Kate Waddon Copywriting

We all need words. Let me help you find the right ones.

Dead flies in shop windows

It’s Hallowe’en, so clearly my thoughts are turning to pleasant things like dead flies. And analogies… We’re all familiar with the old “your website is your shop window” comparison. To extend this a bit, if your website is the shop window, then your blog is the shop display. By changing it regularly with the seasons, you’re showing off new stock, keeping your business relevant – and guarding against dead flies.

I use this analogy a lot – probably over-use it, to be honest –  as it’s a straightforward way of explaining why a website needs to be updated. (I’ve failed to fit search engines into this analogy, but I’ll keep working on it.) To while away the time until it’s trick-or-treating o’clock, here’s a short tale about dead flies.

When I realised I’d finally better leave university, my first proper job was every Eng Lit student’s dream: sales assistant in an antiquarian bookshop. Anyone attempting to enter the shop on application deadline day would have been knocked sideways by the swish of long, cheap velvet skirts, stampeding DMs, and the scent of patchouli. We all wanted the chance to waft around among all the lovely books all day, perusing their erudite contents and lovingly sniffing the leather.

I was the lucky choice, and the myth of the gentle old bookselling job was rapidly debunked. Books are unforgiving creatures to work with. They are heavy and unwieldy, but unlike a similarly bulky item, a brick for example, they don’t come out of it very well when dropped. They require constant checking, dusting, and straightening; and some of them even require feeding (with hide food).  They’re like high-maintenance and capricious pets, and some are alarmingly valuable. I later worked in a large supermarket warehouse, and believe me, that was physically lighter work than hefting tomes up and down five storeys of ancient staircase.

One of the first tasks I was trusted with (oh the joy of being the junior) was to keep the shop window free of dead flies (see, we’re starting to get somewhere now). An awful lot of flies choose to die in bookshop windows, it seems. The shop window was behind the counter and two sets of display shelves on temperamental rollers. Cleaning it involved taking everything out of the window, and trying to squeeze the Henry’s nozzle in between the shelves to vacuum up the dust and dead flies. While serving customers.

The shop manager took me through this in great detail (juniors are expected to listen to a lot of detail). After a couple of weeks of merrily bashing into expensive books with the nozzle, I came up with the Waddon Fly Catching Technique: a fishing rod-like device involving dangling sticky tape from a pencil. The crispy little cadavers would stick to the tape, and with some cunning manoeuvres, I could avoid the tedious task of taking everything out of the window display – the simple ingenuity of the bored junior. How the other English grads must have envied me.

Twenty (no, really???!!!) years later, I am metaphorically clearing windows of flies. Nothing says neglected, slobby, or abandoned like a pile of insect corpses in your window – or, an ignored blog page. Sadly, while dangling tape over my clients’ websites, my own shop window has got a bit shabby. Consider this short blog post my piece of tape.

For metaphorical fly removal, please give me a shout. (For actual dead flies – feel free to use the fruits of my research.)

Argh – how long should a blog post be?

I get asked this question a lot, so I thought I should address it properly. The featured image probably gives away my personal thoughts; however I’d like to give a better answer than that, so I’ve done  a bit of research. Here is my post about length and why it matters. (Don’t snigger. We’re all grown-ups here.)

There are several views about optimum blog length. Naturally, they are contradictory. Here are the ones that keep cropping up.


The 7 minute blog post rule

The ideal blog post length, according to Buffer, takes 7 minutes to read, which is roughly 1,700 words. This is based on research by Medium, who plotted length against time among their blog readers. They comment that “It’s noteworthy that at the beginning of the trend, the longer posts tend to see more visitors. This suggests a possible correlation between length and quality—that, on average, the longer posts are higher quality, resulting in more sharing and, consequently, more traffic.”  What’s worth noting here is that we all assume that readers have short attention spans – not necessarily the case.

Buffer’s summary is a great article, which covers the length of all sorts of online wordy stuff, from the perfect LinkedIn headline to the length of a Facebook post (post referendum Facebook commentators – please note it’s just 40 characters).


