All posts by Jill Glen

How the feck do you write for websites?

Well hello, nice t – BYE!  Four seconds.  That’s how long it takes someone to decide if they are going to read your content. So why the feck are you writing so much of it?  OK, I know that Google prioritises quality content, and the more you have the better, but what about the people who find you using Google?  Don’t you want them to hang about and actually read what you have to say?

I started working as a Web Copywriter and Editor back in 2005 (that was my actual job title!).  Now I teach others how to do it, and there are two simple truths that will make your website content better every time – are you ready?

Big mind-blowing fact 1:

So here it is – the big secret for writing for websites…are you ready? Write for people not search engines.  I know, I know, mind-blowing.  Imagine if you wrote website copy the same way that you wrote your brochure copy or, even better, the way that you explained your business to real live people at networking events.  Think how much better your pages would sound.

Think about the questions that your customers need answered, the pain points your service solves, and write about that.  Don’t worry if you cannot squeeze your “keyword density” in (that’s for another blog post…) just focus on telling your customers and future customers what they need to know.

Big mind-blowing fact 2:

There is a good chance that I am going to be excommunicated from the secret society of SEO copywriters for saying this but…Google is not the only way that people find your website.  No, honestly, it’s true.  In fact, when you were just starting out, I would bet good money that the majority of your business was not due to you being number one in the search engines.

So picture the scene, your potential customer saw your Facebook advert and has clicked through to your homepage where they are now reading about how you are the ‘best plumber plumbing company plumbers service Glasgow Edinburgh Scotland’.  Yeah, that’s not going to sell it to them.  Instead of writing for a robot, pretend a real person is going to read your page or, better yet, ask a real person to read the copy and see if it makes sense to them.

Super helpful bonus tip

You can still have the really long keyword rich content for the search engines, and not put your customers off.  Use clever ways to break up the text with sub-headings (or cross headings if you’re an old school copywriter like me), block quotes, images and more.  Employ tricks like answering FAQs, telling stories and explaining processes to make keywords flow with your text rather than jarring with them.

TL:DR

Things in the web world change every single year – sometimes even more frequently than that, so I will probably have to come back and edit this blog regularly to update with the new tips and tricks that are working for me and my clients.  However, one thing has never changed in the last 15+ years of me writing for websites: if you write for people rather than search engines, your website will convert better.  So do that.  Please.

If you would like some coaching in your website copywriting, get in touch.

Peace, j x

What is a copywriter?

I do a lot of networking, it’s the nature of running your own business.  Part of me loves it – meeting new people, hearing their stories…but part of me really hates it.  I hate it because at every single event I’m asked ‘What do you do?’ and I say ‘I’m a copywriter’ and they look at me blankly, or worse, ask ‘like patents and stuff?’  ‘No, not copyright, copywrite – oh, never mind.’

So after answering the question so many times, I thought it was about time I just wrote down the answer – if nothing else it’ll give me a URL to pass people when I can’t get beyond the vacant stares…

So what does a copywriter do?

It’s fairly simple – they create original written copy.  This can be for adverts, promotional brochures, websites, PR, radio scripts or even the back of cereal packets.  It really all depends.  Some copywriters work for one company, internally as part of a marketing team.  I’ve held this position before, often along side designers and developers, producing the SEO copy they need for their websites. It means you end up as a bit of an expert in a company’s product, service and even industry, which can only make your copy better.  It’s a great place for a writer to work.

Other writers work on a freelance basis, one day writing a newsletter for a professional clown, and the next writing website copy for an undertaker.  Some write scripts, some write or proof legal documents, some write the content for the back of software boxes, and some do all of them!  This is the type of writing that I love.  I love having to immerse myself in research until I can speak knowledgeably about a subject I previously knew nothing about.  It keeps writing fresh and every day interesting.

Yes, copywriters do come up with product and company names, slogans and snappy advertising catch phrases – but coming up with catchy things to say isn’t enough.  You need to have the flexibility to adapt from client to client, project to project, audience to audience.  After all, it’s not just the topic that changes, it’s the people you are writing for.  Your ultimate goal is to influence a reader to action with just your words, so you need to understand who it is that you are writing for.

Ready to find out more about how I can help your business? Get in touch.

Social Media Calendar – A Necessary Evil?

How far are you into your social media strategy? Are you at the ‘If one more person says “content is King” I’ll punch them’ stage? Well here’s a tip to turn the chaos and stress into a manageable daily task. You need a content calendar.

