Category Archives: Copywriting ideas

Revealed: what you get when you pay $5 for an SEO article…

This is my 100th blog post, so I thought it had better be a cracker.

peanuts

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve long wondered what buyers actually get when they pay ‘peanuts’ for SEO articles or other copywriting on sites such as Elance, Fiverr and others of their ilk. I’d heard about the problems with poorly-written copy, writers who don’t have English as their first language and so on…

To find out what professional copywriters are up against from the so-called copy mills, I recently tried a little experiment. Here’s what happened…

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in article writing, Marketing, Website and SEO copywriting, technical and PR copywriting.

Graphic design and copywriting: a lesson from Rio’s favelas

Rio’s sprawling hillside favelas – shanty towns – are a long way from this Gloucestershire copywriter’s beat. And they might seem a strange place to find a reminder about the importance of graphic design and copywriting working together for the clearest possible communication. But that, indeed, is what I saw on an impressive BBC2 documentary last night.

The Gloucestershire Copywriter loved Welcome to Rio, Part 1 'Peace'

Welcome to Rio on BBC 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was watching Part 1 of BBC’s pre-World Cup documentary series Welcome to Rio. I’m not a massive football fan, but it looked interesting and, having recently spent a couple of days in Brazil, I decided to watch. The programme, which looked at the lives of people living in Rio’s favelas, gave a fascinating insight into the challenges faced by the residents as they survive with pirated electricity, broken white goods salvaged from Rio’s posh districts and inspiration from some of the most stunning dawn views over Copacabana beach and Corcovado.

A few words make things easier for everyone

The Cantagalo residents featured in this observational series included Brazilian ‘Banksey-style’ graffiti artist Acme. In one scene, Acme is communicating his feelings for the enforced dismantling of the favela with an impressive artwork featuring an octopus (the authorities) and a shark (the people). As he finishes the metres-long painting, a police officer asks what it is about, drags out of Acme the notion of oppressed people battling against the establishment, then suggests that a few words might make the idea easier for everyone to understand.

Get your copywriter in early

And there was the lesson. Too often, as a busy Cheltenham copywriter, I get called into a project when the brochure design is complete or a website is nominally ‘finished’. I do my best, but how much better it is for the client when I work alongside their graphic designer or website company from the start to produce a design solution where words and images complement each other and communicate the desired message.

In fact, since returning from South America, I’ve been working with Stroud-based graphic designer Sam Hemmings (Design Fibre) to create a new brochure for retail location specialist Maximise (UK) Ltd. The project was a joy, with a fantastic client and great chemistry between Sam and I as the classic copywriter-designer creative team.

When words and images work together – it’s perfect

Oh yes! As that Rio cop explained to the exceptionally talanted Acme, perfect communication comes when words and design work together. Now, let’s hope that the England team gel as well as Sam and I did when they take to the pitch in next month’s World Cup.

Let’s hope for Gol! Gol! Gol! (as they say in Rio!) And before that, there are two more episodes of Welcome to Rio to watch over the next couple of weeks…

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

The Gloucestershire Copywriter loves these clever airline snack boxes…

I saw a neat combination of cardboard engineering and copywriting while in Argentina recently and thought I’d share it with you.

We made several internal flights with Aerolinas Argentinas and got used to their little in-flight snack boxes. The cleverly engineered containers tick all the boxes. They flatten for distribution, fold into shape easily for filling with tasty treats and carry interesting snippets of information about several top tourist attractions in Argentina. Aerolinas Argentinas even have a Facebook page about them.

