Santa, It's Your Bum (Single Edit)

For the irrepressible Miss Paula Maher, an amended set of lyrics and a karaoke track to set them to...

Santa, It's Your Bum

Early one Christmas morning,
before you were even awake,
Santa popped into your chimneypot,
and landed in your fireplace.

You thought that you'd been naughty
but he decided you'd been good;
he squeezed into your chimney
and he landed with a thud.

Oh Santa, Santa, what was that bump?
Santa, Santa, it was your bum!
Sitting in the hearth with soot on your rump.
Oh Santa, it's your bum.

Later on when you waken up,
you find him sitting there looking shaken up.
He's sooty and black, there's a crick in his back,
and a sore head where he got hit by his sack.

Oh Santa, Santa, what was that bump?
Santa, Santa, it was your bum!
Sitting in the hearth with soot on your rump.
Oh Santa, it's your bum.

Every Christmas Eve when he gets on his way,
bringing all the presents in his flying sleigh,
he sees that you've left him a plate of treats
and jolly old Santa eats and eats.

So Santa, Santa, look at your size!
You've filled your face with too many pies.
You're far too fat to fit through the door
so you've fallen down the chimney and you've hit the floor.

Oh Santa, Santa, what was that bump?
Santa, Santa, it was your bum!
Sitting in the hearth with soot on your rump.
Oh Santa, it's your bum.
Santa it's your bum.

Jane Arschavir, Hodge Podge Days

Jane is a good friend, so when she needed help transferring her WordPress-hosted blog to her self-hosted domain (, I was happy to help.

It's one of those processes that can be utterly, utterly bewildering if you've never done it before, but with my experience in setting up new domain names and WordPress blogs, and Jane's contributions in terms of how her page layout and general design should look, we were able to get the nuts and bolts of it in place in an afternoon.

We met with triumph and disaster that day (namely that a bunch of Jane's most recent blog posts didn't import correctly from her archive) and we faced those two impostors just the same, with patience and a pint.

Jane says...

"When I decided that my blog needed to go self-hosted I knew I needed help. I contacted Bobble Bardsley and he sorted it all out for me. From researching my options and walking me through them; to actually setting up my domain and transferring my old blog in its entirety to its new home.

"Bobble was endlessly patient with me and technically brilliant. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend him to anyone looking to go self-hosted, or wanting to do technical jiggery-pokery to their blog."

Jane ain't no dummy, so she did a lot of the work herself, so if you want to see the results of our combined handiwork, head to Hodge Podge Days.

For more information about my 'starter blog' deal for small businesses, click here.

Avoid Image Overload in Christmas Product Descriptions

If your all-singing, all-dancing ecommerce site is heavily laden with product images, you could be shooting yourself in the foot this Christmas.

In the second of today's posts from the Journal of Consumer Research, I'm looking at a study that suggests plain text can actually help shoppers to make better buying decisions - particularly at the point of purchase.

Claudia Townsend of the University of Miami and Barbara E Kahn of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania looked at how consumers interpret visual information when it appears as small or large groups of pictures.

When is an Ad not an Ad?

The online landscape is a complex one, and consumers must increasingly interpret messages from multiple sources - including, of course, social media and user-generated content.

But how do shoppers interpret text differently when it is presented in a different format - for example, when the same wording is used in an advertisement or in a supposedly user-generated review?

Sell Me on a Monday

or, How the Christmas buy-cycle is shifting gear

November 29th 2013 marks this year's Black Friday, the first Friday after Thanksgiving when US shoppers typically begin buying Christmas gifts in earnest.

But for retailers based online, it might be worth waiting until the weekend is over before ramping up any festive offers to try and pull in the crowds.

Premium Content Marketing Service

I'm a writer, first and foremost; but sometimes, words aren't enough, and not all freelancers have experience of the slightly more technical aspects of HTML, SEO and so on.

For that reason, I've created my premium content marketing package, a fixed-price yet flexible monthly service for webmasters who need a range of search-optimised content that gives them the best overall chance of ranking highly in Google (and Yahoo!, and Bing...).

Here's the summary:
  • Fixed fee of £100 per calendar month;
  • 1,000 words of content:
    • Typically 3x 200-word blog/news updates AND
    • 1x 400-word static page or more detailed blog post;
    • OR up to 10x 100-word e-commerce product pages AND
    • blog or news updates for remaining word count.
  • SEO keyword inclusion in all on-page text;
  • Further on-page SEO1:
    • 'alt' and 'title' text for hyperlinks and images;
    • optimised meta keywords and description tags, and page title;
    • optimised markup for image and video objects using schema.org2;
    • validated Google Authorship inclusion (your own profile, or mine).
  • Royalty-free images for each page3;
  • Additional text priced at £5 per 100 words.
I've worked hard to think of everything I can reasonably provide to you, within the limits of what's achievable in on-page content and SEO.

Because of that, I think this is literally everything that's likely to be achievable within most commonly used content management systems - and if you can think of anything extra to add on, just ask.

And as always, the specific balance of content is flexible - so if you need something that you think is a good fit for the general service outlined above, but differs in the details, let me know.

1To the extent possible within your current content management system (CMS). is a system that helps to make non-text content more visible to search engines.
3Approx. one image per 100 words - how can images for commercial pages be royalty-free?

Using Footnotes in Blog Posts

Blogging is quite a conversational medium, and that can often lead to distractions halfway through a particular train of thought.

Sometimes brackets or dashes are enough to set these thoughts aside - like this, for instance - from the rest of your sentence, without breaking the flow too much.

But when you're into the swing of things and suddenly realise there's something that needs clarifying, you might not want to restructure your entire sentence to try and fit the explanation into the middle.

