How Tendinopathy Improved My Writing

How Tendinopathy Improved My Writing

Strap in kids, this one gets a bit personal.

Around 6 months ago, I felt the first twinge in my right wrist. It was while I was at the gym, in the middle of a bench press, so I figured I had just overextended things a bit. I let up on the weight, and by the next day it was back to normal.

Fast forward 3 months, and I was experiencing sharp, shooting pains in my right hand at almost every movement. It came on quite suddenly, and rocketed fro, mild inconvenience to tear inducing pain in a matter of days, leaving me almost completely unable to actually use my right hand for anything.

Which as a copywriter who relies on her hands to do her job, was a very bad thing.

After I fought down the pure panic that I had developed rapid onset RSI, I dragged myself to a doctor. A few specialist visits and many tests later, I was diagnosed with tendinopathy – the tearing and inflammation of the tendons along the back of my hand and leading into my fingers, due to a combination of my 2 favourite things – typing and lifting weights. With the right treatment, it can be dealt with, but I will be prone to flair ups for the rest of my life. For a while, this felt like a hugely bad thing – a cloud hanging over the things I loved in life.

But actually, I’ve found it to be hugely beneficial. For one, it’s made me realise just how fragile our bodies are, and how much we take for granted simple things like being able to carry a shopping bag or fire off a quick email. It’s helped me adjust how I exercise to be safer, and more effective along the way. And it’s massively improved my writing. Since typing was such a big source of the injury, I was told I needed to adjust the way I work to avoid making it all worse. So I did 2 things – I bought myself an ergonomic keyboard, and I started playing around with voice to text software.

The keyboard has made much more of a difference than you’d think. Not only is it much more comfortable for me to write, but it’s forced me to re-learn how to type, since with that big hole in the middle (I’ll put a picture here so you can see what I mean), all the keys are in difference places. This in turn proved to me that I do indeed type like my father (with one finger on either hand, and quite hard). But now, I’m being forced to use all of my fingers to type, which is slowing me down while I learn. Sure, this means I can’t get as much done in a day, but that extra time means I can really think about what I’m saying in a way that I sometimes don’t when the words are flying out at lightning speed to try and keep up with my brain. In turn, my arguments are more considered, the words I choose fitting together more naturally the first time around (instead of in editing), and my own awareness of the processes I go through has heightened. I’m also much more conscious that I keep hitting the wrong keys at the moment, which has halved my proof reading time since I’m paying more attention to what’s going on the page the first time around.

The voice to text is a bit more interesting. I’ve only been using it on days when the pain is particularly bad, but it’s made an interesting difference. You see, as a writer I tend to flit around a lot. I’ll write one paragraph, then skip ahead and write a whole new section, before skipping around again and then linking them all together at the end and polish out any bits that don’t quite fit. It’s just how my brain works, and it’s worked perfectly well throughout my entire career. And when you’re typing, that’s easy to do. But when you’re dictating, it’s suddenly much more difficult, and everything often ends up in a muddle. So I’ve been forced to start thinking in straight lines, which is not something I’m used to in any area of my life. I bounce around as the inspiration and information comes to me, but having to know what I’m going to say in the exact next section is a relatively new experience for me. This in turn has led to improved writing, even if I can’t quite put my finger on why it’s better.

While it’s not like taking a course or reading a book, my journey through tendinopathy has certainly made some positive changes in the way I work. Just by being forced to re-evaluate how I do things, I’ve been able to improve a number of processes. Things I didn’t even realise were inefficient are suddenly glaringly obvious, and I’ve been able to take all of those positive changes and pass the benefits on to my clients. So yeah, I’d rather not have such a disabling condition in my hand, and living with the reoccurrences is going to suck, but would I go back and stop it happening.

Absolutely not.

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Merry Christmas From Eleven Eight

Merry Christmas From Eleven Eight

Well, thus ends another year, and we at Eleven Eight are closing our doors for the festive season. On behalf of the whole team, thank you so much for sticking with us, reading our content based nonsense and making us as successful as are.We really couldn’t have done it without you

So have a very Merry Christmas, a fabulous New Year and a fantastically successful 2018!

We can’t wait to catch up with you in January.

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Feed The Magpies With Content, Not Foil

Feed The Magpies With Content, Not Foil

If you’ve ever hung around with me and talked about content, you probably know by now that one of the key reasons many business owners invest in it is to rank highly on Google. While many do genuinely see the benefits outside of the SEO world, there are some businesses for whom clawing themselves ever closer to that coveted first page ranking is the primary goal. But there is only one problem with that – Google is a fickle bugger that never seems to make up its mind. That’s not to be negative about Google – I think they are a fantastic company with great ethics, and they are fuelling so much innovation in so many sectors its frankly mind boggling. But they have also become the most widely used search engine in the world. It processes over 40,000 search queries every second, which adds up to over 3.5 billion searches per day, and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. And if you’re like me and those numbers seem too hugely to really contemplate, they have a neat visualisation tool for it here.

 

So, it’s no wonder really that ranking on page 1 of Google is on most business owners marketing priority list. But Google is always changing, evolving, and learning from what its users are doing. So now, Google is crying out for content in all shapes and sizes for its users. That makes our big tip for 2018 really easy. Feed the Google magpie what it wants, and do it regularly.

 

A Brief History Google 

And trust me, I mean brief! Since its inception, Google has undergone a lot of changes. The old school of SEO said that backlinks and keywords were crucial to building a good search ranking, and so millions of businesses stuffed their text full of key words and linked to every website they could think of. But Google cottoned on to that pretty quickly. Soon, they started looking at what their users wanted, and telling businesses that if they wanted that elusive page 1 ranking, they needed to meet those needs. But it’s a bit of a moving goalpost to meet them fully. Google has rolled out over 152 major algorithm updates since 2000 (full list here), and they are making smaller changes on average every other day. The ways Google measures what it considers relevant, and how it presents information to users is rarely static, but for many years they have been consistent about one thing. Content.

 

So Why Content?

If you want the short answer, it’s because users love content, so Google does too. Google make a point of telling you that all the time, and every marketing and SEO professional worth their salt will tell you the same. Sure, there are a lot of other things you can do to improve your rankings and get Google to like you, but content is the primary ingredient in the Google recipe to online success. The more high quality content you feed Google (this is another blog in itself), the more active and relevant it will see you as and the higher it will rank you in searches. Essentially, Google is essentially a giant, fat magpie, sitting in its nest and collecting interesting, relevant things from the world around it. And just like real magpies are attracted to shiny things like tin foil, Google is attracted to new content.

 

Now, both of those words are equally important. Content is a must, but the uniqueness and newness of it is also important. Google even have a name for it – it’s called the freshness factor. This algorithm basically measures all of your documents for freshness, and then scores each page according to the type of search query it would match. A former fellow from Google by the name of Amit Singhal explained this as ‘different searches having different freshness needs’, and gave some examples of what this could mean. And because I’m nice, I’ve gone and dug up those examples, so you don’t have to:

Singhal explains that there are some types of keyword searches most likely to require fresher content, such as:

 

  • Recent Events or Hot Topics: “Brexit”, “trump protest”, “celebrity death”
  • Regularly Recurring Events: “UK budget”, “Bake Off results”, “Tesla profits”
  • Frequent Updates: “Best SLR cameras”, “ford focus reviews”

 

On top of that, Google can also determined exactly which queries require fresh content by monitoring the web, and their own huge vaults of data. So they will look at factors like:

 

  • Search Volume: Are queries for a particular term spiking? (e.g. “earthquake San Francisco”).
  • News & Blog Coverage: If a number of news organisations and bloggers start writing about the same subject, it’s likely to be a hot topic.
  • Social Media: A spike in mentions of a particular topic may indicate the topic is ‘trending’.

 

Of course, many queries don’t require fresh content, but are still regularly searched terms. This is where your backlog of informative content comes in. If the search query doesn’t demand fresh, then it will search for the most relevant content instead. So fresh content is often better, but not always. The trick is to find the balance between fresh and informative, and keep it going.

 

At Eleven Eight, we specialise in creating written content for businesses in all sectors. From HGV’s to HR, marketing to accounting, we can help you meet the ever increasing needs of the Google magpie. Our experts have spent years crafting informative blogs (like this one), compelling case studies and engaging white papers, just so you can relax, put your feet up and enjoy a cup of tea while we do all the hard work. To find out more about what we can do for you, just drop us a line by phone, email or even carrier Pidgeon, and we’ll get back to you.

