3 mailing lists that sparkle for copywriting, marketing and freelance writing

I get loads of emails which I don’t read! Some of those are even from people whose mailing lists I’ve subscribed to in a moment of enthusiasm or desperation.

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How do I deal with them? Well, I can’t bear to see unread emails in my In-Box so I simply mark them as read then the accusatory number on the envelope icon goes away. Then I can pretend they don’t exist.

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How powerful is THAT?

HOWEVER, there are three people whose mailing lists I’ve subscribed to whose emails I ALWAYS read. Sometimes not immediately, sometimes just a skim, but always read.

Here they are, for your interest. And my trepidation because there are only so many hours in the day and I’d rather you read MINE!

  • Seth Godin’s blog – every day he says something that’s full of insight and thought-provoking – and while, broadly, the subjects are business and marketing – for that read LIFE.icn.seths.head                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I’m sure he has no hair to keep his brain cool. Maybe I should try it? He is a GENIUS.
  • Linda Formichelli’s Morning Motivation for Writers – her website’s called ‘The Renegade Writer’  She says, “The concept is that to have a successful freelance career, you need to do what works for you — instead of blindly following the “rules” you see set forth in books, in magazines, and on blogs.” That, I find so refreshing. I don’t put into practice a lot of what she advises (more fool me) but it’s an invigorating read to kickstart my writing brain.

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  • James Chartrand’s Men With Pens – Please note, James Chartrand is a WOMAN, who discovered she got more response if she used a man’s name! Go figure… She’s a copywriter, so she knows exactly what she’s writing about. She’s fresh, engaging and full of reassuring common-sense which makes me feel better about myself and what I do, but also challenges me to up my game.
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copyblogger.com

So there you have it.

It’s been nice knowing you!

OR – you could subscribe to MY mailing list instead of the other mailing lists.  My site SAYS there are only three people who do. I know from the stats that there a positively MILLIONS of you who read this blog – you just don’t say so.

It’s free! No obligation to buy anything. No adverts.

Go on…

New copywriting horror revealed – article spinning

Can it get any worse than yesterday’s recycled, stolen  and uncredited articles?

Surely not?

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You have got to be joking!

I’ve found something MUCH worse. Article spinning. Article rewriting. Call it what you will.

You can employ someone to do it for you. Very often, sadly for you and for them, it turns out to be someone for whom English isn’t the first language – so caveat emptor. (Latin: My first language?)

You get what you pay for. You pay exploitative peanuts. You get…something that will probably take you longer to rewrite than if you’d written an article yourself in the first place.

You can buy software to do it for you. Oh yes you can!

” Create 100s of Unique content from just ONE in under 1 Minute.”

Hundreds of unique content?

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From Indieberries

You can even indulge in article spinning online. You are guaranteed the tools to “create another version of an article that is unique enough to pass a plagiarism checker.” The tool “will scan through your content for words that can be replaced with a synonym.”

All words can be replaced with synonyms, surely?

ANYWAY, here is an extract from a well-known pop song, spun by yours truly.

“You are the terpsichore sovereign, juvenile and uncontaminated, solely seventeen
Gyrating sovereign, feel the smack from the membranophone
You have the necessary ability to gyrate, you’ll be able to jive, having the phase of your existence
See that lady, observe that location, excavating the terpsichore sovereign”

Love it!

I’m going to give up copywriting and turn to article spinning instead.

The meaning comes across SO WELL, doesn’t it?

Copywriting means copying other people’s writing?

Do YOU seriously think that?  Copying other people’s writing? I don’t. It appears that very many other people do.

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Do you know what? I am disgusted!

Here’s what happened. I’m on the mailing list of a locally-based employee of an internet marketing agency, who claim, “Using our solutions, our clients generate more traffic, leads and conversions.”

Periodically, I receive emails from the guy, covering subjects that could be of interest. Yesterday’s was, ‘choosing your keywords’ – so I thought I’d take a look. First thoughts:

“Grief, this is tedious. Why use a hundred words when ten will do? Doesn’t say much for the company’s competency.”  Then, I came across a phrase which set my antennae twitching.

“Keywords have gotten to be such a major concern that
private enterprises which offer search engine optimization
(SEO) services are now making a killing in the Internet economy.”

Hang on a doggone minute! This guy is British. He lives in Brighton. How come he’s using words like ‘gotten,’ and spelling optimisation with a z? So I Googled…

The exact same paragraph came up in many websites, including one called “Content for Reprint – Article publishing. Get all the content you need.”