Snack boxes from Aerolinas Argentinas – intellgent packaging design meets copywriting at 39,000 feet

Smart packaging design meets intelligent copywriting

Engaging copy

What I particularly liked was the use of brief-but-engaging copy inside the box. As well as the interesting information about the destinations on the airline’s network, there were calls to action for planning trips and booking tickets, reminders about keeping cellphones off at the start and end of flights, and an invitation to scan a QR code to download and assemble more boxes from the airline’s website. We just made sure we collected the full set of five during our flights…

Thoughtful design

It would have been so easy just to make a colourful box for the snacks. But what somebody has done here is to think about how they can use the box to inform and entertain passengers – as well as plugging the airline. It’s an intelligent use of packaging copy. In fact, it got me thinking that I wouldn’t mind being associated with a copywriting project like this one. I knew the years I spent in packaging in the 1990s would come in useful one day!

aerolinasargentinas

Turning onto finals during the approach to Ushuaia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I say good for Aerolinas Argentinas – and they were a much better airline than I had expected – and well-done to the designer chappie (or ‘chappess’) who came up with this somewhere in Argentina.

Felicitaciones!

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

7 words that engage readers – a tip from the Gloucestershire Copywriter…

I was excited when NLP specialist Paul Goddard offered to share seven powerful words with us at Win-Biz Networking recently.

What Paul said resonated with me – I’ve been aware of this for a long time and regularly use these (and other) powerful words in my copywriting. Persuasive copy, containing powerful subliminal messages, needn’t be restricted to ‘high pressure’ American-style sales letters. Used judiciously, the seven ‘magic’ words have an important place in B2C and B2B copywriting – and the written communications we use every day at home or work.

So what are these amazing words?

  • Because
  • Now
  • Imagine
  • Please
  • Thank you
  • Control
  • The name of the person you are communicating with

seven words that will improve your writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s consider them one by one.

Because

Paul used the oft-quoted example of the 1970s research involving a photocopier queue, and how the researcher’s ability to jump the line increased markedly when they added ‘because I need to make copies’ to their request. This is sometimes referred to as ‘the photocopier effect‘.

The lesson? Whether in written or spoken communication, using because strengthens the persuasiveness of your case. It could be on your website homepage or your next email. Either way, used with subtlety, this is a powerful word.

Now

As every direct-response copywriter knows, now adds urgency and encourages action from the recipient of your message.

Try it – NOW!

Imagine

This, as John Lennon’s songwriting has proved for decade, is a wonderful tool for getting someone to think ahead and envisage a scene, a benefit or a feeling. By asking your reader to imagine something, you can put any idea into their head.

For instance, imagine a bear on a jet ski, or the time you’ll free up for other business tasks if you hire a professional to do your copywriting. (And please note how the latter example is so much more useful for your business than the first one!)

Got it? Great! Now imagine using this technique in future.

Please

Because basic courtesies still matter. You’d say please in conversation, so why on earth wouldn’t you do so when you write.

Please remember this next time you write.

Thank you

For the same reason as above. Thank you!

Control

Another subtle one to be used with discretion. We all like to feel in control, especially when we’re trying something new or being asked to make a commitment. That’s why, as writers, it makes sense to remind your reader that they are in control.

They will have control. And so will you.

Use their name

I don’t mean for every other word as is so beloved of sales people who are trying too hard. What I mean is the judicious use of someone’s name to personalise your communication. When Paul Goddard spoke to us he was using the example with reference to spoken communication, but the same applies to writing – by addressing a spec-approach to a named individual , rather than to Dear Sir/Madam, for example.

In copywriting, where you don’t know the names of all the people who are reading your brochure or website page, you achieve a similar effect by using ‘yo’u and ‘your’s in your copy. It ties in with the idea of writing as we speak, of communicating directly with the person who is reading your copy at that moment. As well as personalising your message, use of more ‘you’ than we, emphasises that your message is more about your reader than you. That’s important.

You will do this in your writing won’t you.

Start using these powerful words today

So there they are, seven powerful words that you can start using today to enhance your written and spoken communications and give you subtle control – that’s because they work.

It takes practice to deploy them effectively in your business writing. That’s why an experienced marketing, technical or SEO copywriter might be your new best friend. If you don’t have the time, special skills or inclination to write your own SEO copy, brochure content or client case studies, imagine  the benefit of some professional help.

If that’s the case for you, please contact me now. In any case, please leave a comment after this post and tell me which words you find most powerful when you communicate – and why.

