Oxford’s Christmas branding project is a gift

Modern Copy website for Oxford's Christmas event

The Oxford’s Christmas website by Modern Copy








Cities like Oxford come alive at Christmas. That’s the magic that Modern Copy invested into this year’s ‘Oxford’s Christmas‘ festival, with branding, website creation, content strategy and copywriting. The branding began with a paper-cut motif that runs throughout the identity with accents of Oxford’s greatest landmarks, and with associated branding for the popular Light Night Festival that kicked off the 8-week Christmas period in the city. You can even buy lots of gifts and cards featuring the brand here. The website is also a clever tool to build your own itinerary, collating information across the dozens of participating cultural and shopping venues in the city. Modern Copy worked with our own team of designers, developers and illustrators to bring the project in on time and on budget, and with a tone and personality all of its own.

A really simple explanation to Google’s zoo updates









Ever wondered what the difference between Google’s Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird updates are? For writers, it’s essential to know how the system has evolved. At a basic level, this isn’t hard to understand. We just received an update from Receptional  that manages to do it in just over 100 words. They’re in the same school of thought that we are. Five years ago, SEO experts may have charged you a fortune to optimise your site and copy. In the future, only the best writers will succeed, full stop.



What’s the ideal length for a blog post?

We get to write copy for many different websites, and online marketing has become a world coloured by metrics and analysis. It’s also a great place to find people hawking solutions, even if the problem is non-existent. This blog post from one LinkedIn influencer came through to us at Modern Copy today. It’s a fantastic piece of information. The answer is exactly what we would hope to hear as writers: there’s no such thing as ideal length, it’s quality that matters.

Google’s Hummingbird algorithms confirms that it’s about good writing, not tricky SEO

Feature on Google Hummingbird from Daily Telegraph








Modern Copy are often asked by our digital copywriting clients whether SEO is for them. The answer, as many online copy specialists have told the world, used to be ‘It’s for you, and it’s twice as expensive as you were thinking.’ What most sensible people suspect is that SEO means very little without good content ideas, executed well. You can pay through the nose for expensive SEO consultants, but it’s a smoke and mirrors game that looks to be delivering diminishing returns.

Each incarnation of Google goes in the same direction, and that is towards promoting sites that have great copy, not technical SEO. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive, of course. But people who have leant on SEO as the core of their strategy, while executing the rest of their content badly, are going to see their artifically-lifted figures toppling.

Check out the latest Telegraph feature on Google Hummingbird and find out for yourself. Then check the comments. Look for the SEO experts – and see how happy they feel about it. That tells you the good news: having beautiful, well-planned content you can be proud of will be the only way your site can guarantee long-term success.


Condensing the world’s greatest race into 500 words

We love writing content for the web. Modern Copy has collaborated with some great brands online over the years, and we’ve learnt that online copywriting is really a fantastic exercise in brevity. We’ve had a great relationship with Red Bull Adventure, a new website for adventure sports, and today a new story we’ve put together for them went online. It’s about the Clipper Round The World race: a 40,000 mile trip for amateur yachtsmen. Founded by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston to give ordinary people a chance to taste the real challenges of sailing, we were tempted to put Modern Copy forward to do it next year.

Check out the story here

Making brand stories benefit the reader


Whether you’re writing lovely long-form advertising copy or a website page that explains your brand story, you should always make sure the story doesn’t overshadow the purpose: to make the user benefit in some way. It’s fantastic to hear that your bank is ancient, esteemed and rolling in dough, but so what? You’re still like the rest of them.

TSB, the unpacked and de-risked bank which was split from Lloyds and relaunched recently, have got it right.

They keep underlining the importance of history to their brand, and the values that the story is made from. But crucially, they make sure it connects to you. There’s a benefit here – your local economy is going to thrive thanks to TSB. Whether it actually does or not isn’t the point – the point is that TSB has detoxified itself and set itself apart from the villains we’ve come to know on the high street.

Check the adverts and the web copy and see how nicely it flows together, using very slightly different ways to say the same thing, but always keeping the narrative flow and tone gentle. When you next write copy, can your story turn into a benefit for everyone like this?



Three rules of good writing

Rules of good writing should help you with anything, from reports, presentations and website creation all the way through to naming and strategy. Finding the set of rules that work for you is essential.

An item came on the news today as I drove to work. British director Christopher Nolan took just 15 minutes to sell his Batman franchise idea to Warner Bros executives. Even though he’s an established figure, and a safe pair of hands, to take a profitable movie series like Batman and twist it to your own plans – it’s a lot to ask in just a quarter of an hour.

The Radio 4 segment quizzed Christopher Hauge, author of Sell your Story in 60 Seconds, and he underlined two ideas that are worth remembering when you’re writing anything.

1. Keep it simple

2. Use a narrative

It seems like it’s so easy, but is it really? How do you strip out what you don’t need and still keep a narrative fresh and interesting? That’s the skill, and it’s easier with practise. When you’re writing presentations, brand strategies, and especially web copy, you need to tell simple stories that can come alive. I’d add one last piece of advice to the list:

3. Be straight

That means honesty, being unpatronising – and being direct. People sniff out weakness when you break this rule – and that means they don’t trust what you’re saying.

How you can write top headlines for the web

Writing headlines for your web page is simple, so long as you remember that you’re writing for an active medium.


The headline isn’t the static thing it once was. Print headlines are contextual: they are framed and surrounded by a subhead, photo, caption, crossheads – even the pages around it all serve to put the headline in a solid context.


Headlines on the web are lonely animals. They exist only as bare bones: the exact words you write are the only aspects that are guaranteed to carry over into the online world.


Your headline will appear in lists against other headlines from other sources. It will appear in different fonts, sizes and spacings. It will not have the luxury of a ‘sell’: that cascade of follow-on text that sets the scene. You won’t even know or be able to control what images, if any, will sit next to your headline.


So what can you do? Easy. Just write it straight, news style.


That means summing up everything in five to ten words with nothing hidden. It’s the ideal style for search engines to understand, and the most tempting form for readers.


Here’s a few rules that your web headline should follow.


1. Include the subject

Who features? The human element should always be included. People like reading about people, after all – give them someone to picture in their minds.


2. Include the object

What’s the deal? Is it a new technique, a new theory, new research? This is where you let your reader know that what is coming is actually news.


3. Include a verb

Passivity wins nobody over. Include an action word and your headline comes to life. This is where hot words like ‘reveals’, ‘uncovers’, ‘surprises’, ‘abandons’ and ‘destroys’ are so brilliant.


4. Comprehension test

You have ten words to explain everything, so triple-check you understand the long version before writing the headline. The core of the story may only be revealed in the middle (though this is pretty poor practice for online writing).


5. Include the facts

You won’t win prizes for saving your best until last. Take the biggest, boldest and proved claims from the story and get them to the shop window, immediately.


6. Use clear terms

That means no jargon, no abbreviation or tabloid tendencies. There’s a plain reason for this: you have no idea where your headline may appear eventually. Out of context, your headline may sound like utter nonsense.


7. Give benefits

If you can, include a distinctive reason why clicking here will help. People want to be helped – even if it’s just to arm themselves with new data or interesting facts. Tell them they’ll be a better person after reading what you have – maybe even turn this into a tempting question so they’ll know you’re able to equip them with what they want.