Blogging – the slow burn marketing approach

Blogging2

Blogging can do amazing things for a business. But it’s not a fast way to find more clients or customers.

Blogging is very effective at:

  • Building relationships with potential customers
  • Boosting the SEO performance of your website
  • Demonstrating your expertise
  • Reminding people that you exist
  • Proving that your business is a going concern…

But all this stuff takes time.

If you want overnight success, don’t bother with blogging

Faster results can be had with other marketing tactics, such as:

  • Adwords
  • Advertising
  • Direct mail
  • Email marketing

But these tactics will probably cost you more money than blogging.

And these tactics are great when you’re paying, but as soon as you turn off the cash tap, the benefits usually stop. You don’t get much residual benefit from an Adwords campaign. And while a few people might remember seeing your banner ad – or hearing your spot on the radio – as soon as you’re offline, the trickle of traffic comes to a standstill.

Blogging pays off over time

Getting a blog is like getting a dog. It’s a commitment. And you have to be prepared to care for the thing before you get one.

But if you do get a blog, and you care for it, and maintain it, and devote a little time to it every month, then it will flourish, and support you.

If you invest in your blog it will repay your efforts with new customers, more business and a greater awareness of your organisation.

NEW – Blog writing and posting service

Many of my clients have blogs, but very few write blog posts.

Consequently, many of my clients have a section of their website which is lying dormant – not delivering the benefits it might.

A neglected blog is definitely a missed opportunity. Regular blogging brings many benefits, including:

– your potential clients can learn who you are, what you care about and what you know

– Google is reminded that your website is active and relevant

– you can join your industry peers in discussions and debates.

And one negative impact of having a neglected blog is that potential clients wonder if you’re still there – and if your business is still a going concern.

Publish regular blog posts without the hard work

Instead of slaving over documents and messing about with your CMS, you can work with me instead.

We’ll devise a plan for the months ahead, work together to generate ideas, and then I will write and upload a month’s worth of articles each month.

So you get a lively, active and engaging blog without having to devote hours and hours to it each month. You still get high-quality content that’s written in your voice with the benefit of your expertise, but I do all the laborious writing.

Email: leif@kendallcopywriting.co.uk for pricing.

Or call: 07790 748 243

Free for all: using Ubuntu in my business

My new Ubuntu 10.04 LTS desktop

This blog post is about my experiences of using Ubuntu, probably the world’s most popular open-source operating system, in my business.

First, I must declare that I came to use Ubuntu because I was writing copy for Ubuntu. Without being involved with Ubuntu and Canonical (the business that leads the Ubuntu project) I may never have used Ubuntu. But these words are my own and they are not paid for, requested or endorsed by Ubuntu or Canonical.

The good

My computing needs have always been modest. Windows was always OK. But when my work with Canonical nudged me into installing Ubuntu on top of Windows XP, I realised that OK was far from good enough. Ubuntu made my old laptop faster, smoother and more reliable – and it did it all for free.

Ubuntu is an excellent operating system, but I want to assess how well it functions in a world dominated by Windows. First impressions were great because I could use Spotify, Dropbox and create .doc files just as easily as with Windows. So I was able to work in exactly the same way as I always had – except my computer was faster to start, faster to operate and faster to shut down. Ubuntu is different, so it took me a little while to find things and to get used to the minor differences, but it was surprisingly easy to ditch Windows.

For me, the best thing about adopting Ubuntu was the novelty of change. Ubuntu provides a fresh vista to eyes tired of gazing upon Windows. Ubuntu feels friendlier than Microsoft products too – it gets out of your way and lets you own your computer.

The bad

When you need help doing something in Ubuntu, you’ll often find advice that features all kinds of scary code, written by someone who assumes you know what to do with it. Far too many fixes require you to use the terminal or command line – something that the average computer user (and me) doesn’t really understand or feel comfortable using.

OpenOffice is the Microsoft Office equivalent that comes with Ubuntu. In a million ways, OpenOffice is amazing. It recreates an expensive Microsoft product and gives it away for free. That’s amazing. Thank-you to everyone who has ever contributed to the OpenOffice project. However, it does have its failings – although for me these are only obvious when I try to collaborate with people using Word. Track Changes and formatting do not carry well between the two programs, making it difficult for me to use in my work.

