Category Archives: Copywriting Skills

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.

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Atten-shun! Military to civilian transition CV writing

I had the opportunity to deploy my military CV writing service for a client recently.  I’m not one of the mass-CV generators; there are plenty of people offering this service. What I offer is a bespoke service for anyone who wants the attention to detail, fact-finding and writing that a professional copywriter can offer – especially if it’s a military to civilian CV, with all the special challenges this brings.

army

My most recent client, approaching the end of their military career, fell into this category and presented all the challenges of military CV writing: the requirement to demilitarise terminology; the need to turn military experience and achievements into benefits that will appeal to civilian employers; and the usual CV presentation challenges. At least there was plenty of great material to work with; members of the armed forces come with amazingly varied experience, loads of training and a wealth of skills  that should set civilian employers’ mouths watering. It’s well known that, once the transition to a less rigidly structured civilian working environment is managed effectively, ex-military personnel have loads to offer in business or administration – particularly in areas such as transport, logistics, risk management, training and project management.

The project went like clockwork (like a well-planned and executed military operation, in fact). And from the start I was reminded that all the usual skills that I deploy as a Cheltenham copywriter came into play. There was the thorough fact-finding, using a combination of a fact-find form and a thorough telephone interview. Then came the organisation of the document. Not all CVs are ordered the same way, and military CVs demand a specific approach. Then came the identification and presentation of the candidate’s skills, experiences and differentiators to put their case strongly to any potential recruiter. This took a bit of encouragement, but the end result was that my client started thinking the right way. I was able to pack the finished CV with actions, personal characteristics and achievements that will resonate with a civilian. And all the time, the relentless translation of military jargon into language that your typical civilian manager would understand…

The final document was a concise, well-structured CV that put the emphasis in all the right places, sold the candidate strongly and, importantly, allowed scope for the person involved to tailor certain sections to specific vacancies in future. That’s important for any candidate: because every vacancy is different and every CV must be tailored. As a CV writer and editor, building-in this capability is an important part of the document design and writing role.

With so many military personnel coming out of the forces, there’s a great opportunity for civilian employers to access this pool of skills and experience. And for the CV writers, like me, who specialise in military-to-civilian-transition-CV writing and editing. What’s more, while using many of the same skills,  it makes a refreshing change from my usual website, brochure and client case study writing.

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

Very useful podcast on blogging – recommended

This week’s post is going to be short and sweet.

I may have previously mentioned being a regular listener to the Home Work podcast. This is a very useful (and very entertaining) podcast if (surprise surprise) you work from home, whether as a freelancer or a (regular or occasional) telecommuter.

In the most recent cast, hosts Hosts Aaron Mahnke and Dave Caolo included a concise guide to blogging, and I have to say that it really captured the secrets of the art well in just a few minutes.

I’d recommend you give it a listen and try some of the techniques they mention. But if you don’t have the time, the specialist skills or the inclination to do that vital blog writing yourself, I know a Cheltenham copywriter  who can help!

But I would say that wouldn’t I. Anyway, please listen. I’m sure you’ll love it.

Then, please add a comment and share your blogging experiences.

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

SEO copywriting tips that you can use today…

Inspired by last week’s valuable content marketing blog, I thought I’d share some SEO copywriting tips based on my experience as a Gloucestershire SEO copywriter. In this article I deconstruct the process of writing an SEO page, suggest some tools to help you, and offer practical advice if you decide that you don’t have the time to do your own SEO writing.

typicalseopage

 

 

 

 

 

Feel free to try writing your own SEO copy. But be warned, because I regularly see prospective clients who couldn’t find the time to do this – or burned lots of expensive management hours trying unsuccessfully to save a few pounds by writing their own SEO copy. In the case of recent client Arden Construction, their new website had stood ‘completed’ for months while they tried to write their own SEO copy…

 

arden

There are plenty of different approaches to writing SEO copy and I’m sure many of them work. The methodology that I take you through in the article is one that I’ve used successfully in conjunction with respected SEO consultants for several years.

If you fancy a go at SEO copywriting, please read on. I hope you find the article useful.

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

 

A good proofreading podcast could have been even better…

I’ve been listening to the Manager Tools and Career Tools podcasts for a couple of years. They’re an eclectic mixture of  management and career-related topics presented by Michael Auzenne, Mark Horstman and Wendii Lord. If you haven’t listened yet, please do so. The quality of thinking and the professionalism is outstanding.

Six keys to successful proofreading

Every so often, one of their podcasts touches ground close to that of this Cheltenham copywriter’s specialism. A case in point was last week’s podcast on how to proofread. When I saw the topic I was onto it in a flash and on the whole I was impressed by the focus on these six points:

  1. Set Word to help you
  2. Don’t let Word check grammar
  3. Read backwards to proof a document
  4. Choose your time and place carefully
  5. Common writing mistakes to look out for
  6. Have someone help you proofread

A good start, and I realise that you can’t cover everything in a single podcast. But I’d add a few more points to elevate this from being a very good cast to a great one.

Exception dictionaries

There was no mention of setting up and using an exception dictionary (or exclude dictionary) in Word. Sure, they talked about teaching the default Word spell-checker to accept custom terms, but an exception dictionary takes this a stage further by forcing Word to always flag words that you might be using incorrectly. Examples would be ‘bear’ and ‘bare’, or ‘to and ‘too’. Setting up an exceptions dictionary is a bit fiddly, but worth the effort. Once it’s done, it’s easy to update the underlying .txt document. Rather than reinvent the wheel by explaining the ins and outs of doing this, here’s a link to a good reference.

PerfectIT

Another addition to your proofing toolkit should be Intelligent Editing’s PerfectIT. I’ve been using this tool for a couple of years and it’s a superb tool to complement MS Word. There’s a free version, but I’d strongly recommend paying the modest fee for the paid for software. Used in conjunction with the standard MS Word spell-checker, this is a valuable tool for achieving stylistic consistency in a document.

I was also interested to hear the discussion about beginning sentences with conjunctions such as And and But. Although the presenters sort of conceded that you could ‘break the rules of grammar’ to use this, I think they were behind the times on this. Good writing is about communicating clearly and effectively, and often as it is spoken. Good copywriting gets its punch, energy, flow and conversational feel (conversational needn’t be unprofessional) from techniques such as beginning sentences with conjunctions and using sentence fragments.

TextAloud

That’s about it. I’d definitely advocate the use of text-to-speech software to help with proofing (I swear by  TextAloud with one of the many available custom synthesised voices). Try it and you’ll notice the difference between it and the standard Adobe or Microsoft system voices.

A final challenge

Lastly, the Career Tools presenters set an interesting challenge about an occasion when it is acceptable (read: correct) not to have matching quotation marks around speech. That would be when you have two paragraphs of quoted speech. You start the first para with a quote mark, leave it off at the end of the para, begin the second para with another, then end the quote with a closing quote mark.

Career Tools and Manager Tools: they’re two interesting podcasts whether you run a copywriting practice or you’re an owner or manager of an organisation that hires freelance copywriters. And that means pretty much everyone, because any organisation that uses words to communicate can use a skilled, experienced copywriter.

I would say that wouldn’t I!

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