This is when footnotes are useful; there's nothing wrong with using them, and unlike some online-only techniques, they're a recognised literary technique that shouldn't put off your readers.

But how do you use them in a long blog post, when your reader may need to scroll several screens' worth of text before they reach the end of your article?

Happy 7th Adferversary!

September 18th 2013 is officially seven years since my first day of work at online news agency Adfero.

It's already more than two years since I left Adfero - and as regular readers will know, they've since rebranded as Axonn Media and shifted from news to a more general web marketing structure - but this is still a special date on my personal calendar.

That's because, on September 17th 2006, I was a recent graduate still cooking chicken burgers at McDonald's, while the following day, I was an online news correspondent - which, essentially, is what I still am today.

While I now write in a much broader range of styles, including blogging and static web content, as well as for print, I'm proud of the nearly-five years I spent at Adfero, and the massive amount of content I produced during that time.

I'm pleased to still be in touch with some of my most valued colleagues from Adfero - many of whom are now working or travelling in countries all over the world (they're an adventurous bunch...!).

And it's nice to be able to add another year to my official career history, with another major milestone coming next month as well.

From October 2013, it will be a frankly terrifying 15 years since I first started developing websites and writing online.

My first major contribution to the web, those of you who know me will already know, was, a fansite dedicated to the TV presenter and all-round fashionable gal Donna Air.

It's gone through several incarnations over the past 15 years, and as a labour of love, it tends to suffer slightly when I'm busy with other things, but it's very much still on the go.

So, depending on which way you look at it, I either have seven years of experience at what I do, or very nearly 15 - not a bad achievement if I say so myself, and a number I'm looking forward to watching grow in the years to come.

Cheap Custom WordPress Themes

If your blog is hosted on the WordPress website, there's only so much you can do to customise the theme.

But if you have a WordPress installation hosted on your own website, at your own URL, there are few limitations on what you can achieve - it's just a case of knowing where to start.

Cheap custom WordPress themes can be hard to come by, without them simply being 'off the rack', with standardised colours and graphics.

I take a different approach - and for a fee of around £50, depending on how much work your blog needs, I can alter your current standard template, to give you your own unique colour scheme that's consistent across your homepage, static pages and posts, a hyperlinked masthead based on your own image, or an acceptable royalty-free stock photograph, and customised navigation bar, sidebar and footer links.

The standard themes that come with a WordPress installation are not really intended for anyone to use long-term as their own theme, as far as I'm concerned, but they give you a good starting point with all the necessary functionality built into it for posts, category pages, comments, and so on.

While most cheap 'custom' WordPress themes are just more off-the-peg templates, or are not really cheap at all, I can work on what you've already got to bring it in line with your brand identity, for a flat, affordable fee.

If you're interested, I'd urge you to make an initial enquiry and we can agree on what you want and need before I start any work.

As always, before having any work done on your blog theme or template, you should back up your page templates, along with your pages and posts - but when the work carried out is largely cosmetic, there shouldn't be too much to worry about.

In Defence of

While we're tackling unpopular topics, I may as well explain why I don't think shutting down is the solution to teenage suicide.

In fact, I'm not even convinced that preventing people from being able to use the service anonymously is the best thing to do - and I'm speaking as someone who was bullied, verbally and physically, badly enough at school that it stopped me from wanting to get out of bed in the morning.

The solution to bullying is not to shut down all potential methods by which that bullying might be delivered; the solution is to empower victims of all ages to know, without question, that they can speak out, and that there are people who will support them.


It seems Laura Robson had an interesting encounter with a well-meaning passer-by recently (presumably somewhere in the Toronto area)...

Now, I'm not one to interrupt a tennis star while they're enjoying some baked goods, but I was interested to see the hashtag #mansplaining in amongst the replies to Robson's tweet.

If you're not aware of it, the word 'mansplaining' is - to the best of my knowledge - a term used, generally by feminists, to indicate that a man is condescendingly attempting to explain something to a woman who already has a perfectly good degree of understanding of the subject at hand (that's not a wrist pun, by the way).

And I got to thinking - given that no further information was given about this 'random guy' - is it not possible that he was genuinely just trying to be helpful? That maybe, in Canadian coffee shops, people try to help each other out if they're aware of a problem their fellow human being is facing?

Carole Bryant,

Attitudinal life coach Carole Bryant emailed me to ask for my help with setting up Google Authorship on her website, - and I was more than happy to take a look at what she needed to do to complete the process, so that hopefully her articles will soon appear with her Google+ profile information alongside them in Google's search results.

She was so pleased with my help that we're now discussing ways we can work together on more formal terms, and I hope to be able to help Carole with the general SEO and search visibility of her website in the near future.

Carole says...
"Bob, I appreciate so much your responding with information I can use to fix my Google Authorship problems. This was so generous of you to help me. You even apologized for taking a couple of days to respond :) I can tell you are a generous and very kind guy.

"I like the name of your blog, Phronesis Freelance, and the meaning behind it. This speaks volumes in our world. It is a principle I enthusiastically endorse, as well.

"After reading some of your articles, and exploring your services, I would like to learn more about your SEO help. I would like to work with you because of your knowledge and because of who you are as a person. I signed up to follow you on Twitter, and recommended you to a friend who can use your services. You are a walking testimonial of giving and receiving.

"Thank you. I am thoroughly impressed with your integrity!"
To learn more about Carole, visit her website at

What should I focus my marketing on?

There's a common question among webmasters, and it goes like this:
"What should I focus my marketing on?
In turn, this question usually takes one of two general forms:
  • You have no idea what to focus on
  • You have two options, and don't know which to choose
Either way, the answer is likely to be the same.