Excuse me while I throw up in a bucket.

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From The Guardian

It seems that writers submit articles to this site. They are not paid, BUT they are meant to be credited when their work is used so they’ll get more internet exposure and backlinks. Here’s the start of the Terms of Service for people who use their content:

  1. You must not remove “Article Source: http://www.content4reprint.com” from each article you choose to publish.
  2. You must respect the copyright of each author whose articles you wish to publish. This includes but is not limited to:
    • resource box,
    • any links provided by the author.
  3. You must not change, edit, or reword any part of any article not written by you.
  4. You must agree to keep hyperlinks “live” so that users can click on said link and be taken to it’s (sic) destination.

Of all the people who used this article, there was only ONE which credited the author – and that was…THE AUTHOR HIMSELF!

Hmmmm. So, for all these…unworthy folk (polite version), copywriting DOES mean copying other people’s writing, then?  Not exactly. It means they don’t bother with copywriters. They just steal stuff. (Admittedly, it’s stuff from writers who have offered it freely in exchange for links BUT…)

What low integrity! First, not to bother to write your own content when you profess to be an expert on a subject.  Worse still, TO PASS THAT WORK OFF AS YOUR OWN when it isn’t. (Hey, it isn’t even very good – which strikes me as amusing!)

The image below is from the blog of a writer and designer called Carrie Koehmstedt.  (She had her bespoke blog templates copied from Etsy and sold in another shop.)

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Image via http://www.dearmissmodern.com/

If you can’t do the work, don’t? Yes – but ask someone who can, employ someone who can – DON’T JUST STEAL.

Rant over.

Guest blogging, like fish, begins to smell after three days

No, not really. At least, I hope not. Because I am now, officially, A Guest Blogger.

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From Lydia Kang

It’s apparently The Thing To Do, these days. Apparently.

There are some (current) posts which say, “How guest posting can help your blog,” or “Why guest blogging must be part of your marketing strategy.”

There are others which say: “9 reasons why guest blogging won’t help your business,” or “Guest blogging could harm your site.”

Oh, now I know EXACTLY which path to follow!

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From www.techwyse.com

The good bits about guest blogging.

It may:

  • encourage more people to visit your own blog
  • give you a stronger online presence
  • allow you to build more links and improve SEO
  • enhance your reputation as an authority in your chosen subject

The bad bits about guest blogging.

It may:

  • give the impression you’re paying for links
  • cause your site to be penalised in search engine rankings
  • not be up to your own high standards
  • annoy your regular readers because it’s not what they expect

Here’s my guest post on a digital marketing site called CrowCreation

Web copy is from Mars, print is from Venus

I met Chris McCrow,  director of CrowCreation, at a meeting. We exchanged business cards and saw at once that there was a synergy between our professions. He invited me to guest blog. I asked what he’d like me to blog about and chose from a list, taking my time to write it.

The process wasn’t about churning out some rubbish just for the sake of a back-link. I have my pride, my professional credibility to consider AND I wanted to be a contribution to Chris, as well as showcase my own work.

THIS approach is when guest blogging is valuable.

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So ask me!

It’s so wrong to be reliant on the internet

That’s it. I’m fed up now. I’m going to throw my toys out of the pram.

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STILL no phone and therefore no internet on my PC.

Yesterday, I needed to download a royalty-free image from a website, then email it to the guy who’s printing my new business cards.

With PC and Internet, this task would have taken all of three minutes.

As it was…

Nil desperandum, I thought jovially, first thing in the morning. I shall go into town and into Waitrose where there is free wifi. There, I shall write my blog and sort out the image problemette.

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The image wouldn’t download onto my iPad.

So that was 2 x 4 miles driving and an hour more or less wasted.

In the afternoon, my lovely neighbour Wendy invited me round to use HER internet. I struggled a bit with Joe’s Apple Mac, but – hooray – downloaded the image and sent it off. Yeah! Another hour gone, but YEAH!

WRONG! There was no image attached to my email, apparently, even though I could see that there was one from my end.

At home again, fiddled about with my phone, fiddling being the appropriate word because my fingers are, like, NORMAL fingers, whereas mobile phone keypads are designed for insects. Success! The image sent. At last! Only took about half an hour of blood, sweat and tears.

WRONG! The image I’d sent was a jpg, not the vector image required. That was still on Joe’s Mac. The download consisted of two images – a jpg and an eps. I had never heard of an eps and thought the jpg was the right one.

I phoned Joe and asked him to mail the eps image. Phew! That was quick. HOORAY!

WRONG. The email never arrived.

