We Are The Slackers

We are the slackers.
The immature entrepreneurs;
we are the will-not-stay-laters,
the go-home-on-timers,
the overtime haters.

We are the jackers.
The stick-your-jobbers;
I'll make my own,
wear my own clobber,
work from me bed
and forget all the bother.

We are the worthy.
The set-our-own-pricers;
the get-haggled-downers,
the get-paid-laters,
the where-did-my-money-goers;
the late-cheque paycheck blowers.

We are the cash and the flow.
The sausage and the sizzle.
The legwork and the admin.
The boss and employee.
The name on the door.
The place where the buck stops.

We are the slackers,
given half a chance
to pause for breath amid the dance
of work and invoice,
advertise,
pitch for jobs of perfect size
to fill the day but not the night,
keep the deadlines not-too-tight
but do the job and time it right;
not so much motivation, more of a fight
to stay on course, to stay on track,
to do the work and send it back
at the right time, on the right day;
and then sit back and hope and pray
our invoice does not go astray;
that this client, at least, will choose to pay.

We are the jumpers who ask 'how high?'
then leap for you into the sky
while you throw pennies at our feet,
each shiny coin a tiny treat.

We are neither organ grinder, nor monkey;
yet when clients call the tune
we rush to be their dancers;
we are the Freelancers.

In-Depth Articles in Google Search Results

Sometimes when you search for something on Google, you are presented not only with the usual organic results, news headlines, images and so on, but also with a grid entitled In-Depth Articles.

Google's own example for this is a search for 'censorship', and running the search confirms that In-Depth Articles appear on Google UK search engine result pages (SERPs), although you may have to scroll down to see them.

Clearly a first-page ranking in the organic results is better than inclusion in the In-Depth Articles, as long as this grid continues to appear at the bottom of the first page rather than the top.

But if you are trying to improve your SEO for a highly competitive keyword, and Google are currently including In-Depth Articles for that term in their SERPs, it might be wise to publish one or more detailed pages of content dedicated to that topic, and see if you can leapfrog your way to this often-overlooked front-page part of the SERPs.

How do I get there?

Luckily, Google offer very clear guidance on how to improve your chances of inclusion in the In-Depth Articles box.

There are no guarantees, and any SEO agency that promises results with 0% doubt is lying to you, but follow Google's own guidelines and you maximise your chances of having your page included.

First of all though, make sure you have a good page of content to start with - I would recommend a word count of at least 2,000 words, based on what Google are already including in the In-Depth Articles box, and that really is a bare minimum.

It should be well written, on a clear subject area, properly researched and structured well with subheadings etc - you can include some opinion if appropriate, but what you really want is a literature review, or something that looks like a detailed Wikipedia entry.

Once you have that in place, there are certain other things to consider...

Pagination

Would it be appropriate to split your article over several pages? If so, there is specific pagination markup to use, to allow Google to crawl those multiple pages as parts of the same single article.

I would personally advise against this - it's an unnecessary complication, and the In-Depth Articles I've seen in Google's SERPs (such as the ones on the 'censorship' results page, for instance) tend to be on a single page.

There doesn't seem to be much value in splitting an article over several pages, except to boost your total page views so you have stronger-looking analytics results to show to advertisers; there's no obvious benefit to users of your site in this age of high-speed internet access, when even a large article should load in full quite quickly.

Schema.org

One of my absolute favourite issues at the moment, Schema.org is a set of markup that tells the search engines additional information about your content.

This can include author information, references to opening times, review scores, and so on, addresses and contact details, and other additional data that is invisible to visitors to your site.

Again, I can add this markup to your content for you - and this time I would advise doing so, if you are aiming for inclusion in the In-Depth Articles box.

Authorship

Finally we have a clear SEO benefit for websites with Google Authorship implemented, as this is a recommendation for those aiming for inclusion in In-Depth Articles.

I can not only help you to set this up using one of Google's approved methods; I can also prove to you that it is working correctly, using Google's own testing tool, even before your Authorship details have started to appear on the SERPs.

Again, this is something I would recommend implementing, even if you are not aiming for inclusion in In-Depth Articles.

Paywalls

Your content should not be behind a 'paywall' or in a subscribers-only part of your website.