Finding Free Stock Photos on Bing

One of my most popular posts of recent months concerned finding free stock photos for commercial blog posts, and outlined several potential sources of free images that you can use for commercial purposes online or in print.

Now there's a new addition to the list, as Bing have added a License filter to their Image Search toolbar.

You're Doing It Wrong

or, How to Lose Followers and (Negatively) Influence People

Despite the occasional headline-grabbing brand implosion, social media is a fairly forgiving medium - it's real-time, so you have to be able to keep up with it, but that also means that any disasters are usually short-lived too.

However, when you look to the long term, there are certain things you're probably hoping to achieve - an increase in 'likes' and Twitter follower count, an improvement in brand awareness and perception, and ultimately an increase in sales.

With that in mind, here are a few examples of 'poor practice' (although there are few hard and fast rules) that I personally think you'd be wise to avoid.

The Empty Tweet

OK, 140 characters isn't much, but it should still be enough to summarise your message, and let your followers decide for themselves whether they want to visit your website/blog/Instagram feed.

Resist the temptation to write a tweet that is intended to tantalise, without delivering - if it ends with a '...' and omits the actual valuable bit of information, you're doing it wrong.

For example, if your new product is in the shape of, say, a cat, it's fine to tweet and say "We're loving our new cat-shaped spatulas" or whatever, and then link to either a TwitPic or blog post or product page, or whatever seems appropriate.

Tweeting "Guess what shape our new spatulas are...?" and then expecting every single one of your followers to click on the link to load the picture, blog post or product page in order to find out is frankly just annoying.

Marketers will say "it's good because it makes more people click". And? Do you define the success of your business by how many people look at your products, or how many buy them? Because if you tell people what your product actually is, far more of those who click through to your page are likely to be specifically interested in buying it.


Like-gating is horrific for so many reasons. It's the Facebook equivalent of local newspaper sites that prompt you to fill in a survey Every Single Time. Or sites that grey out their entire content every time you visit, in an attempt to force you to download their app. Or websites that redirect your mobile browser to a crippled, content-free version even though their desktop site would have worked just fine on your device.

Even though you're a 'brand' in cyberspace, you're still a person in real life. Ask yourself what the hell you're doing, and why, and if you hate it as a person, don't do it as a brand.

The worst examples of like-gating are "for every 'like', we'll give £1 to charity" and "if this gets enough 'likes', we'll whatever". If you're going to donate to charity, just do it - don't try and emotionally blackmail people into promoting your brand.

Even if you use like-gating as a marketing tool, what is it achieving? You're basically spamming a part of people's profiles that no longer has any concrete meaning, and what you get from it is a 'fan' cohort filled with low to no-value individuals who probably have zero real-terms engagement with your brand.

Stick to getting likes from people who actually do like you, and you've got a much more valuable data set to use for future, legitimate marketing activities.


This one isn't 100% bad, but poorly thought out cross-posting can be a disaster waiting to happen.

In particular, if your entire Twitter profile consists of the first 140 characters of each Facebook update you post, then you don't really have a Twitter profile.

Clicking a link on Twitter, only to find yourself referred via Facebook to an article on a third-party website, is frankly annoying, slows down the loading speed of the article, and will grate with anyone who is devoted to Twitter to the exclusion of all other social networks.

Likewise, if you're cross-posting from Google+, any mention of an individual that appears with a '+' symbol in front of it - required to link to their profile on Google+ - will just look like a typo on Twitter, where the + notation is not used.

Until recently, cross-posting Twitter posts with hashtags on to Facebook was similarly problematic, but now Facebook have added hashtag support too, it's less of an issue.

Do It Right

The point of all of this is, know why you're doing what you're doing. Don't cross-post and like-gate and stuff just because everybody else is doing it; it might simply not work for you.

Instead, be willing to take a gamble, to put extra effort in; to craft separate status updates for each of your social network profiles, so that you take full advantage of the capabilities of each platform.

Avoid 'empty' updates, and your messages will add value to your total social brand proposition; and as this value grows, so should your return on investment.

Leaving Adfero: Two Years On

During my career at the online news agency Adfero, there were two dates in each Adferonaut's career that really stood out - the date we joined the company, and the date we left.

The former was nicknamed your 'Adferversary', although that word never made it into the company's Style Guide, so spellings often varied.

We didn't really have a word for the latter, as far as I can remember, so let's use 'Exferversary' as shorthand in this post.

Anyway, the point is, my last day of working for Adfero - now rebranded as Axonn Media - was June 30th 2011, and as I think it's more worthwhile celebrating your first day of freedom than your last day of work, that makes July 1st my Exferversary.

Last time around, there wasn't necessarily much to celebrate; freelancing was going fine, but the long-term plan was still coming together.

The year since then has been like a Christopher Nolan reboot of my life; the kind that makes you wonder why nobody did it sooner, why the main character had so many rough edges for so long, why the writers thought anyone would believe a person would live like that.

Don't get me wrong - I was happy in my personal life before, and I left Adfero on (I think) fairly amicable terms, despite The Guardian's interference in the months since.

It's just that now, with a group of really great clients and a decent amount of control over my own day-to-day workload, I feel as though I'm finally also in control of my own destiny.

The ambitions are no longer about petty promotions that will bring nothing but more stress; I've had chance to iron out the more stressful creases in my collection of clients, and I'm now only writing for people I really like (thanks, guys).

Now my ambitions are both mundane, and major milestones in anybody's life: the greatest is, as soon as it's feasible, to buy a house.

This would have been unimaginable two years ago, but now, with the power to work as many hours as I choose, and so boost my earnings when I need to, it's becoming more of a financial possibility, and it's really just a case of having enough of a track record on paper to convince a lender that I'm low-risk.

Looking ahead, I can't help but wonder what my client list will look like in another year's time. I hope it's largely unchanged.

