DIY marketing, Kate Naylor BA Hons.
Freelance copywriter Kate Naylor has more than two decades’ experience in
direct marketing. She writes for businesses of all shapes, flavours and sizes
from insurance to charity, online dating to web design, holidays to self help and
Committed to clear, simple, entertaining plain language communications,
Kate runs a blog packed with direct marketing-led copywriting, SEO and
marketing advice. This ebook collects her blog posts together in one place.
Updated at the beginning of every month
Last updated February 1st 2011
You’ll find the latest posts at the front of this ebook, the oldest at the back.
I edit old posts regularly and remove information that isn’t relevant any more. Although human behaviour - therefore
the way marketing works - doesn’t change, the way various media perform changes all the time. Especially on the
internet, a relatively new medium where everything is fluid.
When did you last refresh your ‘About’ page?
An about us page isn’t a must. Many businesses do without. But it’s a good way to tell people about your
business if you haven’t already done so satisfactorily elsewhere on your site, say on your index page.
Like every website page, it makes sense to update your about page regularly to keep search engine bots and visitors
If it’s been a while since you tinkered with yours, here’s a few ideas for making your about page work harder for you.
• include a list of customers and add new ones as you win them so your business looks like it’s alive and kicking. But
ask permission first – their agreement with you might be commercially sensitive or confidential
• add a ‘quote of the week’ status-type line at the top of your page and say something revealing, fascinating or
compelling to your readers each week. Or do the same kind of thing with a fresh customer testimonial each week
• Remember to include your key words
• keep your formatting simple and clear
• cut the waffle
• stick to a soft sell
• include a strong call to action
• be honest – does your about us page benefit readers or is it actually an ego trip?
What’s your % sales conversion rate?
It’s good to know how many prospects turn into sales.
Do you have a good handle on your % conversion rates? And do you have any idea why non-converters aren’t taking
If you don’t know, you can always ask. If you make it part of your autoresponder campaign to find out why people
aren’t buying, you can take action.
It’s best to use a tick box list than ask open questions. People’s time is precious. But it’s good to give space for freeform
input just in case they want to give detailed feedback.
My current freelance copywriting conversion rate is 53% and it has always hovered around 50%.
Why do 47% of people decide not to take me up on my quotes? The biggest reason is they want a super-cheap
copywriting deal. I don’t mind losing this kind of business because I don’t do cheap. I do premium quality work at a fair
A 53% conversion rate is pretty good. It delivers more than enough work to keep me busy and happy. I don’t want to
expand my business - I love working alone as a sole trader. My executive decision? Things are peachy. So let sleeping
Track your SEO performance and react to trends
If you don’t know what’s going on in your business, it’s impossible to react intelligently. Knowledge is power.
Which is why keeping a simple spreadsheet, list, graph or chart of your SEO performance is really important.
Yes, regular SEO activity can keep you on page 1 of Google. But you can just as easily drop to page two if you don’t
keep an eye on things.
Google releases new and updated search algorithms regularly, usually with little or no warning. So your site positions
can drop instantly and unexpectedly. Or soar just as quickly.
Your business’s SEO destiny depends on competitors’ activity just as much as your own. You don’t do SEO in a vacuum.
You’re constantly jostling with everyone else in your sector for the top positions.
When you keep a handle on SEO trends you can react fast and fix things if your positions suddenly drop off the scale. Or
take early action against a slow and steady fall.
A simple one to one communications trick
Have you heard of ‘mirroring’? In real life it means copying the body language of the person you’re talking to.
It usually happens unconsciously; when we agree with someone we tend to mirror the way they sit, stand, use their
hands etcetera. It’s an instinctive way to bond with others and it’s powerful stuff.
So can you take advantage of mirroring in marketing? Yes you can, on a one-to-one basis.
A customer or prospect emails you. You reply. Most people have their personal favourite sign-off. Mine is ‘All the best’.
But using your customer’s signoff in your reply means you make a small but critical personal connection with them. And,
as I’ve said before, in the pursuit of sales every little helps!
A look at the future: Science, e-commerce and the UK’s online market
December 2010. It’s the end of another busy year. Search engines still use words – and little else – to
identify, explore, rate and rank websites. And freelance copywriting is taking off like a rocket, fuelled by SEO’s
rapid entry into the marketing mainstream.
So there’s a growing demand for people who can string words together logically and elegantly with a strong sales focus.
But what else is going on in the wonderful world of t’internet? And what’s on the menu for 2011?
As 2010 closes, scientists are still chasing the holy grail of quantum computing. Superfast wireless is on the way one
way or another, potentially via antennae that use plasma to focus beams of radio waves. And in labs all over the world
materials scientists are working on novel conductors that’ll make chips run faster without burning out. So our internet
experience is set to improve radically. Perhaps in 2011, perhaps later. But the race is on to find the best technologies for
Market-wise The UK is the planet’s biggest e-consumer, the world’s largest per capita ecommerce market. And we enjoy
the world’s second biggest online advertising market. So the future’s looking bright for British online businesses despite
the economy’s woes.
If you’re a late adopter with an offline business that hasn’t gone online yet, or a brand new business, there’s still infinite
potential online. The internet’s growing and changing every day and, as a marketing and advertising medium, it’s in its
infancy. So go make money!
All good news. We’re lucky to live in very interesting times. Here’s to 2011.
Rip ‘n’ save your website in seconds for free
Do you back up your website regularly? Or does your host do it for you? Even so it’s still a good idea to rip a
copy of your site yourself and keep it somewhere safe.
HTTrack lets you download your site direct from the internet. It fetches your HTML, images and other files from the
server so you can save everything in a local directory on your PC. It rebuilds your directories so they mirror your site’s
structure. It retains your relative link structure. It’s fully configurable. And it includes an integrated help system.
redirects and - in rare cases - pages with html parsing issues. But it’s a great little tool and it’s better to have a current
copy of almost all of your site than none of it!
Here’s a link: www.httrack.com
Easy-to-create website eye candy
In a competitive world a spot of judicious eye candy can inspire website visitors to stay longer, engage better
and return for more, sooner.
With SiteJazzer it’s easy to create eyecatching animated cards with images, video and even audio. You can update your
site with stunning page-peel banners and exciting leader boards, captioned videos, cool 3d flip-books, countdown
timers… all sorts of captivating direct response materials and brand enhancement stuff.
Site Jazzer is incredibly quick and simple. There’s no coding. It’s customisable and adaptable. And it’s affordable. There’s
a free trial, after which you pay-as-you-go.
Here’s a link: www.sitejazzer.com
The thin line between targeted marketing and ‘big brother’
Direct marketing and targeting go hand in hand. As a general rule targeted segments respond better than
random segments, delivering a higher ROI. But can targeting be taken too far?
Facebook and Ebay target their on-site advertising based on your profile and/or previous history. Which sounds
reasonable. But life isn’t that simple. Make too many assumptions and you can alienate people.
I give to animal, wildlife and environmental charities via Ebay’s charity donation system. Which used to mean my Ebay
account was stuffed with animal charity ads and not much else. Because I didn’t want Ebay deciding what I could and
couldn’t see, I turned the option off. Now I’m enjoying random ads again. That’s better!
Then there’s Facebook. Based on my profile Facebook ‘thinks’ I’m in the market for wedding dresses and menopause
treatments. Hm. Yes, I’m forty eight. Yes, I’m engaged to be married for the first time. But frankly, Facebook’s targeting
is more offensive than inspiring.
And there’s Google. Google claims they can use your search history to improve the search results it delivers. But I’d
rather Google didn’t make value decisions on my behalf. When I search the internet I want access to everything, not just
the bits Google thinks I’ll like.
OK, it makes total sense to target fishing rod offers to people who enjoy fishing, rather than any old Tom, Dick or Harry.
But beyond that, targeting should be handled with great care. Otherwise you risk tipping over the edge into Big Brother
If you want to stop Google keeping hold of your search history, just hit the little blue spanner in your Google toolbar and
switch it off.
5 top tips for improving your copywriting
Here’s five top tips for clear, compelling writing whether you’re marketing, advertising or simply
communicating with people.
• don’t use a long word when there’s a short alternative. Use free instead of complimentary. Use expect instead of
anticipate. Use buy, not purchase
• slash ‘n burn! If you can cut words out, do it. Say miss, not miss out on. Say men instead of male personnel. Say
free instead of for free
• express yourself actively instead of passively. Active is always shorter and it’s much more personal. When you
express yourself actively you ‘own’ what you’ve written rather than distancing yourself from it. Say ‘we will write
the report’ rather than ‘the report will be written’. Say ‘I’ll get in touch straight away’ instead of ‘you will be
contacted straight away’
• avoid jargon when there’s a plain English equivalent
• buy Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelsons’ excellent little book Writing that Works – How to Improve Your Memos,
Letters, Reports, Speeches, Resumes, Plans and Other Business Papers
SEO Spider free SEO tool
I’ve heard a couple of UK SEO experts raving about this little tool recently. And as long as your site has less
than 500 URLs, it’s free.
It’s a brilliant one-stop-shop for checking a small site’s SEO status, created by Screaming Frog SEO. Just install
Screaming Frog SEO Spider to your desktop and it’ll spider your site’s external and internal links, images, CSS, script and
Even better, it reports back on key onsite SEO issues in a wonderfully simple and logical format. It’s easy to filter the
resulting spreadsheet for common SEO boo-boos and you can even export the data to Excel for manipulation, creating a
useful SEO Action List.
It’s all too easy to miss redirects, meta refreshes and duplicate page issues. SEO Spider makes it easy to spot mistakes.
And because it displays your meta data, urls, page titles, H1 and H2 headings etcetera so clearly, it’s amazingly easy to
see where things need to be improved.
The verdict? 10/10! Here’s a link: www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/
Google Instant Preview - useful or revolutionary?
Google Instant Preview is a new way to interact with Google search results.
Using Firefox or Google Chrome, just click on the magifying glass in the search results to activate it and you instantly get
a preview of the web page in a pop up.
Why? It provides a fast visual comparison to help searchers decide which web pages to visit. It even identifies relevant
content by highlighting your search term via text call-out boxes. In short it makes finding exactly the right stuff slightly
It seems a simple idea at first pass. But fly over it a second time and you realise it’s fundamental. For the first time ever,
people are using thumbnail images of web pages – rather than just words – to make click-through decisions.
It’ll be interesting to see if it has an impact on visitor numbers. What if more people turn out to prefer the overall look of
your competitor’s site, whereas before they’d come to you first because your meta description made a bigger impact?
The implications for site design, layout and content? It’s more important than ever to make sure your H1 headers and
H2 subheads reflect the content of your page, so you catch searchers’ and Google’s eye via Instant Preview. And we
might see great design hitting the big time at last.
Words or design first?
Which comes first, chicken or egg? Is it best to have your copy sorted out first when you’re designing a
Words sell products. Design delivers an attractive, compelling, user friendly framework within which words have the best
chance of doing their magic. So they’re both really important.
As long as your designer leaves space for enough words - between 350-500 per page is ideal - all should be well.
Say “thank you” and win more business
When you buy something online, you almost always get an email confirming your order. But how often do
you get a ‘thank you’ as well?
Saying thank you is powerful stuff.
When you send a simple thank you email, timed to arrive a few days after your customer gets their order, you’ll
encourage them to buy more. No hard sell, no soft sell. Just a thank you.
Being thanked gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling too. Which translates into valuable stuff like brand equity and loyalty…
pure marketing gold!
Use key words in your blog for natural increased visibility
It sounds blindingly obvious…
…but it’s worth remembering that using key words and phrases in your blog posts helps gradually increase your site’s
visibility for those key words and phrases.
One more good reason why a business blog should be informative, interesting and most of all relevant. It’s a challenge
to crowbar key words and key phrases into posts when the subject matter has bugger all to do with your business!
The link between online directories and spam
There’s a correlation between free directory entries and spam.
I notice an increase in spam – mostly knock-off watches, phishing scams and various unpleasant ‘personal’ products (!)
– whenever I create a batch of online directory entries. It goes with the territory. It’s a risk you take. But does it matter?
A link to your site in a directory, from a page with a decent Google Page Rank, is well worth having. And spam is often a
small price to pay. Especially when, as I’ve noticed, it usually dwindles to next to nothing after a couple of weeks.
As long as you recognise spam, delete it without opening it and have good virus protection, most of it is harmless
So don’t let spam put you off directory links. In my experience they’re really useful for SEO
Use linkbaitgenerator for endless inspiration!
Introducing Linkbait generator.
What’s link bait? It’s anything that attracts loads of valuable back links; a brilliant article, superb blog post, hilarious
YouTube video, insighful white paper, cool online marketing tool or whatever.
Linkbait Generator provides automated inspiration for press releases, articles and blog posts. Just type in your subject
matter and hit return for endless creative ideas. Some of which are very silly… but it’s surprising how often it strikes
Highly recommended. I had a go just now and it gave me:
• 10 of the biggest freelance copywriting screw ups of all time
• 6 bits of freelance copywriting advice that could land you in prison
• 8 ways freelance copywriting has been involved in wars
Here’s a link: www.linkbaitgenerator.com
Avoid hard selling, improve blog performance
Overtly sales-focused blog content doesn’t put search engines off. But it can alienate human visitors. So you
might as well please both parties and get the maximum marketing value out of blogging.
Human visitors come back time and time again if they like what you’re saying, and some will convert to customers.
But most people don’t respond well to a full-on 100% hard sell. We prefer to be informed, entertained, stimulated,
inspired, amused… even angered! The occasional post selling your services - or reaffirming their value - is fine. But keep
it low key.
If you’re not sure if your blog’s focus is right, ask yourself how you’d feel if you’d just come across it for the first time.
Or ask a friend for an objective opinion.
There’s no need to preach to the converted
Say you’re selling freelance copywriting services. People looking for services like yours already know they
want a freelance copywriter. So is there any need to explain why it’s a good idea to use a freelancer?
Nope. They’ve already grasped the concept.
Many people find it difficult not to over-egg their sales message. They can’t resist adding unneccessary information.
But take a step back. If someone has searched Google for services like yours, it’s highly likely they already know they
need them. And they know why they need them. The only thing they don’t know is why you are the best person – or
business – for the job.
Instead of preaching to the converted, be brave. Have the courage of your convictions. Focus your sales message on
why prospects should choose you instead of someone else. Tell visitors why you’re the best of the bunch. Don’t waste
their time explaining a concept they’ve already grasped
Scientific proof of the power of words
If you’ve ever doubted the power of words, here’s the science bit.
In September New Scientist magazine reported on the physical and psychological benefits of being happy.
Part of the article was dedicated to ‘mood boosters’, science’s top five ways to achieve happiness. Top of the list? Writing
about positive experiences and emotions.
• one study showed that writing about a positive experience increases your satisfaction with life. Better still, the
results last for at least a fortnight
• a second study proved that writing about your emotions for two minutes a day, over two days, improves your
physical health, with participants consistently reporting fewer health complaints than the control group
The written word is a powerful psychological tool. Words have a much broader, deeper reach than simple
communication. They affect our behaviour at a profound, fundamental level.
Almost anyone can write content. But it’s much more of a challenge to write commercially powerful content – stuff that
inspires and sells.
Social media takes off big time...
… but should you dive right in?
There are some absolutely mind blowing social media stats out there. For connecting with friends, family, colleagues and
your industry or sector, social media are nothing short of amazing. But can the latest stats be translated into workable
• there are currently about 1.3 million tweets an hour. That works out at 10 billion or so a year
• 70% of bloggers write about brands on their own volition. 38% regularly blog about products or services
• 15 billion bits of content are shared on Facebook every week including press releases, images, articles and blog
• purpose-built Facebook pages have gained a total of 5.3 billion fans so far
You’d be forgiven for diving in without a second thought. The numbers are vast. They’d make any marketer’s mouth
water. But there’s not enough meat on them. They’re all mouth and no trousers. You can’t base a social media
marketing strategy on them. They can’t help you decide which media to use, or tell you how to make the best of them.
They don’t give creative direction. And they can’t forecast ROI.
It looks like social media marketing might - at last - be making a profit. For some businesses. If you want to get involved
on a DIY basis, there’s no escaping it… you’ll have to do your research. Alternatively find a freelance Social Media
Marketing expert or, if your business can afford it, get a specialist Agency on the job.
Exciting times. It’s wild out there. And it’s getting wilder.
Fire up the reaction engine and boost website visitor numbers
I’ve already covered various free online tools designed to help get your DIY SEO in order. Here’s another.
The Reaction Engine is designed to analyse the SEO performance of site urls for specific key phrases. Not only that, it
delivers sensible recommendations to help you improve url performance in relation to top key phrases.
It’s all about helping people create standards compliant, accessible, user-friendly code, which in turn helps attract more
visitors to your website.
While it doesn’t replace a human SEO expert – nothing can - it does give a clear idea about what to do to ensure your
pages are performing optimally. Just bear in mind unless you know a bit about SEO, it’ll probably be incomprehensible…
this one’s for DIY SEO fans who already have a foot in the door!
What is Google Instant?
And what are the implications for SEO, if any? Here’s a quick run-down of Google’s new search enhancement
Google instant speeds up search using predictive text, rather like mobile ‘phone predictive text.
What happens? Say I type the letter ‘a’ into the search box as usual. Google instant delivers a list of predicted words.
Why? Google reckons you can shave 2-5 seconds off your search times.
Here’s an example. The first five predictive results returned by Google instant when I type ‘a’ are:
The list isn’t in alphabetical order. Instead it’s based on the relative probability of someone searching for those
businesses when beginning their search with an ‘a’.
The more letters you type into the search box, the closer Google instant gets to your intended destination. I started with
an ‘a’. Say I’m actually searching for Animal, who make surfing gear. By the time I’ve typed ‘ani’ Animal comes top. I
just click on it to get the usual Google search results.
At the moment unless you’re on a Google domain, Google instant is only available if you’re signed in to a Google
account… assuming you have one. That’s actually a very small proportion of total searchers.
Do you need to take SEO action? No. Google assures us that instant has absolutely no impact on the ranking of search
results. Apart from that, there are probably far too few people using it right now to make any kind of action
If you want to see how it works, create yourself a Google account and have a go. And watch this space for instant
22 secrets to a successful autoresponder campaign
Autoresponder messages can deliver huge hikes in % sales. But a campaign that hasn’t been thought
through properly can result in chaos, not conversion.
Here’s my top 22 ways to maximise the effectiveness of autoresponder messages:
• think carefully about how many autoresponder messages you schedule. It’s better to come up with a sensible,
intelligent strategy than drive people nuts with endless reminders
• remember there’s no marketing virtue in sending autoresponders just for the sake of it
• think equally carefully about the timing – when’s the optimum time to hit people?
• take a new angle each time instead of repeating stuff you’ve already said
• put yourself in readers’ shoes before you sign off your text. Would you be happy to receive it?
• be truthful and honest – as well as being wonderfully disarming in a marketing context, transparency has an strong
ongoing positive effect on your brand
• keep it short and sweet
• format your messages cleanly with bold headers, frequent subheads and short, digestible paragraphs
• make sure the subject line is compelling enough to inspire people to open your message…
• …and ensure it’s easy to tell the message is from you, not some stranger
• always include an opt out, whether you’re marketing B2B or B2C. While it isn’t always a legal requirement, it’s good
direct marketing practice and good manners
• include a powerful call to action – don’t leave readers dangling
• make response as simple as possible. If you want readers to go somewhere or do something, provide a clear link in
a sensible place
• include full contact details in every message to boost credibility
• use plain English and avoid jargon
• focus your message on the benefits inherent in your products or services, not the features
• keep your ego in check if you feel tempted to wax too lyrical about how brilliant your company or offer is!
• remember to set up your system so it removes people who have already responded or you’ll confuse them
• test different messages against a control to see which pulls the best response
• roll our successful campaigns across the board
• remember that times and tastes change – keep testing regularly so you know you’re still on track
• set up a very brief ‘thank you’ message for responders
Newsletters shouldn’t be about blowing your own trumpet
There’s nothing worse than an ego-driven newsletter. Is yours packed to the gills with self, self, self or does it
take customers’ interests to heart?
As a general rule the more often you use ‘we’ in your newsletter, the further you’re going off-piste. A bias towards ‘you’
is better. A successful newsletter should be aimed firmly and accurately at your readers rather than acting as a mirror for
your business’s achievements.
That means leading with benefits rather than features. Telling stories that inspire people to buy from you. Providing
real news that’ll have an impact on their buying behaviour. Going on and on about how great you are just won’t cut the
Plain language T&C are a legal requirement in the UK
Did you know plain language terms & conditions are a legal requirement in the UK?
That’s T&C written in simple language that people can understand, not legalese. Check yours if you’ve:
• bought a ready built site complete with terms & conditions
• bought standard ’boilerplate’ T&C for your site
• downloaded free T&C wording for your site
• had your T&C written by a solicitor
• haven’t checked your T&C because you’ve assumed they’re OK
Granted, very few people read T&C. They just tick the ‘yes’ box and proceed. But if a customer can prove your T&C are
difficult to understand you could find yourself in trouble if there’s a dispute… without a legal leg to stand on.
Terms and conditions are for your customers’ and your benefit, designed to keep things equitable for everyone
The litmus test? If you can’t understand your own T&C, they probably need rewriting! The meaning, context and
content should remain exactly the same. The only thing that changes is the way the information is expressed.
Cool things to do with your in-house mailing list
You’ve got an in-house customer and prospect mailing list created automatically by your ecommerce system,
plus an automatic autoresponder and email marketing facility. Or you’ve built your own database by hand us-
ing something like Excel. So what do you do with it?
Here’s a few sensible ideas to start you off creating positive, lucrative relationships with your customers and prospects.
• thank customers for their last order
• send a short questionnaire or survey (using free survey software if you need it) that’ll deliver commercially useful
feedback – people love being asked questions about themselves, their opinions and buying habits
• encourage your hottest prospects to buy with a tightly targeted special offer
• touch base with a newsletter
• ask your prospects for an honest answer about why they haven’t bought from you yet – and act on their feedback.
Honesty is compelling and increases trust in your brand
• send them something free
• invite them to contribute to your blog
• send season’s greetings
• carry out an event-led campaign
• celebrate a year, or two, three or five, since they first ordered from you
• tell them about new services or products
• announce a sale
• give discount codes or money off vouchers
• encourage them to enter a competition
• ask for testimonials
Don’t forget to communicate with your customers and prospects separately – from a marketing perspective they’re very
different animals. And don’t overdo it. You’re a consumer too, so ask yourself how often you’d appreciate getting
marketing stuff and act accordingly.
Long tail search terms infographic
Here’s another excellent infographic, courtesy of the inspirational www.econsultancy.com blog.
Infographics are a brilliant way to explain complex concepts without words. As a visual marketing aid they’re hard to
beat, especially online where reader attention spans are short.
Here goes… an elegant graphic illustration explaining why it’s rarely worth the bother fighting for top Google positions
using one word key phrases. Drill down a bit, apply classic direct marketing-led targeting wisdom and you’ll enjoy better
conversion rates. Go long tail!
Bad trends in SEO - when a little knowledge gets dangerous
My fiance is Head of Search at one of the UK’s most successful SEO agencies. So I can be confident the SEO
knowledge I get from him is worth having.
As a freelance copywriter I regularly create white label copy for SEO agencies. So far, so good. But I’ve noticed a new,
There seems to be a growing number of SEO agencies around who don’t actually know much about SEO. Most of the
straightforward stuff I’ve covered in this blog is obviously a mystery to them. Free enterprise is all very well. But selling
SEO advice when you don’t know what you’re talking about is downright dangerous… as well as amoral. Needless to say
I sacked them, if that’s the right term for a freelancer who terminates a working relationship with a client!
What to do if you’re looking for a good SEO agency? It might be wise to familiarise yourself with the basics of on-site
SEO and link building before choosing a supplier. Then at least you’ll stand a chance of winkling out the bullshitters!
At the other end of the scale, witness the rise of the Google sceptic... another situation where a little knowledge can be
I’ve come across more than one prospective client who doesn’t want Google to ‘have any influence whatsoever on
who visits my site’, in the belief that natural SEO somehow magically circumvents Google altogether.
Hm. As an online business it’s pretty silly to bite the mouth that feeds. Google prides itself in being a considerable force
for good, taking fairness as it’s flagship when creating search algorithms. It makes every attempt to take the interests of
searchers and businesses to heart.
For a start, if you’re on Google you can’t avoid its influence. Secondly, why try to avoid a wholly good thing? Oh,
conspiracy theorists are so tiresome.
It’ll be interesting to see what fruitloopery and nutterdom crawls out of the SEO woodwork next, as the industry finally
enters common parlance and goes mainstream. Hang on to your hats!
Webuyanycar.com - great adverts... but poor SEO?
I heard a bloke in the supermarket queue humming the tune from WeBuyAnyCar.com‘s brilliant direct
response TV advert yesterday. If I’d created it I’d be chuffed to bits. Why? because it’s obviously powerful
enough to become an ‘earworm’.
What’s an earworm? It’s when you get a persistent, looping tune in your head that you can’t shift. You wake up singing
it. It’s on your mind when you fall asleep. Blasted things. A recent Seasick Steve earworm almost drove me to tears.
Not only is WeBuyAnyCar‘s advert a creative masterpiece – boy, has that guy got some moves! It’s also a work of direct
marketing genius. It drums the company name and site address into your head with the force and subtlety of a lump
hammer. To the tune of relentless hard house. What a little beauty.
Will I forget the brand? No. Do I love the brand? Yes. What’s in my head right now? WeBuyAnyCar.com, WeBuyAnyCar.
com, WeBuyAnyCar.com, WeBuyAnyCar.com… if I could drive I’d sell them my car on the spot, just to shut ‘em up!
The problem is, I can’t find a copy of the ad on site. Their latest advert’s up and running but not the one I’m talking
Hm. That’s a significant missed SEO opportunity because it means people like me can’t link to it. And links are desirable
little beasts. Love it or hate it, the ad has generated loads of comment online. So it probably would’ve generated
plentiful, potentially valuable backlinks too.
Combining Google AdWords and SEO to win site visibility
Just having a website isn’t enough. These days you need to address your site’s visibility too, or it’s very
unlikely people will find you. So what’s a sensible strategy to get you where you need to be… on page 1 of
If you want instant visibility and instant custom you can’t beat Google’s popular Search Engine Marketing tool, AdWords
- AKA Pay Per Click. It’s the best way to get your site on page 1 of Google within hours. And keep it there.
You might be perfectly happy paying for AdWords visibility forever rather than spending time and effort getting to grips
with the ins and outs of natural SEO. Or you might want to use AdWords to keep you on page one while you beaver
away in the background building inbound links, carrying out regular site content updates etcetera to move your site
steadily up Google’s search engine ranking pages.
It’s a matter of resources. Either you have the time and inclination to pursue natural SEO, or you don’t. It’s worth doing
some simple calculations. If you’re a small business owner you might find your valuable time is best spent growing your
business, and that natural SEO simply isn’t cost effective.
If you’ve calculated that AdWords is the answer, I’m more than happy to recommend the services of www.Page1Google-
Expert.com for trustworthy, low cost, highly effective AdWords and related services. It’s perfect for small business
Infographic confirms naughty and nice SEO activities!
If you’re getting into DIY SEO but you’re uncertain what Google considers legitimate (White Hat) versus
downright evil (Black Hat), there’s a scatterplot infographic over the page.
It comes courtesy of www.seomoz.org, one of the web’s most trusted SEO sources and resources. If the activity you’re
considering falls into the wrong section, just… don’t!
Online lead generation takes the high ground
According to web experts econsultancy, online lead generation is coming into its own this year. So what’s OLG
Online of offline, lead generation simply means generating warm or hot leads, ie. attracting new prospects who are likely
• 81% of companies quizzed by econsultancy said they were using OLG to win hot leads, which they then convert of-
fline. Last year’s figure was 70%
• OLG is responsible for an average of 42% of sales, an increase of 2% on last year
So what methods are businesses using to generate leads online?
• SEO comes top, no surprise since it’s currently experiencing a massive hike in awareness. This year SEO is being
used to generate leads by 90% of the businesses researched by econsultancy, up 13% on last year
• the number of firms doing email OLG marketing to in-house mailing lists is up from 74% last year to 83% this year
• pay per click (AdWords) is also popular, with 83% of businesses asked confirming they use PPC for OLG
• two thirds of businesses surveyed say they’ve used social media to generate leads. Last year’s figure was 40%
So, you can generate leads relatively easily and cheaply online. Job done? No. The big issue is converting them to sales.
Look at the top bullets again. While 11% more businesses are using it, OLG is only responsible for 2% more sales.
The moral behind the stats? Make sure you have a rock solid conversion process in place before you start generating
leads. No matter how hot, they’re worth bugger all unless you transform them into paying customers!
EON hits direct marketing gold
I’ve written about EON before, praising their excellent plain language marketing. Here’s another great email
marketing campaign that arrived in my inbox this morning.
In a clever collaborative cross-sell initiative, they’ve offered us a free water saving gadget for the shower. The gadget
somes via a third party supplier www.savewatersavemoney.co.uk, Britain’s largest online water efficiency shop.
It’s a sensible partnership - much less of a commercial oxymoron than supermarkets and banks. The offer is clear as a
bell, short and sweet, written in their usual crisp, plain language, no messing about. And the fact that EON has water
efficiency in mind makes people like me feel warmer towards the brand.
There’s a clear opt in, with tick boxes if you want to receive more offers from EON and their partners, or from
savewatersavemoney specifically. Because the offer is relevant to me, I ticked the savewatersavemoney opt in box. So
they’ve got me on their database… I’m officially a hot prospect!
Like all good direct marketing it’s properly targeted, relevant and logical, clear and simple, imaginative and well
expressed. And, vitally, they’ve thought conversion through just as carefully as lead generation. Applying for our free
gadget was fast and easy.
A lovely example of the creative application of logic. Which is exactly what intelligent direct marketing is all about.
Top 4 ways to increase online sales conversion
So you’ve got your OLG campaigns lined up and you’re firing them off like a person possessed.
You’re enjoying a huge hike in site visitors… excellent. But very few of them are converting to sales. Your visitors aren’t
Here’s 4 top ways to maximise conversion and get a bigger bang for your marketing buck.
• do people find what they expect when they click through to your site or has your lead generation
campaign misled them? The disappointment factor can be destructive, so avoid making offers that only a few
visitors actually qualify for, or quoting minimum prices when most people will have to pay more. Any short term
gain in terms of lead generation will disappear if people don’t convert, and you’ll leave a dangerously bad taste in
• how does your pricing stack up? No matter how cool your OLG campaign is, if people can get what you’re
selling much cheaper elsewhere they’ll do it
• what’s your landing page like? Is it user friendly? Does it look nice and clear or is it difficult to find what you
want, full of dense text and Camel Case? Are you just repeating your OLG offer verbatim or have you taken the time
to reinforce your sales message? Is is feature led or have you done the good deed and stressed the benefits? Is it a
nightmare of jargon or a masterpiece in plain English? Do your images sell your stuff to its best advantage or quite
• and what about the sales process? Do visitors have to fill in a form the size of Wales, getting bored half way
through, or is it short and sweet? Have you tapped into Royal Mail’s address finder software so people don’t have to
fill in their full address? Have you provided enough payment options? Do they have to wait weeks for delivery or are
you on the button?
Heart Internet highly recommended
Like most business owners I’ve had hosting issues in the past, some of which have been horribly stressful.
When your site disappears for no apparent reason and your host isn’t answering calls or emails, it’s hard to
stay calm. And if they ‘forget’ to renew your url, solving the issue can be a real pain. So a good host is like
There are thousands of hosting companies, all of which make the same claims about brilliant efficiency, customer
support and up-time. Word of mouth is probably the best way to identify a rock solid host for your commercial website.
