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How to get blogging basics right (aka I made mistakes, so you don’t have to)

Blogging basics
Image by Suzy Hazlewood via Pexels

If you’re just starting out writing a business blog it’s important to get the basics right. On the other hand, if you’ve been going for ages, it’s still worth checking to see if you’ve developed any bad habits. I’ve made every blogging mistake going (please don’t look, it’s embarrassing). When I look back on some of my early blogs now, they make me cringe. It’s made me realise how important it is to get the basics right. Here are my top 5 blogging basics that will get you started (or back on the right track).

Know your audience

Sorry if you’ve got déjà vu; I sometimes feel as if I start every blog post with this. The thing is, knowing who you’re talking to is absolutely fundamental. It’s not about excluding anyone; you’re just focusing your time and energy on the people who are most likely to need what you offer. When you have a clear idea of who they are and what they care about, it’s much easier to talk to them. That way you’ll create blog posts that make people feel heard and understood and not underwhelmed.

Don’t make assumptions

You might already know who your ideal customer is, but you’re cursed with knowledge. That makes life easy if you’re talking to other experts in your industry. Otherwise, it can be a challenge to work out how much (or little) your readers already know. The last thing you want is to drive your audience away by talking down to them or blinding them with science.

If you aren’t sure whether your audience is familiar with a particular topic or their level of knowledge, ask! Social media is great for this. You can use your own platforms or ask in other groups to get a wide range of opinions and create content at the right level.

Don’t dilute your message

I know that there are lots of entrepreneurs out there with a whole range of interests. They’re also incredibly skilled at distinguishing between the different parts of their business or showing how all the different elements combine to help you achieve the results you want. Why does this matter? It’s because it takes time for people to work out what you do then they’ll forget if you don’t keep reminding them. If they see you shift to only talking about something else, they’ll assume you’ve stopped doing the first thing.

Choose your tone

This is another reason why knowing your customer is on my list of blogging basics. You can choose the right tone of voice based on what they need and what they expect from you. The way you talk to a client as a solicitor is likely to be quite different to the approach you take as a beautician. Professionalism doesn’t have to be stiff and formal but it’s still worth bearing in mind. You might want to shake things up in your industry, but it should be on purpose!

Be consistent

If you start a blog then ignore it for a year, your potential customers might wonder whether you’re still in business. It might just be that they couldn’t keep up with their own schedule. When you start blogging, aim for a realistic view about how much you can achieve in terms of quantity and quality. A good blog post once a month is way better than a rubbish one every week. If you’re already blogging and the quality has dropped, do less.

Do you need help with getting your blogging basics right? I can help with that. Just click here to book your no obligation chat.

Alternatively, if you’d like blogging and writing hints and tips straight to your inbox every month, just fill in the form below. I’m a vegetarian so I hate spam and will never share your information with anyone else.

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Why I wish we’d stop comparing COVID-19 to the Blitz

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

I was listening to the news recently and heard Michael Rosen talking about ‘that’ Downing Street cheese and wine party that wasn’t a party. As you might remember, Michael is a poet who was hospitalized with Covid-19 and spent several weeks in intensive care. He compared lockdown to the blitz during World War 2. Here’s the quote that stuck with me:

“Instead of the equivalent of wreaths at the Cenotaph, what we’re getting is ‘oh, we were partying while you were doing that’.”

Michael Rosen

It bothered me and I couldn’t work out why. Then I realised that we’ve been hearing this kind of Blitz spirit stuff all the way through lockdown. It’s the people who say you’d never have survived if you’re hoarding toilet rolls or can’t even cope with staying at home. They say that everyone pulled together and no-one was out for themselves. The trouble is, it’s rubbish.

Michael Rosen was right

When Michael Rosen was talking about the Downing Street gathering, he referred to the social trauma that we’ve all been through in the last two years. In that sense, it’s a fair comparison. We’ve been isolated from our loved ones and faced huge uncertainty. We’ve longed to get back to normal (whatever that might mean). There has also been fear. We might not have faced being sent out to a foreign battlefront, but we’ve certainly dealt with the reality that a bomb might drop in viral form.

