What is duplicate content? A simple guide for website owners who don’t want to lose their Google rankings

What is duplicate content? Here's a simple guide for website owners who don’t want to lose their Google rankings.

What is duplicate content? Here’s a simple guide for website owners who don’t want to lose their Google rankings.

Remember your schooldays?

All that homework – man that was a chore! Let’s face it, it was just so much more fun to spend your afternoons playing with your buddies than slaving over books and numbers and essays. Ugh!

Worst of all was studying for tests.

Perhaps you didn’t want to cram for the test, or you simply forgot about it.

And then, to try and save the humiliation of a Fail, you tried to copy the answers off the brainbox you’d cunningly sat next to in the exam room.

Except, of course, the teacher noticed what you’re up to, and you got a far greater humiliation than the Fail. Perhaps you were made an example of, or made to stand out in the corridor. Or you had to see the scary Headmaster. And, of course, your parents would be notified – horrors!

You soon learned that copying other kids’ work wasn’t in your best interests.

The same lesson about copying relates to your website

When it comes to your website, copying other people’s content is also a bad idea.

While there’s no teacher to punish you, instead there’s Google. (And a punishment from Google, be it a down-graded ranking or total black-listing, is a lot harder and more difficult to recover than even your teacher’s worst punishment.)

Why does Google punish you for copying?

Let’s look at copying content from Google’s point of view.

The bottom line is that Google wants to give its users a good search experience. And a good search experience means that people can quickly and easily find the information they’re looking for. Google also wants the information you find to be helpful and meaningful.

Website content that’s helpful and meaningful is usually unique: it is a bespoke, one-off article that someone has researched and written.

Conversely, low quality content is not so desirable. And over the years, some website owners have tried to “cheat” the Google ranking system by copying other people’s content. And if the internet is full of copies of people’s work, it all gets a bit tedious, spammy and not a very nice or exciting place to be.

Google hates spammy websites. And it hates spammy webmasters who copy content from other people. Google would much rather point to the original source of material – and penalise those who try to copy it. These penalties come in the form of downgrading the rankings of those sites with copied content, or, worse still, removing a website from its search results altogether.

So what is duplicate content, exactly?

You get the general idea that duplicate content is not a good thing, but defining “what is duplicate content” exactly is a little trickier.

If you refer to Google’s official advice, there are some tips there (albeit quite technical), but it’s still not crystal clear. So let me explain some of the more common duplicate content problems in practical terms.

Before I cover common duplicate content problems, one thing you need to be aware of is that duplicate content doesn’t just apply from one website to another, but it also applies to pages on your own website.

The reason for this is that some spammy webmasters create dozens of pages on the same topic, to try and artificially increase their Google rankings. That doesn’t work any more, because of Google’s dislike of duplicate content.

Does Google say what percentage they consider duplicate content?

There are a number of online tools, such as Page Similarity Check Tools, where you put in two website addresses (URLs) and it tells you how similar the pages are as a percentage.

The problem is that Google doesn’t give a percentage in their guidelines, so these online tools aren’t a whole lot of use!

Rather than worry about percentages and other technicalities, here are some practical suggestions on how you can avoid common duplicate content problems.

Common duplicate content problems – and how to avoid them

On a practical level you need to be very careful with the following types of duplicate content:

  • Mobile versions of your website that have the same content twice. The solution here is for your webmaster to use the ‘noindex’ meta tag so that the duplicated pages aren’t indexed. (Or better still, build your website so that it’s mobile responsive, and doesn’t need recreating for handheld devices.)
  • Printer-only versions of web pages. The printer pages should have the ‘noindex’ tag applied so that these duplicated pages aren’t indexed.
  • Similar content that appears across a number of pages. The solution here is to make the copy, order of information and other content as different as possible.
  • On e-commerce sites, avoid using the manufacturer’s generic blurb. Chances are that every other re-seller is using the exact same copy, so be unique and write your own product descriptions.
  • Syndicate articles carefully. Some people think they’re doing you a favour by ‘promoting’ you on their website by repeating an article. Wrong! Their site could get penalised for duplicate content – but so could yours, if Google hasn’t indexed you as being the original source. The way round this is for the other site to use the ‘noindex’ tag, and to include a link back to your original article. So you can syndicate articles, but do it carefully… and if the other website owner doesn’t know what a ‘noindex’ tag is, or they’re not willing to apply it, then don’t do it. (Note: A bigger problem is that some spammy webmasters use ‘scrapers’ to steal content without your permission. If that happens, you can ask Google to remove the scraped content from their search results.)
  • Avoid cheap copywriters. Not all copywriters create unique content; and if you’re buying an article for $5 from someone in India, there’s a good chance that they might have copied someone else’s work. Or they’ve taken someone else’s work, and then put it through a ‘spinner’ which is an automatic software tool that rewrites content. And yep, Google hates ‘spun’ content! If you use a quality copywriter, the content will not only be unique, but it will reflect your tone of voice; demonstrate your company’s expertise; and compel readers to buy from you or otherwise take action.

Those are some of the main duplicate content issues I’ve come up against. There are others, too (as listed in the Google article I linked to) but they are there for your web developer to action, rather than a copywriting issue.

Ask your website developer to help you

The best advice I can give you is to focus on creating unique content, and that your website developer does their part in the programming. Go through the list of action points in Google’s article point by point.

Don’t assume that your web developer knows all this stuff, or will automatically do it: I’ve come across numerous web developers who have never heard of 301 redirects, or will only do them for an extra fee.

Remember that it’s YOUR website and your business at stake, so you have every right to ask questions of your suppliers.

If you play nicely, you should be fine

Just like schoolteachers punish only the naughty kids, Google only intends to punish those website owners who deliberately engage in deceptive practices. Google doesn’t like people who try to cheat the system and take shortcuts; they’ll be punished, sooner or later.

So if you focus on creating unique, high quality content for your website (and have a web developer on side who’s clued up in this area), you should be absolutely fine. (And if the worst does happen, and your site gets blacklisted by Google, you can submit your site for reconsideration.)


Here are some of the steps you can take so that your website doesn’t suffer from problems with duplicate content:

  • If there is a separate mobile version of your website, ensure that the ‘noindex’ tag is used for them.
  • If your website has printer-only pages, use the ‘noindex’ tag for them.
  • Avoid using similar content across a number of pages.
  • On e-commerce sites, avoid using the manufacturer’s generic blurb and write your own.
  • Syndicate articles carefully, and get the other website to use a ‘noindex’ tag, and also link back to your original article.
  • Avoid cheap copywriters who might steal or ‘spin’ content.
  • Ask your web developer which steps they’ve taken to avoid duplicate content issues. Go through the Google article with them as a starting point.
  • Focus on creating unique, high quality content for your website.