I don't actually expect this to be an issue with the vast majority of my clients, as you need to be akin to the Financial Times to really even consider a paywall, but it's something for you to consider when deciding where on your website to publish your in-depth content.

Logos

Whereas Google Authorship has (until recently) displayed a headshot of the author in search results, In-Depth Articles prefers something more corporate.

As such, you should make certain to use Schema.org markup on your content page, to highlight an image as being your company logo - in turn raising the likelihood of it appearing alongside your article in the In-Depth Articles grid.

I would recommend this if you are aiming for inclusion, and again I can help you to make sure your content contains the correct Schema.org markup.

What do I do next?

If you want to know more, read Google's own page describing these guidelines.

Writing something genuinely in-depth is not for the faint-hearted, and I would expect to charge my full rate for a 2,000-word researched article complete with all of the relevant Schema.org markup etc.

There is no 100% guarantee of inclusion, either - that's up to Google to decide - but either way you're going to end up with a highly optimised page (or pages, if you've opted for pagination) which should perform well in search either way.

I would urge everyone, even if not considering In-Depth Articles, to read up on Schema.org and implement it as soon as possible if your content could benefit from it.

Not many people - especially small businesses and amateur webmasters - are using Schema.org yet, relatively speaking, so it could give you a clear competitive edge in the SERPs.

Contact me for more information on In-Depth Articles, what I can do for you, or any general enquiries at all.

Now We Are Three...

Friday was my 31st birthday (June 27th, 2014) and that means something special for my career as a freelance writer, too, as July 1st 2014 will be the third anniversary of the day I officially went freelance.

That might sound like the two are not really related, except for being within a few days of each other, but there is an intrinsic connection that will never, ever change.

And that is because the last day in my agency job (June 30th 2011) was also my first day back after taking a break for my birthday.

I arrived back to find that nobody knew what work I was supposed to be doing, and as I'd handed my notice in anyway, there didn't seem much point in giving me anything to do - so I left there and then, nearly a month ahead of schedule.

An early start to my freelance writer career was probably one of the best birthday presents I got, and it's still kinda nice to get my Facebook 'happy birthday' notifications in the same week as my LinkedIn 'business anniversary' notifications.

It also means my birthday is always a time to look ahead to the next year of my business, and assuming Google don't abandon Authorship completely, that's one of my key areas of focus for these coming 12 months.

Very few of my existing clients are making use of Google Authorship - especially using my own name, rather than a pseudonym - but it's a good chance to gain an advantage in Google Search results.

Even if you don't think it affects your ranking (and I'm still not certain either way, although Google insist it has no ranking value...) having a byline alongside your search result gives it legitimacy.

The latest rumours seem to hint at Google streamlining the inclusion of Authorship in the search results - getting rid of the passport-photo-style headshot image and the indication of how many contacts you have on Google+, but retaining the byline, which is the actual valuable part of the whole process.

I've been offering for some time to help clients set up Google Authorship, whether or not they want to use my profile or one of their own in-house team - but I'm hoping this year that the streamlined inclusion of author bylines helps Authorship to mature as a long-term part of the search landscape.

And as an experienced and quite capable writer of online content, I'm hoping more clients take advantage of the option of having my byline placed on their pages when they publish articles they have paid me to write.

No doubt in a year's time the entire search landscape will have changed once again - I certainly can't imagine Google+ going mainstream without a major rethink of its functionality - but in the meantime, it's good to have something to work towards in my fourth year of Phronesis Freelance.

The Science of Staying Positive

You should never dismiss a metaphor just because it's 'meaningless' - analogies help us to put all sorts of things into perspective, and when you take your example from a rational world like those of maths and science, it can help you to tackle the more irrational challenges you face, such as your inner demons and emotions.

Take the example of 'positivity', for instance - in terms of emotion, it's quite an abstract concept, and you might not be certain of whether you mean 'positive action' and being proactive about your problems, or 'positive thinking' and simply hoping that they will somehow be resolved.

Either can be helpful, letting you think more positively about a situation that's out of your control, or encouraging you to take even difficult actions to resolve a problem that's still within reach.

But in science, particularly Physics, there are very specific definitions of positive and negative, and of neutral too.

Positive Fundamentals

In an atom, for instance, there are positively charged protons, neutral neutrons, and negatively charged electrons.

And y'know what? Those negative particles are TINY compared to the others - roughly 5.5 x 10-4 units, where one unit is the mass of a proton or neutron.

