The grammar police – does your business really need it?

Does it bug you to see a glaring typo in an email, newsletter or any other correspondence? It does me. And you won’t believe the angst that I go through to stop myself telling my friends that it’s not “Your lovely” but it’s “You’re lovely”.

Grrrr.

You’d be surprised how many people do take umbrage at an email, letter, blog post, tweet or text that contains some technical boo-boo. There are too many social media groups dedicated to this little life annoyance for it to be insignificant. But for some people – particularly those who don’t deal with words and punctuation every single day – these things are just not relevant. They should be.

Now, I don’t want to come across as one of those annoying and pathologically pedantic grammazons, but correct spelling and good grammar is essential for the reputation of your business.

I’ll just use Spellcheck”, I hear you say. “I did GCSE English at school; I can proofread it myself. It’s just checking for spelling mistakes.” Or other variations on the theme.

Well, yes you can do it yourself. But here are two reasons why you shouldn’t.

  1. you are too close to your work, and your eyes will gloss over the mistakes because you have written them. It happens to us all. No, it’s not a matter of reading it several times, because no matter how many times you read it, you will miss tiny, distinct errors.
  2. The second reason is that a spellchecker is only as good as your knowledge of the English language. It will not pick up words that are spelt correctly even if it’s the wrong word so from/form, to/too/two or there/their/they’re.

A proofreader has been trained to read differently – they spot these errors every day.

When I proofread your work, not only will I check for spelling, grammar and punctuation but I’ll also check to ensure the formatting and layout is consistent. I will check the accuracy of page numbering, tables of content, headings, cross-references and illustrations/captions. I’ll check for capitalisation, abbreviations and hyphenation. Spellcheck won’t do that for you

You worked too long and hard to build up the reputation of your business, so don’t publish second-rate writing that’s swimming in errors. Doing so is likely to put many people off working with you. After all, if your writing is shoddy, isn’t it likely your product or service will be too? Substandard work reflects poorly on your business, and you only get one chance to create a good impression with each client. Create polished copy that is grammatically spotless, and it will reflect positively upon your business reputation.

Words are powerful tools. They can inform, inspire, educate and entertain. They can encourage your audience to take action, to buy your product or service. But not if your words are peppered with errors, because mistakes suggest carelessness. Get a proofreader on board and produce words that are worthy of attention.

If you need a proofreader, get in touch at lou@wordbirdy.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

4 Good Reasons your Business needs a Blog

It surprises me when business owners deliberate over having a regular blog post, especially when you look at the figures; WordPress reported that over 409 million people view more than 21.4 billion website pages each month. So, doesn’t it make sense that at least some of your pages are offering timely, relevant and engaging content?

Yet there are still some who question whether blogging is still relevant in today’s social media marketing environment. One customer of mine for instance – “those two blog posts you’ve written for me have not made any difference at all.” Clearly this customer expected the world to come running to his website because he’d published two new blog posts.

Do it right and a REGULAR blog post can benefit your business in a big way. According to Hubspot, businesses that prioritise blogging experience a 13X increase in ROI, year after year. No matter the size of your company, blogging is essential in this highly competitive business environment.

Okay yes, I would say that, blogging is my thing. So here are a few reasons that might convince you.

1.   Blog posts drive traffic to your website

It’s difficult to maintain an active social media presence without offering unique, high-quality content. If you use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, chances are you regularly share others’ content. By posting a blog, you can entice visitors to click through to your own website; to give you the attention you are so generously offering others.

If you send out email newsletters, then you automatically have content to go in it if you’re writing a regular blog post. You are giving your recipients a direct line to your content, and your website, where they might be tempted by your offerings.

2.   Blog posts increase your SEO

Think of blogging as fishing in a big pond; the more hooks (content) you have in the water, the more likely your target market will find your bait. The more content you add to your site, the more your domain becomes indexed in search engines, thereby improving organic search visibility and increasing your traffic.

Regular blogging about your business, industry or product will naturally increase the keywords, topics, and categories you want your business to be found with. Also, the more content you add, the better the chances you have to rank for less common, higher-converting keyword phrases.