Need unique copy for your website? Contact Cornelia today →

Does it keep falling off?

Does copywriting and marketing keep falling of your To Do list? Then let Cornelia take care of it for you.

Does copywriting and marketing keep falling off your To Do list? Then let Cornelia take care of it for you.

Does copywriting and marketing keep “falling” off your To Do list?

Goodness, the first two months of 2014 have gone already and it’s officially Autumn in this part of the world (or “Fall”, as our American friends call it).

Did you have any copywriting and marketing projects planned this year?

But have those tasks “fall”-en off your To Do list already?

Then let me help you!

Stop struggling with your writing and marketing projects, I’ll make it a breeze to create unique messages for your business:

  • Website content: Web pages, news articles and blog posts that the search engines will love.
  • Email content: Newsletters, autoresponders and sales emails to keep your customers and prospects engaged and informed.
  • Ebook writing: Want to give your customers and prospects a Free White Paper or eBook? They’re a great way to add value and demonstrate you’re the best in your industry.
  • Video scripts: Video is the latest and greatest online marketing trend… I can write compelling scripts for intro videos, how-to videos, and sales videos.

How to get started…

Just tell me a bit about what you have in mind and we can take it from there. 🙂

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!


Cornelia Luethi BSc (Hons), DipM

Contact Cornelia for copywriting help →

Small business marketing tips: The best articles from 2013

January’s a time of new beginnings – and a great time to review your marketing plans for the year.

If you’re wondering what to focus your marketing efforts on this year, this round up of small business marketing tips from me, Cornelia Luethi, will help to get the ideas and motivation flowing.

Cornelia’s copywriting secrets…

Discover Cornelia's copywriting secrets...

Discover Cornelia’s copywriting secrets…

Writing marketing and sales copy for businesses is my bread and butter… and here I share the techniques I use to get great results for my clients. (My writing work has again helped my clients win awards this year!)

Video marketing for small businesses

Video marketing is the cool new kid on the marketing block – but getting started can be a bit daunting for a small business owner.

These articles sort out the facts from the fiction, to help you get on the right path…

Website tips for small businesses

Get better results from your website with these small business marketing tips.

Get better results from your website with these small business marketing tips.

Even though websites have been around for a while now, there’s still a lot of confusion and misinformation out there.

Here are website myth-busting articles to help small business owners figure out the facts from the fiction. 🙂

Customer retention articles

The key to customer retention is to get clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

The key to customer retention is to get clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

From a series of articles I ran over a number of months, covering all the different technologies and modalities you can use for customer retention.

General marketing tips

Here’s a treasure trove of marketing articles – and best of all, it’s the kind of stuff your competitors probably don’t know about. 😉

Time management tips

The biggest marketing challenge many small business owners have is actually a time management challenge. Or in other words, there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day.

Um, well yours truly has managed to write all these marketing articles in a year; script, record and edit a bunch of marketing videos; AND launched a couple of new books. (As well as completing all my clients’ copywriting projects.) And I have just as many hours in the day as you have. 🙂

Here are my top time management tips:

Whoa, that’s a lot of small business marketing tips… and those are just the articles from 2013!

If you like these small business marketing tips, be sure to check out the eBooks written by Cornelia Luethi!

If you like these small business marketing tips, be sure to check out the eBooks written by Cornelia Luethi!

If you want more of my small business marketing tips, be sure to check out my eBooks. The content of my eBooks is totally unique (i.e. they’re written by me, Cornelia Luethi, and you won’t find the eBook content on this or any other blog).

The only way you can get the eBook content is to buy them!

So check out my eBooks! (And buying is easy, as there’s a 60-Day Money Back Guarantee)

Happy reading,


Cornelia Luethi BSc (Hons), DipM
Author of small business eBooks on Marketing

Shop for eBooks written by Cornelia Luethi →

PS. Want even more small business marketing tips?

Here’s the summary of 2012 articles with even more small business marketing tips!
You’ll find articles on topics such as website conversion, writing photo captions, email marketing, plus more copywriting secrets.

Why do video marketing? Video marketing strategies for small businesses…

Before you invest in a web video, make sure you're clear which video marketing strategies you're working towards.

Before you invest in a web video, make sure you’re clear which video marketing strategies you’re working towards.

“You need to put a video on your website.”

“Video marketing’s the latest thing, y’know.”

… Does that sound familiar?

Chances are you’ve heard plenty of folks saying things like that to you. I know I’ve heard plenty of such statements!

Sure, people love watching videos. Here’s some 2013 data from YouTube:

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube every month.
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube – that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth, and 50% more than last year.
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

Crazy, huh?

It’s little wonder that business owners and marketers are so excited about video marketing: video is huge!

Whoa, wait a mo before you jump on the video marketing bandwagon!

Before you jump on the video marketing bandwagon, it’s important to consider where the wagon’s heading, and how much the wagon ride will cost you.

After all, video marketing represents a reasonable investment in either time (if you DIY) and/or money (if you hire professionals), so it’s worth giving your goals some thought before you get started.

I’ve seen too many business owners get all enthusiastic about video; make some random videos (based on the first ideas that popped into their head) without any clear thoughts on objectives… and then claim that “video marketing didn’t work” because they had no clear measures or goals in place. Duh!

So rather than making that kind of expensive and disappointing mistake, ask yourself what you want to achieve from your video marketing.

Here are some of the different video marketing strategies available to you…

Effective video marketing strategies

Go through this list, and see which of the following video marketing strategies would be most helpful in your business.

Or in other words: What do you want to achieve?

1. Create a more personal connection with your prospects

Type of video: This is where you make a personal introduction in the video, and briefly explain your product or service. This should take no longer than a minute.

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: This video selects-in your target customer, but will help to weed out the personality types you’d probably clash with. If you are a single-person service-based business, this can be gold!

Example of an intro video: I use an intro video on my Words By Cornelia copywriting website – it’s at the top of the right-hand side bar.

2. Explain your product or service to prospects

Type of video: This is where an overview is provided, either by yourself, a colleague or an actor. Alternatively, an animation-style video can be used.

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: Video can help explain complex things in simple terms – and very quickly. You’ll often see these sorts of videos for software services, for example, and you get a quick demo of how the software works and what the benefits are to the user. Some things are simply easier to explain by demonstration rather than in writing… so using this type of video can increase your sales, whilst lowering the work burden of your sales team or customer services team.

This kind of video also works well for businesses where your customers visit your premises: it lets them know what to expect, and can help take the fear out of going somewhere new. It’s also a great way to highlight your company’s culture, and really bring your uniqueness to life.

