Blog writers – do as I say, not as I do.

The confession of a blog writer.

do as i say

 

 

 

 

 

 

Got it?

Anyone who’s had the (dubious?) pleasure of working with me will remember very clearly what I always say about blogs. I say, with such authority, ‘If you’re going to have a blog on your website, you MUST provide new blogs on a regular basis. Nothing looks worse, when you open up someone’s website, than to see a blog which is months or even years old.’

Or centuries.

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SO – here we have my website. The date is April 5th, 2017. The two latest blogs are dated February 7th, 2017 (JUST about acceptable) and November 22nd, 2016.

aaaaaaaargh

 

How very embarrassing!

I could spend hours justifying this lapse in my own professional standards, in a ‘the dog ate my homework’ sort of way, but I won’t waste your time or mine. It’s rather the same as doctors not looking after their own health or builders being the last people on earth to finish those DIY projects at home.

In honesty, my blogs are for entertainment and to add fresh copy to my website, with the idea that I get plenty of Google brownie points and am bumped up the rankings. Is this last point true or is it one of those urban myths put about by…whoever? I suppose blog writers like me who want more business! It’s really a hiding to nothing to update simply for the sake of updating. The aim should be to update in a timely manner in a way which gives benefit to your users – more traffic, increased engagement and fresh links…

 

Here are the conclusions to some research I’ve done in relation to blog writing:

  • Initially, a web page can be given a “freshness” score based on its inception date, which decays over time.
  • The amount of change on your web page plays a role – the more you change content, the more likely Google is to notice it, especially if it’s in the body text.
  • The more often you change the content, the better.
  • Think about adding completely new pages rather than just refreshing old ones.
  • Go for as many relevant links as possible, especially from sites that are themselves fresh.

    blog, blog, blog - blogging concept on a napkin with cup of espresso coffee

    Blog, blog, blog…

 

 

 

Why do I blog?

Because I enjoy it. Because I like entertaining people. Because it’s a way of practising my writing skills. Because it’s a way people can see what I do and how I do it. I have been given work on the strength of my blogs – their style and tone is not for everyone but it IS for some people. I don’t blog to sell anything – except perhaps myself. (No double entendre intended!)

Why should YOU blog?

Here’s what the experts say:

1) To drive traffic to your website.

2) To convert that traffic into leads.

3) To help establish authority.

4) To drive long-term results.

 

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And if you DON’T like doing it, then you could always ask me.

I LOVE IT!

Yes, do as I say, not as I do…

Tone of voice topicality

“Don’t you speak to me in that tone of voice, young lady!”

Anyone remember that from their childhood? (Well, that’s if you were a young lady ever). Every copywriter has to be pretty damn hot at different tones of voices if they want to be successful, because each job requires something unique.

Tone of voice? But you’re writing, not speaking.  Yes, but writing has just as much in the way of tone of voice as speaking. (Not that I’m talking to myself, you understand. Isn’t that the first sign of madness. Okay, I’m WRITING to myself).

Anyway, there’s what you write (the content) and how you write it (the tone of voice). Tone of voice can kill copy, especially if it’s boring, and kill the message you’re trying to convey and potentially destroy the brand, product or service you’re promoting. No pressure then.

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What tone of voice should you use in your writing? (She’s writing to herself again…)

That’s one of those, ‘How long is a piece of string?’ questions.

The answer? Whichever tone of voice is required. That simple. And that challenging.

This blog is written as me. Yours truly. Caroline Coxon. It’s how my mind works. (Scary, eh?)  It has my personality stamped all over it. Now, what adjectives might you use to describe its tone of voice? Nothing offensive please. Errrm, jokey, random, quirky, flippant, a stream of consciousness (Yes, I know that’s not an adjective) readable, funny, insane…whatever…

That’s fine for me, but would it work for a will-writer, a mortgage adviser, an engineer, a web-designer, someone from a different culture?

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When I say probably not, I mean, there just might be an insane will-writer out there…BUT, most people would say, for their own copy…

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Here, I think this is where my history of writing screenplays, novels and theatre pieces helps me so much. I am completely used to writing – and thinking and speaking – in character. Characters who may be light years away from my own.