I know it sounds like just another task to add to the never ending list, but trust me. I manage social media for a dozen brands on a daily basis, and without a content calendar and a daily plan I’d be a shivering mess in the corner, throwing post-it pads at random folk.

A What?
So what do I mean by a Social Media Content Calendar? It’s a place to hold all the information you need in one place. It lists all of your channels (Facebook, blog, Twitter etc.) and lets you plan what you’re going to post where and when. It’s where you collect ideas, curate your content and make sure you stick to your strategy.

When you have an idea for a blog, you write it there. Yes it will take a few hours to initially set up, but in the long run it’ll save you time and help you make sure you keep producing high quality content rather than panic-written articles about…bunnies.

How to organise it
There are no hard and fast rules. If you work well with lists in a text file, go for it. If you prefer Excel pivot tables, do it. I like a spreadsheet, because it allows me to link to other documents, and hide/view what I need to see and not be overwhelmed by the volume!

Benefits of using a Content Calendar
1. Once you know what kind of posts are

The best way to see what kind of content to plan for the future is to perform routine checks on what kind of content is well-liked by your audience, and make regular adjustments based on these insights. Set up regular check-up times to record the important metrics on your content. Platforms such as Google Analytics help you track the vital numbers for your content’s performance. Some important numbers to take note of are unique pageviews, number of clicks, and referral source. This data will help you figure out which ones of your posts get the most readers, which ones are good for generating leads, and what social channel is referring the majority of your readers. Use this information to adjust your publishing schedule, as well as the type of content you post and the social media platform you use to promote this content.
2. Missing important dates

You’ve probably experienced this: you go about your day, only to realize halfway through the afternoon that you forgot a good friend’s birthday, only because you saw the reminder on Facebook. It feels bad to have forgotten it on your own, but it would feel a lot worse to miss the birthday altogether. Organizing all your content in one place is a safeguard, like Facebook reminders—it exists to ensure you don’t miss crafting content relevant for holidays important to your industry, product releases, or campaign launch dates.

How a social media content calendar can fix this:
Populate your content calendar with all the dates important to your business. Set up reminders at a reasonable interval to put the date on your radar in advance, in order to adjust your writing and research time to the deadline. Add holidays that may affect your business, whether they mean low or high reader traffic—depending on the nature of your business, holidays can mean either ramping up efforts, or doing some housekeeping, such as repurposing old content.
An example editorial calendar An example editorial calendar
3. Overwhelming your content writers

If you run a small business, you want to make sure your resources are allocated in the most beneficial way for your brand. Hiring people dedicated to your social media channels may have been a smart cost-saving move, but their schedule doesn’t seem to have a consistent amount of work—it’s impossible to predict whether the day will be a slow or a hectic one. As a result, the quality of work they product is also inconsistent.

How a social media content calendar can fix this:
Use the content calendar as an assignment calendar for your copywriters. As soon as you know the topics you want to cover in your next few posts, start assigning them to writers based on their schedule, strengths and level of expertise. This will give them time to do in-depth research and think of an engaging way to frame the issue at hand, as well as ensure you have the most capable writer working on that piece of content. If you have more than one copywriter working on your content, plan your content calendar in a way that keeps everyone busy: if one writer isn’t working on a piece with an imminent deadline, focus their efforts on social media promotion or brainstorming ideas for the future.

On days when you anticipate no published content or a lower volume of content, keep a writer on the lookout for any previously published posts that can be updated, or any extra social media efforts (as determined by your weekly analysis from #1).
4. Spamming one social media network and neglecting another

Once you figured out your publishing schedule, you settled into a comfortable routine: plan, write, publish, and promote. But even after all the research into the topics and audience insights, your content is still not reaching the desired audience. Your promotion schedule for your social media content has made it too easy for your audience to dismiss your content on one channel, and it doesn’t have the visibility it needs to attract readers on another channel.

How a social media content calendar can fix this:
For each piece of content planned in your calendar, assign the social media channels you want to use to promote it. Add social media network icons underneath the content title and author name. If you see that one icon comes up too much, and another has not shown up in a while, it may be a sign that you need to rethink your social media promotion strategy.