Example of an explanation video: The video below features my beauty therapy client, Rubywaxx. The video was made as part of Rubywaxx being Awards finalists (and then winners), but the video is also a useful addition to the company’s ‘About Us’ web page:

3. Demonstrate your expertise to prospects or customers

Type of video: “How to” videos that provide hints and tips to viewers. Such videos may be from 30 seconds to about 5 minutes in duration, depending on the content you’re communicating. (Read about video lengths for web videos.)

The viewers may be prospects, who are in research mode, and the video can boost your sales conversion rates. Or if your existing customers can also watch the videos, it can reinforce your expertise and help prevent your customer from going to another supplier. It’s a great value-add to a business relationship.

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: This kind of video can also help to minimise complaints and refunds if people understand your product or service better. Plus you can also use the videos on your website, blog and newsletter: one video = many opportunities to use it!

Examples of how-to videos: This is the kind of video I’ve been making, and I’ve been using the videos on my blogs as well as on my YouTube channel.

Here’s an example:

4. Increase sales

Type of video: Sales videos, whereby there is a single call-to-action – which is usually to buy a product or service online.

Sales videos can vary enormously in length: some are just a few minutes long; others can be an hour or longer! It depends on your product or service, your offer, your sales technique, and more. You can read some facts about video lengths and drop-off rates here.

In the internet marketing world, video-based sales pages have been outperforming copy-only sales pages for some time now. I tested this myself earlier in 2013, when I launched a new eBook. I ran a split test, whereby 50% of website visitors saw a copy-only sales page, and the other half of website visitors saw the exact same page – but with a video added, right at the top of the page. The copy-only page converted at 6.98% and the sales page with the video converted at 16.67%… so yes, video marketing can and does work.

Note that that was my very first sales video, so it is a bit rough in terms of content, production and editing (I had to get the entire thing finished in a weekend!), but I’m pretty happy with that!

You can see this warts ‘n’ all sales video on the sales page for my Keyword Research eBook. 

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: If your video can keep viewers engaged for a reasonable length of time, you can go into quite a bit of detail about your product or service and how it works. Provided you don’t overstate or exaggerate the benefits, this could mean low refund rates and minimal complaints.

5. Grow your email list

Type of video: This would generally be a “how to” video, or a quick tip of some kind. In other words, something interesting to entice potential subscribers to sign up for more.

Whatever kind of video you use, you’ll need to add a call-to-action for viewers to subscribe. However, do not rely on YouTube, as YouTube viewers are unlikely to click through to your website. That means using some other kind of video hosting service – usually a paid-for service. I personally use Easy Video Suite, but there are many other options out there, such as Wistia, Vimeo, Viewbix, and more. You’ll need to figure out for yourself which service best suits your needs, your strategies – and your budget.

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: This kind of video can also help with the “demonstrate expertise” strategy. If you plan you video marketing strategy well, you can use one video to achieve multiple tactics.

6. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): get more organic search engine traffic

Type of video: Theoretically you can use any kind of video here, but a “how to” type video would be ideal.

However, it takes more than just uploading a video to YouTube, and/or embedding it on your website.

You see, Google can’t actually ‘see’ inside videos, so they rely on Meta data (behind-the-scenes data). This should include the keywords you’re targeting, based on keyword research.

This video Meta data is called ‘schema.org markup’ and is supported by Bing and Yahoo, as well as Google. 

Using schema.org to describe your videos will allow Google to index and show your videos in search. The main markups to add are:

  • Title 
  • Description 
  • Thumbnail (i.e. the graphic that represents the video’s content). 

While only a few properties are required, providing additional information helps Google understand your video and enhance its appearance in search results. 

You should also upload a video sitemap, and if there’s an opportunity to add a transcript, make sure it includes keywords.

For more details see: http://schema.org/ and http://schema.org/VideoObject 

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: This type of video can help you achieve other video marketing strategies too. For example, you could demonstrate your expertise, or encourage conversions. Your call-to-action could be to encourage a purchase, or to grow your email subscriber list.

Pitfall to be aware of: Using YouTube is a double-edged sword for SEO. If you use YouTube, yes, your videos are likely to show up on Google. But it will be YouTube getting the website traffic, NOT your website.

You will need to use an alternative video hosting service if you want to get the traffic to your own site – but you may not get the same amount of search engine exposure as you’d get with using YouTube.

Remember, Google owns YouTube, so Google will do what’s best for their business, which may be incompatible with your own goals. You’ll need to figure out the best solution for your business goals. And now that you’re aware of the different video marketing strategies you can use, you’ll get a clearer picture of the tactics to follow.

2 video marketing strategies you should treat with caution…

Whilst video marketing does have many benefits, there are some, um, “strategies” I’d advise caution against:

“Build awareness”

“Building awareness” is a very vague objective: after all, how would you measure this?

I’d recommend choosing a video marketing strategy that’s a bit more specific and measurable.

This kind of vague strategy might be OK for a large corporation with vast budgets, but it’s a different story for small businesses that need to see a return on their marketing investment.

“Go viral”

“Going viral” is a very high risk goal. After all, everyone wants their offering to “go viral” yet only a tiny percentage of videos do go viral.

Besides, “going viral” doesn’t necessarily equate to earning lots of money. I bet that the owners of most of those funny cats on YouTube aren’t millionaires – or even close.

Instead, I think it’s far better to have a more realistic and measurable target than “going viral”. Just because “going viral” is one of today’s buzzwords, doesn’t mean that you should aspire to do it.

Next steps:

Now that you’re clear on which strategies you’d like to use video marketing for, you’ll need to consider:

  • Scripts: Video scripts need to be written in such a way to achieve the strategy you’ve chosen. The script needs to be well-paced: not to slow and not too fast.
  • Reasonable production values: This means things like the video/picture quality; audio; and lighting. You don’t need a mega budget for this, but it is important to do it properly, if you’re thinking of going down the DIY route rather than engaging professionals.
  • Video editing: Video editing is time-consuming, yet it can make the difference between a so-so video, and an awesome video. Unless you’re prepared to spend some time (and money) on learning how to do this, you might want to consider outsourcing this.
  • Video hosting: You’ll need to find the best way to host your videos. Whilst YouTube is convenient (and free), it does have a number of drawbacks, so it may not be the best solution for your business.

The technical side of video marketing is a whole separate topic. But at least now you’re clear on how video marketing can help you in your business.

Congratulations on considering the strategy first, rather than jumping straight into the technical nitty-gritty side of things. Based on my experience, this will most likely put you a step ahead of your competitors! Most small businesses dive right into the tactical stuff without considering the bigger picture – or rely on a local videographer who may be great at making videos, but not so good at actually delivering results that contribute towards business goals.