To my private clients: thank you for letting me be the voice of your brand - often with fairly free rein over the tone of voice and subject matter that I write for you.

To my agency clients: thank you for tirelessly acting as the go-between when I need information from the client, and again, for trusting me to produce content that you are happy to sell on with your company's name at the top.

My second Exferversary leaves me well and truly out of any contractual obligations to Adfero/Axonn Media, so I can finally begin to compete openly with them for work.

I'll put together a separate post on that, but needless to say, if you're interested in an alternative to Adfero/Axonn Media and would like to explore hiring a freelancer, rather than committing to a long-term fixed contract with a large agency, which might not offer you so much flexibility, drop me a line.

Even if I can't give you exactly what you need, I'm always happy to take enquiries and offer what help I can, so that you in turn can make the decision that's best for you, based on better knowledge of all of the options that are available.

The past two years have proved that there's room enough in the local market for both Adfero and lil ol' me, so I look forward to plenty more years of working within the north-west SEO and copywriting industry, and wish Axonn Media (as they are now known) the best of luck for their years to come too.

And Adferonauts past, present and future, wherever in the world you may be - I salute you, comrades.

Unloved Rooms: A Keyword Worth Paying For?

'Unloved rooms' is the latest keyword campaign from B&Q, but it's left me wondering, what's the point?

I might be biased - I hate adverts that say "for more information, search for..." and then tell you which keyword you should be using.

That's not really the way SEO and search marketing should work - it's the televisual equivalent of a paid link, which by rights, Google should slam B&Q for.

But there are more reasons to be annoyed by it - such as B&Q's already dominant position in the DIY market.

OK, there's Homebase, but B&Q are the clear market leaders, and several of their competitors have been among the retail casualties of recent years.

Beyond that, the fact is that searching for 'unloved rooms', as instructed by B&Q, gets you less good results than if you search for 'B&Q'.

Search for 'B&Q' on Google, and you get local results, with directions to your nearest store - these are absent if you search for 'unloved rooms'.

In my case - and this may vary depending on your personal Google settings - I get an organic B&Q result at the top of page one when I search for 'B&Q', linking me to their homepage at

Search for 'unloved rooms' and I get a top organic result linking me to their Unloved Rooms microsite, which starts by telling you how to landscape your garden - not a room! - and annoyingly includes 'marketing' in its URL, which makes me feel like I'm being sold to. Which, of course, I am.

But even worse than that, B&Q have actually lost some ranking by having me search for 'unloved rooms' rather than 'B&Q', and that's because there are now sponsored links (AKA pay per click ads) at the top of page one.

In my case, even more bizarrely, the sponsored ad also linked to the B&Q Unloved Rooms microsite, meaning they're instructing you to search for something that's more likely to cost them money on a clickthrough than if you just googled their brand name.

There are so many reasons to be mildly annoyed by being told how to search for things, particularly if it's what you do for a living.

Perhaps I'm overreacting though - so instead I'll just find comfort in the fact that B&Q are probably shelling out a small fortune on PPC ads, thanks to directing Google users away from their never-in-doubt first-place organic ranking, and shoving an unnecessary sponsored link under their noses instead.

Seriously guys, when it comes to web marketing, don't try to DIY.

What is Blogging?

I'm often asked what blogging actually is, usually by one of my own relatives who doesn't have the faintest idea of what I do for a living. And unless you've ever had a blog of your own, there isn't too much reason why you would know what it is.

So, what is blogging? Let's start by stating what it is not.

Hiring a Blogger with Google Authorship

As much as it pains me to say it, Google Authorship looks like it's here to stay, and while that may mean more publishers are forced to have a Google+ profile when they otherwise would not, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing.

If you're concerned that Google Authorship - the bylines and author headshots that appear in search results - could have a significant negative impact on your ranking, then you might want to take a fresh look at the content you publish.

I've always believed that good-quality content is pretty much impervious to being downgraded by Google simply due to an algorithm update, and there's no better measure of what constitutes 'good-quality' content than whether or not you're willing to put your name to it.

But as an individual publisher, you don't necessarily have a Google+ profile that bears an individual's name, or that carries much clout when it comes to the search rankings.

Hiring a blogger with Google Authorship already up and running on other websites gives you a head-start, as you can effectively cash in on their existing kudos with Google.

If their headshot is already appearing in search results, for instance, you know that it has passed Google's guidelines (which, according to reports I've seen, require a passport-style shot with your full head visible, front-facing).

All it takes is to set up a linked byline or author page from your website or blog, with the correct Google+ link appearing on each page contributed by the blogger, and for them to link back to your site from the 'Contributor to...' section of their Google+ profile page.

There's an element of transparency to this, as you'll have to name the blogger and be willing to have your site listed on their profile, but again, if you've got something to hide, you should be looking closely at your content publishing plan anyway.

If you found this page in the Google search results, it probably had my byline and headshot alongside it.

I can help you to set up the same for any pages I contribute to your site, and will leave the 'Contributor to...' link on my Google+ profile for as long as we have an ongoing active working relationship (which basically means, until there's a full calendar month in which we don't produce any content).

Even if you want to publish your content with your own byline, that's fine, I'm happy for you to claim authorship of your content as long as you pay me for writing it in the first place, and I can still help you to set up the reciprocal linking between your blog/site and your Google+ profile, to get your byline appearing in Google's search results.

Eurovision Bingo

This weekend, it's one of my personal highlights of the year - the Eurovision Song Contest.

However, I've never managed to find a decent Eurovision Bingo game - and any that include 'Terry Wogan says he's drunk' are clearly past their sell-by date.

So this year, I've put together some Eurovision Bingo cards of my own...

