Google isn’t everything: how Google doesn’t exactly reflect the real world

I’m going to say something that is bloody obvious, but bears repeating: Google’s search results do not always reflect real life.

What I mean is that many successful businesses have quite under-nourished websites, which appear on page 2 or 3 of any relevant SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). While a number 1 position in Google’s results may be the Holy Grail of web marketing, it clearly isn’t everything.

What’s my point?

I help my clients find success on the web. I use Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and off-site tactics to drive people towards their websites. I look for ways to generate interest and income in and around their websites. But it’s crucial that my clients and I remember that the web is just a part of the business environment.


The web is a great place, and it’s very useful for businesses, but it should not be the only aspect of a firm’s marketing activities. A website makes a perfect platform from which to start and to focus marketing activities around – but businesses also need to stand up in the real world. Those who don’t risk being overtaken by their more active counterparts. You may be winning the war on the web, but what are your competitors doing in real life?

Web marketing services – fresh thinking & effective strategies

Web copy to web marketing

I write a lot of copy for websites. After writing web copy, the natural progression is to ask: what next? And:

  • How will people find this website?
  • How will the right people know about this website?
  • How will this website develop a life of its own?
  • How can we make this website sell?

In short, writing copy for websites leads to thoughts of web marketing. And quite naturally my work has slipped from pure copywriting into Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and web marketing. I recently added additional pages to explain these services – read about my approach to web marketing.

Web design from a web marketing point of view

Being a marketing kind of person, I view things from the point of view of the customer. I put myself in the shoes of my clients’ customers. As with all marketing, it never hurts to consider the marketing of a thing when you’re deciding the fundamentals. So don’t be afraid to ask a copywriter for their thoughts on your project.

The evils of marketing-led enterprise…

In a follow-up to yesterday’s post about getting a marketing mind involved in business decisions, I’d like to


expand on the views I expressed.

How marketing could make you bland

If every business only made products that were easy to sell, we wouldn’t have Stinking Bishop cheese, or Robin Reliants, or Michael Buble. The influence of marketing also has a terrible effect on Hollywood – stripping the art out of film and replacing it with dull, beige blockbusters in which everyone survives.

If my previous employer had allowed the sales team to dominate product development, every product would have been shamelessly populist, hell bent on crowd-pleasing, never daring to step in new directions.

Be a maverick, and to hell with marketing

Don’t run your business via the marketing department. What the hell do they know, anyway? Let ideas run sideways through the corporate field. Innovate like crazy. Business is about more than money.

Mixed messages

If you’re starting to feel confused, let me clarify: it’s a great idea to ask someone of a marketing bent to review your plans. It’s a terrible idea to let said marketing person run the show. Having a say is one thing, taking control is something else.

(Picture courtesy of Alaskan Dude)

Why you should involve marketing in all your business decisions

I often get drafted in to write copy for projects that are nearing completion. Copy (supposedly) is the icing on many a corporate cake. I waltz in with a pen, release my prodigious vocabulary, then naff off. And often, that approach is just fine. But, to paraphrase NatWest adverts, there is a better way…

Everything in business should be run past a copywriter

I once worked for a company that designed and produced a large number of original products. The product development team was highly creative and highly effective, but on occasions the sales team would despair because unsellable products were produced.

The sales team knew, from their close relationships to their buyers, what would sell and what would not.

Eventually, the sales team were brought in to development meetings. From then on, product development was focused on products that would have a future.

It’s always a good idea to think about the details of selling a product before you make it. If a copywriter can write about your product, it has a better chance of success. Planning the marketing of a product or service will often suggest variations or alternatives to the original product.

SEO and product development

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) also plays an interesting role in modern product development. Performing a thorough keyword analysis often suggests under-exploited niches, which in turn may affect the products and services a company offers.

So if you know a friendly copywriter, give them a call now. (My number is 07790 748 243.) A copywriter or marketing professional may provide insights that open up profitable new markets.

Shame about the name

Product naming is another area that copywriters can help with. Copywriters will be thinking about products on shelves, words on websites, and what those things will mean to the public. Don’t name a product without carefully considering the details of selling it. Even better, ask someone from outside your company for a second opinion.

Marketing and packaging: anger in the aisles

originalsourceshowergelBecause my work is all about marketing, I tend to view all corporate acts through the lens of marketing.

Because I consider marketing to encompass every activity in the process of selling, it seems quite right to view corporate activity in this way.

Having made my excuses, I would now like to discuss packaging.

Waste not?

I was recently pleased to see the above packaging in supermarkets. The product doesn’t really matter for now; the important thing is that the packaging (allegedly) uses 75% less plastic than it used to. By swapping their hard plastic bottles for a thinner plastic bag, this company have instantly reduced their material use by 75%.