So yes, figure out which video marketing strategies align with your overall marketing goals – and then implement video marketing so it delivers tangible results to your business.

Online video marketing: How long should your video be?

How long should a video be for online video marketing? The facts may surprise you!

How long should a video be for online video marketing? The facts may surprise you!

It’s amazing how often people with no experience in a matter will have strong opinions on a topic.

Online video marketing is one of those topics.

Everyone seems to be an expert in how long a video should be – but that opinion is more likely to be based on that particular individual’s attention span, than on any hard evidence.

Me, I like facts… and using facts as a basis for decision making can be a lot more beneficial than listening to someone’s opinion.

Facts on video length for online video marketing

The guys and gals at Wistia, a video marketing platform, have compiled data based on the thousands of videos they host. This covers all different types of videos:


Source: http://wistia.com/blog/does-length-matter-it-does-for-video-2k12-edition/

Key learnings about video length for web videos

Here are the key learnings from Wistia’s data – and I’ve added my own pointers to these:

  • Surprisingly few people will watch your video to the end – even if it’s short.
    Cornelia’s takeaway: Don’t get too hung up on the drop-off rate; not everyone is going to be interested in your message. And not everyone is going to be a potential customer.
  • The drop-off is quite steep till the 2 minute mark, then it flattens out.
    Cornelia’s takeaway: Lots of people have low attention spans. In my business, I do best with clients who have reasonable attention spans, so I don’t even bother going after the short-attention-span market. Think: What kind of person are you targeting?
  • The difference in engagement for a 2-3 minute video is about the same as for a 4-5 minute video.
    Cornelia’s takeaway: Don’t get too hung up if your video is 2 minutes or 5 minutes, it really doesn’t matter that much. (And people who say it does matter don’t know what they’re talking about.) The main thing is that your content/script is well-paced and engaging. Videos (just like movies) only drag if the script and plot aren’t paced very well.
  • 20-30% of people will watch a long video of 3- to 60+ minutes
    Cornelia’s takeaway: People do watch long videos – if the content is interesting to them!
  • The drop-off rate for 45-60 minute videos is about the same as videos of over an hour in duration.
    Cornelia’s takeaway: Again, people do watch long videos – your job is to ensure that the content is interesting and presented at an appropriate pace.


The data above is helpful to some extent when planning a video. But the main thing is that the script is paced in such a way to keep people engaged.

That means that the web video shouldn’t be slow and drag… or people will yawn and start looking at the time – and closing their browser.

Similarly, don’t try and go to fast to ‘lose’ your viewers. If they can’t keep up with what you’re saying, they’ll give up and look elsewhere.

Above all, your video should geared to achieving a specific strategy, so you can measure your performance. You can read about some of the different video marketing strategies here.



Newsflash! Copywriter for the Best Small Business of the Year

My client, Keola Homes, with the Business of the Year Award (plus a trophy for being a Finalist for Excellence in Innovation).

My client, Keola Homes, with the Business of the Year Award (plus a trophy for being a Finalist for Excellence in Innovation).

Last week a copywriting and marketing consulting client of mine won Small Business of the Year in the Westpac Auckland West Business Awards. These Awards are a big deal in this part of the world, and there was strong competition from more than 100 businesses in all industry sectors.

Yours truly was the writer of the winning award entry. 🙂

My award-winning client is Keola Homes, a 4-person small business that specialises in designing and building luxury architectural houses on difficult plots of land.

I am proud to be the copywriter and marketing consultant for the Small Business of the Year!

I’ve been working with Keola Homes on a monthly retainer basis since May 2012. I’ve worked on various projects with Keola Homes during that time:

  • Writing this winning Award entry for Small Business of the Year (plus they were Finalists for Excellence in Innovation).
  • Writing a previous Award entry, where Keola Homes won Bronze for a Commercial Project.
  • SEO website copywriting: the Keola Homes website now generating more website traffic, and more conversions. 42% of sales have come from the website in the past year (compared to next-to-nothing before that).

Here’s what Sanjesh Lal, owner of Keola Homes, says about my award writing work:

Sanjesh Lal, Keola Homes

Sanjesh Lal, Keola Homes Ltd

“Cornelia has been instrumental in preparing applications for 2 prestigious awards this year for us: The NZ Commercial Project Awards and Westpac Small Business of the Year. We are proud to have won both awards!

There was a lot of data for Cornelia to sift through, and she created meaningful applications backed up by firm statistical data.

Cornelia has used her skills in copywriting and good clear graphical representation of data to create award winning entries both times.

She has presented our ‘story’ in such an amazing and credible way, that judges have found us worthy of awards. I could not have done even half as good a job myself.” – Sanjesh Lal, Keola Homes Ltd

Quality results

When it comes to copywriting, I’m not the cheapest person out there (nor the most expensive), but the writing work is high quality and geared to helping you achieve your business goals.

More details about my copywriting services are here:

Availability of copywriting services

So if you have any projects you’d like award-winning copywriting and marketing for, I’d suggest you contact me soon. I take on new clients on a strictly first-come, first-served basis, and there is often a waiting list of a month or two.

Cornelia Luethi has a strong track record in award entry writing.

Cornelia Luethi has a strong track record in award entry writing.

Next step:

Simply tell me a bit about the project you’d like help with. You can use the easy-peasy form here, and that’ll get the conversation started:


And if you have any questions, just ask!


Cornelia Luethi  BSc (Hons) DipM
Copywriter and marketing consultant, Auckland, NZ

What is the purpose of a website?

The purpose of a website is to (1) Attract traffic, and (2) to Convert readers into prospects. Here's how to get optimum performance from your website.

The purpose of a website is to (1) Attract traffic, and (2) to Convert readers into prospects. Here’s how to get optimum performance from your website.

A website is a vital business tool: it’s as essential for a business as having a phone number, or email address, or business card. But what is the purpose of a website, exactly? 

How can a website help a business?

In my view, the purpose of a website is 2-fold:

Firstly, the website should attract traffic (i.e. visitors).

Secondly, the website should convert as many of those visitors as possible into a prospects who contact you in some way.

Let’s take a look at these two purposes in more detail…

Purpose of a website #1: Attracting traffic

There’s no point having a website if no one can find it or no one knows about it.

Your website needs to get visits from as many relevant prospects as possible.