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5 Content Lessons You Can Learn From Women’s Underwear

5 Content Lessons You Can Learn From Women’s Underwear

Content is a huge, sprawling world with a hell of a lot of tripwires and trapdoors between you and your customer. There are a lot of things you can do wrong in content marketing, especially compared to the few things that seem right. But to be honest, content marketing is all about finding what works for your unique business, which means it might not look the same as everyone else’s. To demonstrate that, this week I wanted to take a closer look at what content lessons are out there in the most unexpected places – like in women’s underwear, courtesy of Natural Curves.

 

  1. Know Your Market

If there’s one thing a business owner should know, it’s their market. But your customers aren’t just buying machines. They come to your blog because they want information, so you need to be providing that. ‘But what do I write about’ is one of the most common phrases I hear, and the answer is simple – write about what your customers want to know! For Natural Curves, they know their customers are plus sized ladies looking for comfortable underwear, so they have tailored their blog content to some of the issues those people may be facing. Knowing what size bra to wear, questions about bodysuits they’ve been too embarrassed to ask, and what type of bra will make them more comfortable are all things plus sized women will be looking for, and now they can find the answers – along with product recommendations – in one place. So try to get inside the head of your customer and figure out what they want to know, and you will know what to write about.

 

  1. Client Testimonials Can Work Wonders

How often do you gather testimonials from your clients? Maybe you manage it with every sale, or maybe it’s only once in a while. Either way, you should be showcasing those testimonials in any way you can. Many businesses simply throw them on a testimonials page and leave them there. But as Natural Curves show us, testimonials can make great blogs as well. In fact, their latest blog post is a testimonial from a happy client about the values of their product. You can’t get much better sales collateral than that, and by showcasing it on a blog page it is much more likely to be seen. It can also be easily shared, commented on and found, extending the value of the testimonial far beyond its initial reach.

 

  1. It Pays To Go Off Topic

Natural Curves sells underwear – but that’s not all they talk about. Sure, they give helpful information on bra sizing and fashion, but they also talk about the problems tall women. Can have, and how to be more confident in your own skin. They aren’t afraid to go off topics, and it really pays off. One of the biggest issues I come across when I’m looking through online blogs is that they are all very focussed on their specific industry niche, and they don’t stray from it.  A lot of brands are scared to blog about anything but their own products – but this is exactly what you should be doing. Prospective customers who don’t know your brand aren’t interested in what you have to sell at first – they want to know if you know what you’re talking about. Demonstrating your knowledge of the industry (and giving that knowledge away for free) is the first step in creating a client relationship based on trust and value.

 

  1. Your Product Descriptions Matter

Natural Curves sell a lot of different products. And you can tell what a lot of those products are by looking at the photos. But it’s their descriptions that really make the difference. Many distributors of products tend to do one of 2 things – they take the catalogue descriptions and sue those, or they just list the technical specs. Natural Curves has taken the technical specs, but they have also added their own description of the products that really makes them stand out. They target the way the product will make their customers feel – the tactile nature of the product and the lifestyle is denotes. All of these things match in with their target customer, and create an emotional connection with the product and what it will do for them, which makes them more inclined to buy it. All thanks to some good copy.

 

  1. Blogs Can Be A Mix

One of the things Natural Curves do really well is mix up their blog content. If you visit their blog page, you’ll notice it isn’t all sales pitches and collections. There is some of that in there (like this post about a new collection of swimsuits), but it’s almost buried in there. On your way through the posts, you also find some of testimonials and, more importantly, LOTS of informative, non-sales related content. This discusses the sort of things that are relevant and important to their target customers – not necessarily what products they sell. Because their blog page is such a mix of different angles, people browsing through get a wider view of the company and, critically, they don’t get bored.

If you really don’t have the first clue about content and what you do with it, you aren’t alone. Thousands of businesses out there are still completely unaware for the content world, or the power it has with your customers. But if you like what you see, or even if you just want to find out more, then we are here to help. At Eleven Eight we’ve seen it all and done it all (in terms of content, anyway), so we can help you understand what your blog should look like, and what it shouldn’t. So get in touch – coffee’s on us!

Celebrating The Life Linguistic – Or Just Chatting Shit With Copywriters?

Celebrating The Life Linguistic – Or Just Chatting Shit With Copywriters?

So last week, despite being firmly in the middle of my lovely two week holiday, I strapped on my best copywriting helmet and braved the sodden winds of Bournemouth beach for Copy Cabana. I actually discovered this gem of an event last year – about three days too late for the 2016 event. So I swore to myself I would get tickets the second they went on sale for 2017’s shindig, and thanks to the lovely Vicki Ross, I damn well did.

 

For those of you who aren’t quite as sadly dedicated as I am – Copy Cabana is the name given to the gathering of over 300 copywriters to talk about words. And believe me, the very best words were on display. From the moment the first people sidled through the doors (and were then told off and sent away for being 10 minutes early), the room was buzzing with ideas chatter that could only come out of copywriters.

 

It. Was. Amazing.

 

It was great fun too. I’m really glad I didn’t bother with heavy eye-makeup, because the speakers had me staring wide-eyed in wonder, laughing so hard I was in tears (I’m pretty sure the guy next to me thought I was having a nervous breakdown) and moved to the point of tears. I left feeling inspired, uplifted, and I’m pretty sure I drove my husband mad on the drive home with my excitable chattering. But I also learned some pretty amazing stuff too, and I wanted to share that with you lot. Because you all deserve to learn too! Strap in guys, this is a long one.

Fall in Love With The Devil In The Detail

 

Sarah Topping was the speaker I was most looking forward to seeing at the event, so when they announced that she was up first, I couldn’t contain the excited squeal (again, sorry Andrew!) Sarah Topping has my dream job, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more jealous of a human being. She cut her teeth by waddling through the Puffin/Penguin/Penguin random house offices writing all sorts of exciting and colourful copy. Sarah taught us all about the devil in the details, and how you really do need to put the research work in if you want great results. When creating book blurbs of a few hundred words, Sarah will read the entire book cover to cover, just in case the main character dies in chapter 4. Likewise, when writing anything you should know all of your facts before you start, or else you could write something completely wrong.

 

Seriously people, do your research.

The Robots Are Coming

 

I have never heard such a simultaneously terrified and angry outburst as when Glenn Sturgess and Pete Stephen announced that the robots are coming to steal copywriters jobs. This fantastic and informative talk had us all panicking that in 20 years, AI will be so sophisticated that it can write copy better than us. They even gave us a lovely poem, written by AI:

 

‘But it’s not all doom and gloom!’ they cried. ‘Copywriters just need to adapt!’ So instead of fearing the robots, we should be using their unlimited analytical and pattern recognition to test and improve our own writing (while we still can). In 20 years, we may be calling ourselves digital anthropologists instead of copywriters.

 

Everyone Loves Ice Cream

 

Next up was the most delicious speaker of all – Kerry Thorpe, Communications Lead for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Once I had got over my sudden desire to work at Ben & Jerrys (dogs, picket fence desks and 2 pints of free ice cream a day?!), Kerry revealed to us that that carefully crafted whimsical tone we see plastered over ice cream tubs isn’t all it seems. Instead of being just a clever piece of marketing tone, the teams at Ben & Jerry’s really live and breathe the ethos. Social responsibility, cheeky fun, experimentation and truly amazing ice cream – that’s what they’re all about. Kerry reminded us that companies who truly embrace their identity are the ones that create these standout brands. They do what they love, and it shines through in everything.

Care, And Care Hard 

 

A surprise insertion, the 4th speaker at this illustrious copywriting conference was….

 
A window cleaner.

 

Yes, you read that right. But he was a window cleaner who reminded us that we do our best work when we actually care about our customers. The same goes for any business, any service, anything. Care, and care hard. Or what’s the point?

 

Avoid Going Up Shit Creek

 

These ladies truly amazed me, in part because they run their content marketing school from a pub, and that’s pretty awesome. But they’ve also created some amazing graphics that describe exactly what the content marketing journey is like, and give you a compass to navigate it with. For example, their map of ‘content island’, which needs no follow-up:

 

They encouraged us as copywriters to get a bit more involved in the content strategy element of what we do, and help our clients do the same. Something I fully plan to embrace (watch out clients!) They also provided me with my first favourite quote of the day:

 

Dogs aren’t just for Christmas, and content writers aren’t just for web copy’

Something About Poetry

 

I’ve got to be honest here; there was a chunk of Rishi Dastidar’s section that completely flew over my head for two reasons:

 

  • I have about as much poetic talent as a duck on stilts.
  • Something he said sparked a fire in my brain, and I was scribbling down a children’s story idea so fast I’m surprised my page didn’t catch fire.

 

But in all seriousness, Rishi was great. His points about the creativity of copywriting and poetry (and their similarities), and how as copywriters we should always be trying to mix the magical into our everyday copy, just as poets do.