I am not a burly 30-something male engineer.

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I’m not a diminutive financial adviser.

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I’m not Scottish.

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But it’s possible for me to write as though I am, using appropriate vocabulary and the right tone of voice. And all those things I have done. And being an Italian wine importer. A high-end caterer. A techie nerd. A business coach. A garage owner. A hairdresser in Newcastle. A ski expert. A global traveller. And a whole lot more.

Me and my multiple personalities, eh?

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But it sure helps with tone of voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet.

I beg your pardon? Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the internet?

Somebody said that. Nobody wanted to own up, though. And I would disagree – not that I’m not distracted by the internet, (excuse the double negative) by the way. Oh, hang on a sec…

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I AM sometimes distracted by the internet when I’m working but, here and now, I’m going to justify my position in a way that only an aficionado can. An aficionado who is also very skilled at finding euphemisms for uncomfortable words like addict and fanatic.

First – distracted or not, I don’t miss deadlines. EVER.

Second – writing is a solitary pursuit (I work on my own at home) and it takes up much less (work) time to have a quick interaction with someone on Facebook/by email/FaceTime/WhatsApp/SMS, or whatever your weapon of choice, than it does to meet up face-to-face.  Virtual chats are sometimes necessary when I’m up to my eyes in copywriting, just to remind me that there are people out there in the Big Bad World beyond the four walls of my study.

Third – when I’ve been writing for a long stretch on some mind-bogglingly dull or complex subject (yes, those do exist) I feel as though my head might explode. Very often, I’ll go out into the garden for a breath of fresh air, or make myself a cup of tea, or do some housework – all to give my brain a break. But SOMETIMES, it’s just as relaxing to surf the net for a while, watching silly YouTube videos about kittens startled by cucumbers. We all need a break occasionally, purrrrlease.

Fourth – I USE the internet quite extensively in my work – for research purposes. (My husband laughs hollowly when I tell him this – but I DO).

SO, the internet may have its pitfalls…

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BUT, it also has its uses for me, a writer.

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I’m now trying to assess whether writing this blog = being distracted by the internet. Don’t think so.

However, maybe you reading it is…

 

“If you’re a good marketing person…”

“you have to be a little crazy, ” said Jim Metcalf. I can’t pretend to know who Jim Metcalf is. (Sorry, whoever you are).

Neither can I pretend to be a good marketing person. I can, however, vouch for the fact that I’m a little crazy. That’s what this last month has done to me. Sent me a little crazy.  Marketing and craziness – a chicken and egg situation?

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Hence, no blogs recently. Not enough hours in the day or brain cells in the brain.

I’ve been researching in depth into the work of good marketing gurus. For which read, I Googled ‘good marketing’ which may or may not amount to the same thing.

One of them advocated this for novelists, in answer to the question how should we divide our time once the book is published:

70% for creative writing and 30% for promotion

(He forgot to mention the time needed to earn some money copy writing, unload the dishwasher, go shopping, walk the dogs, cook the dinner, clean out the chickens, exercise the horses, shave under the armpits, use the bathroom, sleep, breathe occasionally…you know, all those necessary little tasks which keep body and soul together).

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Image by Anthony Falbo

I am proud of the marketing I’ve achieved. It has been good marketing.

Endless word of mouth…

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A book-signing event which could lead to other book-signing events and, certainly, Of Night and Light to be stocked by W.H. Smith…

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Workshops at Bede’s School which will act as pilots for other workshops…

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Thank you to everyone for the huge amount of support you’ve given me. I’ve been humbled and delighted in equal measure.

And, you know what? I feel as though I’ve been fed through a mangle!

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Good marketing? Yep.

Time for creative writing? Nope. For NaNoWriMo – 15000 words. A small triumph in the circumstances.

And now…

More good marketing but DEFINITELY some writing, or my brain will explode.

And that could be messy.

A humblebrag from Caroline Coxon?

Humblebrag? This morning was the very first time I’d heard that word, yet it is being added to OxfordDictionaries.com (Not, apparently,  the ACTUAL Oxford English dictionary. Note to self: Does it still exist?)