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At about 9 p.m. I used my pudgy fingers to send my log-in details for the image providers.

MAYBE…that will work. I have yet to hear.

Resourceful Caroline Coxon is sitting outside dog training classes in her car with her iPad.

I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED!

Back in the olden days before the internet…

Almost…

This is what I did yesterday when I discovered the phone cable had snapped so I had no internet access on my computer.

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I sulked.

Then I scrubbed the carpets.

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They still have puppy wee stains on them. Each time I scrub, the circles of lightness get bigger and bigger. One day, they will join together. Or I could get Rufus to wee all over the carpet, then nobody would see the circles?

I also started doing a huge jigsaw puzzle and read my book – Sebastian Faulks, A Week In December.

I wrote using pieces of paper and a pencil. No point in using my offline computer. I like to be online for research purposes. Life without the internet, eh?

If I had a piano, I would have gathered round it and sung ‘Come Into The Garden, Maud.’

P.S. I have sunk to the depths. I am sitting in Waitrose doing this. Well, it’s not Lidl…

Web scraping – it even sounds pernicious…

If you’re a techie, or expecting some sort of highly knowledgeable cyber geekery from this blog, then stop reading straight away.

I AM NOT A TECHIE. OR A GEEK. OR A NERD. As I’ve said before, I’m not particularly interested in HOW things are done, but more in WHY and what effect it has on me and people like me.

This is about my level:

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www.livescience.com

So, in my exploration, yesterday, of duplicate content, which was about human copying and pasting, I also came across something called web scraping. To me, a woman of a certain age, this had the flavour of some sort of gynaecological procedure. It seemed to me it could be just about as unpleasant.

What is web scraping?

Web scraping is an automated way of taking content from one web site for use on another. You can buy software to do it. It’s most often carried out by owners of spam sites wanting a free source of published content to attract new visitors. A guy called Dave Crader, from Evolve Creative Group – professional web design and online marketing services – was one victim of web scraping, and here’s how he described the people who did it:  “Low-life scumbags who don’t have the creative skill to write their own material.” I cannot but agree.

Why else do people use web scraping?

Of course, search engines use web scraping to build up an index of pages  so that when you search for something specific, the most useful pages pop up at the top – but I’m talking about business reasons.

  • To glean business intelligence data about your competitors – for instance, the prices they are charging, so you can set your own price structure to undercut them.
  • To acquire information about other people’s customers from forums, blogs and discussion sites – so you can target them yourselves.
  • To identify evolving  search engine traffic patterns and online advertising trends
  • To capture contact information

These reasons for web scraping don’t seem despicable to me. (See, I’m in danger of becoming  a hardened business woman!) Stealing other people’s content to publish on your own site does.

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bloggingnik.com

That’s the copywriter in me speaking.

 

Duplicate content? What’s all the fuss about?

I’ve been appraising a website for someone with a view to re-doing it – the copy, not the techie side of things. (Give me a break!)

Some of the text was quite personal, charming, obviously self-written and with accompanying typos and grammatical errors.

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From themeasuredmom.com

(Just kidding!)

The rest of the copy was in quite a different style – flowery purple passages, full of hype and hyperbole, sounding as though it had been copied directly from some marketing campaign for…

WAIT A MINUTE…

I Googled a few paragraphs.

Yep, duplicate content. Some sentences, and some complete paragraphs.

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michaelgaigg.com

My thoughts? I don’t like this practice. Some poor copywriter has written the original, only to have it ripped off without being credited (or paid!)

Here, I must come clean about what I do when writing web copy . I DO, of course,  look at other websites and reference books and compile, by copying and pasting,  some pages of relevant paragraphs, information and links – but then I write it in my own words – and, I hope, add value to existing material by giving it a different slant. It’s not duplicate content.

Then there’s the much vaunted Google algorithms which we are told (or is it an urban myth?) penalises a site for duplicate copy. The annoying thing about that, if true, is that the search engine spiders can’t tell which is the original, so if they happen to crawl along to the rip-off site first, they’ll conclude that the ORIGINAL is the duplicate content.

Hardly fair!

To me, it’s a matter of pride. If you, a client, are proud of your product or services, then surely you can be passionate enough to write something about it yourself?

OR, at risk of repeating myself…

EMPLOY A COPYWRITER WHO CAN.

P.S.

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Yes, I can write websites without resorting to duplicate content. It’s my job and I’m proud of it.

Spammers are getting too clever by half

I’m not ENTIRELY naive.

I do have Spam Filters, which seem to…well, filter spam, by and large.