Thank you!

is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

What makes a Gloucestershire copywriter?

Hot on the heels of my last post about CV writing, I took a trip down my own career memory lane when former boss, Martin Clarke OBE, got in touch for a chat about some writing support. As well as his briefing, our conversation was a great opportunity to revisit old times – and to remember former colleagues who are no longer with us.

Martin is one of those super-influential people that everyone should meet during their career (another is Mike Rigby, from whom I learned so much about PR writing at MRA before going freelance). Now the chief executive of the British Precast Concrete Federation (the recent OBE was a well-deserved reward for services to the concrete industry), Martin was the group marketing manager at ARC (later part of the Hanson plc empire) when we worked together in the 1980s.

Reminiscing over coffee reminded me about the importance of the diverse experience we gather throughout a career. From childhood, I was always interested in graphics and writing, yet, by twists of fate and circumstance, my CV shows 15 years of selling, market research report writing, marketing management and technical writing before I launched my own business as one of the copywriters in Cheltenham.

Sometimes during that time I felt I wasn’t on the right course, but with time and focus on what I really wanted to do, I moved myself into the place I’m meant to be – and where, I believe, I was always meant to be.

So what about those years in quarries, selling mortar to hard-nosed contracts managers, or estimating for a packaging operation (alongside the PR writing), or managing promotional projects for Bradstone Garden Products? Looking back at my CV, and the years of experience it represents, I can now see with startling clarity the value of all those experiences. And so, I believe, do my clients. You see, I’m not some Johnny (or Jilly) come lately aspiring copywriter fresh out of college with their shiny English degree. I’ve been round the block a few times, and the quarry, and the packaging works, and the aerospace tech pubs department and the PR agency, and it all adds up to what makes me, well, ‘me’.

Add a bit of innate writing ability, some creativity and a lot of writing practice to those experiences and you have a unique resource: someone who really understands industry and business and marketing; someone who’s been where you are and stood in your shoes. Someone who can convert what you do into a meaningful story for your chosen audience.

Yes, sometimes it’s good to look back and reflect on what shaped the person you are now. And why certain things happened (or why you made them happen).

Then you look to the future and apply everything you’ve learned to the next copywriting project.

is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

You can benefit from what this Gloucestershire copywriter’s been up to…

I occasionally indulge in a little bit of self-promotion on the blog, especially when it demonstrates the real benefits that a Cheltenham copywriter like me can bring to clients like you.

Today is one of these indulgences. so I thought I’d showcase a couple of recent projects, both drawing on my SEO copywriter skills and experience for Gloucestershire businesses. Both websites, for a local chauffeur-butler service and a specialist recruitment consultancy, also involved carefully designed tone of voice and brand language. In one case inspired by a much-loved fictional character from the 1920s (very subtly, to avoid any sense of parody); in the other, based on the combined characteristics of a prominent business and media celebrity and a popular TV chef.

Homepage for Azure Chauffeur Driven Luxury Cars, Charlton Kings, Gloucestershire

Homepage for Azure Chauffeur Driven Luxury Cars, Charlton Kings, Gloucestershire – SEO copy by Al Hidden, Gloucestershire Copywriter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When working out a voice for my copy, I often ask clients to think of a prominent media figure who they feel suits their brand. As well as giving them something concrete to imagine, this also gives me an accessible reference source using YouTube, iplayer and other online sources. It’s amazing what characteristics you can pick up by listening to or analysing a couple of hours of TV or radio presentation. Then it’s just a matter of judiciously applying the agreed tone of voice to the copy – enough to give the inner dialogue in the reader’s mind a bit of colour, but not too much.

New website for Bluefish Contracting Ltd

Website copywriter for Bluefish Contracting Ltd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first came across this technique when a client, after hiring a respected branding consultancy, briefed me to write as 80 per cent Kevin McCloud and 20 per cent adventurer Steve Backshall. The key moment came when the client reviewed the first draft and expressed surprise at a particular turn of phrase. I explained that Kevin would definitely have said that – I knew because I’d watched quite a bit of his content and transcribed over an hour’s worth during my research.