Mind you, I hadn’t heard of YOLO or side-boob either – mainly, I expect because I’m not sufficiently down wiv da kidz, or whatever it is you have to be. I had to RESEARCH. In the case of side-boob, it wasn’t a particularly uplifting (see what I did there?) experience, but then I’m a girl.

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Lovely lady, but I’m just not in any hurry to try that look, thank you very much.

YOLO is okay.

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You Only Live Once – implying – go for it, carpe diem.

On the other hand, it could get a bit annoying.

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Now, humblebrag. I suppose its meaning is obvious. It’s a new portmanteau word, innit?

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A portmanteau word is a combination of two (or more) words or parts of words and their definitions, into one new word.

To humblebrag: To show off about something while simultaneously couching it in terms of self-deprecation; false modesty.

Example:”How is it possible that a dimbo like me graduated from Cambridge with a double first?” or “Honestly, I’m such a ditz. Fancy tripping up in my Jimmy Choo’s on the red-carpet at the Oscars…”

(Yes, I made those up).

Now I’m going to try for my own humblebrag.

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Nope, can’t do it.

Nobody likes a show-off. People like EVEN LESS a person who’s a show off but pretending not to be.

It’s a tough one though, because, as you probably know, I’ve written a book.

Marketing…self-promoting…publicising?

It’s a fine line. Could be so very far from being adorbs.

(Do your OWN research!)

Top tips for writers

Oh, there are so many tips for writers, aren’t there?

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Most useful are those from writers themselves. There was a great article in The Guardian a while back.

Who can beat Neil Gaiman?

I expect it’s Philip Pullman, who said that his main rule is to say no to things like compiling top tips for writers, which tempt him away from his proper work. Touché

The first in Neil Gaiman’s  list:

1. Write

Closely followed by the second:

2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.

See. Can’t beat it! Pragmatic. Terse.

Richard Ford’s is close to genius:

1. Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer’s a good idea.

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Peter thinks me being a SUCCESSFUL writer who earns LOTS Of MONEY is a good idea. But that’s not the same thing.

Anne Enright:

1. The first twelve years are the worst.

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However, of all the top tips for writers I’ve come across, Roddy Doyle’s really hits home:

1. Do not place a photograph of your ­favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

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DAMN! Is that where I’ve been going wrong all these years?

Those who make the worst of their time

…most complain about its shortness.” – La Bruyere

Complain? Moi?

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I have to confess, I’ve been complaining about lack of time lately, only internally – oh, and to the millions of people who read my blog, as from this minute. Just don’t tell anyone. I don’t want a reputation as a whinger, though apparently, there’s a cure!

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(The best cure, never mind miracle elixirs, is…STOP WHINGING! Annoying that…)

SO…

I work long hours, often evenings and weekends, but not necessarilywith the highest efficiency level in the universe, I’m the first to admit.

I consider myself fortunate to have so much work to do and I know it’s because of the quality of material I produce – to deadline and to budget and with a smile on my face. Pleased clients = repeat work = more word-of-mouth referrals = more to fit in to the finite hours in the day.

Though I always, ALWAYS get the work done, and done well, sometimes I run myself ragged in the process.

I’ve concluded that I must be from the Rocking Horse School of Time Management.

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I confuse motion and progress.

Silly me. Note to self, courtesy of Alfred A. Montapert: “Do NOT confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.”

And, with a magnificent Caroline Coxon leap from wooden horses to live ants…

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That’s what I’ll be looking at – when I can find the time!

(If I come up with any magic solutions, you’ll be the very first to know).

“Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.”

Thank you, Ambrose Bierce. I DO try to be accurate, however!

I love a good quotation, as I expect you’ll have noticed since they are very often the inspiration for my blogs.

Just for my information, lest I forget…

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To be strictly accurate about my blogging process, I think of a subject, usually when I’m walking the dogs or exercising the horses early in the morning, then I look for a quotation or two, and images which might fit.

This morning, since yesterday was spent decorating the house – the front hall to be precise – I thought I’d write about that. Googled decorating quotes…

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NO!

Okay then, I tried house quotes, fully expecting missives from estate agents. But no.