Here’s my contribution.
Unlike many hosting company sites, Heart Internet’s interface is beautifully simple and clear. Their facilities are excellent,
it’s easy to find everything, there’s a choice of flexible deals and the prices are pretty good.
Not the cheapest… but hosting is far too important to cut corners for the sake of a few quid. Plus they’re UK based,
which feels good. If the worst happens I can always turn up on their doorstep and weep uncontrollably until they put
Your website = one big direct marketing project
A website is very much like any other piece of direct marketing. But it isn’t a one-off campaign, it’s
permanent and ongoing.
So it’s a good idea to revisit your site with DM in mind every now and again to make sure your focus is correct,
especially when several people regularly have their fingers in your website pie!
If you’re doing a proper job of it you’ll be updating your site regularly with fresh content, making frequent amends to
existing content, removing and adding special offers, links… etc etc. Here’s some sensible guidelines to help check the
fundamentals of your website are still working hard from a DM perspective:
• can visitors still navigate easily or has it all got a bit too complicated?
• does every link work?
• are your calls to action in the right place / still there?
• has essential information fallen below the fold when it should be above?
• are your key words and phrases still in place, in the right density?
• is your content in priority order for SEO?
• are you focusing on the right key words and phrases or have things changed?
• is your message clear or have you muddied the water with too many edits?
• are your images still relevant?
• does your meta data need updating in line with your key words and phrases?
• could your source code do with tidying up so it complies with web standards?
• are your footer links up to date?
• is your sitemap up to date?
If it’s relevant, check it. If it doesn’t seem relevant, check it anyway just in case! At least you’ll know you’ve shone your
direct response torch into every dark corner and put everything possible straight.
EON writes perfect customer email copy
We switched to EON last year. I’ve been really impressed by their direct marketing in general – and their
copywriting in particular.
Their website is written beautifully in perfect plain english. Their tone of voice is full of personality. In fact everything
they’ve sent so far, whether by email or snail mail, has been a triumph in rock solid customer communications. What’s
so good? Here’s the email they sent me a few weeks ago… short but very sweet. Well done EON!
Important information about access to your online account
We’re always looking to improve our service to our customers and give the best online experience we can.
To ensure that we can continue to provide this great experience we need to upgrade our systems now and again. We’ll
be doing this on the evening of Friday 16 July until lunchtime on Sunday 18 July. While we’re doing this you won’t be
able to access your account details online.
As we’re updating all our systems and not just our website, we might not be able to help with your query over the
phone either as we won’t have access to all your account details.
We’re sorry if this causes you any problems. You will be able to log in as normal before or after these dates.
If you’d like to talk to us about this you can contact us before Friday 16 July at eonenergy.com or call us on 0845 301
SEO hierarchy of needs
Some things need no explanation. Here’s a case in point.
Thanks to Fuzz One for this excellent piece of infographics describing the SEO hierarchy of needs, discovered in their
Replace underscores and make Google happy!
Are your website’s page names full of underscores? If so it’s time to replace them.
Google prefers dashes to underscores. They keep life simple for people too. After all, it’s much easier to read something
like freelance-copywriting-services than freelance_copywriting_services.
Once you’ve renamed your files, don’t forget to do a 301 redirect. Otherwise you’ll break all your inbound links, lose
valuable link ‘juice’ and drop page rank.
There are loads of good 301 redirect tutorials online.
Look out for dodgy domain renewal direct mail offers
I’m really busy. So when I got a domain renewal notification letter yesterday I almost renewed my
blancminge.com ebooks domain without thinking twice.
Luckily something didn’t feel right and I double checked first.
According to the letter ’privatization’ means I can choose who to renew my domains with. I don’t have to stick with my
original domain Registrar. Anyone and his dog can renew my domain at any price they choose. And consumer choice is
always a good thing, right?
Not in this case. The Domain Renewal Group are offering me:
• 1 year renewal for £20
• 2 years for £35
• 3 years for £65
But my registrar, Go-daddy, provides renewal for £7.41 a year. No contest.
Presumably the Domain Renewal group is operating within the law. But I get the feeling they know they’re being
naughty. Skating close to the edge, not quite within the spirit of the law. Perhaps it’s an outright scam – I’m no legal
My domain doesn’t renew until January 2011. They’ve approached me far too early, way before necessary, so my
Registrar’s automatic email reminder campaign hasn’t kicked in yet. And because £20 for a year’s registration doesn’t
seem desperately unreasonable, the pricing probably wouldn’t put your financial brakes on if you were in a rush.
Plus… they allegedly have a UK office but the offer is made in American English, which is downright rude as well as a
clear sign that something’s not quite right.
The moral of the story? Look before you leap. If I’d gone ahead I’d have spent almost £45 more than I needed to
renewing my domain for three years with a company I know nothing about and – on reflection and research - wouldn’t
dream of trusting.
It isn’t a huge amount of money in the scheme of things. But it’s the principle that counts.
Focus your press release correctly
Some people circulate press releases via distribution sites as bait for backlinks. Some aim their releases firmly
at the national and local newspapers, trade magazines and other real-world print publications. Wise
marketers do both. Either way a winning press release should inform, announce and reveal rather than sell.
Quality press release distribution sites reject releases with an overt sales focus. And newspapers and magazine editors
ignore them. So give your press release campaign the best chance of success by focusing your releases properly.
A good press release:
• uses factual language
• avoids emotional statements
• informs rather than persuades
• announces rather than sells
• covers things like research findings, statistics, ideas, innovations, new markets, business wins and NPD
• follows a distinct press-ready format to save editors time and hassle rewriting it
If you’re in any doubt about whether to write about a subject, double check by asking yourself honestly if what you
want to say is actually newsworthy. It also helps to triple check by reading the business section in any daily newspaper.
Go back to your draft release immediately afterwards and it’ll be 100% clear whether or not you’ve struck the right tone.
In contrast here’s a short list of places where you should push the sales boat out:
• your website
• direct marketing and direct response campaigns
• email marketing campaigns
• advertising - online and off
• Google AdWords ads
How to write a successful press release
I’ve covered this before in a previous post but I think it’s worth revisiting from a slightly different angle. Press
releases are still an excellent vehicle for building quality links and – if they catch the attention of the newspa-
pers - driving traffic to your website. Here’s how to write a successful press release.
• take a quick sanity check… is your news genuinely newsworthy or is it a paper-thin disguise for advertising your
• write in the third person
• consider printed newspapers as well as SEO and write accordingly. If a national or local paper, magazine or trade
publication picks up your story you’ll get a flood of traffic. I know someone who, having appeared in The Guardian,
was shot to relative stardom in her field and is still reaping enormous financial and career benefits. Yes, include key-
words and phrases for link building and SEO. But do it so subtly that nobody except an SEO expert would notice
• headlines are important for SEO as well as catching editors’ and media researchers’ eyes. So create a mighty head-
line that includes your top key word or phrase as well as appealing to human readers
• kick off with a powerful statement that explains the subject matter clearly in plain language
• raise a question - a useful little trick used by many fine journalists and editorial writers
• answer your own question succinctly and factually, including a quote or two to lend interest, credibility and variety
• conclude the release with a round-up that reflects on your news and reveals what might happen in the future
• avoid superlatives outside of quotes and avoid making sales pitches – this is news, not advertising
A killer press release can win you anything from a few lines in your local newspaper to a double page spread in the
centre of The Sun worth tens of thousands of pounds. So they’re worth spending time and effort on. The better your
releases, the more chance you have of taking your news offline into the newspapers… even on TV if you hit the nail on
the head hard and accurately enough.
There’s no reason, if your news is a winner and your release is the best it can be, why it couldn’t be you. If you’re not
100% confident writing your own releases DIY could be a false economy. Get a freelance copywriter on the job.
I’ve written a quick ‘n’ dirty fictional press release example to help you understand press release structure. Here goes:
FREE happiness for everyone - new happiness experiment delivers “astonishing” results
The Gross National Happiness index proved that the fewer resources we use and the less stuff we buy,
the happier we are. Adding spice to the ongoing saga of establishing exactly what makes us happy, recent
research by Brighton-based company Life PLC has revealed exciting new insights into the complex nature
of human happiness. So what’s the story?
Life PLC’s Chief Executive Katie Goldstone explains. “We’ve undertaken a massive worldwide social experiment, across
multiple cultures and continents, to establish exactly how much control – if any – humans have over our own happiness.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say the results are world-changing. This is huge.”
Life PLC split 20 million willing volunteers into three random groups. Group one acted as the control. Group two were
given a series of simple mental exercises designed to help them modify their internal dialogue so it’s wholly positive.
Group three were given the same exercises but designed with the opposite intention, to help them achieve an entirely
negative frame of mind.
“We were astonished to find, a year later when we started analysing the detailed diary data our subjects handed in, that
group two felt remarkably happy within themselves. They enjoyed their lives more than they’d thought possible and
were amazed how much things had changed for the better.” reveals Goldstone. “In contrast group three reported being
constantly depressed and unhappy with almost every aspect of their lives.”
The numbers are impressive. Group three, the control group, exhibited the usual mix ‘n’ match of emotional states,
everything from ecstatic to very unhappy indeed. 98% of group two reported dramatic, significant increases in overall
happiness whereas 93% of group three claimed to feel absolutely dreadful almost all the time.
“There’s only one conclusion and the proof is conclusive” claims Goldstone. “With very few exceptions, the key to human
happines lies within us.”
So how will the world look once the news gets out? Potentially very different. When we’re unhappy we’re more
destructive, unproductive, intolerant, angry, sad, bored and unattractive. When we’re happy we’re more generous and
forgiving, kinder, healthier, more sociable, productive and creative. We even look better.
“A hike in international happiness levels could be so powerful that it results in our solving global warming, ending
poverty and putting a stop to war.” concludes Katie Goldstone. “On a grand scale the implications are nothing short of
revolutionary. At the moment we’re busy identifying channels to market so we can get this happiness show – the
greatest show on earth – on the road!”
Contact details for Editors
Contact Katie Goldstone for details and comment. Email: xxx@xxx or phone: xxxxxx
How often do I distribute press releases?
There are three reasons for distributing press releases. Online releases attract inbound links. Offline releases
win exposure in print. And some business owners use press releases to help them become a trusted authority
in their field.
So how often should you send out press releases? The simple answer is, whenever you’ve got something genuinely
newsworthy to say. You can distribute ten a day, one a day, one a week, one a fortnight or whenever the opportunity
As a general rule if you bombard newspaper and magazine Editors with hundreds of releases they’ll soon get fed up with
you. On the other hand feeding multiple press releases to distribution websites is common practice and can benefit your
Blog power changes the food industry
As a freelance copywriter working from home, my only company during the day is BBC Radio 4. A recent edi-
tion of The Food Programme illustrated just how powerful the blogosphere has become.
Food bloggers are taking the world by storm. They’re starting and ending trends. They’re creating new celebrities. And
they’re making people fortunes.
A week or so later another R4 programme covered food photographers, again venturing into the blogosphere to marvel
at the online manifestation of peoples’ fascination with the subject.
I know for a fact that this blog helps keeps my website visible on Google. I also know it nets me a fair amount of
business. How’s your blog performing?
Bloggers are already hugely influential across all sorts of sectors. Blogging is still a relatively new marketing medium
and we don’t fully understand the long term benefits yet. And I don’t think blogging’s influence influence has peaked.
Nowhere near. It’s powerful stuff.
If your blog is sad and neglected now’s a good time to give it a boost. As well as working a treat for SEO and delivering
fresh regular content to your visitors, you might even end up a big cheese in the blogosphere.
Inspired by the credits for TV series Justified, I’ve been searching for woodcut, hand drawn and Western style
typefaces to refresh my websites’ header images.
After some research I decided to stick with the Dafont site because:
• there’s a broad choice of fonts and they add new ones regularly
• they classify fonts in a logical but creative way, making it easy to track down the style you have in mind
• the site is simple to navigate and use
• it’s easy to download fonts and they’re almost all free for personal use
• you can make a donation to font designers… which is good Karma!
Here’s a link - http://www.dafont.com/themes.php
I’ve used four unusual yet readable fonts in redesigned headers for three of my sites. It’s hard to pin down the actual
financial benefits of cosmetic change, but it was time for a spring clean and it makes sense to keep your brand and im-
age up to date.
Get your blog in shape for SEO
If you’ve set up a WordPress blog you can spend hours setting it up for SEO.
Alternatively just install the WordPress All In One SEO Pack plugin. It only takes a few seconds and you’re done. But
don’t forget to back up your database first… just in case!
If you like, you can fine tune every aspect of it. But you don’t have to. It works perfectly well ‘out of the box’.
Check your site content in situ before signing off
It’s important to check raw website content when it’s in draft form, expressed as a Word or .txt document or
whetever. But seeing new content in context gives you a final vital chance to weed out any imperfections.
Wise site owners like to check new site content in situ before signing it off. Here’s why:
• it’s easier to see if the new copy works in sympathy with the design to make the biggest possible impact
• it’s easier to spot areas where the flow could be improved to make your message clearer or more powerful
• it helps you spot areas where the formatting could be changed to improve response and conversion
• stuff like stray formatting errors, duplicated words and weak arguments are easier to spot on-site
How come it’s easier to spot improvements to content in situ?
It’s probably very simple. Presumably you’re experiencing the copy in a fresh visual context so improvements leap out at
you. Whatever the reason it’s a foolproof way to make 100% sure your new website content works as hard as it can.
Make the most of your image <alt> attributes
Images don’t contribute much to SEO because search engines can’t ‘see’ pictures or analyse their content.
But you can make the most of your on-site images by ensuring their ALT attibutes make sense.
Provided your images’ attributes are descriptive and accurate, search engines will find it a tiny bit easier to rate and
classify your website correctly.
It always helps to have a suitable tool handy. This one checks your website images and tells you how clearly - or other-
wise - they can be’ seen’ by Google and co:
Upgrading your WordPress blog
The WordPress team releases regular updates and it’s wise to upgrade your blog every time a new version is
Why? Because if you don’t you leave your blog at the mercy of hackers, infections and other malicious mischief. I know
two people who’ve been infected via weaknesses in old versions of WordPress.
As well as security fixes, updated versions include fresh functionality. And it’s easy – as well as free – to upgrade your
blog in one click via your WordPress Dashboard.
If you haven’t done it before, check the instructions on the WordPress website first.
What’s the difference between cross selling and up selling?
Both involve a customer buying more stuff from you than they’d originally intended. But cross selling and up
selling are very different.
• cross selling involves selling related goods or services. If you’re in the process of selling someone a wedding outfit
you could also offer them a matching hat, shoes and handbag
• up selling involves selling a more expensive or exclusive version of the same thing. If you’re in the process of
selling a £99 tent you could persuade your customer to buy the next model up for £120
Identifying and resolving bad copywriting habits
Everyone gets into bad habits. I tend to over-do the exclamation marks and use the word ‘all’ too much. But
because I always double check my copy and strip out the extras before sending it to clients, my bad habits
aren’t a problem.
Other people habitually spell the same word wrongly time after time, get their apostrophes in the wrong places or
repeat the same tired suite of superlatives time after time.
You can only mitigate bad habits when you’re aware of them. If you’re not sure whether or not you have any, it makes
sense to get someone honest and sharp eyed to check your DIY website content first.
Website content: it’s OK to get personal and emotional!
Plain language and clarity are essential. But clear content needn’t be dull and unemotional. You’re a human,
you’re communicating with other humans and it’s cool to show verve.
People respond well to enthusiasm whether you’re selling B2B or business to consumer. It’s catching. It’s personal. It
fosters trust. And it gives your sales message a refreshing boost.
Here’s a few tips about letting your enthusiasm shine through without taking things too far:
• keep exclamation marks to a minimum. It’s great to sound excited and inspired but you can come across hysterical
when you over cook the !!!s
• choose three key benefits or features to ‘big up’ rather than sounding excited about everything. It’ll have more
impact that way
• use quotations to help you make an emotional connection with readers. For example place a quote on each page of
your holiday site waxing lyrical about the sheer beauty of the destination
• use emboldening and italics so your audience experiences your copy with exactly the emphases you intended
• DIY testimonials – write a short 100 word segment of copy for each page or section in first person, describing in
your own words why you feel your products and services are so good
• enthusiasm doesn’t necessarily mean a hard sell. Damp down overtly salesy messaging and focus on being
transparent, genuine and straightforward instead
Use autoresponders for a 30% hike in order value
Are you taking full advantage of your email marketing software’s autoresponder function?
The principle is beautifully simple. It’s all about intelligent cross-selling but autoresponder messages do all the hard work
If you’re selling football kits you can cross-sell footballs, footie boots, socks, training gear and so on. If you’re selling
flowers and plants you can cross-sell seeds, organic pest controls and decorative vases. You get the picture.
Autoresponders are a straightforward way to maximise your average order value. Many businesses achieve more than
30% extra revenue per order. Not bad for a few lines of direct marketing-led copy!
Direct response? Keep it tidy!
It’s tempting to include every little detail up front on your website’s home page. But it’s best to focus hard on
your core message and cover the fine detail elsewhere.
Why? Because it’s your home page’s job to inspire people to respond – find out more, ask questions, contact you or buy
from you – not deliver War & Peace in one hit.
That’s why intelligent, carefully considered index page content is so important.
• it should explain the benefits of what you do or sell clearly
• it should satisfy search engines’ needs
• and it should encourage sales by inspiring visitors to venture deeper into your site
The same goes for direct mail letters and email campaigns.
Less is more. Be ruthless when you’re creating a direct mail or email campaign too. If you drown your sales message in
detail you’ll lose readers’ attention. You stand a much better chance of getting a positive response when you go in hard
with a short, powerful message rather than waffling on.
Google answers SEO-related questions
The best insights come straight from the horse’s mouth.
Here’s an excellent set of answers to Google-related SEO questions, from Google’s staff:
Fantastic quality print from moo.com
Print speaks. But quality print shouts!
It isn’t often you find a product that’s worth making a big noise about. But this is one of them. A friend showed me
some mini-cards from moo.com today and I was blown away for the first time in ages.
Digital print doesn’t always mean quality print. In a highly competitive sector where speed and price often come way
before quality, moo’s minicards are printed on mega-thick stock for a chunky, classy feel. They’re not cheap… but they
come at a very reasonable cost. Delivery isn’t particularly fast… but it’s so worth the wait. And you can personalise every
single one of them.
Moo also does a complementary range of digitally printed mini-masterpieces, designed to help direct marketers, brand
champions and creatives make an impact so strong it’s almost audible. I give them a wholehearted and completely
unsolicited 10 out of 10!
What is link bait?
You’ve probably heard the term link bait bandied around. So what’s it all about?
Link bait is anything that naturally attracts links.
If someone finds something particularly cool, desirable, free, gorgeous, clever, exciting, useful or funny on your site they
stand a good chance of linking back to it without having to be asked, persuaded or paid to.
If you’re lucky they’ll also share it with their contacts and you’ll eventually get a flurry of valuable back-links.
Good quality links like this are sought after beasts. And search engines love them.
There’s no hard and fast rules to creating powerful link bait. It’s all a bit hit and miss. Mostly miss!
Just occasionally something will catch the public imagination and go ballistic. Sometimes it’s obvious why, sometimes it
isn’t. But creativity and uniqueness are key, as is quirkiness. So let your imagination run wild!
Here’s a short list of the type of online content that can – if you’re lucky – tune into the zeitgeist and make a killing.
• contentious or provocative blog posts
• strange, weird and wonderful stories
• stunning royalty free clip art, images and photos
• breaking news, or a novel take on breaking news
• top quality ‘how to’ materials
• desirable free resources
• things that make a broad spectrum of people laugh out loud
Focus your copy on your customers’ needs
Is it best to focus on the stuff you’re offering or highlight the benefits of it to your end customer?
Benefit-led copy is always stronger than feature-led. So going in hard with the benefits your business delivers is the best
• if your site focuses on the products or services you’re selling, it’s likely you’re majoring on features
• if your site content focuses on your customers’ needs in relation to the stuff you’re selling, you’re probably leading
with the benefits
How do you tell where your copy’s focus lies? Here’s a simple free online tool to help you find out:
Useful… within limits. Bear in mind that this tool uses an incredibly simple algorithm that looks at the number of times
you use words like we, us and our versus words like you, your and yours. So it doesn’t really deliver a genuine picture of
your copy’s focus, just a very broad generalisation.
Common sense is better. As a rule it’s best to restrict overt trumpet-blowing to your about us page if you have one. The
rest of your site should give your readers crystal clear reasons why buying from you is a great idea.
Are you ready for the grey revolution?
The UK population is steadily getting older. We’re having fewer children and living longer.
Is your business prepared for the grey revolution?
British advertising and marketing has focused relentlessly on the youth market for decades. But as the population ages,
wise businesses are preparing to hit the ground running and meet the grey market head on.
Planning ahead, today’s business owners are making sure their websites meet the needs of a thriving older market as
well as satisfying a fast-shrinking pool of under 25s.
You don’t have to write especially for older people. It’s much subtler than that. The idea is to craft your communications
so they appeal to the broadest possible age group.
How? The most effective way to communicate across all age groups is to use plain English, write with confidence and
flair, explain yourself clearly, be honest, avoid jargon and slang… and make it exciting while you’re at it. Get it right and
you’ll maximises the appeal of your products, whatever age your prospects happen to be.
Good communication is good communication… full stop. If you suspect your site is missing a trick, hire a freelance
copywriter and make sure your site hits the sweet spot every time.
Reciprocal links? Just say no!
A reciprocal link is where two sites link to each other. They link to you, you link back to them. Once quite
useful for SEO, they were downgraded by search engines a few years ago.
Having received a flood of unsolicited reciprocal link proposals recently, I decided not to make assumptions. Instead I
did some research to find out whether they were still a bad idea.
Here’s the lowdown:
• Google originally decided to ignore reciprocal links because people were exploiting them to unfairly manipulate site
• Because Google cancels out reciprocal links these days, they no longer have any SEO value
• If you’re unlucky enough to fall victim to a link farm through reciprocal linking, Google can penalise your site by
either adjusting your ranking or dropping you from the results pages altogether
• Because you can’t control who links to you, Google and co won’t penalise you for inbound links. But outbound links
are your choice and your responsibility. If you link to a dodgy neighbourhood your ‘reputation’ with Google could be
What to do about reciprocal links?
• ignore all unsolicited reciprocal link requests, whether free or paid for
• never accept reciprocal link offers from directories – they’re particularly risky
• don’t offer reciprocal links to other site owners
• if you do use reciprocal links because they’re useful for visitors, take great care to only link with reputable sites and
accept there’s no SEO value
Top tips for writing a site content strategy
If you’re doing the right thing and updating your website regularly, it’s a good idea to write yourself a short,
succinct content strategy document.
Why? Because if you don’t have something to refer to it’s all too easy to wander off track and end up off-message,
losing sight of keywords and messing up your customer journey.
Here’s five top tips for creating a simple but effective website content strategy:
• define your tone of voice. All this means is the way you sound. My tone of voice is plain English, approachable and
• note down the different types of content you want to focus on. There are loads of ways to create new content. My
top five are monthly pdf newsletters, blog posts, testimonials, daily status statements and portfolio links. Why not
take advantage of every possible kind of content? Because you’ll buckle under the workload and your site will
probably end up a dog’s dinner!
• decide how often you’re going to create fresh content. And stick with your timetable… regularity is really important
• make sure your new content doesn’t muck up the customer journey. Check you haven’t created confusion,
contradictions, distractions or extra steps in the buying process… every time you add something new!
• always relate new content back to your top keywords and key phrases so that every new item works as hard as
possible to improve your site’s visibility
SEO... is site content the real king?
Most Search Engine Optimisation experts focus hard on link building to gain good positions in search engine
results pages. But are inbound links really all-powerful?
I’ve got an attitude problem. I find it impossible to make myself do boring things. And I find link building super-dull. So,
apart from a handful of quality semi automated directory submissions every now and again, I don’t do it.
Despite having very few backlinks, my freelance copywriting website has consistently appeared on page 1 of Google for
my top key phrases for more than two years… and counting. So are backlinks really as influential as they’re cracked up
This is exactly what I do to keep my copywriting services site on page 1 of Google:
• add a single page .pdf newsheet to my freelance copywriting news page every month
• put fresh links on my copywriting portfolio page as and when I finish a suitable project
• update my facebook-style ’status’ line on the index page every day
• update an interesting word of the day line on my SEO page daily
• write blog posts once a week, sometimes more
• update my on site marketing ebook offer every month
• add new testimonials every time a customer says something nice about my work
• create 5-10 directory links a month using www.easysubmits.com
• incorporate my keywords in all of the above except my ’status’ and interesting word of the day lines
What’s going on?
I have a theory. I reckon search engine algorithms place much more importance on fresh, relevant, regularly updated
content than many of us realise.
It seems to make sense. Google loves fairness. And it encourages quality. Any SEO expert will tell you that it’s fairly easy
to automate backlinks, building hundreds or even thousands in minutes without Google ‘noticing’. Quality site content,
on the other hand, is harder to manipulate.
It’s only a theory. But it seems to fit what’s been happening to my freelance copywriting dotcom site. The same goes
for my ebooks website and my dotcodotuk SEO copywriting site, both of which I’ve got onto P1 Google using the same
Can you make cash from social media marketing?
As a direct marketer I don’t feel comfy unless I know exactly how much profit my marketing campaigns have
made. To the penny!
Offline marketing is traditionally divided into above the line and below the line campaigns. Below the line involves
un-glamorous media like direct marketing and cheapo Direct Response TV. Above the line is fluffy stuff like glossy
magazine ads and big budget TV brand building.
You can always calculate ROI, cost per response and cost per sale below the line. But the profitability of above the line
work is harder – if not impossible – to quantify. There’s a definite correlation between, say, a high visibility TV branding
campaign and an increase in brand awareness. But you can’t really pin down its actual monetary value.
There are some interesting parallels online.
Direct response campaigns like email marketing generate measurable returns. As does SEO, which visibly increases
physical visitor numbers.
Social media marketing is a different kettle of fish, similar to above the line marketing. You can tweet until you’re blue in
the face but it isn’t always possible to relate your spend to actual income.
Having said that, Twitter and co are slowly coming into their own as far as relatively ethereal stuff like reputation
management and brand building is concerned.
Above and below the fold... what’s it all about?
Recent research shows that website visitors spend 80% of their time ’above the fold’.
What’s above the fold? It’s all the stuff you can see without having to scroll down a web page.
Obviously people do scroll down. The point is, they pay much more attention to the information at the top of a web
page than they do to the content that appears later.
So it makes sense to prioritise your most important and strongest points – ie. those that drive sales - at the top of your
page, with supporting information and fine detail further down.
If there’s stuff below the fold that you really want people to see, for instance free delivery details, put a strong visual
prompt at the top of the page to encourage them to scroll down.
Like so much ‘new’ marketing wisdom, the relative importance of below/above the fold content to sales isn’t new at all.
Successful direct marketers have been putting less important information below their real-life paper folds for decades!
Get your menu buttons in the right order
Prioritise your website menu and improve sales conversion.
When you prioritise the information on a web page with sales in mind, you engage visitors, guide search engines and
improve conversion rates.
The same goes for your menu. The most important buttons – in a sales context – should come first. The fine detail can
be left ’til later.
• when your menu buttons are in logical order, visitors are more likely to read the sales focused information first…
• …and more likely to buy into your customer journey at the correct stage
• a sensible menu order also encourages sales because people can find key information instantly without having to
delve deep for it
• plus you’ll give search engines a handy clue about the relative relevance and importance of the information on your
Treat data analysis with a pinch of common sense salt
It’s unwise to make sweeping assumptions about overall customer behaviour based on the way networkers
It might be tempting to analyse the preferences, reactions and buying behaviour of a large social network database,
extrapolating your findings to make assumptions about the population in general.
It might sound sensible to analyse a member database and use your findings to make assumptions about non members.
But if you do, you’ll be missing a trick.
People who naturally enjoy ‘joining in’ have a unique profile. They’re very different from those who prefer not to join in.
Yes, billions of people belong to at least one social or business network. They’re the joiners in. But there are also billions
of others who have no interest in networking, online or offline, socially or for business. They’re very different animals.
Here’s an example. Take the UK’s Federation of Small Businesses. There are millions of small businesses and sole
traders in the UK, a proportion of whom join the FSB. A small percentage of those who join are active members,
attending conferences and getting directly involved in shaping the business landscape.
You could extrapolate findings about the buying behaviour of this small group of highly active FSB members and apply
them to ordinary members. You could even apply your findings to the small business arena as a whole. But your
assumptions would be worth very little. They could even be commercial suicide.
As usual, common sense is your best bet. Always treat data analysis with a healthy pinch of salt!
Article submissions versus great site content
John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google Zurich, says it makes more sense from an SEO perspective
to create quality content for your own website rather than give away great content, via article distribution, to
It takes a lot of time and effort to create, run and maintain a successful website. So it makes sense to keep the credit
for excellent content yourself instead of giving articles to a bunch of random strangers.
OK, you’ll get a few links when people use your content and, fingers crossed, link back to your site. But Google prefers
natural SEO. People naturally appreciate quality content and a percentage of them will link back to your site as a matter
It’s also good to be unique. Google and co appreciate unique content, placing more value on it than stuff that’s
duplicated all over the internet like a nasty rash.
Quality is at the heart of everything Google does. As long as you bear the quality of internet users’ experience in mind,
you won’t go far wrong. Here’s a link to a collection of excellent SEO tips straight from Google’s mouth:
Putting users first...
Whatever medium you’re using and whatever you want to achieve from it, it’s always best to put internet
Search engines love to give users the best possible online experience. When you put the user experience first, Google
and co look on your website favourably. That means pleasing internet users in general – the online community – as well
as those who visit your site.
But how do you know what’ll keep internet users happy?
Easy. You’re an internet user. Ask yourself what an excellent online experience means to you. You’ll probably come up
with something like this:
• finding really exciting, interesting, relevant information
• discovering a site that’s fantastically logical and easy to use
• reading without a struggle because it’s clear and well laid out
• getting exactly where you want to be in the minimum possible number of steps
• finding the information you need at a glance
• tracking down unique knowledge that’s written with authority and expertise
• buying cool stuff in a few clicks without faffing about
• enjoying the perfect site that covers everything you need in one place
Don’t trust your spellchecker - it could cost you a fortune!
It’s always risky to rely on spellcheckers because they don’t take context into account.
There’s a great story in the news this week about an Aussie cook book in which one recipe asked readers to add freshly
ground black people. Obviously it was an innocent mistake. They meant black pepper. But these are strange times,
and political correctness is king.
As it happens the publisher had to destroy 7,000 copies, which cost a fair few dollars. If they’d been unlucky, and the
mistake less obviously innocent, they could have faced legal action.
Once, long ago, I printed 60,000 direct mail leaflets with the signatory T. Bollock. It should have said T. Bullock. Obvi-
ously the whole episode went down like a fart at a Bar Mitzvah. Luckily I wasn’t sued either. But it just goes to show,
you can’t be too careful!
Spellcheckers check spelling, but not context. The word ‘people’ isn’t a spelling mistake, nor is ‘bollock’! The moral of the
tale – get someone who knows their stuff to proofread your copy or content before approving it for upload or print.
Your maxiumum meta description length is 152 characters
But it’s a limit, not a target.
A strong, sales focused, benefit led meta description works wonders for SEO. But do you need to use all 152 characters?