There are a number of different ways in which you can get traffic to your website. Each of these tactics is approached in a different way, and has benefits and drawbacks:

  • Free search engine traffic: Attracting search traffic rarely happens by itself: you need to take proactive steps to make your website attractive for search engines (and for human readers). This is called search engine optimisation (SEO). It takes a bit of work to set it up, but if it’s done well it can potentially generate traffic to your website for years and years to come. For most businesses, the return on investment is very good.
  • Paid search engine traffic (e.g. Google AdWords): This can be effective, but you only get the traffic if you keep paying for it. This can work out to be expensive after a number of months, unless your business has a very high average dollar sale and high profit margin.
  • Online display ads and banners: with “pay per click” or “pay per view” advertising, you only get the traffic if you pay for it. This too can be very expensive – especially for businesses with modest average dollar sales and profit margins.
  • Links from other websites: This is a good strategy to pursue, but in practice many businesses find it hard to get meaningful links. It is important that the links come from high quality websites: if they come from poor quality, spammy websites your website’s online reputation could suffer as a consequence. So think quality rather than quantity.
  • Links from directories: The success varies, as any directory these days is secondary to Google. Think carefully about paying for listings: crunch the numbers upfront; and monitor the results.
  • Links from social media: You have to be committed to social media for this marketing channel to work. That involves having a clear social media strategy and making the updates consistently. Social media might be free to use, but it takes a good amount of skill and commitment to get it to work or to get any traction. Social media sites to consider include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest. There are many others, too, but those are the main ones. Use the ones that your customers use: e.g. there’s no point tweeting like crazy, if your target market isn’t on Twitter!
  • Include your website address on your business cards and other printed stationery: Yes, you need to do this, but your reach will be limited, so don’t rely on this alone.
  • Include your website address on any sign writing, e.g. premises, vehicles, etc.: This can be very effective, but again, your reach is limited.

Tip: Before you commit to spending money on any website traffic attraction strategies, carry out a break even analysis to see if what you’re considering is likely to be pay dividends – or be an expensive waste of money. It’s far better to discover that upfront before you spend a cent!

I’ve seen businesses work wonders with some of these attraction methods. Some businesses do really well with Google AdWords. One person I know gets a substantial amount of his business from LinkedIn. A small business with multiple vehicles on the road gets crazy good results from their vehicle sign writing.

But there’s one website attraction technique that works consistently well for most business types. And that is, search engine traffic – which usually comes from Google, seeing as they have 89.69% global market share (as at September 2013).

Source: gs.statcounter.com

How do you get more Google traffic?

When it comes to websites, traffic is a good thing!

When it comes to websites, traffic is a good thing!

Getting traffic from Google comes down to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). There are different SEO techniques; I’d argue that the most effective technique I’ve seen is to write website content that targets the keywords users put into Google when conducting their searches. This is known as “SEO website copywriting” – in other words, writing content that uses keywords.

I earn my bread and butter from writing SEO website copy for my clients. Here are some of the results I’ve achieved for my clients:

  • A client with a multi-million dollar business is getting 42% of his business from his website. (He measures this data carefully, so that’s an exact number.)
  • A one-man band in a service industry reckons he gets 95% of his work from his website.
  • Another customer is steadily getting $50k worth of business from her website year after year… she may have spent say $5,000 dollars on the website and content, so that’s a 900% Return on Investment! And the website keeps delivering more customers year after year!

So if you’re wondering why your website isn’t attracting more traffic, maybe it’s because your website hasn’t been set up with this in mind. (This is very common: many website developers aren’t aware of SEO techniques.)

I’d suggest you look into this to find out if optimising your website content for search engines would bring you more traffic.

Remember, if this is done well, the search engines are likely to keep delivering traffic for you, year after year. So if you want to turn your website into a cash machine (or at least a prospect generation machine), then check out SEO website copywriting.

Aren’t you biased because you do SEO website copywriting for a living?

Yes, I write SEO website content for a living… but the reason I started specialising in that area is because of the staggering results it achieves.

I firmly believe that small business owners need marketing techniques that are sustainable over a period of time, and will generate returns for them. I haven’t come across any website attraction techniques that deliver such good returns in the long term as SEO website copywriting.

Of course, results vary: some industries are more competitive than others. Or if you’re in a fledgling or niche industry, the search volumes may not be that high.

But with the bullet point list above, of the different ways to get website traffic, you can start evaluating different tactics to see what might work for you.

Attracting website traffic is the first purpose of a website – now let’s look at the second:

Purpose of a website #2: Converting readers into prospects

The second purpose of a website is to convert readers into prospects. What this means exactly will depend on your business model.

Conversion could mean any combination of the following:

  • Getting people to call you, email you, or fill in a contact form.
  • Getting people to download your Free Report or white paper.
  • Obtaining email subscribers.
  • Making an online purchase.

These are the best kinds of conversion goals, because they are measurable.

However, getting those conversions is no mean feat, as it generally means getting complete strangers to trust your business right away.

Your website need to build trust quickly

You have something like 5 to 9 seconds to grab readers’ attention, and compel them to read on.

A big part of the reader’s decision making is based on trust, so your site has to instil trust and confidence with complete strangers – and very quickly.

Here’s my quick, 10-step guide to building trust online.


Have a clear and obvious call-to-action

One important thing to mention about converting readers into prospects is having clear and obvious calls-to-action. In other words, what is the next step a prospect should take to buy from you? This may be obvious to you, as the business owner, but on many websites this is very unclear and ambiguous.

  • Should people phone you? Or email you?
  • Is there a consultation? If so, is it free or paid for?
  • Do you provide written quotes or estimates? Are they free or not?
  • Do you have a shop, showroom or office? Can people just pop in, or do they need to make an appointment? What are the opening hours?

Your call-to-action should be clear and obvious on every page of the website. And if your buying process is more complex (e.g. architects, builders, business consultants, etc.) then include a page called ‘The Process’ or ‘How it Works’ or something like that. Once people know the steps involved in the buying process, they can start to picture themselves going on that journey. Conversely, if people have no idea what’s involved, they are far less likely to contact you to take the next step. It’s up to you to explain your process clearly and concisely – and encourage prospects to take the next step.

Hint: If you’re thinking of re-writing your website’s content to attract more traffic, also look at the content in terms of conversion. Are there things you could do to the content that’ll help transform more readers into prospects?

After all, if you’re going to re-work the website content, it’s a good idea to make sure that it’s converting well as well as attracting traffic. This way you can kill two birds with one stone.

Summary: Why a website is much like a car…

Like a car, a website needs fuel and maintenance for optimum performance.

Like a car, a website needs fuel and maintenance for optimum performance.

If you’d like an easy analogy to describe the purpose of a website, a website is a bit like a car.

You buy a website development like you buy a car: that part of the investment is like the technological nuts and bolts.

But to get your car anywhere, it needs fuel. And that’s where the content comes in: words, pictures, videos… and for a website to really travel the distance, it’s a good idea to keep topping it up with fuel (content).

