eCommerce in 2011: Search and Trends

As 2011 draws to a close, it's time to reflect on some of the incidents and trends that shaped the search landscape over the past 12 months.

It's easy to look at total traffic and sales figures, but those reports are best left to the experts. Instead, I've focused on the major landmarks in the 2011 calendar - the New Year sales, Easter and Christmas, along with the impact of the Royal Wedding in April.

Beyond that, I've picked out a few personal highlights of how the major players in the social networking sphere have performed in Google's search statistics over the course of the year.

All of the data is from Google Trends, which means there are no gross estimates of search query volumes - in all cases, the figures below are relative to the full-year average number of queries received by the search terms listed, or of one of the terms in charts comparing the performance of multiple queries.

Topic Shifts on Social Networks

He's hundreds of years old, yet never seems to age. He's usually pictured wearing a red and white ensemble. And he's pretty much at the furthest extreme of the 'good vs evil' spectrum.

Given the time of year, you might be thinking of Santa Claus. I'm not - I'm thinking of Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living, the spirit of true evil and sworn enemy of the ThunderCats.

Perhaps it's just that I'm male and of the right age, but the word 'ever-living' will always instantly make me think of Mumm-Ra - it's an unshakable association that's lasted me for over 20 years now.

Even so, the sequence of topic shifts that led me and @copybeard from Santa to Sir Jimmy Savile is an impressive example of how, on social networks, you'd better be ready to roll with the punches, regardless of where they may take you...

Twixt Bed and Dreams

Midnight chimes bring day to end
and night becomes a silent friend.
A welcome partner, warm embrace;
the peace of sleep on every face
but mine, until I too retire,
the energies of day expire
and darkness crowds out every thought.
Bed's clothes protect me, my own fort
with dreams above, and bed below,
and twixt my head, and my pillow.

Bugs in the System - When Virals Pass You By

I committed a Twitter faux pas today, and I'm feeling a little guilty about it.

Out of a desire to do good, to spread a cry for help wider across the social network, I ended up misleading the very people who were asking for that help.

And the reason was, simply, that they hadn't heard of Fenton.

eBook Ghostwriting

I've recently been doing some eBook ghostwriting for a client (who, for obvious reasons, I'll leave unnamed), and it got me to thinking - just because you're an expert in your field, why should you be expected to be able to write about it expertly?

Nearly three decades of concerted effort have brought my writing to its current standard, and I still continue to learn new quirks of grammar and origins of phrases that I never knew before - such as the correct spelling of the phrase "the strait and narrow".

Likewise, I've been building websites for nearly 15 years and, before I learned HTML, I started out using desktop publishing software to lay out my designs and then simply opting for 'save as HTML' or 'publish for web', depending on the program used.

Now, I don't claim to be a graphic designer, but if what you need is some well-written text, laid out in a paginated format, either with or without placeholders for you to add graphics, I can do that.

Website Copy Charged by the Word Count

When I decided to become a freelance web copywriter, I had to set some sort of pricing structure that I knew would satisfy both me and my clients. You can see it here.

One of the elements of my pricing structure that I never expected to be controversial was my decision to charge according to the word count, rather than the time taken.

Evidently most freelancers need a brief on the project at hand, then estimate how long they think it will take, and then quote an estimated price on that basis. This might mean paying a deposit up front, or renegotiating the price later if the job turns out to take longer than expected.

To put it simply, I can't be bothered with that kind of hassle. Why should it matter to you how long something takes me, as long as you get good-quality content in time for your deadline? And if that deadline is hours away when you get in touch, why should you pay me for two days' work?

The Buy Cycle: Ecommerce Copy for January Sales

When you run an ecommerce site, you need to think differently from your customers.

Sure, you'll see the advice 'think like a customer' all over the place, but you actually need to be one step ahead of them.

And online, they're likely to already be one step ahead of bricks-and-mortar shoppers, so you need to take that into account too.

I'm referring, once again, to what I call the Buy Cycle, the regular pattern of ecommerce trends that repeats year on year on year.

Let it guide you, and you can make sure you've got ecommerce copy for January sales and promotions in place when people are searching for it, and don't miss the rush.

My Christmas Wish

To all of my virtual friends, whether you are on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, by email or in some much-maligned chat room elsewhere on the web, I have this to say...

May your glass be ever full
or your mug, with wine to mull
that your weekends are not dull.
But in the week, sobriety
and empathetic piety
enhance your notoriety
when out upon the pull.

May the words that meet your ear
be filled with festive winter cheer
and love for those that you hold dear.
For in these cold, inclement climes,
I wish you all the best of times
(if in these wooden, stilting rhymes
beset upon by beer).

My friends, I say it simply
with cheeks, from smiling, dimply,
from Withington to Timperley -
I love you all, my dears!
You help me through the years
and set aside my fears
(and that, I do say wimpily!).

So let's, together, delve
into what's upon the shelves
for two thousand and twelve.
As the chimes of Big Ben ring
and 'Auld Lang Syne' starts to sing,
let's face what the year may bring,
together, on our selves.

Heartfelt festive wishes to you all, my internet lovelies, and best of luck for the year to come.

Adventures in Wedding Poetry

My brother got married last week and I, along with my sister, had the honour of giving a reading during the ceremony.

I've done two wedding readings before this one - at the first, my sister's wedding, I chose a poem to read out. At the second, my friends Mat and Bec chose a poem for me to read. This time, I wrote something.

The finished piece is not supposed to be overly moving, as my brother didn't really want anything over the top. Luckily for all concerned, there was a screaming child right at the beginning, which turned the opening line into more of a punchline.

'Oli' is my nephew. I'm probably a little biased, but he's already a little legend in my eyes, so I had to name-drop him. Critics, before you say it, yes I know I didn't use many of the names in rhyming positions - but tough luck, the audience liked it and I think the bride and groom did too, and that's the main thing!

I'm thinking of offering this as a paid service, so if you want something similar to the below, let me know and we can work on something that's right for the bride and groom in your life... meanwhile, I hope Grant and Claire enjoy many happy years together.

Wedding Poem for Grant and Claire

When everything around you
Fades into background noise
And material possessions
Seem like a child's toys

When you feel as though you're flying
With the birds and planes above
To others, you may seem crazy
But to the two of you, it's love

No annoyances or distractions
Can shake you from your path
The magic of your love
Is in the sound of Oli's laugh

There may be ups and downs
And bumps along the way
But each of us supports you
On this, your wedding day

Friends, family, those who care
are here to witness and to share
in celebration of this pair;
the joyful marriage of Grant and Claire.

Fairytale of New SERPs

It's Christmas Eve babe
On Analytics
But it shows no hits, when you ask it.
You need a better site
That uses keywords right
So that, next Christmas night
Your shoppers 'add to basket'.

You'd like to start a blog
But it's a heavy slog
You've never written much
And don't know what to do
There's no need for distress
Here's how to do it best
Just set aside your stress
And let me write it for you.