When I bought a new laptop (which I was forced to buy with Windows 7 already installed) it came cluttered with all kinds of junk. My fresh desktop was loaded with products – although this was probably due to Acer (the maker) rather than Microsoft. When you install Ubuntu you get a clean slate; your desktop is a blank space – because it’s your space.

The rest

I love the fact that Ubuntu makes computing more affordable. I love the fact that every six months my computer gets a free makeover (a new version of Ubuntu is released every six months). I love the fact that every six months my computer gets to take advantage of new technologies – all for free. I love the fact that I’m free of Microsoft, and that I don’t depend on such a questionable organisation for anything. I love the fact that all around the world, people are busy making free software.

So, for the time being, I’m sticking with Ubuntu.

How to write for your blog: an updated guide

How to write for your blog - screenshot of PDF

Are you a budding blogger? If you’re looking for inspiration or a steer in the right direction, check out How to write for your blog: a short guide (link opens a lovingly-designed PDF in a new tab. Why not print it out and read it later?).

It’s very short and totally free.

Or you can read it all here:

How to write for your blog: a short guide

This short guide will encourage you to blog and tell you how to blog well. Blogging is about conversations: discussing the things that interest you, commenting on events and joining debates. It’s not about about poetry, great literature or polished prose.

So join the conversation and don’t worry about getting things wrong. Stumble your way through blogging and learn by doing.

Why bother?

Let’s consider why you’re doing this. Which of these motivations apply to you?

I want to:

  • Promote my business.
  • Reflect on my personal development.
  • Announce my news.
  • Share discoveries.
  • Placate my boss.
  • Own my corner of the web.
  • Improve my website’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
  • Get recognition for my work.
  • Connect with my customers online.
  • Open up to customer feedback.

Conversational communications

Blogging is different from traditional media (like newspapers or TV) because the web allows everyone to be reporters, commentators and photographers.

So how can you hold a conversation on the web?

  • Invite comments from your readers.
  • Respond to comments.
  • Freely link to relevant blog posts.
  • Comment on other bloggers’ posts.

What to write?

An empty blog can be as intimidating and uninspiring as a blank page. The first post is often the hardest. You may be wondering:

  • What’s permissible?
  • What will be interesting?
  • How will I come up with ideas?

Deciding what’s right to write about

The subject or focus of your blog may change over time and that’s absolutely fine. As you write, you’ll learn what you enjoy writing about and what your audience enjoys reading.

Why you don’t have to know it all

Bloggers don’t have to be the world’s foremost authority on a subject in order to write about it. Blogging is about discovery and exploration as much as it’s about sharing knowledge.

Where do ideas come from?

You may have to force your imagination to produce ideas, but that’s perfectly normal.

Try brainstorming ideas with a friend. Look at other blogs for inspiration. Create a list – something like The Top 10 Tricks for Y. Turn your list into a series, turning one post into ten.

Why not write about:

  • A book you’ve read.
  • A problem you’ve solved.
  • A question you can’t answer.
  • Something that inspires you.
  • What motivates you.
  • A recent project.
  • A favourite client.
  • A current dilemma.

Scheduling

How often will you blog? It’s a good idea to set a target. If you’re starting out, aim for one post per week, as a minimum. Twice a week is better. Once you have a list of blog post titles or rough ideas, outline a schedule for posting. Tell your readers when you will be posting, and don’t let them down!

How to write for your blog

Luckily, human communication has stepped out of the linguistic manacles we were burdened with at school. Here are some old-school rules you can forget:

  • Split infinitives. What’s a split infinitive? It doesn’t matter.
  • Contractions. Words like: can’t, don’t, shouldn’t. Contractions give your writing a conversational feel, so use them.
  • Repeating words. If you’re writing about computer networks (for example), it’s okay to repeat the words computer networks.
  • Starting sentences with ‘and’ or ‘because’. Because it’s okay to do this.

What’s the point?

The best way to start writing a blog post is by defining your purpose. Answer the questions:

  • What am I trying to say?
  • Who am I writing this for?
  • What do I want to achieve?

