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If you’re not sure what a copy deck is, then read this post ‘What is a copy deck?

It isn’t always this easy to put together a copy deck so I thought it might be nice and loving of me to let you all know how I approach the writing of a web copy deck, in five easy steps.

Of course all good web copywriters will have their own process, but this post is more for those unfortunate account service people, producers and clients who are forced to play copywriter when the budget won’t stretch.

Step 1 – Copy platform

At this stage you should only include:

  • A ‘skeleton’ structure with no ‘real’ copy.
  • All pages from site map (and any additional ones that occur to you at this stage).
  • One page for each of the site pages with signposts for Title tag, Description, Keywords, Headers, Subs, Body copy, etc.
  • Bulleted information from existing site.
  • Bulleted information from any documents the client has been kind enough to give you by way of a brief.
  • Highlighted questions for the client.
  • Outline of any copy rules (How should the brand name be phrased, are there any TMs or Rs to worry about, etc).
  • Outline of general site keywords.

Keep it brief and simple. This stage is about fact finding and getting the everything in the right spot.

If you’d like to buy a copy deck template – you’ll find mine for sale here.

Step 2 – The first draft

This draft should include as much as you can write based on the client response to the copy platform. At this stage I usually find myself:

  • Discovering a few new pages I hadn’t thought of.
  • Removing pages when there’s clearly not enough content to justify them.
  • Coming up with much better navigation titles.
  • Writing until my fingers bleed; the more I do in this draft the more the client has to critique (and this is the best way to get answers for all those missing bits.)

I try to encourage my client to send the deck around internally at this stage and get as much feedback as possible.  I also like to send to the copy deck to the coders and designers involved in the project so they have a clearer idea of what’s coming to them later down the track.

Step 3 – The second draft

At this stage page structure should be firming; there really shouldn’t be any more questions a
nd now you can concentrate on:

  • Making the copy sound nicerer.
  • Writing all the unique meta tag information.
  • Checking your keyword saturation through body, headers, etc.
  • Adding body copy hyperlinks to other site pages (clearly labeled to help the coders).
  • Fully proofing copy – using a professional proofreader of course.

Step 4  – The final draft

So you’re nearly there. At this stage it’s usually just a case of:

  • Final tweaks from your client’s boss.
  • Filling out the name of x or the date of y that the client has only just given you.
  • Abbreviating anything that your designer has asked you to cut down so it fits better.
  • Polishing.
  • Finding those odd, evil little typos.

Step 5  – Review

Hopefully you’ll get the chance to review the copy in the finished website and pick up all those errors that the designers and coders (might) have made.

It’s always worth checking that:

  • Alt tags and meta tags have been implement as you intended.
  • The correct case has been used throughout (designers seem to love capitals).
  • Hyperlinks are in place and go to the correct destination.
  • The copy reads well – something that looks great in Word might be total arse when you see it on the website.
  • You spot any errors or badly written copy and are willing to fix in your own time (and without charge).

Generally most medium site copy decks run from 35 to 45 pages in Word (for about 20-25 web pages) and, on average, take me around 40 hours to write (depending on the number of client amends, meetings etc).

Over to you

What’s your method for writing copy? Do you use a copy deck or something else?

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