The 500 word minimum post

This stat has been floating around for years – but 500 words seems to be considered pretty short these days. In Joe Bunting’s piece on blog length, he writes that this word-count is good for social shares and comments, but not that helpful for “search engine love”.

Personally, 500 words is the minimum length I ever write for clients. My “entry level” blog post often ends up at 750ish, a pretty standard journalistic length.

It’s also worth remembering that if you’re going for epic-length posts, it will cost you more either in your time or your outsourcing budget. Be realistic about your blogging capabilities.


What happens if you dip under 300 words for a blog post?

Well, according to a plug-in a few of my clients use, dipping below 300 words is absolutely cataclysmic. Seas will boil. The sky will rain ash. There will be plagues of frogs. Or in real life, the search engines will be unimpressed, and it won’t help you with your rankings. Read this article from Yoast about the 300 word rule.

As a writer who loves the sound of her own typing, I’d struggle to keep a blog post under 300 words to be honest. 300 words really isn’t very many at all, and most people can easily meet this target without even trying. If you’re struggling to hit 300 words, think again about the subject – can you broaden it a bit? Fewer than 200 words, and your post becomes “thin content”. Again, raining reptiles etc.

However this is always the point where people start citing Seth Godin


Blog posts must be very, very long for SEO purposes

You can see the sense in this – the more content, the more relevant words the search engines will find.

But what about the human readers? There’s also that perception of quality that Medium discussed. As The Sales Lion commented in a blog post,  “I’m going to ask you a question, and you’ve got to be honest: Have you ever looked at a really long piece of content, skimmed it because you simply didn’t have 10 minutes to read it, but still shared it because you “felt” like there was a lot of value there?” A long blog post is the broadsheet – we all feel a bit more erudite when we go for The Long Read.

But, if you decide to go for killer 2,000+ blog posts, remember this idea of quality, and please be wary of filler. It’s so obvious when something has been stretched to breaking point.

If you’d like to write some massive posts, the best way of doing this is to break it into smaller sections. Again, this is where the listicle blog post rules. Ten sections of 200 words each, with an intro and conclusion, seems a lot less daunting than writing a big chunk of essay. It also makes it a better read for your audience.


Simply, what does your blog need to say?

In the end, what’s right for you? Don’t waffle your way up to 1,000 words if you get your point across well in 500. Don’t over-edit a thorough piece because it may go up to 8 minutes.

Of course, I’m happy to be short and punchy, or long and contemplative. Please get in touch, and we’ll work out the perfect blog post length – for you.

There. 750+ words reached. I’ll retire happy.


7 reasons to write a listicle blog post

I blogged about listicles, ooh, aaaages ago (well, 18 months ago), and the listicle is still going strong as a popular blogging method. Here’s why I like the listicle.


1          A listicle is an easy format to write

If you’re feeling a bit constipated words-wise, it’s usually possible to come up with a few points you can talk about, and write up in list form.

For example, if you sell potatoes (and yes, this is a made up example), 5 Favourite Potato Recipes is an obvious blog post. 7 Surprising Facts About Potatoes. The 8 Best Chip Shops in Britain… You get the idea. Think of an angle first (everybody loves potatoes), then jot down a few bullet points as to why you think your statement is correct (there are lots of ways to cook them; they come in many varieties; they turn into chips).


2          It’s more engaging than a simply sales-focussed article

It can get quite tedious and predictable reading about the services a company offers. After all, the website should be making this clear in the first place. Opening up the subject is more engaging for readers, as well as increasing your authority.

If you’re writing for your hotel in Devon, a simple post could be “10 great family events in Devon this summer”. It’s not time-consuming or tricky to come up with ten events, write a few words on each plus provide a link, then neatly segue into how handy your hotel is for all these, contact us etc etc etc.


3          Brainstorming a listicle leads to great ideas

I often come up with stupidly long lists, and then prune them. Sometimes silly ideas turn out to be pure genius, and give your article a unique slant. It doesn’t matter how long the list ends up, as long as the points you choose are genuinely interesting or helpful, and not just filler.