Regular fresh blog posts show Google that your business is alive and well and it will reward you with better visibility. If your blog is dying a death because you don’t have the time to update it regularly, then you might be better off not having one at all, but don’t be surprised if your footfall reduces.

3.   Blog posts build authority in your industry

The best blog posts will establish you or your brand as an expert in your field. Writing regularly gives you the platform for sharing important industry-related news and insights, and it shows your knowledge. Over time this builds trust and familiarity and the knowledge source for your niche. This means customers will think of you when they’re ready to buy.

4.   Blog posts help your customer relationships

If you’re looking to differentiate yourself from your competitors then a regular blog post, with your own unique thoughts and insights, is the best way to do it. A blog allows your clients to get to know your business or product and get a feel for how you work, particularly if you respond to comments and questions in your posts. This also shows that you’re open to comments or feedback. This potentially leads to a dialogue whereby you can get an insight into your customers’ needs and you can structure your future content accordingly.

You need to invest time and money in your content publication strategy, beginning with the company blog, to make any difference to search visibility, leads, and sales. Two lonely blog posts a year just won’t cut it. Keep your online presence alive, and your business healthy by committing to a regular and timely blog, if you want to see any significant return.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

How to write a super speedy blog post

Unless you write every day, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to knock out a blog post before your morning Coco Pops. It’s going to take you a while to create something from start to finish that your readers will relish. So, follow this guide to turbo boost your blog post writing.

Keep an ideas file

The most time-consuming part of writing a blog post is doing the research. But it helps enormously if you have an ongoing bank of ideas for when you’ve stretched your posting frequency to its maximum limit, and you MUST create something for your readers.

I keep an Evernote file containing interesting snippets of information that I come across. I refer to this when my idea tubes are blocked. It saves me an incredible amount of time and I don’t have to stress about the next big topic idea.

What should you write about? It very much depends on your business, but you could start with info your customers want to know. Do people complain about some part of your service or industry? What questions are they asking? Can you write a post that will answer some of their questions? Think about the who, when, what, how and why of your industry and you will come up with some great ideas.

Here’s a post I wrote about how you can come up with 100 blog post ideas in one sitting, so you need never be stuck for ideas again.

Write the first draft

So, you have your idea, plucked like a juicy fruit from your ideas list or snippets file. Now, grab a coffee and sit. Close down all social media, so you don’t get distracted by your best mate’s inspirational step-by-step guide to making feather dusters (or other such rubbish). Set a timer for 15 minutes.

Then, do nothing else but write. Whatever you do don’t stop writing, dump it all onto the page, even if the words are utter rubbish, as there will undoubtedly be some shiny nuggets in there somewhere.

When the timer goes, give yourself a pat on the back for your super-human ability to focus your attention for 15 whole minutes. Now you need to go back over your draft, cutting out the dross and filling in any missing bits of information.

Edit

Now it’s time to take your shambolic first draft, tidy it up and get it ready to take its first steps out into the world. Manipulate your words into an appropriate tone, with varying lengths of sentence and short paragraphs. Create subheads from a word or theme that encapsulates the paragraph(s) that follow.

Write your conclusion

You may have some thoughts or sentences in your conclusion already from when you edited the first draft of your body text. But if not, write a section that brings all your thoughts together in several short but succinct sentences. Don’t forget your call to action.

Quick tip – there’s no reason why you cannot write the conclusion before you write your first draft – it will help you focus on the narrative of your post.

Write your introduction

This is the section that will hook your readers so make it count.

It may seem a little arse about face, but write this section last, after you’ve finished researching, writing and editing your post. You’ll know exactly what your work is about and what you want to say, and it’ll be easier to formulate the words to entice the readers to read beyond the intro.

Finally, have a quick read through, ensuring that the transition between the intro, body and conclusion sections doesn’t jar but runs seamlessly from one to the other.

Write the headline

Your headline needs to lure readers in and entice them to read more, so it’s important to get this bit right. But also, titles can help with your search engine optimisation because using popular keywords in your titles can help drive traffic to your blog. So, decide on the headline and check its efficacy using Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer.