Yes, I know that's too small to see, but click on it for the full-sized version, which you can print out if you want to play along.

While you're playing, be sure to decide which is your most and least favourite entry, as you'll need those once the scores start coming in.

If you're playing as a drinking game, the good news is that all four cards have the same squares, just in different positions - so everyone should get to have the same number of drinks, at least until the votes start coming in.

You should find it fairly hard to complete a line until the voting starts, and that's where your choice of favourite entrant means one player might complete a line before anybody else.

Choose a suitable forfeit for when this happens - it doesn't have to involve alcohol, but it helps.

Beyond that, the rules are fairly self-explanatory, so have fun!

Tumblr's Barricades

or, Paula's Password

A lyrical composition to commiserate with Paula Maher, who can't get into her Tumblr account so is singing along to Spandau Ballet instead.

Paula doesn't know where Tumblr's gone
She says her password's right
But clearly she is wrong
She clicks the link to get a brand new pass
But all she gets instead
Is a browser crash
And now I know what she's saying
As it fails to load the page
Cos she's throwing out an F-bomb
At Tumblr's barricades

I'm wond'ring why she even cares
I thought it wasn't Tumblr
But Twitter where she shares
I guess it's fine to post on other sites
But now that Tumblr's wrong
It makes Twitter feel more right
And now I know what she's saying
As she slips into a rage
Cos she's throwing out an F-bomb
At Tumblr's barricades

Networks aimed at different groups
Tumblr gets your notes
But Twitter gets your truths
So come to me with all your tweets
And I'll dot your i's
And cross all of your t's
And now I know what you're saying
To Tumblr's login page
Cos you're throwing out those F-bombs
At Tumblr's barricades

Oh, hit refresh, it'll be there!
There's a password box on-screen, you've forgotten again!
You think you might have got it right,
But it's all a bag of fucking shite.
And the error message tells you
That it's not gonna be your night, oh...

Better leave the bastard thing
And email tech support
Or give Tumblr a ring
Twitter's here to hold your hand
Of everyone you know
It's tweeps who'll understand
And now I know what you're saying
As your tweets load on the page
Cos you're throwing out an F-bomb
At Tumblr's barricades
Yes I know, what you're risking
Because Twitter jail is a cage
So don't tweet too many F-bombs
About Tumblr's barricades.

Didsbury in my heart, Leigh in my address

So it seems my time as a Didsbury copywriter has, for now, come to an end - I've moved to Leigh. But don't worry, Didsburgers, I won't forget you.

I'll still be on Twitter, and I'll be back in person often enough too - I wouldn't know where to buy gifts without Harriet and Dee, or toys without Giddy Goat Toys, or San Miguel without the Sanctuary... well OK, they have beer in Leigh, but it'll take a while to find anywhere that feels so much like a home from home.

Wilmslow Road, Didsbury Village by Firing up the quattro....

While this move isn't forever, it could be a while before I'm back living in Didsbury, and I'd hate to lose touch with you all.

With that in mind, I'm offering a minimum of 10% off my usual rates (which, as always, can be found here) if your billing address is in the M20 postcode district. Call it part of my commitment to being a Didsbury copywriter, even if I'm not living there any more.

Individuals and small businesses, if your budget is particularly tight, I can usually work out a deal that will provide you with useful content at a price that still allows you to turn a profit, so if the 10% offer isn't enough, please still get in touch.

Meanwhile, in Leigh...

Market Street, Leigh by Gene Hunt

I'm equally keen to establish myself as a Leigh copywriter as to hang on to my status as a Didsbury copywriter.

As such, I'm offering the 10% discount to any new customers with a Leigh billing address, with the same offer to negotiate further if your budget demands it, and the discount is available until June 27th 2013 (my birthday!) as I'll probably be taking a few days off around then to spend in the beer garden of The Waterside.

From what I've seen of Leigh so far, I reckon there's money to be made for businesses that can build their online presence - the mix of big brand stores and independent retailers is just right for those who know how to compete to really make a name for themselves.

Did I love Didsbury? Yes, and I still do. It may take a while before I'm ready to put 'Leigh copywriter' on my business cards, at the expense of all other locations that are close to my heart, but I'm hitting the ground running in my new home, and ready to take orders from those of you who haven't been able to find a good writer up until now.

All the usual contact details are below - email and Twitter work best/fastest, but we can arrange phone calls and in-person meetings too if it helps.

Free stock photos for commercial blog posts

I'm often asked to suggest suitable images to accompany the blog posts I write for my clients - and honestly, I'm pretty delighted when that happens, because often the alternative is that they simply lift images from Google search results, without double-checking whether any copyright applies to them.

In almost all cases, some form of copyright will apply, even if it is simply a Creative Commons licence allowing the image to be used, edited and otherwise manipulated without any need to attribute the original creator - and this is by no means the 'standard' licence that applies to most images published online.

Copyright License Choice by Joshua Gajownik for (via Flickr)

When you look for images to go alongside your blog posts, you at the very least need ones that are approved for editorial use, and arguably need ones that are approved for commercial use too, if your blog (as most company-run blogs are) is mainly for marketing purposes.

Ask me for suggestions, and they'll usually come from one of three main sources, in this order of preference:

1. Compfight

Compfight is a dedicated search engine for Flickr uploads, but it also offers the ability to filter your results by the type of licence that applies to the image.

Type in your keyword search on the homepage, and hit enter to run your first search. The results will be displayed according to Compfight's default settings.

Crucially, under 'Any license' at the left-hand side of your screen, click 'Commercial' and your results will change to display only images that can be used freely for commercial purposes.