4          They reduce headline headaches

Writing a clever headline is not easy. Writing “31 Ways to Cook Potatoes” is easy. Plus, apparently we all respond to headlines that are a mixture of letters and numerals, so we’re drawn to this sort of header. A more random-sounding number can attract attention.


5          But, you get to write lots of sub headers…

In addition, the listicle structure naturally leads to several sub headers, which are appreciated by both readers and search engines. Have a look at this post by Yoast to find out more about this.


6          Busy people like to read short snippets

Settling down for the Long Read can feel a bit of a commitment. A listicle article is the snack of the blog world – quick, digestible, fun. The crisp, rather than the Dauphinoise. The obvious listicle structure highlighted by the headline lets the reader know what to expect.


7          You can adapt the amount of listicle points to suit the subject

Stop when you’re ready. Like this. Don’t carry on for the sake of it.

(Oh no, but it’s 7. A lot of people don’t like 7… Don’t overthink this one.)


If you’d like to write some lovely lists together, please get in touch.

Words and pictures – why does a blog post need images?


To a copywriter, the phrase “a picture paints a thousand words” is rather annoying – after all, I could have been paid for those thousand words. But, it’s right – and a good image can really add spark to a blog post.

I am increasingly being asked if I source images for blogs as well as providing the words. The answer: I do now. For a modest extra fee, I’ll find relevant images for the post I’ve written. I’ve simply started doing this as finding images seems to be one of those jobs people put off, so that in turn is putting them off posting blogs.

But why does a blog post need an image?

Because it is more eye-catching, is the simple answer to that. Printed material has understood that for decades, and now armed with our smart phones, we’re all documenting our lives through images.

We’d rather Instagram our lunch than eat it – that’s the culture we’re working with these days. Each Facebook update seems to make uploading our photos easier. We’re visual creatures. Even click-bait needs a good picture before we’ll go near it.

With a picture, your blog post is more inviting, more interesting, and looks far better on your website, Twitter feed, or Facebook page. Most subjects – food, fabrics, holidays, cars, kitchens, pets – are crying out for an accompanying shot or two.

So, how do we find images for our blog posts?

There are lots of ways to illustrate a blog post. These are my recommendations, based on ease, cost, and little chance of being sued.

We can take our own pictures. If you work in say, interior design, it’s vital you have decent pics of your work for your portfolio, and you can use this for your blog. It’s always worth keeping a collection of good quality photos handy.

Smart phones have made photographers of us all – but please, only use decent pictures. Don’t spoil a professional website with amateurish images. However, it’s tempting to use our own, as we know that we own them, and can use them as we wish. Back in the day when I had a normal job, I hired a fab professional photographer for the day, so we’d have a suite of photos we could use for any purpose. Sadly, I don’t play with that sort of budget any more, and neither I suspect do any of my five readers.

So, that leads us to the world of stock images, and this is why I think that many people are wary of sourcing their own images. There are three main concerns: ownership, cost, and the fear of ending up with clichéd stock images which are today’s version of Clip Art.

Let’s address these three concerns one at a time. The license you need to find is called “Creative Commons Zero” (CC0), which means you can use the image for commercial purposes without paying for it, or even giving an attribution (although some photographers do appreciate it if you do). But – always check before you use any photo, just in case. Also be aware that if your chosen photo has a logo clearly in shot, you’ll need to add a bit of text to cover that.

I tend to stick to several websites that use the CC0 license – and here’s the second concern dealt with – and provide me with some ace free images. My favourites are Pixabay, Unsplash, and for office shots that are funkier than most, Startup Stock Photos. Of course, if you’re willing to pay, the whole massive world of Shutterstock et al opens up before you…

The third concern – how to avoid cliché. This can be tricky – there are a lot of pics of people looking terribly motivated in front of flip charts, or staring out at the horizon. What are other bloggers in your field using? The search function is your friend here. Type “meeting” into Pixabay’s search box, and yes, there’ll be those engaged business types, but there’ll also be some more fun images. Play with words. Or be like me right now, and just pick a pic you like…


I shall now be introducing more images to my own blog, starting with this totally unrelated but faintly amusing picture of a cat. Expect more pointless cats, and a few gratuitous owls.

