautifully detailed brief, set out the timeline and milestones, said what we’d provide in that time and when we’d provide it by – and then ignored the lot.
We were late with copy (we didn’t have time to write copy – we are too busy writing for other people, we had to employ a copy writer and, fortunately, we know about 50), we didn’t supply stuff we said we would, we forgot things, we changed our minds on the site architecture plan after we’d signed off on the design and the site architecture plan. Yep, we committed all the cardinal sins that a client could possible commit without being struck by lightning.
We extended the deadline to six months and backtracked to four, back to six and – in the end – it took what it took, which was eight months from concept to “go live”. Be realistic in your deadlines. Don’t fix a date based on a Ministerial launch, the calendar or financial year or any arbitrary nonsense such as when the moon is in the 7th house or Jupiter aligns with Mars.

The Rabbit Holes

In Alice in Wonderland, Alice keeps disappearing down rabbit holes pursuing some fantastic idea or creature and going completely off track[i]from achieving her ultimate purpose. In website redesign, there are an inordinate amount of rabbit holes to tempt you – even for the strong willed.
We decided – mid-way through the process – that we wanted to achieve integration of our customer relationship management (CRM) software with our website’s content management system (CMS).
We thought it would be a good idea that if we were collecting data from our website, it should funnel that data through into our CRM, so we could serve our customers better. We also wanted to be able to update the site ourselves for minor things without having to go back to the web design company.
Well, it is a nice idea in theory and you can do it if you have a spare $28,000 floating around (and I know by writing this I will be instantly pursued by every web designer/CRM/CMS software sales person in the world with a workable, cheaper solution – big tip, don’t bother; I’ve already spoken to you).
Pursuing this particular rabbit hole delayed our “go live” date by about three months. Decide what is really important for the website to do – from the outset – and stick to that.

The Budget

How to Create (and Stick to) a Realistic Budget with Mint

We set a realistic budget, I know we did. We worked out how much time it would take and how much it would cost to write the copy, design, develop and collect all the images and illustrations, film and edit the videos, obtain permissions and testimonials from clients, take the photos of the staff (we had to do that three times because we kept hiring more), purchase the CMS licences and approve the design from the designer. I mean, this is our business; we know these things.
Unless I’d been there, I’d say we plucked some number out of the air that had no reference to anything. In the end, I decided the best way to establish a budget for a website redesign is what I’ve been doing with renovating houses for years. 
You take the biggest, most ridiculous number you can think of (based on what you know of costs through the most expensive builder you have ever met), you then double it and then you add 20 per cent. If it comes out to be less than that, you will be happy. This isn’t to say our website designers were expensive, they weren’t. It’s just that, like shopping, when you add up all the different product elements, the total makes you cough a bit.

The Design

Some of our clients instantly become experts in copywriting after they’ve engaged us to do their copywriting. It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed before.
Well, I suddenly became an expert in web design. It was clever of me really, without any training or experience I became more expert in design than our long-suffering designers. I fiddled, I suggested, I offered specious advice about fonts and positioning, I consulted other designers (who I hadn’t entrusted with my money) about the ‘flaws’ in the design.
After a few tears, too many glasses of wine and wringing my hands a bit, I turned to my very sensible son (he must take after his father) who said: Don’t listen to other designers, they will always find flaws and faults and they will be negative and you will lose faith in your designers. Go back to the designers and tell them what you would like changed and see if it works. And, realise, that you don’t know everything and what may look ‘wrong’ to you is perfectly fine for your audience because – after all – you’re not an expert in web design” (Well, I did something right). You’re paying for expert advice – take it. 

Thank you Beena and Nupur at Blazing Designs. We made it.


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