We don’t know what the long-term impact of Covid-19 will be. The Blitz generation grew up (and grew old) in a world very different from this one. I’m still absolutely certain that comparing our society to that one isn’t helping.

People cheated during the Blitz too

The reason I have a problem with the whole idea of a modern day ‘Blitz spirit’ is that it glosses over historical reality. There’s a nostalgia which imagines that every generation before this one was somehow perfect. We’re fed a wartime image where every neighbourhood pulled together. The trouble is, not everyone did. There were lots of examples of neighbours looking after each other and community groups organising resources and support. But then, as now, there were plenty of people out for themselves too. The blackout provided plenty of opportunities for crime. People behaved badly when they got the chance because they didn’t know when the bombs would drop. Even fundamentally decent people found ways to bend the rules. Which reminds me…

The rules are different this time

Covid-19 brought a set of rules that separated us from our loved ones so we’d all stay safe. In the 1940s my dad didn’t see his parents for months at a time because he was in a ship on the Atlantic. Near the end of his life, he told me that every day had been a bonus since then. He knew that a torpedo could come through at any moment and it would all be over. The difference was that when you got the chance to let off steam, you could do it in a crowd. The party that’s unforgiveable now would have been part of life then. The trauma might be the same but we processed it differently.

Why am I telling you this? It’s because even though no two lives are the same, we’ve all got shared experiences and it’s important to talk about them. You might not think that your personal stories can translate to your business marketing, but they can. If you’d like to find out how, send me an email or book a call and let’s have a chat.

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Case study – rewriting website copy for Photography by Jess Iliffe

A baby who's completely oblivious to the importance of good website copy.
Photo credit: Photography by Jessica Iliffe

Jess Iliffe has the best job in the world (obviously I do too, but hers is still fantastic). She gets to hang out with cute babies and their parents all day and take the most beautiful pictures. I met Jess networking (no surprises there) and her passion for her business shines through in everything she does. There’s nothing quite like seeing someone’s eyes light up when they talk about their work. Jess’ enthusiasm could power a whole town. We’d known each other for a while and I’d already written a couple of Facebook posts for her when she was too busy to think. Then, one day, she said “I need to update the copy on my website.”

The challenge

When I looked at Jess’ website, there wasn’t much wrong with it. As a photographer who specialises in photographing babies from birth to one year she has a very visual business and there are loads of gorgeous photos on her site. In other words, exactly what her potential customers need to see. We wanted to let the images take centre stage but still give potential clients the information they need. This included explaining how Jess works and what the costs of her service might be. Jess had also found that people were getting confused about pricing and wanted to make the whole thing clearer.

The solution

I started off by reviewing Jess’ existing website and making some recommendations about ways we could improve the copy. Then we had a chat over lunch so I could get a clear picture of the kind of clients she works with and the overall feel she wanted her new site to create.

Then I went away and wrote new copy. This included creating a friendly call to action that will encourage people to get in touch. I also added new descriptions to her services page and updated the pricing descriptions to make the whole thing clearer.

After a busy Christmas and New Year Jess hasn’t got round to updating her site just yet, but I’ll keep you posted. If you’re expecting a baby and would love to capture some truly beautiful images of their first days, I highly recommend you give Jess’ site a visit.

Does your website need a bit of a refresh? I can help with that. Just send me a message or book a chat here.

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How to write your website homepage

Photo by Monoar Rahman from Pexels

Your website homepage is the main point of entry for new visitors unless they’ve clicked through to read a blog post. It’s one of the most powerful tools you have for attracting new customers but it’s also easy to lose people if you don’t get it right. A website is an ever-evolving thing that you change as you learn more or your business changes, but here are just a few homepage basics to get you started.

Show visitors you have what they need (or not)

When a new visitor lands on your homepage you only have a few seconds to make an impression. It’s important that your headline shows them you can help. It could be as simple as saying who you work with and what you do. If you sell products you could start with images and a bit of explanatory content like ‘beautiful jewellery handmade in the UK’. If that’s what they’re looking for they’ll stay and dig deeper. They’ll leave if it isn’t for them and you’ve only lost someone who wouldn’t have bought anyway.

