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.

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    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…

As the copywriter is rarely seen by her clients…

…she need not dress respectably, to misquote George Bernard Shaw, on the main reason for adopting writing as a profession.

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Ah, clients. I love my clients. On the end of the phone, by email. The occasional meeting just so I know I still exist…when I do dress fairly respectably.

My clients are THE BEST. That’s to say, I am (almost always) appreciated for my work,  I get paid – yaaay – and I very often garner repeat business. I’ve been working with some of my clients for years. And I do say ‘working with’ not ‘working for’ because that’s how I see it – as a partnership.

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Client : A person who pays a professional person or organisation for services’, says Merriam-Webster (except they used a z in organisation, so, true to my British heritage as a copywriter, I corrected it). The definition of client does not, anywhere that I can see, include expecting far too much, far too quickly,  for far too little recompense, with not even an acknowledgement that the work has been received, let alone the courtesy of a thank you. Just sayin’…

So here are some examples of client demands imposed on copywriters and web designers, some of whom are known to me, others came from that excellent website, Clients From Hell.

As a freelancer, especially at the beginning, it’s extremely hard to turn clients down but…

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Honestly, life’s too short to put up with stuff like this:

If you’re going to charge me 40$ an hour to make my website I would like to install a camera in your office so I’m 100% sure you don’t bill me for hours where you’re not working.

I don’t believe you can have taken 6 hours to do this work.  You have single-handedly wiped out all my profits. In future, when you are working for me, you are to text me every hour and tell me what you have achieved in that time,” from a client who asked, at very short notice and out of office hours, for copywriting to be undertaken which involved extensive research, responding to 58 emails, multiple phone calls and a Skype conference, as well as the writing itself.

Why are you so expensive? Don’t you understand that you are discouraging a new company from growing? I have to meet the other partners – we didn’t plan for this huge expense, ” from a client who was invoiced $300 for a logo and 20-page brand manual.

I prefer the copy the length it was before you edited it. I don’t want to cut a single word,” from a client who had written the first draft of copy for a brochure –  long, rambling, repetitive and ungrammatical – and hired a copywriter to edit it, as advised by his graphic designer.  The graphic designer again told the client his copy was too long. “Never mind, we’ll make the font much smaller so it fits into your design.”

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YES – OF COURSE clients can call the shots about how they represent their company, about the approved copy. It’s absolutely their choice, even if it doesn’t read well, look good or do the job for which it was intended. We can only offer advice.

That’s one thing. It’s entirely another thing to be exploited or treated with disrespect by your clients.

Honour yourself, I say. It’s taken me a very long time to get there, to the point where I’m able to say…

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Thank you, my lovely clients, that it’s such a rare occurrence in my working life. You are STARS.

 

 

Writers fish for the right words

“…like fishermen fish for, um, whatever those aquatic creatures with fins and gills are called.”

Those words are from my favourite Jarod Kintz. (Well, he’s the only one I know…)

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Surely better to use familiar and simple words correctly rather than misuse other more complex words? (There’s an irony for you – misusing words when you’re anxious to appear to be clever. How to make yourself look like a numpty).

I love the way Howard Mittelmark offers a practical solution for us, in How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide.

“A Test: Do I Know This Word?

Ask yourself: ‘Do I know this word?’
If the answer is no, then you do not know it.”

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You could always be creative. Jarod Kintz again:

“Who needs a large vocabulary when you can just make up any word at any time? It makes life a whole lot more emeaglibop.”

I can honestly say that my life is particularly emeaglibop at the moment, in no small measure due to hearing some words on the radio, made up to fill gaps in the English dictionary – words created for occasions where no words exist.

For that moment when you’re waiting at the airport baggage reclaim and everybody’s suitcases have appeared except for yours:

BAGONIZING!

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To describe how you feel on those occasions when you’re with your friends and they’re constantly looking down at their mobiles:

PHONELY!

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And finally – you’re driving along the motorway and a huge truck pulls out in front of you and takes about half an hour to get past the truck in the next lane:

SLOVERTAKING

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As a copywriter, I find the right words for my clients’ websites and marketing material.

That’s all.

 

Amazon-sized annoyance

The River Amazon is about 4000 miles long and that’s about the length of my annoyance…today

River Amazon

Plus meanders…

Having said that, I must add that the Amazon (online retailer, not river) Customer Service response via email was speedy and comprehensive, even if the answers given were not what I wanted to hear.

The trouble is that, as an author who wants to sell her books, I’m kind of hamstrung. I could bitch and moan for an eternity – but Amazon is where many people go to purchase books unless they’re lucky enough to have a local independent book store, like me. (Hoorah for East Grinstead Bookshop!)

The Amazon-sized annoyance is about the synergy between their sites – that’s to say Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Synergy? Seems there ISN’T synergy.

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(That’s the River Amazon running right down that chasm, naturally).

I spent a long time creating an Author Page at Amazon.com – follow the link at the end of this blog.  You won’t be disappointed. Much.

I assumed that Amazon.com was the mother site and material would be shared with its satellites.

WRONG!

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If I want an Author Page on .co.uk I have to create ANOTHER one.

Then, customer reviews…

You would think (wouldn’t you?) that when people post reviews about a book on Amazon, those reviews would be LINKED TO THE BOOK.

WRONG AGAIN.

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I have a set of great reviews on .co.uk, but NOTHING on .com

In the email – “Our Customer Reviews feature doesn’t link reviews across Amazon.com and the International Amazon sites.”

