Entries from March 2014 ↓

How Testimonials Can Hurt Your Business


You can’t sell without it.

Customers only buy from companies they trust and like and one of the best ways to promote trust is by including testimonials on your website or landing page.

But sometimes, that can do more harm than good.

Why? Surely testimonials are the best form of social proof there is.

Normally I would agree with that, but there are some companies out there using testimonials that harm their business.

Harmful testimonies

How many times have you come across a website or landing page that lists testimonials but doesn’t attribute them to a person, or just show “Mrs B from Scotland”?

Would you trust their authenticity?

I wouldn’t.

How to make the most of your testimonials

If you’re going to put testimonials on your website they must, as a minimum, be attributed to a real person showing their full name, position and if possible a photo.

It’s also a good idea to have them address specific concerns, for example, ease of use, great customer service etc. After all, if that was something that stood out for them, the chances are it’s a concern for others too.

Getting testimonials and endorsements from celebrities or prominent people in your industry would be great, but not everyone is in a position to do that. So the other option is to use testimonials your customers can relate to. An example would be that if you sold waterproof cameras, a testimonial from a scuba diver would carry more weight than a wedding photographer.

Another thing you can do is to include video testimonials.

Don’t always concentrate on the positive

I know, an odd thing to say, but if your testimonials and reviews give a balanced picture, potential customers are more likely to believe them.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m considering buying a product and all the testimonials are glowing, I will head off to do a bit of independent research. The danger with that is (apart from finding someone who slates your product) I may come across a better deal elsewhere. So give your potential customers a balanced view and prevent them from leaving your website.

All in all, testimonials are a valuable tool for online marketers. They give a real life view of your products and service that should allay many of the fears potential customers may have.

But if you’re going to use them, make sure you follow the tips above and build that all important trust.

Author: Sally Ormond, copywriter at Briar Copywriting Ltd who cycled 300 miles in 24 hours last year.

How to Survive a Work Drought

Work drought

Working for yourself is something many people aspire to, but being self-employed or running your own business is not without its challenges. Unlike a regular job where your salary pops into your bank account every month, being self-employed means your income may sometimes be variable. It’s great when you have more work than you can physically do, but when work dries up for whatever reason, it doesn’t take long for the cash flow to dry up, too. But although this scenario can easily snowball into a nightmare of Stephen King proportions, with a bit of careful planning and some damage limitation strategies in place, you can survive the drought.

Where Has All the Work Gone?

When work dries up, it is a good idea to assess the situation fast. Ask around to see if everyone else in your niche is in the same boat. If they are, you can take a bit of comfort from that. It isn’t ideal, but at least you know others are sharing your pain. If you are the only one struggling, however, think about why that might be the case. Did you put all your eggs in one basket and when a major client bailed you lost a significant portion of your income? If so, learn from this mistake and next time make sure you think about taking on lots of smaller clients instead of one large client, thus spreading the risk.

Saving for a Rainy Day

One lesson I have learned the hard way during my years as a freelancer is that saving for a rainy day is essential—unless you enjoy eating baked beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Since it is inevitable that work availability is sometimes affected by wider economy, the best way to ride out the lean times is to have some savings put away.

When the money is rolling in and you have potential clients beating a path to your door, it is undeniably tempting to think the good times are going to keep on rolling. But as a small business owner, sole trader or freelancer you can’t afford to take such a short-term view. Always, always have savings in reserve to help tide you over when work dries up. This rainy day fund may just keep your business ticking over when everyone around you is going to the wall.

Become a Marketing Whiz

If business has been good for a long time, you have probably gotten out of the habit of marketing your services. After all, why would you need to go looking for work when clients have been calling you? But if work has dried up, it is time to brush up on your marketing skills. Make a point of setting aside a specific amount of time per day to spend on marketing your products or services. Make a list of different methods to try and explore every possible avenue in your efforts to find work.

Tighten Your Belt

Unless you fancy going out with a bang, cutting back on your expenditure is sensible when work is thin on the ground. Look at where you can cut costs. Even finding a cheaper electricity supplier could make a difference—every little helps!

Diversification Rocks

As I have already mentioned, placing all your eggs in one basket is a risky proposition. Should that client refuse to pay or simply disappear one day, it could leave you massively in the lurch. Diversifying your income stream is a sensible plan for lean times. Get creative and consider branching out into different areas or offering new services. Look at your competitors and see how they are coping—and if they are doing something different, give it a go.


No man or woman is an island, and irrespective of what business niche you are in, networking is never a waste of time. Keeping in touch with your peers and potential clients, both in the real world and online, is a useful way of keeping up to speed with what is happening in your niche. At best it could land you a new client, but even if it doesn’t, at least you will benefit from the support of people in the same predicament as you.

Have a Back-Up Plan

Have a backup plan for when times are tough. Hopefully it’s only a temporary situation, but in case the work drought lasts for a while make sure you have a Plan B before you end up in a dire financial predicament. This could involve taking a part-time job to help pay the bills, or even putting your business on hold for a few weeks or months until things pick up again. But either way, do not be tempted to stick your head in the sand in the hope that your problems will go away. They won’t!

As long as you have savings in place and a few creative marketing strategies in mind, there is no reason why you can’t survive the lean times. However, do make sure you learn from your experiences so you can use them to your advantage the next time it all goes pear-shaped.


This post was written by Laura Ginn, owner of Ink Elves, a freelance writing company based in the UK.

The 4 Types of Content Your Website Needs

High street retailers have a major advantage over their online competitors; their customers can see, feel and touch their products and talk to someone about them there and then. 4 types of content

In the world of Internet retail, there are no roaming sales people to have a chat with and no product displays that you can interact with to get a feel for what you’re buying.

That’s why it’s important you get the right balance of content on your website to give your potential customers all the information they need to buy.