No. It’s best to use common sense rather than slavishly create 152 character meta descriptions every single time:
• a short, sharp meta description can sometimes make your point more powerfully
• make your meta descriptions readable and impactful
• remember to include your top key word for each page
• include your USP – check what your top competitor is saying and improve on it
• keep it real and relevant, don’t over-promise or you’ll disappoint visitors
• test meta descriptions to identify which performs best
• every time you change a page’s meta description, check its performance (visitor numbers and bounce rate)
Testing delivers interesting insights into response mechanisms
My clients almost always use email as their main communication medium. Me too. I much prefer it to the
telephone. It’s less intrusive, more efficient and effective. And it helps me keep accurate records.
A few weeks ago I decided to remove my mobile number from my two freelance copywriting websites altogether.
As soon as I did, email enquiries abruptly stopped. Which wasn’t a problem. I was on holiday anyway so wasn’t keen to
spend precious leisure time glued to my PC.
Two weeks later I still wasn’t getting any enquiries. Not one. And I usually get at least two or three a day. So I
reinstated my telephone number on-site. And work started flooding through as usual the next day… like turning on a
A few useful things to bear in mind:
• just because people don’t usually contact you by telephone doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate having a choice of
• there’s a strong possibility that including a phone number on-site boosts credibility and fosters trust
• sometimes making changes to your website can cause havoc with response and conversion. Keep a sharp eye on
both every time you amend your site and you’ll be able to back-track fast if things go dog-shaped!
• archive old versions of web pages so you don’t have to recreate them from scratch if you need them again
Remember to promote your site’s internal pages
It’s wise to promote your internal pages as well as your site’s index page.
Why? If you’ve designed your site structure with SEO in mind you’ll probably have a fistful of pages named after your
most powerful long tail phrases. For example, one of my sites has pages called:
If you optimise each page for the long term phrase it’s named after, then promote each page in its own right, you’ll drive
tightly targeted traffic to your pages.
• when someone wants, say, a fluffy green parrot kit, they type fluffy green parrot kit into their search engine
• if you promote your fluffy green parrot page well enough, your page will be returned high in the search results
• when they click on your link they’re taken direct to your fluffy green parrot kits page, without having to navigate
from your home page
• provided the price is right a % of them will buy from you
There’s a second bonus. If you’re in a competitive sector and can’t beat the big boys on popular top level key words,
promoting specific internal pages could be the best way to beat the competition and get your site in front of buyers.
Last but never least, promoting your site’s internal pages helps your site look ’natural’ to search engines, who prefer
natural growth based on merit to heavy SEO. Whereas having thousands of links to your home page – and none to
internal pages - looks far from natural.
Monitor your online buying behaviour...
...and apply what you learn to your website
There are loads of things you can do to optimise your website for visitors. But are you missing a trick? Making
assumptions is one thing. It’s also useful to think creatively about persuading people to buy.
How? Here’s a simple exercise that’ll help you pin down unforseen ways to enhance your visitors’ experience and boost
• Every time you buy from a site you haven’t used before, make a note of the main reason you chose that site over
the others you looked at
• At the same time jot down the main reason why you didn’t buy from the other sites you visited
You’ll find, like all of us, that you respond well to solid practical stuff like great copy, clear navigation, good value, a
choice of ways to pay, sensible layout etcetera. But you might also find yourself responding positively to things you
didn’t expect and couldn’t have predicted.
Eventually patterns will emerge. Persuade friends, family and colleagues to join in and you’ll have a healthy bank of
data, potentially sprinkled with nuggets of sales conversion gold. Then apply what you’ve learned to your site and see if
Should I use long or short copy to sell my ebook?
The long versus short copy argument has been rumbling on since the 1950s. And it’s still going strong.
In reality there’s no hard and fast rule. Successful direct marketing is much more subtle and intelligent than that.
The best way of deciding whether to use long or short copy to sell your ebook is to apply common sense. Your ebook
might benefit from longer sales copy if:
• it covers an unusual or commonly misunderstood subject that needs explaining in depth
• it is about a completely new concept that people aren’t familiar with
• you’ve priced it high - in general the more expensive a product, the harder you need to work
On the other hand there’s no point rambling on and on when your ebook is:
• simple, covering a subject that doesn’t need detailed explanation
Some say that there’s no such thing as long or short copy, just good or bad copy. I agree. As a general rule your sales
copy should be exactly as long – or short – as it needs to be to do the job.
What’s your site’s Alexa ranking?
While Google’s Page Rank indicates how important your site is compared to other sites, your Alexa rank
shows how many site visitors you get compared to other sites.
Ideally you want to aim for the highest possible Goole Page rank and the lowest possible Alexa rank.
The best possible Alexa rank is 1, the worst is a billion. The best Google Page Rank is 10, the worst ’n/a’.
Here’s a handy little tool that tells you your Alexa rank. Keep an eye on the numbers and see if over time, via DIY SEO,
you can lower it as your site visitor numbers increase.
Choosing effective keywords
Research plurals and singulars
Some people search Google and co for goods and services using plurals, others use singular words and phrases.
Here’s an example. Say you sell bathrooms. One of your most popular search terms might be bathroom suites. But it’s
also worth finding out how many potential customers search for bathroom suite.
If your main competitors are busy fighting over a singular key word or phrase, focusing on the plural alternative – and
vice versa – can give you a useful competitive edge in the search engine results pages
How to stop Google personalising your search results
If you’re neck deep in DIY SEO and want to find out your latest positions in Google’s search results, don’t
forget to disable the personalised search option first!
What are personalised search results? In the interests of improving your search experience, unless you tell Google not to
it’ll return results based on your previous searches and the sites you’ve visited in the past.
Why disable personalised search results? As a normal punter they’re harmless enough. As a marketer they’re misleading.
If you want to check your positions for various keywords you want clean data. You need to see what the rest of the
world sees, not results that have been skewed to take your own tastes and behaviour into account.
So how do you avoid getting personalised results from Google searches? Simple.
Go here and download the excellent Yoast plug-in, which works for both Internet Explorer and Firefox: http://yoast.com
Thanks to Drayton Bird for these two small but perfectly formed little gems:
• The golden rule of marketing is – give your customers what they want
• The golden rule of targeting is – go where your customers go
Perfect. If you’d like to get a regular email from Drayton, each packed to the rafters with the best in direct response
wisdom, just register on Drayton’s site: www.draytonbird.com
More small businesses test social media marketing
Research by http://growsmartbusiness.com/ indicates a recent increase in social media marketing by small
• one in five of the 500 US small business owners questioned confirmed they use social media for marketing
• 69% post status updates, news and links on social networks
• 61% claim they use social media to find and attract new prospects and customers
• 57% have built a network of new prospects via social media websites
• 39% run an industry-specific blog
• 50% of small businesses using social media for marketing say it takes up much more time than they’d expected it to
• 17% feel that social networks are negative, just encouraging consumers to criticise their business
• 6% said using social media has done their business more harm than good
• 45% expect social media to break even or turn a profit in the next year
• overall social media marketing is the third biggest investment small businesses are planning to make over the next
There’s still no sign of social media marketing giving birth to new revenue streams. So far it seems to be working very
much like offline ‘above the line’ advertising, slowly building brands and reputations rather than driving direct sales. It’ll
be interesting to find out exactly how businesses will make social media marketing profitable in the next twelve months.
Win Google’s love - an excellent SEO ebook
Do you need a straightforward, plain language guide to DIY SEO?
I’m lucky to have strong personal connections in the UK SEO industry. So I know a good SEO guide when I see one.
Too few SEO ebooks are written in plain English. And too many authors blind their readers with science. This ebook is
different. It is well written, in logical order, set to a wonderfully clear format and it covers everything you need to know
about DIY SEO.
Win Google’s Love: Tips for Increasing Traffic to Your Website comes highly recommended:
If you know absolutely nothing about SEO this ebook is a great place to start. If your knowledge of SEO is sketchy, it’s a
great way to fill the gaps. If you already know a lot about SEO it’s a great aide memoire.
Making changes to your website?
This sounds blindingly obvious but it’s a really good idea to check your website every time you make even the tiniest
change, just to make sure you haven’t broken it.
It’s horribly easy, especially when you’re busy or distracted, to forget to close a tag, make a spelling mistake or even
delete chunks of code inadvertently.
A quick check can make all the difference between having to spend an extra few minutes mending your code and
complete ecommerce meltdown!
11 straightforward ways to improve sales conversion
Conversion is the percentage of website visitors who ultimately buy from you.
For example if you get 1000 site visitors a day and 19 of them buy something, that’s a 1.9% conversion rate.
Attracting people to your site is one thing. Getting them to buy is another. Here’s eleven common sense ways to
increase sales conversion:
1. create clear, compelling, inspirational sales copy, targeted directly to your core audience’s needs
2. lose the small print, avoid jargon, turn every potential negative into a persuasive positive
3. make it easy for prospects to ask questions. Then deliver the answers as fast as possible
4. make buying a clean, smooth, logical and pleasurable experience. The more complex, longer or exasperating you
make it, the fewer people will stick it out to the end
5. provide plain English reassurance about security and privacy in the right places, at the right times
6. cater for everyone’s needs by giving people a choice of ways to buy wherever it’s practical. Online, over the phone,
7. ...the same goes for payment methods. The more choice you give, the more prospects will be able to buy from you
8. use a buyer’s name – personalising the buying process helps people feel a human connection with your business
9. build and maintain a good, trustworthy reputation by fulfilling orders quickly, efficiently and politely
10. keep your prices competitive. If they’re too high you’ll lose sales to your competitors no matter how much you
spend on SEO, advertising and marketing
11. test different offers, prices, descriptions, images, sales processes etcetera until you identify the best converters
Make the most of your email opt out
If you’re emailing B2B you don’t need to ask people to opt in. But it’s best practice to include an opt out.
Email opt outs are usually negative, which is probably why most marketers prefer to make them as unobtrusive as
Because people tend to respond very well to honesty and transparency, I prefer to give email opt out text fair
prominence. And I like to make it positive. That way it reinforces the brand I’m writing about and adds to its credibility.
Here are three examples of positive email opt outs:
• I’m sending you this offer because I genuinely believe it’ll help your business. If you don’t want to hear from me in
future, just let me know and I’ll never darken your doors again!
• I found your contact details on your website. I hope you don’t mind me emailing you. All you have to do is let me
know and I won’t bother you again. Otherwise I’ll keep sending you exciting, relevant stuff !
• We’re a respected organisation and we only make genuine offers. We respect you too. If you’d prefer not to hear
from us we’ll take you off our special list straight away.
Toxic marketing - avoid flixter.com
Last night I got an email from a friend saying they’d left me a private message at flixter.com.
Because I trust my friend, I followed the link. And opened up a whole world of shady marketing practices.
Clicking the link took me to a registration screen. Fair enough. Ronnie had left me a private message after all. So I filled
The next screen asked for a whole load of personal information, at which point I took a step back and became
suspicious. Why do I need to give them all this info just to collect a message?
I skipped that page and went to the next, which involved waiting while they allegedly ‘created my account’. They
advised me to click through a load of special offers ‘while you wait’. So I did. There are pages and pages of adverts. Not
good. At this point I ducked out of the process because it felt so dodgy.
This morning I had another go, to see if it felt as nasty in the cold light of day. It did.
Not only that. I unsubscribed from any more contact with flixter, then tried to register under another email address to
check the process out again as reference for this post. Aha… they say my second email address is already registered. As
is the third email address I tried. Buggers… I don’t like this at all.
In my view there’s so much wrong with flixter from a marketing perspective that it’s hard to know where to start. So I
won’t go into detail. But this is direct marketing without morals.
In fact I can’t be certain flixter isn’t just a mechanism for harvesting personal data. Possibly for nefarious purposes.
That’s the impression it gives. I also don’t believe my friend Ronnie really sent me a private message. I reckon flixter are
spammers. Avoid at all costs!
Include more than 8 people in the decision-making process...
...and they’ll find it almost impossible to decide!
Last year New Scientist featured research proving how difficult it was for more than eight people to reach consensus.
Apparently fewer than eight people can make decisions relatively efficiently and effectively. But the moment you hit
eight things go dog-shaped.
It makes sense to me. In the olden days when I was a financial services direct marketer, getting copy approval from big
blue chip insurance clients was always a complete nightmare.
Because copy and creative had to go through multiple departments and individuals for approval – invariably more than
eight - we’d get trapped in a horrible Groundhog Day scenario. Every time us marketers thought we could go to print it’d
embark on another spontaneous round of the same people and departments, all of whom felt they had to approve their
OK, the campaign would eventually be approved. But the copy was almost always reduced either to gobbledegook or
something so bland you might as well have sent wallpaper.
Remember Kyoto, and more recently Copenhagen? In retrospect it seems naive to expect consensus from more than
100 heads of state…
Conclusion: if you want solid, sensible consensus decisions that’ll benefit your business, don’t involve more than seven
people in making them!
When was the last time you did some offline marketing?
Around 40% of online purchases are influenced by offline campaigns
Offline marketing isn’t very fashionable at the moment. Everyone’s so excited about social media and SEO that
real-world marketing has been trampled underfoot in the rush. But a recent iProspect survey highlights the value of
Apparently almost 40% of online searchers make a purchase after being influenced by offline media campaigns. That’s
stuff like television adverts, local and national newspapers, free papers, magazine ads, the trade press, radio, posters,
billboards, brochures, fliers, leaflets, postcards, promotions, advertorials, point of sale materials, catalogues and direct
Here’s what influenced searchers most:
• TV ad 44%
• word of mouth 41%
• newspaper or magazine ad 35%
• radio 23%
• billboard ad or poster 13%
So there’s still a clear business case for integrated marketing across multiple media, online and offline. Some things
Say all you can afford is a tiny direct mail campaign. Provided it’s targeted as
tightly as a gnat’s chuff, and well considered, it should have a positive impact
on sales. And you’ll also benefit from the sum of your exposure and brand
equity being larger than the constituent parts. Which is exactly what integrated
marketing is all about.
Go forth and integrate!
Does page loading speed make any difference to your Google ranking?
It might not make a huge difference now… but it might start to matter soon!
Rumour has it that the next Google page rank algorithm update will give page loading speed more importance.
Presumably they’ll be encouraging faster page loading, discouraging people from building hefty, fat pages.
Even if the rumours aren’t true, it’s best practice to make sure your pages load quickly and smoothly. Why? Because un-
til everyone has access to decent broadband speeds - which is a long way off yet - complicated pages still load horribly
And there’s more. Feed your visitors all the fancy graphics you like, but pretty pictures won’t increase their chronically
short attention spans!
Some useful information about page loading speed:
• remember most of the world doesn’t have access to broadband yet. In fact billions of people till use a basic dialup
• keep your pages simple. Whizzy graphics and resource-heavy styling might look cool but unless they increase sales
conversion, what’s the point?
• use physically smaller, low resolution images or manipulate big images so they load faster without losing quality
• make sure every page loads in less than 15 seconds. It might not sound like long but it feels like forever when
you’re staring at your screen waiting for something to happen
• use thumbnail images – many of today’s design and graphics applications include automatic thumbnail generation
• forget animations… unless they have a direct and measurable positive effect on sales converison they’ll only slow
• if the same image needs to appear in several places on-site, use a single image rather than several images with dif-
• avoid designing with tables because they tend to load slower. Join the 21st century and use .css instead
• maintain your back end databases properly so they don’t get clogged up – especially relevant to ecommerce sites
Want to check how fast your web pages load? Here’s a useful free site speed checking tool:
Alternatively hook up with Google’s site speed checker and take it from there:
Creating new site content?
Check your code!
Here’s a simple, free way to check your web page code for glaring mistakes.
Why bother? Because some html coding issues directly affect your search engine rankings as well as causing potential
problems for visitors. Most coding errors are very easy to correct, so it is almost rude not to!
I particularly like this free tool because:
• unlike most it delivers a plain English explanation of what’s gone wrong and how to mend it
• there’s a professional version that you can buy if you like this ’lite’ version’s style. In addition it checks your .css,
links, spelling, accessibility and more, also in beautifully plain language
Here’s a link to OnlineWebCheck: www.onlinewebcheck.com/check.php
Get the basics right - your top 3 priorities for updating an old website
Your website needs a spring clean. So where do you start?
If the task seems daunting, not to worry. Here’s your top three key actions.
1. Research and identify your business’s primary and secondary keywords and key phrases using free online resources
like the Google Adwords tool. Why? Because there’s very little point writing new copy without taking keywords and
phrases into account. You’ll only have to go back and crowbar them in later.
2. Rewrite your website including the keywords and phrases you’ve identified. Why? It’s sensible to get your content into
shape before you start attracting visitors and getting search engines all excited.
3. Redesign your site with SEO in mind. Chances are if your site content’s out of date your design will be out of date too.
A decent designer will take visitor needs into account. They’ll use their expertise to create a clear graphical user
interface. They’ll write beautiful, SEO-friendly, standards compliant code in powerful source code order and much more.
Should I use US or UK English on my website?
Here’s a few common sense guidelines about using US English versus UK English
• it sounds glaringly obvious but if you have a dotcodotuk site use UK English. And if your site is mainly US-focused,
use American English
• if it isn’t immediately obvious where your visitors and customers come from, find out from your webstats and write
for the majority
What if you’re global?
If your customers live all over the world, you can’t really win. Luckily the biggest difference between UK and US
English is the spelling. While you’ll probably annoy a few people no matter which you use, at least the differences in
spelling won’t mislead them.
Sometimes the same words mean completely different things. Americans might feel comfy wandering the streets in
pants and vest, but in the UK we’d probably be arrested for it! Public school, brackets and first floor have different
If you can, stick to words that mean the same thing in both countries and sidestep the contentious ones. There’s usually
a perfectly good work-around if you think creatively about copywriting.
SEO: How do your web pages stack up against the competition?
Are you streets ahead of your competitors? Or have they stolen your SEO thunder?
If a competitor’s pages are beating yours hands down in Google’s search results, it’s a good idea to find out why. Then
Here’s a nice little free online SEO tool that lets you compare various SEO aspects of two pages side by side. It analyses:
• key words
• bold and italics
• page titles
• meta data
• the most frequently used two and three word phrases
Then delivers a simple report showing you how the two pages relate to one another. And it gives you a rough idea of
how much work’s needed to get your page working harder.
Here’s the link: http://www.seomastering.com/site-comparison.php
SEO - focused source code
As well as copywriting, I write and edit ebooks. I added a special ebook editing page to my ebook website,
blancminge.com, in December 2009.
As I write, on 19th January 2010, my ebook editing page’s positions in Google SERPs are:
key phrase: ebook editing:
No 1 on page 1 of Google UK
No 1 on page 2 of Google web
key phrase: ebook editing services:
No 1 on page 1 of Google UK
No 4 on page 1 of Google web
Take a look at the copy and source code on my ebook editing page and see how I’ve done it. I haven’t carried out any
link building for the page’s key terms yet. I’ve achieved this level of visibility simply by optimising my page name, meta
tags and copy.
Positive terms and conditions earn their keep
Terms & Conditions can be a genuine force for commercial good… as long as they’re written with your
customers in mind.
T&C are almost always legal gobbledegook, often lifted wholesale from a template. From a communications perspective
they’re criminally poor.
Which is a shame. Every communication is an opportunity to promote your business. In a world packed solid with dodgy
dealers, positive, honest, transparent Terms & Conditions can be powerful marketing magic.
The thing is, most lawyers would probably advise you to leave your T&C well alone. The solution?
• provide a plain language version of your T&C for people to read in tandem before signing up to the legal version.
Say something like: Because our Terms & Conditions are legally binding, they’re difficult to understand. We think it’s
nice to know what’s what, so here’s a plain English version.
• summarise each term and condition in plain English above or below the legalese. Say something like: Because our
Terms & Conditions are legally binding, they’re difficult to understand. We think it’s nice to know what’s what, so
we’ve summarised each section in plain English.
• Take the view that your T&C are a formality. Some terms and conditions are just common sense written in legalese.
For example when you join a forum it is usually a condition that you don’t swear at your fellow members. There’s
absolutely no need for simple concepts like good manners to be expressed in legalese.
• If you’re 100% risk averse, say what the hell and get a good copywriter to create a palatable document that means
the same as the legalese – but communicates it properly.
Increase conversion on ebook sales
Selling ebooks? Increase conversion with instant download
The easier you make it for people to buy, the more of them will take the plunge.
If you’re selling ebooks or other downloadable products, let people download them instantly as soon as they’ve paid. As
long as people actually want to buy what you’re selling, it’s a sure-fire way to increase conversion. You’ll hook impulse
How? Try ejunkie. It’s an extremely cheap and efficient way to let people pay by PayPal, Google and a load more major
secure payment gateways. It only takes a few minutes to set up an account, upload your ebooks and generate button
code to for each toadd to your site.
I subscribe to their cheapest service, five US dollars a month, which more than covers my needs. In my case a person
clicks on the ‘add to cart’ button to buy my ebooks. They’re taken to PayPal. Once they’ve paid they download their
ebooks instantly. I get a copy of the transaction for my records. All this takes place off-site. All I do is add a bit of simple
See e-junkie in action on my ebooks website: www.blancminge.com
Avoid doorway pages - they’re bad news
What is a doorway page?
• a doorway page is designed purely with SEO in mind – a page absolutely stuffed with key words and phrases
• because it is created exclusively to rank high in search engine results, it doesn’t take human visitors into account
• it will either contain a link to another site or will automatically re-direct you to another site
Why are doorway pages a bad idea?
They’re frowned upon because search engine algorithms are written to provide humans with the best possible search
experience. Doorway pages take the mickey by trying to cheat the system. They dilute search engines’ effectiveness.
Are doorway pages considered ’black hat’?
Yes. While a sneaky doorway page might deliver a temporary spike in traffic, you risk a stiff penalty from Google and co
if you’re rumbled.
Cheating search engines isn’t worth the bother. It takes just as much effort as legitimate marketing. If your search
engine optimisation person suggests doorway pages, drop ‘em fast before they get your business into trouble.
31 reasons why press releases fail
So many press releases sink without a trace. Here are 31 common sense reasons why your news might not
be seeing the light of day
• It’s boring! You might think your news is amazing but be honest with yourself… is it really newsworthy?
• You haven’t targeted your release properly – are you sending out news about green widgets to an audience of blue
• You’ve sent it to the wrong person – many publications have more than one editor / specialist editors
• You sent it at the weekend, or first thing Monday morning when everyone’s in box is overflowing with the weekend’s
spam ‘n’ kipple
• It sounds like an advert for your business rather than a legitimate news item
• You’ve forgotten to include full contact details
• Your headline didn’t catch their eye
• You attempted to be funny and clever but just ended up sounding weird
• You tried busy editors’ patience by being needlessly mysterious
• You wrote too much
• You wrote too little
• You used technical language and blinded them with science
• You blew your own trumpet far too hard
• You focused on the features of your product but forgot about the benefits
• Your release was so dense and poorly formatted that people couldn’t be bothered to read it
• You were shamelessly biased
• Your message was confused / confusing
• You responded to relevent circumstances too slowly
• Wild, exaggerated claims made editors suspicious
• You forgot to include a call to action and response mechanisms
• You didn’t carry out a follow up - which can boost response significantly
• You didn’t say anything fresh, just repeated old news
• You wrote to ‘dear Sir or Madam’ instead of personalising your message
• You didn’t include quotes from pertinent people
• You used poor English - your release was badly written, spelled and punctuated
• You were rude about a fellow business or individual
• You sent it in a format they couldn’t work with
• You missed a deadline
• The publication uses someone else as their regular, trusted supplier for feedback on a particular subject
• You only send a release once in a blue moon
• You don’t sound confident
6 top uses for testimonials
Customer testimonials. Useful, right?
More useful than you might think! Here’s five top ways to make the most of testimonials.
1. Use a testimonal to introduce every web page, like this, and they’ll give your sales message a powerful little boost
• Header: You deserve a brilliantly clean home!
• Subhead: Brighton’s favourite cleaning company
• Testimonial: “I’ve used BrightInBrighton for a year now and they’ve never let me down. My home is always
• Body copy: BrightInBrighton deliver superb quality cleaning services (etc)
2. Use several short testimonials on your sales page, where they’ll work hard to increase conversion
3. Create a dedicated testimonial page and add new praise regularly. You’ll benefit from SEO juice, enhanced visitor
interest and valuable extra credibility
4. Use a short testimonial to lend power to your email marketing campaign – we all enjoy knowing what other people
think and we like to trust our fellow consumers
5. Include testimonials with the stuff you sell and hammer your quality message home. They’ll help you encourage
repeat visits, increase sales, cross sales and up-sales…
• on the cover of your ebook
• designed into your product’s packaging
• printed on delivery notes
6. Create a regular ‘what our customers say’ section in your newsletter. It’s a good place to display
longer testimonials and entire letters full of praise without interfering with your core sales message.
People like to read about their peers’ experiences and good news helps create a positive, trusted
PS. Dont forget you can use testimonials from peers and experts within your field as well as customers.
Chase long tail key phrases for tighter targeting
SEO is all about achieving a prominent rank in search engine results for your most profitable and relevant key
words and phrases.
But what happens when multiple businesses chase the same phrases?
If you’re a smaller business you probably can’t afford to compete with the big boys on popular key terms. So it’s time to
work smarter, not harder. Clever marketers are chasing ‘long tail’ terms instead.
‘Long tail’ terms are less popular search terms. They fall into the long ‘tail’ that trails away to the right of the Pareto
distribution graph I’ve shown. It doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a long term per se. Having said that, long tail search terms
are usually longer than popular terms.
If you sell widgets your primary search term is probably ’widgets’. But your major competitors have collared the market
for it. They’re all over page one of Google for ‘widgets’. What to do? Dig deeper.
Targeting is nothing new. Direct marketers have been targeting campaigns for half a century or more and it can work
brilliantly online. Concentrating your SEO efforts on longer tail search terms lets you target website traffic much more
What does that mean? Say you sell every colour and style of widgets. Instead of bashing your head against the wall
trying to rank high in search engine results pages for the term ‘widgets’, drill down a level. Going progressively deeper,
you might choose things like:
• widgets by colour: green widgets, mauve widgets etc
• widgets by colour and location: mauve widgets Middlesbrough, mauve widgets Brighton etc
• widgets by size, colour and location: small mauve widgets Middlesbrough etc
Advantages of ranking high for long tail search terms
• because you target your stuff directly to people who are searching for exactly that, visitors are more likely to convert
• it lets you compete in the same arena as the big boys. They have zillions of visitors and a relatively low conversion
rate. You’ll attract fewer visitors but your conversion rate should be better
• it’ll cost you less to gain good positions for long tail terms by natural SEO than it would to chase primary terms
• Pay Per Click for long tail terms tends to be cheaper, potentially bringing PPC within your budget
Identifying your best long tail phrases is easy, you just need to know the ins and outs. Read on for the next instalment:
how to identify the best long tail phrases.
How to identify long tailphrases
Five ways to help you identify long tail phrases
• Analytics software: Either use a dedicated programme or analyse your data yourself to find which long tail phrases
people are currently using to find you. Bear in mind you need a decent chunk of data to get statistically relevant
• Google Suggest: Not what it’s designed for, but Google Suggest comes up with really cool ideas using current data
from the web’s most popular searches
• Keyword research tools: There are loads of free keyword research tools online. It’s their job to help you create
automatic lists of relevant long tail options
• Ask other people: “What would you type into Google if you were looking for a…?”
• Use your imagination: Do all of the above then shake your imagination hard and bring everything that falls out to
Once you’ve got a decent list you can winkle out your strongest options with a Venn diagram.
• Revisit your long tail phrases regularly to make sure you’re on the ball and up to date
• Get empirical evidence to back your assumptions – test long tail phrases to identify the most profitable
When spinning goes bad!
I’ve mentioned spinning software a couple of times before.
It takes a piece of copy, say a press release or article. Replaces the similies. And swaps paragraphs around. The result?
Multiple versions of the same piece that differ enough to avoid being slapped by search engines for duplicate content.
Include a link in each, publish them in places where they’ll benefit your SEO and you’re off. You build backlinks faster
with less human effort.
I’ve also mentioned how spinning can go horribly wrong. If the person setting up the software doesn’t have a deep
knowledge of English things can get very weird. It’s no good just copying lists of similies from your Thesaurus and
dropping them in. Similies aren’t direct replacements for words. As their name suggests, they’re similar.
If you use spinning software properly and write your original piece carefully to suit the way it works, you can create
excellent quality content that’s good for search engines and humans. If you don’t, this is what happens…
Here’s a handful of classic examples – spun business descriptions submitted to my online directory.
• This is the best site to find affectionate hemorrorhoid doctors
• Enrich the pool of various hairstyles and haircare. Share your reasonable views through our window
• True reality is far more than the mind and body that each individual traditionally puts so much importance in and
this website aims to help people towards knowing something to be really enjoyed especially as it is so instantly
within the grasp of all
And my all time favourite
Astonish comes when those underwear for women are magnifiently delivered to your doorstep. Imagine your delight
when your underwear arrives, it can sit on your face.
Brilliant. But I’m glad the person who spun that isn’t in charge of marketing my business!
Does Twitter deliver real business benefits?
Sometimes the benefits are crysral clear
In the autumn my host disappeared off the planet for a week and all my sites went down. The host phone number was
dead and they weren’t answering emails.
I’d been with them eight years but their communication was so crap throughout the crisis that my loyalty flew right out
of the window. I jumped ship as soon as I could transfer my url.
This week my new hosts’s server went down for a couple of hours. In contrast they kept their customers up to date with
what was happening – and why – via Twitter.
• they sidestepped a load of irate telephone calls and emails, giving themselves time and space to get on with solving
• they managed the situation effectively and avoided a potential PR disaster
• customers knew exactly what was happening in real time
By using Twitter intelligently they’ve probably:
• reinforced existing customer loyalty by resolving the issue quickly
• boosted their brand by being brave enough to acknowledge and solve a difficult issue in a very public arena
• attracted valuable positive attention from potential new prospects
In this context spending a few moments breaking crucial news via Twitter is worth its weight in marketing gold. In other
contexts the business benefits of social media marketing are less clear cut.
Conversion analysis - good copy converts
You want your online business to boom? Simply stuffing your copy with keywords isn’t good enough.
Too many people forget that visitors aren’t customers. You can attract a million visitors a day but if none of them buy,
what’s the point?
Direct marketers have used conversion analysis to maximise sales for decades. Online marketers are starting to catch
on, realising there’s a lot more to money-spinning commercial content than keywords. And that visitors are bugger-all
use unless they spend money.
If you want hard working SEO friendly copy with a big commercial punch, include key words and phrases so search
engines get the picture. But also make sure your site content is:
• intelligent, interesting and relevant
• marketing-led, constructed to drive visitors to convert
• easy to read, written in plain language
• formatted for fast scanning - most people don’t read websites, they scan them for the bits they’re most interested in
• properly punctuated
and that it includes:
• a strong call to action in an appropriate place
• a choice of ways to respond (email, form, freephone, mobile, fax etc)
Don’t let caveats muddy your sales proposition
Caveats are insidious. Don’t let them take over your sales message.
It is best to avoid caveats altogether. Why?
• caveats interfere with your sales proposition
• reading is a challenge because your flow is constantly interrupted by irritating little swords and asterisks
• caveats make you sound negative
• and, contrarily, they make you seem less trustworthy
Is it possible to avoid caveats altogether?
Yes. It’s easy. Turn them into positives instead. Make them earn their keep. Here’s an example. Replace the caveat
*Offer valid for a limited time only with a sentence in your body copy, loud and proud: Hurry, this great offer won’t be
What if you can’t make a caveat positive?
There’s always a positive side. If there genuinely isn’t, think again. It’s probably a better idea to reconsider and make
people an offer worth accepting!
What if you can’t bear to clear out the caveats?
Put them all in your Terms & Conditions or Agreement, where they’ll work their hardest to reassure people rather than
scaring them off.