Remember your reader

Be nice to your reader. Think about them as you write, because you’re doing this for them.

  • Write a blog post, then leave it overnight and review it in the morning. You’re more likely to spot mistakes after a night’s sleep.
  • Use sub-headings to break up the text. Sub-headings make screen reading a little bit easier and they help hurried readers scan your text.
  • Use a spell-checker.
  • Ask a friend to read your blog posts to check spelling, grammar and the existence of a point.

The Internet: nothing to fear

Some people worry about the reaction their blog posts will receive. Don’t worry: as long as you write informative, useful blog posts in a friendly, considerate way, you’ll receive friendly, polite responses.

Links

Hyperlinks, or links (the clickable text that leads you from one web page to another) are one of the web’s defining features. Use links to provide evidence for your claims, support for your argument or additional resources for your readers.

Writing makes you a better writer

I hope this brief guide has encouraged you to start writing. With any kind of writing, the only way to improve is to write.

Key points:

  • Blogging is conversational so write as you would speak and be open to comments from your readers.
  • Schedule your blog posts and blog regularly.
  • It’s okay to split infinitives, use contractions and repeat words.
  • Use short sentences and headings to make your writing easier to read on screen.
  • Ask someone to read your posts before you publish them and use a spell-checker.
  • Don’t be afraid of making mistakes: become a better blogger by blogging!

Blogging to Nobody?

Nobody on board

Oh, dear reader, I was so naive! When I began blogging, all those year ago, I thought that the aim of my endeavours was to develop a large readership. To gradually, through perseverance and good writing, increase the number of people who read my blog.

The Dream of a Big Blog

And although I’m naturally a humble kind of guy, I dared to dream that I would eventually have a loyal following, a steadily increasing band of followers. Careful readers who enjoyed my words, employed my advice and conversed in comments.

The Reality of a Small Blog

So far, that has not happened. I don’t cause controversy, or get many comments. Sometimes I wonder if anyone’s reading at all. But that doesn’t get me down.

Why a Small Blog is Still a Good Blog

My blog doesn’t need to be big to be good. Because this blog is good every time it is read by any one person (like you). If one person reads a sentence or two of my blog and thinks something positive, or gets a nice impression of me, then it’s worthwhile.

Blog – the Window into the Website

One of the web’s biggest problem is its facelessness. The web is anonymous, technological, artificial. It can be cold and scary. Blogs give us a chance to be human, and to chat a bit. We can be less formal, less contained and more revealing about our personalities.

My blog lets me drop my guard and write the way I speak. And that lets people get to know me, which seems to help them decide to employ me.

Keep Blogging!

So even if you only have a handful of subscribers and a trickle of daily traffic, keep it up! A neglected blog is never a good advert for anything.

Hype vs Passion: Perfectly Judged Web Copy

Hype-filled website copy

Copywriters face a common conundrum: how do you inject copy with energy and excitement without it reading like a horrible heap of hype?

I’ve been reading around, trying to work out exactly what makes powerful copy that excites people but doesn’t turn them off with the ripe stench of fraud.

Copy that’s redolent of hype makes readers lose trust – and when trust is lost, so too are sales.

It seems that the factors that influence whether copy reads like hype or not can be easily categorised:

The Good Stuff

You can grab attention and get people thinking about your products by telling them captivating stories, or by painting a picture with words.

Powerful words also help your messages to leap from the page and smack your reader in the face. (Powerful words are difficult to quantify, because it depends very much on their context. And many ‘powerful’ words are overused – which dilutes their power. But any word that carries energy or powerful connotations in the context that you’re using them in can be considered powerful.)

Clichés will never be powerful – so avoid them.

The Bad Stuff

Energy becomes hype when you use exclamation marks too much!!! See?

Copy that has loads of energy but no evidence to reinforce claims made is prime hype material. If you want to shout about something that’s amazing, make sure you back up those claims with evidence (authentic testimonials, client names etc).

Unrealistic claims. Don’t exaggerate. If a product could theoretically make a person a million dollars in a minute, but real people had only managed to earn a hundred dollars in a week, don’t be tempted to trade on the potential power of the product. Keep it real!