 

Guide To Wine Writing

 

Our celebrity appearance was Joe Fattorini (he presents The Wine Show on ITV) taught us that subject experts are quite shit at writing about their subject area, because they have the ‘burden of knowledge’. This is something I rabbit on about quite a lot (though I say ‘blinker vision’) and really shows when it comes to wine. Joe regaled us with tales of his days donating wine to the homeless in exchange for ‘real reviews’, and how the ‘fancy’ wine copy is often lying to you (ask me how later). Experts who use posh language to impress their customers rarely do, and instead, you should be looking for the real reasons people use your product if you want good sales. For wine – relaxation and because it’s enjoyable.

 

This spawned my second favourite quote of the day, when he described wine as ‘a wank in a glass’. And no, I’m not explaining that one any further.

 

Care Again

 

I don’t actually have many notes from Karen’s speech, mainly because I was so engrossed in listening to her stories. As the fundraising manager for World Vision UK, she has to reach out and pry money from the hands of privileged Westerners and give it to poor children suffering in the world’s harshest places. All she did was read us some of the letters they send to their supporters – telling the stories of these poor children and how their donations helped. By the end, I was reaching for my wallet too. Emotion might just be the single most important weapon marketing has, and we don’t use it enough.

Tone Of Voice Isn’t Bullshit

 

Remember when I said some of the speakers left me laughing so hard I was crying my eyes out? That was this guy. Every other word out of Nick Parker’s mouth was a mixture of laugh out loud comedy and genuine genius, which made his talk about tone of voice all the more impressive. He shared some fantastic examples of good and bad tone of voice with us, and coined his own names for the 10 tones of voice that provide marketing gurus with the fuel they need. A few of my personal favourites included ‘Ronseal’, ‘Big Friendly Giant’, ‘Playful Children’ and ‘Foolbiscuits’. But more to the point, tone of voice isn’t all bullshit. It’s the hand of Midas that turns your ‘meh’ content into true marketing gold.

Everyone Is Biased

 

Making a complete U-turn, Elle Graham-Dixon made everyone take a good hard look at themselves. With some simple riddle, she exposed the gender bias of everyone in the room, making us all feel like awful human beings. Although she did try to make us feel better by explaining it’s our brains who are lazy and make presumptions, not us. Still, Elle’s half hour segment about bias and stereotypes sent every copywriter in the room away with a new desire to write more inclusively, use insights instead of stereotypes and be the change we want to see. Bravo Elle.

The Art Of Being Interesting

 

Our final speaker of the day was promoted as having written the most expensive marketing book of all time (£3000 a copy), and being an all-round ultimate copy guru. Unfortunately, as a speaker he just wasn’t my cup of tea. No offence to Steve Harrison, but sometimes people don’t gel. Maybe I was getting tired (it was very warm in that seminar room). It’s not you, it’s me. Etc etc.

 

Steve did make some really good points, even if I didn’t connect with him as a speaker. And I know a lot of other copywriters there loved him. He reminded us that we really should be focusing on the problems the end readers of our content have – and not the problems the client who commissioned it has. We shouldn’t be writing content to get the client more sales; we should be trying to solve their customer’s problem. That’s how you generate buzz around a brand and turn passive readers into real-world sales.

 

And that’s it. My first experience of Copy Cabana was inspiring and insightful, and it’s definitely changed the way I think as a copywriter. I can’t wait to see what they have in store next year! (No pressure Vicki and Andy!)

 

Oh, and thanks for sticking with me for nearly 2000 words. I promise the next blog won’t be as long.

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Every business should be blogging.   There really isn’t a question about it anymore. Blogging isn’t some new-fangled form of marketing with no proof behind it. They’re been around a fair while, and they’re here to stay. By now, all the savvy businesses are...
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Relax, I’m not here to deliver some big sermon on swearing, or tell you that you need to pump your copy full of expletives in order to be noticed. Nothing like that. Today, I want to talk about a whole different type of ‘F’. You see, people don’t read in straight...
Read More

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Google, google, google. There isn’t a day goes by where we aren’t reading something about Google. How to get your website to page 1 is the main one, since occupying that coveted page 1 spot will gain you more clients, more exposure and ultimately, more success. And...
Read More

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Read More

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Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a bit of a Potterhead. Harry Potter came out in 1997, when I was just 6 years old. As an avid bookworm, I had my head in the first book almost as soon as it could get from the book shop shelves and into my eager hands. I grew up...
Read More