Mocking the Mockers

Channel 4's 10 o'Clock Live often raises important questions while deftly bridging the gap between comedy and politics.

Last night, however, the team were predictably as obsessed with pasties as everyone else in the country seems to be. And that made for interesting viewing, in the context of knowing your subject matter.

Keep on Trucking with Freelancer Support

A particularly appropriate tweet today from the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) makes the link between the digital world and the headline-grabbing oil industry:

"Data is the new oil #ipamobile"

I'm not sure I fully agree, but I get the gist of what they're trying to say - clearly the digital world has massive business potential, which only a small number of firms have fully realised so far.

But there's a subtext to that tweet that probably wasn't really intended, but has particular bearing in the UK with motorists currently panic-buying petrol amid fears of a tanker-driver strike.

The thing is, almost every industry there is depends on the oil industry. Fuel is an essential component in all supply chains - except for digital.

I work from home, and as long as there's electricity in the mains, I can work. My clients never face the prospect of me being unable to make it into the office due to running out of petrol.

Even if I were to become stranded somewhere, I have a netbook. And as long as I can find a Wi-Fi hotspot, I can work.

Flexible Working and Business Continuity

Depending on your business, you might already have flexible working arrangements in place - they've become a legal requirement in recent years, in the UK.

But if none of your employees have ever exercised their right to request flexible working arrangements, you could be in for a spot of bother if strike action takes place and panic-buying continues.

That's where freelancers (like me!) offer a unique alternative - I specialise in web and print copy, so if your in-house blogger can't get there and is stranded away from his or her computer, I can fill in the gaps.

Even if you don't have an in-house blogger or copywriter, hiring someone like me is a cost-effective way to get as much content as you need, without committing to a permanent contract.

Either way, I'm a committed professional who works to high standards, so you wouldn't be putting a have-a-go amateur in charge of your content, and I can quickly pick up any particular tone of voice or in-house style guide you happen to use.

Proposed Strike Action

You can read more about the proposed strike action by British fuel tanker drivers on the Unite website, which carries details of the majority votes cast by five out of seven balloted companies, and of those that voted against taking such action.

Keep Blogging

I've worked in what was ostensibly an SEO agency, and I know that some turnover of clients is inevitable. But what makes long-term blogging clients cancel their order?

Sometimes it's financial, or a reassessment of their marketing budget, but I imagine sometimes it comes down to a thought like this:

"We've been blogging for six months and our traffic has more than doubled - that'll do for now."

It's a reasonable notion - you've put in the investment, you've seen the return, so why continue building your traffic exponentially when you've got enough customers to keep you in profit for the foreseeable future?

To answer that question, I'm going to give you a glimpse into two of my own blogs - Phronesis (yes, the blog you're reading right now) and Popsiculture, the reviews site I run with Dan Penman.

Let's start with Phronesis, which launched in summer 2011.


First of all, a look at the raw data for the number of weekly visits - including return visits - to Phronesis since July 2011.

Now, it's a little erratic, because not all of my traffic comes via search - sometimes I tweet out links to new posts, some pages serve as static pages, and sometimes I just don't blog for a couple of days.

However, it's fairly clear to see that my traffic has built over time, and has spiked significantly since the beginning of 2012.

In turn, my business levels have been fairly consistent, with a number of ongoing clients taking blog posts for many months, and one-off projects adding a bit of variety to my portfolio.

How much of this is down to my blogging? It's a matter of opinion, admittedly - my blog posts are often very personal, and I know for a fact that some of my portfolio entries and testimonials have played a decisive role in winning me work, so in a very real sense I would not be doing as well without this blog.


Now let's look at Popsiculture - and there's a very good reason why I chose this as an example...

In 2011, we published 161 articles and reviews on Popsiculture, an average of 13 per month or just more than 3 per week. It's not a blistering pace, but there are only two of us.

In 2012 so far, we've published 12 items - that's just 4 per month, or 1 a week, and many of them have been shorter single reviews and track previews, rather than full album reviews.