Check it over

Make sure you haven’t missed anything important. Then, if it’s relevant, link to other blog posts and provide evidence that backs up your point.

Remember, this is not an A’ level assignment, the world is not going to end if your blog post isn’t perfect. Also, you’re not likely to cover everything on the topic in one post so make a note to cover things you’ve possibly missed in a later post.

However, do check for typos, bad grammar and spelling mistakes. These things can make all the difference to whether someone reads your post, likes what you have to say and revisits, or shuns your site forever. But don’t just rely on your own ability to identify errors. Ask a colleague to check over it or run the text through Grammarly to highlight your grammar howlers.

As a business owner, you’re probably fully aware that regular updates to your website, in the form of blog posts, prompt readers to revisit. If you’re not posting regularly, demonstrating your knowledge of your subject area or new products and services, then they’ll stop bothering to visit and they may just turn to your competitor instead.

Writing blog posts doesn’t have to take all day, but it is important for the success of your business. Obviously, the more you write them the quicker you will get, especially if you have a bank of topics and ideas to call on. So, stick to this guide and you’ll soon be outputting blog posts quicker than it takes to make your morning coffee.

 

Choose quality over quantity

You’ve probably been told a million and 1 times to write blog posts as frequently as every day if possible, to get your words in front of as many eyeballs as you can.

But not only is there other stuff you need to be doing, like running your business or sleeping, but it’s not actually a good idea at all.

I read all those articles too – many years ago when I first started my personal blog. And feeling inspired, I endeavoured to write one article every working day of the week.

What I found was very interesting.

First off, I had no time to make an actual living, and secondly, I was churning out rubbish.

I was so concerned with getting the words down on the page and onto the website that I forgot that readers want quality content. They’re not interested in quantity. By trying to shove content down their throat every day, I was turning people off. There’s so much other brilliant stuff they could be reading that they’re just not interested in the mediocre.

Readers want quality content. They want words that will engage, inform and entertain. Posts that you’ve sweated blood and tears over (or paid someone to sweat blood and tears over).

If this means you can’t get content out every day, then so be it. Better to send out quality posts once a week that will get read, than to send rubbish daily posts that’ll be ignored.

Why create one blog post topic, when you can create 100?

I can feel your pain. You need to get a blog post, complete with images, live by the end of the day but don’t know where to start.  You don’t even have a topic.

Thinking up the topic can be the hardest part of the whole process. You’ll ask yourself – what is the most pressing topic of the moment? What one thing can I write to help the reader find out more about us?

After years of writing blog posts for various clients, I can offer you 13 words of advice when it comes to creating topic ideas for blog posts.

Here goes –

…it’s easier to come up with 100 topics than it is just one.

Why? Well, when you try to access the recesses of your creative minds to come up with that one special blog post idea – the one that embodies everything you want to say, it rarely works. The reason is that you will be expecting too much from that one idea.

You’ll put way too much responsibility on this one idea to be the best. You’ll put too much effort into finding that elusive title, and you’ll read too much into any rubbish thoughts you come up with, just to get the job done.

And if that one idea is not forthcoming, you’ll get desperate and go off to make a coffee to try triggering a better idea. Then you’ll end up getting sidetracked because thinking of just one idea is simply too onerous. This has happened to me many times.

Believe it or not, finding 100 ideas is much easier. Once you start writing down any vaguely blog-topic-shaped idea that comes into your head, more will follow, and more and more.

Go ahead, try it.

When you start listing every conceivable idea you can think of, no matter how absurd, and you don’t care too much about its relevance, you make no judgements about its merits. You are simply dumping your thoughts of ideas down from brain onto the paper or screen.

You may create some trash, but you will also find treasure. You’ll find that ideas pop into your head that you’d never have considered before, or you may come up with different angles that have never occurred to you. Note it down because it doesn’t matter if it’s rubbish. If it truly is rubbish, you can bin it later. But you never know what gleaming treasure you might unearth.

So take action – try listing 100 blog post topics on your business or industry – do it on your lunch break, when your mind is relaxed. The ideas can be impractical, irrelevant or ridiculous – don’t judge, just write.