What I can’t fathom is why everyone isn’t doing this.

In a world where companies invest fortunes in carbon credits, or rescuing koalas from extinction, or internal recycling schemes, or glossy PR campaigns – why don’t they just do real things like being less wasteful?

Does quality waste, destroy and fritter?

Now, I understand the importance of brand, and the perception of quality. But I think modern times call for a redefinition of quality.

Quality is not wasting the last few drips of oil on pretty packaging. That is idiocy.

Quality is responsibility, and understanding the impact of your actions. Quality equates with intelligence, with doing the right thing, with social responsibility.

From a marketing point of view, it’s easy to promote and sell something that has clearly been made by intelligent, thoughtful human beings and is conscious of environmental issues. I do not envy the marketer who has to stack their bottles of shower gel next to the one above. They may as well slap a label on it that says “Needlessly wasting 75% more plastic than we need to. But ain’t we pretty?”

Of course, many people recycle, so some may argue that marketers should be allowed to waste whatever materials they choose. But of course, not everyone recycles. Also, the process of recycling uses additional resources, so it’s much better to reduce consumption of materials in the first place.

Big slow corporations – when will they catch up?

I’m continually suprised by the lack of ingenuity and innovation displayed by major corporations. Why are they so reluctant to reduce, reuse and recycle? Has a focus group declared that they prefer wasteful packaging?

Incidentally, the company behind the intelligent, high-quality, environmentally-friendly packaging is Original Source.

Economic downturn: time to make your website do something

Judging by the websites I encounter during my work, many are under-optimised. Which means there is extensive scope for improvement, which means they could do more for the businesses that own them.

Many websites appear to have been created some time ago, by an outside agency, plonked down on the web and left to fester. Such websites can be spotted by their misjudged positioning, missing SEO elements, ancient blog posts or ‘news’, references to summer when it’s autumn, misspelled or grammatically incorrect copy, low or non-existent Page Rank and minimal links pointing to it.

These websites are sad creatures, attracting few visitors, making no sales, converting nothing and generating no leads. The money invested in these websites is wasted. The return on investment is £0.

Optimising existing assets

In the current economic climate, it strikes me that many businesses need to evaluate their web presence, and consider how it might do more. Now is the perfect time to tweak existing assets into useful, profitable tools.

The web is an amazing place that offers a wealth of potential. But websites need to work hard to compete among the billions of other websites. Websites that are just dumped on the web will do nothing but take up space, cost money and gather e-dust.

Optimising websites is simple – you just need to know how. Most websites require a few key changes and some work off-site to get the ball rolling.

Managing your website

I believe that any business that wants their website to do more should start by appointing someone to be Web Manager, or Web Lord, or whatever they prefer to be known as. Give your Web Lord some time to regularly think about your website. Take some of their least favourite tasks away from them so they have mental space to think creatively about web marketing.

Web Marketing Reports

If you’re unsure of how to get started, and would like a few pointers, drop me a line. I offer web marketing reports which come packed with effective techniques for making websites work harder.

Social Proof – what it is and why you need it


The web has an inherent problem for buyers. It’s impossible to tell trusted, respected businesses apart from cowboys, swindlers and snake-oil sellers. Unless you happen to know the business in question.

For most people, viewing most websites, they only know what is put in front of them. So if your business has a website, you need to appeal to the people you’ve never met, just as much as to the people you’ve already approached.

How do you make someone trust you?

You can’t make anyone do anything, but you can help them. Using Social Proof is a great way to build trust. Social Proof basically means showing people that other people have used your business successfully. People are herd animals and we need to feel that others have gone before us. It’s much easier to persuade someone to buy your product if you can persuade them that others have already bought your product.

I recommend using genuine testimonials. But go further. Don’t just use:

“This product is great!” – J. Hoppendoodle

Say who J. Hoppendoodle is, where they’re from, and provide a link to their website. Show that real people use your products and services by connecting your audience to those people. Let the roots of your social proof run deep. The more real you make your business the easier it will be to sell your wares.


I noticed with interest that the Wikpedia entry for Social Proof contains a note suggesting that the entry is merged with the entry for Bandwagon Effect. ‘Bandwagon effect’ is a useful way to think of Social Proof. It captures the notion that people will ‘jump on’ something that everyone else is jumping on, almost regardless of the underlying facts.

I don’t mean that I think people are mindless sheep- because I don’t. What I do think is that people need to feel they can trust you, and it’s wise to use Social Proof as a device for building trust.