The effect is pretty clear in our visitor count - the chart above again includes return visits, and the data is plotted on a weekly basis.

With the exception of one spike in traffic in late February/early March, 2012 has seen reduced traffic levels, compared with the end of 2011.

Blogging is...

So what does this mean? Well...

Blogging is fresh - A blog whose entries are all 6 months old just won't do the trick, there's an inherent timeliness to posts that you need to keep on top of.

Blogging is competitive - Whatever you're writing about, there's someone else out there doing the same thing. Google prioritises frequently updated websites, so if you put a halt to your blogging, someone else will step in and take over those reins.

Blogging is additive - Yes, additive, not addictive (although it can be that too...) - blog regularly over an extended period, and a certain percentage of people will come back. Phronesis' traffic is almost 30% repeat visits; Popsiculture's is around 6% as it's much more search-driven. But the longer you blog for, the more repeat visitors you will pick up, unlocking the door to potentially exponential traffic growth.

In short, blogging is a long-term investment - run any search on an industry area, product name or other form of commerce and the top sites will usually have, at the very least, hundreds of pages. Some have hundreds of thousands, even in industries like personal fitness.

By blogging regularly, you expand your website, increase your search visibility and keep your site looking fresh to visitors - stop blogging and you begin to erode that investment.

It's a simple enough principle, but it's one that's come up a few times recently - hopefully the numbers alone are persuasive enough to keep you blogging on!

As an aside...

One last thing. The long-term value of blogging comes from the fact that its effect is cumulative. Even if a post receives only one visitor per month via the search engines, add 50 blog posts and that's 50 visitors per month. You don't get that same additive effect with, for example, pay per click campaigns - click once and that bit of your budget is spent and won't be coming back.

So I was slightly surprised recently to see a 'tip' shared on Twitter, telling people to regularly weed out their old blog content to delete poorly performing posts. The idea was that, by keeping only the good stuff, your archive gradually looks better - but smaller.

I'm not too sure I agree with that notion. The older a post gets, the more likely it is that it will only be found by search traffic, rather than clicked on to directly from another page in your blog. And if it comes up in search results, there's a decent chance that it's pretty relevant to what the person is looking for, even if they're part of a niche audience.

Deleting old posts eliminates any chance of them finding that niche search audience, and removes the possibility of making positive ROI from them in the future - leaving them there does no great harm that I can see, and means there's always the chance of making a sale that you might otherwise have missed.

What to Write for #CommentTuesdays

Want to join in with #CommentTuesdays but not sure what to write? In principle, anything will do, but you can do your commenters a favour by keeping them in mind while you're writing.

That means:


- Choose something that's actually worthy of comment. Don't rehash the same old topics you've seen a thousand times before, or there'll be nothing new to say.

- Don't be too balanced in your post - you're inviting comment, so it's OK if people disagree with you. For once, present your opinion even if you usually play it safe, and don't be offended or annoyed if your readers disagree.


- Leading on from the point above, be sure to give your readers openings to comment. Be clear about the argument you are presenting, or the points you'd like them to comment on. Ask outright questions if it's appropriate. But also be prepared for them to comment on issues you hadn't even realised existed in what you wrote.

- Don't compromise your own style too much, but remember that #CommentTuesdays is about inviting debate. It's a chance to be a bit more controversial than you might ordinarily feel comfortable with.


- Make your post long enough to give people something to comment on. The idea of #CommentTuesdays is that they'll actually read your post in full before commenting, so it's your chance to make your voice heard on your own blog, as well as on other people's.

- HOWEVER, don't overdo it. Remember that some people will want to read and comment on several posts over the course of the day, so don't monopolise their time too much!


- The lifeblood of #CommentTuesdays are the comments themselves. If you're writing a blog post specifically for #CommentTuesdays, then get involved and comment on somebody else's blog, too.

- If you don't get any comments right away, give it chance. Tweet your link to your post a couple of times over the course of the day, and if you still get no takers, just ask outright! I'll be keeping an eye on the hashtag at least in the early days and, unless this thing gets real big, I'll drop in and leave my thoughts if nobody else has done!