Your website is bright
And its colours are bold
But the pages are empty
And the content is old
The thing to do next
The next thing you need
Is to fill it with text
For the search bots to read.

"It's awkward, it's pricey!"
There's no reason it need be
And if you don't do it, you'll never be found
So send me a login
And outsource your blogging
I'll keep you updated for just a few pound.

The Google Panda algorithm changes day by day,
But I'll help to keep your site on the front page.

Are familiar to me
But I know that, to you
They might sound like voodoo
Avoid PPC
Instead put its fee
Into up-to-date news
And you really can't lose.

The Google Panda algorithm changes day by day,
But I'll help to keep your site on the front page.

"I'll write my blog alone."
Sure, try it on your own
I wish you all the best
In reaching page one
But when you've had your go
Then make way for the pro
Your site will be here when
The rest have all gone.

The Google Panda algorithm changes day by day,
But I'll help to keep your site on the front page.

Ship in a Bottle

I don't post much of my fiction on here - and I don't write fan fiction, generally speaking - but the Doctor Who storyline below is actually from a dream I had.

It's not the most original of storylines, but it amused me to dream an episode of Doctor Who, and I thought I'd write it up when I woke up, before I forgot it all.

How to Write a Good Dissertation

We're coming up to Christmas, so there must be thousands of students out there starting to panic about their dissertations - first of all, don't panic.

If your course is anything like my university degree was, you'll already have done a literature review, before finalising your choice of dissertation topic.

If so, there's a decent chance that you've got a copy of a past study that is similar, at least in some ways, to the one you're working on now.

Read on for the best, most logical approach to writing a dissertation that I've been able to come up with - and which helped me to produce a report my lecturers encouraged me to have published.

White Lies (Don't Do It)

Da-na na-na na-na na-na base! Da-na na-na na-na true base!

Advertising copywriters, why must you lie? The product made it through all the planning stages, prototyping and production; surely it's got enough selling points that you don't need to lie about it?

In fact, it's not just lies. It's all of the nonsense we get bombarded with that's then explained away in the smallprint. If your ad needs smallprint, you hired the wrong copywriter, I'd say.

RIP Google Reader

It is with considerable regret that I announce the sad passing of Google Reader.

When I logged on this morning, Google Reader appeared pale, with its features much more poorly defined than was the case yesterday.

As I tried to discover what had happened, I also learned that Google Reader has become much less communicative - it is no longer allowing content to be viewed on sharing pages, or via RSS feeds.

Life as a Didsbury Copywriter

You never know what's on your doorstep, do you? I've lived by Didsbury Park for two years, but for the first 18 months or so I was agency-based.

Now I'm a fully freelance Didsbury copywriter, I'm discovering local businesses I never knew existed.

It's been great chatting with more and more local businesspeople on Twitter - even if they don't need my services now, there's always hope for the future. And it's not all about finding work, either.

Outsourced Copywriting is Good for Business Continuity

Yeah, I'm gonna state that title as a fact. If you're looking at your disaster recovery/business continuity plans for the winter, consider outsourcing your copywriting.

Why? Well, it takes a lot of the pressure off of you, for a start. Hire a freelancer, and it's their responsibility to make sure you get your content, by hook or by crook.

Freelance copywriters don't have the safety net of a permanent contract, and generally don't have an IT team to fall back on if something goes wrong. For that reason, I'm something of an expert at rooting out viruses if they ever make it through my computer's robust defences.

But it's not just about being a one-man army - freelance copywriters also probably have a backup plan, because they can't afford negative word-of-mouth. We thrive on reputation and recommendation, so if one computer goes down, we'll find an alternative.

Memory and Multitasking

How good's your short-term memory? Particularly when you're juggling several thoughts at once?

Mine's pretty good - if you saw my recent post Things You Can't Teach, you can add 'excellent memory' to the list of attributes associated with both Cancer and the Year of the Pig.

But how do I keep my memory at its best, and how does that help with copywriting?

Things You Can't Teach...

Some of the things I'm about to list maybe can be taught - let's admit that from the outset. But like experience behind the wheel of a car, there's some knowledge that's best acquired hands-on.

I've been writing (and typing) since I was about two. Typing came first, propped up at the keyboard of a ZX Spectrum. By the time I started primary school, I could hand-write in block capitals. The school were annoyed; they liked to teach lower-case first.

Be the Dance, Not the Dancer

"Put the customer first" is another of the pieces of advice doing the rounds at the moment.

I'm not sure if one blog post inspires all the others, or if something in the wider world of eCommerce triggers everyone to write about the same thing.

Either way, this post urges you to think carefully before you make your customers the sole driving force behind your pricing and marketing activities.

Carving Katie Waissel

Last year, I carved my first 'proper' pumpkin design, creating my own carving pattern from a photograph.

This year I wanted to create a Katie Waissel carving pattern - her strong features and distinctive hair seemed a good starting point for a recognisable result.

Below is a comparison of the photo I worked from, alongside the finished result - along with the step-by-step process I followed to get from one to the other.

Prune, Don't Purge

There's a worrying trend for 'good copywriting' sites and blogs to advise heavy-handed pruning of your content, in order to get it to the minimum necessary number of words that still carries your desired message.

Now, pruning is no bad thing - in fact I'd say it's a fundamental part of the proofreading and editing process. Shortening sentences helps to keep them readable and enhances clarity (generally speaking).

But purging - ridding your copy of every last word that might be deemed extraneous - raises the risk of ambiguity and can vastly cut down on the number of search-visible words and phrases your website contains.


In honour of National Poetry Day, one of my own best efforts, written when I was about 16 (ca. 1999).

As originally written - if you want punctuation, you'll have to add it yourself.


Under mandarin clouds
And lavender skies
Where the summer sunset prouds
And the black swift flies

Beneath stormy cumulus
Where evils abode
On wind swept tumulus
Where rivers once flowed

In golden fields
With foolish haste
And through poor yields
Where lives lay to waste

Between sleep and waking
Lies life without care
Lie dreams in the making
I'll wait for you there


The dream was a myth
A crumbling cliff
Awake from the tides
To where evil abides

The sleeping wake
Where all was fake
Becomes waking sleep
And you're in too deep

The fields are grey
It's the end of the day
But no summer sunset here
And no happy new year

Between waking and sleep
Where fresh nightmares creep
And crawl in your hair
I'll wait for you there


The mandarin skies turn into pure gold
The lavender becomes velvet plush
And though laser eyed wolves still lurk in the bush
The sunsets and mornings seem somehow less cold

The dream isn't over but true life prevails
The evils of night go out of the mind
Yet alone in a room, with nothing of kind
It's hard to be sure what emotion true life entails

The memories fade, like cats in the dark
A warning remembered is all too soon lost
A yearning to recall fogged by vapours tost
But its bite is worse than its bark

A bet some day soon, or maybe a dare
Something will cause that last breath
There is a place between living and death
I'll go fishing, and wait for you there


I wait for your coming and hark at the drumming
Of blood rushing within my ears
Continually counting and soon amounting
First days and then months and then years

With bait in the water I do what I oughta
I sit here and watch for your face
I'll sit, do my fishin' while constantly wishin'
I never took part in that race

For it sure ain't cunning when Death's in the running
And death is the least of my worries
'Cause there's something behind me (I hope it don't find me)
It's small, and silent, and scurries

Wishing for you and yet fishing for you
Though I must it it sure isn't fair
There's a place of my making 'twixt dreaming and waking
I'm sorry. I'll wait for you there

Steve Jobs: The Measure of the Man

Few of us, when we die, will be remembered with a global outpouring of grief. Steve Jobs died on October 5th, 2011, of pancreatic cancer, and the internet mourned one of its spiritual leaders.