Recent Contributions to Other Blogs

I’ve been a promiscuous blogger! Hope you enjoy the following posts:

Dharmafly

Freelance Advisor

Freelance Supermarket

Ryanair’s Marketing Suicide – Idiot Bloggers Bite Back?

Ryanair responded to a blogger’s post about a glitch on their website with juvenile, aggressive comments. (You can read the full Times story of Ryanair’s peculiar response to a blogger’s innocuous post here: Ryanair, best for cheap.)

Ryanair are a budget airline. The entire business is run on a shoestring in order to provide cheap flights. Clearly, shoestrings don’t create the most joyful of workforces, and perhaps this is the cause of the vitriolic reaction to a well-intended post by a blogger.

The interesting thing about this story is that Ryanair have followed up negative and bitter comments on the original blog post with official statements that are even more damning:

“Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion. It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy in corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again.

Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere [sic] all to themselves as our people are far too busy…”

Now, the reason this is crazy is because, even if Ryanair really don’t care what bloggers think or write, and even if Ryanair are happy to create such a negative media storm needlessly and pointlessly, then they should care about the effect of all the negative links. “Idiot bloggers” may have a considerable impact on the results that appear when people search for Ryanair.

Perhaps the people who want extremely cheap flights don’t care about the negative publicity…? Is that why Ryanair think it’s acceptable to behave in this manner?

Whatever happens, it’s sad that Ryanair couldn’t have joined the online discussion in a more sociable way!

Does your blogging suffer from these common mistakes?

I recently asked the Twittersphere for suggestions of things I could blog about. Raj Anand requested something on mistakes that bloggers make.

Better to blog and suck than never blog at all

Before I launch into a few of the typical mistakes that bloggers make, I’d like to state that blogging is an open activity, designed to be free for everyone to do. So there aren’t really any rules to blogging. My points below are related to communicating, and it should be noted that the quality of your blogging becomes more important when you are blogging for your business.

So don’t feel too bad for breaking these or any other rules. It’s better to contribute and fall short of perfection than to fail to contribute.

#1 Writing in long tedious paragraphs, without any sub-headings for relief

Be kind to your readers and give them plenty of white space. Try to vary the length of your paragraphs and insert regular headings and sub-headings. This will break up your copy and help everyone who skim-reads. It’s worth reminding ourselves that headings are also great for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

#2 Failing to explain TLAs

WTF is a TLA? Sorry, I’ll stop that right now. WTF is an acronym for What The F@ck. And TLA is a facetious acronym for Three Letter Acronym.

My point here is that modern life is rife with TLAs. They might save everyone time, and allow us to feel clever and important, but they also exclude the uninitiated, obscure meaning and devalue your blogging. Every time you use an acronym you should explain what it means. So if you write ‘RSS’, be sure to write (Really Simple Syndication) after it.

Of course, some may argue that web users should understand TLAs and we shouldn’t have to explain them. Well, those people are wrong. If you’re blogging it’s either because you have something to share or because you love your own writing. Clearly, any reasonable person writes to communicate – in which case they must want the maximum number of people to understand them.

Even commonplace TLAs like ROI (Return On Investment) and GUI (Graphical User Interface) should be explained. Don’t assume that because something is obvious to you, it will be to everyone who reads your blog.

#3 Assuming that everyone has heard of the latest web meme/application/gimmick

If you’re blogging about cutting-edge technology, or brand new web services, or anything new, then explain WTF you’re talking about! Don’t assume that everyone has heard of it. Provide links and evidence.

#4 Not making much sense

Blog readers are charitable folk, who’ll probably tolerate your bad spelling and misuse of apostrophes, but you really should try to make sense. Re-read your posts. Does everything make sense?

Ask yourself: what am I trying to say? If you can’t remember, delete the blog post and start again. If you realise you have nothing to say, delete the blog post and start again. If you can’t work out what you’re trying to say by reading the blog post, delete and start again.

If you’re not sure if your blog post makes sense, ask someone to read. Ask them if they understand your meaning. If they don’t… DELETE!

#5 Meaningless post titles

I often see blog posts with titles that don’t mean very much. Now that might be because I’m not the right kind of reader – but every blogger should aim to make their posts understandable by every kind of reader.

#6 Theoretical nonsense.