Let the list sit for a couple of hours or days – then curate. If you’re lucky you’ll have blog post topics to see you through to next year. If not, you’ll at least have 4 or 5 to work with.

Now write the blog post, choosing from your curated list of topics  – simple, because the hardest bit is done.

 

How to organise your work life when work is slow

If you’re a small business owner or a freelancer, you’ll likely to have days when not much is happening. If you’re anything like me then you’ll start panicking that you’ll never get work ever again. At times like this, I tend to frantically refresh my inbox every 5 seconds in the vain hope that some work will pop right in there, and I’ll meal plan baked beans on toast for the rest of the year.

Thankfully, it always turns around, and I soon have more work than I can cope with – a definite case of feast or famine. And as this has happened many times in the past, I’ve learned to just go with the flow and use the free time to do a little spring cleaning and get rid of the clutter (Marie Kondo would be proud). They say that a tidy workspace is a tidy mind and it’s true because once the work does start pouring in again, I’ll feel much more in control.

Here’s a simple list of things you can do to get through the quiet period and make sure you’re prepared for when the elephants start stampeding again.

  1. Organise client work – my husband often reprimands me for the disorganisation of my client files, so making sure all my client work is in the correct folder is the first thing I do. If you create subfolders for different types of work, you always know where to find something.
  2. Check your invoices – you probably haven’t had the time to keep on top of invoices – so bring everything up-to-date now, ensuring that there are no missing payments. You can also update business expenses now too.
  3. Outline your goals for the coming week, month, year. What are you looking to achieve? What can you do to make sure you get there? What will your business look like this time next year if you achieve everything you hope?
  4. Plan some time networking – find your tribe online or book onto some network meetings, you may meet some potential new clients.
  5. Clean up – do a bit of housework and clear out your inbox of stuff you no longer need, especially if it’s going back a few years. Aim for inbox zero. Put what’s left into email folders.
  6. Remove email subscriptions – If they no longer serve you, cull them. Questions to ask as you’re doing it; how is this helping my business? Am I learning new skills or information? Does it fit with the goals I’ve outlined? If not, it’s just clutter.
  7. Revive your website – check that it’s up-to-date. Do you have new projects to add to your portfolio? Can you get some more testimonials?
  8. Update your LinkedIn profile – Does it include your most recent experience and goals? Freshen it up a little and look at it from the point of view of a prospective client.
  9. Update Buffer – add in some new articles to periodically tweet, including older evergreen posts. Update your social media marketing plan – keep that connection with followers going.
  10. Take a long walk and consider all the ways you can improve your business, market yourself and get some new clients.

That’s it. Just a few things you can do to make the most of a quiet phase. You’ll feel in control and ready to tackle the inevitable upcoming busy period with ease.

Over to you. What else can you do to get your life organised?

 

Image by Pixabay

 

When should I be marketing? Answer: Always!

I was asked by a small business owner – When and how often should I be marketing? How much time should I devote to it each day?

Marketing is not something you should turn on and off when you have a spare moment. Whether it’s writing a tweet, an email or a blog post or speaking to people at a network meeting, you should be marketing your business or your brand all the time.

Marketing is not something you can outsource and forget about. Whatever you are doing, you and everyone in your company should be marketing. Whenever you communicate with people, you are marketing your business.

Sending an email is marketing your business – you should be showing the recipient that you are efficient, diligent and reliable. So, write all your emails to reflect this.

Every time you speak about your business – whether it’s to clients, suppliers or staff – you are marketing your business.

Every time you go over and above the call of duty, you are marketing your business as one that cares.

Every time you make it easy for someone to buy something from you, you are marketing your business as one that wants happy customers.

Conversely,

Every time a customer has to wait to get hold of you, you are marketing your business (the wrong way) *

Every time you publish a blog post or web copy with spelling and grammar mistakes, you are marketing your business (the wrong way) *

And, every time you try to hide mistakes your company has made, you are marketing your business (the wrong way) *

Whatever you are doing, or whatever the customer’s experience of your business, you are revealing it in a certain light – make sure it’s a positive one.

 

*This is the perfect opportunity to admit to your mistakes and turn things around = a positive marketing message.