Catch and direct your reader’s eye with bold body text
Clarity is everything… so be bold!
Your website might be packed with the planet’s most persuasive content. But if people find it a challenge to pick out the
information they need you’ll lose them before they buy.
As well as all the usual things like headers, subheads and bullets, you can pick out pertinent words and phrases by
emboldening key elements of your body copy.
Too much emboldening looks wrong, so don’t overdo it. Keep visitors at the front of your mind and you should strike the
right balance – only embolden words and phrases when it’ll improve the visitor experience.
Because search engines tend to classify emboldened text as important too, emboldening also has a small SEO benefit.
How to get the best customer testimonials
As a freelance copywriter I’m very aware how little time – and inclination – most people have to write stuff
So it’s no surprise that getting customers to provide testimonials, comments and case studies can be a challenge.
My tip? Write the testimonial or case study yourself. Then ask your customer to approve it.
Which sounds ridiculously simple. But it’s an incredibly effective way to get what you need within a reasonable
Strong meta descriptions and page titles win visitors
Powerful meta descriptions and page titles win human visitors and keep search engines happy.
Write strong meta titles
Not so long ago page title tags – meta titles – were crucial to SEO, picked up by search engine algorithms as a key
Today their power has diminished. But because, when marketing, humans are just as important as search engines it is
still a good idea to write a goodie. A strong meta title will attract more people to click through to your site.
• meta titles still help with SEO, so you might as well take advantage
• it’ll help your listing stand out above the rest in the search results and encourage click-throughs to your site
• in fact, many people make the decision to visit a site – or not – based on the meta description… so it is a mini-
marketing opportunity not to be missed
What should my meta titles look like?
Search engines all display a different number of page title characters. But because Google is still the most popular
search engine, many people stick to Google’s limit of around 60 characters. Do this and your whole title will display
properly in Google’s search results and your message won’t get cut off in its prime.
If you want to make the most of your page title across all search engines, you can use up to 120 characters. Yahoo, for
example, displays significantly more characters than Google. If you do this, make sure that the first 60 characters of
your meta title makes sense on its own. That way it’ll display sensibly in Google as well as Yahoo.
• create a unique meta title for every web page
• use it to describes the content of each page accurately and succinctly in an entertaining way
Write powerful meta descriptions
Like your page title, your page’s meta description appears in a tag in the head of each web page’s code. Search engines
use meta descriptions to rank sites, as well as displaying the text in their search results pages. So they’re a vital element
of the marketing mix.
What should my meta title look like?
Create a unique meta description for every page of your website. Use it to showcase exciting and relevant info that you
haven’t showcased in your meta title.
• make the description easy to read and entertaining, punctuated properly, in plain English
• ensure your meta description describes the content of each page accurately
• use your top key words in your meta description. But don’t over-cook it or you’ll look and sound spammy
How about length? Use a maximum of 160 characters. Each search engine displays meta descriptions differently. Google
shows 160 characters. As I’ve already mentioned, because Google is still the most popular search engine it is probably
wise to focus most of your energy on Google for the time being.
Make your Wordpress blog work harder with plugins
Install these two plugins for marketing benefits!
Wordpress is one of the planet’s most popular open source blog packages. It also provides a huge number of useful
What’s a plugin? It’s an extra bit of software that you install to do stuff that the Wordpress package doesn’t do.
Some are for fun, others have a serious commercial purpose. Here’s two of the best:
• I love social bookmarking – rather than trying to crowbar code into your Wordpress files, choose this plugin and let
visitors bookmark your posts in a wide variety of popular social networks including Digg, Del.icio.us and Stumble-
• all in one SEO pack – instead of fiddling around optimising all the various elements of your blog for SEO, install this
plugin. It’ll make your blog SEO-friendly, automatically
Shall I open my blog to comments... or not?
In the olden days the first bloggers used their blogs – or ‘web logs’ – as simple online diaries.
It didn’t take long for people to discover that blogging is a superb way to update a site regularly and easily. And it soon
became clear that blogs, used wisely, have very significant SEO benefits.
But do you have to open your blog up to comments? And if you don’t, will it still deliver SEO juice?
If you disallow blog comments:
• your content will still have a significant positive effect on site visibility…
• … provided you include key words and phrases in your posts wisely and consistently
• fewer people will recommend your blog to friends and colleagues
• you’ll get fewer inbound links from other sites
• on the bright side, you’ll avoid aggressive feedback and comment spammers
If you allow blog comments:
• your content will have the same positive effect on site visibility, provided you write it with SEO in mind
• audience participation means you’ll probably get a lot more recommendations…
• … and reader numbers will increase faster
• you will probably also win more inbound links from people who enjoy your stuff
• on the down side, you may have to deal with aggressive feedback
• and you’ll need to watch out for comment spammers
Copywriting... what does instinct bring to the party?
According to Ray Mears, quoted in a New Scientist interview this week, “Instinct is an unconscious reading of
But instinct alone can be dangerous unless it is backed by experience. Ray Mears’ instincts are fine-tuned, supported by
many years working in his field. Which is why he’s so good at what he does.
Instinct is an important element of the copywriting process too, especially when you’re writing with a sales and
To maximise instinct’s effectiveness in a marketing context, you need experience. Without it you won’t necessarily have
the tools you need to recognise empirical signs.
Choose an expert freelance copywriter with experience in their field and you’ll be able to rely on their instincts.
Websitegrader.com delivers a useful SEO snapshot
A great free SEO tool for DIY marketers and webmasters
My business support client, Lisa at letmedothatforyou, found websitegrader.com and told me all about it. It’s an
excellently simple SEO support tool.
Websitegrader measures the marketing effectiveness of your site. The resulting report gives you plain english advice
about how to improve the marketing effectiveness of your website. And it delivers a score out of 100 based on key stuff
like basic SEO, your site traffic, social popularity and a whole load of other techhie bits and bobs.
You can work through the report, make changes to your site and re-analyse it with webgrader to see if you’ve improved
And you can display the Website Grader badge on your site once your score is good enough (my score for helpinthecity.
com is 96.5)
Avoid learning lessons the hard way - get your hosting on a safe footing!
Imagine the worst. You run an online business. And one day your host disappears off the face of the planet.
As a result your website disappears too. OK, you’re still there in Google’s search results. But if someone clicks on your
link they just get an error message.
At the same time your email addresses disappear. Existing customers can email you, but their messages just bounce
back. A nightmare. As far as searchers, prospects and customers are concerned, you’ve gone bust.
Exploded. Become invisible. Died... whatever. You can’t even put in place 301 redirects to an alternative url because you
have no access. And you probably wouldn’t want to anyway... you’ll only lose all the SEO juice you’ve painstakingly
The single best thing you can do to protect your website against your host going down the tubes is to make sure that
YOU are the named registrant for your url, NOT your host. If you’re the named registrant it is a pain in the proverbial
- but do-able - to get the domain transferred to another host.
If your host is named as the official registrant, you can’t do a thing without their permission. If they’ve gone bust you’ll
probably find it impossible to contact them. Even if you do, reclaiming your url is a matter for the Receiver’s discretion.
The result? You’ll probably have to rebuild your website from scratch. With a little luck you’ll be able to re-secure your
url when it expires. But expiry might not be due for several months, even years.
Recommendations? Check your url registration and make sure you’re registered as the owner. If not, ask your host to
change it for you asap.
How to get an ebook website onto page one of Google
I built my simple personal comedy ebooks website - www.blancminge.com - in early January 2009. Today,
29th September ‘09, it’s on page one of Google for four of my top key phrases.
A surprise really. I haven’t dedicated much time to it. I’ve just been gently fiddling around.
Key phrase: comedy ebooks
• number 2 on page 1 Google UK
• number 1 on page 2 Google web
Key phrase: comedy ebook
• number 1 on page 1 Google UK
• number 10 page 1 Google web
Key phrase: funny ebooks
• number 2 on page 1 Google UK
• number 5 on page 1 Google web
Key phrase: funny ebook
• number 4 on page 1 Google UK
• number 4 on page 1 Google web
Here’s how I got my ebook site onto page 1 of Google
• named the pages sensibly so they match my key phrases: funny-ebook, comedy-ebook etc
• used at least 300 words of copy on every page for search engines to grab hold of
• wrote reasonably seo-aware meta data
• updated my copy at least twice a month
• added a sitemap
• did a few hours’ consistent manual link building via online directories with decent page ranks - from 2 to 6
• wrote about it in a couple of blogs, using key words and phrases in my link text
This is what I did to keep human visitors happy
• made the site interactive on a very basic level, with special offers and free ebook previews
• added images of the ebooks’ covers for visual interest
• provided payment by PayPal for customer trust and familiarity
• added extra services: ebook design and ebook editing
• launched a new ebook, with its own web page, every three months
This is NOT a perfect site…
In some ways blancminge.com is fairly awful. I’m only part way through completing the basic things that make a site
SEO-friendly. And if I’d had my head straight the day I bought it, I’d have dreamed up a domain name with ’comedy
ebook’ or ‘funny ebook’ in it.
Despite all that, in nine months my comedy ebook site has got to page one of Google’s SERPs, for a variety of key
phrases, across the entire interweb. Cool, that.
It just shows you how far you can get - and how quickly - when you take regular, sensible steps to build up a solid
presence via nice, additive free, natural SEO. No tricks, no dodgy stuff and no big bucks. Just persistence.
A nifty bit of loyalty marketing from the AA
You don’t need to make big, expensive or complicated gestures to build customer loyalty.
A mysterious package arrived yesterday.
I opened it to find a brand new copy of the AA’s Big Road Atlas of Britain. So new you can smell the ink. Complete with
a tipped-on CD of the Highway Code. Plus a short 3 paragraph letter headed ‘Many happy returns’. Cool!
Apparently we’ve been ‘members’ of the AA for almost two years. And the free road atlas is a token of the AA’s
Our home and motor insurance are both with the AA because they delivered a really good deal. While I don’t drive, Tony
does. And although he has SatNav anyone with an ounce of sense knows that slavishly following the nice electronic
lady’s directions doesn’t always get you where you want to be. You can just as easily end up on the edge of a cliff or in
a cow byre. Because our existing AA road atlas is dated 1997, our expeditions into darkest Sussex in search of virgin
hiking territory will be less perilous in future.
The marketing bit…
• The AA’s letter says we’ve been members for ‘almost’ two years. That means our renewal date is coming up. So
they’ve sent out a free road atlas to encourage renewal.
• We appreciate the gesture. I imagine most people would. Not even a whiff of a sales proposition, clear, simple and
nicely written in an informal yet reassuringly professional tone.
• Provided our premiums haven’t gone up, I’ll renew our policies. We probably would have renewed anyway. But get-
ting a free gift just before renewal leaves enough of a warm, fuzzy feeling to tip the balance… should it need to be
Do quick and dirty DIY marketing, Facebook style...
... and keep your home page fresh at the same time!
Add a ’status’ line to your home page - a bit like Facebook - and you can update your website in seconds every morning.
Just add a simple line of code, like I’ve done on my freelance copywriter website helpinthecity.com.
From a SEO perspective updating your site regularly encourages extra visits by Google etc. It tells them you’re alive and
kicking. But a status line can be a powerful little direct marketing tool too. It is a beautifully easy way to:
• tell visitors exactly what you’re doing every day - evidence that you’re present, correct and waiting for their custom!
• announce news via a prominent, powerful one liner - Twitter proves that ultra-succinct one line communications
• inform people about new stock, new products, special offers…
• reinforce your brand by consolidating your website’s tone of voice - cheap, cheerful and effective brand building
• give visitors an extra insight into your business’s personality
• differentiate yourself from competitors
• encourage people to come back every day to see what you’re up to
• deliver cross-sell and up-sell messages
• let people know when you’re on holiday, useful if you’re a one man band!
• prompt response by asking a daily question
• make one off and time-limited offers - for one hour only etc… a great way to win repeat visits
That’s just a quick off the cuff list. Test drive a status line on your website’s home page, monitor your stats carefully and
see what it does for your business.
Does my business need to use social media for marketing... or not?
Everyone and his dog’s using social media to market their stuff at the moment. So do you need to jump on
Are you in a panic because your business hasn’t got to grips with Twitter and co? Give it a go if you like. But ask yourself
three common sense questions first:
• A direct marketing-led question: Is it possible to get rock solid empirical evidence that the time and money you
spend Tweeting - or whatever - delivers a tangible return on your investment? Sensible marketers never, ever
embark on a campaign without knowing they can track results accurately.
• A human being-focused question: Do you enjoy being marketed to while you’re relaxing on your favourite social
media site? Social media networks are hot property at the moment but you know what they say… when the
marketers move in, the users move out!
• A logical question: Are you considering using social media for marketing because you’ve worked out a clear strategy
that directly benefits your marketing plans? Or because everyone else is doing it?
If you’re not sure, wait and see. If you’re not involved in social media marketing while it is in its infancy, don’t fret.
There’s no great merit in being first. But there’s a lot to be said for waiting in the wings and making your move once
the medium has proved it’s commercial worth.
Six basic value propositions for successful B2B marketing
When someone feels personally involved with a product or service, they’re more likely to buy.
Keep your value proposition simple if you want to maximise it’s power. Here are six basic value propositions. They will all
help people relate personally to the stuff you’re selling:
• This product saves time
• This product reduces costs
• This product improves efficiency
• This product helps you reach your goals faster
• This product makes money
• And one that marketers often forget… This product is great fun!
Go Egyptian: write copy in inverted pyramid order
Like most copywriting and marketing devices the inverted pyramid - or inverted triangle - makes common
What is the inverted pyramid method? Ask any journalist. All it involves is putting your information in priority order. Put
crucial information at the top, less important material further down.
What’s ‘important’? It depends whether you want the reader to buy, make an offer, answer a question, join something,
subscribe or respond in another way. Whatever you want from them, give readers key information in an order that will:
• let people know immediately that they’re in the right place
• inspire them to start reading
• keep them reading
• drive them towards your goal in a logical, methodical way
Here’s an example
• Strong header including core proposition: Buy the cheapest copralites on the internet here - limited offer!
• First bit of info: We carry the best quality, lowest cost copralites available online
• Second: Buy before the year 3000 and we’ll give you a 1000% discount
• Third: Here’s our copralite range. Aren’t they gorgeous!
• Fourth: This is how you buy
• Fifth: Buy now… click here
• Sixth: Copralite safety issues
• Seventh: Ask us a copralite question and we’ll get right back to you
• Eighth: legal / regulatory stuff
Ebook pricing madness?
There are masses of ebooks for sale online… but what on earth’s going on with ebook pricing?
The cost of a hard copy book depends on the print run, the materials and the book’s physical size. A paperback best
seller with a print run of a hundred thousand costs a lot less to produce than an eighteen inch square ’coffee table’ art
book packed with images and illustrations.
All the same, you rarely find a ‘real’ book costing more than a hundred quid unless it’s something really special, limited
edition or antiquarian. Ebook prices, however, vary wildly. A quick surf reveals:
• a 100 page ebook for $47
• a 1000 page ebook for £99
• various ebooks of different lengths costing anything between £9.99 and $699
A standard paperback book has 200 - 300 pages and costs about £6.99. So how can someone justify selling a 100 page
ebook for £9.99, let alone sell any ebook for $699?
Some ebooks contain extra materials, links to buyer-only resources, training aids etcetera. But many are simple
collections of blog posts and articles. Or ’how to’ guides.
Would you spend $47, £99 or $699 on a paperback or hardback book? Probably not. Unless it was bound in gold leaf!
There’s also a lot of chat online about the issue so it’s obviously a hot topic. My take on it is:
• A handful of people might buy an ebook for £99. But thousands more might buy it for a fiver, £1.99 less than the
cost of a real, live paperback. And millions might buy it for £1
• Consider an ebook in a real world context and choosing a price becomes easy. Compare your ebook with a real
book, like for like, and pitch your price lower
• Only charge more if you’re offering more than a regular ebook, for example an ongoing monthly update offer like
21 tips for successful email marketing
Planning email marketing?
Here’s a list of twenty one key actions that’ll help your campaign stand out from the spam:
• Keep it short or people won’t bother reading it
• Write in plain language, never use jargon
• Make one single rock solid proposition, avoid multiple propositions
• Keep your tone calm and tell the absolute truth
• Avoid using too many exclamation marks, colours, font sizes and styles
• Make believeable, realistic propositions. People are put off when an offer seems far too good to be true
• Format your email into short paragraphs split by headers and subheads for 100% visual clarity
• Use a friendly display name in the ‘from’ box rather than a bare email address
• Write a strong, compelling subject line that encourages people to open your message
• Use your company name in the subject line to enhance trust
• Provide an opt out every time
• Buy or build your own targeted lists of opted-in prospects. Always avoid illegal lists
• Include full, accurate contact details in every message
• Don’t forget your call to action… and make it work HARD
• Make life as easy as possible for people who want to respond. If you want people to visit a web page include a
direct link in the body of the email
• If someone asks you a question reply as fast as humanly possible
• Remove people from your mailing list immediately on request
• Test different approaches on small segments until you’ve established what works best. Then roll out to your entire
• Send your email at a sensible time… not at midnight, not 9am Monday morning and preferably not during August
when half the northern hemisphere’s on holiday
• Collect and analyse campaign results accurately then use the intelligence they deliver to improve future campaigns
• Don’t expect magic. Despite what some people and organisations claim, online marketing is just as challenging as
offline marketing always was. There are no miracles and no short cuts. So cultivate persistence, determination and
Does Google ‘trust’ your website?
Amongst other things, Google and the other major search engines use trust to rate and rank websites.
But trust is an abstract concept. How do they do it?
Here are three key factors search engines use to assess how much they can trust your website:
• Quality inbound links, quality being the operative word. Link quality is much more important than quantity. It’s easy
to pay someone £29.99 to get you 5000 directory links. Or whatever. But they won’t be worth anywhere near as
much as a single good quality link. In fact one good link is usually better than tens of thousands of crap ones!
• Your website’s age. Fairly or unfairly, search engines trust websites that have been around for a while more than
• Quality outbound links. Search engines also take the websites you link to into account. If you link to non-
prescription pharmacy websites, online gambling or other similar spammy places search engines will assume that
you’re happy to be part of a bad ‘neighbourhood’ and can penalise your site accordingly.
Simple website optimisation at a glance
Here’s a nice little online tool to help you optimise your website for search engines: www.seobugz.com
All you do is type in your site address. A second later seobugz returns a short and neat report showing you how to
improve things like:
• meta keywords
• meta description
• H1 tags
• inbound links
Once all the basic details are right you can concentrate on great content!
Copywriting: what’s the single most important thing you want your reader
Most of us have the attention spans of gnats. Or fish.
Unless we’re deep into a novel we tend to scan rather than read every word. We might remember the odd concept,
proposition or idea. But only if it really stands out.
So getting the core focus of a piece of written communication right is vital. Whether it’s a short product description or a
blog post, an article or a web page.
If you’re having trouble establishing the focus of a piece of copy, it helps to take a step back.
Ask yourself: What is the single most important thing that I want people to remember about this communication?
Once you’re crystal clear about exactly what you want people to take on board you can make it integral to your
proposition. And focus your call to action on it.
It also helps if you put your other important points in priority order. Then you can give them the appropriate weight
within the copy.
Landing pages improve email campaign results
Research says it’s well worth using a specific landing pages for each email marketing campaign. So what are
landing pages all about?
A landing page is a single web page designed to boost sales conversion.
Rather than sending responders to your index page and expecting them to find their way from there, you send them
direct to a page full of compelling, offer-specific content.
Useful tips about creating a campaign specific landing page:
• repeat your offer up front confidently and firmly
• integrate the landing page by using the same subject line as your email campaign… bingo, instant recognition!
• include compelling sales-related product information, buyer testimonials, product reviews, images
• pare the information down to include vital points that are crucial to closing a sale, no more and no less
• end with a strong call to action
• reduce purchase related form filling and admin to the bare minimum to make the buying process as fast and easy as
humanly possible. You can always collect more details later once your buyer has taken the plunge
If someone has arrived at your landing page you’re half way there. They’re a hot prospect. You’ve already hooked them
with your email. Your landing page should reel them in.
‘One Step’ versus ‘Two Step’ marketing
Depending on your product or service, there are two key ways to sell via direct marketing.
Direct marketing is any marketing campaign, online or offline, that requires a response from prospects.
• One step: when your offer is simple and straightforward you can send one communication. Make a strong proposi-
tion, provide plenty of ways to buy, give a help line email address or phone number and you’re off.
• Two step: when your product or service is complex, innovative, new or very expensive it’s usually more of a chal-
lenge to sell.
The first part of a two step campaign makes a powerful offer and persuades hot prospects to apply for more
information. The second bit delivers responders all the info they need to make a buying decision.
• One step: You receive a mailed offer. It includes an application form and reply envelope, order line ‘phone number
and details of how to apply online.
• Two step: You get an email including a link to a landing page. The extra information you receive from filling in the
form on the landing page includes details of how to buy.
Kitten in loaf with cod....?!
Purina packaging causes amusement in corner shop
I popped to our local shop after dinner last night to pick up some cat food. And was surprised to find a giggling clump of
people clustered around the pet section.
What was going on? About twelve people of different ages, shapes and sizes were having a laugh about the copy on a
pack of Whiskas specialist kitten food. “Kitten in LOAF with Cod” it announced, loud and proud. One elderly lady
commented dubiously, to howls of amusement, ”I don’t think my cat’d like that very much!”
A quick surf, when I got home, uncovered another delightfully silly piece of copywriting. Thank you Purina, for also
giving us Kitten mixed selection in jelly. Urgh.
The down side? Not the best copywriting effort. There was plenty of space on the pack so a spot of clarity and sensible
punctuation would help. Something like Kitten food: Tasty meat loaf with cod. The up side? None of the dozen or so
complete strangers who laughed about it together are likely to forget the brand!
Stuck for blog post inspiration?
Here’s a really cool resource…
As a freelance copywriter I spend a lot of time sniffing out interesting news on which to ’hang’ client blog posts, articles
and press releases.
One great way to make a strong impact is to react to breaking news immediately. Why? because you maximise your
chances of capturing the attention of some of the thousands - perhaps millions - of people who are actively searching
for online updates as the story develops.
newsnow.co.uk is excellent stuff. It organises news stories - from a vast range of sources - by category. Best of all,
because the site owners run regular updates the news on board is always fresh.
Next time you’re stuck for ideas or just stale, rummage around newsnow and you’re bound to find something that’s
either directly or indirectly relevant to your business.
What do search engines see when they ‘look’ at your website?
Search engine use words to explore, classify and rank websites.
So how do you check what your website looks like to search engines?
A neat little free SEO tool at www.seo-browser.com reveals all. It strips out each page’s images, colour, styling and
formatting to deliver a clear text-based picture of what you’ve given search engines to work with. All you do is type in
the address of each of your website pages.
Why bother? It’s a quick way to identify whether you’ve provided enough words, used sufficient key words, made the
most of headers and maximised the effect of subheads etcetera, at a glance, without visual distractions.
Fresh Meta Descriptions spark search engine interest
You’ll find your web page’s meta description tag in the header section of the source code.
• Meta descriptions are used to describe the page’s content to searchers accurately, clearly and succinctly.
• If you’re clever the link will also act as a powerful little text advert that searchers will be inspired to click on. But
that’s another story.
• Search engines love new stuff. Change your meta description now and again and Google & Co will keep checking
out your website to see what you’re up to.
One more tiny thing to help keep your site fresh and exciting for everyone concerned: spiders, bots and humans!
Selling other people’s stuff? Avoid duplicate content
Are your products made or supplied by other people? If you’re a drop-shipper, franchisee or ecommerce
business you might find yourself with duplicate content issues.
If your suppliers provide you with ready made product descriptions and information, that’s great. It’s useful to have a
The thing is, search engines don’t like duplicate content. Because human searchers deserve variety, search engines
much prefer website content to be unique. If you blatantly copy stuff from elsewhere and bung it on your site - or put
the same stuff on more than one site - you could even get banned.
You can get software that checks pages for duplicate copy. Or do a quick ‘n’ dirty. Just copy and paste a chunk of words
into Google to see if they pop up anywhere else. If they’re not on page one of the search results you should be OK.
If your site’s packed with duplicate content, the best thing to do is to get it edited by a good copywriter.
• a clever, creative edit will make your site unique
• it’ll have it’s own recognisable, cohesive tone of voice. Together with your design, that’s the beginnings of a brand
• search engines will like it and it’ll help site visibility
• site visitors will appreciate and enjoy it
• it’ll have a strong focus on response and sales
• your grammar and spelling will be spot on
• it can be adjusted to suit your target market / country
• it will include intelligent use of key words and key phrases
• it will entertain, inform and inspire!
Increase site visitors via great meta descriptions
Small but beautiful - make the most of meta description tags
A web page’s meta description tag lives in the header section of the source code. It is used to describe the page’s
content to searchers. Written well, it is a powerful little advert that inspires people. Inspired, they’ll click through to visit
Here’s a few hints and tips to get your meta descriptions in great working shape:
• restrict them to 150 characters including spaces - if they’re too long search engines will cut them off mid-way and
you’ll dilute their effectiveness
• use a sentence or phrase that describes the page’s content really accurately
• avoid repeating words - it wastes valuable space
• don’t include your site URL in the meta description
• use key words or key phrases that are directly relevant, targeted tightly to the content in each page
• don’t use ’special’ characters like ! @ # $ %. Some browsers and search engines can’t understand them
• make it exciting enough to attract click-throughs
Technorati research reveals blog update shocker
The New York Times reports that most blogs are set up in a flurry of enthusiasm… then abandoned.
So says Technorati. Apparently a massive 95% of the blogs they surveyed hadn’t been updated in 120 days.
Which is understandable. Once the novelty wears off, a lot of businesses give up blogging because they’re simply too
busy. It’s hard to keep a blog going if nobody at your place likes writing, or writes well enough. And people run out of
The thing is, a healthy blog is still one of the best ways to keep a website fresh, updated and exciting for search engines
and visitors. And it is an extremely cost effective marketing / SEO medium.
Like many things, the more you put in the more you get out. One blog post a week will work harder than one a month.
Three quality posts a week should soon win you some serious attention from search engines. Consistency is important,
regularity is vital.
If you leave your blog unattended for 120 days, like most businesses, it won’t do a thing for you. If you make regular,
frequent updates something you do as a matter of course it’ll soon bear fruit. And you’ll be several steps ahead of the
95% that languish in the doldrums.
Santander, re-branding and Vic Reeves...
Spanish banking giant Santander announced yesterday that it’ll be axing UK high street brands Abbey,
Bradford & Bingley and Alliance & Leicester. And insurer Norwich Union recently rebranded as Aviva.
It costs a fortune in time and effort to create a brand. And a great brand is commercial gold dust. So is rebranding a
Ordinarily I’d say no. Take Norwich Union. They enjoyed an immensely strong brand until they changed their name to
something that sounds like Vic Reeves made it up. Uvavu, Eranu... Aviva? Why throw away decades of invaluable brand
equity, recognition, awareness and loyalty? There must be a compelling commercial justification.
But Santander’s rebranding of Abbey, B&B and Alliance and Leicester is different. All three were disgraced, their brands
effectively destroyed. Instead of standing for trust and familiarity they reflected avarice, greed and stupidity. Here,
rebranding seems like the best move.
Use niche business directories for tightly targeted marketing
Take advantage of niche business directories’ soaring popularity
It’s always wise to aim marketing firmly at your target audience. Advertising your services where you know your
prospects hang out is much cleverer than spreading yourself thinly all over the place. It gets better results. It saves
time. And it saves wasted effort.
There’s a growing raft of niche business directories online. Which makes sense from a search engine and user
perspective. People can rummage happily around a directory bursting with exactly the kind of stuff they’re looking for.
And because search engines recognise niche directories as both authoritative and relevant, there’s an SEO benefit to
being part of a targeted directory too.
Seach for niche directories relevant to your site’s key words and key phrases, use those key words and phrases in your
submissions and you’ll be bang on target.
Be clear about what your business does
I found this business description when trundling around online the other day:
“We are always doing something new. We have just started another in-house matrix programme that pays 100% fees
back to members, who join in reverse order.”
The company’s name didn’t give a clue about what they actually do either. Until I noticed they were classified in the
business and finance category, my best guess was they were flogging some kind of time travel!
Even if you only have 100 characters to describe your business, it makes sense to use some of them to tell people - and
search engines - what you do. Rather than waxing so lyrical you end up completely lost in space.
What is a robots.txt file?
And do I need one?
A robots.txt file is a simple text file that tells search engine spiders and bots how to - and how not to - crawl and index
You can use a robots.txt file to:
• prevent site indexing, full stop
• mask confidential areas
• give different search engines specific instructions about what to crawl and index
If you don’t want search engines to see new pages under construction, or personal stuff that’s only of interest to you,
your robots.txt file tells them where they can and can’t go. And if you don’t want to appear in a particular search
engine’s results you can deny them access.
One of the first things all the big search engines will do is sniff out your robots.txt file. Even if you don’t want to mask
bits of your site, the file will invite search engines in. Which is good stuff.
Many people just hide their cgi bin. If - like me - you don’t need to protect any areas of your site your robots.txt can be
as simple as this, pasted into a text file:
User-agent: * # match all bots
Just upload it to the same place on the server as your index page (the root directory) and off you go.
If you want to get creative with your robots.txt file it can get fairly complicated. There are plenty of good tutorials and
free robots.txt file generators online. Otherwise grab your nearest website designer or SEO expert.
Bear in mind that a robots.txt file has nothing to do with security. While it can stop bits of your site appearing in search
engines, they’re still available.
DIY website manager? Clean your code!
Good housekeeping - another simple but powerful way to keep your site in good shape for search engines
If - like me - you run a small business and maintain your own website, it’s a good idea to clean up your code every now
Why? Because the more you fiddle with your content and layout the more chance things have of getting messy.
Especially when you’re not a coding expert.
Removing stuff like un-closed or improperly closed tags, errant spaces and old ‘commented out’ copy is best practice.
While you’re at it, tidy up your .css... beautiful code makes search engines very happy.
Here’s a link to W3.org where you’ll find a load of useful free web-based tools to help you clear up your website’s act. It
only takes a few seconds per page so as housework goes, it’s pretty easy. If you’re a bloke and housekeeping doesn’t
appeal, think of it as clearing out the shed!
Good quality content ultimately wins a higher Google page rank
A sweeping statement?
Perhaps. But it’s hard to argue with empirical evidence.
My online business directory enjoys 300 - 400 submissions every day. Because I approve or decline them by hand I pick
up on emerging trends and patterns.
In my experience websites whose content is unique, written in plain english, properly punctuated, accurately spelled and
not stuffed with keywords can achieve a decent Google Page Rank of 2 or more.
In direct contrast sites whose content is badly written, repetitive, overtly SEO-led, keyword stuffed, set up for SEO
purposes alone or ‘spun’ using spinning software invariably come to me with low page ranks, mostly N/A and nil.
I decline all poor quality submissions, chucking out every ‘N/A’ site without a second glance. Harsh? Maybe. But I do it
because experience has shown that a high % of them are really badly written.
These days I also carefully vet every PR0 submission because, again, experience has shown that an abnormally high
percentage of PR0 submissions are full of crap too!
As a freelance copywriter I’m encouraged to discover that good quality website content eventually shines through, while
poop ultimately falls to the bottom where it belongs!
Ditch the worst of Direct Marketing
Hysterical punctuation and messy formatting puts readers off!
If you want to make sure visitors get to grips with your website’s message instantly, keep it cool.
Direct Marketing is powerful stuff. But some traditional DM techniques don’t translate well online, where attention spans
are short and instant gratification’s the bunny. Avoid things like:
• making yourself sound hysterical by sprinkling your content with multiple exclamation marks!!!