Hello, sick people and their loved ones! In the interest of saving time and avoiding a lot of boring chitchat later, I’m Doctor Gregory House; you can call me “Greg.”

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FAILED!

So then I got side-tracked (again!) and wondered if there were quotations about quotations.

This time, Mr. Google didn’t let me down. (And there was me imagining he was always psychic).

“[A] quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business,” said A.A. Milne.

That made me blush slightly.

Ah, this is better…

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I’m pleased to offer you that opportunity!

Misquotes perpetuated by the internet

This blog was going to be all about April but then I got side-tracked, dear readers. Onto the subject of misquotes perpetuated by the internet.

(I can hear the chorus of  ‘Surely not, Caroline?’ all the way from, oh, the end of my study. Surely not that I got side-tracked, not surely there are no misquotes on the internet.)

Misquotes on the internet. So easily done. So pernicious.

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For those without a magnifying glass – “The trouble with quotes on the internet is that you can never know if they’re genuine,” said Abraham Lincoln.

Anyway – I was looking for quotations concerning April.

“April is the cruellest month.” Yes, T.S. Eliot, with your glass half empty. On the other hand, “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything,” said Shakespeare, with his glass half full.

So far, so good.

Then I came across this, attributed to Edna St. Vincent Millay. “April comes like an idiot, babbling and stewing flowers.” Strange, I thought. Babbling I can get, but STEWING flowers? Why would April be stewing flowers?

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Mmmmm, flower stew. Nom nom nom.

“Perhaps it’s a mistake?” my super-fast brain calculated.

I researched.

No, it CAN’T be a mistake, because it appears in that form on:

  • thinkexist
  • darienlibrary
  • quotesdaddy
  • quotecosmos
  • classiclit
  • quotestree
  • hypequote

Even in a book available on Amazon – Jabbers: Webster’s Quotations, Facts and Phrases.

It’s also been used as the title for countless blogs and images…

Where does it come from, anyway? (None of the above cited the source.)

It wasn’t that easy to find (it being incorrect and all!)

HERE IT IS…

Spring
TO what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

STREWING flowers. STREWING…

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I expect Edna St. Vincent Millay is revolving in her grave. Or chuckling.

The joy of misquotes!

And every time I put ‘misquotes’ into Google,  it asks ‘Are you sure you don’t mean mosquitoes?’ Ironic, eh?

The blogs do work

Randomly as ever, my title about blogs was inspired by this wonderful (well, I think so!)  song by The Verve.

If you’re not now ready to throw yourself off the mantelpiece or drown yourself in a cup of cocoa – I’m pleased to report something. About blogs. One in particular.

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It’s received wisdom that blogs make a difference to your business. That’s if the content isn’t copied from another site, you update it regularly and whatever you write is engaging, fresh and relevant.

I blog every day, but I’m not selling anything – except, I suppose – me.  My blog is like Julia Cameron’s, The Artist’s Way, morning pages. Or, in this case, evening ones.

It gets me writing. People like it. I don’t obsess about how many, how often and all that. I used to, but that was a slippery slope to insanity. The most important thing to me is that…

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Writing business blogs is slightly different. With a different outcome in mind, at least.

First the Great Google God loves the revived content. It can be an effective – and cost-effective – word of mouth marketing tool. (Perhaps it would be described more accurately as word of finger marketing?)

Blogs are the perfect opportunity to talk about products and services, share news and hype anything at all. It’s definitely handy for creating a buzz at a moment’s notice without the need for expensive mailing. Just keep it current…

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I write a monthly blog for a food and wine importer. I’m being a bit secret squirrel about it, on the grounds of client confidentiality, since I write it as though it’s from the mouth (fingers?) of the company owner.

Since I started, in November last year, visits to the site have grown steadily, as have on-line orders. (Don’t ask me for the Google analytics, I’m just reporting what I’ve been told!)

In January, I wrote a piece about a particularly fine bottle of wine. Of course, I had to taste it. Quite a few times. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

To our delight, the blog was picked up by an award-winning magazine – and the wine, and concomitantly the company, was selected as Discovery Of The Month for May. Imagine the interest and the sales figures NOW

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See…as I said earlier…

The drugs don’t work. The blogs do.