‘You went to all that trouble?’ asked the client, obviously impressed.

‘Of course,’ I explained. ‘Wouldn’t anyone?’ It just seemed like the obvious way to tackle the challenge I’d been set.

Since then, I’ve increasingly used this technique as web and brochure copywriter for various clients. It’s surprisingly easy to do (well, I find it so) and it gives great results. So if you’d like your website copywriting in the voice of anyone from David Dimbleby to Julia Bradbury, just let me know. I may be Al Hidden the Gloucestershire copywriter, but I can be anybody you like for a modest project fee!

And your website or brochure copy will come alive because I have this skill.

is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

A plan after Growing Gloucestershire 2013… then it changes

I had a plan and it was a good one. After attending the impressive Growing Gloucestershire 2013 conference I’d sit down and write a load of blogs that had come to me during the presentations. Each would be brief but powerful and I’d have them all done within 24 hours. Then real life intervened.

Loads of new clients

A new client (there seem to have been quite a few of you recently – thank you!) urgently needed conventional and online press release writing for their client. How could I resist, it was for the architectural sector and I love writing for building design and construction related services. Then Mrs H took us off for a couple of days in Wales (only just though) – strictly no work allowed. Then long-standing client Energist needed a load of emails and postcard copy, plus a reworked website page on the run in to new Part L Building Regulations. And in the middle of all this I lost a couple of days through post-concussion syndrome. Copywriter: 6-feet tall; low office ceiling beam: 5-foot nine inches. Moment’s attention lapse. Ouch!

Catching up after Growing Gloucestershire 2013

So here I am nearly two weeks later, having just caught up with my post-Growing Gloucestershire LinkedIn contacts, celebrating the completion of a stunning 26-page aerospace-defence brochure, recovering from a sore head and I’m still buzzing with the excitement of the conference at The University of Gloucestershire’s Park campus.

For this Cheltenham copywriter, the two high points were Dame Fiona Reynolds’ comment about how the National Trust (NT) handled rebranding and brand language on her watch. I asked whether brand language work had gone alongside the visual branding work. She assured me that it had, and told me how she had banned the use of jargon, insisted on the use of we and us and emphasised the use of ‘our’ when talking with members and prospective members of the charity. What about the use of ‘You’ – after all, this is one of the biggest differences one can make when talking with readers in print. But no, and for a very good reason.

Brand language at the National Trust – ‘we, us and our’

The whole NT rebranding was about a shared brand experience (have you noticed how National Trust restorations are now much more open to visitors?). In order to get that openness across in their brand language, this particular communication challenge used ‘we, us and our’ to emphasise that the new charity was a shared resource.  I get that in this particular case, but there’s still a hugely important role for more-you-than-we in most business communication –as I showed my recent client to his delight in the aforementioned aerospace brochure copywriting. More on that in a future post.

The importance of grammar, spelling and proofreading

My second highpoint at Growing Gloucestershire was a point made by the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Fiona Spencer in a presentation on 10 Top Marketing Tips. Given that a lot of her content was high-level marketing stuff, I was thrilled to discover that Tip 10 was the importance of proofreading and Fiona’s assertion that spelling and grammar still matter. That’s a big +1 to that. As I am forever telling anyone who will listen, you’ve got to be aware of the dangers of the hidden assassins (the gunshot that kills before you hear its sound) in your copywriting. Particularly online where the subtlest annoyance can send a visitor off to another part of the InterWeb before you know it. That’s where a skilled copyeditor and proofreader can transform your draft writing.

Bye, bye sore head…

So there you have it. A few thoughts inspired by Growing Gloucestershire and only two weeks late – for very good reasons. Watch this space for more… And, by the way, my head’s a lot better thank you. Which is why I can write this instead of curling grumpily in a corner while the room spins uncontrollably and bad elves hammer 6-inch nails into my skull as they seemed to be doing last Friday.

Good job too. There’s a load more copywriting on its way in the shape of client case studies and website/SEO copy, Write on Al!

is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.