Entries from November 2013 ↓

How to Write Valuable Content

Just because your online marketing strategy demands content, it doesn’t mean any old thing will do. And definitely not something that was out sourced to a far-flung part of the world for a couple of dollars.valuable content with punch

When marketing your business online you must think like a big brand.

If you don’t take yourself seriously, no one else will.

The content you produce must be interesting, well written, and relevant to your audience and it must offer them something – a nugget of information they can take away with them. Basically, if they haven’t learnt something from reading it, there was no point writing it in the first place.

What makes content valuable?

I’ve pretty much already summed it up, but as far as your online marketing goes and the effect your content has on your overall strategy, it must be:

  • Findable
  • Readable
  • Understandable
  • Actionable
  • Shareable

Let me explain.


If people can’t find your content, they can’t read it.

Your content should contain an H1 tag headline and at least a couple of H2s (one small caveat here though, as you know Google is always moving the goal posts, so although this is a basic requirement now, its importance may change in the future).

All the images you use should have Alt tags and it should be written with your keywords in mind. That doesn’t mean cramming as many as possible within the content. Oh, and by the way, if anyone tries to tell you keyword density is important, do me a favour and punch him or her very hard.

Writing in a natural, conversational style is essential.


Don’t write your article as one long block of text.

It looks horrible and people won’t want to read it.

If you want people to give up their valuable time to read your words of wisdom you must write it in an appealing way:

  • Lots of white space
  • Short paragraphs
  • Simple language (put your thesaurus away)
  • Bullet points and numbered lists


As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter a jot about how educated your audience is, always write using simple language and a simple structure.

Forget trying to shoe horn in your latest favourite multi syllabled word, it will not make you sound impressive. You’ll just come across as trying too hard, or being ignorant because, let’s face it, anyone can throw big words at people (in the vain hope they’ve got the context right), but few people are able to explain concepts and ideas in simple terms.

Talking of which, avoid jargon and industry-speak (especially really annoying marketing jargon), it’s not big, it’s not clever and it makes you sound like a complete ******* (insert your own favourite uncomplimentary term).


The idea about generating content is to build relationships with your readers.

If you just keep posting stuff, the only thing you’re developing is a one-way conversation. So, if you want people to interact with you, you’ve got to ask them to.

Just like your website copy has calls to action, your articles and blogs should also have an actionable request. It could be asking them to sign up to your newsletter, a link to relevant content on your website, an invitation to share, or asking for their opinion by leaving a comment.


If you want people to interact with you and share your content, you’ve got to give them a reason.

Write something that your readers can relate to on a personal level, so they can pass it on to friends and colleagues.

Make sure you include all the usual social sharing links to make it easy for them and ask them to share it for you (if you don’t ask you don’t get).

I can see you nodding your head – nothing here is new, but it should be common sense.

I say ‘should’ because it obviously isn’t considering some of the content I’ve read online.

Hiring a copywriter isn’t essential (wow, that hurt), especially if you don’t want your business to be taken seriously. But working with someone who understands online content demands will give you a huge advantage.

So if you want to be seen as a trustworthy, reputable company that cares about its customers you know what you should do.



What the Hell is a Brand Anyway?

Can the term ‘brand’ be defined, or is it just a bit of fairy dust marketers and PR agencies sprinkle on clients to make them believe they really are worth the astronomical fee they’re charging? What is a brand?

According to Wikipedia a brand is “the name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.”

But I’m not convinced.

Sure, when you see Apple’s apple, or Nike’s tick or Chanel’s interlocking ‘C’s, you instantly recognise the company. But surely a brand has to be more than just a symbol. It must also stand for what you get from those companies.

For me Apple isn’t just a fruit with a bite out of it, it’s innovative, cutting-edge, cool, it just works. To me that’s Apple’s brand – how it makes me feel about them.

This whole ‘what is a brand’ thing kicked off after reading Dave Trott’s blog about ‘brand Beckham’. Despite what your thoughts are about Victoria Beckham, she certainly understands brands. After all, she’s morphed herself and hubby into a brand worth about a quarter of a billion dollars.

I wanted to find out what other people think about the term ‘brand’. Here are some of the responses:

“It’s the logo, colours and a recognisable style.”

“It’s the name of the manufacturer.”

“A brand is the personality of a business.”

“It’s how you want others to perceive your business.”

“Your brand is the emotional experience that a customer has with your company.”

“It’s just a way of recognising a company.”

“It’s the personality and feel of a company.”

“It’s a promise of what you sell/offer/deliver.”

“It’s what the customer thinks the brand is that matters.”

“It must portray the thoughts of the company and be understood by the customer.”

“It’s the way a company is perceived in the public domain and the emotion and experience someone has when buying into that brand.”

“Farmers used to brand their animals with the name of their farm before sending them to market. It was a promise that the product was of a particular or uniform standard. That’s what a brand is, plain and simple. Everything else is marketing, advertising or PR.”

“It’s your company’s sole.”

“It is the foundation on which you build awareness of your business to your customers.”

“It’s something visual or auditory that makes people recognise your product or company.”

Not many agree with Wikipedia.

Your brand is everything – it’s your look, your ethos, the way you deal with customers, the service you offer and the feeling your customers get when they have your product.