Ensure that your social referral source metric during your weekly analytics check dictates the social channels you use. You want to promote content on the network frequented by your target audience, but you also don’t want to give up a network that refers the most readers.
5. Not doing your research

You have a brilliant post planned, but when you or your copywriter sits down to create it, you realize that it requires a lot more knowledge on the subject than what you have at your disposal. The deadline is looming, the bosses are angry, and you struggle to produce what you know is a mediocre piece of content. All of this can be prevented by doing background research before setting the due date, but you can’t do that unless you have all your content planned out ahead.

How a social media content calendar can fix this:
If you have the publish date set and the writer assigned in advance, this allows the copywriter to evaluate their expertise on the subject matter. If there is more research to be done, or another writer is better suited to support on the task, a content calendar allows your brand to do this without disrupting the deadlines.

You’re ‘on Twitter’ now what?

You know that Twitter’s the place to be, it’s where your competitors are and it’s where your customers are.  So you’ve set up a profile, but despite checking every few minutes, it’s not generated you millions of pounds yet…shocking right?

Not really, setting up a username is only the first step.  Here are my top tips for boosting your Twitter following and making it more than just a thing you do ‘because you should’. Continue reading You’re ‘on Twitter’ now what?

Make your main thing the main thing

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Firstly, a confession – my name’s Jill and I am a compulsive reader. I read everything, from every piece of junk mail that clears my doorstep, to the instructions (and warranty small print) for the new kettle I’m setting up. Reading relaxes me. I read all day, from online articles to text books to novels. I read for relaxation and inspiration.

Right now I’m re-reading (I do that a lot too) The Innocent smoothie team’s business book ‘innocent – our story and some things we’ve learned’. It resonates with me as a lot of the beliefs they hold about the way a business should be run are my beliefs. I like their approach and honesty and I highly recommend the book whether you’re a small business owner looking to grow, or you’ve just got a crazy idea about a new venture! Continue reading Make your main thing the main thing

When words speak louder than pictures

I’m a big fan of the Google Doodle – unashamedly making it a regular part of my morning routine.  Not only do I appreciate the amazing graphic skills of that team, it also lets me know of any special events I should be aware of…that and DaysOfTheYear.com.

Today it was the anniversary of the evacuation and liberation of Auschwitz.  I waited with bated breath to see how the Google logo would be redesigned to remember the Holocaust…all I have to say is – well done Google for being respectful and knowing when words speak louder:

 

google-auch

How the feed has changed content

Many moons ago, I gave a talk on the mysterious ‘RSS feed’ and how it would change web content writing. This was before Twitter, before Facebook’s News Feed, when RSS stood for ‘Really Simple Syndication’ and just referred to search engine results, and lists of blog posts.

Even then, back in my naive, student days, I knew that to get somewhere in web copywriting, I would have to tailor every story I wrote so that it looked great in Google and Yahoo’s search results, and in the website’s own feed. Now, we write for feeds every day, without even thinking about it. This brilliant infographic shows how RSS feeds (or ‘Rich Site Summary’ feeds) have moved from being how we find the content we want, to how we consume the content.

I won’t bore you with rehashing what’s in the image below – just enjoy a history lesson in digital marketing! Three wee tips of my own though:
Continue reading How the feed has changed content

Social Media as Judge and Jury

Yesterday a large gym franchise was forced to take down a social media post and apologise for it. It was a motivational quote by Woody Allen which the group was concerned would cause offence to some because of his recent position in the news. This has sparked two debates for me.
1. Has social media become judge, jury and executioner for brands and celebrities?
2. (to paraphrase Nick Hornby) Should we penalise a great artist and their works for their latter day sins?
Continue reading Social Media as Judge and Jury

Improvements to LinkedIn Company Pages

LinkedIn have announced today a great group of improvements to their company pages. The marketing they’ve provided on the updates is flashy and fantastic, but makes it a bit difficult to tell what’s actually changed, so I thought I’d summarise the update for all you lovely people:

1. Customising images when you share a company update
– Just like on Facebook Company pages, when you post an update with a link, LinkedIn automatically generates a thumbnail image. Now you can customise the image that appears by clicking on the icon in the right hand corner of the preview image. This is a great way to draw people’s attention when it appears in their home feed.
Continue reading Improvements to LinkedIn Company Pages

What is the optimum keyword density for Google?

So, I’m currently battling with someone over the keyword density of an article.  Instead of arguing over the strategy he is using, I have to nod and smile. It’s making my eye twitch with the pressure of being nice.

So this is my sort-of-silent cathartic protest – the all-knowing Matt Cutts talks about the nonsense of focusing on keyword density versus quality content: