WriteClub in London

This Thursday, WriteClub returns to London.

So if you write stuff, or occasionally think about writing stuff, then join us!

WriteClub is a friendly, informal networking group for all kinds of writers. It’s a chance for people to meet other writers, swap tips, ask questions and meet good people to pass work to.

We’ll be in the Yorkshire Grey pub. To spot the group just look for books.

Full details: http://write-club.net

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.


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.


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!

Build good links: free guide to SEO basics

The good link guide - screenshot of PDF

Want to outstrip your competitors and take over the world? Or would you just like to have a website that appears in relevant search results?

You probably just need more links.

Discover how to build good links with The good link guide (link opens a handsome PDF in a new tab).

Or read it all here:

The good link guide: build better links to your website

Links are good. Links bring people to your website, and they tell search engines that your website is popular. Link-building is one of the primary tasks of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). There are many ways to get links, but it’s important to understand the elements of a link so that when you get a link you know how to make it a good link.

When assessing links, search engines consider:

Location. How good is the site containing the link? Is the linking site relevant to the site being linked to? How prominent is the link?

Content. What is the anchor text of the link?


Not all links are good. If your website has a hundred links from illicit or disreputable websites, then search engines will put your website in the same category.

Once you’ve found a good website to give you a link, think about where your link will go. A prominent place on a popular page is worth much more than a lowly link in the footer of an obscure, rarely-visited page,

For example, links from web directories are easy to obtain, but they’re much less valuable than a home page link from a highly-regarded blog. A highly-regarded blog that’s connected or relevant to your website is even better.

Anchor text

Anchor text is the words that makes up a link. In this link: Jam Jars the anchor text is Jam Jars.

When search engines scan web pages, they read and follow links. Because my link to the website of Freeman & Harding has the anchor text Jam Jar, search engines assume that Freeman & Harding has some relation to Jam Jars.

This is a crucial point. Use your keywords in anchor text.

Anchor text example

Good link: View professional range of hairdressing products

Bad link: View hairdressing products

The good link’s anchor text contains relevant keywords. The bad link is a wasted opportunity, unless you are hoping to appear high in search results for something as generic as products (which would be insane).

Key points:

  • Search engines consider many factors when assessing links.
  • Seek links from good websites.
  • Aim for prominent links on key pages.
  • Links from relevant or related websites are a bonus.
  • Use your keywords in anchor text.

How to write for the web: an updated guide

How to write for the web - screenshot of PDF

Writing for the web? Check out: How to write for the web: a short guide on what to write and how to write it (link opens a sweet PDF in new tab)

It’s free, short and totally excellent.

Or you can read it all here:

How to write for the web: a short guide on what to write and how to write it

This short guide on how to write for websites will give you a few tips and encouraging words to get you writing for the web.

Remember: it’s about purpose not poetry

Good writing on the web serves a purpose. Words inform, inspire, entice and sell. But web writing doesn’t need to qualify as great writing in the literary sense. So don’t try to pepper your writing with unusual words or poetic touches. You’ll be more successful if you focus on communicating with your audience.

Remember your reader

When you write, keep your reader at the forefront of your mind. Who are they? What do they want? Your writing should fulfil your user’s needs.

Write about the benefits

When writing about a product or service, write about the benefits that those products or services offer. So instead of focusing on features and writing:

Our chain saw blades are made of high-carbon steel

Highlight how the features of a product or service translate into benefits to the user, like this:

“Cut fast and safe for longer with our high-carbon steel blades.”

What’s the benefit of benefits?

Imagine you’re buying a lawn mower. What do you really want? Do you want a machine that cuts grass or do you want shorter grass? You really want shorter grass; the machine is just a means to an end. Your readers just want shorter grass.

The need to give readers clear benefits applies to all kinds of communications.

What’s so special about the web?

There are a few key details that make writing for the web different to writing for print. You can’t just lift your words from a brochure and expect them to flourish on the web.

Reading on screen

Reading on screen is hard on the eyes. Make it easier:

  • Write in short, simple sentences.
  • Break up blocks of text with headings.
  • Leave white space between paragraphs.

Links: a web of connections

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

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Unless your website is optimised for search engines, you could miss thousands of potential visitors. Start by thinking about how people search for a business like yours. Draw up a list of words and phrases (keywords) that people are likely to use. Then copy and paste your list into Google’s Keyword Tool. This will give you a longer list and should include words or phrases you hadn’t originally considered.

You may have a massive list, but you can’t hope to rank well in search results for hundreds of keywords (unless you’re Amazon or the BBC) so focus on the most important keywords. Choose keywords that your customers are likely to use when they’re ready to buy from you, rather than keywords that indicate a searcher looking for information.

For example, if you search for ‘puppies’ you might be looking for pictures or general information about juvenile dogs. But a search for ‘puppy farm’ is more specific and more suggestive of someone who’s ready to buy.

Use your keywords in:

  • Copy (the text)
  • Headings
  • Meta titles
  • Meta keywords
  • Meta descriptions

Remember who you’re writing for

With SEO, it’s easy to get obsessed with keywords and search results. While it’s wise to understand SEO, you must write for people. Focus on your human audience. If you publish interesting things on the web, people will link to your writing. This is a better, more natural approach to SEO.

Getting discovered

If you want people to find your writing, you’ll need to get in front of their eyes. Write comments on other bloggers’ posts, use social media tools like Twitter and Facebook, and contribute to forums (make sure your signature includes a link to your website) to help people find your website.

Every link to your website has two values: it helps people discover your work, and it improves your website’s search engine performance (search engines consider links to your website to be an indicator of quality).

On Writing

Be nice to your readers: use a spell checker and ask a friend to review your work. Let your words rest overnight before re-reading to make sure they still make sense.

Flex your writing muscles!

The secret to great writing is regular practice. So get writing!

Key Points

  • Remember your reader; what do they want?
  • Remember your desired result; what do you want to achieve?
  • Highlight how features translate into benefits.
  • Optimise your writing for the screen with short, simple sentences.
  • Use white space, headings and sub-headings to break up text.
  • Lead people to your website with links and mentions on forums, blog comments and social networking sites.
  • The best way to become a better writer is by writing. So start writing!

Copify: the cheap and miserable way to procure copy

Copify is a new company that connects copywriters with content-wanters. So if you need a 500-word article on cat litter you can go to Copify and get a poorly-briefed stranger to churn out some generic words to fill your content hole.

Some copywriters are mildly outraged because Copify pays writers £0.02 – 0.08 per word. So writing that 500-word article on cat litter will earn you £10 – £40. If you spend 2-3 hours working on the article (I’m hoping you’ll research cat litter before you write…) you’ll earn as little as £3.30 per hour. Not a lot!

Having said all that, I don’t object to Copify. But I would never ever seek work from Copify and I would never recommend them to anyone as a source of content.

Copify fills a need. Some people need words. And they don’t really care which words you give them, because they want generic SEO-friendly filler content. Or backlink fodder. Either way they really don’t care about the words, or which order you put them in (so long as you meet their word count!).

Copify already exists in other shapes and sizes. Some agencies get trainee web designers to churn out content, while others pay students £10 per article. Guru and other freelance ‘job’ websites offer thousands of junk jobs that people are free to take if they have the time and the inclination to work for peanuts. And theoretically a super-fast writer could cut and paste some rubbish together in a few minutes and do quite well out of Copify, so who are we to stand in the way?

Services like Copify will not affect the business of professional copywriters because lots of people need professional copywriters, as opposed to a copy vending machine that spits out low-grade copy for stupidly-low prices.

Great blog post discussing the perils of paying copywriters per word

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