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It’s not infallible but, even so, I consider myself to be pretty spam-savvy. I laugh in the face of spammers!

If I get a comment on my blog asking ‘Do you want to lose weights?’ I’m not rushing to click a link through to whatever it is. Instead,  I am chuckling to myself whilst pressing the ‘delete forever’ button and thinking, ‘If I wanted to lose weights, I’d just leave them lying around at the gym.’

But some of these spammers are cunning beasties. Oh yes, they are.

They know how to flatter my ego.

So, on Friday, this comment appeared on one of my blogs, ready for me to moderate:

“Nice blog here! Also your web site loads up very fast! What host
are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I
wish my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol”

It was from some guy called Saul Whitcroft.

I was beaming. My little heart felt all aglow with pride. I called to tell Tim, who built my website. Even he was momentarily taken in.

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There is no nice guy called Saul Whitcroft. It was spam. I only had to hover over the link to see its origin, which wasn’t Saul Whitcroft’s hotmail account. Don’t ask me what the site was; NO WAY did I want to give them the satisfaction of clicking on the link to find out.

Spammers, somewhere, did this, with the sole intention of increasing traffic to a website. These clever geek-types/unscrupulous reptiles develop hacks which artificially boost a website’s search engine relevance and so it goes higher in Google rankings – and so it becomes more visible to more people – and so…more profitable?

It’s quite possible that the original client doesn’t know this is what’s happening in his name. It’s quite possible that he’s paid loads of money to a company selling SEO and content marketing, but doesn’t actually check (or care?) how they go about it, as long as his Google analytics show that more visitors are coming to his site.

Tell you what,  though. What sort of impression does it give of you as someone in business, of you as a HUMAN BEING? Am I going to be happy to give you my custom  if you endorse, at best, annoying,  at worst, UNETHICAL traffic-building tactics?

A massive, resounding…

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TAKE THAT, you spammers. Except they don’t care, because they’re probably doing it for someone else.

So what can we do?

  1. For me, it’s useful to understand WHY spammers do what they do. I will be less easily taken in now. Knowledge is power.
  2. As a website owners, DON’T indulge in these underhand tactics to get more traffic to your site
  3. Absolutely DON’T pay somebody to do it for you. You’re just as culpable if you do that.

INSTEAD – write compelling, valuable copy that makes people keen to spend time with you.

5 reasons to blog on your company website and 3 reasons not to.

“You MUST blog!  Forget all this talk about Search Engine Optimisation. SEO is dead or at the very least, dying. Social Media Optimisation is The Latest Thing. Yes, a blog will make All The Difference to your company profile. To blog or not to blog? It’s a no-brainer. Blog, for goodness’ sake.”

Ooooh, don’t you just love these people with the personality of a bulldozer who Know What’s Best for you and your website and your marketing and your company?

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Image from Appszoom

Here’s a balanced view on blogging:

Why blog?

  1. It’s free, easy. Anyone can write a blog about any subject under the sun.
  2. It can be a great way to build and maintain relationships with other people – potential clients included. You’ll be seen as a person, not a faceless nonentity. Everyone prefers to do business with someone they can relate to.
  3. You can use a blog to improve your credibility in your area of expertise – and your customers will appreciate your skills and trust your competence.
  4. Posting fresh content in a regular blog can increase traffic to your site
  5. Writing a blog improves your search engine rankings – Google LOVES blogs!

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So…it’s a no-brainer, then?

Could be.  But, anyone who thinks that writing a blog and engaging with other social media is a universal solution to all his or her marketing miseries – think again.

Why to avoid a blog

  1. Though free, it’s a time commitment. There’s nothing worse than looking at a website with a blog that hasn’t been updated for several months. What does that say about you and your company?
  2. While anyone could write a blog, a poorly written one will reflect badly on your company – so either don’t do it OR employ a copywriter (like me!) to do it for you.
  3. If you’re only after driving traffic and improving search engine rankings, this will, for certain, show in your blog and you’ll very likely be disappointed in the outcome.

If, however, you have a genuine desire to communicate and engage with people…

If you’re of the opinion that to listen is even more important than talking and are happy to respond to comments and queries…

If  you’d like to make a contribution to others by sharing your knowledge and expertise…

If you’re prepared to put in the time…

Then you have all the characteristics of a potential…

superhero - super blogger man

SUPER BLOGGER MAN

or the female equivalent.

Blog because you love it!

Or contact me and I’ll blog for you because I love it.

To blog or not to blog?

You choose!