All posts by Jill Glen

How do you use a copywriter for SEO?

I have been working on SEO projects since 2005.  The thing that freaks me out most about that (apart from the fact that I started so young…cough), is that nothing has changed.  OK, the keywords meta tag is not a thing anymore, and people care less about Yahoo! – but the golden rule is still the same:

To be successful, you should only optimise your website for the thing your website talks about.

Back in 2005, this meant don’t optimise your accountancy website for ‘Free iPod’, now it means, if you want to be found for a search term, you better have it on your website.  This is where a copywriter comes in.  So here are some particularly great reasons to use a copywriter for SEO:

1. Processing your Keywords Naturally

We’ve all been on websites which force the keywords into the text.  We call it ‘writing for Google’ rather than ‘writing for people’.  A good copywriter won’t sacrifice the purpose of the text for the sake of search engines.  They will write high quality copy that people will actually want to read and engage with, and it will feature your chosen search terms in the correct density without you even noticing.

2. Maintaining Brand Consistency

You may want to be found for ‘cheap cars Glasgow’ but is that consistent with your brand?  An SEO copywriter strikes a balance between the keywords you want to get found for, and the ones which marry with your brand.  This is especially helpful to reduce bounce rate on your web pages.  If the web page relates to the search terms it is optimised for, that’s great, but it needs to relate to the rest of the site too in order to get that second or third click.  Brand consistency promotes engagement and engagement leads to sales.

3. Creating Pages with a Single Mission

If pages are confusing or convoluted, people will leave.  The ‘instant result’ mentality of your average online browser means that your pages must draw them in and help them to take the next step that you are leading them to.  A great SEO copywriter can take an existing page and improve it to have a single mission and help your visitors to follow that path…which leads us nicely to…

4. Planning a Path for the Visitor

About once a week I will get a list of keywords, or a single keyword, from a client with a request to write copy for that keyword.  My reply is, and always will be, ‘why?’.  In order to create pages that convert, we need to know what you want the client to do once they reach your site so that we can direct them that way with our calls to action.  If you need help with that, I can help you work through the ‘why’ questions until we figure it out!

5. Write knowledgably about the Subject

In my training I love telling the story of a brand putting a new marketing intern in charge of their next bike related product launch.  She created web pages, a Facebook community, live Q&A sessions, and more, managing it all herself.  They asked me to audit their pages and see why the campaign just wasn’t converting.  A quick check showed that the poor intern had no clue about bikes.  She’d not ridden once since she was very small and her copy had no substance at all.  The morale of the story – don’t ask amateurs to talk to experts. 

What a good copywriter will do is research – a hell of a lot of research sometimes – so that they can talk knowledgably about a subject.  This helps hugely with SEO as people will share and link to the page if it’s useful and written by an expert.  If it adds value for your customers, the likelihood of it doing well in the search engines is much higher.

If you’d like to find out more about SEO Copywriting and how we can help you, please get in touch.

What is your brand voice?

We can all think of brands that sound a particular way.  The examples I always use in my training are Marks & Spencer’s food vs. Iceland food.  Consider how they show off Christmas biscuits:

The way they sound, the words they use, the emotions they conjure – that is done through ‘brand voice’. So how do you find yours?  Let’s start with a definition.

What a Brand voice is:

  • Attitude: sometimes called the ‘register’.  It’s about the attitude behind the words – formal or friendly, funny or fierce, homely and honest or cheeky and crass…there are so many options.  It’s unlikely that your brand is the extreme of any of these.  Let’s look at Innocent Drinks – they are friendly, homely and very cheeky:
  • Vocabulary: sometimes this is particular words (saying ‘people’ instead of ‘staff’ for instance) and sometimes it’s a style of words (slang, technical jargon, long and complex or short and snappy).
  • Grammar: should things be active or passive; first person or third person; do you say “don’t” or “do not”; this is a list that could go on forever, so don’t get too pedantic!

What a Brand Voice isn’t:

  • A list of values: a florist, a car manufacturer, and a supermarket could all say that they were affordable, honest, and passionate, but they should not all have the same brand voice.  Your values should inform your voice, but they are not the same thing.

Pulling all of these things together creates a picture of what your brand voice should be – but once you define your brand voice and create the guidelines, it’s no good to you sitting in a folder on your shelf, so how do you turn it into something you can actually use?  Firstly, don’t make it a vague list of rules, nor a lengthy document that no one will read. When I create a company’s brand voice guidelines I include an easy to understand description, plus hints, tips and plenty of examples.

The examples are so important, as brand voice is not exactly the same every time you produce content. Your tone needs to vary depending on the 5Ws:

  • Who are you speaking to – is it prospective clients, existing clients, or potential suppliers?
  • What you are telling them – don’t go too quirky in your Terms & Conditions, or too formal in your thank you letters.
  • Where you are speaking to them – is it on social media, or in an ebook?
  • When you are speaking to them – what stage of the buying process they are at?
  • Why are you speaking to them – are you trying to get them to make a decision, or are you telling them valuable information?

All this adds up to there being no hard and fast rule for how you write in your brand voice every single time you write (or speak). The purpose of the guidelines is to give you and your team a way to check and see if writing obeys the rules, and has the correct tone of voice for your business, and for the occasion. 

You need Buy In

No matter how clearly I create them, or what exciting font I use, a list of rules is not going to inspire your people to create content in your new voice.  You need to get them to buy into your brand voice, and believe in what you are saying to get them to use it.

How you get them to buy in depends on your people, your organisation style and more – I can help you through this step with my brand voice workshop.  Get in touch to find out more.

If it’s all a bit overwhelming, don’t worry, I can help.  Get in touch for more information on how I can help you to establish your brand voice.

What the feck is the algorithm?

Social media managers get very excited when they talk about “beating the algorithm”…but what on earth is it? In terms of social media, the “algorithm” is just the way that a user’s feed is sorted – in other words, it’s the order that they see posts when they log in or open the app. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok…they all use their own algorithms to help them sort your feed. To save me naming all of these channels throughout the blog, I’m going to refer to Instagram and the Instagram algorithm, but I promise the same applies to all.

If you open your Instagram feed you’ll see that the what you are scrolling through is not just the most recent posts of the accounts you follow. In fact, if you and I are both following the exact same accounts, we won’t see the same posts in the same order. I know…crazy, right?

To figure out how to get to the top of the feed, you need to understand how the algorithm prioritises posts…so here’s the scoop: how you use Instagram directs what posts you see on your feed. Its entire job is to show people things they want to see, keep them engaged and keep them coming back. So the algorithm is not ‘out to get you’ if you are delivering the right content to the right people.

If you are trying to make sure your customers and potential customers see your posts in their feed, you need to understand how they are served content. Instagram bases its algorithm around:

  • Previous engagement
    If people have engaged with your posts before, they will see more of them in the future.
  • Related content
    If they have engaged with similar posts and related accounts, they will be more likely to see your posts.
  • Relevancy
    Every post you publish gets a relevancy score. If the photo, caption and hashtags look like they all go together, and seem like other things your customers like, they will get served in the feed.

In order for your content to get served to the right people, at the top of their feed, you need to make sure that it is engaging, relevant and regular…that’s it. That is the secret sauce. Now you just need to know who your customers are, and what they like to engage with. It could be well written blogs, stunning photos, live videos, reels, podcasts… you need to figure out what they engage with and do more of that.

What’s engagement? In order of value it is someone saving, sharing, commenting (more than 4 words) or liking your post. How do you find your customers – that’s a whole other article!

Need help with your social media marketing? Get in touch for support and training.

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