• causing a sense of desperation with random underlining
• forcing people’s attention to flit around too many conflicting coloured headers
• interrupting readers’ flow with rash emboldening
• creating the visual alternative to a hiccup with an over enthusiastic use of italics
• SHOUTING at people by WRITING IN CAPITALS
• Confusing Buyers’ Vision With Camel Case
• making visitors go cross eyed dealing with bands of highlighted text
• exhausting the eye as it jumps between multiple font sizes and styles
• putting people off with long, dense paragraphs
• using old DM favourites like ’PS’ and ‘PPS’
• writing and constructing your web page like a letter using ‘dear…’
• making on-screen reading even more challenging by using a serif font like Times Roman
Using a handful of the above on a web page is bad enough. Take the lot of board and you’ll create an ugly mess that’s
almost impossible to read!
If your offer sounds too good to be true...
… it probably is!
I was recently asked to write website copy offering a DVD set worth £75 for £19.99. Which is fair enough. But the client
was also planning to throw in an extra bonus DVD set worth £600 for nothing.
Handled wisely special offers and discounts can pull a healthy response. But if you stray beyond the bounds of credibility
you risk getting no response at all.
Most people recognise a good deal. But they’ll instinctively shy away if it seems too good to be true. Make an unrealistic
offer and the only people who’ll buy are a few dafties gullible enough to take you up on it. At the same time you also
reduce the perceived value of your product or service to such an extent that it appears worthless. Or even worse,
It’s a fine line. If you don’t have the time, skills or inclination to test different prices to see what works best, at least ask
a decent-sized crowd of people to give you their honest feedback about how your offer ‘feels’.
Is ‘long copy’ dead?
What is long copy?
Long copy is… well, long copy! A direct mail letter more than one A4 side. Or a web page containing thousands and
thousands of words.
For decades everyone believed long copy worked best. And back in the olden days it often did. But times have changed.
The internet has shortened attention spans even further and people are no longer willing to wade through endless pages
Look online and you’ll see plenty of websites still using long copy. A lot of them fall into the ‘get rich quick’ online
category and I’d be willing to bet they rarely - if ever - pull the response they’ve been led to expect.
If you want to appeal to people online, throw out long copy. If you persist with rambling copy you’ll get some response
- chuck enough mud at a wall some of it will stick. But you’ll be limiting your market to the handful of people who can
be bothered to get to the bottom of your long-winded offer.
The same goes for direct marketing offline. You need to be succinct, quick off the mark and clear as a bell when
creating direct mail too.
Direct marketing is all about testing. If you want to see for yourself which works best test long copy against short copy,
head-to-head, to a big, statistically relevant database and see what happens!
Blow your own trumpet for business success!
If you want people to be confident in your business, sound confident!
Using uncertain language makes people feel uncertain about you. Here are some examples:
• Use we offer but not too often. Say we deliver, we give or we provide as well. They all sound reassuringly confident
• Rather than we can or we may, which leave room for error, use we will or we always
• Steer clear of saying our aim is or we aim to or our ambition is. They all sound as though you’re trying hard but
haven’t got there yet!
Of the following, which sounds better?
The first example is a real business directory submission. In the second one all I’ve done is replace the wishy washy bits
with firm, decisive bits.
• We offer top class accounting services to businesses. We can help you make your finances stronger. Our aim is to
save you money!
• We deliver top class accounting services to businesses. We will make your finances stronger and we’ll save you
Make nine words work hard to win response
Grab tiny but crucial marketing opportunities - small can be beautiful!
Our local hotel has just launched their summer menu. The chalkboard sign outside - which faces thousands of cars stuck
conveniently at traffic lights 24/7 - says:
New Summer Evening Food Menu Available Inside At Weekends.
Which says it like it is. But limited space needn’t mean boring. If you only have nine words to play with, make them
Three nine word alternatives:
• Hot? Tired? Hungry? Lovely fresh summer food all weekend!
• Delicious, freshly cooked summer food for hazy, lazy weekends!
• Eat, drink and be merry! Fresh summer weekend food
The same goes for online marketing. Most directories allow only a handful of words for business descriptions. Which is
fair enough: the idea is for visitors (and search engines) to see at a glance whether the site described contains what
they want without having to wade through miles of text.
Building a micro-masterpiece, including a suitable key phrase, is one more small way to give your website a positive
A website won’t save your business
Build a website and customers will magically arrive… right?
A designer colleague of mine is working with a handful of recession-hit businesses going online for the first time. As he
keeps telling them, a website isn’t a field of dreams. Just having a site isn’t enough to bring customers running.
An online business is the same as any other business. The internet is just another highly competitive marketing medium
amongst a shed load of media. And a website won’t automatically save your business from going down the tubes.
Despite all the ’get rich quick’ claims made online, making money on the internet is rarely easy or fast. It is almost
always just as challenging as making money offline.
So don’t expect miracles from your website, especially if it is brand new. Unless you’re incredibly lucky there aren’t any
short cuts. If you want people to find your site you need to bite the bullet and get marketing.
Use common words for clear communication
There’s no point trying to be clever.
People don’t read websites. They skim them. So using unneccessarily long words is a mistake. Always use clear, basic
language and your visitors will get the message straight away:
• replace anticipate with expect
• forget complimentary, try free
• don’t say transportation, it’s a car
• remember that people don’t purchase things, they buy them
• replace occupation with job
• why use despondent at the expense of sad?
Why do people visit your website...
…instead of someone else’s?
Life’s never straightforward.
You’ve filled your website with well written, entertaining, inspiring, key word rich copy. It is easy to navigate and the
content’s laid out perfectly for scan-reading. You’ve built links ’til you’re blue in the face. You’ve dragged your business
painstakingly on to page one of Google with natural SEO. And your products are unbeatable.
But you can’t account for people’s quirks. Here are three recent examples of completely irrational buying decisions:
• I won a new customer recently because she liked the fact that we share the same surname
• A client of mine won his latest project because his business has the same name as his new customer’s house
• Today I chose an online organic gardening shop because their sister company’s name was ‘free spirits’
All three circumstances had something fundamental in common. Each resonated on a deeply personal level, striking an
unexpected chord of familiarity in the prospective buyer.
When there are loads of similar options to choose from many people, whether they realise it or not, will hang their
buying decision on an emotional response. At best this is flimsy reasoning but the pull of gut-level familiarity - that shock
of recognition - is incredibly potent.
Brand builders all over the planet would kill for a way to tap into people’s quirks. As would freelance copywriters like me.
In the absence of mind reading skills, we plod along the best we can!
Outsourced SEO... check it!
Pay peanuts and could find yourself with monkeys.
As well as being a freelance copywriter I run an online business directory, Sonicsyn. As a responsible directory owner I
reject all the usual suspects; adult sites, gambling, religious nutters, escorts and online pharmacies. But I also reject bad
spelling and grammar, submissions to the wrong category, multiple and duplicate submissions and those that just don’t
make sense. Sadly there are plenty. On average I reject at least a third.
Some, although shockingly bad, are hilarious. So while wading through hundreds of directory submissions is a dull job,
there are compensations! Here’s a handful rejected from last night’s batch:
• This website shows you how to get soft, fluffy lips (submitted to the ‘travel’ category!)
• Our educational toys stimulate childrens minds without the use of batteries
• Find the cheap or budget accommodations with no rat
• This websites specilizes in child care and buttock implantation (submitted to the ‘toys’ category)
• We provides excellence customer service and no added value
Great fun, hahaha. But I wouldn’t be laughing if one of them was my business. All five are UK based so I bet they’ve
outsourced their SEO to save money. And they have all ended up with appalling directory submission descriptions,
damaging in several ways:
• Most directory owners will reject badly written or nonsensical submissions
• Even if your entry is approved it will be meaningless to consumers who use the directory
• Poor communications reflect badly on your business’s reputation and credibility
• You’ve wasted money and time paying someone to create crap submissions, most of which will be dumped
Just to ram the point home get your laughing gear round this one, submitted a few days ago on behalf of a UK-based
online lingerie store…
Astonish comes when those underwear for women are magnificently delivered to your doorstep. Imagine your delight
when your underwears arrives, it can sit on your face!
The moral of the story? It is absolutely fine to outsource SEO. It can save you a fortune. But check that your Search
Engine Optimiser has basic writing skills first and, if they’re writing about your business in English, that they can do so
fluently. Add ‘belt and braces’ by checking their output regularly… a cheap shot can be an expensive mistake.
A bigger advert doesn’t always pull a bigger response
The size of an advert has a direct effect on response.
How do we know? There’s plenty of rock solid empirical evidence. Marketers and academics have been collecting data
about ad size versus response since the early 1900s when direct marketing was born.
All the studies come to the same conclusion: smaller adverts are much more effective pro-rata than larger ones. When
you book an advert in a newspaper, magazine or trade paper of any kind bear in mind that when the adverts are identi-
• a quarter page will out-perform a half page
• a half page will work dramatically better than a full page
• a single page will always pull more response than a double page spread
• In fact a quarter page ad gets just under half the response of a full page ad. And a double page spread isn’t half as
effective - literally - as a single page.
Because research has always been ‘head to head’ using the same copy, it has never taken into account that you can
fit more - therefore make a more powerful sell - into a bigger space. Nor does
it take into account that bigger ads often come at serious discounts.
But the basic rule holds: there’s no point making a small advert bigger. If you
buy a bigger space, you need to make your advert work harder to get a
proportionate response. Keep this graph* in mind when you calculate whether
a bigger ad space is worth the extra cost.
* (graph courtesy of the marvellous Drayton Bird, plain speaking direct marketing guru
If you only do three things to market your online business, choose these!
The bare bones of online marketing
Time is precious and unless you know your onions, marketing and SEO can be utterly baffling. If you only do three
things to market your online business, pick these:
• 1. Get lots of good quality inbound links to your website. Why? Search engines use links to rate websites’ popularity
and relevance. So links ultimately have a powerful effect on where your site appears in Google search rankings. For
a start submit your url to to as many free business directories as possible. Then take it from there.
• 2. Update your website’s content regularly. Why? Because new content prompts search engine bots to ‘re-crawl’ and
reclassify/rate a site’s content. If your site is alive and kicking, search engines will pay it much more attention than
if it is lying static. For a start try something cheap ‘n’ cheerful. How about a variable paragraph on your home page
that changes every month? Cover a special offer one month, a customer testimonial the next, a new product launch
in month three, a cheap delivery service in month four etcetera.
• 3. Make sure your website’s content is optimised for SEO. Why? Because if you don’t have enough good, well writ-
ten, informative content on your website, search engines simply won’t be able to ’see’ it. For a start, take your home
page. Does it contain 300+ words of beautifully written, keyword rich copy? If not, grab yourself a freelance copy-
writer and get the ball rolling!
What is ‘White’ Hat SEO?
Today I came across a Search Engine Optimisation company whose business directory entry confidently
stated, “We offer top class White Hate SEO services”. Which illustrates the importance of checking your text
before distributing it willy-nilly all over the interweb! Hopefully they meant ‘White Hat’ but that’s another
So what is White Hat - as opposed to Black Hat - SEO?
Think cowboys. In old western films the goodies wear white hats and the baddies wear black hats. The same goes for
White hat SEO involves methods, tactics, strategies and media that Google and co recognise as legitimate. Black hat
SEO involves techniques that skate right up to and over the edge into ’spammy’ territory; inappropriate paid links,
automatic ‘comment spamming’ into unsuspecting do-follow blogs and the like.
How do you tell if you’re being naughty?
Common sense is your best bet; think humans first. If your SEO strategy benefits people as well as search engines,
you’re probably on the right track.
If your SEO work has nothing to do with making the internet a better place but fills it with irritating, irrelevant crap,
you’ll eventually get a slap from Google. And their slaps can be painful… blatant black hat SEO practices can even get
your site thrown off Google altogether.
When doing your own DIY SEO, check what you’re doing isn’t frowned on. When someone else is doing it for you, make
sure they’re aware that black hat simply isn’t cricket!
New regulations for B2C websites
A recent European Court of Justice case (late Feb ‘09) has led to revisions in the European E-Commerce
Until recently businesses selling to consumers only had to put a contact address and email address on their website.
Now things are a little stricter. These days, to comply with the European E-Commerce Directive your business website
• the full name of your business
• the street address of your premises
• contact details, including an email address, to allow people to contact you ‘rapidly’ and communicate with you
‘directly’ and ‘effectively’ (while they don’t make it 100% crystal clear, it appears that a telephone or fax number is
To someone who has worked in direct marketing for many years, this seems like common sense. It certainly isn’t
onerous. Everything you can do to raise your profile, increase trust and gain credibility will pull you ahead of your
competitors. Being open about who and where you are, and how to contact you easily is all part of delivering good
customer service. And offering a choice of response methods means you account for all tastes: some people prefer the
telephone - it’s in their nature.
As far as being open is concerned, I’d take things a step further. I always recommend that my clients also include this lot
in their contact page:
• If they’re a Limited company, the company’s registered address and registered company number
• If they’re a Partnership or an Agency, the legal details
• If they’re registered with the VAT man, the VAT number
• A named contact to call. Even if the person isn’t available when customers call, having a real name to ask for is
Effective directory link text maximises link power
How to make the most of business directory back links
Online business directories are useful for consumers. They’re also handy for making your website more visible. Why?
Because directory submissions usually include a back link to your site, and quality back links from directories that have
Page Ranks of 3 or more are good stuff.
You’ll probably be asked for at least two of the following pieces of information when submitting a directory entry. Here’s
what to do to maximise the power of your website’s directory back links:
Title: This is the title of your online directory entry, the first thing people see. Make it work hard by using a key word or
phrase. If your title is relevant to your website content, search engines will notice and make the connection. Always use
a word or phrase that is meaningful to the consumer as well as to search engines.
Description: This is the short paragraph that people see when they find your entry, so write it well and make it attrac-
tive. If they like what you say they’ll click on your link, so it is worth taking care. Search engines will respond well if it
contains information that’s relevant to the title and to your website’s content.
Meta Keywords: Use the key words you’ve included in your title and description, and add a few others relevant to your
Meta Description: Meta descriptions aren’t a major factor in website ranking but, like meta keywords, they do contribute.
Make it a brief summary of your site’s content, shorter than your description.
Here’s an example - this is what I do:
Title: Freelance Copywriting (or ‘Freelance Copywriter’)
Description: Need a freelance copywriter? Kate Naylor has twenty years’ experience in direct marketing so her work is
commercially powerful as well as intelligent, informative and entertaining.
Meta Keywords: freelance copywriter, freelance copywriting, website content creation, press releases, articles, blog posts
Meta Description: An expert freelance copywriter with twenty years’ experience in direct marketing.
How to structure a killer press release
Hit ‘em between the eyes with a press-ready piece. Here’s how.
• introductory statement
• contact details
Here’s an example. I’ve numbered each bit so you can see what I mean.
1. Search website launches holiday genie challenge
2. The economy’s in a mess, jobs are precious, money’s tight and - in times like these - saving cash on your package
holiday is more important than ever.
The MD of online holiday search website HolidayMagic.com is so confident that his site will always return the cheapest
deals, 100% of the time, that he’s happy to put his money where his mouth is. 3. So what’s the story?
4. “We’ve employed a genie” explained Nutter Smith. “I stubbed my toe on an old lamp on holiday in Turkey last year
and out popped this brilliant holiday Genie. We haven’t looked back since”.
5. The secret of the holiday Genie’s success appears to be his ability to slide backwards and forwards in time, predicting
and nabbing the best holiday deals a fraction of a second before the competition. And boy, do consumers love it.
6. “If anyone, anywhere out there, can find a better deal than my holiday Genie,” grins Smith, “I’ll hand over all my
money. Bugger it, you can take the wife and the car too if you want.”
7. And he’s not joking. The man’s deadly serious. A winner for holidaymakers seeking the very best deals? Undoubtedly.
But as to whether Smith’s holiday Genie can continue to pull it out of the hat, that’s a different matter… watch this
8. Details for editors.
HolidayMagic is a virtual holiday operator based on Mars. MD Mr Nutter Smith has eleven hundred years’ experience in
inter-stellar travel. For more details and comment contact: Telephone 000000000. Email address: xxxx. Website address:
xxxxx. Street address: xxx
Kick start your business with PPC, support it with natural SEO
So you want your online business to hit the ground running. And you’ve got a few quid in the budget.
Where do you start?
Many business kick off with PPC - Pay Per Click - which delivers immediate targeted traffic. Brilliant stuff. The only thing
is, once you’re ‘hooked’ on PPC it’s difficult to stop. What PPC gives PPC takes away; the minute you turn it off visitor
Wise businesses set the natural SEO* ball rolling at the same time as Pay Per Click. As soon as natural SEO delivers the
visibility they need - number three on page one of Google for the search term ornamental trees or whatever - they turn
The really clever ones take SEO into account at site-build stage and start work on natural site optimisation as soon as
the site goes live. They implement PPC at launch, carrying on building natural visibility in the background. Tackling SEO
earlier means hitting the tipping point faster and switching off PPC sooner.
*What is natural SEO?
Natural search engine optimisation mimics what happens when a site is gradually discovered and ‘talked up’ by internet
users, gaining reputation and credibility over time. SEOs use a wide spread of online promotion methods and media to
build up a site’s visibility to search engines slowly and steadily.
Get free sitemaps from www.xml-sitemaps.com
Why upload a sitemap?
Because search engine ’spiders’ use sitemaps to identify and classify what’s in your website.
Why’s that important?
Because search engines index - then deliver - their results to internet users based on the web pages they know about. If
they don’t know what’s on your site, they can’t put your web pages in front of searchers.
A sitemap makes your entire site visible to search engines. The more pages a search engines indexes, the more likely
one of your pages is to turn up in Google and co’s search results.
Fast, simple, free sitemap creation
Go to www.xml-sitemaps.com, type your url into the box, save your sitemap and upload it to your site at top level.
Don’t forget to tell Google about your sitemap if this is your first time… just join Google Webmaster at www.google.
co.uk/webmasters and take it from there.
‘Spinning’ - a risky business
Spinning software ‘spins’ written content.
Take a unique article or website description and shove it through a spinning programme. It’ll spew out countless fresh
versions of your unique article, replacing words and phrases so each version is slightly different.
Why bother? Because spinning is a super-fast way to get your message all over the internet, with minimal effort, while
avoiding a poke in the eye from Google and co. for flaunting duplicate content guidelines. So it can be an effective SEO
tool. But it has a serious downside.
A lot of spinning software is horribly designed. The gobbledegook it churns out might be funny but it doesn’t do much
for a business’s credibility. Last night, approving links in our PR5 deep links directory, I ran across two beauties:
“We offer memorable holidays for the disconcerting traveller”
“This site provides in depth knowledge regarding physical and mental fitness for sarcastic people”
Yup, funny! But risky. Badly spun content:
• damages business credibility
• confuses and alienates searchers and visitors
• gets a website rejected by human-edited business directories
• risks the future wrath of search engines
• clogs the internet with rubbish
DIY SEO - here’s what you can achieve
The proof’s in the pudding.
I’m pretty good at talking up DIY marketing and SEO, making website visibility sound accessible to everyone. That’s my
job. But can I actually prove that it works?
When I set up my new freelance copywriting website back in spring 2006 it had no profile, no page rank, few visitors
and was virtually invisible to search engines.
At first I was so busy working that I did very little online marketing, not getting my act together ’til late 2007. But a
steady drip-feed of marketing initiatives - one small thing a day - ever since has had the desired effect. A year later:
a quick search on Google shows my site returned 5th on page one of Google UK for searches on both ‘freelance
copywriting’ and ‘freelance copywriter’, my site has a respectable page rank of 4, as does this blog. I’m getting about
1500 unique visitors a month, enough of whom convert to customers to keep me extremely busy and very happy
Which is exactly what I was aiming for.
A good way to submit quality directory entries
Try easysubmits for the best of both worlds.
Quality online directory submissions help improve your website’s visibility to search engines. But tracking down suitable
directories and creating a decent entry for each one is time consuming.
Some marketers - black hats pulled firmly over their ears - resort to 100% automated directory submissions via clever
software. But this isn’t ideal; automated directory entries can end up looking very spammy, and consistent long term
visibility is all about quality.
Easysubmits.com delivers a really good compromise. Fill in a very simple, short form. Click a button or two. And you’re
ready to submit your website to the vast list of directories provided on-site.
What’s clever? Rather than spamming every directory on earth, easysubmits:
• takes all the legwork out of creating entries by pre-filling the submission fields in each directory for you
• lets you edit your text slightly for each directory for variety and freshness. Try using the same text for five
directories, then change it
• gives you space to include keywords and a good site description
• lets you target which directories are best for your business. I submit to directories with a page rank of 2 or more,
and those that are relevant to my work as a freelance copywriter
• highlights which directories you’ve submitted to
• stores your information so you can go back and submit a few directory links whenever you have a few spare
Wonderful. A smashing little site, worthy of any marketer or SEO’s toolbox.
8 tips for successful press releases
Press releases are a really useful part of the B2B marketing mix. A cost effective way to get valuable
exposure online and offline.
Distributing a well written, exciting, properly constructed press release once a month will make your business visible to a
wide range of useful and influential people via your industry’s trade press, national and local press to consumer
publications and online seaches. Getting press releases seen and used by online and offline media is a matter of getting
a few key things right. Here are eight tips to help you hit the mark.
• content: There’s a trick to writing press releases. The first thing to do is get a decent copywriter on the case,
someone with experience writing for the press.
• layout: Your copywriter should lay the release out properly for you in paragraphs, with a heading and sub-heads
as necessary. A press release needs to market itself effectively to editors as well as to your ultimate audience. The
easier you can make it for editors to scan, the more likely they’ll be to read your story.
• business and contact details: Add a short paragraph describing your business at the foot of your release under the
header Information for editors, to save them time researching. Include your contact details here; telephone,
mobile, email, website and snail mail adresses. If an editor wants to ask you a question they’ll be able to get in
• images: the press often want to move fast and their deadlines are tight. Have some good quality images handy so
that if an editor needs pictures in a hurry you’re ready to move.
• automatic online distribution: Use a good paid-for online press release distribution service. It is worth paying for one
really good distributor rather than using loads of free ones. Pick a distributor that suits your geographical reach - UK
if you’re UK only etcetera. They’ll make sure your release is put in front of online media owners of all shapes and
sizes as well as traditional newspaper and magazine editors.
• tailored contact database: This is pure gold dust! Spend the time getting together a contact database of the names
and email addresses for editors of relevant local press, national press, trade press, consumer magazines and
anywhere else useful. Email them each release with a short personalised message (Dear Dave, here’s our release
about blah, any questions, give me a call…) Properly personalised emails from an individuals work much better than
bulk-emailed unpersonalised ones.
• forums: most forums let you post relevant press releases. If you’re not a member of any forums, join five and post
your regular press release to each. Because they’re packed with people directly involved and interested in your
industry, they’re great places to pick up exposure.
• persistence: keep at it! Drip-feed strong press releases into your target media as regularly as clockwork and you’ll
soon begin to make an impression.
Without SEO, a good business can sink like a stone
Earlier this week a prestigious Government prize was awarded to a ‘unique’ new online service.
Submitted by a member of the public in good faith, the prizewinning idea was a website that tells people what they can
and can’t recycle in their area.
Shortly after the winner was announced on the BBC Radio 4 news, a listener emailed the programme to reveal that
there’s already a website in existence that does just that.
All very embarrassing for the Government department concerned, who insisted that they’d searched far and wide but
hadn’t found anyone else offering the same thing.
The Government’s researchers probably used plenty of common sense key words and phrases like ‘recycling by UK
postcode’ and ‘recycling by UK town’ and ‘Recycling by UK county council’. They probably also asked Google questions
like ‘What can I recycle in my area?’. Because no websites containing those phrases were returned, they could be
forgiven for thinking that the prizewinning idea was unique.
Logical, but fatally flawed.
In real life a business can be online forever, but unless they pay some attention to SEO they might never be found.
The rock bottom basics:
• Make sure your site is structured with SEO in mind
• Once it is properly optimised from a structural perspective, make sure your content is as attractive as possible to
readers and search engines
Which search engines should I concentrate on for SEO?
Find out where to focus your resources.
It’s easy to forget that there’s more to life than Google. But is it worth spending time and money targeting SEO at the
other search engines, like Yahoo and Ask?
I’ve just uploaded an RSS feed from Hitwise which gives the latest stats for search engine usage in the UK.
As I’m writing this, October 2008 stats are the latest available:
• Google (UK and dot com) - 89.44%
• UK Yahoo - 2.86%
• UK Ask - 2.16%
• The rest - 5.54%
No contest. With just under 90% of all UK searches conducted on Google, that’s where your SEO resources should
probably be spent.
But that’s now. What about next month? It can be dangerous putting all your SEO eggs in one basket. In the unlikely
event that Google suddenly disappears down some kind of cosmic e-toilet, the wise marketer keeps tabs on the latest
Check http://www.hitwise.co.uk/datacenter/searchengineanalysis.php for the latest monthly UK search engine usage
If you’re in the US or elsewhere, Hitwise also provides US search engine usage stats.
Copywriting checklist: 6 tips for copywriting consistency
In the battle to stay ahead of the competition, the smallest things can pull your website ahead in the hearts
and minds of visitors.
Consistency of layout is one of them.
Here’s six things to check to make sure your website content is visually and functionally consistent:
• is the copy laid out the same way on every page?
• is the menu always in the same place?
• are your headers and body copy always spaced the same way, ie a space between subheads and paragraphs? Or no
• are you using consistent font styles and sizes across the site?
• are you using capitals and lower case consistently in headers and subheads?
• do you have a consistently-placed call to action on every page, each tailored to reflect the individual page’s content?
• All this stuff helps visitors scan and read your content more easily, even though they probably won’t be consciously
aware of it.
Common sense timing gives your marketing an edge
A few useful hints and tips about timing…
In the UK, marketing during August is usually fairly hopeless. School’s out and most people are on holiday at some point
or other during the month. Wait ’til things perk up in September.
Unless you’re selling seasonal stuff Marketing in December tends to suffer poor response rates because your message
gets lost in the retail frenzy. And most people put non-christmas decision making off until the new year. 2009? Wait until
January 5th and you should be free and clear.
If you’re sending a B2B email campaign, press the button after lunch and later in the week. People are much more
receptive when they’ve eaten and the weekend’s within sniffing distance. Email an offer first thing Monday morning at
For the same reason B2B snail mail direct marketing works best when it lands late in the week. B2C direct mail performs
well when it drops on doormats at the weekend when consumers are chilled and have time to look at your offer.
Having said all that, SEO is different. There’s no reason why you should have a month off promoting your website just
because the world’s on holiday or stuffing itself with turkey. The internet doesn’t care.
Free high and low res images as sxc.hu
Save loads of money on images for web design and print.
How often have you spent a fortune in time and money trying to find good royalty free images with unrestricted use?
Here’s a useful tip: try www.sxc.hu for a massive collection of easy-to-search low and high resolution images. Most have
no - or very few - usage restrictions and the site’s friendly and well run. A life saver!
Free tools at seomoz.org
The internet’s packed with free and paid-for SEO tools, but the quality varies.
www.seomoz.org provides a fistful of elegant SEO tools that deliver valuable insights into all aspects of search engine
optimisation. Everything from ’on page’ targeting to keyword difficulty, competitive analysis to rank checking.
Seomoz is run by and for SEOs so you can rely on their toolkit to give an accurate snapshot of exactly how your website
appears to search engines. The results inform your marketing strategy and website’s development.
It really helps that they’re all in one place. And best of all, many seomoz tools come free.
Online and offline, letters improve response
A mailing with a letter will always outpull a mailing without a letter: an old direct mail rule that holds true
whether you’re sending an email or a traditional snail mail campaign.
How many online marketers have taken it on board? Very few. Most email campaigns are nothing more than online
leaflets. As any seasoned direct marketer will tell you, you can be much cleverer than that.
A graphics-only approach ignores the most fundamental direct response marketing truth: whatever your medium, the
personal touch is worth its weight in gold.
• send a colour e-leaflet on its own if you like, but response will be poor
• a personalised letter (stuff like ’Dear Dave’ rather than ‘Dear Customer’) accompanied by an e-leaflet will pull much
• if you’re forced to choose, ditch the colour brochure in favour of a letter
• if you’re desperate for colour, combine the two. Create a letter that includes unintrusive images
If you like re-inventing the wheel, test each approach using the ‘leaflet only’ email as your control.
Six tips for website copy consistency
In the battle to stay ahead of the competition, the smallest things can pull your website ahead in the hearts
and minds of visitors.
Consistency of layout is one of them. Here’s six things to check to make sure your website content is visually and
• is the copy laid out the same way on every page?
• is the menu always in the same place?
• are your headers and body copy always spaced the same way, ie a space between subheads and paragraphs? Or no
• are you using consistent font styles and sizes across the site?
• are you using capitals and lower case consistently in headers and subheads?
• do you have a consistently-placed call to action on every page, each tailored to reflect the individual page’s content?
All this stuff helps visitors scan and read your content more easily, even though they probably won’t be consciously
aware of it.
How NOT to do marketing!
Drayton Bird discovers a wonderful example of what not to do…
Here’s a rare and interesting thing; a campaign that is brilliant in two ways, desperate in another. ‘If you really want to
touch someone, send them a letter’ says the excellent caption under this fantastic image.
So far, very good.
But that’s it. Nothing else.
Will it work? No idea. The people who created the ad won’t have any idea either, because there’s no way for people to
respond or otherwise indicate that they’ve been inspired to act.
To quote Drayton, “Never, ever do anything without having some means of measuring it.”
Ignoring customer enquiries? That’s marketing madness!
If a website visitor asks you a question, you’ve hooked ‘em.
Obvious, right? Not necessarily.
I found a great picture frame site last week. I was all set to place an order. But first I had to ask a question: can I buy
frames without glass? I reckoned their range made the answer worth waiting for. So I emailed customer services.
A day later I was on the ecommerce warpath again, this time on a mission for window insulating tape. One supplier
stood out, with the best range at the lowest prices. Before buying I enquired - again by email - which kind of insulating
tape was most appropriate for our particular windows.
A week later, no reply from either.
But this is marketing madness!
How many businesses can afford to ignore a genuine request that will result in a sale?
How many think it makes commercial sense to put off a prospect who’s on the verge of becoming a customer?
And how many think it’s OK to alienate a visitor who’s mad keen to buy?
Plenty, it seems.
I’m miffed. I spent time and effort tracking down the best supplier for the job. I asked each of them a perfectly
reasonable, very simple one-line question. I used the customer contact interface that they’d provided. And I exercised
an appropriate amount of patience… surely a week’s enough time to respond?
In a wobbly economy the strong survive and thrive. But the cowboys and lazy arses fall by the wayside. Does anyone
dare bet me a tenner that these two won’t be out of business this time next year?
Always write positive web content
The smallest things make a big difference.
Take the word ‘just’.
Just is great for indicating how simple an action is; just send us your email address and we’ll send you a million pounds
But it can be dangerous too.
All WordPress-hosted blogs come with the text Just another WordPress Blog in the header. Ouch.
• ‘Just’ devalues my ideas instantly and effortlessly.
• WordPress blog software is simple, intuitive and flexible. There’s no ‘just’ about it. It is excellent. So they’re doing
themselves a disservice too.
One four letter word. A tiny thing with a dramatic impact.
My advice to WordPress? Drop the ‘just’.
Simply saying ‘Another WordPress blog’ would help, although it’s neutral and dull. But saying something like ‘Another
wicked WordPress Blog’ would make their whole offering shine a lot brighter.
WordPress; lovely people and a brilliant product. Let down by uninformed copywriting and lacking a direct marketer’s
keen and beady eye!
Advertise for a reason
Why are you advertising your business?
That probably sounds like a mad question.
Advertising guru Raymond Rubicam famously said that ‘The sole purpose of advertising is to sell. It has no other
justification worth mentioning.’
Big ad agencies often claim that ‘raising awareness’ is key to the marketing mix. I beg to disagree, as would anyone
with a direct marketing background.
Awareness is intangible. It can’t be quantified.
Until someone finds a way to establish exactly how much ‘awareness’ is worth in pounds and pence, I’m not convinced
that it is worth achieving. How does ‘awareness’ translate to sales, if at all? How much ‘awareness’ do I need to gain to
break even on my advertising spend? What’s the projected return on investment on ‘awareness’?
How long is a piece of string?
A great direct mail letter: Case Study
A lovely piece of direct mail arrived this morning.
That’s not a sentence you hear very often! So much DM is poorly targeted rubbish. But online shop and gallery
exoticindia.com’s mailing is different. What a beauty.
Why’s it so good?
• It has been targeted perfectly; I’m a frequent customer
• The last time I ordered I had a wonderful customer experience
• They send offers very rarely. This is my first mailed campaign and I was really chuffed to get it
• It arrived in a beautifully thick, pure white non-window envelope, absolutely top quality
• It is printed in full colour and - remarkably - the logo is delicately embossed
• The paper is such good quality it’s almost edible. At least 150gsm
• The letter is short, straight to the point and personalised
• It is really well written with a strong call to action and clear instructions
• The offer is simple, straightforward and well worth taking advantage of
• The timing is spot on, Christmas being eight weeks away
• At the bottom there’s a neat little summary of what the site offers to whet the appetite
• They reiterate their excellent delivery services: 48 hour despatch, no shipping or handling fees and Fedex 3-5 day
‘Nuff said. They’ve hooked me. I capitulate happily without a murmur. As soon as I’ve finished copywriting for the day
I’m going shopping.
When direct mail’s good it can be very, very good.
New business? Choose your url wisely
What’s in a name?
If I’d known back then what I know now, I’d have called my freelance copywriting website freelance-copywriting.co.uk
or freelance-copywriter.co.uk instead of helpinthecity.
When your url includes a high-performing key word or key phrase, your website is automatically more visible to people
who search using that phrase. Much more so than if you’d gone to town on a clever, witty or weird name.
The down side? There’s not much room left for creativity. And the best urls get snapped up pretty quickly by SEO-aware
Pricing: food for thought from an Ig Nobel Prize winner
The more expensive the placebo, the better it works.
Dan Ariely recently picked up an Ig Nobel medicine prize for proving the remarkable power of perceived value.
Ariely gave two groups of volunteers identical placebo painkillers. He told one group the pills cost $2.50 each and the
other that they were cheap pills, just 10 cents each.
While the volunteers didn’t have to pay, those who took the costly fake pills felt much less pain from subsequent electric
shocks than those who took the bargain-bin fakes (Journal of the American Medical Association, vol 299, p 1016).
The research concludes that price clearly affects expectations of - and response to - drugs. The more expensive the pill
the better it works, even when it is a fake with zero therapeutic value.
The marketing implications? Hm… interesting!
Find out more about the Ig Nobel Prizes at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ig_Nobel_Prize
What are ‘deep links’?
Deep links are links to pages within a site, rather than to the home page.
What do they do?
Deep links help people find exactly what they want by giving them direct access deep into your website.
Why’s that a good thing?
Because it saves time and hassle. Rather than dumping someone on your home page and expecting them to find their
way from there, a deep link delivers people exactly where they want to be in one click.
Here’s an example.
You sell boats of all kinds. I’m searching for a rubber dinghy supplier. I see two links in a business directory. One says,
‘Boats of all shapes and sizes!’ The other says ‘Buy rubber dinghies here!’
I’m in the market for a dinghy so I’d probably follow the dinghy-specific link first. Instead of following the link to
allboats4u.com I’d follow the deeper link to allboats4u.com/dinghies/rubber dinghies.
When are deep links useful?
Deep links are really useful when you’re offering multiple products or services. They let you market one element of your
business at a time, targeting specific customer needs.
Where can you put deep links?
Some business directories ask you to pay for links. Many don’t allow links in basic listings, just name, snail mail address
and telephone number. A lot of them insist on a reciprocal link in return. And a lot of them refuse deep links altogether.
Sonicsyn is a human-edited business directory that lets you:
• advertise your business for free across multiple categories
• submit deep links
• submit articles including links, deep and otherwise
All we ask in return is well considered, intelligent link description text, sensible categorising and properly formatted,
plain language articles. We’ll reject automated submissions and articles, bad English, key word stuffing and all the usual
scaries and nasties.
What is a Google ‘Page Rank’?
Have I got one? If so, what does it do?
A Google Page Rank is a number between 1 and 10. It reflects how important each page in your website is according to
Google’s ever-changing algorithms.
A page rank of n/a is self explanatory… a lot of new sites have a page rank of n/a
1-2 is low
3-4 is average
5-6 is good
7-8 is excellent
and page ranks of 9 and 10 can be worth their weight in gold!
Google has decided that a link between one page and another is a thumbs up in terms of relevance, and Google likes
relevant websites. To calculate a page’s rank, Google examines inbound and internal links to determine relative
importance (ie. relative to the entire internet)
At the same time, Google evaluates the importance of the page that is giving the thumbs up by linking to yours. An
inbound link from a page with a rank of 5 is better than one from a low ranking page.
Google particularly likes sites with plenty of inbound links from web pages with high page ranks.
So, Page Rank matters because it is just one of many factors that decide your website’s position. Good quality inbound
links improve your website’s visibility. They help determine how easy it is to find; will your site pop up on page 1 or page
100 of Google when someone searches for products and services like yours?
More high page rank links mean more relevance and more importance. But because Google reviews its algorithms every
now and again, a high page rank can be a temporary thing. It can go up as well as down.
There are plenty of free page rank checkers online.
Tell website visitors what you do up front...
...Or they’ll get bored and go away!
Online, everyone’s short of time. They expect to find key information instantly.
Copywriting for online projects is about getting your message across clearly, quickly, simply and elegantly. It isn’t about
being mysterious and enigmatic.
Make it clear what you do in the main header of your website’s index page. Then repeat yourself in the first sentence to
make sure your message is driven home.
Here’s an example.
I’m Kate Naylor. I’m a freelance copywriter and editor with twenty years’ experience in direct marketing. My work is
commercially powerful as well as entertaining and informative. And I have a keen appreciation of writing for SEO.
There’s a second advantage to structuring your index page copy like this. It means you give search engines lots of good,
relevant words and terms to grab onto early in your page. Which will help them classify and rank your site accurately.
Every web page deserves a call to action
Save website visitors a few valuable microseconds
The easier and faster you can make the process of finding information, the more likely website visitors are to stay longer
and convert to customers. Which is why it’s a good idea to include a call to action on every web page.
But what is a call to action? Simple. It’s an instruction. Strong, timely calls to action tell your website visitors what to do
next, so they don’t have to figure it out for themselves. Here are some examples.
Get in touch
Interested? Then let’s talk. Call on 01273 XXXXXX or email me for a friendly, intelligent discussion about how freelance
copywriting will support your business’s growth.
Buy a beautiful truss!
Go on, you know you want to... treat yourself to a gorgeous personalised truss right now. P&P’s free, so fill your boots!
Order online or call on 0800 XXXXXX.
Get a quote within the hour, 24/7
Want to find out exactly how much your new pantomime horse costume will cost? Easy! Fill in and submit the form
below and we’ll get back to you with a fast, accurate quote within the hour.
A handful of tips to ensure calls to action earn their keep:
• Make them easy to spot - give calls to action their own headers
• Make them short and snappy
• Include one prominently on every page of your website
• Tailor calls to action to the contents of each page
• If your page is long, place your call to action towards the top so it is visible in the upper half of your site
• Make sure it sits comfortably within the copy
• If your page is two or more full screens long, add another call to action at the bottom (and think about shortening
your copy... but that’s another story!)
Get a valuable back link from your alumni website
If you’re an alumnus, exchange SEM Karma with your Alumni organisation
For reasons I won’t go into here, university and college websites are often awarded a very high ‘page rank’ by search
engines. This means they’re considered authoritative and credible.
On a scale of 1-10, one is a poor page rank while ten is superb. Many education establishments have a page rank of 6
or 7 which - in the scheme of things - is pretty nifty.
If you can get a link back to your website from a university or college site, it’ll give your site’s visibility a valuable boost.
Put simply, you’ll bask in their reflected glory!
Many colleges, universities and further education establishments offer discounted products and services to alumni. If
you’re prepared to give your fellow ex-students a discount, join your alumni organisation and submit a link for their
Everyone wins. Ex-students get a useful discount, the Alumni organisation thrives and your business gets some truly
excellent online exposure... good karma all round.
Format your blog posts for maximum impact
Help your readers get exactly what they want out of your blog posts using simple design principles.
A well laid out blog post delivers your message powerfully and logically, and readers get the most out of it.
Here’s a few sensible blog post layout tips
• Use a bold header to make it 100% clear where the post starts and what it is about. Think newspaper headlines
• Use bold subheads to separate your story into bite-sized, logical chunks. This makes it easy for readers to gauge
whether they want to read the post in detail
• Use short paragraphs. Long, dense paragraphs look daunting and can put people off as well as being hard to read
• Use a relevant image to give your post immediate visual appeal
• Use bullet points and lists for extra clarity and reader convenience
• Don’t be scared of space. Leaving plenty of space arond headers and paragraphs makes posts easier to read
If you’ve only got three words, make them count!
‘Breakfasts served here’ announces the chalkboard outside the Downs Hotel, somewhat grimly.
Hm. Not exactly inspiring.
Even when you’ve only got space for three words, it is worth taking care over them.
‘Breakfasts’ is a useful word. But ‘served’ is superfluous; it goes without saying that they’ll serve it to you. And the word
‘here’ is pretty pointless too. Where else would they serve your breakfast... on the moon?
Here’s a few examples of how to inspire people to buy a gut buster, using just three words:
• MASSIVE English Breakfasts!
• Breakfasts with Attitude!
• Big, tasty breakfasts!
I’d wager that any of the above would out-perform ‘breakfasts served here’ and increase the hotel’s breakfast revenue.
The lesson: waste not, want not. Squeeze every scrap of value out of limited advertising and marketing space and your
business will feel the benefit.
B2B email marketing: no opt-in needed
You don’t need an opt-in to email B2B
There’s a lot of confusion about the permissions needed for email marketing. Let’s put the matter to bed.
The rules about email marketing to businesses and consumers are as follows:
Email marketing - business to consumer
• Unless you’re comfortable being a despised purveyor of spam, you need to get individual consumers’ permission - or
opt in - before you can legitimately email them
• This remains the case even when you’ve got an existing or previous relationship with the consumer, for example if
they’ve bought from you before
• Even if you’ve got their permission, you must give consumers the opportunity to opt out of future emails every time
you contact them
Email marketing - business to business
• If you’re emailing B2B you don’t need to get permission first. It is perfectly OK for your business to email offers to
other businesses on a ’cold’ basis
• But it is good manners - and best marketing practice - to always offer an opt out.
A grey area can come into play when businesses email Sole Traders, because a sole trader’s business email address
might also be their personal email address. If in doubt, strip them out of your mailing list.
Whether you’re emailing consumers or businesses, you need to abide by two simple rules:
1. You must clearly identify commercial communications as such
2. You must give details of the steps someone needs to take to make a contract with you. If your
copywriter’s doing their stuff properly, they’ll cover this in the call to action.
For full details see the Goverment’s Distance Selling Regulations:
www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/business_leaflets/general/oft913.pdf and the EU’s Electronic Commerce
Websites with one column of text work best
Test results prove that single column websites win more customers
Use a single column of text and you’re in control of the path your readers’ eyes follow. One block of copy encourages
visitors to read in a logical sequence - from top to bottom - in the right order, like a book. They get what you’re saying,
which makes them more likely to buy.
Multiple columns distract people. Readers unconsciously flit around the columns and absorb less of your message,
missing vital bits. Which can be disastrous if they’re just about to buy... a proven cause of conversionus interruptus!
It is best to make exciting supporting information integral to your sales message instead of putting it to one side. If it’s
worth saying, it’s worth weaving it into the story. If it isn’t, leave it out. If it is useful but not key to your sales message,
put it on another page.
Get relevant backlinks to your website...
... but don’t take the mickey!
One good way to make your website visible to search engines is to get links from other sites back to your site. Search
engine crawlers love them. Quality ‘back-links’ make you look important, and search engines will prioritise your website
as a result.
Like all marketing, back-linking only has long term benefits if you do a quality job. Here’s how to get good back links
easily, quickly and honourably:
• Sign up to a maximum of three relevant forums covering your business sector
• Include the url of your site in your signature. This will appear automatically whenever you make a post
• Write something every day even if it is just a comment on someone else’s post, a reply or a one-line question
• Avoid selling your products or services in forums. It is simply not cricket!
Every time you write something, you’ll generate a highly relevant new back-link to your website.
Stay relevant, don’t overcook it and you’ll slowly build up a strong, worthwhile presence. If you already participate in
forums regularly, you’ll be doing a great job without realising it... just make sure you’ve included a link in your
Post like a person possessed across all sorts of irrelevant forums, advertising and link-busting shamelessly, and you risk
being penalised by search engines. As well as becoming forum non grata.
Working freelance B2B in any industry or sector?
Here’s a ‘bare bones’ plan to help you get your wares in front of target audiences quickly and
Week 1. promote your business wherever your target market congregates.
Where does your target market hang out? That’s where you need to be. Get your business listed with free online
business sites like freeindex. Take advantage of powerful free website directories like DMOZ. Register with relevant
online business, trade-specific and networking communities. Use free local classifieds and advertising websites like
Gumtree to promote your services.
Week 2. Let the media know you’ve arrived.
It is surprisingly easy to get media coverage when you’ve got a good story. Send out a strong press release by email to
local / national press, trade press, radio & TV stations and online magazines/guides/forums - wherever’s relevant. For
extra oomph use a good quality distribution service like PressReleasePoint to get your message in front of a massive
spread of media
Week 3. Introduce yourself to your prospects.
If you haven’t already got a database together, buy or build your own list of prospects (contact name, company name,
address, email address). Then send out a snail mail direct marketing campaign - say a postcard or letter - introducing
your services to them. Why traditional direct mail? Because it is performing much better than many online media at the
Week 4. Drive your message home.
Send a follow-up email to the same prospects and drive your message home another notch. B2B freelancers can email
other businesses without an opt in, but you should always offer an unsubscribe option and remove unsubscribed people
from your list.
Week 5. Plan ongoing activity.
• revisit what you’ve aready done. If something has worked well, do it again
• keep an eye open for new places to promote your freelance business online
• send out a press release every 4 weeks
• send out a short email news flash every 4 weeks
• send a direct mail or email campaign every 3 months
How to write a hard working direct response advert
IRONING? Be clear, be concise, be brief and shout LOUDLY!
YES PLEASE! If you want your advert to pull in enquiries and sales - and why else would you bother advertising? - your copy and
design need to be carefully constructed. Here’s the basics.
• write a short, eyecatching, inspiring header
If the ironing’s driving you to tears,
• put the header at the top of the ad using a large font size
we’ll put a smile back on your face
without breaking the bank! • don’t use fancy typefaces, they just confuse matters when you need to look sleek
• compress your sales message into as few words as possible - no more than three short sentences
Treat yourself to crisp, immaculate,
efficient and affordable ironing by our • make it as exciting and stimulating as you can but avoid sounding like bad American direct mail
friendly team of experts. • put your sales message below your heading, set in a font size that’s easy to read at a glance
• write a strong, compelling call to action and put it below your sales message
5 PIECES OF CLOTHING OR • include contact details - in your order or preference - at the bottom of the ad, again using a nice, readable font size
LINEN IRONED... NO CHARGE!
As you can imagine, a successful direct response advert is rarely a pretty thing. Loud headlines, easy to read text and
prominent contact details don’t often make for a minimalist masterpiece. And you won’t win any design awards. But it’ll
bring in more business than a complicated, airy fairy, verbose ad using a stylish yet fiddly font.
Treat yourself... book your free trial NOW!
In other words, leave the pure brand advertising to the big boys who have more spare cash than commercial sense!
Tel: 088 123456.
Email: email@example.com To the left... one I made earlier, just for fun.
Or write to us:
You can even pop in!
What is marketing?
1. Marketing is... THE CREATIVE APPLICATION OF LOGIC
Marketing can be tricky. Get too creative and you alienate and confuse people. Apply logic at creativity’s expense and
you bore them into a coma. Remembering this simple definition will help you stay on the right side of both tracks.
• the logic bit is a clear, simple sales message or proposition
• the creative bit is the successful expression, and communication, of that message
2. Marketing is... SELLING STUFF
This might sound obvious but you’d be surprised how often businesses forget that marketing is all about selling stuff.
Stay focused on commerce and avoid dangerous things like ego and aesthetic over-sensitivity!
Write with confidence to get results
Learn to blow your own trumpet!
You don’t need to sound like an egotistical maniac. But when you’re writing marketing and communication materials,
you do need to sound confident in your business’s abilities.
Here’s an example. Which do you think is strongest: 1 or 2?
• 1. We’ll try to help you find the best deal. You might find you could save money!
• 2. Save money! We’ll help you find the best deal.
They both say the same thing. But 1. sounds doubtful and uncertain, while 2. sounds confident and sure.
You might be sounding uncertain because you want to stop people complaining if you can’t actually keep your promises.
If so, put your caveats elsewhere instead, expressing them honestly and clearly. Even caveats can be written to sound
Respond to the news and win business
Grab the tail of a current even and hang on!
Occasionally, a news story will resonate with your business. So grasp the opportunity and tell people about it!
Putting your slant on a local, national or international news story will bring readers, responders, visitors and customers.
Here’s an example.
You are a building firm. A local scandal has just surfaced. A rash of cowboy builders, insisting on cash up front, have
disappeared leaving customers’ jobs unfinished. You write letters to your local papers, send out a press release, email
your local radio station and write a blog post on your website: Top ten tips to avoid the cowboys.
The result? You get a letter printed. Another local paper prints your press release and uploads it to their website at the
same time. And people searching for details about the story online run across your blog post.
18 steps to marketing perfection: recession-proofing for businesses
A wobbly economy isn’t always bad news. The strong always survive.
So prepare yourself. If things are slowing down a bit, review your marketing to gain a good, muscular competitive
• doing enough marketing? A slow-down means you might have to work harder to get new customers and keep
• spending money in the right places? Test new media to establish response & conversion rates
• stuck in a rut? Review your existing media and campaigns, check ROI then act on your findings
• spending more than necessary on print? Check in case you can buy it for less
• posting profligately?! An A5 brochure, newsletter or catalogue can cost much less to post than A4
• sending out stuff by snail mail when you could easily email it?
• thinking creatively: reacting to current affairs swiftly and eloquently to raise your profile?
• up to date with your market: who they are and what they want from you?
• maximising the marketing potential of new products or services?
• releasing regular press releases to beef up your visibility?
• making the most of up to date SEO techniques?
• integrating your campaigns intelligently across multiple media?
• happy with your pre-sales, sales and post-sales materials? Could they work harder for you?
• grabbing every opportunity along the customer journey to communicate positively with people?
• updating your website often enough to keep search engines and repeat visitors keen?
• certain your website content is doing the best possible job of attracting, keeping and persuading visitors to buy?
• comfortable with your brand and what it projects to your target market?
• satisfied that your marketing plans still accurately reflect what your business is trying to achieve?
Get this lot right and you should be fit enough to fight a blip, a slow down or even a full blown recession!
The cliche... a copywriting no-no?
Should copywriters avoid cliches like the plague?!
There are two sides to most stories. This one’s no different.
You could view cliches as the lazy way out. The opposite of creative. Boring and done to death. If I was a creative
writer - an author - I’d agree.
On the other hand, cliches have commercial power because practically everyone understands exactly what you mean
when you use one. You get your message across instantly. Which is pretty important given that most people merely
skim websites, scan direct mail letters and give marketing stuff a cursory glance.
Here’s an example.
1. It’s a real life rags-to-riches story of love, betrayal and - ultimately - triumph over adversity.
2. It’s the story of an epic journey from desperate poverty to astonishing wealth: a tale of love, betrayal and - ultimately
1. He was determined to keep his nose to the grindstone. They didn’t tolerate slackers.
2. He was determined to keep on working this hard. For long hours at a stretch, without a break. They didn’t tolerate
If your audience is likely to take the time to read your stuff carefully, you can afford to avoid cliches. If your reader has
the attention span of a gnat, think twice before discounting them altogether... a classic case of horses for courses!
Increase impulse sales by...
... using highly visible response mechanisms
A simple tip that loads of businesses forget.
When you’re marketing to customers and prospects, make it easy for them to respond. Make it obvious what they can
do next, up front.
We like to act on impulse. Particularly online. If we can’t, we go off the boil. We decide it’s not actually a good idea, or
that we can’t afford it. Or we make plans to buy somewhere else.
Scarily, impulsive behaviour is much more time critical online than offline. We make decisions with alarming speed.
Here’s an example
You get an email offering you a lovely blue thing. You already have one, but you’d love a pink thing.
You scan through the message but you can’t spot a link to their website. You’re very busy and slightly exasperated, even
though it has only taken a few seconds to look. You can’t be bothered to scroll down, so you forget the impulse and
delete the email.
The email says, right at the top, ’Email us or visit our website for details of orange, yellow and pink things’.
You follow the site link and buy a few colourful things on impulse. While you’re at it, you email the company about those
exclusive new purple things. They get back to you within the hour to say they can get hold of one for you. On impulse,
you’ve collected the whole range.
Watch out for SEO trends
Market wisely: know where you’re at
If you’re doing DIY search engine optimisation, it makes sense to keep an eye on your website’s visibility and watch for
trends. That way, if you’re in danger of slipping you can take steps to get your business back where you want it to be…
presumably on page 1 of mainstream search engines.
It’s easy to keep tabs. Use a simple Excel spreadsheet to log the position of your key search terms every week. Then
create a quick cumulative graph every quarter to check the long term pattern. It is usually easier to spot trends by
representing data visually than by staring at strings of numbers.
The graph represents the the position my website appeared on page 1 of Google for my top four key phrases, noted at
roughly the same time every week for six months.
• red line = key phrase ‘copywriting brighton’
• pink line = key phrase ‘freelance copywriter brighton’
• blue line = key phrase ‘freelance copywriting brighton’
• green line = key phrase ‘copywriter brighton’
Obviously I’m aiming for red line results! A clear, steady climb up page 1 of Google’s what I’m after.
The green line needed work - I kept being knocked down page one by new local competitors.
Pink was beginning to tail off so I needed to concentrate on that. Blue seemed to be meandering along OK.
Without this little bit of wisdom, I wouldn’t know where to concentrate my DIY marketing efforts. As a freelance
copywriter and editor, I don’t want to waste time focusing on the wrong things.
One thing to remember: different Google data centres can return slightly different search results (or so I’ve been told).
So you might get better or poorer website visibility from your work PC compared to punting in your search terms from
Inspired? Surf the wave while it lasts
Stockpile blog posts and drip-feed them regularly
It’s common knowledge that posting regularly into a living, reacting blog encourages a loyal following.
Hm. I’m a fine one to talk. Some weeks I’m just too busy to write a post and other times I’m stuck for a subject. Now
and again I’m full of ideas and inspiration, and have a couple of hours spare to rattle off a post or two. So as far as
regularity goes, I’m as crap as the next person.
A nifty Wordpress function, however, makes life a bit easier for sporadic bloggers who should know better. It’s simple
but elegant: when inspiration strikes, write like the wind. Stash as many posts as you can for a rainy day then drip feed
them automatically into your blog, one or two a week.
I hate to quote a supermarket advert, but every little helps.
Seventeen direct marketing classics
Drayton Bird’s direct marketing ‘must read’ book list.
The late David Ogilvy said that UK direct marketing guru Drayton Bird ”knows more about direct marketing than anyone
else in the world.” If you’re deadly serious about making money from your marketing, you could do a lot worse than
invest in Drayton’s top seventeen DM classics.
I’d argue that it is not worth doing a marketing campaign - under any circumstances - unless you are going to seek a
response of some kind. Advertising agencies will disagree. But I’d rather spend my cash on direct marketing and know
exactly how many quids my investment has attracted, than on a TV ad produced to enhance a brand with no empirical
evidence of return on investment… whatsoever.
Drayton Bird would agree and, gentleman that he is, I’m certain he won’t mind my reproducing his direct marketing
‘must read’ list here.
• E-mail Marketing Made Easy, Malcolm Auld
• Secrets of Successful Direct Mail, Richard V Benson
• Commonsense Direct Marketing, Drayton Bird
• How to Write a Sales Letter that sells! Drayton Bird
• Tested Advertising Methods, John Caples
• Eicoff on Broadcast Direct Marketing, Al Eicoff
• Scientific Advertising, Claude Hopkins
• Profitable Direct Marketing, Jim Kobs
• Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy
• Maxi Marketing, Stan Rapp and Tom Collins
• The Great Brain Robbery, Murray Raphel
• How to Advertise, Ken Roman and Jane Maas
• Writing that Works, Ken Roman and Joel Raphelson
• How to write a good advertisement, Victor Schwab
• Successful Direct Marketing Methods, Bob Stone
• The Solid Gold Mailbox, Walter Weintz
• The End of Marketing as We Know It, Sergio Zyman
Beware the media monster
Powerful it is. Harmless it isn’t. Treat the media with great caution!
A recent New Scientist article (Oil Shock - you ain’t seen nothing yet - June 28th 2008) explores the outcome of a
sustained world oil crisis. The potential consequences are so frightening that Governments are busy drawing up
emergency plans. In one exercise, experts simulated what would happen if a ‘psychological avalanche’ struck… in other
words, if everyone screamed at once. Here’s an excerpt from the simulation:
‘A small, distant country one day finds it can no longer import enough oil because of a spike in prices or
problems with local supply. The news media whip this up into a story suggesting an oil shock is on the way,
and the resulting panic buying by the public degenerates into a global grab for oil.’
The remainder of the article goes into horrid detail about what happens next. But I’ll stop there. My point is that the
media’s ability to create unfounded panic is being acnowleged at the highest levels all over the world. Governments are
planning for the fact that the media is capable of, even reasonably likely to, bring about an international human disaster
of unbelievable proportions. Needlessly, for all of us, everywhere.
How scary is that?!
I’m not saying that sending a crap press release to your local paper or radio station will result in apocalypse. But it’s
wise to be aware that people put an inordinate amount of faith in what the media says. So take care what you let them
get their hands on, and think twice before you write!
What is a brand? And how do I get one?
It’s no mystery.
‘Brand’ describes the way the outside world experiences your organisation.
The concept is easier to understand if you ditch the word ‘brand’ and think ‘personality’ instead.
An organisation’s personality, like yours, is made up of:
• The way it looks - design, colours, logos, text sizes, fonts and images
• The way it sounds - the tone of voice and style of communications
• The way it behaves - the quality of customers’ emotional and physical experience when interacting with your
• The things it believes in and expresses - interests, focus, mission, ideals, aims and ambitions
If you’re starting a new business, the first step is to decide how you want the outside world to experience it.
Next, you create a suitably evocative personality via your literature and website design, communications, systems, mar-
keting, advertising and PR.
To turn this fledgling personality into an effective brand, be consistent. If you’re true to brand, your brand equity (ie. the
financial benefits you reap from having a brand) will grow organically.
A word of warning: it’s dangerous to act in defiance of your brand!
If you sincerely promise next day delivery but don’t hit target, you’re damaged. If your website insists your telesales
agents are friendly but they actually terrify people, sales will take a hit. If your sales literature’s in plain language but
your quotes look like ancient greek, people will lose faith.
The big picture’s a beautiful thing. But don’t miss out on the minutae.
Planning your marketing strategy and working out tactics is an exciting creative process. So exciting that it’s
easy to miss the little gems sitting quietly under your nose.
Does your organisation maximise the potential of every customer contact?
Every communication, no matter how low-key, represents a marketing opportunity. Following on from my last post,
here’s a short list of mini marketing opportunities. And a few ideas about how to make the most of them:
Purchase and payment confirmations, delivery notes: include special offers, money off coupons, details of similar prod-
ucts in stock, ‘people who bought this also bought X’, product / service recommendations.
Statements, invoices and reminders: include information about the choice of payment methods, reductions for pay-
ments made in full, or the benefits of having an account. New product development, a competition, a feedback request,
a free offer…
Customer service materials, letters, reminders, updates and upgrades: cross-sell or up-sell products / services. Include a
short sales message, a compelling survey or pertinent research findings.
Agreements, contracts, tenders, briefings, specification documents: list extra services they might find useful. Add your
credentials, feature a relevant success story, case study or customer testimonial. Announce new industry partnerships,
agency agreements, contracts won…
In a nutshell. If you make the most of all your communications, treating each as a marketing opportunity, you:
• bring more customers in
• keep those you have for longer
• they buy more stuff, more often
• they recommend you to others
Simple quotes convert prospects into buyers
If you keep your quotes simple, more of your prospects will convert to customers.
If you’re quoting for a contract, job or project, make the total costs clear up front. If your quote has to be detailed and
complicated, include a front sheet giving a simple, elegant summary. Good presentation boosts conversion even further.
Here’s a case in point. I recently won a copywriting and editing project against a strong local competitor. I won because
my quote was:
• presented professionally in .pdf format, designed to my brand
• simple and clear
• short and succinct
• thorough and relevant
My competitor, in contrast, submitted a wordy, sales-focused, eight page email quote. Copywriting costs were presented
as being ‘between £xxx and £xxx per page’ and the difference between the potential per-page costs was alarming at
almost £90. This person is probably a brilliant copywriter. But it wasn’t immediately obvious; the quote’s layout and style
were a big let down.
It’s a trust thing. And a credibility thing. Every time you contact a prospect or customer, for whatever reason, you’re
making a direct impact on how they feel about you. So even the dull stuff like quotes and estimates, agreements and
contracts, delivery notes, invoices and emailed purchase confirmations represent tiny marketing opportunities.
Send out charming sales confirmations. Invoice politely. Make sure your estimates work in sympathy with your brand
and use the same friendly tone of voice whatever you’re saying. And you’ll gain a respectable business advantage over
competitors who take less care.
A picture’s only worth a thousand words if it’s relevant
If you want to sell stuff, don’t waste time being arty.
Are you planning to use images in your advert?
Key US research proved twenty years ago that the most successful campaigns - with the biggest returns on investment
- contain images that:
• attract the right target audience
• help describe the product or service in visual terms
• boost the sales message’s strength and heighten its impact
• enable key extra details to be communicated without miles of copy
• support the marketing messages, giving extra commercial power
• get the message across instantaneously, saving people time and effort
• “But that research was carried out two decades ago”, I hear you protest. True. But think how less crowded commu-
nications were then. No internet. No mobile ‘phones…
Today, people are busier than ever. So you can’t afford to play hide and seek or do a Damien Hurst with your marketing.
Being mysterious and ‘creative’ doesn’t improve response and conversion rates. Quite the opposite.
The advert pictured is a very good example of a very bad offender. Take away the words and this strange lady could be
advertising flash mobbing, contemporary dance, tights, vitamin pills… I doubt your first instinctive thought was ’proces-
To make money from your marketing, stick to images that really do speak louder than the words you need to say. Why
obscure your message?
Exercise restraint, my friends.
How much is a good press release worth?
One press release nets £22,657 worth of exposure.
Making the effort to write great press releases really is worthwhile. But, as I’ve said before, talk’s cheap. Here’s a real
life Case Study to illustrate my point.
I recently wrote a release for a client, World Leaders, that resulted in a feature in London’s Metro newspaper.
The Release took me a couple of hours to write, which cost my client eighty quid. I distributed the release on their
behalf to a handful of free press release distribution websites. Sent it to some relevant forum editors. And blogged it.
Which cost them another three hours of my time.
A Metro journalist saw the release and contacted World Leaders for an interview. The result? A full page of editorial,
including pictures, in Metro’s London edition, which cost my client £200.
Buying a full page colour ad would have cost them £22,657 (rate card price)… a very healthy return on
Don’t short change yourself. It’s a sure fire way to miss out on opportunities for low cost, high impact visibility. Use a
proper copywriter and squeeze every drop of effectiveness out of your press releases!
Making DIY direct marketing work - case study
Never underestimate the potential of the humble postcard.
Tightly targeted direct marketing on a tiny scale can bring big benefits.
Here’s a case study, one of my own campaigns.
• Medium - a traditional postcard campaign
• Aim - new business acquisition
• Audience - small and medium sized local businesses, new media and marketing agencies, advertising agencies, web
• Offer - freelance copywriting and editing, Brighton and Hove area
• Text - include contact details and website address. Write strong one-sentence message
• Design - typography-based. Eyecatching and colourful to maximise the chances of people hanging onto it
• Spec. - A6 300gsm card, full colour, printed one side, gloss on coloured side, matt on reverse, quantity 200
• Distribution - first class post
The first campaign:
• research five new prospects a day using Google searches, business directories and job boards
• keep a record of their contact details and the date mailed
• address, hand write and send five cards a day, two days a week for four weeks (gets my freelance ass out of the
• 50 cards = £10 print
• £17 postage
• 3 hours of my time writing and designing the card = £120
Total cost for the test £147
(The next campaign will cost less because my time’s a one-off fixed cost)
• 50 cards sent
• Responders x 6 (12%)
• Converters so far x 3 (50% of responders, 6% of database)
• Estimated income £1400
• Estimated profit £1253
These small quantities aren’t statistically relevant. I can’t assume that if I send out 1000 cards at once I’ll get 120
responders converting at the same rate.
Not bad for an hour a day’s prospect hunting twice a week for a month. Followed by a swift half mile march to the local
Direct mail’s an amazing medium and one of the few ways, offline, to make the numbers work without breaking the
bank. Highly recommended DIY fodder for freelancers and small businesses.
Look beyond the obvious. What are you really selling?
Empathy strengthens the punch of sales messages.
Your website sells insurance. But the very thought of insurance sends most people into a state of paralysed boredom.
On the other hand, knowing you’ll be compensated if some bugger nicks the contents of your house raises a more
What does this tell the wise communicator?
That there’s no point trying to sell insurance. The clever thing to do is to sell people ‘peace of mind’: the knowledge that
if things go wrong, they’ll get help putting things right.
The same goes for tangible goods. For example clothes. Are you selling a flouncy velvet skirt? Nope. You’re selling the
opportunity to look fabulous. The chance to catch the eye of some bloke. Or the triumph of winning a new job.
And are you selling a car? Nope. You’re selling freedom and convenience, whether it’s comfortable, stylish, sporty, practi-
cal, safe or obscenely expensive.
Identify the positive emotions and feelings that your stuff generates. Find out what your customers’ deepest desires are
and serve them up on a plate whenever you communicate. Then watch your conversion rates increase.
A few more examples to get you in the swing of things:
• Are you selling computers? Nope. Amongst other things, you’re selling access to the wonders of t’internet
• Are you selling training courses? Nah. You’re selling new careers, hopes, aspirations and many happy hours spent on
• Are you selling hot chocolate? No, you’re selling relaxation and self-indulgence
Copywriting tip: wise up to jargon!
Jargon’s a dangerous beast unless you know how to handle it.
Used as a short cut, it clarifies your message beautifully for some groups of people. But it throws others into confusion.
It’s cool to use jargon when communicating with:
• Peers and staff
• Other businesses in your industry
• Trade organisations and trade media
In other words, those who use the same jargon as you. It’ll help you get your message across quickly and clearly to
people who have a good understanding of your world.
But don’t use jargon to communicate with:
• Customers, prospects and target markets outside your industry
• Non-trade media
Use plain language to communicate the benefits of your products and services. It’ll make the uninitiated feel at home
and informed, happy to buy
All of which sounds like common sense. But it’s surprising how often it gets ignored!
How to edit website copy... the visual stuff
You can edit a dirty great chunk of text until you’re blue in the face. But it won’t work unless you format it
Commercially powerful editing deals with more than words. It also considers format and makes intelligent use of empty
1. It’s really important to break your text into bite sized bits:
• headers and subheads let visitors pick out key facts fast
• dividing content lets you split vital information into logical blocks so it’s easy to digest
• breaking chunks of text into short paragraphs helps visitors read and understand your message
• bullet points and lists help you communicate complex information in a simple format so people can sort through and
2. And the space between headers and body text, paragraphs and subheads is equally important:
• Including space allows readers to pick out key facts fast, helping them find what they want quickly
• Spaces make your message seem more manageable, so people stay longer
• Spaces make your copy more visually interesting so people read more
Obviously a happy, well-informed, entertained visitor will buy more stuff than one who is frustrated, bored and confused.
So canny editing is a must rather than a ‘nice to have’!
Top tip for great customer testimonials and case studies
It can be a nightmare getting your customers to provide testimonials and case studies.
Fair enough. While collecting positive comments and case studies is important to your business, it isn’t their top priority.
Luckily, there’s an easy way. Rather than asking your customers to provide testimonials or case studies for you, write
them yourself. Then submit them for sign off.
Your customer will be happy because you’ve save them a load of time and effort. You’ll be happy because you get
positive, complimentary content to use on your website - or wherever - quickly and efficiently.
If you’re not 100% confident about your writing skills, get a professional copywriter to edit your efforts or do the job for
you. It shouldn’t take long, nor should it be expensive. A good copywriter will charge between £35 and £45 an hour. And
they should be able to edit your copy or write a strong, compelling Case Study for you in around an hour.
Simple yet effective!
6 great business reasons to edit your website
Why bother to edit your website?
The business benefits are clear.
• As your site evolves, it can get cluttered. Old stuff gets shoved into corners and archived all over the place. Its
always worth making a regular date to evaluate what you really need on site and what can go. A clean, clear site
means visitors can find their way around easily and don’t get blinded by too much content.
• You might have several people providing the content, which soon starts to sound inconsistent… not good for your
brand, no matter what size your business is. When you speak with a consistent voice, your message comes across
with much more authority.
• You might have written the site yourself to test the concept of your business. To take things to the next stage, you’d
want to get your site into professional shape. Editing’s a cost effective way to get you where you want to be and
saves you the cost of having your website written from scratch.
• Stuff gets out of date. Before you know it your site’s full of broken links, old stock, events that have long passed.
Which makes you look out of touch. Or worse, closed. When did you add your last new customer testimonial? If it
isn’t recent, it’ll look like nobody loves you. Site content needs to be dynamic. If it’s always fresh, visitors respond
positively by seeing you as a lively, successful enterprise.
• Your existing copy might, simply, be a bit pants! Intelligent, creative editing will bring you in line with the
One of the biggest advantages a professional editor brings to your party is impartiality. You live and breathe your
business so you probably (be honest!) can’t see straight where your site content’s concerned. A regular, intelligent ,
marketing-focused edit will help you grow your business from a solid, effective, inspirational base
Talk’s cheap! So here’s a quick sample showing what editing can do to liven up your website content. First, a chunk of
Last year the state’s sorghum production was 505 million bushels, 40% of total US production. Kansas growers value
grain sorghum because it is well suited to perform well in many types of soils and weather. Kansas is a diverse state with
soils ranging from sandy to clay to loam, and with summertime weather patterns ranging from hot and humid in the
east to hot and dry in the west. With these varying weather and soil conditions throughout Kansas, grain sorghum is a
crop that Kansas farmers can depend on.
And my edited version.
Kansas has some crazy weather conditions. From blizzard to heatwave to twister, humid hot to freezing cold. The
state’s challenging soil conditions don’t help: from sandy to clay to loam. And everything in between. Luckily, Kansas
farmers can depend on grain sorghum. Despite everything, last year Kansas produced a massive 505 million bushels of
this hardy, resilient crop. That’s 40% of the US’s total grain sorghum harvest.
Cartoon by Kate
Fast, easy website updates keep return visitors keen
My site needed a spring clean. But how to update the design while keeping control of the original look and
I like to keep returning customers interested and it’s important that my site stays fresh. So, as part of my marketing
plan, I change the look and feel on a seasonal basis.
My site is designed around a spacious, fat header which I can replace to dramatic visual effect very quickly. And .css
(cascading style sheets) make it simple to change the site’s colour and format within seconds.
At the core of my ‘brand’ lies an image of me, which consistently sits to the left within all headers. Because I’m selling
my own services as a freelance copywriter it feels right to include some kind of image. And this is what returning
customers recognise. Otherwise, anything goes!
Because words and creativity are my stock in trade, this spring’s headers take a typographical tack. I’ve used strong,
vibrant colours and a variety of fonts. The copy in each header works in support of the page’s content.
Total time taken to write design, make and upload eight new headers? Three hours. I’m lucky; I have InDesign on tap
so I can do it myself. But there are loads of other quick ‘n’ dirty ways to ensure your site delivers the visual goods for
returning customers, visit after visit. Here’s a quick ‘off the top of my head’ list:
• rewrite your home page copy
• make a special offer
• encourage feedback
• include a newsletter or free ebook
• add power pages or product .pdfs and steadily build a knowledge library
• change your images or refresh your image descriptions
• swap background colours
• change header and text colours
• ask a question: include a survey
Harness the power of the email subject line
Help… it’s a spam tsunami!
Getting your email marketing campaign seen amongst all the rubbish is a challenge. The more spam in a person’s inbox,
the less likely they are to notice the stuff they’ve actually subscribed to.
Even the most tolerant and observant of us eventually succumbs to spam blindness. So how do you grab the attention
of the spam-weary?
Luckily it isn’t rocket science. The secret lies with your subject line. It needs to spark interest. And it also needs to make
it obvious - at a glance - that the message is from you.
People sign up for updates because they know your stuff’s relevant to them. Effective email headers aren’t about being
clever with words. Nor are they about selling. They’re all about recognition. In a busy world, it helps if you make it easy
for time-poor people to spot your communications.
OK, so you’ve written a sensible and informative subject line. Next? Apply consistency. Use the same header each time,
or variations on a theme. This’ll help build and strengthen recognition. Simple but effective small scale brand building.
One, my monthly newsletter email which has a consistent, factual subject line. This month’s is:
April newsheet from Kate, freelance copywriter and editor
Next month’s will be:
May newsheet from Kate, freelance copywriter and editor
Two. Say your site sells chocolate cakes. Your April email campaign might be headed:
Chocoholica April - Feed your passion for white chocolate
Chocoholica May - Test drive the world’s finest brownie
‘Major developments’ for email marketing
“2008 sees some major developments for email marketing. Online marketers are buzzing about the integra-
tion of email in the marketing mix. And about relevant and timely emails: getting the right message to the
right person at the right time. Both will help achieve better engagement, higher response rates and a better
% conversion to sales.”
I found this piece heading up an online emarketing newsletter this morning. Holy shmoley. Having been in direct
marketing for almost twenty years, I’m astonished.
These two direct marketing fundamentals are only ‘major developments’ in the sense that online marketers have been
so slow to discover them. Good direct marketers have been integrating campaigns across multiple media, and
attempting to target mailings intelligently, for several decades.
If you’re an inexperienced online marketer and integrated marketing / intelligent targeting are news to you, go digest
some traditional direct marketing books. If Drayton Bird’s classics are all you read, you’ll be onto a winner.
Wryly, I wonder which direct marketing principles will be ’discovered’ by fledgling marketers next. Lesson for businesses:
check your Marketer’s or Agency’s experience and expertise before taking them on. ‘Young and vibrant’ ain’t always
what it’s cracked up to be, and competition’s too fierce to risk missing a trick.
Five good reasons why businesses should blog
If you think blogs are only for personal use, think again. Quality blogging attracts all sorts of
Blogging bigs up your visibility with search engines. Regular posts keep your site fresh. They encourage return visits by
search engine bots. Your blog’s style, tone and content give readers a valuable insight into what it’s like to work with
Quality posts will boost your credibility within your markets and industry sector. When there’s a choice, people prefer to
buy from businesses who know what they’re on about. Blogging can help you become a ’thought leader’ in your field.
And because the media like to talk to thought leaders, it can result in wide-ranging publicity.
Blogging is instant. Meaning you can react to market news, views, threats, controversies and developments fast. Thus
sneaking one past your competitors! You don’t have to write loads. Just write something useful, informative, entertain-
ing and relevant.
Blogging’s cheap. Free templates let you set up a blog from scratch in a couple of hours. If you bolt your blog onto your
existing site you won’t need to buy another domain. If you write it yourself, you won’t need to employ a writer.
If your competitors aren’t blogging, you can pull steadily ahead. If they are, your blog will help you keep pace and dif-
ferentiate and re-position your business, offers, services and products.
As always there are a few common sense caveats:
• If you can’t write, don’t. Poorly written stuff does more harm than good. Take on a copywriter: on average 1 hour
per post @ between £35 and £45 an hour
• Exercise common sense when deciding what to say and how to express it. Don’t say anything on your blog that you
wouldn’t say to a customer
• Remain professional
• Keep at it. It’s neither magic nor instant - a blog takes a while to bed in
• Be consistent in your attitudes and ideals. Otherwise you’ll scare people!
Maximise the marketing potential of e-books
E-books are hot. But is there any commercial value in uploading an e-book to your website?
Provided the content is relevant, informative and well written, an e-book should ding the right bells. A great e-book can
pack enough power to infuence buying behaviour and increase conversion
Upload your e-book as a .pdf and you tap into more good stuff. Search engine algorithms like words. They’ll ‘read’ the
.pdf, checking its relevance against the site’s content. If they like what they ‘see’ they’ll make your site more visible to
people who are searching for your type of business using your key words and phrases
If visitors enjoy your e-book, there’s a chance they’ll tell other people. Some might link back to your site or blog about
your e-book, which’ll help raise your site’s visibility and give your business added credibility
Update the e-book itself whenever you have something new to say and you’ll benefit again. Search engine bots tend to
revisit sites for re-evaluation more often when the content’s refreshed regularly
Once your e-book has been created and formatted, adding to it should be fast and inexpensive. Uploading new editions
You can track response and check for traffic increases easily and fast using your regular webstats package - great for
The verdict? From a marketer’s perspective, a quality e-book is a valuable element of the marketing mix. Go write!
Four simple ways to format long web page copy
You need to use every trick in the book to persuade visitors to convert to customers. Every little helps!
If your web page copy’s long, you need to take care when formatting it. Why? Because people find it hard to read on-
screen, they tend to scan. They’ll ignore dense chunks of copy and you’ll risk not getting your main messages across.
Unsatisfied, your visitors will soon leave… a chronic waste of marketing.
When people are reading web copy they unconsciously search for visual clues, ‘landmarks’ that tell them whether they’re
in the right place. In much the same way as we scan newspaper headlines to decide which articles to read. We like to
avoid having to read the detail until we’re sure it contains stuff we want to know.
So, what do you to do to maximise the effectiveness of your web page copy layout? The trick is to make it easy for your
readers to scan, understand and read your text, taking all the hard work out of it!
Four top tips:
• Keep your copy to a single column in a vertical block like a book - no need to reinvent the wheel, books are very
comfortable to read
• Keep an eye on your column width. It should be reasonably narrow… again, book page width is ideal. Wide columns
make it hard for our eyes to track from the end of one the line to beginning of another, giving us a lumpy ride. On
the other hand, too-thin columns make your copy feel jerky and restless.
• Make sure you use plenty of subheads so visitors can easily scan a page before they commit to reading it. Craft
the subheads so they give a clear outline of what you’re talking about in each section. Subheads should guide the
reader through your story’s key points, emphasising benefits.
• Indent important bits of copy. Or use bullet points and lists. This lets you emphasise key points and break up what
might otherwise be a fat, unfriendly block of text. The longer your copy on a page, the more important it is to use
subheads and indents. This way you convey visually that your content is going to be easy to read and understand
before they even start reading
Where do your website visitors REALLY come from?
Your website’s statistics package gives you a load of information about site visitors. But are webstats the
Most website visitors find you via a search engine. Their visits show up on your webstats, as do visitors from sites that
are linked to yours.
But what if someone found you in the Thompson Local directory, read about you in the local or national press, saw an
advert in a trade magazine, heard you were good on the grapevine or saw your van parked in their street? The original
source of these enquiries isn’t a search engine. These searchers heard about you somewhere else first.
It makes sense to track the success of all your Marketing and PR efforts. How else do you plan your marketing wisely
and hit your return on investment targets? Some businesses include the question ‘where did you hear about us’ in their
online Registration and Enquiry forms. Most have a drop-down list to pick from: personal recommendation, radio advert,
TV advert, press advert, trade press etcetera.
This is all great stuff. But there’s another category… the all-important ‘other’ which lets you identify unexpected
marketing and PR exposure.
Here’s an example.
Perhaps a customer has recommended you on a trade forum. People who enquire or register because of his
recommendation use the ‘other’ field to tell you where they heard of you. The benefit? The potential commercial value
of your advocate is made clear and you can act accordingly to capitalise on the relationship. In marketing terms, you’ve
Asking where visitors heard of you won’t irritate or put them off provided the form’s clear, simple, short and fast. Keep
your drop down list accurate and up to date, offer a freeform ‘other’ option and the simple question ‘Where did you hear
about us’ could prove a little goldmine.
Answer silent questions for extra home page power
Visitors arrive at your site for the first time seething with silent questions.
Here’s an example. If your site advises people about anger management, first time visitors’ll probably be unconsciously
wondering things like:
• I need help. Can I find out more about anger management here?
• I wonder how angry I really am. Can I evaluate my anger levels here?
• I’d love to talk to someone face to face. Can I book a course or a workshop here?
People don’t want to waste time searching for these basics. A good anger management website would answer visitors’
silent questions clearly - with no frills - up front. There are several ways of doing this:
• Using copy headers and subheads (recommended)
• Accompanying your logo, within the strapline
• In your first paragraph
• Within your site’s header design
• Prominently elsewhere within the page
So, your anger management index page headers and subheads might read:
Header - Find out about anger and how to manage it positively
Subhead – How angry are you? Take a quick test!
Subhead – Book effective, life-changing anger management workshops here
Another example. I sell my freelance copywriting services in Brighton and around the UK. Visitors come to my site
wanting to know if I can provide copywriting and editing services on a freelance basis. And they probably also wonder
how to tell whether I’m any good!
In answer to their unspoken questions:
• My index page header reads: Kate Naylor: freelance copywriter and editor, Brighton
• My first subhead reads: Creative, sales-led copywriting and editing
• And my second subhead reads: Free copywriting / editing sample
The more time you can save your visitors, the more likely they’ll be to stick around, buying or doing the stuff you want
them to. If you don’t satisfy their silent questions early on, they’ll click away to someone who does!
Testing, testing... traditional direct marketing wisdom translates online
Sometimes old wisdom brings fresh insights.
Online marketers are waking up to the value of traditional direct marketing. And they’re hitting gold with one of the
oldest and best DM principles - testing. But what’s it all about?
Testing is a key component of effective direct marketing. Its principles hold as true online as they do for any other
advertising or marketing medium.
In the olden days, before t’internet, we’d test ourselves silly. We’d litho print a run of 100K, splitting the creative four
ways using different headlines. We’d mail the different creatives to different customer segments. We’d find out which
approach worked best then we’d roll out to vast databases of millions, with predictable returns.
Obviously it was never foolproof. A campaign that’s a roaring success in the summer might bomb if rolled out in winter.
I’ve had that happen. I’ve also spent months planning an intricate, highly targeted campaign, backed up with plenty of
apparently rock solid test results, only to find that the non-segmented, non-targeted ‘control’ chunk performed best.
Nevertheless, testing is valuable ammunition. It lets you hone your messaging, copy and special offers. It helps you plan
your SEO. You can target your business firmly at the people you know want to hear from you most. And because you
know what they want to hear, you can let ‘em have it!
Online, testing has huge potential. Unlike print, a website header can be changed in seconds at little or no cost. New
chunks of copy can be pasted in with negligible effort. New offers can be dropped into place. Content can be shifted
and re-arranged. New images can be uploaded instantly… All at a fraction of the cost of traditional direct marketing:
re-artworking print, making expensive plates, checking proofs and setting up vast, smelly machines.
Not only is it easier to test stuff online. It’s also much simpler to track response. Webstats make campaign analysis a
dream. The reasons for response - or no response - are as multifactoral as they ever were. But a bit of wisdom and
insight in the face of heavy competition has to be worth a shot.
John Caples, grandfather of direct marketing and inventor of split run copy testing, we salute you!
Repetition isn’t a bad thing...
Repetition isn’t a bad thing!
Ideas and concepts can be difficult to communicate, especially when they’re very familiar to the writer. An idea might
seem simple to you, but utterly baffling to someone who isn’t in the know.
Successful website copy helps visitors understand.
Seasoned copywriters realise that people’s minds work in different ways. So - as a matter of course - your copywriter
should encourage more of your target market to ‘get it’ by:
1. Recognising if and when when short copy isn’t enough and delivering longer explanations
2. Identifying more than one way to express the same point by approaching ideas from a completely different
3. Approaching the project as though they know nothing about your product or service
When writing B2C for financial services direct marketing I often use the ‘Granny Test’: asking people who know nothing
about the subject matter to read my copy. Depending on the target market this might be my granny, my partner or the
milkman. Put simply, if someone who knows nothing about the matter at hand understands your message, you’ve
communicated it successfully.
It’s Direct Marketing, but not as we know it..
Website headers and subheads have a unique role
The mindset of online readers is different from any other medium.
TV adverts interrupt the programme you’ve chosen to watch. The same goes for press ads, direct mail, poster
campaigns… they’re distractions, imposed on you rather than chosen or sought.
In contrast most websites are found via a search engine, driven by someone looking for a specific business, product or
service. Searchers have objectives firmly in mind. They’re task-oriented, intent on finding what they want.
So to be effective, website headers and subheads should address the needs of people who know exactly what they
want. Which is very different from writing for traditional marketing, for instance press ads where you’re trying to steal
readers’ attention from the editorial.
The bare bones: a visitor arrives at a website with three questions in mind:
• Is this the right place?
• Can I find what I’m looking for here?
• Can I do what I want here?
In search of answers visitors unconsciously scan the screen, absorbing visually prominent elments - the headers and
subheads - before deciding whether to read on. So it makes sense for website headers and subheads to answer visitors’
three key questions clearly, frankly, fully, succinctly and confidently.
EXAMPLE: Planet Cocoa, an online chocolate shop.
What can people do there? Browse, test-taste and buy the world’s most exclusive hand made chocolate.
Off the top of my head, here’s one way to answer visitors’ questions succinctly, honestly and creatively. It is made clear
up front that visitors can find out about, test and buy chocolate via the site. So their initial questions have been
answered and, provided they’re in the market for exploring, tasting and buying chocolate, they’ll read on!
Header: Explore, taste and buy from the world’s greatest chocolatiers
Subhead 1: Browse a wide range of exclusive hand made chocolate
Subhead 2: Apply for your free ‘Choisir le chocolat’ taster gift box
Subhead 3: Buy the world’s finest chocolate (free UK delivery)
Refresh your website’s home page regularly
Use every available weapon to keep ahead of competitors!
Online, competition is fierce. But there are plenty of things you can do to stay ahead of the pack. One important (and
often overlooked) way to stay sharp is to make sure your home page is updated regularly.
There’s a shop in Brighton’s North Laine whose window hasn’t changed for almost a year. Spiderwebs are steadily
colonising the display which looks more and more faded, tatty and neglected week on week. You get the impression that
nobody’s home and nobody cares.
Take the scenario online and it’s just as disheartening to find a website’s home page unchanged month on month. Just
like on the high street, to keep shoppers inspired and sales healthy your home page - your shop window - should be
dynamic, exciting and stimulating.
Luckily there’s plenty of scope for new online content. A handful of random ideas in no particular order:
• Linking to new, exciting content - articles, power pages, newsletter, archive, Q&A, customer feedback
• Adding new text or rewriting product and service descriptions
• Event marketing: write new content based around events like Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day…
• Introducing special offers, new prices & products, complementary products, new services & business partners
• Asking for visitor / customer feedback via questionnaires, surveys and
regular opportunities to vote
• Announcing new research, white papers, results and
• Promoting a customer competition
• Setting up a blog
• Including targeted RSS feeds
Avoid disappearing up your own corporate backside, remembering to stay focused on visitors’ needs. While news about
your business is exciting to you, it won’t perk your visitors up anywhere near as much. Stick to things that’ll interest
them: customer, industry, product, service, information and offer-based content.
Last but by no means least, something that’s often forgotten. While adding fresh content is vital, it’s equally important
to remove old, out-of-date information from your site. Best of all, regular home page updates also make search engine
bots happy and give an ongoing natural boost to your site’s visibility.
If time’s an issue, take on a good copywriter.
Using online directories to boost website visibility
Directory entries helped take Page 1 of Google by storm!
It took four months from a standing start to get my freelance copywriting and editing website www.helpinthecity.com
visible to search engines. An hour a day spent steadily marketing myself online has given ‘helpinthecity’ a page one
presence on Google for all seven key search terms.
To support my site’s visibility, boost credibility and help me take over as much of Page one of Google as possible I’ve
used a growing multitude of free online business directories. Some have resulted in a page one presence and others
have fallen on stony ground as far as the major search engines are concerned.
SEARCH TERMS : GOOGLE PAGE 1 - HELPINTHECITY WEBSITE PRESENCE
copywriter brighton: (top of page 2)
copywriting brighton: 9
freelance copywriting brighton: 6,7
website copywriting brighton: 3
freelance copywriter brighton: 7,8
freelance SEO copywriting brighton: 3,4
freelance copywriting and editing: 4,5
freelance direct marketer brighton: 4,5
SEARCH TERMS: GOOGLE PAGE 1 - DIRECTORY PRESENCE
helpinthecity: 3 - 10
copywriter brighton: 5,8
copywriting brighton: 5,6,8
freelance copywriting brighton: 1,2,4,9
website copywriting brighton: 1,2,4,5,6
freelance copywriter brighton: 1,2,4,5
freelance SEO copywriting brighton: 1,2,5
freelance copywriting and editing: none
freelance direct marketer brighton: 1,2,3
Together with the presence of the helpinthecity site itself, directory entries allow my site to monopolise page one of
Google shamelessly and greedily!
copywriter brighton: 20%
copywriting brighton: 40%
freelance copywriting brighton: 60%
website copywriting brighton: 80%
freelance copywriter brighton: 60%
freelance SEO copywriting brighton: 50%
freelance copywriting and editing: 20%
freelance direct marketer brighton: 50%
The current op six performing directories (@ January 2008) are:
Most of these take very little time to set up and maintain. And when you want to make your presence felt, every little
Website copywriting Case Study: target your copy effectively
Here’s a classic example of copywriting with a distinct target audience in mind
The Brief: re-write a Pelvic Toner website to encourage more visitors and sales.
As a rule pelvic toners are bought by women who suffer from pelvic floor weakness. But the copy for the original
pelvictoner.biz site had been written by a bloke.
The product helps women exercise their pelvic floor muscles back to fitness. A side effect is that it enhances your sex
life. The copywriter had majored on the sex angle and used a lot of serious medical-sounding content. A factual
approach that, while it works very well for most men, can seem slightly disturbing to women!
I recommended rewriting the copy with a female focus:
• Softening the sex argument, instead bringing forward the benefits that most women would focus on: stress
incontinence, ageing and post-childbirth weakness.
• Put forward the sales message using a lifestyle angle: feel good, get close to your partner again, release the real
The result? Here’s a link to the new site: www.pelvictoner.biz
Since launch the site owner has seen a significant increase in average orders per day.
The moral of the tale? If your target audience is male, write for men. If it’s female, write for women. If it’s both, write
for both. If it’s kids, write for kids. Think about who your target audience is. Establish what they want to hear and how
they want to hear it. Then give them what they want.
Use keywords in your url file names and boost your website’s visibility
The power of logically-named url file names
When planning a site redesign I included primary keywords and phrases in my file names. These were words and
phrases that were also relevant to – and repeated within - each page’s content, title and description.
This appeared to pull my site higher in Google almost immediately. Within a week or so I’d popped up on page two.
A few weeks later, to maximise my file names’ effectiveness, I separated the words within each with a dash. I’d heard
that this helps search engines recognise each word as distinct. eg copywriting-brighton.htm rather than
I know this isn’t rocket science. But it’s a relatively simple aspect of SEO that’s often overlooked. If you name your files
sensibly it won’t zoom your site to the top of Page 1 of Google the next day from a standing start, but it could make a
TIP: Don’t forget to write 301 redirects for the pages you rename!
Write for SEO naturally: top tips
If you’re copywriting for DM, you’re just about on target for SEO
Writing for SEO needn’t sound forced. It should flow naturally. But how do copywriters do it?
It’s a logical process. Provided you have a few bits of key information in place you’ll find yourself writing for SEO without
even realising you’re doing it.
First get your direct marketing ducks in a row:
• a worthwhile offer
• a logical structure (problem, solution, action)
• strong headers (based on your key phrases and terms for the offer)
• informative sub-heads
• stimulating supporting material: case studies, customer testimonials, research findings…
Then communicate your message by way of a proper, grown up argument. Write like a warm human being. Stay on
message and stick to your brand. Give subtle yet clear, visible calls to action. Provided you pay attention to this lot you’ll
find yourself writing with SEO in mind, quite naturally.
There’s no need to shout and scream like traditional offline direct marketing used to. Although website visitors have
notoriously short attention spans, once they get interested in your site they don’t want you to play the heavy salesman.
Once you’re happy with the first draft check your copy against the latest SEO recommendations. If you’ve got it right
you’ll have got there without sounding like a robot!
Mind you, I do all this without thinking. It’s second nature. So perhaps I’m making it sound too easy. If in doubt, hire
yourself a good copywriter…
The power of blogging
Small businesses, listen to your webstats!
Got a business-related blog? Then listen to your webstats and experience blog power in action.
I’m always banging on about monitoring webstats. But you can’t plan marketing effectively unless you know what works
and what nosedives. You need to know returns on investment, especially if you’re paying for online marketing.
Webstats are easy to understand and there’s plenty of online advice about interpreting them.
So it was good to be able to plot healthy growth in blog readers and a corresponding increase in projects. Blogging
seems to be doing what everyone says it does: as long as I provide useful, relevant content it brings in visitors,
goodwill and work. Here’s the evidence:
MONTHLY BLOG VISITORS
• September 2007 (launch): 375
• October 2007: 547
• November 2007: 716
• December 2007: 770
• January 2008 992
A steady growth in visitors. Not bad for a young blog.
The effect is immediate. When I write a particularly useful article I see a
corresponding spike in visitor numbers, which is useful for planning future
articles: Because you know what people want, you can consciously provide
more of it.
Spend an hour a day for three months and see DIY SEO begin to pay off
In another article I introduce the concept of spending an hour a day spent on home grown SEO and basic
do-it-yourself online marketing. Four months down the line, the results are dramatic with almost 1000 unique
visitors so far to my site in month 5 (January 08). Worth sharing with those of you who fancy getting your
marketing hands dirty!
Between January and July 2007 my professional copywriting and editing website, helpinthecity, averaged 144 unique
visitors a month.