Secondary benefits of Social Proof

Often, using Social Proof on the web has secondary benefits. Mentioning your clients’ names and websites means they get free publicity and you both get to advertise your mutual association. Possibly the biggest benefit to your clients is links. The SEO benefit of additional links is considerable, so using Social Proof also gives you a great opportunity to reward your clients.

(Picture courtesy of Cpeachok)

Are corporations intrinsically evil?


Google has taken another step toward total world domination and become the first search engine in space.

I really like Google; I use lots of their applications and I genuinely admire their ethos: Don’t Be Evil.

But can a business, which is compelled to make profits to satisfy shareholders, ever guarantee that it won’t be evil?

Temptation this way comes

A business as large and powerful as Google will increasingly have opportunities to be evil. Will Google be able to maintain the pure, innocent and honest ethos that it started with?

I think it’s easy for small companies to be good. As companies grow they fall under greater external pressures. Does Google have a plan for ensuring that, regardless of who is in charge, Google doesn’t do evil?

(Picture courtesy of The Ritters)

Blogging pays off – the rewards of persistent blogging


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)

Literary junk food – why you shouldn’t limit your vocabulary


“If you consciously restrict your vocabulary – and some companies do this – you end up with the linguistic equivalent of junk food…”

John Simmons –  We, Me, Them & It

I’ve previously blogged about the importance of not dumbing-down corporate communications. It’s clearly a difficult balance to get right; I’m also a big fan of clear, easy to understand writing.

So how do you get it right? How do you communicate clearly with your audience but retain some depth and idiosyncrasy?

Sadly, you’ll have to decide for yourself which words will help your cause and which will baffle your reader.

But I would suggest you make sure that anywhere you need to convey information, make it clear. Be more free and playful with anything less critical. Let your corporate personality shine through when there’s less risk of ambiguity – or someone missing a key fact just because they don’t know what an unusual word means.

(Picture courtesy of Marshall Astor)

Offer benefits – Copywriting tip #3


A wise copywriter once said, “People buy holes, not drills”.

The point being, of course, that when someone buys a drill it’s because they want a hole. And that’s a crucial point. Because if you try to sell someone a drill it’s essential to remember that the most interesting points to entice a buyer will be about the kind of holes that drill can make.

So if you’re a web designer, most of your clients won’t be interested in how you make their website or the technology that keeps it running – they’re just interested in having something that helps their business. People who want websites generally just want more sales, more brand awareness or a better way to communicate with their audience.

If you’re writing copy, remember to highlight the benefits of your product or service. Ask yourself, what does this product do? What can it offer to a buyer? How will it change someone’s life?

Common benefits include time-saving, money-saving and money-making. If your product can save someone time, or make someone money, you shouldn’t have much trouble selling it.

(Picture courtesy of Rae Allen)

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.

The future of online advertising?

The Future of AdvertisingWill McInnes and a commenter (Jonathan Hopkins) on his blog have got me thinking. Will’s post was about the future of advertising, and how advertising might best evolve in our digitised world. Jonathan suggests that businesses might do better to focus less on themselves and their products and instead try to help people.

Jonathan suggests that companies could use their advertising space to provide useful information that is still relevant to their products. So, for example, the Financial Times might offer statistics on shares. Tesco might provide recipes, or cleaning tips. Ikea might give free room-furnishing advice.

While it seems like a fine idea to be helpful, and build relationships with the people that may become customers, I’m not convinced that this kind of advertising will work. Obviously it will work to the extent that people will use the information provided and may recognise the organisation that provided it. But will they remember what the organisation does? Or what they’re selling?

Advertising doesn’t just exist to forcefully sell products – it often does a great job of informing people about new products and services. So advertising that forgets the product and focuses on providing useful information, may neglect to provide useful information about the product.

I suppose the obvious solution is a marketing strategy that cleverly combines useful content with product information and brand messages. And I think many brands already do this – perhaps the evolution will be into even less obvious advertising, with the useful content at the fore and the brand and products in the background (or perhaps blinking too fast to be visible to the naked eye, but having a rather powerful effect on your subconscious).

(Picture courtesy of Goribob)

Having trouble selling?

Spam Fritters

While I hold writing and the persuasive power of words in high regard, it is worth remembering that the words that represent your business are not the only things you need to be concerned about.

A recent commenter on this blog (Jon McCulloch ) mentioned that copy is not the only important factor in determining the success of your marketing; your audience and your offer should be considered before you start thinking about your copy.

And I think Jon has made a very good point. I often write about the importance of professional copy, but we shouldn’t forget that if your product or service sucks, and people don’t like it or want it, then the best copywriter in the world will struggle to sell it.

So if your marketing is failing to sell your product, and you’ve investigated possible sticking points, it might be time to examine the product itself.

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