A car also needs regular servicing to keep it running smoothly. If you don’t do that, the car might break down. Similarly, a website needs tweaking and reviewing regularly, too. The most successful websites are continually tweaked and revised, and the results tested and measured – just like a racecar is continually fine-tuned for optimum performance.

I’m known for telling my customers that “a website is never finished” – this is much like car maintenance and re-fuelling being an on-going task. It is definitely a worthwhile task: there are few marketing channels as effective as websites.

Where the analogy ends is traffic: in a car, we don’t like traffic – but for our website we want lots of it! 😉

So go on, fuel up your website and get your business moving in a whole new direction, and with more momentum. Vrooooom!



How to get more Google love with photo keywords

Unlock the secret to using photo keywords for SEO...

Unlock the secret to using photo keywords for SEO…

Let’s be honest… when you’re adding content to your website, adding photos can seem like a big, time-consuming pain-in-the-butt job.

Chances are that adding a photograph to your new web page is the very last thing on your To Do list, and once you’ve done that, you can put your feet up for the day and do something fun. Like go out to dinner, or take the dog for a walk, or enjoy a nice relaxing glass of wine. Or crack open a nice, cold beer while you fire up the barbecue.

In short: adding photos to your website is something you probably want to get over with as quickly as possible… Am I right?

Whoa, slow right down!

Good photos not only make your website look more appealing, but if you use them in the right way they can also help improve your search engine rankings.

Many website owners I’ve spoken with over the years aren’t even aware that (a) Photo SEO (search engine optimisation) exists, and (b) that it can make a difference to your site’s rankings… but it can! 

Photo SEO: How to keyword photos

Here’s how to keyword photos. There are a number of different aspects to photo SEO:

1. Image file size

First things first… and that is, you need to make sure that the photograph’s file size is appropriate.

By ‘appropriate’ I mean that the photo should be large enough (in pixels) to display OK… you don’t too use too small a file, or it will look pixelated and grainy, which looks very unprofessional.

However, you need to make sure that the file size (in KB) is reasonable. Slow loading photos (and slow loading web pages) cause users to abandon your website, and that can actually decrease your website’s search engine rankings.

The goal is for your website to load fast ‘n’ snappy, with sharp looking pictures.

Bonus Tip: Whilst you’re using the image editing software, if the photo you’re using is your own (i.e. an image that you have taken yourself, or created yourself), then you might want to include your copyright information on it. I do this on the cartoons I draw and use on my websites, for example.

2. Photo file name

While you’re using your image editing software to re-size the photos, take this opportunity to re-name the image file.

Why re-name the image file?

So that you’re using your focus keyword in the photo file name, of course!

Example: If an image comes off your digital camera as ‘DSC1234.jpg’ that’s not going to tell Google very much about what’s in the photograph.

Instead, say your focus keyword for a web page is ‘plumber Auckland’, then use that for your photo keyword too. Re-name the image as ‘plumber-auckland.jpg’.

Why use hyphens to punctuate the keyword?

Punctuating a keyword with hyphens is a technique I learned at Search Engine Bootcamp a number of years ago: it’s been considered best practice for a while. I’ve been implementing this ever since, and the (many) photos I’ve keyworded in this way get really good visibility on Google. Punctuating with hyphens works!

If for some reason you’re using a website infrastructure that doesn’t allow hyphens (for example, it may use the underscore instead), don’t worry. It’s just a small thing, and I don’t think this one small thing in isolation will matter if the rest of your web page is optimised well with keywords.

What about using uppercase and lowercase letters?

Google isn’t case sensitive – i.e. if you do a search in ALL CAPS or all lowercase (or something in between), you’ll get exactly the same results.

So consequently it doesn’t matter if you use UPPERCASE, lower case, Sentence case or Title Case for your photo keywords.

3. Photo captions

I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about using photo captions…

For one thing, photo captions are twice as likely to get read as the body copy. So if you’re not using photo captions, you’re missing out on getting your message across.

What’s more, photo captions give you another opportunity for photo SEO. So be sure to include your photo keywords in the caption that you write.

Hint: If you’re struggling with writing photo captions, here are some articles to help you:

Be sure to write your photo captions so that they’re meaningful and interesting to human readers, first and foremost. Using photo keywords is just the icing on the cake!

4. ALT attribute

Think that your work with photo keywords is done? Think again… there’s still the ALT attribute! And this is something that many people miss out when keywording photos and images…

What’s the ALT attribute?

The ALT attribute (also known as the ALT tag) was developed so that blind and visually impaired people can interact with graphic elements on a web page. Visually impaired people use a screen reader that reads out the content of a web page. And when a screen reader comes to an image, it reads out the ALT attribute. So a well-written ALT tag lets blind people know what’s in an image, even if they can’t see it.

Google accesses the ALT attribute too, so if you use your photo keywords in the ALT tag, you’re not just letting visually impaired people know what’s in the image, you’re also letting Google know. So I’d suggest taking some time and care in writing a meaningful ALT attribute – whilst using your photo keywords, of course!

Using your photo keywords in the ALT attribute is an important part of photo SEO, but be sure to write ALT copy that makes sense to human readers, first and foremost.

You need to use photo SEO in combination with other SEO techniques

Don’t keyword your photos in isolation and expect a huge surge in your Google rankings or visitor numbers: you need to keyword the rest of your web page as well.

It’s the cumulative effect of all of these SEO techniques that will give you the best results.

Using photo keywords for photo SEO is a step that many website owners skip, so if you do this (as well as other SEO techniques), there’s the opportunity to make some gains on your competitors.


  • Make sure image sizes are optimised for quick downloading – but without noticeably degrading the image quality.
  • Use your photo keywords in the image file names. Punctuate the file names with hyphens.
  • Write a meaningful photo caption that also includes your photo keyword.
  • Write an ALT tag that’s both meaningful and keyworded.
  • Photo SEO won’t boost your website rankings in isolation, you need to use other SEO techniques as well.


Bye bye Google Keyword Tool – and hello Keyword Planner

Yes, Google has now retired its Keyword Tool has gone… in its place is the new Keyword Planner.

And if you’re anything like me, you went ‘ugh’ when you saw the interface

Let’s just say that the interface of the Keyword Planner isn’t exactly intuitive.

After all, it’s designed primarily for Google AdWords advertisers, and it has a bunch of features you don’t even need to touch for SEO keyword research!

Luckily for you, I braved it and have written step-by-step instructions (and made a step-by-step screencast video) on how to use the new Google Keyword Planner for organic SEO keyword research:

How to master the Google Keyword Planner for organic SEO keyword research – quickly and easily.

How to master the Google Keyword Planner for organic SEO keyword research – quickly and easily.

The Keyword Research eBook is written by me, Cornelia Luethi, a specialist SEO website copywriter.