Show your human side

Even huge corporations have photographs of the people who run the show and it’s even more important when you’re a small business. Showing your face and those of your team (if you have one) helps your future customers to trust you. Include an image along with a brief bio on your home page and you start building a relationship straight away. Your home page shouldn’t be weighed down with too much text so add a click through to your ‘about me’ or ‘meet the team’ page for more.

Make information quick and easy to find

When you write your website homepage, give your visitor enough information but not too much. Put important stuff near the top then work down. (Beyond making sure visitors know they’re in the right place, there are no hard and fast rules. It’s one of those things you can play with and test over time.) Easy navigation is also key. If someone knows exactly what service they want, help them find it. If they need help working it out, signpost them to relevant information; that could be key blog posts, FAQs or a questionnaire.

Include testimonials

If you’re starting out you might not have testimonials yet, but they’re so valuable. They let potential customers see that you’ve helped real people like them. You’re not just telling them you’re good. It works on social media too – you’re much more likely to buy from someone if you can see that your friends like them as well. The technical term is social proof – it’s the digital marketing equivalent to asking around. Start gathering testimonials as soon as you can – I’m rubbish at this so it’s advice for me as much as you.

Contact details

This seems stupidly obvious but make it easy for people to buy. If you have an online shop this should be simple but if you don’t, show people how to book your services. Make it clear and straightforward on your homepage. Also, let people know what to do if they have a question. Give them a contact form. Put your email address or phone number in a prominent place and ask them to use that. This doesn’t just help them – it means that when you get questions you won’t miss them.

Are you trying (and struggling) to write your website homepage (or the rest of your website content)? I can help with that. Just click here to book your no obligation chat.

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Writing website content: how you can get started

This image of a computer screen might look pretty but writing website content is equally important.
Photo by Format from Pexels

First, a disclaimer. I know a lot about writing website content, but not so much about the techy side. Let’s just say I know what I need to do to keep everything ticking over. If you want to know how to build a website there are lots of DIY guides out there, or you could just talk to my good friend Clare McCabe at Purple Star Design. She’s ace. So, if you’ve got the technical basics sorted, here’s how you can get started with writing your website content.

Work out what your website needs to do and who it’s for

This might seem obvious, but your website design depends on who you’re trying to reach and what your business does. If you have an ecommerce business you’ll need a shop, product descriptions and a way to take payment. Your website is an amazing tool to help you generate new leads. If you offer a service and get work mostly from referrals you might only need a brochure site that shows your expertise. As with everything in marketing, the language you use depends on who you want to talk to.

Start with basic keywords

Even if you haven’t gone down the SEO rabbit hole yet, it’s worth thinking about keywords early on and getting your site set up to include them from the start. You can keep this simple to begin with. What words might your customers use to find you? This could be the service itself (i.e., hairdresser) or a type of product (children’s clothes). They might ask a question that leads them to you even though they don’t know the name of your service. Start like this and you can build as you go.

Show visitors they’re in the right place

When a new visitor finds your website, you’ve only got a few seconds to make an impression. Your home page is likely to be the main entry point so make sure they know what they’re getting from the start. Share the most important information first and keep it clear and concise. If you have a lot to say on a particular topic, create a separate page and invite visitors to click through if they’re interested.

While I’m at it, keep your page titles simple and clear. You’ll lose visitors if they can’t find what they want because you’ve called it something obscure or overly clever.

Share the transformation

I could write reams on this (and probably will) but the most important thing about writing website content is that is needs to engage your visitors’ emotions. They’ve landed on your website because they’re looking for something. Whatever it is, there is always an emotional need as well as a practical one. It could be wanting to buy someone the perfect present or feeling desperate because their baby won’t sleep. Show them that you understand where they are and where they could be with your help.

Include a call to action

What do you want visitors to do once they’ve found you? Buy something or book a call for a chat? Make it easy for them to do that. What if they’re not ready to take that step? Think about something they could do that’s less of a commitment, that keeps you in their mind while they’re deciding. Offer them any additional information they might need. Invite them to follow you on social media or sign up to your email list so you can keep in touch.

Are you trying (and struggling) with writing website content? I can help with that. Just click here to book your no obligation chat.

Alternatively, sign up to my mailing list for writing and marketing tips straight to your inbox every month.

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