Apple's homepage carried a simple monochrome portrait of Jobs, along with the years of his birth and death. Google followed suit with a simple text link bearing the same information and referring traffic through to

Twitter was, perhaps unsurprisingly, dominated by the news - my own timeline, which contains a couple of hundred creatives' musings, consisted of little other than Jobs tributes and the occasional Apple-related joke or politically charged observation.

But my problem today lies with Barack Obama's comment regarding Jobs' achievements - and particularly how he and Apple have connected people the world over, even when they are on the move.

"There may be no greater tribute to Steve's success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented."
- Barack Obama

Getting E-Commerce Sites Ready for Christmas

We're officially into autumn now, and it's the time of year when people begin to seriously think about Christmas.

That means it's also time to get e-commerce sites ready for the Christmas rush - change your colour scheme if it's seasonal (even if you just switch to a snow-capped logo on your festive pages), think about special offers and discounts, and keyword your product descriptions for Christmas.

It's not just because I'm a copywriter that I think that last point is rather important - in the run-up to Christmas, there are unique SEO opportunities that you just don't get at other times of year, and you're gonna need the right keywords on your e-commerce site if you're going to capitalise on those.

Consider the below graph of Google Trends data for 2010:

You may recognise me from...

...the notice board at The Sanctuary.

My first foray into print advertising (well, for myself rather than for a client) is a simple flyer tacked up by the door to the toilets. You've got to start somewhere.

On a serious note, Twitter has been a great way to reach people so far, but there's nothing wrong with exploiting all the available routes to market, as any 'expert' will tell you.

Fragment Core - the Phronesis typeface

The logo you see at the top of the Phronesis blog is rendered in Fragment Core, a wonderful font from sugargliderz.

It's free, which is always a good start, and fits the Phronesis concept perfectly.

NB You may want to read this post with one eye on the 'anatomy of a character' glossary.

Content for 1&1 MyWebsites

It's great to see TV commercials for simple web hosting that's suitable for small businesses - such as 1&1 MyWebsite.

I'm not affiliated with them, and can't vouch for their service, but the ad seems straightforward enough - template-based sites, separated into different industry areas, that you can fill with your own logo and text.

But hang on - any decent blogging platform will offer you templates to choose from. Aside from a few technical points, how your site looks has little bearing on its ranking in search results.

Happy Adferversary!

Five years ago today, on September 18th 2006, I started my first graduate position as a DirectNews correspondent at Adfero.

For those of you who don't know, Adfero is an online news agency. It has offices in London, Manchester and Leeds, but Manchester is its largest editorial department.

As with any job, I encountered colleagues I'd like to know for the rest of my life, and some managers I'd rather forget. There were good days and bad days.

This post is really for those of you trying to decide whether you should work for Adfero - I know there are a few of you, as I see you in my search traffic.

Add meta tags to WordPress with custom fields

Ready for a bit of WordPress wizardry? OK, here goes...

There are plenty of SEO plugins out there to add meta tags to individual posts and pages on WordPress. But you don't really need them - you can add custom meta keywords and description tags to a WordPress template using custom fields, instead.

NB This method requires you to have access to edit your template code - ie, it will work on websites that use WordPress as their CMS, but not on free WordPress-hosted blogs at

Why should I outsource my blogging?

Whether you're a web designer who wants to offer blogging as a service to your clients, or a webmaster looking for a low-maintenance way to improve your site's search visibility and ranking, outsourcing your blogging to a freelancer (like me!) is a compelling proposition.

Let's take a look at the arguments for webmasters first, followed by the benefits of outsourced blogging for web designers...

The SEO Forecast

A large part of my income at the moment is derived from month-in, month-out blogging for online and real-world companies all over the UK.

Most of them want a hands-off service - and in some cases I resell my content through web design, marketing and SEO companies, so the site owner might not even know it's me writing their blog posts.

When I'm choosing what to write for these clients - a mixture of original content and editorial-style news posts, depending on their needs - I like to occasionally throw in a weather report.

To find out why, read on...


It's September 11th, 2011, and I don't want to cash in on the date, but I would like to share some thoughts.

In particular, I hadn't realised how many of my journalistic colleagues were inspired to join the profession by the events of that day.

Adfero's head of news feeds Nat Bertram raised the question on Twitter, noting both Kaitlyn Critchley and Jamie Smith cited 9/11 among their career influences.

Kaitlyn was at Adfero's Manchester office during the time I worked there, and was among the more talented individuals I met in my five years as an agency-based online journalist.

She summed up her thoughts today in a series of tweets:

"Coverage of the 9/11 anniversary is everywhere - was certainly a day that changed my life. I remember getting ready for school and was brushing my teeth when the news of the 1st tower came on the radio. Was late for school watching the coverage and was terrified. Also the first time I remember having a hunger for immediate knowledge. So I decided to study journalism."

Queen Fer a Day

Caroline Feraday is no stranger to the concept of online interaction - when I first saw her in late 1999, she was presenting Sky One's viewer-participation Saturday-night line-up, Skyrocket.

I remember thinking she was particularly good as an on-screen anchor with little to no back-up, but I didn't realise that she was still only 22 and much of her competence was raw talent (plus, even at that age, I'd guess she'd spent a good few years learning her trade).

Fast-forward to 2011 and Caroline's a familiar face to many and a familiar voice to even more, including her contributions to the BBC London 94.9 schedule.

Early on Wednesday morning (September 7th), she flew back from her holiday and into an unexpected emergency that proved not only Caroline's own professionalism, but also the inextricable nature of social media in the modern world...

Taking Care of the Pennies

When I started freelancing, I gave some thought to how much I should charge - what would be fair, and how much I'm worth.

I decided to offer a flat rate, whatever the project, because it infuriates me when I visit a freelancer or agency website and there's no indication of how much they're gonna quote you.

I'm not saying the rate will never change, but I've pretty much decided to keep it as simple as possible and make sure it's always visible in one place.

But what does this have to do with those of you who hire me to write copy for your e-commerce sites...?

The Countdown to Christmas

It's school-run Monday, which means kids across the country are heading back to school for the new academic year.

That means we're getting well and truly into the run-up to Christmas - and this is the crossover time when, if you're a supplier rather than a retailer, those last big festive orders are likely to start coming in.

Meanwhile, if you're a direct retailer, you should see a steady stream of buyer interest between now and December as more people get their gift shopping out of the way.