Because I hadn’t paid any attention to SEO they almost all came from direct marketing campaigns to my prospect
database of 225 local new media and marketing businesses. A very reasonable response rate of 64% but - in the
scheme of things - very low visitor numbers.
In late August 2007 I began spending an hour a day on DIY SEO and basic online marketing. Siunce then I built
and launched a Wordpress blog, launched a book, ‘You CANNOT buy my forgiveness with cheesecake’, and built and
launched my new helpinthecity site, structured to be more SEO-friendly. Plus a huge range of marketing and SEO-related
activites: regular website updates, new directory and listing entries, online press release distribution, joining freelance
and creative networks, online advertising, blog posts, chasing quality inbound links, fiddling with my site’s .html…
As you can see, there’s a steady increase in unique visitors month on month:
September 2007 210 unique visitors
January 2008 990
Visitors spend on average 239 seconds on the site. And I’m being rewarded with loads of exciting writing and editing
projects. The total cost? Nothing but my own time.
obviously, the wise business owner would never
underestimate the power of steady eddie DIY marketing and hand knitted SEO.
9 reasons why a professional copywriter will help your business fly
You’d hire an electrician to sort out your wiring. You’d go to a doctor if your leg worked itself loose. And
because commercial writing is a specific skill, you’d go to a professional copywriter when
creating your website content, right?
A random website scanning session reveals that not all website owners bother hiring a copywriter. The result? Rambling,
poorly constructed copy. Weak messaging stuffed with features, bereft of benefits. Reams of dense, boring blurb. No
calls to action…
Obviously bad copy isn’t half as dangerous as letting a cowboy electrician loose on your wiring. But it can be expensive.
If you alienate, confuse and bore visitors you lose out on trust, brand equity, sales revenue and growth opportunities.
Here’s how a proper freelance copywriting pro’ will help your business fly.
• by making an immediate, powerful impression on your prospects and customers with concise, beautifully written
marketing-led website content.
• by extracting the absolute essence of your product or service, making the benefits completely clear in an
interesting, informative way.
• by expressing the perfect tone of voice and communication style for your organisation. Convincing the media
savvy, soothing the sceptical and satisfying the chronically impatient.
• by creating scan-friendly copy. People scan web content in an unconscious effort to find things fast via visual
clues. Organising content into short segments with clear, bold headers and subheads helps visitors scan
effectively: instant gratification!
• by giving your material a fresh, new perspective. Less able to see the wood for the trees, you might not pick
up on new angles, USPs and marketing messages. A good copywriter will extract these and communicate them
for you, loud and clear.
• by suggesting different key search terms and phrases to describe your organisation and products, helping you
increase your website’s visibility to search engines.
• by writing killer headlines and subheads: inspiring and informative rather than whacky and whimsical, a strong
structure promotes clarity and understanding.
• by taking it personally! The internet isn’t a corporate boardroom. Good copywriters strike the right tone by
writing the way they speak. No frills, no jargon.
• by saving you a load of money on agency fees. Averaging around £40 a page, a freelance copywriter won’t
break the bank. And because you pay on a project by project basis, it makes copywriting really easy to budget.
Danger: beware of cowboy SEO copywriters
“OK, my copy’s difficult to read. But it works brilliantly for search engines“, I read on someone’s blog.
What an idiot.
A professional copywriter will create smooth, flowing, beautifully written website copy. They’ll include key words and
phrases subtly so they enhance the power of your copy. Effective, naturally optimised website copy is readable and
human. You can’t see the joins. Whereas you’d seriously injure yourself tripping over the search terms that this chap
probably crowbars in!
SEO doesn’t increase conversion. You can have a million visitors but that doesn’t mean they’ll buy from you. If you want
sales, your site must be well designed, clearly written and easy to understand.
There are loads of wannabee website copywriters out there but it isn’t a job for the faint hearted or inexperienced. If in
doubt ask your copywriter to write you a free sample paragraph before letting them anywhere near your website!
Use eyetracking research in website copywriting
Eyetracking research supports direct marketing-led website copy
They say you should never populate your website with copy you’ve used for offline
and print projects. Quite right too. You’d be crazy to reproduce your corporate
On the other hand, it’s silly to throw the baby out with the bath water. Eyetracking
research proves a clear link between the order in which people read web copy and
classic direct marketing principles.
Jakob Nielsen and Kara Pernice (useit.com) have recorded how 232 users looked
at thousands of web pages.
In the diagram, areas users looked at most are red. Yellow indicates fewer views.
The least viewed areas are blue. And grey areas didn’t attract any attention.
Users don’t read website text word by word as they do printed materials. They
scan. We already knew that. But this typical F pattern gives copywriters and
designers a deeper insight into writing and designing for the web. The picture’s
• your first two paragraphs should contain the most important information
• make a logical argument in a logical order
• remember that visitors will probably read more of the first paragraph than the second
• break the copy into subheads, paragraphs, and bullet points so users are more likely to notice important points
• don’t be whimsical. Use plain, strong, informative headers that people will notice when scanning
• Bear in mind they’ll read the first and second words in a line more often than the third
• put all the information that isn’t vital to your sales message at the bottom
• put your menu buttons in order of their importance to the sales process
• keep them keen by including calls to action at the top and centre page, not just at the bottom
• put a contact email link on every page so users don’t have to search for it
Hm. That smells very like direct marketing! You wouldn’t just bung your direct mail campaign copy into a website. But
many of the same principles apply. So check that your website copywriter understands direct marketing and has plenty
of experience writing for DM.
Email marketing: 8 steps to success
It takes skill and dedication to make email marketing a financial success. There are so many things to con-
sider. Here are eight of the best copywriting-related tips, straight from the copywriter’s mouth!
1. Segment your target audience
Your target audience might logically split into segments, each of which will respond to a different take on your sales
message. Get it right and you’ll save money, save time and enjoy better response rates. For example Chocolate. People
of all ages love chocolate but the adult chocolate experience is very different to a child’s. Chocolate is often sold to
adults on the basis of sensuality, luxury and indulgence. While a child’s chocolate experience is all about fun, happy
times and treats. You can imagine how spectacularly wrong your campaign would go if you offered chocolate to kids
using a sensual message and semi-sexual imagery!
2. Create strong, inspiring titles, headers and sub-heads
If your email title isn’t attractive enough, people will press delete before opening the message. When emailing
existing customers, make it clear in the title that you already have a relationship with them: life’s busy and they might
Always make your offer crystal clear in you title, for example: ‘Special customer offer from the Good Taste Curtain
Company’. Once your snappy title has encouraged people to open your email, reinforce the message and sock ‘em with
an irresistible header! Then use strong subheads throughout the body copy to help you emphasise discrete points in
readable bite-sized chunks.
3. Grab attention with an up-front call to action
Obviously people start reading from the top of an email. So place a short, succinct call to action at the top of your email
as well as using it to round off the message. This saves readers having to scroll down to the bottom to find out what
you want them to do. Every little helps!
4. Focus: don’t get lost in space!
Put your message across using short, clear statements. Just like with direct mail, people tend to skim read emails. They
only digest the blindingly obvious points. So use simple things like lists and bullets to help keep your message under
Email is no different from direct mail in that people won’t bother to wade through piles of irrelevant stuff to find your
message. Make sure you focus on things that are of direct interest to your market. For example, you might find your
company’s history fascinating but your customers don’t care. They just want to buy your stuff fast and easily.
5. Don’t exaggerate. And no fibbing!
People aren’t daft so don’t make rash, unrealistic or inaccurate promises. It might work well as a one-off but if you fib,
you won’t get repeat business from the people you’ve misled. Nor will they recommend you to their friends. Set realistic
expectations and readers will be more likely to believe you. ‘KY Control Pants will make your bum look tiny even if it’s
the size of a fully grown bull elephant’ might work once but complaints from the vast-bottomed, angry and disappointed
will soon start to flood in and response will plummet.
6. Hammer home the key points
There’s not much room in an email for repetition. But repeating your key points for emphasis will help hammer the mes-
sage home. Keep it simple: repeat your best key point - the one you’ve used in your header or title - in the body copy as
well as in your final call to action.
7. Be friendly, human and approachable
Don’t write in business language. Email is a highly personal medium. To engage with readers, write the way you speak
(provided you’re sufficiently literate!). It’ll help you create a closer bond with people and gain their trust.
8. Be consistent
Develop and stick to a suitable tone of voice. If you chop and change the way you communicate with each campaign,
you’ll come across as unreliable as well as ever so slightly insane!
To help develop a warm relationship with customers, use their name as the salutation in your email: Dear blah. Even
better, include relevant stuff like the date they last made an order, how much they spent or what they bought last time.
Or go the Amazon route and make a recommendation about what they might like to buy next. It all goes towards
making them feel that you know and care about their needs.
Testimonials and case studies: essential direct response toolkit
Breathe life into your marketing - if your customers love you, boast about it.
You can tell your target market how great you are ’til you’re blue in the face. But if you want them to make that
essential leap of faith, taking you up on your offer, you need strong medicine: introducing customer testimonials and
Why are they so powerful?
• they’re the independent views of people who have tried your service or product and liked it, proof that you do
what you say
• they show that real people trust you, which is especially important for online businesses with no ‘real world’
• they humanise your offer and brand, again especially helpful if you’re an online business
• they help position your organisation as an authority in it’s field
• we love to read about others’ experiences, so customer feedback is seldom ignored. If people read nothing else,
they’ll read your case studies and testimonials
• visually they help break up your text into bite-sized pieces…
• … and highlight / condense your sales propositions for impatient, time-poor readers
A testimonial doesn’t need to be long - three or four sentences is great. But they do need to tell a story:
“I was having a dreadful day! The final straw was finding out that our hamster supplier had let us down on a huge order
we’d made for the International Hamsterfest. But Hamstapacking Direct sorted us out, delivering a million top quality
uber-furry hamsters to our doorstep the next day, no fuss. My heroes!”.
And snappy one-liners grab readers’ attention:
“Hairy Dave at BillyBob Teeth & Co. is the most helpful comedy teeth supplier I’ve ever met!”. Or, “Not only did Aural
Angels deliver bang on time, they even fitted my new earpiece for free!”
But it’s often difficult to get a customer to actually write you something. Even if they do, it’s often awful! Here’s a
copywriter’s tip or two:
• get a good copywriter to write the testimonial for you then ask your customer to approve it. They’re usually
more than happy to - it saves them a job
• if your customer writes you a testimonial but it’s badly written, get a copywriter to edit it and ask your customer
to approve the edited version. Customers are usually grateful because very few non-writers are confident in
their copywriting skills!
• an alternative… if you get a verbal testimonial ask ‘Can I quote you on that’ and write it down. Then use it
verbatim for a heightened ring of truth
• for extra oomph, attribute testimonials to boost their credibility
Detailed Case Studies are great material for information pages, encouraging website visitors to stick around and read.
A one-paragraph case study will bring a web page to life, lend authority to a direct marketing campaign or vitality to a
As with testimonials, it’s almost always a good idea to get a good copywriter write up each case study for you. Then ask
your customer to approve it: as long as you don’t exaggerate or fib they’ll probably jump at the chance.
It’s crowded out there. The media noise is deafening and competition for attention is fierce. Adding case studies
and testimonials to your marketing toolkit can help you rise above your competitors.
On their own, features lack flavour. Use benefits to increase sales
People don’t buy products and services because of features. They buy the benefits.
Copywriters always use benefits as the basis of their messages. When deciding to buy, people want to know what’s in it
for them. So if you’re clever you’ll tell them up front.
If you make the benefits ultra-clear, people can’t misunderstand. If you highlight the benefits early on, people are less
likely to lose interest before they’ve ’got’ your message.
A feature without a benefit is about as much use as a one legged man in an arse kicking contest. A car might offer air
bags as standard in the passenger and driver seats. Jolly good. But so what? The benefit of having air bags in both front
seats is that the passengers feel safer. If there’s an accident they know they’ll be protected.
Because it leads with a benefit, the message suddenly has power. You’re selling peace of mind, not airbags.
In the same way, a hat might be shower resistant and UV proof. Big deal. The benefit is that you can wear the hat in all
weathers: it’ll keep you warm and dry in winter, cool and protected from the sun in the summer. You’re not selling a hat,
you’re selling comfort, convenience and value for money.
OK, a computer might have a few terrabytes of memory. But does this face look bothered? It’s a yawningly dull
message until you realise the benefit: that you can save hundreds and hundreds of exciting things on your PC without
running out of space! You’re not selling bytes or even a PC, you’re selling hours of fun, education and entertainment…
A serious outbreak of CamelCase
A copywriter’s take on ’lumpy’ language
YouTube, MySpace, FaceBook, BlackBerry, LinkedIn… is the English language suffering an attack of lumpiness?
Not to worry. These are actually examples of CamelCase, which has been around since the 1950s: remember
CamelCase involves joining words together, retaining capital letters to preserve each word’s visual clarity and identity.
The resulting compound words look ‘lumpy’, the capitals standing out mid-word amongst the lower case.
Software engineers soon adopted CamelCase to help with program-writing conventions. It allowed them to tell the
difference - at a glance - between coded objects, functions and procedures. You can understand why. It’s much easier to
instantly ’see’ - and comprehend - the term SwitchAddressFields than switchaddressfields.
Because it allows instant comprehension, we probably haven’t seen the last of it. CamelCase is likely to go mainstream.
You’re not allowed to put spaces in web addresses so companies use CamelCase to make site addresses easier for
searchers and visitors to ‘get’. Using their name in the same format across all media also helps retain a cohesive brand
Jim Wallace, president of the Society for the Preservation of English, is ambivalent about CamelCase. He says, “The
use of such new names in daily commerce is no serious threat to the language.” (New Scientist 27/10/07). That’s good
news. Although it’s important to use accurate grammar, punctuate correctly and use words in their proper context,
language is a living thing.
Just one important thing to remember... As You Can See, Camel
Case Makes Copy Much More Difficult For People To Read. So
Leave It Out Of Your Web Page Body Copy And Think Very
Carefully Indeed Before Using It In Your Headers and Subheads!
Writing for the web? Then talk the talk…
If you want to communicate successfully on the web, speak your audience’s language
Today the best copywriters and direct marketers enjoy a heightened ability to empathise with their audience. They do
this by writing as though they were speaking to a friend, making a strong, immediate psychological connection.
As little as twenty years ago many direct marketing communications were still relatively stiff and formal. But the internet
changed all that. Now, it’s unlikely you’ll need to revert to traditional business language: overly polite, less than sincere,
formal and full of jargon. It’s not much use on the web where, unless you’re already a household name, you need to
work hard and fast to earn interest and trust.
Whatever the context, web content and online marketing copy should always be informal. No exceptions.
Informality lets you break loads of rules. Just like you do in conversation. You use contractions like won’t, can’t and it’ll.
You break some sentences up and begin others with forbidden words like And and But. You cheerfully end sentences
using ellipsis marks to imply hesitation, or that there’s more to think about…
You can use really short sentences. For impact. You’re allowed to use short paragraphs to reflect quick concepts. Or
you can string them out to express longer and more
complicated thought processes. And you sound like a real,
Writing the way you speak doesn’t mean being sloppy or
sounding un-businesslike. You still need an unerring grasp of
grammar, a passion for words and a plump vocabulary. Mixed
with a bold attitude and a healthy pinch of business acumen.
All the best online communication is plain-speaking: smooth,
economical, friendly and honest. All within a very small space.
7 fundamentals for successful B2B marketing
Seven fundamentals? A drop in the ocean. The tip of the iceberg. But this selection comes from the pointy
end of fundamental...
1. Put your target audience at the heart of your campaign
Knowing your target audience is critical to any successful marketing strategy. It’s so worth taking the time to identify
and analyse your target market before doing anything else. It’ll inform everything: your copywriting, design, product
development, services… giving you a distinct advantage over the competition.
Find out whether they share a common age, attitude or geographical spread. Do they all have the same needs? If so,
what are those needs? Do they prefer to communicate formally or informally? Do they understand specialist jargon and
if so, to what extent?
Establish where they congregate so you can target your marketing direct to them: social or business networking sites?
Trade bodies? The national press? Trade magazines? Check that your sales propositions, products and services dovetail
with their needs.
In short find out exactly who and where your prospects are, what they want and how they want it. Then give it to them.
2. Build a database and keep adding to it
Your target audience isn’t static. New players will arrive on the scene, others will go out of business. Your target
audience itself might change as your business changes focus. A database is a living thing.
3. Don’t stop marketing!
It takes at least three views of a TV advert before a viewer gets to grips with the content, concept, offer and call to
action. The same goes for marketing: frequency is key. It isn’t something you do for a while then stop. It’s a continual
process. Memories are short, the world moves on and even the most fantastic campaign will soon be forgotten. And
common sense says that while your business is always at the forefront of your mind, it’ll rarely be the focus of your
To make the most of marketing’s potential you need to hammer your sales propositions, offers, services, key benefits
and brand home regularly. Via intelligently chosen, highly relevant media. Using the appropriate tone of voice and
Repetition also has a positive long term effect on trust. Because - one way or another - you’re always on your target
audience’s radar, people soon realise that your business is appropriate for their needs, legitimate and successful.
6. Be consistent
Unless you keep your marketing materials and copywriting style consistent, your target audience will think you’re slightly
off key. Just mad enough to be disconcerting! Experiencing consistent logos, tag lines, colours, tone of voice and USPs
month on month, they’ll begin to recognise and trust you.
Consistent doesn’t mean boring. It just means that you make exciting, stimulating, inspiring and compelling
communications within the framework of a familiar brand.
7. Always include calls to action
Without a strong, clear call to action you might as well be saying, “Am I bovvered? Does this face look bovvered?”.
A compelling call to action is powerful magic. Provide full contact details to make the action as pain-free as possible:
email address, website address, snail mail address and telephone numbers. A contact name wil give your call to action
c o n s i s t e n t
c o n s i s t e n t
c o n s i s t e n t
c o n s i s t e n t
c o n s i s t e n t
c o n s i s t e n t
c o n s i s t e n t
c o n s i s t e n t
c o n s i s t e n t
DIY marketing: top five tips for remaining objective
Hindsight’s a wonderful thing!
I spent a month planning the launch of my freelance business back in May ‘06. First a Press Release to the local press
and other media. A concurrent tightly targeted email campaign to Brighton’s creative community of web, direct
marketing, branding and advertising agencies, publishers, web designers and web developers. All supported by an
integrated direct mail campaign to the same lovingly hand-built database.
All well planned and carefully considered… or so I believed!
It’s always a good idea to take an enormous step back, emotionally, professionally and intellectually, from your work
when DIY marketing. Thus avoiding the ever-present danger of disappearing up your own arse and losing the proverbial
My launch campaign worked beautifully: a good, solid article in The Evening Argus business section, a friendly, keen
12% response to my email campaign and about the same again for the follow-up direct mail piece. The problem was, I’d
inadvertently branded and written my campaign so I looked and sounded exactly like an employment agency. Which was
pretty embarrassing considering I was selling myself as an a freelance copywriter!
I quickly created a second campaign to rectify the damage. Happily it worked and my slightly puzzled prospect database
soon caught on. In retrospect it was a crazy oversight. But at the time I was so wrapped up in my own stuff that I lost
all objectivity. Lesson learned: it isn’t always easy to step back from your own marketing and smell the coffee.
Now I don’t leave anything to chance. Because I’m perpetually on vulnerable ground I keep a few common sense
weapons handy. Keep it real: here are five ways to remain objective about your DIY marketing
1. question your own intellectual and professional judgement at regular intervals and leave your ego at home
2. numbers don’t lie. Keep a close eye on your webstats. Make a spreadsheet and log visitors, behaviour, time
spent on site etc every week. Track your online presence’s visibility. Track and analyse sales. Watch for and act
3. show your marketing campaigns to people whose objectivity you trust and check they understand your
messages and language
4. remain flexible and be prepared to change the focus of your marketing in line with shifting demand and
changing trends. Revisit your Marketing Plan every month. Analyse campaigns so you know the relative success
/ ROI for each
5. be honest with yourself: base your strategy on empirical evidence and common sense not passion and gut
Following these rules has brought huge benefits. A few months after launch I realised through careful analysis that I
was winning much more copywriting and editing work than anything else, so tailored my website and marketing
accordingly. Leaving me the proud owner of truly whopping campaign response rates, armfuls of solid customers and a
stimulating flow of writing projects!
DIY marketing for an hour a day proves surprisingly effective
You don’t need to spend a fortune on marketing and PR to get quality exposure
On a roll, this morning sees me on Southern FM radio news talking about my latest ebook. And as I write I’m waiting to
hear from the national newspapers and various magazines, via a freelance journalist who reckons the story has legs.
I’m a one man band working with a tiny budget alone in my studio (violins, please). But thankfully I’m a copywriter and
marketer with a design degree. So I know how to promote my micro-businesses and can do a lot of the work myself. It’s
impossible to put aside days at a time, so I spend an hour every working day promoting, marketing and advertising my
Like me, you’ll save yourself a lot of money if you can put aside an hour a day to work on your organisation’s
visibility and brand. There are plenty of simple yet effective marketing activities open to you. And doing some of the
work yourself will give you an insider’s intimate, informed feel for how your business is best marketed. A valuable
advantage whatever your commercial context.
What you can do obviously depends on your skills. Some owners of small to medium sized businesses maintain and
manage their own websites in-house while others outsource the whole thing. Some do in-house marketing, others
employ a freelancer or marketing agency. And some do nothing! But whatever your skill set, you’ll probably be surprised
at how much you can achieve once you’ve broken your marketing and PR into small bites. While it’s impossible to scoff
down a whole elephant, elephant sandwiches are deliciously manageable.
Here are a few things you can do to keep your business’s profile fresh. Hold visitors’ interest and help new customers
find you. Help your target markets understand the unique benefits of your products and services. Bring you to the
attention of the business community - locally or nationally. And earn yourself the advantage of a solid, growing
• send a monthly Press Release to local business press, consumer press, trade publications, Radio, TV and press
release distribution websites: products, opinions, solutions to common problems, advice to consumers…
whatever’s relevant to your business and prospective customers
• update / edit your website weekly with new content: fact sheets, case studies, product sheets and showcase
articles, white papers, Q&A, customer testimonials, knowledge library…
• DIY email campaigns: regular newsflashes to your prospect database (don’t forget to offer an opt-out)
• create a short monthly e-newsletter (a two page A4 .pdf will do) to distribute to your B2B prospect e-mailing list
(don’t forget to offer an opt-out)
• research the latest SEO guidelines and keep abreast of how to make and keep your site SEO-friendly: SEO isn’t
a one-off, it’s an ongoing process
• post comments in, and contribute to, relevant blogs, newsgroups, forums and communities
• lodge your business with as many reputable online directories and communities as you can find
• if it fits your business’s profile, join Facebook and advertise on Marketplace
• check your site regularly for W3 and other standards compliance
• exchange website links with reputable hand-chosen businesses that complement your own: good quality link
juice is powerful stuff
• submit thought provoking articles to article distribution and library websites
• carry out carefully-targeted, simple offline direct marketing campaigns: a good, strong letter or an attention-
• write letters to the press and trade publications, involving yourself intellectually in your field. Take a stance
• watch what the competition’s doing and learn lessons
• use your expertise to make an informed, interesting, relevant entry into Wikipedia including a link back to your
• get your corporate literature and overall brand into shape. Digital print technology means you can afford to
change your business literature whenever necessary and print tiny quantities cost-effectively. So maximise its
effectiveness by keeping it up to date and accurate. If it’s wrong, you’ll look wrong
• check regularly for broken links into your site and mend them (I’m overdue an hour’s work on this one!)
• add a site map to your footer (this takes seconds using free software - just search on ‘create free site map’) and
update it every time you change your site
• start a blog: Wordpress templates are fast, easy and fun to chop around to your own specifications
• create redirection instructions whenever you change the name of a webpage or remove a page, so that people
who’ve bookmarked the page or saved it as a favourite will still be able to find you without faffing
• test drive good old Yellow Pages and Yell: depending on your market it can still pack a big punch and it’s great
• be aware of event-led marketing opportunities and take advantage. It’s cheesy but it works: Valentine’s Day,
Christmas, Easter, holidays, winter, summer…
• edit your website regularly so that it doesn’t start to sprawl and the content is always bang up to date
The trick is to maintain a steady flow of fresh output into your target markets while keeping up with housework. As I’ve
found with real housework, if you do one room a day thoroughly, nothing ever gets particularly dirty!
The best bit is keeping an eye on the effect your work has. Two simple Excel spreadsheets will make it fast and easy
- once you get into the habit - to analyse your webstats and keep weekly tabs on your SEO positioning. It’s
compelling stuff. You might even find yourself mildly addicted… after all, knowledge is power.
Excitingly, the whole is always much greater than the sum of the parts. Provided you persist you’ll reach a tipping point
whereby exposure takes on a life of its own, with visitor stats suddenly increasing hand over fist. If your products and
services are good value and good quality and your website is regularly updated, increased visitors will lead to a higher
% conversion to sales.
A word of caution: the writing bit’s ever so important. Poorly-written content is a false economy: it’s a big disincentive
to visitors as well as spoiling any chance of search engine optimisation. So unless you’re the proud owner of a serious
knack, find a professional copywriter with a flair for SEO and a good grounding in the principles of direct marketing.
Your hour a day will start to show results within a couple of weeks, at very low or no cost except your time. It’s almost
rude not to have a go… so enjoy!
Integrate targeted offline Direct Marketing for extra impact
No matter how small your business, don’t forget offline direct marketing… print is powerful stuff
Internet marketing is exciting, fast and cheap and, if you do it properly, extremely effective. But any marketer worth
their salt will also consider integrating offline marketing campaigns to maximise a budget’s impact. It’s a clear case of
the whole being greater than the sum of the parts: traditional direct marketing is powerful stuff.
Take snail mail campaigns. It can be a challenge to be heard above today’s intense communication noise. Emarketing,
evolving fast, is on everyone’s agenda and many businesses are using less traditional direct mail than they used to.
Which provides the ideal opportunity to stand out from the crowd, dropping a pertinent, succinct, beautifully targeted
piece of print onto customers’ and prospects’ doormats.
It needn’t be complicated. You can integrate a good value piece of print with an online offer, powering extra site visitors
and making your business more tangible to the target market. Or use a simple but well-designed postcard as a device to
drive general business to your site.
Direct mail needn’t be expensive. Here’s an example ‘on a shoestring’:
It cost around £50 to print 250 postcards on 350gsm stock. Sent to a carefully selected hand-built database of 85 local
businesses in Brighton’s creative community, it prompted a response rate of 10%. All responders converted to sales with
an average sale value of £500. That’s a total of £4,000 new business for a total outlay of £75.60 (inc. postage)
I designed and artworked the card myself. Most people will need to use a professional designer, who shouldn’t take
more than two hours to design you something this simple. And whatever you do, use a professional copywriter.
If you’ve got a great offer to make, which you target carefully to a relevant audience using attractive design and
compelling copy, the numbers should stack up!
Charity copywriting at its best
Two examples of mighty fine charity copywriting
I regularly have my heartstrings pulled painfully hard by the Dogs Trust. I sponsor a dog at their Shoreham centre,
where several animals too traumatised to be re-homed are looked after. So by now I should be immune to their evil
marketing ploys. But no. Every time a Dogs Trust mailing arrives I get my purse out. What clever, clever copywriting.
Were I wearing a hat, I’d take it off to them.
The power of their copy lies in its simple sentimentality. They don’t try to be particularly serious. The copy doesn’t go
on about how badly the dogs have been treated in the past or how sad their lives used to be. No statistics about how
much it costs to look after a dog or how difficult and challenging rehabilitation can be. No sad pictures, no bandages, no
neglected little doggy faces. Instead the dog we sponsor cleverly sends us a cheerful letter, valentine’s card, Christmas
card or calendar… some kind of short, sweet event-led communication around once a quarter.
The trust’s copywriting is shamelessly anthropomorphic. Well done that copywriter! ‘My’ dog tells us about how waggy
his tail is (I know, I know!), how much he likes the new ball bought with our sponsorship money, how he’s always get-
ting told off for getting muddy but loves getting washed afterwards. He even signs off with a paw mark and a row of
I’m not naïve. I realise my emotions are being manipulated. I can almost feel the strings being pulled. But thanks to the
strength of messaging and the delightfully appropriate copy, I’m happy to be led. The reason I donate to the Trust is so
the dogs in their care will be happy and well looked after. My dog’s direct mailings prove that the money I send is doing
the job so I’m happy to donate more.
Then there’s the quarterly newsletter from the Chaldon Animal Sanctuary. In a crowded bungalow in deepest Surrey,
Jacky and Liz look after a startling variety of unwanted, lost, unloved, injured and sad animals. Unlike the guys at the
Dogs Trust Jacky and Liz aren’t professional marketers. But they’ve hit on almost exactly the same method of getting
their regular donors to make extra donations.
Their charming quarterly snail mail newsletter, four sheets of A4 complete with clipart, goes into hilarious detail about
the comings and goings of the creatures in their care. Put together with an affection that shines through, it’s obvious the
newsletter is written by non-professionals. But everything’s spelled correctly, the grammar’s spot on and the sheer
quality of the cohesion between the target market’s needs and the tone used is outstanding. They probably have no idea
how clever they’ve been.
So again I enjoy sending whatever I can spare. I feel engaged, involved and appreciated by the most important
individuals in the charity equation: the end users, the animals. In both instances it feels as though I’m giving to the
animals rather than to a charity. Simple but clever, that’s powerful magic.
Copywriting: a mix of logic and creativity
Mmmmmm, that heady mix of logic and creativity…
I’ve been writing Direct Marketing and direct response-led copy for twenty years, continually seduced by the
combination of logic and creativity that good copywriting requires. There’s a clutch of interesting rules to apply before
you even consider putting your creative hat on.
• First, get your story straight; exactly what do you want to achieve with the copy?
• Identify and prioritise key features and USPs.
• Winkle out the customer benefits attached to key features and USPs.
• Gauge the tone of voice that’ll appeal to the target market in question.
• Get your argument into a logical order.
• Write compelling calls to action and make sure contact details are accurate and clear.
Then, ducks firmly in a row, write a piece of succinct, clear, compelling, entertaining and convincing copy: a small work
Good web copywriting has always referenced all the rules mentioned above. After all, the web is nothing if not the
ultimate direct marketing environment. But now that SEO is included in the mix, writing good web copy has become a
I’ve seen some abysmal website copy. OK, it’s optimised to the hilt. But it reads like a dog and the author’s given no
thought to anything but crowbarring as many key words and phrases in as humanly possible. Which really isn’t good
enough. There’s no point in helping people find your website if they can’t easily understand what you’re on about once
they get there. Your copy and messages should flow.
Want to write effective website instructions?
Write as though you’ve never seen your product or service before
I gave up buying a piece of anti virus software last week because the online buying and payment instructions were so
Which goes to show that instructions aren’t just instructions. They’re a part of your brand, often critical to a good
customer experience. Get in wrong and they’ll leave a lasting negative impression.
So how do you make sure your instructions instruct rather than infuriate?
Instructions get confusing when the writer is intimately familiar with the process and sees each step as blindingly
The big thing to remember is: whatever the medium, create your instructions from the perspective of someone who
knows nothing about the product or service. While a percentage of people will be familiar with your stuff, many won’t.
But writing to the lowest common denominator isn’t always easy. Nor is being objective, which is where these tips might
come in handy:
• Get your mate, mum, granny or neighbour to test your draft instructions for sanity!
• If you can’t be fully objective, hire a good copywriter
Once you’ve got your objectivity under control, there’s more to
• strong, clear calls to action
• order the information logically and intuitively
• use plain language
• if you can’t avoid using jargon, explain it
• provide help for people who get lost or confused