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November 9, 2010Iceberg Theory – What Hemingway can teach us about web copywriting

“For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

This was Ernest Hemingway’s response when asked to come up with the shortest story possible. He’s right — it’s short, and it tells a story, a very sad one. Of course, much isn’t said. We don’t even know who the characters are, let alone their names. But do we need to know any more in order for the story to be effective?

Copywriting is the art of fitting as much information into as small a space as possible, quickly providing the reader with a call to action, ruthlessly trimming away any information that’s not

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October 31, 2010Power Snooker – a successful product launch.

As regular readers of my blog know, I’m a big snooker fan. Snooker is a quiet, slow, complicated cue sport played in auditoriums so silent you could hear a pin drop. Power snooker is played on the same table, but other than that, everything’s different.

A year ago I suggested that snooker had an image problem and that bringing back a ‘game show’ format like Big Break could rejuvenate interest in the sport and allow the players to show off their personalities. The launch of Power Snooker at London’s O2 Arena seems to have taken a similar direction, taking …

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October 28, 2010How to avoid marketing cliché in branding

Can we talk about cliché for a moment, people? I’m not talking about clichés like “easy as pie” or, to borrow from Mad Men again, “the cure for the common…” because in actual fact, so long as these clichés aren’t overused, or displayed too prominently, cliché actually serves a purpose by reinforcing perceptions quickly and easily using an instantly recognized standard.

In other words, “easy as pie” can get your message across to your customer a lot more effectively than “our product is so much simpler to use than your competitors and we think you’ll love it” …

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October 13, 2010Facebook and Bing plan to make search social – should you be worried?

It’s likely the majority — or at least a significant amount — of your traffic comes from organic search. That being the case, you’ll probably already know all about SEO (search engine optimization) and how important it is to your business. After all, if you’ve done your research and you’re on the front page for your chosen keywords, you can pretty much guarantee a steady stream of traffic and customers. Similarly, “long tail” searches for specific phrases can generate a surprising amount of traffic from people who know exactly what they want.

Can good search engine results be crowdsourced? Bing

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October 10, 2010Building a business out of nothing: how to use PPC advertising

There’s a great story over on the BBC website this weekend about a digital marketing agency that ended up with a business selling parrot cages. How? Why? The answer’s simple. They’re professional PPC (pay-per-click) and search marketing experts. And they decided to use their skills to find an untapped market.

It turns out that lots of people were searching for parrot cages online, but nobody was buying ads with related keywords. In other words, there was a gap in the market. By using PPC advertising the firm were immediately able to test the water — no waiting six months to …

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October 7, 2010How much time should I invest in self-promotion?

Continuing my series of blog posts for freelancers starting out in this game, I thought I’d take time to answer the most important question of all. As I’ve already covered, time management isn’t easy — but it’s a necessary skill. Some weeks, you’re going to be doing nothing but revising copy for a Friday deadline. Other weeks, you’ll be skimming your favourite blogs and playing internet poker while you wait for your next job. So how do you manage your time?

Let’s break it into five days for simplicity. I’d say, on average, I spend three days a week working, …

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October 2, 2010Do your freelancer a favour: write, don’t call.

“It’s good to talk.” At least that was the tag-line for the famous BT ad campaign of the 90s. But is it better to write? Of course, there are few things less personal than an email. But email is around for a reason. It works and, more importantly, there’s a record.

I’m all in favour of the quick phone call. In fact, I think it’s great when a potential client rings me up and asks me for a quick run-down of what I can do for them. It’s nice to be able to put a voice – if not a …

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September 30, 2010How easy is it to make it as a copywriter in London?

Occasionally I get asked for advice by people looking to make the move into professional copywriting. Alas, I don’t have time to respond to you all in detail, so I’m going to write a little bit about my experiences here.

I started out as a journalist. After almost two years of badly-paid freelancing and doing mostly unpaid internships in the editorial departments of medium sized magazines, I came to the conclusion that there simply aren’t enough jobs in journalism to go round.

Fact. As a copywriter, you will earn more than a journalist.

As a young journo, I was charging …

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September 20, 2010How to handle the ups and downs of freelancing

I usually blog about copywriting. Sometimes, I blog about my business. Sometimes, I don’t blog at all. Why? Well, because even though my blog is my number one marketing tool, sometimes, I get too busy. It’s the nature of freelancing. It’s not the kind of job where you can show up to the office, do a set amount of work as dictated by your boss, go home, then start the whole thing again tomorrow. You’re your own boss, but you’re also alone.

Snow days

At the start of 2010, it snowed. A lot. In fact, I was almost snowed in …

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September 6, 2010Does an advert have to be good to be effective?

What makes an effective ad campaign — and can these principles be applied to social media?

It’s impossible to avoid being bombarded with advertising in London. As a copywriter working in London, it’s even harder to not stop and take notice. Like a surgeon holding his knife like a scalpel and listlessly cutting into his Sunday roast, it’s hard for a copywriter to avoid dissecting other people’s work.

I see thousands of posters every morning. Sometimes the copy is good, sometimes it’s very bad. Sometimes it’s short and sometimes it’s long. Sometimes, I’m only looking at an idea, three words, …

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