The Axis of Awesome

I was born and raised in Scunthorpe. No, that's not near Newcastle. It's over 100 miles south of Newcastle, but it's still further north than Manchester.

It was always a bit odd growing up in a place that nobody calls the north-east, but which is due east of the area known as the north-west.

However, now I've moved to Manchester - where I went to university - I have a newfound respect for where I'm from, and for the talent that exists in this narrow band that spans the country - and which I've decided to call the Axis of Awesome.

Social Media Guru to English phrasebook

There are all manner of self-styled social media gurus out there, but look closely and you'll see there's also a bit of a divide within the industry.

'Social media gurus' are almost always called that because they choose to be - it's not really a title you can get from anywhere, you just decide to write it on your LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter profile.

The problem is, the other half of the social media marketing industry know that 'guru' is a total misnomer in a rapidly evolving environment with so many variables at play - including many that depend on the unpredictable, chaotic elements of human interaction.

So, how should you approach tweets from these social media gurus...?

Situation Normal - Service Excellent

I try not to go overboard about blowing my own trumpet here, but I did want to record this telephone exchange for posterity:

Client: Wow... you're going above and beyond for us, aren't you?
Me: Actually this is standard procedure for me.

If that's not customer satisfaction, I'm not sure what is...

Why Be A South Manchester Copywriter?

With A-level results published today, I realised it's ten years since I opened my own envelope and discovered I'd got 3 As, a B and an E (which was in Further Maths, and I'd been told I was going to fail).

That means it's also very nearly ten years since I moved to Manchester - and I've lived in south Manchester ever since. Granted, I've gradually migrated further southwards - from Victoria Park to Fallowfield, Withington, West Didsbury and now Didsbury Village - but Europe's busiest bus route, Oxford Road, has been my home for a decade.

In that time I've learned not just about the have-a-go creative types and businesses that line the route out of the city towards Stockport (see Short-Order Copywriting and Non-Search Sites), but also the companies helping them to succeed - in-house brand champions, PR agencies, web design and SEO firms, advertising agencies and all the other services needed to compete in the modern business environment.

Happy Birthday, Creative Boom!

July marked the second birthday of Creative Boom and August signifies the two-year milestone since the launch of its daily comic strip column, Daily Fix.

It's not all laughs though - site founder Katy Cowan says there were plenty of late nights and lost weekends in the early days, while the labour of love still needs constant attention to help it flourish.

"The original idea behind Creative Boom was to give creatives across the UK a place to virtually get together and share their talents, along with news updates and opportunities," she says.

Short-Order Copywriting and Non-Search Sites

One thing you will rarely be told is that you don't need more words on your website.

Generally speaking, the more words - and the more plain text - your website has, the more visible it will be to the search engines.

However, there are certain circumstances in which you might need only a very small number of words in order to build a successful website.

Kickin' Up A Twitter Riot

Looters looting, fighters fighting.
Sky's lit up by the fires they're lighting.
All colours, all ages, all getting greedier.
Who should we blame it on? Social media.

Never mind all the clean-up crews
with their dustpans and brushes, to heal the bruise
left on our nation by the trouble this week -
which they couldn't have done, if they couldn't speak.

Never mind all the lively debate
about how, once again, we can make Britain great,
or the people using their sense of humour
to dispel the panic from the rhetoric and rumour.

Forget the TwitPics and the rogues' galleries
helping the police to earn their salaries
and making sure that the looters are caught;
don't give those a second thought.

For every image that yields a name,
there's a critic out there apportioning blame.
So don't be surprised - and try not to be bitter -
when you hear 'this riot was caused by Twitter'.

Too Many Adjectives, Not Enough Verbs

Last night, August 8th 2011, the nation watched on 24-hour news channels as its capital burned. Rioters in London razed shops and homes to the ground in communities that have really done little - if anything - to deserve such punishment.

A day later, the broadcasters are running out of ways to describe the events. Some have been criticised by the victims for calling it a "spectacle" as though the whole thing was just TV.

Get the Most Out of Blogger Labels

If you have a particularly complex label structure on your Blogger/BlogSpot blog, you're likely to have encountered the 200-character limit on the number of labels you can add.

However, 200 characters is quite a lot, so there's every possibility that you only just exceeded the limit. If so, look a little closer at your labels and you might just be able to squeeze them in after all.

Blogger automatically adds a space after each comma-separated label - but this is not needed. You only need commas to denote where one label ends and the next begins.

So, remove the spaces. Depending on your average label length, this could buy you anywhere from about 10 to 20 extra characters, a decent percentage of the 200 characters allowed.

Publish with this slightly cramped-looking labels list and view your post. With the templates I've tried this on, the labels show up just fine, with spaces between them.

No negative impact on functionality, but a positive impact in terms of flexibility for you as the author. In the words of Neil Buchanan, "go on, try it yourself".

Nicole Canning, TotallyLiving

Nicole Canning is Content Manager at TotallyLiving, a consumer-facing lifestyle news site from Square Digital, a division of the online news agency Adfero.

For the last few months of my nearly five years at Adfero, I was contributing to TotallyLiving's news coverage on a daily basis, with articles and features on health, diet, nutrition, family issues and other general lifestyle topics.

Nicole says...
"Bob is a pleasure to work with! While writing for TotallyLiving, Bob sourced and covered a range of different topics, from health and fitness to food and sometimes even beauty! He always produced well written copy and - most importantly - he met every deadline with ease."
To visit TotallyLiving, click here.

Ben Salisbury,

Ben is the Content Editor at, a consumer-facing news site by Square Digital, a division of the online news agency Adfero.

On numerous occasions in my almost-five years at Adfero, I wrote for, including several months of daily contributions in the period immediately before I left the company.

Ben says...
"Bob used to write financial news and product news stories for me. I found his writing to be accurate and tight. He was also pro-active in selecting stories that he thought might be useful for the site that I may have missed.

"Bob also helped me by being flexible about turning around stories quickly when that was necessary and had a good attitude towards his working relationships."
To visit, click here.

Jennie Sawdon

Jennie Sawdon is a wedding singer turned recording artist, with her debut album recorded and released on her own label.

As part of my work for Popsiculture, I've reviewed the album, interviewed Jennie and produced gig reports from her live appearances at Didsbury's The Sanctuary bar.

Jennie says...
"Bob is very wonderful with words.

"But as a singer/pianist and artist I can tell you that he is not only this.

"When someone chooses to write about a creative artist in any genre it is very important that they feel understood.

"Bob is very aware of this and is, indeed, so empathetic that he is almost able to reach inside a person's head, organise their thoughts and construct them something near poetry on a page. Many times I have read his articles on my music and thought, 'Yes, that's exactly how I feel!'

"I have been the lucky recipient/subject of many musical reviews by Bob and I know that many people who read them have not managed to make my actual performances. However, he conveys the atmosphere and emotion of my gigs with such enthusiasm, vibrancy and personal detail that they might almost have been there themselves.

"I believe it is because of the care with which he writes, and also the passion, that I have sold many albums retrospectively.