I realise that hashtags are organic things and don't really 'belong' to anyone, so I'm not expecting to micromanage this - if it changes and takes on a life of its own, so be it. Until that happens, though, I'm hoping the early adopters will be committed enough that everybody gets a couple of decent comments at least - and that no post goes completely without a response.


OK, let's start something, shall we? It's Saturday, March 24th 2012 and I've decided to make Tuesday, March 27th 2012 my inaugural Comment Tuesday.

It's an easy enough principle - rather than just skim-reading blog posts, on Tuesday I will read at least one in depth, and give a decent, reasoned comment at the end of it.

Why Tuesday? Here's why:

  • I thought of it today while bemoaning the number of posts I make on here that get no comments.
  • It's impossible to start anything vaguely work-related on Twitter at the weekend.
  • I figured I'd save Monday to spread the word among people who aren't online at the weekend.

Ergo, it's gonna be Tuesday.

Now, I've put the feelers out on Twitter and it seems there's a decent amount of support - and obviously there's a bazillion bloggers who tweet out links to their latest blog posts, so the crossover's already there.

It's just a case of finding the right blog posts - I don't want my comments to be frivolous, as that's not really the point.

If you've got any suggestions, tweet me a link - and try to make sure they're other people's blogs, rather than just promoting your own!

Tell Me What You Need

A lot of clients don't really know what they need - and that's fine, I can send over some examples if you need me to, or we can just wing it and work things out as we go along.

If you do have specific requirements from your content though, let me know.

The examples below are things you might want to take into account - and which can help to make things run more smoothly if you let me know about them in advance...

Optimising for Personal Search

Head over to SEO blog to read my guest post Optimising for Personal Search - it looks at Google's ongoing use of personal information in deciding the ranking of its search results, public opinion of whether that's useful (or even whether it's appropriate) and what it means for SEO.

Big thanks to James Rowland for letting me inflict my opinions on his blog! And if you have any thoughts, there's a comments box at the bottom of the post on where both James and I will see what you have to say, or comment below this post if there's something you want to say specifically to me.

Digital Didsbury

Manchester City Council have outlined a ten-point plan to make Manchester into a 'Digital City' by 2020.

Their key proposals include:

  • 100% broadband coverage
  • Wi-Fi in all public spaces
  • broadband for businesses
  • coordination between private and public organisations

All of those fall under 'Access and Connectivity', and there are further proposals for engagement, industry, place and leadership.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, says: "Manchester is already a force on the digital world stage, with the city council spearheading innovation in the digital and creative sector, helping build the UK's largest digital economy outside the capital.

"This digital strategy is essential for building on that success and ensuring that Manchester benefits from the potential of improved technologies, and to make sure that our residents are in the best position possible to take advantage of the jobs created as a result."

What's In A Name? Ranking for Bob Bardsley

Last week, I wrote about how this blog was not ranking well for variations of my own name - chiefly Bob Bardsley and Bobble Bardsley, the two things most people call me these days.

I started Phronesis as a place to collect testimonials, offer pricing information and show off my portfolio, and any SEO that happened was always meant to be in my blog posts - so, topics like 'freelance copywriting', 'SEO consulting' and so on, rather than my own name.

But my Analytics results show that people arrive here after searching for 'Bob Bardsley Phronesis', which is pretty solid proof that people are searching specifically for me, rather than for the topics I write about in my blog posts.

I haven't yet made changes to my blog template in order to include more mentions of my name, but my past two posts have included my name in their headline, and several times in their body text.

The result? Front-page rankings for both 'Bob Bardsley' and 'Bobble Bardsley', without the need to include 'Phronesis'.

It's probably no coincidence that my number of hits for people Googling 'Bob Bardsley' has also increased over the past week.

Insta-Keywording with Blog Posts

While it's a very specific term, this goes some way towards proving the value of even a single blog post about a topic area your site may have missed - if it's not a particularly competitive area, you're in with a good chance of ranking highly within one or two published posts.