CC Stickers by LAI Ryanne
Things to remember:
  • like on Google, the top few results are effectively sponsored - so ignore the top couple of lines of 'Professional Stock Photos from $1' and look below the dotted line to find the genuinely free pictures
  • select 'All text' at the left to widen your search by searching the full descriptions of images, rather than just the category tags assigned to them by the uploader
  • 'Show Originals' indicates that Compfight has an uploaded, original version of the image - indicated using a blue bar in the search results - so if you only want photographers' high-res original shots, switch to 'Only Originals'
  • select 'Unsafe' if you're searching for mature content, or just feeling adventurous - you will usually see naked people if you choose this option
  • switch off the lightbox-stylee 'Pop Up' option if you'd prefer to be linked to the image's Flickr page for more download options (I switch Pop Up off every time I run a search)

Be careful with this one - I am not suggesting that you can simply search Google Images and use anything you find.

Copyright Machine by *doctormo
What you should do is this:
  • run an ordinary Google Images search as you would normally
  • click the settings 'cog' icon at the top-right
  • choose 'Advanced Search' from the dropdown list
  • scroll down to 'usage rights'
  • choose 'free to use or share, even commercially'
  • click 'Advanced Search'
Your results should now consist only of images that can be used freely, even for commercial purposes - just make sure you check the relevant web page for any specific instructions on attribution etc.

As a last resort, Wikimedia Commons holds Creative Commons images that, in principle, can be used freely for any purpose - again, there may be certain restrictions on certain images, so check before you add them to your page.

The comic strip shown above came via Wikimedia Commons, with no usage restrictions whatsoever (although it does have a subtle attribution built into it, but that's normal with comics...).

In fact, as a point of principle, I found the four images used in this article via:
  • Compfight
  • Compfight
  • Google Images Advanced Search
  • Wikimedia Commons
(Those are in the order that the images appear on this page, reading top to bottom)

All are free for commercial use, as far as I can tell, and I've done my best to attribute them as thoroughly as possible - I suspect in most instances, a single name and/or link to the original file would fulfil the necessary attribution criteria.

JULY 2013 UPDATE: Bing Images

Bing Image Search now has a License filter option, just like Google's - but unlike Google's, it is not hidden amongst the Advanced Settings, but is right there on the toolbar for US English users.

For more details, including how to pretend you're a US English user so you can see this toolbar option, read my full post here.

Any Others?

If you arrived here looking for free stock photos, you probably don't have any hot tips on where to find them - but just on the off chance, if you have any suggestions that I've missed, do let me know and I'll add them to this page.

Happy hunting, photo-fans!

Selling to singletons in February

What happens in February? "Valentine's Day!" Yes, OK - what else? "Er..."

February 14th is a nightmare for 88% of single people and about 18% of couples (and that's not including the stress of finding the right card or present, for couples who choose to celebrate the occasion).

And while it's a key event in the annual 'buy cycle' for certain categories of retailer, it's also a major risk factor if you blanket your non-loved-up customers with mail shots full of hearts and roses.

So what else can you promote in February? Well, consider pushing Valentine's Day as part of a month-long calendar of events:

Adfero, Axonn Media, and Adam Afriyie

If you've arrived here after seeing my name in The Guardian today, welcome. Let's make sure things are in context.

Robert Booth's profile of Adam Afriyie quotes me fairly extensively, given the size of the article, so I'd like to make sure my comments are set in a wider context - it's easy to misinterpret things when you're only given a sentence or two.

The Farming and the Scraping

First of all, I don't think I have ever referred to Adfero/Axonn Media as a 'word farm', 'content farm' or any variation of those kinds of terms. Their service - at least while I worked there, 2006-2011, does indeed involve producing short news articles, often from press releases, but it's more sophisticated than just 'content spinning'.

Articles are written from primary source material and original interviews wherever possible. Have I ever used the word 'churn' to describe the Adfero process? Possibly in casual conversation. Certainly not anywhere that I'd want to be quoted, as far as I know. I wouldn't say press releases are 'harvested systematically', and while the targets set may be 'eye-watering', they were always set out with total transparency during interviews and recruitment days.

[UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that I do use the word 'churned' to describe my role at Adfero, in its entry in my employment history on Facebook. In full, I say: "Churned out massive amounts of online news every day for five years. Rose through the ranks to 'Desk Head' position, in charge of about 10 correspondents. Loved the job, loathed the company." I think I wrote that soon after leaving, and it paints a very caricature picture of my time there. I'm not going to change it immediately, as I don't want to try and hide behind edits, but it's likely that I'll amend that statement in a few weeks or so, as I really don't hate the company as much as that particular comment makes it sound like I do.]

In fact, I think everything I told Robert Booth - the working hours, the article numbers, and the pricing structure - is a matter of public record; you could find that information by attending an interview, or by contacting Adfero's sales team.

To give Adfero/Axonn Media their dues, the content they produce works. I have seen it work, from the inside and from the outside - their articles often appear in my search results when I'm researching a subject now, and in some cases the only way you'd recognise that it was written by them is if you've worked there and know what to look for.

I have said before, I do not consider myself to be a direct rival to Adfero, and I told Robert Booth that. They typically serve clients with sizeable monthly budgets, who are looking for 50-60 website updates per month. My client base tends to be small businesses who need to maximise their return on every penny invested, and that can mean just a handful of updates per month. We operate in different markets, and I would never - at least, not for now - position myself as a direct competitor to Adfero.

Personal Experience

The bulk of my quotation in the Guardian article is lifted directly from a page on this blog (and, I note, is not cited as such - Adfero/Axonn Media would never fail to adequately cite a source). It's this page here. Please take a moment to read it in full, if you're interested enough.