"Thank you Bob!"

Harry Bailey, Fetch Didsbury

Fetch Didsbury is a local business directory that promotes companies and events in the south Manchester suburb.

I contributed a number of reviews of local restaurants, bars and live music nights, as well as counting Fetch among my most frequently tweeted contacts on Twitter.

Fetch Didsbury's Harry Bailey says...
"Bob has provided high quality and relevant copy for us on several occasions. He works quickly using his own initiative while submitting work that meets the often barely existent brief. His work has been the basis for articles which will be of use to our target audience into the future. We keep his email address close at hand."
Click to learn more about Fetch Didsbury.

Ele Cooper, AboutProperty

Ele Cooper is Content Manager at AboutProperty, a consumer-facing property news website by Square Digital - which is itself a part of the Adfero online news agency.

While my contributions to the site were part of my full-time employment at Adfero, the working relationship was very similar to that I enjoy with my freelance clients, due to the structural separation between Adfero's Editorial operations and its Square Digital sites.

Ele says...
"Bob is a pleasure to work with. He always has something positive to say, is bursting with relevant, interesting feature ideas and can be relied upon to turn copy around quickly. I would thoroughly recommend this man!"
To learn more, visit AboutProperty or read my features for the site about Bank Holiday DIY and Military Mortgages.

Batch Image Upload in WordPress

This is just a quickie to say that, if you're looking for a bulk image uploader tool for WordPress, you could be missing the wood in amongst all those trees.

Yes, there are plugins out there that can handle the process, and these are likely to prove essential if you need to import all the caption information etc that goes with each WordPress media library entry.

However, if all you're looking for is a batch image uploader for WordPress, you might need to look no further than your keyboard's shift or ctrl key.

When using the Flash-based image uploader - accessed via the normal 'add new' button in your WordPress installation's media library - hold down ctrl and click multiple files to select them.

Shift performs its usual function of allowing whole ranges of files to be selected without having to click on each separately.

If you click OK, WordPress should queue all of the files you selected and upload them all with their own file names and blank caption information.

OK, it's not a perfect solution, but if you have lots of images to get into your library, and the details can wait until later, it's a good starting point.

Mood-Thematic Congruency

Anyone who's spent any great amount of time talking to me about branding and social marketing will have heard me speak of mood-thematic congruency. It's a term I picked up from Howard and Barry's 1994 paper The Role of Thematic Congruence Between a Mood-Inducing Event and an Advertised Product in Determining the Effects of Mood on Brand Attitudes and has guided me ever since.

In 2005-06, I investigated the concept myself as part of my university dissertation - I studied at the Victoria University of Manchester for a BA in Language, Literacy and Communication. I arranged access to Starbucks in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, and conducted my research - with permission - on real customers of the coffee shop.

Seven Key Ways to Reach Shoppers

Nielsen Wire tweeted this week about the Seven Dimensions of Shopper Experience - but in tweet form, that doesn't leave much room for examination.

Below I list the seven dimensions identified by Nielsen Wire, and take a quick look at how a well-designed website helps you to reach your customers across each topic area.

Adfero DirectNews

For those of you who wonder what I've been doing for the past five years, I was a DirectNews Correspondent, Lead Correspondent, Desk Head, News Feed Editor and/or Article Marketing team member at Adfero DirectNews.

I worked at Adfero from September 2006 until June 2011 and it gave me an excellent insight into agency-side online news production. It's easy to forget that unique web content has to be written from scratch to work properly - it may look like a service, but it's really a manufacturing industry.

Custom Permalinks for Blogger

Creating custom permalinks on Blogger is easier than you might think - but is far from elegant.

The URL of each post you publish is based on the Title of your post. However, if you later change the Title, the URL stays the same.

So to create a custom permalink, just make sure you initially give your post the same Title as you want to use in its URL.

Once the URL is created and fixed, you can edit the post and change the Title to something more catchy - its address on the web will stay the same.

It's not a way of going back to change permalinks of previous posts, but it's a sneaky little workaround for Blogger users who want control of the permalinks for their future blog updates.

NB Check the URL of this post and you'll see I originally went with 'how to create custom permalinks on Blogger' for SEO purposes. After posting, I changed to the text you see above. Watch out for the URL truncating, like this one did, if you use a lengthy Title to begin with.

You can argue with me on Twitter about whether it harms your SEO to have a different Title and URL - personally I think, at least in some cases, it's more valuable to have full control over each variable separately, than have them forced to match.

Bated Breath vs Baited Curiosity

Not really a full post, but just a quick note on a finer point of English grammar - bated breath, vs baited curiosity.

It's a common stumbling point - almost as many people now get 'bated breath' wrong as get it right, at a roughly 60-40 split according to Google search results. But rest assured, 'bated' is the correct spelling.

In the case of 'bated breath', you're talking about anticipation - being on the edge of your seat, holding your breath, waiting for something to happen. And it's that derivation that leads to the correct spelling.

'Bated' breath is literally breath that has abated - or stopped - due to anticipation. It's not 'baited' in the sense of being excited or encouraged by the anticipation.

In contrast, 'baited' curiosity is interest piqued by the upcoming event or by a desire to know more. In this sense, 'bated' curiosity would be a contradiction, implying that your interest has ceased due to your desire to know more.

Look out for it in your web copy, particularly if you outsource your content writing overseas or to more 'affordable' writers. It's the job of legitimate copywriters to know these finer points inside out - and to avoid the pitfalls in our writing.

Google News and the News of the World

This weekend (Sunday 10th July, 2011) marks the final edition of the News of the World, following the recent allegations and investigations into claims of phone hacking at the publication.

I'm not going political here - there are plenty of other blogs and news outlets covering that angle - but I did get to wondering whether NOTW might be on Google News and, unsurprisingly, it is.

The analysis below is based on figures obtained at 3pm on Friday, July 8th, using Google News itself and limited to the previous seven days' worth of articles hosted on the News of the World website.

Wagging the Long Tail of Keywords

There are plenty of SEO have-a-go heroes out there - this article is for you. I spent five years working full-time at an online news agency. We had regular training on everything from on-page SEO to Google News inclusion and even supporting websites through social media.

It's a fast-changing online world and, even if you think you have a good awareness of what's going on, you've probably missed something. I personally believe this is no bad thing - you'll never overtake the competition by doing what they're doing, you need to try something new.

And that is why I'm writing this piece, to highlight the importance of long-tail keywords. They're harder to strategise for, as it's impossible to know the exact wording to target, but the rewards can be great.

Your Password is Wrong

Some years ago, I spent a week working with the IT department of a major high-street bank's mortgage admin unit.

During my time with them, I helped them to achieve their three tasks for the week.

The first was to set up a new working environment for their new Brighton branch.

We went to a computer in an otherwise empty room, right-clicked on the Blackpool folder, pasted a copy and renamed it Brighton; the task was completed.

Second, I helped them choose the items from eBay they should buy for their upcoming charity auction.

Third, they got a technical query from another employee, whose password was being rejected.