It also serves as a useful reminder that, even if you don't intend your site to be accessed via search primarily, there's no harm in making sure it serves both your search audience, and the traffic you drive directly to it via social networking or word of mouth.

There's still work to be done to get Phronesis to the top of the search results on variations of my name - and ironically, I'll have to topple my own 'Bobble Bardsley' Twitter account if I want to get it all the way to number one! - but this hasn't been a bad start, for the few minutes' work each blog post took.

Watch this space for more...

Topic Focus: Music

Music writing is a challenge in itself - you're trying to put into words something that can only truly be appreciated when listened to.

However, like any other topic area, there are ways to get your message across - comparisons with well-known artists and songs, poetry-style imagery to evoke the necessary emotions, and so on.

These are just a few examples of my own writing in music-related areas.

Part of my five-year sentence at Adfero, the music reviews were actually one of the few truly enjoyable parts.

We weren't paid for them, but they were a chance to get a new album pre-release, and to get a byline - and they were a break from the usual blogging about broken boilers.

One of my most unexpectedly controversial efforts was this review of The Turn, by Alison Moyet. I had no idea there were militant Annie Lennox fans out there who had waged war on Alison Moyet, or that there were Alison Moyet fans who were aware of that and were ready to jump to her defence.

The reviews all followed the same format, so it was pretty hard to do anything truly original, but I always tried to find quotes that weren't the obvious options for the 'What the others say' section, which was intended to add a bit of balance to any particularly one-sided reviews.

I also wrote headline news for, so it's not 100% easy to find my reviews in amongst the 400 results, but this Google search does a decent job if you're interested in reading more.


Popsiculture is my collaboration with Dan Penman, a fellow graduate of BA Language, Literacy and Communication from the University of Manchester (and my flatmate for the past decade or so).

You can read about it here or visit it at

It's a pretty pleasing outlet for all sorts of interests - from live-blogging telethons to bad-mouthing the Black Eyed Peas, it's rare as a copywriter to have the chance to properly express an opinion without a worried client to edit it down into something tamer.

We've made good connections with PR companies and record labels, so we get to feature albums pre-release (and get them for free, which is nice!) and even occasionally pop into live gigs like the Futureheads and the Charlatans.

Popsiculture is also the reason why I know Jennie Sawdon - we reviewed her debut album, not to mention a live performance or two, and she's been kind enough to provide a testimonial in return...

"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!"

- Jennie Sawdon

You can also read my words on Jennie's homepage and the 'Music' page of her website, at

Fetch Didsbury

One last example here - Fetch Didsbury is a local business directory that lists news and events from the Didsbury area.

I've contributed a few different reviews - not just of music, but of local restaurants too - but the example here is my review of a live jazz night hosted by our local haunt, The Sanctuary. You can read it here.

Again, I earned myself a testimonial, this time from Fetch Didsbury's curator, Harry.

"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.

- Harry, Fetch Didsbury

Music's one of those subject areas that many people will happily write for free - my own reviews aren't exactly what you'd call paid work, it's just a happy distraction.

However, if you're profit-making and in the music industry, it's always worth considering a bit of paid content to supplement any you're having written for free.

If nothing else, an experienced copywriter (like me!) will know the SEO tricks that could help a review to rank in an extremely crowded search subject, while still packing in enough opinion (and maybe controversy too) to keep your comments section alive.

I'm Bobble Bardsley, Who The Hell Are You?

or, What's In A Name?

I'm Bobble Bardsley. At least, that's my Twitter username, it's how my closest friends introduce me to people, and it's how I identify myself.

Just to be absolutely clear - yes, it's Bobble Bardsley. Not Bobbie Bardsley; that would be a girl's name, obviously.

Some of my friends are male. They tend to be a bit uncomfortable about calling another man Bobble, hence there's quite a few people who would tell you my name is Bob Bardsley - and that's what I put on my CV and email signature, because it's about as professional as I can bear to be about these things.