In ‘Keyword Research: How to use the Google Keyword Planner for SEO: a step-by-step guide’ you’ll discover the technique that I use when creating SEO website content for my copywriting clients.

The Keyword Research book covers:

  1. The brainstorming process, to generate keyword ideas. Time spent on this yields better results, or you could miss out on some important keywords.
  2. How to use the Google Keyword Planner: step-by-step instructions with screenshots.
  3. How to format the data in Excel. You may end up with thousands of keywords, some of which will be duplicated or irrelevant. Find out how to deal with them!
  4. Formulating a keyword strategy: Now that you’ve got the data, you need to make some sense of it. I cover my keyword strategy techniques, including how I use keywords in SEO website copywriting.



Get up-and-running with Google’s Keyword Planner in minutes, with Cornelia Luethi’s training.

Get up-and-running with Google’s Keyword Planner in minutes, with Cornelia Luethi’s training.


Cornelia Luethi  BSc (Hons), DipM
Copywriter, marketing consultant and author of Keyword Research

PS. There’s a 60-day money-back guarantee!

You can evaluate the Keyword Research eBook risk-free to see if it’s right for you.

See details and buy online.


How to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts – for Mac and PC

Website and copywriting tasks are much quicker if you know how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts.

Website and copywriting tasks are much quicker if you know how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts.

You can save yourself a huge amount of time if you know how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts.

In this blog post you will find step-by-step instructions, as well as a video to show you how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts.

Common things you might want to copy and paste include:

  • Sending a website address (URL) in an email, or putting it in a document.
  • Someone’s contact details, such as their website address or phone number, from their email signature.
  • Information from an old document (e.g. a proposal, letter, or fact sheet) into a new document.
  • Keywords you’ve brainstormed into a keyword research tool.

… There are limitless ways in which copying and pasting is useful!

And if you know how to do it quickly and efficiently, it can save you a lot of time.

Note: Giving instructions on how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts might seem quite basic to some readers here… If that’s the case, give yourself a pat on the back from being so smart. I know for a fact that there are a lot of people out there who don’t know how to copy and paste at all – let alone with keyboard shortcuts!

We all have to begin somewhere, and this video and article will make it nice and easy for you to learn…

Why use keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste?

You don’t have to use the keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste… you can use your mouse and go to Edit > Copy and then Edit > Paste. But this method is very time-consuming. If you do a lot of copying and pasting in your day (like I do), then using the keyboard is far more efficient, and it will save you time for more important things.

You’ll still need your mouse to highlight the text and position the cursor, but by using keyboard commands for copying and pasting (instead of navigating to the Edit menu), it’ll be quicker for you.

First things first: how to select the text you want to copy

You use your mouse to control the cursor on screen to select the text you want to copy. There are a number of different ways to select the text:

  • Click the left mouse button and drag the mouse to select the text you want to copy.
  • To select a whole word, double-click on it with the left mouse button.
  • If you want to select a whole paragraph or website address (URL), triple-click on it with the left mouse button.

You can tell which text you have selected, as it will be higlighted, as per this example:


How to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts: on a PC

To copy and paste using the keyboard on a PC you need to locate the following 3 keys on the keyboard:

  • Control (often labelled as ‘Ctrl’)
  • The letter ‘C’ 
  • The letter ‘V’


Step-by-step instructions for PC:

  1. Select the text you want to copy (as per the instructions above).
  2. Press down the ‘Control’ and letter ‘C’ buttons together at the same time: this is the ‘Copy’ command, which puts the data on your computer’s clipboard.
  3. Then navigate to where you want to paste the information: place your cursor with the mouse.
  4. Press down the ‘Control’ and letter ‘V’ buttons together at the same time. This is the ‘Paste’ command, and the text you selected should now be inserted. 

How to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts: on a Mac

To copy and paste using the keyboard on a Mac you need to locate the following 3 keys on the keyboard:

  • Command key (the one with the squirly pattern on it)
  • The letter ‘C’
  • The letter ‘V’


Step-by-step instructions for Mac:

  1. Select the text you want to copy (as per the instructions above).
  2. Press down the ‘Command’ button and letter ‘C’ buttons together at the same time: this is the ‘Copy’ command, which puts the data on your computer’s clipboard.
  3. Then navigate to where you want to paste the information: place your cursor with the mouse.
  4. Press the ‘Command’ button and letter ‘V’ buttons together at the same time. This is the ‘Paste’ command, and the text you selected should now be inserted.

Video tutorial on how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts:


Voila! It’s that easy!

There are many more keyboard shortcuts, and many are universal between apps.

But copying and pasting is the one keyboard shortcut I use the most – and it’s likely to be the shortcut you’ll use the most too.


Time management tips from Cornelia

Hi there,

Here are a couple of videos I recorded with time management tips.

The videos are for my other website (The Leaky Bathtub, which is for DIY small business marketing) – I hope you enjoy them too!

Why you need to take time out from your business

FREE Marketing Tips:  http://wordsbycornelia.com/marketing-tips/

How to get more stuff done (without working longer hours)

FREE Marketing Tips:  http://wordsbycornelia.com/marketing-tips/

PS. Yes, this is me, Cornelia, in the video!

This video is filmed on my iPhone using techniques learned from iPhone Video Hero… you can get a FREE eBook on iPhone Video Marketing here.

(And if you’re wondering about my other website, The Leaky Bathtub is for business owners who want to DIY their marketing… whereas this website, Words By Cornelia, is about my copywriting service.)

PPS. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel!

 Like my videos? Please subscribe to my YouTube Channel… it’s free!

Why you’ll get more sales if your marketing materials are easy to skim read (and how to do it)

You'll be doing your readers a big favour if you make it easy for them to skim read your marketing materials... And it helps your sales, too!

You’ll be doing your readers a big favour if you make it easy for them to skim read your marketing materials… And it helps your sales, too!

When was last time you read a company’s marketing blurb (be it a website, brochure or whatever) word for word?

It’s rare to read marketing materials word for word – unless you’re really interested in what they’re saying, right?

Your own prospects and customers are no different.

Skim-reading is a way of life in the fast-paced, high-tech world we live in.

Therefore, for your marketing to be effective, you need to acknowledge that and make it easy for people to skim-read your marketing.

(This is especially true online, where attention spans are particularly short and your competitors’ websites are just a mouse click away.)

What are the benefits of encouraging people to skim-read?

Encouraging your prospects to skim-read is a good idea.

Why? By letting their eyes glance at the information in a way that they can absorb it quickly means that your prospect is more likely to retain the knowledge and information.

In turn, this means that you’re more likely to make the sale!