Communication, Relationship and the Modes of Writing

The importance of problem-solving in creating rapport and relationship - and, in branding terms, trust and loyalty - should not be underestimated. Whatever people may choose to search for, they are looking to solve a problem - even if it is simply their own boredom.

So knowing a little about how relationships build through communication, and how this translates into the way we produce written content for the web, can be an excellent place to start when launching a blog or content-overhaul project.

Putting Colour into QR Codes

QR codes. Even if you don't know what they are, you'll have seen one. They're those weird square barcodes you find on product packaging. Well, mainly on product packaging. But they're all over the place. Plenty of Twitter users have them set as their profile picture.

Here's one that decodes as a link to this blog:

It's not very fancy, is it? You'd have a hard time making it into a compelling brand identity, let's put it that way. So what can we do to overcome this horrible black-and-white world, while still cashing in on the QR trend?

Social Media: Where to Start?

So you want to start a social media campaign, but you don't know where to start?

In my experience, tweeting alone is not going to work. You might make some friends, but you will find it difficult to really drive any traffic to your website - which is probably what you would ultimately like to achieve.

Instead, focus on creating engaging content - blog posts, opinion pieces, how-to articles and original reports on research and analysis from across your industry.

You don't need to have a blog in order to do this - you could make updates to your brand's Facebook profile if you want to keep things purely social - but a blog, particularly one hosted on your own website, can help to boost your site's search visibility too.

Online Marketing on a Budget

I hope this post doesn't sound too self-serving - I genuinely believe it's all true, and not just an advertisement for the service I can provide myself.

We're in turbulent times and that means that there's pretty soon going to be opportunities for growth, but very little spare cash around to capitalise on them.

This leaves you - as the title of this post suggests - online marketing on a budget. Potentially a very tight budget indeed.

Search Algebra and Light-Speed Conversion

OK, you all seemed to like my blog post for ContentPlus about good grammar, so this time I'm tackling everybody's favourite subject - algebra.

The problem with algebra is, it's kinda hard to understand. So let's simplify it. Forget about differentiating your site traffic to discover your growth rate - let's go back to basics with a few thought experiments.

In order to keep it simple, the figures I'll use below are all made up. It doesn't really matter - it's the principles that are important here.

I Want To Ride My Buy Cycle

Today I'm introducing an old concept in a new way. Every industry, every market sector (with perhaps the exception of a handful of essential goods) is subject to the vagaries of the weather. Seasonal effects take hold everywhere you see, which is why most financial updates from major firms will account for those effects.

As an extreme example, consider Christmas decoration manufacturers. It is easy to imagine they might see a rise in custom in October, a spike in November-December and a return to relatively low trade levels throughout the rest of the year.

However, across e-commerce as a whole, 'The Buy Cycle' is similarly dominated by the festive period and other major holiday seasons of the year.

The Chuck Norris Play Palace

The story I am about to tell you is true.

Last night I dreamed that Chuck Norris opened a new soft-play palace in my town.

From the entrance, most of it looked pretty tame - arcade machines, amusements, that kind of thing - but at its centre was a three-storey-high ball pool. Every single ball in it (I believe there were 10,000, but it was probably more) was dark blue. I guess that's a Chuck Norris thing.

Rebecca Black's Friday - The Meaning Behind The Words

It's easy to criticise what we don't understand. Particularly when, as is the case with the lyrics to Rebecca Black's 'Friday', there doesn't seem to be much hidden depth.

So, in the spirit of fairness, I've done my best to interpret the song below and reveal the metaphorical messages behind what is, on the surface, just a good tune.

Twitter on the Brain

I'm no Twitter addict - really, I can shut down TweetDeck when I need to, for half an hour at a time. But I work from home, and it's an easy way to keep in touch with people.

So it came as something of a surprise when I had my first Twitter dream this week. Not only that, but it was a waking dream - a night terror, some might say.

Project Emporia

I heartily recommend you open Project Emporia while reading this post (the link will open in a new window if you click it...)

What is Project Emporia?

Microsoft's Project Emporia is almost exactly a year old at the time of writing (June 2011) but over the spring bank holiday weekend it suddenly popped up in the world's press as a 'new' competitor to Google.

That's absurd because (a) it's not new, as I just mentioned and (b) it's not a search engine in the conventional sense. What it is, is a way of filtering the links your Twitter peer group share, so that you can pick out the themes that are most relevant to your interests.

It's much more powerful than just that, though - so powerful, in fact, that I stared open-mouthed at its genius, simplicity and beauty for (genuinely) about 10 minutes the first time I logged on.

Back to Klout - a Comparison

OK, I spend an unreasonable amount of time trying to figure out what's going on with Klout, the website that measures and charts your social media performance across a range of different metrics.

In particular, while looking at my own statistics can only give me an idea of how I'm doing today compared with yesterday, or last week or last month, comparing my profile with others helps to put that into wider context.

Sometimes I see how I'm performing against friends, sometimes people who I actually like on Twitter, and sometimes people I've worked with and respect on a professional level. The figures below relate to the latter, although I'll avoid naming her.

Teach a Man to Fish

Give a man a PPC ad, and you promote his site today. Give a man a keyworded marketing blog, and you promote his site forever.

OK, it's a bit of a vague analogy, but it holds true. Pay per click just isn't an investment - it's the online definition of "You can't have your cake and eat it." Pay for a PPC ad to appear and it will... until it's clicked on. Then you're out of pocket by whatever your chosen cost per click might be.

I'm not saying you can't earn a positive return on investment from PPC advertising. But I'll bet that's not why they created PPC ads in the first place. They're a continual income stream for search marketing companies, as opposed to one-off contracts for overhauling a website then leaving it alone.

Jane Thornber, Grace Cole

Jane Thornber is Brand Champion for Grace Cole, promoting their brands - including Miss Cole and the Forever Friends Baby Naturals range - online via websites and social media.

For more about the work I have done for Jane, visit my Hot Pink Magazine portfolio page.

Jane says...
"Bob is, without a shadow of a doubt, the finest copywriter I've worked with during my career at Grace Cole.

"Always professional, full of fantastic ideas for relevant stories at the drop of a hat, and always willing to help when it comes to last-minute deadlines.

"His ability to connect with influential people in a variety of industries has led to some engaging and relevant marketing campaigns - not to mention some amazing coverage for us with leading UK beauty bibles.

"On a practical level, I have to contend with over a dozen contributors to the magazine, tight deadlines and a growing workload - Bob is always the first to submit his content and I've never once had to extend a deadline for him.

"An absolute pleasure to work with, I can't recommend him highly enough."

Gaining Inbound Links Using Twitter Widgets

My obsession with Twitter widgets continues - this time I was reading an Econsultancy article I'd just linked to on Twitter, when I spotted my own name in its 'Twitter Buzz' box.

That's fine - but I'd also linked to an article I'd written on here a few days ago about the trade-off between what I termed 'the five horsemen of webmastery'.

What did this mean? Well, I'd effectively linked to myself, from Econsultancy's website, naming myself as a related article.

