Thursday, September 2, 2010

There's More to Write than Just Novels

I didn't always write novels. In fact, the idea used to petrify me. Three hundred pages of copy? How can someone do that? I recalled a research paper I wrote in college that was seventy-five pages and finishing it on time nearly killed me.

For a long time I wasn't ready to embark on a novel, but I still wrote and keep writing. Business letters, ad copy, email copy, packaging copy, articles, ghost blogs, market reports, trend copy, proposals, press releases and web copy. Each type of writing involves a different skill set...for example web copy.

I've posted before about overusing words, but for web copy, you have to overuse words. A site will rank higher on search engines if the keywords are found organically, but you also want it to read professionally.

When preparing to create copy for a website, I first determine the search terms and write them down on a piece of paper that I keep next to my keyboard. Below is an excerpt I created for Hairspray Salon in Providence.

Dress your tresses in style at Hairspray Salon, a full service hair salon located conveniently on Wickenden Street in Providence's beautiful East Side, Rhode Island. Create bold and chunky highlights, find out if blondes really do have more fun, or lengthen your locks with lavish layers. Our experienced hair designers are well versed in all forms of hair care from foiling, to one press color and perming, extensions, dreads and ethnic hair care. Whatever your hair vision is, we can turn it into a reality.

Can you guess what my keywords were? In order of importance: hair, Providence and Rhode Island.

Below is the excerpt again with the words highlighted.

Dress your tresses in style at Hairspray Salon, a full service hair salon located conveniently on Wickenden Street in Providence's beautiful East Side, Rhode Island. Create bold and chunky highlights, find out if blondes really do have more fun, or lengthen your locks with lavish layers. Our experienced hair designers are well versed in all forms of hair care from foiling, to one press color and perming, extensions, dreads and ethnic hair care. Whatever your hair vision is, we can turn it into a reality.

In one paragraph I managed to get the word "hair" in six times. One way to achieve this is to use the word in different ways. "Hair" is paired with other words so it isn't always "Hairspray" or "hair salon". I have "hair designers", "hair care", and "hair vision" too. This makes it sound like a different word even though it isn't.

Of course a lot more goes into SEO besides well-executed copy, but it's the first stage in getting your site noticed. Do you write other things besides novels? What do you write? And how does the process differ from your creative writing?

2 comments:

Brigid Kemmerer said...

This is a really interesting post. There's definitely an art to web writing (and catalogue copy) vs. novel writing. I'm glad you put this up here, because it's not something I've ever considered to much, but now I'm going to find myself reading things like that more carefully. (Shh. Secretly I'm kind of a dork.)

People are always surprised when I tell them I don't journal. I'm always surprised when people think I DO. Why the hell would I write about myself when I could be writing about the son of Apollo? Or a talking horse? Or a vampire who used to be one of the knights of the round table?

I actually can't seem to write anything BUT novels. I sometimes try to write short stories, basically just for something to throw on the blog, but the characters always seem to take over and want some whole big story. Bastards.

The only thing I can write well that isn't a novel is a damn good business letter. "Our goal is to provide you with the highest level of service in the industry. Should you have any questions, or if I may be of further assistance..."

Yeah, I'll stick with the novels. :-)

Rachel Menard said...

Thanks! Brigid, I agree with you. Now that I've moved into the land of novel writing, I can't go back. My characters' lives are much more exciting than mine, and anything is more exciting than a marketing report.