In theory, it’s fine to cogitate on ethereal matters, but in practice, it’s much better to give your readers cold hard facts and real life examples so they can put your theory into practice.

Even better is the blogger who can ruminate on complex theories while connecting their ideas to real world examples. Give your readers something they can use, not empty ideas that waste their time.

#7 Pointless posts

Re-read every blog post, and every sentence of every blog post. Every word you write in a blog post should serve a purpose. Every word must earn its keep by communicating. Delete those words that do nothing.

And if you can’t answer this question: What is the point of this blog post? – then you should delete the post.

#8 Vocabulary porn

Keep your big words to yourself, unless they serve a purpose. And be aware that obscure words may hinder your ability to communicate.

This doesn’t mean you have to dumb-down your writing, but you must consider the effect of your word choices.

What do you want from me? The Great Reader Inquisition

Hello! Thanks for reading my blog. Recently I’ve been thinking, nay, obsessing, about you: my reader.

  • Who are you?
  • How did you find me?
  • What do you want from me?

Blogging on demand

I blog for many reasons, but partly so I can be useful to my clients and the greater web audience. So I’d like to stop guessing what you want, and just ask: What do you want?

  • What do you want to know?
  • What do you want me to blog about?
  • Are there areas of marketing, copywriting, grammar, spelling, punctuation, writing for the web or web marketing that you want me to focus on?

Freelance Advice – new blog post

Just quickly wanted to point you in the direction of my latest Freelance Advisor article:

Freelancing: The Choice of Champions

Freelancing through the economic maelstrom…

I’ve contributed a couple of posts to Freelance Advisor, and just wanted to let you know. They are:

Five Tips for Surviving as a Freelancer During a Recession

and

Three Reasons Why Freelancers May be More Secure During a Recession

Although the tips are aimed at freelancers, I think they apply equally to most businesses. Please add your own tips in the comments section of Freelance Advisor

Blogging pays off – the rewards of persistent blogging

legobloggrbop

I love copywriting here in Brighton, and I love blogging about copywriting, digital marketing and Brighton itself. At times I’ve even been slightly evangelical about the usefulness of blogging for businesses.

Is blogging worth the effort?

But I confess that I’ve had doubts. I’ve lost faith, and wondered whether blogging is a complete waste of time, if anyone is reading my posts, if anyone cares.

Luckily, before I could get disheartened, I received a flurry of positive feedback and several new clients – all as a result of my blog.

Hallelujah! – Blogging pays off

So I can personally attest to the useful of blogging as a marketing activity. It’s especially good as a way to let people get to know you. Your website may be very slick and beautifully designed, but it’s probably deeply impersonal. People buy from people, not beautiful websites. So you should use every opportunity to show your realness.

It seems that, in business, those that succeed tend to know people. Lots of people. The more people you know, the better. Networking is a key activity for most business people – but I think blogging works well alongside this personal contact.

(Picture courtesy of Minifig)

Blogging all over the world

Freelance Advisor

Another misleading post title. I’ve not been blogging all over the world, but I have left the confines of this blog…

I’ve recently contributed a couple of blog posts to Freelance Advisor. You can read them here:

Freelancing – Why do I do it?

Become CEO of Youcorp – Marketing yourself as a freelancer

That is all.

Bloggers vs. Journalists

This recent article from the Guardian suggests that journalists should learn lessons from bloggers, and adapt.Lego Blogger

While I agree with the author’s assertion that journalists should be less suspicious of bloggers and their work, I don’t agree that "there is no perfect example of journalists and bloggers working in harmony". Surely bloggers and journalists are working in harmony all the time? Journalists write articles which appear in news outlets, and then bloggers discuss them. It seems like a happy union to me.

For a business that is blogging, or considering blogging as a way to increase the life around their website, the important point to take from this article is the reminder that blogging is a conversation . To quote Adam Tinworth :

"Most media people don’t realise that blogging is a community strategy. They think of it as a publishing process… They certainly don’t think of it as a conversation."

You’ll have much greater success as a blogger if you invite discussion, allow comments and refer to other bloggers. Although, if you prefer, you’re quite welcome to sit and talk to yourself .

(Lego Blogger picture courtesy of minifig )

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