Embedding a Twitter Hashtag in a Blog Part 2

Twitter no longer supports the method described below - under their new API (May 2013) all widgets must be created via the Twitter website itself in order to work.

Visit and follow the instructions to create a new Search widget that returns results for the relevant hashtag.

If you saw yesterday's post about embedding a Twitter hashtag in a blog, you might be thinking "That's all very well, but I don't like widgets."

I don't blame you - I'm not a fan of them either. Customisable though they may be, they'll never quite match the rest of your post, or page, or template, or site. The only real way to manage that is to use a format that can be styled using CSS.

But wait - you can do that with a Twitter search too.

Embedding a Twitter Hashtag in a Blog

Twitter no longer supports the method described below - under their new API (May 2013) all widgets must be created via the Twitter website itself in order to work.

Visit and follow the instructions to create a new Search widget that returns results for the relevant hashtag.

I think almost every blogger who's also active on Twitter now has their latest tweets embedded into their blog template one way or another - if they want them to be visible there, that is.

But I got to thinking whether there might be a way of embedding a Twitter hashtag in a blog template, so you could filter what appears and let other people's tweets about your blog show up, too.

The answer to the question is, of course, yes. Twitter actually offers a whole range of widgets to achieve that and other similar tasks in a customisable, graphical form. Use the form below for a hashtag widget, or check the full range at

The Five Horsemen of Webmastery

Many business websites are created from scratch, either in-house (if you're a small firm with a good grasp of HTML etc) or by an external agency. The problem with either of those options is that you're probably quite likely to focus on one part of the process, at the cost of all the others.

For instance, as a small business leader, it's easy to prioritise having an eyecatching website, because you want to stand out from the crowd. But of course, if most of your site traffic is arriving via search, 'standing out' is a matter of having the most search-visible website, not the most graphics-based.

There are many combinations of what I call the Five Horsemen of Webmastery that seem mutually exclusive, but if you strike the right balance you can get the following five elements just right:
  • copy
  • SEO
  • site design
  • usability
  • accessibility

Hot Pink Magazine

Hot Pink Magazine is the online lifestyle publication from toiletries brand Miss Cole, part of the Grace Cole group. Its audience is female, aged from mid-teens to early 20s, and since autumn 2010 I have written a number of features for the magazine.

My main written contribution each month is a What's On guide to the latest television, music, cinema and DVD releases - drawing on the information I have access to through my other project, POPSICULTURE. But I've provided other content too, including a behind-the-scenes report from London Fashion Week about a Miss Cole-sponsored catwalk show.

Thanks, Google

Isn't it always the way? A week into starting my SEO blog, and Google launches one of its own. Inside Search started yesterday and gives the world's largest search engine an outlet to discuss its algorithm changes and anything else it feels like talking about.

This is good news for webmasters - it means the next time there's a Panda-like update, we won't all be scrabbling for information across Google's various webmaster, analytics and advertising blogs.

It's not actually such bad news for me, either. Despite the fact that the industry's biggest company has just launched a direct competitor to my own blog, it's actually an opportunity.

My Klout score

If you don't know what Klout is, it's an easy way to keep track of a variety of different social media metrics. It's very consumer-friendly, but it actually helps analyse quite a few different aspects of your social media profile that would otherwise be difficult to study.

You can use it to combine your Twitter and Facebook activities into one overall rating from 1 to 100, but I just use it for Twitter, where I'm most active for personal and work reasons alike.

Base rate hints at the blind leading the blind

I'm no expert where politics and economics are concerned, but I do like to play devil's advocate.

Today the Bank of England published the minutes of the May meeting of its Monetary Policy Committee - you can read them here. In the section headed Money, credit demand and output, the MPC talks about the fact that shoppers have recently been making more trips to the shops, but buying less each time. This is held up as a sign that household finances are under pressure.

Now, I'm not arguing that household finances are not under pressure - of course they are, we're all feeling it. But people buying less stuff, more often doesn't seem like cast-iron proof of that. If anything, it's a bit of a leap of logic to suggest the two are directly connected.

Why not to use italics online

First an admission - I do sometimes use italics. Sometimes they're just the right formatting to use, because you need to add emphasis in the literary sense. If all you want to do is highlight something, though, make bold your go-to formatting.

There are a couple of reasons for this - bold tends to clearly mark something out as being important, whereas italics can look a bit wishy-washy, especially with serif or handwriting fonts.

Most importantly though, is the risk of a rogue scrollbar appearing at the bottom of the screen. This might be less of a problem with newer browsers, but with earlier versions of Internet Explorer in particular I know it happened.

Imogen Thomas and Google AutoComplete

I have no desire to breach any superinjunctions, let's be clear on that from the start. I'm also not just mentioning Imogen Thomas for SEO reasons - although I'd bet she's one of the most searched-for people at this very moment.

Google Trends shows her 30-day search volume peaking on April 27th at nearly three times its long-term average, but with her appearance on This Morning today, I reckon there's another peak to come.

So why am I mentioning Imogen at all? There's one very good reason - she's vanished. Not in real life, but online.

Try it - type her name into Google. You'll get AutoComplete options as long as you're still on 'Imogen', but type the T of her surname and they vanish.

Imogen Heap, Imogen Stubbs and Imogen Poots all pop up - and even some terms including Imogen Thomas and variations on 'football' or 'Premiership footballer' - but get far enough into her name and they disappear.

In principle this is nothing new - Google filters out some of the more salacious AutoComplete phrases (such as anything relating to porn) whether you have SafeSearch switched on or not.

But it's interesting to see that even Google - hailed as a bastion of free speech at times - can be silenced by a superinjunction.

So what's the impact of this? If you're a news outlet, or a lads' mag, it could have quite a hit. Sure, today everyone's typing in Imogen Thomas and hitting enter, but tomorrow? Next week? What if she never returns as an AutoComplete option? Finding her latest Zoo photoshoot could be that much more difficult from now on.

For Imogen herself, it's one more nail in the coffin. I don't imagine it's a priority to her right now, but a Big Brother contestant who's filtered out by Google probably isn't quite such a hot property as one who's still prompted in AutoComplete suggestions - such as Kate Lawler, for instance.

I'll be keeping an eye on this one, but it's interesting to see that superinjunctions are having knock-on effects even as far as the world of SEO and search visibility. Watch this space - just don't talk about it.


POPSICULTURE is the reviews blog I co-run with Dan Penman. It may look familiar - that's because its design has been so successful, I used a modified version here on Phronesis. It's custom-built (by me) from a three-column, dynamic header and footer layout with fixed-width sidebars.

The 'how-to' guide for the layout was HTML - I embedded the necessary Blogger elements into it to power the blog, styled everything with custom CSS and added the dynamic elements, such as a randomly rotating masthead image and all of the auto-updating sidebar contents.

In places it's a bit gimmicky, but mostly it's a fairly clean but content-filled design - to the left, mostly blog-related widgets to access the archive or our main topic labels. To the right, iTunes charts that update with each page refresh, and our latest tweets.