4 basic types of content

Some people react better to text, others to images, some videos and then there’s those that love to read reviews. That’s why your website’s content must be a mixture of all of them.

Product information

Your product information copywriting is going to be the main information source for your customers.

It must primarily focus on the benefits the product offers, but also provide everything they need to know about it: size, colours, functionality etc.

A great way to do this is using a mixture of detailed information, high quality photos and customer reviews.


The humble frequently asked questions page is a gold mine of information for your customer. List every question your customer service team is asked to make sure you provide a comprehensive range of questions and answers – even the really tough questions.

How to guides

A bit of educational content will add extra depth to your website. The best way to create ‘how to’ guides is by using video. Short explainer videos can get lots of information across in a very short space of time. You could also opt for a series of images showing step-by-step instructions.

Ratings and reviews

I’m sure you’re fed up with hearing this rather hackneyed phrase, but people really do buy from people.

Customer ratings and reviews give your customers an unbiased view of the product, helping them decide whether it is right for them.

If you have all these elements and wrap them up in a way that is entertaining, informative and shareable, your business will go far.

Why shareable?

Well, if your content is useful and people share it with their friends, they are doing your marketing for you, or friendvertising.

Take a look at your website and see what content you’re offering. Are you ticking all the boxes or are you missing some?

Perhaps there’s another form of content I’ve not thought of that you use to great effect? If so, leave a comment below and tell me what it is. I’d love to hear from you.

Author: Sally Ormond, copywriter at Briar Copywriting Ltd, cyclist, Pinot Grigio fan and very partial to Rowntree’s Pick’n Mix

How to Work With a Copywriter

At the beginning of the year I wrote a post about how to work with a copywriter.

Judging by the shares it got, it’s obviously something people want to know about.

That got me thinking.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to have something similar for my clients on my freelance copywriting business website, Briar Copywriting.

This is the result:

how to work with a copywriter

Guest Blogging for Businesses – How to Avoid the Most Common SEO Pitfalls

Writing guest blogs or paying an SEO company to post guest blogs on your behalf used to be a popular SEO tactic, but according to Matt Cutts, Google is increasingly inclined to view guest blogging as ‘spammy’, which could have serious Guest bloggingconsequences for your business’s website. However, despite the potential dangers guest blogging does still have enormous advantages—but only if you avoid the land mines.


Several years ago, everyone and their dog was writing guest blogs and submitting them to websites all over the internet. Guest blogging was seen as respectable and it was fairly easy to find good quality websites willing to accept a guest blog. But what began life as a natural way of spreading the love soon evolved into something a lot less wholesome. Yes, posting guest blogs as a strategy caught on and before long web masters were sending out poorly written blogs containing numerous ‘do-follow’ links back to the home website with the intent of increasing that site’s link profile.

Why Bother Guest Blogging At All?

Before you throw teddy out of the cot and decide that guest blogging is not worth your while, let me just say that it still does have a place in the greater scheme of things. You must be very careful about how you practice guest blogging, but if done well guest blogging is a very useful way of building a brand and increasing your exposure.

Write and They Will Come

Use guest blogging to establish yourself as an authoritative voice in your niche—if people read your blogs and think what you have to say is interesting, they will want to read more of your posts and are likely to go looking for you online. Guest blogging is also a useful way of building links within your community, which is important if you operate within a small niche. In other words, guest blogging needs to be viewed as a public relations exercise rather than an SEO strategy.

How NOT to do Guest Blogging

There is an art to guest blogging, particularly if you are using it for business purposes, so here are my tips for how NOT to make a mess of it.

The First Hurdle

It is surprisingly difficult to find blogs willing to take guests posts these days. A lot of blog owners have become wise to the problem of spam posts and are now extremely wary about accepting guest blogs from anyone they don’t already know. That said, it isn’t impossible, but to reduce the possibility of crashing and burning at the first hurdle, make sure you don’t do any of the following:

  • Send a one-size-fits-all email pitch – Nobody likes to be the recipient of a generic email, so make sure you write a personal note indicating that you know the blog well and are familiar with its content.
  • Keep it short and sweet – There is little point writing umpteen pages of flattery in the hope that this will get your guest blog published. Most blog owners and web masters are busy people (just like you and I), so keep to the point and be business like and polite.
  • Do your research – Pitching a tech-related guest post to a blog devoted to relationships and dating is doomed to failure.

How to Write a Bad Guest Post

In the bad old days, you might have got away with submitting hundreds of poor quality guest posts to random blogs, but the SEO world has moved on and these days you need to smarten up your act if you want your guest blog to stand any chance of being accepted.

  • Read the blog guidelines – Make sure you check what the blog owner wants from a post. Does he accept links in the post body, or just in the bio? Get this wrong and you may as well forget it.
  • Quality is the key – Poorly written posts containing bad or irrelevant information will not pass muster in the current SEO climate. If you are an expert, write your own posts, or if you are paying someone else to write your content, make sure it is top quality.
  • Relevance – Guest posts need to be relevant to the blog they are written for.
  • Nofollow links – Google has indicated in the strongest terms that nofollow links are the only way forward. Ignore this advice at your peril!

SEO Companies and Guest Blogging

If you, like me, find that there are not enough hours in the day, you could be looking at employing an SEO company to promote your business. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but make sure the company you choose doesn’t end up damaging you by using dodgy SEO practices to produce fast results. Always use an SEO company you can trust—bad ones will not have your best interests at heart and are more likely to adopt all or some of the bad practices I have discussed above.

Guest blogging isn’t dead and buried just yet, but you do need to be careful when using it to build your company’s reputation. And remember, the better quality articles you submit, the more likely it is that you will be invited back!


This post was written by Laura Ginn, owner of Ink Elves, a freelance writing company based in the UK.