That means you need almost 2,000 electrons to equal the mass of a single positively charged proton.

What's more, those negatively charged electrons are held in place by the positive charge of the protons, orbiting the heart of an atom just as the Earth orbits around the Sun, and equally powerless to break free.

In fact, electrons are so 'insignificant' that they don't contribute towards the atomic number OR the mass number of an element on the Periodic Table.

You might begin to think that negativity doesn't really have much of a place in the universe...

Forces of Attraction

But wait, what about magnetism, right? The attraction between opposite forces that keeps those electrons in orbit, and inherently binds positivity and negativity together in an uneasy partnership?

Well it turns out there's an even stronger force that binds positive and neutral particles together - so strong, in fact, that its name is simply the Strong Force (or the 'residual strong force' when you're talking specifically about protons and neutrons).

It's been around since the beginning of Time, it's the strongest force there is, and it doesn't give a damn about negativity - it's 137 times stronger than the electromagnetic force that holds opposite charges together.

So the next time you're feeling down, remind yourself that negativity is WEAK and positivity is STRONG - and that the strong force, which holds positivity at the heart of every atom in the Universe, has itself existed FOREVER, and always will.

Need a Writer?

Do you need a writer? More specifically, do you need a freelance writer? Somebody who can produce written content for you as a one-off or regular order, when you don't need enough to justify taking on a full-time or even part-time employee?

You might want to go via an agency - and that's fine, I work with a few great agencies based around the UK, and would be happy to recommend one that I think suits your needs, or is geographically closest to you.

But if you just need a writer you can work with one on one, hiring a freelance writer directly can work out cheaper (sorry agencies, but you know it's true!).

I have been writing my entire life - I learned to type, propped up at a computer keyboard, before I could actually sit up unsupported, and I could hand-write in block capitals before I started school. I've been writing stories and poetry since I was a small child, and it's over 15 years since I built my own website for the first time.

There are not many people out there with the credentials I hold - a BA(Hons) in Language, Literacy and Communication from the University of Manchester, where I previously passed three semesters of an Astrophysics degree before I decided to become a writer. I'm still a full member of the Institute of Physics, and relish the rare opportunities I get to write about science; I'm also a member of British Mensa, with an IQ in the top 0.5% of the population.

Writing is second nature to me, which means I tend not to overthink things - and that usually leads to a very natural-sounding end product, which is ideal for blogs and general web content.

SEO also comes naturally, and if you have challenging long-tail keywords that can be difficult to include in a grammatically correct sentence, I'll do a better job of it than most people.

I've worked in-house at an online content agency (for 5 years) and I've been a freelance writer since 2011, so I've seen things from both points of view, and I've seen how SEO in particular has developed over time, with the rise of smartphones and tablets, and browsers other than Internet Explorer.

CSS, RSS, XML and PHP were all a long way off when I first started building websites, and although I'm a freelance writer, not a web designer, I know enough to include SEO-friendly markup where necessary, if you need that too.

The list goes on, but the basic point is this: Google want your website to have good content, which means you should want your website to have good content, if you want to attract search traffic. Good content needs a good writer, and that is what I am.

You don't need the world's biggest budget to get results - and £100 a month spent on SEO will often outperform the same money spent on a newspaper advert or flyers posted through people's doors.

So, even if you rewrite your existing website text as a one-time only effort, let me help you make it the very best that you can.

3 Steps to Keyword Success

People think SEO is magic, but it's really just logic - the right words in the right places, and you WILL rank highly, unless you've chosen a hugely competitive key term to target (which, uh, makes it the 'wrong' words).

But how do you know what keywords to target? Well, there are three very simple steps to take, to hone your broad, short-tail keywords into precise and realistic long-tail key phrases.

1. Google Trends

First up, it's Google Trends - this gives you a place to start, and importantly it can also give you a headstart over your opposition.

Visit Google Trends and type in a broad keyword relating to your website - at this stage it doesn't matter if it's a very competitive term, as you ultimately won't be targeting this keyword in your SEO efforts.

As an example, let's use SEO, and limit the data to results from the UK over the past 12 months.

The graph and regional interest data are often quite interesting, but they're not the useful part for our purposes - that comes at the bottom-right of the page.