The centre column is obviously the main area for content to appear in, and gives me and Dan an outlet for our views on music, film, games and TV. I can't give any details about the affiliate schemes we're enrolled in, but in terms of site traffic we receive over 5,000 unique hits per month from all over the world and our live blogs tend to do pretty well - the Eurovision entry pictured above got views from the US, Germany and Australia as well as a number of UK locations on the night and we tend to pick up Twitter followers while live-blogging as well.

Social Media Marketing Services

In addition to the one-off and continuing copywriting work that I carry out, I'm also asked whether I offer social media marketing services. Well yes, I do. In essence, social media marketing taps much more deeply into aspects of consumer psychology than website text alone, as it's much more time-sensitive and interactional.

A number of clients retain my social media marketing services on a monthly basis, with the fee for this based on their needs. If you know my views on freelance copywriter prices, you'll know I'm a fan of clear and simple pricing policies - but nothing's clear and simple in the social networking space.

Rather, it's about setting a level of engagement - producing and promoting content via Facebook and Twitter, responding to customer concerns, developing a chatty persona. Not all of the available options will suit every company, and often the scale of activity will be guided by how well a particular page or profile is embraced by other social network users.

These are real people - it's impossible to predict how well they will respond to any one effort. Compare how well Cadbury's Gorilla advert was received with how poorly its Spots vs. Stripes campaign performed. Could you have known in advance which would build the buzz, and which would see the bubble burst?

Freelance Copywriter Prices

And now, a few words on freelance copywriter prices, seemingly the gold dust of the internet. Why is it so difficult to find a clear pricing structure on so many copywriters' websites? Mine is here, and pretty straightforward for core content production, I think.

I'm speaking here as someone who's scouted out the competition, rather than as someone who's ever needed to use a freelance copywriter, but I imagine the frustration is the same - you need to know what kind of budget you're looking at for your project before you can move it forwards, but you're faced with copywriters who want to know what the project is and then provide a quote for it. It's a chicken-and-egg situation.

1000 Words

When it comes to search visibility, the old adage that a picture paints a thousand words simply does not apply. A well-placed image can help to grab the attention of your visitors, but it should not be at the expense of search visibility - and for that, plain text is still your best bet.

The fact is that your site needs to have relevant content for the search engines to pick up, and that communicates a clear message to your visitors too. Briefly, your page structure should include:

  • a masthead that doesn't take up two-thirds of the screen

  • clear navigation - whether it's horizontal, sidebar or otherwise

  • a few hundred words of search-optimised text that still reads well

Those are the absolute basics. The masthead is the start of your branding effort. The navigation is self-explanatory. And the text must be evocative for your readers, but visible to the search engines too.

Panda - Bearing with Google's algorithm changes

Google this week published a blog post discussing its Panda algorithm change in more detail.

In particular, the search engine says its roll-out of the update was intended to penalise sites with low-quality content by moving them down the search rankings. Naturally, somebody has to take their place, so good-quality sites move up.

The interesting thing is in the wording though:

"Our site quality algorithms are aimed at helping people find 'high-quality' sites by reducing the rankings of low-quality content."

That, in effect, means a first-place ranking is the default position for any page on Google. Of course it is - if yours is the only page containing a given term, you're bound to rank in first (and only) place on Google SERPs for that query.

So 'optimisation' in the sense of tweaking page content to try and make it rank higher is something of a backwards approach. It's not about getting to the top of Google - it's about staying at the top of Google.

I truly believe the easiest way to rank first for the term of your choice is to add a new page of content optimised for that term from the outset. Plugging keywords into existing text makes things so much harder.


My standard rate for all general writing work is:

£100 per 1,000 words

For that you get all reasonable research, writing, formatting, SEO considerations, reasonable edits/amends and direct upload to your website, if you want.

I usually agree a word count upfront and charge accordingly - so if you want a minimum 500 words, it's £50, and I won't charge extra if I go over the count slightly.

I'm open to offers, especially for very clear or simple briefs where you just want something writing to fill the space, and won't expect multiple revisions to get it word-perfect.

That being said, of course I work hard to get content spot-on at the first attempt, and my headline rate includes any time spent reading your website to get to grips with your tone of voice, and so on.

If you have a specific budget in mind and want to get as much as you can for your money, get in touch, I'm always happy to put together a package to try and meet your needs, whatever the budget.

All enquiries welcome - even if I can't meet you in the middle, I'll always try to suggest an alternative.

Contact Me

I'm just a guy. One man. Not an agency, not a salesperson.

Contact me for any reason - enquiries, comments, just to say hi. Message me on Twitter, or by email, and you'll definitely get a reply.

Because I'm just one guy, you can rest assured that:

  • I won't pester you with sales calls
  • I won't give your contact details to anyone

So, hopefully there's no reason not to get in touch.

You can contact me:

or using the contact form below.




About Phronesis

Aristotle was a big fan of phronesis, apparently. Along with sophia, it's one of the two 'intellectual virtues'. But whereas sophia is about understanding the way the world is, phronesis is about enhancing the world.

To me, it means doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way. There's no point having a purely Flash-based website if Google only crawls plain text. There's no point targeting the keywords 'spring' and 'summer' in winter, unless you're in an industry that sells ahead of time - like clothing, or holidays.

In terms of copywriting, it's more than just understanding your industry and the web. Your site can top every SERP you choose, but that doesn't mean any of your visitors will convert into sales.

Your copy needs to be:
  • search-visible

  • grammatically correct

  • engaging

  • enticing

How do we achieve those last two? Well, I'm a fan of consumer psychology. The kind of thought processes advertisers put in before launching a new campaign.

Put very simply, your copy needs to be positive - whatever industry you're in (cancer and debt can be particularly challenging) - and lead the reader into the state of mind where buying from you will support that positive feeling.

Charities do this by making you feel good about helping others. Most brands used to do it by making their product seem luxurious or indulgent. These days it's often just a case of whose ad is 'funniest' or most original.

Online your options are limited, so it's even more important to get it right. You've got very few words to get the reader hooked and even fewer to convert them into a sale. Trust it to someone with the experience and prudence to make every word count.

About Me

I am Bob 'Bobble' Bardsley, I was born in 1983 and I've been typing since about 1985. By 1986 I could hand write, too, as computers weren't everywhere back then.

Since then I've learned the English language from every angle - I've studied its building blocks at the phoneme, morpheme and syllable level, how they go together as words, sentences and paragraphs, and how we turn those into meaning when we read.

I know what makes people tick - how language can influence the decisions they make, and the sentence structures that make them particularly susceptible to suggestion. I read the Journal of Consumer Psychology for fun.

My first website launched in 1998 and I've worked as a professional copywriter - both freelance and in an agency setting - since 2006. Clients ask for me by name and my satisfaction rating is near-perfect.

On a personal level, I'm committed to the task in hand and more than ready to adapt to meet the specific needs of my client. I'll make suggestions, too, if I think there's a better way of doing something - and I take criticism well.