Yes, there was one time when I wrote 101 articles to meet end-of-month targets, with about two hours' total sleep over the course of almost a day and a half. Was it 'expected' of me that I would do that? Well, perhaps, but I suspect plenty of people in managerial positions have had to work long shifts to hit deadlines. It's part of the responsibility that comes with climbing the career ladder. I'm sure Adfero probably weren't too pleased that so much of my team's content was sent out at the very last minute that month - it's swings and roundabouts.

When the targets (in my view) became unachievable within the remit of the job, I left. I would say that I left on reasonably amicable terms, although today's events may well change Adfero/Axonn Media's opinion of that.

In short, this blog is effectively an online CV for my freelance services. Of course I want to demonstrate that I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to get the job done, and to hit deadlines - 101 articles without stopping? No problem! I've worked through the night to get bulk orders completed quickly as a freelancer, too, and I have nobody to blame for that but myself. Sometimes it has to be done, especially to help the client out of an emergency.

Adam Afriyie

Briefly, a note on Adam Afriyie. I don't recall ever meeting him, or speaking with him, during my Adfero career. I have no reason to dislike him. I have no desire to slander his name, or to put any kind of blemish on his reputation. I know nothing about his politics, and he may well be the right person to lead the Conservative party at some point in the future. I have literally zero opinion on that matter, and even if I did, it wouldn't count for anything.

I would say this though - say what you want about Adfero, they tend to spell people's names correctly, even in an article that took 10 minutes to write and is primarily published for SEO purposes. They definitely would be unlikely to switch from 'Afriyie' to 'Afriye' in the space of the same article.

Too Long, Didn't Read

If all of the above is a bit too in-depth for your liking, then here's the summary:

  • I genuinely believe the Adfero/Axonn Media service is better than as described in The Guardian today;
  • I have no reason to want Adfero/Axonn Media and/or Adam Afriyie to fail;
  • I would not want my comments, as quoted in Rob Booth's article, to be taken out of context.

As always, I would say, if you have the correct budget range and want to appear high in Google's search results, Axonn Media will almost certainly get you there for your target key words and phrases.

If you are a recent graduate and need an employer willing to take you on without experience, Axonn Media will give you a chance, and you will learn a lot in a short space of time.

And if you arrived here expecting a tirade against my former employer, let me say once again: we parted on amicable terms, I have no reason to want to see them fail, their service works (and is better than as described in The Guardian today) and I would advise you to seriously consider using them, if they suit your budget and your aims.

Comments are open as always, so feel free to continue the debate below, and I will attempt to answer any queries promptly.

'How do I shut down Twitter?'

As I write this, I feel bereft, a lonely man in an empty world. Twitter is down, and it's all HMV's fault.

Despite Twitter's reputation as a hystrionic swarming ground for bullies, trolls and gossip-mongers, only very rarely does something with enough widespread appeal occur to take the whole social network offline.

Today, HMV may have managed that - ironically, by asking the soon-to-be infamous question, "How do I shut down Twitter?"

"I accidentally deleted my blog"

"I accidentally deleted my blog - do you have it?"

Every so often - maybe once every six months or so - I get a query like that. An entirely deleted blog, a corrupted database, or a single page that's somehow been overwritten during editing.

Now, I'm not a data storage or archiving service - in fact, for many of my clients, I'm not a long-term service at all, but a one-off supplier of content - but I'll generally do what I can to help.

That means trawling through my old Word documents and Sent Items trying to find the one file or attachment that contains the page you've lost.

And while I wouldn't say that I really mind doing it, it's literally an inconvenience - so here are some proactive and reactive ways to try and rescue your content, without taking up too much of my time.

It's Almost Christmas

"It's almost Christmas,"
I say in my head
on a January night
as I lie in my bed.

Yes, almost Christmas -
that's what I believe.
So what if it's 11 months
till Christmas Eve?

Although there may be
300+ shopping days,
I'll be thinking of snow
in the midsummer haze

and the showers of spring
and the leaf fall of autumn,
I'll be thinking of presents -
even after I've bought 'em.

And mulled wine, and chestnuts,
and honey-glazed ham,
and nights sat up late
with my Dad and my Mam.

Frostbitten train rides
without a spare seat;
a two-hour journey
spent on my feet.

And, when I get there,
a loving embrace,
and a week without worry
to slow down the pace.

So, almost Christmas -
so no need to fear
for the 11-or-so months
of the rest of the year.

Just keep my mind
on the Christmas to come,
and the nights sat up late
with my Dad and my Mum.

Adfero become Axonn Media

Axonn Media is the new name - and face - of my former employers Adfero for 2013, and I wish them the very best of luck in their new guise.

There's a new website - - a new Twitter account (@AxonnMedia) and a snazzy new logo that I'll willingly admit to quite liking.

Adfero were a big part of my life (more info here) - they gave me my first graduate position, a role that lasted almost five years and took me into middle management at the head of a team of 7-8 news correspondents.

Now, from an outsider perspective, I can understand why they're moving away from their former core offering of online news, and into more general content marketing.

If nothing else, the size of the market alone makes it a good move, while any new regulation of news providers following the Leveson Inquiry could make it wise to have interests in non-news content (an issue I'm keeping an eye on myself, just in case).

Whatever the reasons, I'd like to wish Axonn Media the very best of luck for 2013 - the new brand identity is strong and stylish, and a name change ('Adfero' is Latin for 'bringing news') certainly makes sense if they're moving away from 'just' providing news articles.

It's almost two years since I left Adfero/Axonn Media, and while nobody leaves a job they're 100% happy with, I have plenty of happy moments to look back fondly upon, not to mention a few friends for life among my former colleagues.

As this new chapter begins in the company's history, I wish only the very best for my friends who are still working there, and for new graduates just starting out on their content-writing careers with Axonn Media.