Ghostblogger (who you gonna call?)

OK, I grew up in the eighties and so am obliged to reference the hit film about slimed academics… But this post has nothing to do with crossing the streams; and neither am I referring to the blogging platform Ghost – this is about the art of writing for someone else.

We’re all familiar with the idea of “ghostwriters”, without whom no celebrity novel would exist (hmm, maybe I’ve just un-sold this concept). Now, of course, we have ghost blog writers, and I am happy to be part of that spooky-sounding tribe.

Yes, we all know that we need a blog. Search engines need you to have a blog. Your current customers need a blog. Your potential customers need to see a blog to know you exist and that your business is live and current. Social media needs blogs in the same way the rest of us need breakfast. And so it goes on.

There can be a reluctance to hand over blog writing. After all, isn’t it some sort of diary, which is a personal thing? A blog is an informal way of connecting with your audience, and as such, shouldn’t it have a more personal tone than your other web pages?

This is where the ghostblogger comes in. Here’s why they are a good idea.


They always have the time

It’s the writer’s job, so they have to deliver. If you write your own blog, it can easily drop to the end of the To Do list on a busy week. Particularly if you don’t actually like writing…

If you outsource your blog, you can also work with your blogger to create a content calendar, so you know what posts are coming up.


It will read well

No need for false modesty here. A professionally-written blog post will have a sparkle and a flow to it – at the very least, it will be proofread.

Not everyone enjoys writing.  Contemporary culture has forced the written word on many people who really would rather never write. That’s fine. Some of us love to (winning smile, winning smile…). You can even outsource your Facebook and Twitter accounts #justsaying…


It can be written in any voice

Don’t worry about losing that personal touch. A good writer can write in a tone of voice that suits your business. A good chat or meeting at the start of the relationship will help to establish a style – and, ssssssh, no one need ever know that it doesn’t come from the owner/CEO/marketing team/figurehead…


You will get the content you need

You will be guaranteed regular, high-quality content, which both the search engines and your customers require. The content will be properly researched and referenced, and will be pitched to speak to the right audience.


So there’s the case for outsourcing your blog to a shadowy figure who will speak to your audience for you. The original Ghostbusters said “no job is too big, no fee is too big”. Don’t worry. Ghostblogger here starts at a mere £30 per blog post.

Content calendars – blogging for the organised

I’m still blogging about blogging. Here’s another way of beating blogger’s block – the content calendar. This is simply a diarised list (written on the spreadsheet or table of your choice depending on how much you like playing with formats) that lays out what you are going to blog about and when.

I’ve just compiled a 12-month blog calendar for a client. 52 blog topics, sorted. OK, they all need writing now, but at least that awful, blank, constipated feeling of “eek, nothing to write about” is no longer a problem. This is a rather extreme example: a year’s worth of blogs is a pretty long list. However, a blog plan a few weeks long is definitely doable; and here are a few tips on putting together a simple schedule.

Some businesses have a natural advantage when it comes to forward planning. If you are writing about a hotel or restaurant, the year has a lovely, easy rhythm that you can follow. OK, it’s a bit tight for Valentine’s Day now; but there’s Mother’s Day and Easter coming up, and probably lots of lovely days out coming up in your local area as spring (allegedly) creeps closer. Christmas and New Year have all sorts of splendid potential topics you can hang a blog post from. Food producers also operate seasonally, making a calendar nice and predictable (in a good way).

Even if your business doesn’t initially seem to lend itself to easy planning, have another think. Building and related trades for example can always relate to the Good Old British weather – good time of year to check for leaks etc – and really use their blogs to encourage trade in quieter periods. My manifestation dots (glass) clients can blog about solar glare in the summer months and keeping the heat in during the colder periods. Or vice versa, if you need your customers to book well in advance.