Yes, I know that NOW!

WHY NOT?

“Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback about Author Central. We appreciate your ideas; we’re always looking for ways to make our service more useful to authors.”

I’m not holding my breath on this one.

Oh, and here’s the link, now you’ve been good enough to get to the bottom of the page.

Caroline’s very individual and largely unloved Author Page

 

 

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?

“To copy is human, to create divine.”

Thus spake Jeffrey Fry, self-styled Profit Prophet. And yes, I’m human, in this instance. That was a copy of his quote!

I know…

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So. I’m back that that old chestnut of dealing with duplicate copy on a website.

I’m working on a re-write for a client whose original site has several pages which, at first glance, don’t look as though they’re duplicated, but on closer examination, the copy is simply the same paragraphs in a random order and with a different place name inserted.

This is the effect it has on me as a copywriter:

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I’m SURE this copy does pretty well in the Google rankings, however, duplication is a constant topic of conversation on SEO forums, with dire threats of ‘Google penalties’ flying around.

Yet, Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, (there’s a name to toy with!) stated quite robustly, last year, that no-one should “stress about this unless the content that you have duplicated is spammy or keyword stuffing.”

In a recent article entitled, ‘Is duplicate content bad for SEO?’ Jennifer Kyrnin suggests that if you look at the copy on your website and ask yourself WHY you’re duplicating content, then it should be easy to determine whether or not it’s a good plan. She concludes that if it’s more about YOU than about your clients, then DON’T DO IT!

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Why would you, in the first place?

  1. Writing copy isn’t your strong point so you put something together then duplicate it?
  2. You simply haven’t the time or the interest?
  3. You want to get the copy higher up the search rankings so more people view it?
  4. You want to manipulate search engine results?

Yep, all about you. Admit it. Pity your poor clients who want to find out something about your products or services and then have to wade through pages of tedious keyword-stuffed GUFF. In fact, they won’t do it. They’ll bounce quicker than a kangaroo on a hot tin roof.

The answer to reasons 1 and 2 is – employ a copywriter like me, naturally!

I’ll ignore 4 because that’s unethical.

Number 3? To create is divine! Remember that. Create more unique copy. Expand pages which do contain, through necessity, similar content. Add unique information to each one.

OR

Employ someone who loves to do that.

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A divine copywriter!

Like me.

Above all, don’t forget it IS possible to have interesting, engaging, appealing copy which entertains and informs your clients AND  puts your website high in the search engine rankings.

 

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 computer is humanity’s attempt to replicate the human brain.

The first part of a quote by Ammar Shaukat Reshi.

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Yesterday, I had computer problems or, more accurately, my computer had problems with me.

I was minded of another quote, by Dani Harper (neglecting to acknowledge that the computer was fine, it was just me being idiotic.)

“Computers are heaven-sent when they work and hell-spawn when they don’t. There’s just not much middle ground when it comes to technology.”

Yes, indeedy. On Wednesday, being very efficient, I cracked on with a website re-write. What I now know about double glazing matters is…a lot.

(I do love my job. I’m given a task and I think…Well, THAT’S interesting (not) – but by the time I’ve finished, I’m always enthusiastic about the subject, full of random facts.)

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So many subjects, so little time…

On Thursday, I opened up Word to find the revision doc and it was… GONE. I know I didn’t shut down my computer properly the night before, but come ON…

At least an hour spent searching for the document, working out how to use auto-recovery by means of Google instructions. Only I think I’d deleted the auto-recovery task pane, convinced that the document was properly saved.

Grrrrrrrr! Tear hair out.

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The computer is humanity’s attempt to replicate the human brain? It was doing a pretty damn good job of that, by my techie brain standards.

The second part of the quote:

“This is perhaps an unattainable goal. However, unattainable goals often lead to outstanding accomplishment.”

So…I had to re-write the re-write FROM MEMORY.

I did it. In about a quarter of the time I spent searching for the original.

Go figure, as they say.

Why you need to update your website

Update your website? Come on, Caroline, give us a break.

It’s the first day back at work after the holidays for many of us – those lucky enough to have more than Christmas Day off.

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Now those New Year’s resolutions really begin to bite. It’s one thing going on a mid-afternoon run in the sunshine to fulfil your fitness quota , quite another when it has to be done at 5 a.m. in the dark and rain, before you catch the 6.05 to London Bridge.

(Caroline has lightbulb moment: Running machines on commuter trains!)

Here’s a business resolution for you that is a no-brainer. And needn’t cause physical pain.

Update your website!

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Yeah, yeah, that old chestnut always churned out by job-seeking copywriters and web designers.

Have it your own way, people, but first, consider THIS

GE Capital Retail Bank undertook a consumer survey.  81% of respondents said they researched online before making a purchase.

Yes…

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Are you happy that 81% of your potential customers will look at your website and see…well, what will they see? Stale copy? Last year’s news? Outdated images? Redundant facts? A blog that was written in July 2013?

At risk of repeating myself: UPDATE YOUR WEBSITE! You know it makes sense.

It’s not a resolution that will help you lose weight or run a marathon.

It IS a resolution that will ensure that you don’t risk losing customers because they look at your site and think…’Hmmmmm, well if THAT’S an illustration of their professionalism and attention to detail… thanks, but no thanks, I’ll go elsewhere.’

I’m a copywriter. I’m busy. I’m not so busy that I couldn’t take on YOUR WEBSITE.

Contact me at: cacoxon@gmail.com

I’ll carry out your New Year’s resolution for you. How good is that?