Infonesis Issue no.3, January 2013

As we move into a new year, here's a snapshot of some of the headlines in eCommerce and web marketing in the past few weeks.

In this issue:

Ecommerce: Online retail boom 'will force bricks-and-mortar closures'.
Mobile: NimbleCommerce predict 40% of purchases in 2013 will be mobile or tablet-based.
Local: Retailers target smartphone owners who are already in-store.
Broadband: Mobile broadband 'offers largest revenue growth'.
Music Marketing: How festive songs might be responsible for that 'lost' feeling during Christmas shopping.


Traditional retailers in the UK are facing a growing challenge from online retail - and many could close their doors for good, according to a December 2012 report from

In its Europe B2C E-Commerce Report 2012, the analyst forecasts continued growth in online retail of over 10% throughout Europe as a whole, in each year until at least 2016.

In 2011, Great Britain ranked behind only Norway in terms of having the highest proportion of online shoppers among its population.

But while this is good news for virtual retailers, it is less positive for their bricks-and-mortar counterparts.

"In Great Britain, the growing popularity of B2C eCommerce is expected to force a considerable number of traditional retailers to close their businesses." Europe B2C E-Commerce Report 2012
December 2012

The good news for some is that businesses which previously had only land-based operations are already among some of the most successful online retailers.

Among them are Tesco and Argos who, along with the purely web-based Amazon, were the most visited online retailers of May 2012.

The challenge for others on the high street will be to emulate the online success of these big brands, and learn to adapt to the increasingly virtual nature of shopping in the UK.


A December 17th report from NimbleCommerce predicted a rapid rise in transactions made using mobile and tablet devices.

During 2012, the company saw 90% of purchases via its own platform come from desktop PC systems (presumably including laptops and netbooks), but this figure is predicted to fall as mobile and tablet devices gain a greater market share.

By the end of 2013, the company forecasts that as many as 40% of the transactions it handles could be mobile and tablet-based.

"Mobile and tablet technology still has huge potential for e-deals and offers, and businesses need to be equipped to interact with customers through these channels in 2013."

Peter Casey
European Director, NimbleCommerce

The full report adds that more phone-based redemption of special offers and coupons is likely, along with more phone-linked loyalty schemes.

Overall, NimbleCommerce list five key trends, all of which build on the growing maturity of the mobile market, and of mobile web access where no Wi-Fi hotspot is available.

Together, these trends seem quite reasonable (although the 40% figure might be an over-estimate) and highlight the continued and growing importance of catering for a mobile eCommerce audience.


As mobile web access grows in importance, so does the value of reaching local customers - including hyperlocal shoppers who are already in or just outside your store.

Edison Research reported on December 17th that parents are becoming 'smartphone Santas' for whom mobile technology is a way of reducing stress levels, and improving the shopping experience.

Citing the 2012 Deloitte Holiday Survey, Edison report that:

  • 68% of Christmas shoppers planned to improve their experience using their smartphone (if they had one)
  • 62% planned to use their phone to locate physical branches of retail chains
  • 58% planned to compare prices using their smartphones
  • 50% (or thereabouts) planned to use their smartphones to search for product information

In response, retailers are becoming more mobile-friendly even in-store, adding Wi-Fi hotspots and promotional barcodes that provide exclusive deals to smartphone owners.

"The retailer ultimately wants to keep the shopper in their store and fight against 'showrooming' - the process of browsing items on the shelf, and then going online and ordering the item for a lower price."

Melissa DeCesare
Edison Research

Perhaps the best development of all is the ability to pay for your goods via your phone - not at a till, but using an online checkout system.

In this way, a festive future without Christmas queueing is already becoming a reality for some lucky shoppers, according to Edison.


Moving into 2013, and a January 3rd report from Ovum predicts that mobile broadband will give telecom operators the single greatest potential for revenue growth through until at least 2016.

In 2012, 60% of the global telecom operator market in terms of revenues, roughly $1.2 trillion of the $2 trillion total market, went to mobile operators.

For the coming three years, mobile broadband is singled out as the biggest growth prospect, at almost 20% each year, while public cloud services, enterprise Ethernet, IPTV, and managed and hosted VoIP are all expected to see double-digit growth too.

"Over the next 3-4 years, both fixed and mobile operators will face the same fundamental challenge: to increase new sources of revenue fast enough to offset the decline in mature services."

John Lively
Chief Forecaster, Ovum

However, mobile is not the only bright spot in terms of high-speed connectivity, and the enterprise Ethernet market mentioned above is also likely to see demand.

This gives those within the B2B market the chance to provide high-speed networking directly to corporate clients at speeds of 40-100 Gbps - and keep pace with their own competitors at the same time.

Music Marketing

In bricks-and-mortar marketing, research from Royal Holloway university in mid-December indicated how festive shoppers can be manipulated without even realising it.

Academics at the university suggested that the omnipresence of Christmas songs in the run-up to the festive period removes some of the distinction between different shops, reducing consumers' ability to choose where to shop.

"Festive jingles are force-fed to Christmas shoppers in a bid to change their mood, influence their sense of time and what sort of products they buy.

"Often we are told that we have the freedom to choose where we want to shop, but during Christmas the use of music in this way is so ubiquitous that our freedom to choose disappears."

Dr Alan Bradshaw
Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Royal Holloway

And if you're not a fan of Christmas music, you've got every right to be even more annoyed at the prospect of shops using this method of music-based marketing.

That's because research suggests, the more muzakky the song, the more effective it is as a marketing tool - putting shoppers at ease and actually encouraging them not to consciously listen to what is playing.

Dr Bradshaw recommends paying more attention to the music the next time you're in a store - although there are plenty of web marketers who'd prefer it if you simply chose to shop online instead.

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