6 Things to Check Before Turning In Your Final Draft

Have you ever thought, “Wow, that headline could be better” after you turned in your final draft?

Or worse, your boss (or client) redlined your copy–and she sent you a nastygram to let you know?

Ouch.

I’ve reviewed a lot of SEO writing over the years and there is one big constant: so-so copy happens. Maybe it’s a headline that falls flat. Or maybe the writer missed some keyphrase opportunities.

Although the mistakes may be minor, they’re a red flag to your boss (or client) that you’re “working sloppy.”

That’s never good.

Make sure your content hits the mark the first time. Ready to evaluate your writing? Here are six things to check:

– How is your keyphrase usage?

Some people were trained that you have to include the keyphrases X times each on the page. I feel sorry for those people. They end up hating SEO writing because they were given incorrect information. Or, if a someone is new to SEO writing, they’ll often go nuts with their keyphrases and put them everywhere. Why? Because they think that they “have to do it this way.”

News flash: You don’t have to do it this way (whew!).

Yes, include keyphrases. However, focus your attention more on “how will my reader enjoy this,” instead of, “how many times should I repeat this keyphrase?”

Remember, Google is looking for informative pages that are centered around a theme, not how many times you repeat some words. It’s OK to use synonyms. It’s OK to not exact match your keyphrase every time. And it’s OK to write like a human rather than feeling you have to serve Google (in fact, this kind of writing is rewarded!).

– How are your headlines?

Ideally, your headlines and subheadlines should grab your readers attention and entice them to keep reading. Using your keyphrase as a headline (for instance, “Louisville, KY hotel,”) is just plain boring. Sure, the keyphrase is in there. But you’re missing out on an opportunity to make your content compelling.

Your readers quick-scan headlines and subheadlines before they dig into your body copy. The more oomph your headlines have, the more you encourage your readers to keep reading.

In a perfect world, your headline and subheadlines are benefit-rich and include a keyphrase. If you can’t make a keyphrase “fit,” focus on writing a compelling statement instead. Your goal is to make people want to read more. Not showcase the keyphrases you’re targeting.

Here’s a great post by Danny Goodwin about how to write killer headlines your readers will love.

– Can you turn a long paragraph into multiple shorter ones?

You know what’s overwhelming? A solid copy block without paragraph breaks.

I do one of two things when I see content like this. I either scroll to the bottom and look for a summary. Or, I back out of the site and find another resource. Too-long paragraphs make my eyes bleed. I don’t like it when my eyes bleed.

Review your content and see how you can divide your long paragraphs into shorter ones. Yes, one-to-three sentence paragraphs are OK if you do it right. Just remember that mobile readers may be viewing your content on tiny screens, so the easier you can make your copy to read, the better.

– Does your copy have any scary-long sentences?

Scary-long sentences are a personal pet peeve of mine–and it’s a big writers’ blind spot.

Sometimes, it’s because the writer is tired. Sometimes, it’s because they’re writing too fast. And sometimes, they come from an academic or legal background where long sentences are the norm. No matter what the reason, long sentences are clunky and hard to read.

If you feel your copy is so-so, splitting up your sentence length instantly spices up your content. Your copy is easier to read. You can get your point across more effectively. And it’s a great way to keep your reader engaged. Try it and see.

– Can you add any textural words?

As Roger Dooley says, “Use vivid, sensory, emotional adjectives to engage the brain.” Research has proven that textual words (like smooth, slimy or gritty) cause our brains to react in unique ways. That’s because your brain can picture what “gritty” feels like–and your brain actually lights up as if you were experiencing that sensation.

Slipping textural words into your copy is a great way to make your lukewarm writing sizzle (see what I did there?)  Here’s more information on how you can make it happen.

Did you use the wrong form of a word?

Ah, Microsoft Word, why can’t you save us from ourselves? There are times we meant to type “there” and instead type “they’re.” Other times, we use the wrong word–yet Word doesn’t flag it. Word just makes us suffer.

Don’t rely on the red “typo line” to let you know if there’s a mistake. Check and double-check that everything is A-OK.  As a funny side note, I had originally typed, “just because you don’t see a read line” before I caught my mistake. Oops!

Turning in a clean and compelling final draft will make your editors love you, plus you’ll be seen as more professional.

What do you doublecheck before turning in your final draft?

Photo thanks: © Mpavlov | Dreamstime.com – Green Check Box Photo 

5 replies
  1. Sara woodward says:

    Excellent article and I will put my hands up and admit I am sometimes guilty of pressing the send button too quickly. Nothing more annoying than having to own up to mistakes such as referring to Simon as Simone. Thanks Heather.

    Ps third line ‘redined’ . Is that an American word or copy jargon . ?

    Reply
    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Hi, @Sara!

      Thanks for your note. We’ve ALL hit the send button too quickly. Especially when we’re working too fast, we’re tired or overwhelmed.

      “Redlined” could be an Americanism. I *thought* it was copy jargon, but now I’m not sure. Sorry for using a term that doesn’t translate across the pond.

      :)

      Reply
  2. Linda says:

    Thanks for a this helpful article, Heather. I have a seven step self-editing process that I force myself to follow. I will add your suggestions for SEO web copy. I have also learned that I can’t write after 7 pm. There’s too much to correct the next day. And if there’s s few days before the deadline, I will let the copy sit for a day or two and come back with fresh eyes.

    Reply
  3. Elizabeth says:

    Super great post! One thing I like to review is my tone. Just like the scary-long sentences, I find that formal writing can sneak in and can create standoffish text.

    And, on another note, when I worked as a legal assistant in New York, we blacklined documents. I’m assuming that redlined refers to the color of the pen used. :)

    Reply

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