6 ways to titivate with ‘dry’ content

I love the challenge of writing about something completely new and different – topics that are completely outside of my comfort zone. But, when I was asked by a manufacturing company to write blog posts about their machines, I have to admit, I was a little bit anxious.

Machinery is quite a complex topic to write about with all those CNCs (Computerised Numerical Control to the uninitiated) and whatnots, and one might think, quite a dry subject. So, how would I make machines that bend metal interesting to the reader?

If you work in a less that glamourous industry, there is a risk that reader’s eyes will start to glaze over as soon as they read your headline. Others, however, might get a little fizzle of excitement for your kind of content. It doesn’t matter what your industry or niche, you can get more readers interested in what you have to say, if you say it in the right way.

So, if you’re working in a snooze-worthy industry, there are ways you can make your web content more exciting.

  1. Be helpful – Aim your content at the specific questions or problems you think reader’s may have. Make it educational and informative but keep it simple
  2. Avoid jargon – If you don’t want people nodding off, or clicking off, to a competitor, write so they will understand you, avoiding industry acronyms and business babble –the stuff that makes it like wading through treacle.
  3. Keep it lighthearted – Imparting your words using a lighthearted tone, a few humorous touches and avoiding too much seriousness adds a bit of spark and will keep your audience’s attention for much longer.
  4. Use examples to illustrate – show how your product or service is relatable to the real world, in terms readers can understand.
  5. Keep it short and sweet – particularly important. Readers have a short attention span as it is so the less time it takes them to get through a paragraph, the more likely they’ll get to the last sentence without nodding off.
  6. Break it up – you don’t want to overwhelm readers with large blocks of text so break it up into easily digestible paragraphs and include plenty of images, bullets, sub-headings etc. to keep things interesting. Also, try using other formats to entertain your readers such as video or GIFs.

It doesn’t matter if you make window frames for a living or nuts and bolts, try some of these approaches to jazz up your content, and your audience will be hooked.

Should you write your own website copy?

Yes, you should.

You are the only person who knows your business inside out. So, yes of course you should write it.

But can you?

If you have the skills to write in a way that puts your business in its best light, and you can do it quickly so that it doesn’t take time away from your other tasks, then absolutely you can.

Professional copywriters are not cheap, but they are worth it if you want copy that reflects your business in the best way, is targeted to your specific audience and is written to a high professional standard.

Step away from the nuts

I’m sure you’ve heard that adage – ‘If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys’. What this means is that if you pay £5 for a page of copy, then you’ll get rubbish copy that is not SEO friendly, not user-focused, not conversation-rate optimised and does not make for the best user experience. It’s just not worth it.

Do you want the best of both worlds?

If you’re short on budget, but feel that you’re the only one who knows your business well enough to write effective copy then you could get your written copy checked over. A professional copyedit will include checking for spelling and grammar, ensuring there is no awkward word placement, and inspecting for dodgy sentence structure.

It’s definitely worth it.

 

Photo credit: Barry Davis Cute Monkey

Keep your word

Do you have a mission statement that is a declaration of commitments that you put into action with integrity? Or is it just a load of blather on a page that nobody ever looks at? Is it peppered with words like ‘solution’ and ‘strategy’ that sound smart but means nothing?

Do you have a telephone ‘hold’ message that waffles on about how your company is committed to customer service? Yet you keep your customers hanging on the phone for ages because you don’t employ enough staff to take calls?

Do your blog posts spout about how good your product or service is and how dedicated you are to your customers but in reality, are colourfully embellished?

If your mission statement, your ‘hold’ message or your blog posts tell the story of a company committed to doing what’s best for your customers then you should be demonstrating that value in the work you do.  Don’t say or write it if you don’t truly believe in it.

Customers read blog posts to find out about your company. They want some reassurance that they can rely on you to deliver the goods or service to the quality and timescale that they expect.

They will also smell BS from a mile off so if you aren’t committed to the values that you promote, if you don’t believe it, and demonstrate it – then why should anyone trust you and give your business their money or their time?

 

Image credit: thenails Wall Street Bull