Check out what’s going on locally. Various “What’s On in Cornwall” websites gave me some nice ideas for content which can be planned in for the next few months. Festivals, shows, markets, launches can all be related back to local businesses in all sorts of ways.

If your business is multi-faceted, you can share your blog posts between all the different areas by planning ahead. A bar can diarise its blog posts to be food; wine; parties; coffees; cocktails; beers; any other offers, and then start again. Retailers can take a different product to focus on each time, and perhaps rotate them by department.

And importantly, stray off the path a bit with your blog. If you’re writing for a wedding venue, your posts may become a bit repetitive if you write about receptions every week. Do a piece on unusual musical offers for parties, on alternative wedding cakes, on the best bubble-blowing entertainers for younger guests. Refer back to your business, but enjoy running with a fun, lively topic. Breaking down your offer into smaller topics gives you a blog calendar that stretches easily into months’ worth of posts.

But of course, leave yourself a bit of flexibility. You don’t have to stick to your calendar too vigorously – it’s a plan, not a school timetable. Nobody’s going to give you detention for a last-minute change of topic. Sometimes, something in the news is irresistible to your subject, and you have to go with it. I’m a bit sick of Fifty Shades of Tenuous Articles this week, but hey, let’s keep things zeitgeisty. If you can tie in (ho ho ho) your cauliflower-growing business with the latest bonkbuster, then good luck to you. If there’s an item in the news to do with anything wordy, I will happily deviate (careful now) from my planned blog post for that week, choosing to write about what’s current.

It’s definitely worth a try – and if it proves awkward to stick to a calendar, at the very least you have a list of future topics. And hey, you can even colour-code them. Ooooooooh!

Writer’s block and writing blogs

Last week, I blogged about the need to have a blog and to keep blogging away at it. Insensitive of me. What about those times when you simply can’t? Writer’s block is that awful, grinding-down feeling when you have to write, but can’t. Something goes wrong between mind and hand, and you just can’t write a thing. It’s like having to write in a colleague’s communal birthday or leaving card, but worse.

Do I get writer’s block? For copywriting work, rarely. The work is pretty prescribed, so I don’t get that “eek, where do I start??” feeling very often. Blogging is a different matter. It’s like logging on to Spotify and realising that you have the whole world of music to choose from and going into a state of panicked stasis where you can’t remember a single piece of music or musician, apart from something really random like The One Show theme. If you have the kind of blog that covers a wide area, an almost agoraphobic anxiety hits you with full force, and that’s when writer’s block strikes. Even if your theme is narrower, there will probably be occasions when inspiration just isn’t happening.

Searching for my own inspiration, I Googled writer’s block. Unsurprisingly, there were lots of suggestions out there. Some were obvious and pretty sensible (Exercise! Walk around the garden! Brainstorm with a friend or colleague!). Some were so wacky that they were either apocryphal or the domain of the already rich and successful (Apparently Dan Brown wears gravity boots and hangs upside down like some crazy writing bat until he gets focus. Victor Hugo used to get his valet to hide his clothes so he couldn’t go out, which could backfire unpleasantly if he ran out of coffee…). Some just came under the header “Don’t even go there” (“Have sex”. What??).

My own suggestions are somewhat tamer (but cheaper, and don’t require a second person). Here are a few ideas to get things moving again. The prune juice of words, if you like.

Write anyway – write anything

The mere act of sitting down and banging out a few sentences can work wonders. Poor writing can be rewritten later – at least there is writing. Write any bit of a blog post that takes your fancy. I often find that a post starts with a thought or a sentence that catches my imagination, and this is rarely the opening paragraph. I write most blog posts from the middle downwards, then skip back up to the top. The first line of this post was “It’s like logging on to Spotify…” which got me going on the rest.

You don’t even have to write a blog post. Compose an email to a friend, a shopping list, a Facebook status update. At least you’re writing.