Why am I going into all this? Well, as a freelancer my identity is my brand. I really doubt many people are searching for 'Phronesis' to find me - a lot of my work is generated by word of mouth, especially on Twitter, where I try to stick to 'Bobble' as much as possible.

If anyone is searching for my name, they'll almost certainly find some of my work, rather than this blog. It's a necessary complication, working in an industry where you often get a byline (particularly during my five years as an online news writer), that your name's gonna appear on all sorts of websites, which complicates the SEO somewhat.

Googling Bobble Bardsley

My 'real' name is Robert Bardsley - there are over 5,000 results for that one on Google, and 18 LinkedIn profiles. I'm none of them, as far as I know (well, maybe a couple of the web results, but definitely none of the LinkedIn pages).

At school I was Rob Bardsley (1,400 web pages, 10 LinkedIn profiles) and my schoolfriends still call me that when we meet up, which isn't very often.

'Bob Bardsley' began properly at university - there was another Rob in my flat in halls of residence, and I fancied a change anyway. It was also in the first year of university that I became christened as Bobble Bardsley, after some random dude I barely knew left a Post-It note on my door saying I should be called that. I have no idea why he thought so, but it turns out he was right.

Now, here's the thing. Bob Bardsley appears on roughly 8,500 web pages. Six of the top ten Google results relate specifically to me, when I search my own name, and there are 11 LinkedIn profiles, including my own (like I said, even I don't think 'Bobble' is a professional-sounding name!).

Search for 'Bobble Bardsley', and there are 1,840 results - many of which will be blog posts, Twitter-related pages or comments I've made on various different sites. As far as I can tell, nobody's used LinkedIn and called themselves Bobble Bardsley. Maybe I should be the first...

The Name Game

To cut a long story short (too late!), I've been thinking a lot about my name, and my online identity as a whole. It's important for this site to rank highly in case people are looking for me, but it's hard when other blogs have my name on every page, whereas bylines would be redundant on Phronesis.

In order to overcome this, I'm going to have to get crafty - so keep your eyes peeled for template tweaks in the next few days. They'll be subtle, I promise you that, but my name's going to appear in a few more key places on each page.

Own Your Identity

On a brief but related note, I'd love to know what anyone thinks of Google's rel="author" functionality.

Have you used it to link your content to your profile? Is it all just a ploy to get more links to Google+? Or have you seen genuine positive results from it?

Personally, I'm interested in a metadata approach to linking content with an author bio page, but visible, clickable links aren't quite so good for some of my purposes. I'm still considering whether to try and link my various sites and blogs together, but frankly, the jury's out on that one.

Bob Bardsley and the Existence of God

or, The Power of Words

I'm not the world's most religious person. I may, in fact, be the world's least religious person. I don't like being termed an 'atheist' because that really isn't how I define myself, any more than I define myself as someone who doesn't believe in unicorns.

So I was a little surprised to see my name on Yahoo! Voices in an article about the national Day of Prayer in (I think) the US. I was even more surprised to see the article suggest that I'd written an article supporting the existence of God.

Here's the original article...

SEO Blogging

There are plenty of big agencies out there who will happily sell you SEO blogging services - I know this, because I worked at one for five years, and still provide content freelance to at least three companies that effectively do just that.

However, there are reasons why hiring a freelancer direct might work better for you than entering into a long-term contract with an agency.

For a start, there's the obvious question - if they're hiring freelancers anyway, where's their profit coming from?

Well, speaking from experience, I'd say the articles I write as a freelancer cost about half as much, when sold direct, as customers were paying for the same content in my agency role.

The difference comes from the type of service offered - I can write your content, I can format it according to the HTML you need (bold, italics, heading tags, blockquotes etc) and I can upload it to your website, if you have a content management system like WordPress that I can log into.

Agencies, on the other hand, tend to offer more complete customer service and troubleshooting, or deliver the content in a specific way that requires you to make changes to your website.

Depending on your needs - and particularly for larger companies - the latter approach may be preferable. But if all you need is content written to a high standard and delivered to you or placed on your website, without all the add-ons, you can save a substantial amount of money by hiring a freelance SEO blogger directly.