George Orwell’s Six Tips for Better Copywriting

(Inspired by Copyblogger’s The Mark Twain Guide to Better Blogging)

Forget 1984 or Animal Farm. George Orwell’s legacy to webmasters were his thoughts on copywriting.

Orwell died 40 years before Tim Berner-Lee got busy, but he understood the power of the written word. His most famous essay – Politics and the English Language – offers outstanding advice on how to write clean, concise and easy-to-understand copy.

That’s the kind of web content that makes users want to spend money, because they understand exactly what you are selling and why they should buy it. The very same web content that search engines lap up, because it’s genuine ‘quality content‘ that makes Matt Cutts go weak at the knees.

Ignore the word ‘politics’; Orwell’s advice applies to any topic. He diagnosed common problems with writing and offered six simple solutions:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

I urge anyone writing for the web to tape these six bullet points to their monitor. Read them as a morning mantra, digest the Wikipedia precis now and print the full text to read tonight.

Top 10 Free PPC Tools

Free PPC tools are more common than spammy ebooks. Here’s the handful of top-notch tools I use every week:

  1. SpyFu
    SpyFuGoogSpy on steroids – shows what keywords other AdWords users are bidding on. Is that ethical? That a matter for your conscience, but it’s no tough decision if competitors use it. Spyfu also offers average cost per click, search volume and related keywords.
  2. Google Suggest Scraper
    Google Suggest is a prime source of real-world search keywords – shame Google don’t make the output more SEM-friendly. No matter, since Dave Naylor has done the hard work, including running it through a proxy to avoid IP bans.
  3. Keyword Discovery / Wordtracker
    Keyword Discovery
    – my favourite paid-for PPC tool – has a top notch free demo. Wordtracker‘s two hour free demo is also priceless for PPC users on a budget. You’ll need to create accounts to try the tools, but some of my *cough* friends have a lot of email addresses…
  4. Turbo Powered Typo Generator
    PPC typo traffic can work wonders – particularly with trademark-blocked keywords on Google. This typo generator offers more control over output than most.
  5. Keyword Lizard
    This super-strength permutation generator helps generate enormous – but meaningful – keyword lists. Use up to three seed lists and add spaces, hyphens, match type and more to taste. The SEO Book Keyword Phrase List tool fills in when Keyword Lizard is down.
  6. SEO Book Keyword Suggestion Tool
    Keyword research means more than powering up the AdWord’s keyword tool. Aaron Wall’s keyword tool aggregates keyword data from Google, Overture Yahoo Search Marketing, Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery.
  7. AOL Search Database
    Forget the competition for high value terms, AOL’s leaked search data remains a huge reference for real-world search data. This site offers an easy-to-search version if you don’t want to get your hands dirty processing the data. With search data from 650,000 users, there’s still diamonds in the rough.
  8. AdWords Wrapper
    Making use of match types is a must with AdWords. One click formats your keywords into AdWords’ broad, phrase, exact or negative match, all offered on one simple results page.
  9. Open Office
    Spreadsheets are irreplaceable for generating keyword lists from data feeds. Don’t want to shell out $200 for Excel? Open Office (XP, OS X and more) is a decent open source substitute, albeit lacking some of Excel’s fancy features.
  10. TBC
    Feel I’ve forgotten your favourite free PPC tool? Post a comment or trackback to add your vote for tool number ten.

Jason Calacanis: My Big Mouth

Jason Calacanis, Weblogs Inc. founder and ex-AOL tea boy big shot, announced today that:

“SEO is bullshit, if you generate a web page with good content Google will rank the page properly.”

[Source: Threadwatch]

Surprise, surprise, Calacanis’ boil-in-the-bag ‘controversial’ comments at Search Engine Strategies Chicago have riled a fair few feathers. Just look at the comments from SEOs on the Threadwatch, SEO Blackhat and Graywolf posts.

But – as with AOL boss Ted Leonsis‘s recent comments – perhaps it is really a case of linkbait for linkbait’s sake? Or should that be drinkbait? No – hang on – hatbait. Either way, expect to see an SEO contract hit on Calacanis’ name as a keyword.

Update: Graywolf is there first…

Jason Calacanis PPC ad c/o Graywolf
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