Going back to Apple again, because my experience of them, their service and their products has always been good, to me their brand is that their stuff works, no ifs or buts, it just does what it’s supposed to do. And of course, it looks great too.

What do you think?

How would you define s brand?

Is it just something visual, or do you think it’s more than that?

Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. Do you agree with Wikipedia, or with one of the other views in this post?


Author: Sally Ormond, Copywriter and MD at Briar Copywriting Ltd. Follow her on Twitter and Google+


Image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos

Why You Shouldn’t Outsource Your Social Media

Social media is immediate. Social media

Once you’ve pressed send, your tweet, Facebook update or Google+ status shoots out into cyberspace to be read by your followers.

That’s it – bam – your thoughts have slipped from your fingers and are out there for all to see.

Did you see that phrase?

“Your thoughts.”

If you’ve outsourced your social media content how can you get your thoughts out there?

You have to be there to build a relationship

How many times have you been told social media is all about building relationships?


So why have you ignored it and got someone else to do your thang for you?

To me it’s like being asked to pitch for a new job and sending in someone else to do the selling for you.

Or going on a date, but sending someone else in your place.

If you’re a small or medium sized business there’s no reason why you should be passing the buck in this way.

You don’t have to spend hours doing it; dipping in and out is fine. Plus, if you have the relevant apps on your smartphone, you can get hold of your alerts (when people contact you via social media) wherever you are, so you can make sure you respond quickly.

But I need a constant presence”

Sure, you need to update and tweet regularly, but you don’t have to be chained to your social media channels to do that. If you blog (what do I mean ‘if’, of course you do) make sure you set up a feed to each of your social platforms so once a new post is published all your followers get to hear about it.

Other than that, put something out there when you want to. There are no hard and fast rule that says ‘thou must tweet 20 times a day,’ tweet when you want to tweet.

When it comes to interacting with others, during your breaks have a quick peek at your feeds to see what people are saying. Set up lists so it’s easy to find those you want to follow and engage with. Then, when they post something, you can easily pick it up and start a conversation.

It all comes down to relationship building and you can’t that if you’re not the one doing the talking.

You know your business better than anyone. There’s no great mystery to what makes a good tweet or update, so when you have something to say, or you want to comment on something in the news, say it, don’t waste your money paying someone else to do it for you.

Doing your own social media updates will make sure your personality shines through and that’s what your followers want. They want to see the real you, they want to get to know you and they want to know interact with you.

Stop paying that retainer and start chatting.




Do You Really Think English is Easy?

The English language is a tricky beast to master.

If you don’t believe me have a read of this email I found on Facebook. It’s written by a retired English teacher and it fantastic. It beautifully illustrates how complex English is to such an extent that it makes you wonder how any of us are able to communicate with each other.

This took a lot of work to put together!

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture..
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert..
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear..
19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig..

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

PS. – Why doesn’t ‘Buick’ rhyme with ‘quick’ ?

You lovers of the English language might enjoy this .

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is ‘UP.’
It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP ?
At a meeting, why does a topic come UP?
Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?
We call UP our friends.
And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.
We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.
At other times the little word has real special meaning.
People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.
To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.
A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.
We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP!
To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary.
In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.
If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used.
It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t giveUP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.
When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP.

When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP.
When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.
When it doesn’t rain for awhile, things dry UP.
One could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it UP,
for now my time is UP,
so…….it is time to shut UP!
Now it’s UP to you what you do with this email.

How to Brainstorm Great Blog Ideas

If you’re a blogger, you need to come up with a constant stream of great blog ideas people are going to want to read.

But how do you do that?

Surely, sooner or later you’ll hit a brick wall.

That’s where brainstorming comes in. Here are a few techniques you can use to come up with fresh ideas.

1. Criticism

As a business owner, you’re bound to think your product or service is the best thing since sliced bread.

But it’s important to be self-critical and anticipate your customers’ potential criticisms before they make them. That way, you can create a blog post counters them and shows how your product and service can be used to great effect.

2. Don’t be yourself

The problem you face is that you’re too close to your business.

It’s time to think like a child. A child’s imagination is an incredible tool, so think as they would when writing about your product and create some fun and perhaps controversial blog posts.

It’s also easy to get complacent about how your products work, taking things for granted that may not be so obvious to others. Think about that and see if you can produce blog posts that clarify products and services and perhaps suggest using them in ways your readers may not have thought of before.

3. Metaphors

When planning your posts, see if you can create titles that use metaphors – such as ‘Starting a Business is Like Childbirth’. It will help create eye-catching titles that will make readers want to click and read more.

4. Curiosity

Don’t become too blinkered by your own knowledge. Be curious and read around your subject. Learning new ideas and techniques will help strengthen your writing and, potentially, your product or service.

5. Get out

Sitting in an office (or home office) and staring at a blank computer screen is not the best way to spark creativity.

Get out and about, talk to people, get some fresh air – a change in your environment will help trigger ideas and add a new dimension to your blogging.

None of this is ground breaking stuff, but every now and then it’s good to have a reminder of the basics.


Author: Sally Ormond, Copywriter and MD at Briar Copywriting Ltd. Follow her on Twitter and Google+