The Queries box shows you which search terms are being used by the most people, and if you click through to the Rising list you can also see which terms are currently rising in interest and activity the fastest.

For example, at the time of writing, some of the breakout terms include seo optimization (+70%, and note the US English spelling convention of '-ize' rather than '-ise'), seo expert (+60%) and seo check (+50%).

These would all be fairly easy to incorporate into a well-written and relevant page, but Google Trends allows you to see exactly which words, which word order, and which spellings are being used in the real world, right now.

So you choose a few key phrases from this list, and the hard work of developing a long-tail SEO strategy is done for you, without having to come up with any phrases of your own from scratch.

2. Google Analytics > SEO

Google Analytics is your friend. Free to install and to use, it's a powerful enough analytics platform for most basic to intermediate needs - and it is certainly fully featured enough to help you hone an SEO campaign.

For this part of the process, expand the Acquisition list at the left-hand side of your website's Analytics dashboard (that sounds way more complicated than it actually is - just log in and look for Acquisition, once you have the Analytics tracking code working on your website).

Next expand the Search Engine Optimization list, and click on Queries.

The data here shows you which search queries your website was included in the results for - it's real data, compiled from real people's searches, and although the figures are not 100% accurate, it still gives a good idea of how you're ranking on some real-world key words and phrases.

If you spot a particularly juicy phrase on this list, that's great news - it means, somewhere along the way, you've published some content that Google deems worthy of including in its search results for queries containing that phrase.

But at this stage, it's unlikely that you rank highly for your preferred key phrases - unless you've managed to do some very quick optimisation of your page content, that is.

You really want to be aiming for a ranking in single figures, i.e. in the top nine organic search results for your target phrase, so if this report says your ranking is 10+ you'll probably want to publish some more well-written content containing that target keyword or phrase in the right places.

Over time, as you do this, your ranking should improve on the phrases you target, and believe me, a single well-written page CAN be enough to get you into the top five positions on Google.

Keep checking back to see how well you're doing, and to identify more potential target phrases for future SEO efforts.

3. Google Analytics > Keywords

Finally, once you're confident that you're ranking highly for your target words and phrases, look under Acquisition for the Keywords list, and click on Organic.

At first this may look like the SEO report we were using above, but the key difference is this:
  • The Google Analytics SEO page is based on your inclusion in Google search engine result pages, or SERPs;
  • The Google Analytics Keywords - Organic report is based on search queries which led to an actual clickthrough to your website.
This means that, whereas the SEO page gives you an idea of what people are searching for when they find your website, the Organic page tells you which of those search queries actually drive traffic to your site.

Now you have a dilemma - do you continue to target these performing key phrases, in order to avoid slipping down the rankings, or do you devote your attention to developing more of the other phrases for which you currently don't rank so highly?

My answer would be to do both. Include new phrases chosen from the SEO report in the primary keyword positions on your new pages (near the top and near the left-hand side of your content, basically).

But also include a few mentions of one or more of your performing key phrases from the Organic report - these don't have to be in those prime positions on the page, as you're obviously already ranking for the term, so just mentioning it anywhere should be enough to remind Google that it's still relevant to your website.

And that is it. Trends, Analytics SEO, and Analytics Organic - the three Google reports that can logically develop you from a single competitive short-tail keyword, to first-page rankings on well-performing, real-world, long-tail search queries that your competitors may not yet have discovered.

Hayfever Eyes

For anyone suffering from the high pollen count - you are not alone.


I've been taking the pills, but
I've got this feelin' that won't subside
I'm feelin' blue and I need to wipe
My crying eyes
Now I've got that blurry sight

With these hayfever eyes
One puff of pollen and I start to cry
I've got hayfever eyes
I feel them aching and I'm almost bli-i-ind

I'll get some water and rinse them out
Don't want to feel like I'm in a drought
They feel so dry
Now I've got that blurry sight

With these hayfever eyes
One puff of pollen and I start to cry
I've got hayfever eyes
I feel them aching and I'm almost blind
I've got hayfever eyes
Now they're bloodshot where they should be white
I've got hayfever eyes
I feel them stinging and I wanna di-i-ie

I need to see
This is not what eyes should be...

I've got hayfever eyes
One puff of pollen and I start to cry
I've got hayfever eyes
I feel them stinging and I wanna die
I've got hayfever eyes...