Not convinced?

If you’re not convinced that letting people skim read will help your sales, imagine the opposite scenario. In this instance, imagine big huge chunks of dense text.

Yep, we’re talking solid walls of words… no paragraphs, no sub-headings, just a big, never-ending mass of words. (Think: like a school essay or some kind of scientific report.)

Unless you’re an academic, the big chunks of text are visually very daunting. You subconsciously think, “yikes, that looks intense and boring” when you see a solid mass of words.

Example: two articles from the same magazine…

In the photo below are two articles from the same magazine.

Here are two articles from the same magazine: the one on the left is easy to skim read, thanks to the sub-headings, bullet points and bold formatting of key points. The article on the right is visually very intimidating to read because of the dense text.

Here are two articles from the same magazine: the one on the left is easy to skim read, thanks to the sub-headings, bullet points and bold formatting of key points. The article on the right is visually very intimidating to read because of the dense text.

The article on the left has sub-headings, bold, bullet points… whilst the article on the right is a solid mass of words, with no “breathing space” around them.

Which would you rather read (if they were both on the same topic)?

I know which I’d prefer to read… and your prospects are no different. They’d rather read information that’s broken down into digestible, consumable chunks than be confronted by intimidating blocks of information.

Here’s how you can make your marketing materials nice and digestible for your readers…

7 tips on how to make your marketing materials easy to skim read

1. Use headlines

An enticing heading is the important first step in making sure that your marketing piece gets read.

After all, if your piece doesn’t grab the reader’s attention, your effort is wasted!

Here are some articles to help you:

Why are headlines important?

What makes a good headline?

Here’s an easy-peasy headline-writing technique you can use right away…

2. Use sub-headings

Meaningful sub-headings help to break down the information on the page, and let the eye navigate the information.

Notice how this article uses this technique to break down the information into easy, navigable chunks. You can quickly pick up the main messages of this article, even if you don’t read every single word.

Make sure you employ the same technique in your own writing!

The trick is to make the sub-headings meaningful (i.e. longer than just one word), and to put them in bold so they stand out. Sometimes it’s nice to use a larger font size than for your body copy, too.

Bonus tip: Use colours for your headings and sub-headings: this helps them to stand out. Pure black-and-white copy can look very flat and dull. Choose a colour and use it consistently (it should be a colour that matches your corporate colour scheme).

3. Keep sentences and paragraphs short

Marketing and sales copy should be snappy and punchy – and that means using short sentences.

Using long sentences confuses readers… and why make it difficult for people to read your materials?

Short sentences are easy to read, and easy to understand. And “easy to read and easy to understand” are highly-desirable characteristics of sales and marketing copy!

Notice too how I’ve used short paragraphs in this article. In fact, most paragraphs are one to five sentences long.

There are two reasons why short paragraphs are a good idea:

(a) The white space between the paragraphs gives the copy some “breathing space”. This is attractive to people visually, so they are more likely to read your content. So it helps with attracting attention and getting read.

(b) The “breathing space” allows readers to digest the information you’re telling them. The gaps between the paragraphs are like little mini-breaks for the brain, that allow new information to sink in, bit by bit. So this helps with readers absorbing what you have to say, and taking action.

The golden rule is to have just one idea per paragraph. (Yes, even if that means just one sentence per paragraph, that’s absolutely fine! Remember, you’re writing marketing and sales copy, not a school essay!)

4. Emphasise important things in bold

Headings and sub-headings should be in bold, but other important words could be in bold too, so that they really stand out.

A word of warning though: don’t be tempted to over-use this technique, or your marketing piece will look cluttered. Use this sparingly!

5. Use bullet points for lists

Do you have a whole list of things to say?

Then put them in a bulleted list!

Again, this breaks down the information nicely. It’s simply a lot easier to read a bulleted list than a long, rambling line of information.

Bonus tip: Put the most important words at the beginning of the sentence. This will help the reader pick up the important information even if they don’t read the whole sentence. Why? People tend to scan vertically down the left hand side as they read. So if the important words are all on the left, the words will get noticed.

Extra bonus tip: When you’re using bullet points and putting the most important words at the beginning of the sentence, consider making those important words bold. This will help them to stand out even more and your copy will be super-skim-readable!

6. Use photos and graphics – and write captions for them

A picture really does paint a thousand words.

Good graphics help to get attention – and they also help to lock your message into readers’ minds.

How to choose eye-catching photographs for your marketing

Don’t just use a photograph without putting it into context – otherwise it could raise more questions than it answers. Instead, be sure to write a meaningful caption with every photograph that you use.

Here are some articles I’ve written to help you with caption writing:

How one measly sentence could double your readership

How to write photo captions that’ll get remembered

Understanding features and benefits and how to use them in photo captions

7. Two common formatting mistakes to avoid

You have more formatting tools at your disposal than I’ve mentioned here, but there are a couple of things you should avoid:

(i) Avoid underlining

Underlining words for emphasis looks amateurish. Pick up any book, and I bet there will be no underlining. Professional typesetters and publishing companies simply don’t use underlining.

The only time when it’s OK (and preferable) to underline is online, for hyperlinks. This is a good idea for usability because it lets readers know that the text is a hyperlink.

(Conversely, it’s super-annoying online when people underline copy that isn’t a hyperlink!)

(ii) Avoid excessive italics

To demonstrate this point, I am purposely writing a whole paragraph in italics. Perhaps you’re tilting your head to the side a little bit to read it… maybe even squinting your eyes a little… am I right? In other words, large chunks of text in italics are difficult to read – and even more so online than in print. I have no idea why that is, but computer screens and italics do not go well together! This applies to email marketing (newsletters, autoresponders and sales emails) as well as to website copy. 

You may use italics selectively for emphasis, for perhaps a word or a sentence… but no more than that, please!

I often see people putting testimonials on their website in italics, and this is incredibly hard to read. You are better off using your normal type style, and putting the testimonial-giver’s name in italics.

Why make it hard for prospects to read your testimonials?! (Or any of your other copy!)


  • It’s more enticing to read copy with “breathing space” than words that are crammed tightly together. 
  • If your copy lets prospects easily skim read it, it is therefore more likely to get read. 
  • The “breathing space” also lets readers’ brains absorb the information, so your message is more likely to stick.
  • Here are 7 ways in which you can make your copy easier for people to skim read:
    1. Use headlines
    2. Use sub-headings
    3. Keep sentences and paragraphs short
    4. Emphasise important things in bold
    5. Use bullet points for lists
    6. Use photos and graphics – and write captions for them
    7. Avoid making the common mistakes of underlining for emphasis (except for hyperlinks) and excessive italics (just a word or sentence for emphasis is enough).


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