Jump around

If the sitting down approach doesn’t work, try the moving around approach. Swimming does it for me. OK, I am in the privileged position of being a freelancer and I appreciate that pounding the pool isn’t possible during the day for many. Walk, run, scamper a bit. If you’re at home, pull up a few weeds so at least you’re getting a useful by-product. Thoughts can flow freely during exercise.

There’s always coffee

Or tea. Or juice. Let’s not go down the stereotypical creative-off-their-faces-on-caffeine thing. It can be part of a comforting ritual (Stephen King always starts with a nice cuppa. I like the juxtaposition of the cosiest of drinks and the scariest of creative imaginations), or a break from the screen. I think what I’m trying to say here is don’t neglect your bodily needs. Don’t stare at your paper so hard that your eyes bulge and you break into a sweat.

Go with distraction

Read the news. Scroll through Facebook. See what’s trending. It could be a total waste of time – or an item could catch your imagination, and whoosh, off you go. As I said last week in my blog blog, try Google News for your specific subject and see what’s out there today that you can bounce off. Even Homes Under the Hammer may prove fruitful (Next week’s blog – literal songs for background music).

Come back again later

Do the mental equivalent of switching it off and on again. Give your thoughts time. Unless you have a deadline – and we’re talking about blogging here, not copy for tomorrow’s broadsheets – accept that it’s just not happening, and shelve it for another time. There may be a good reason why you have writer’s block (tiredness for example), so be nice to yourself and stop trying to force it.

Write a blog about writer’s block.

Damn. Gave myself away there…



Here are a few of the (many) articles on writer’s block that inspired this piece. The short BBC film is worth a look.






Look after your blog (and it will look after you)

A blog is a commitment. It’s not just an extra page on your website that you get ready for launch date; it’s like a houseplant (I was going to say “puppy” but that metaphor rapidly gets a bit grim) that needs regular attention or it will dry up and fade away. Like a houseplant, it’s not a major commitment (“puppy” really would have been pretty bad…), and not terribly difficult to look after; however neglect can have a detrimental effect on your whole living room. Who wants to look at a dead plant?

OK, this metaphor is definitely dead now too, but you get my point. A neglected blog can drag a whole website down. Not only will returning visitors wonder whether you’re still out there (“The hotel website is still blogging about Easter offers – do you think it’s closed down?”) but essentially, the search engines won’t be picking up on lovely fresh content, which is no good for your site at all.

So, how do you keep your blog lively, especially when you already have a whole conservatory’s worth of plants to take care of (sorry, sorry)? Here are some very simple suggestions…

Get your copywriter to do it

Well, what did you expect me to say?!  But seriously, a professional writer will commit to getting a post out there for you on pre-agreed topics at regular intervals. Or, I will happily blog-sit for you if you are having a busy period/holiday/baby. This approach also gives you a lovely, polished post…

Use Google Alerts for inspiration

This also works for Facebook and Twitter posts. You can ask Google to let you know if anything newsworthy shows up about your subject. Alternatively, searching on Google News gets you a similar result. An easy way to find inspiration and keep your blog posts current.

Use it like a diary

Just write about what you’re up to. A new dish in your café, a refurbished hotel room, an exciting new product launch… It’s all stuff of interest to your users. Involve “real life” if it’s a family business.  Quick and easy, and posts do not have to be long – they can just be based around a photograph if that suits you.

Get those posts stacked up…

If you have a free day, and know you’re about to be busy, write a bunch of posts and publish them one-by-one over the next few weeks. I try to do this before school holidays (well, Christmas epic fail, but it is so worth doing if you can). How often you write a new blog post seems to be a vexed question. A quick search revealed several squillion opinions on this. Just be realistic. I aim for once a week, as I know I can fit this in.

Nurture your blog. Keep it well nourished and it will serve you well. Writing posts doesn’t have to be an onerous task – and remember (smiles charmingly and hopefully), you can always outsource it… (But I’m rubbish at looking after plants.)