Is Norwich city centre recession-proof?

Apart from Thorne, Doncaster, a place I spent 18 years in from birth to university, I’ve never remained anywhere as long as we’ve stayed in Norwich, Norfolk. I’ve had a few bad experiences here, in the recent past, in education, but even that, with hindsight, was a massive favour. I had fallen out of love with teaching and a collective kick from various people propelled me into what I now love doing: writing and web design Norwich.

We’ve been here 11 years in July, a Personal Best, and I honestly never thought our time here would be so lengthy. Dare I say it, after the experiences 5 years ago, I actually like living here, in Bradwell, a gridlocked suburb of Great Yarmouth.

Gorleston, close by, was home for 8 years, and our move to a new build 3 years ago was hardly an epic trek – with it being just 2 miles.

I love Norwich city centre too, and, as someone who likes eating out and shopping, it is a great county capital.

It seems to me too to be fairly recession-proof. The blight that is obvious in so many city centres – failed businesses, shuttered premises, empty retail units, vacant restaurants are lacking in Norwich. Admittedly we’ve seen changes to the city centre in our 11 years here, but it’s not dramatically altered and is rightly, as it calls itself, “a fine city”.

Property prices are not low there though, even though statistically, wages are below average, I read. You won’t get much change out of £200,000 in the city centre, which may strike you as cheap if you’re comparing London or expensive if you’ve got other comparables.

The cost of living is quite high too.

Eating out in Norwich is relatively expensive, I think, and the costs of goods and services (to go all old skool) is high – getting a wall built or a decent discount on a car is challenging in Norwich and Norfolk. 

But I’m trying to buck the local trend with my WordPress website offers.

I was talking with a joiner last week, who’d been looking at getting a website, with the lowest quote being £500 plus VAT for a simple brochure site. He’s now bought into my deal for £299 no VAT. Northern prices in an eastern county. The websites are not poor either and I don’t compromise on service or what’s included as you can see in the image or my prices.

Obviously, this is just one aspect of my work – if you’d like to know more, contact me today.

 

Was George right to shoot Lennie?

I realised when the reptilian Gove removed “Of Mice and Men” from the curriculum that my days were numbered in a classroom. I’d taught it for over 20 years and seen the old and newer versions of the dvd repeatedly.

I realised too, when I set up this business, that the days of coaching students on zoom, micro-macro on descriptive writing, or presenting a balanced argument on the perennial essay on school uniform, were over.

Writing was to remain with me in this business – it was its primary purpose when I set it up four years ago now, but I had to learn how to write to sell, to persuade people to buy goods and services and not train some hormonal teenager in how to sell an argument about vegetarianism or such like.

I’ve learned loads in four years – if that doesn’t sound too technical – and one lesson is this: the title is king.

If I don’t go in my MSN junk email box for a few days, it’s spam city and I have over 200 emails waiting to be binned. I do scroll through though and check which ones to move to my inbox and not mass destroy, and invariably these have some importance or have an arresting subject line.

It’s the same with blogs.

The title matters.

This one hits upon a successful formula in that it asks a question. Its length of six words is good too for SEO. Too long and Google truncates it. Too short and it looks lame.

There’s a power word in there – shoot. And an uncommon word: right. It scores 69% which is decent but you need to aim for 80.

A blog title needs a balance of all four, apparently.

I could do better though with this replacement headline.

Much better.

What happens when murder becomes a matter of survival?

That scores 82 and I could actually get it higher with some uncommon words.

Now I don’t at all claim to have invented this tool. I found it online and used it frequently in early writing days and irregularly now. But if you’re writing blog posts, email campaigns, marketing copy and want better click throughs, start with this tool.

If you want the crib sheet too, without the hassle of finding it online, it’s below.

Happy headline writing.

Off to Paris at Christmas before Little Brexit Britain shuts down in March

%name Paris

I’ve never ever understood the mentality that Britain is Great.

When we hop across to France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Spain et al, I have never once thought “not as nice as Scunthorpe” or “I prefer Oldham” or “Blackpool tower has better views.”

No.

That’s why the Brexit vote bewildered me. Okay it was predicated on lies painted on buses, but surely anyone with a modicum of sense can see that continental Europe top trumps Little Britain for everything.

Like:

  • Road network
  • Food and drink
  • Culture
  • Sightseeing
  • Cost of living
  • The weather

Yet 52% voted to Leave this on the deluded belief that Britain would be better off alone.

Hence the trip to Paris at Christmas before the doomsday predictions for March 2019 see us marooned and that 26 mile channel gulf widening further.

We’ve other motives too – we last went 8 years ago in summer and our daughter has only vague recollections of the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, yet oddly can recall the street hawkers selling bottled water then waterproof capes when the heavens opened.

Son James turns 18 next week, and having his mum’s flair for languages, intends to study French (and English Literature) for degree next year at the University of Warwick. It’s his birthday treat too.

I like travel. It does broaden the mind. I love city breaks, having experienced Berlin recently and Rome the year before. I’m no fan of London though, to be honest but Paris is something I’m keenly anticipating.

I wish we had the backbone of the French too – would they have let Brexit happen? Doubt it, they blockade streets over the cost of living. Would they have allowed the pernicious privatisation of schools, like we did with Multi Academy Trusts (who I don’t trust)? No.

As we cross the channel (keeping it real, driving from Great Yarmouth to Paris) and the bluebirds yammer over the white cliffs and we set off to Paris from Calais, I’ll take one backward glance and ask:

”British people, why did you believe Farage, Gove, Johnson et al? Why do you want to cut yourself off from this road trip?”

I will showcase all on Instagram if you need further convincing.

 

Shrek – how to structure your content like Shrek

%name Shrek

I’ve developed something of a resemblance to Shrek in recent years – the waistline has expanded big time, my grumpiness occasionally rears its head and I sometimes end up with clients who are donkeys: stubborn, answering back and reluctant to pay for work done.

But, back in the day, I used to show “Shrek” on DVD regularly: one, because it is a class film; two, students and I enjoyed it; three, I could relax knowing that my fetish for showing films in English engendered high GCSE grades and instilled intrinsic motivation.

Like business, innit, if you like where you work and who you work with, you produce better results. Films did that for me – and my students.

“Shrek” though, the original film, has other crucial factors too as I explained to Joshua over the phone last week, who rang me to pick my brain about writing.

I used the Shrek analogy then and make no apologies for repeating it here.

Ogres have layers, onions have layers, content has layers.

“Shrek” begins in one place (the swamp) and your blog posts should begin and end in one place: like the swamp.

Here’s why.

Your subject line or title should contain enough enticing detail to get people clicking through to read; the opening should compel your reader to continue (that opening can also become your metadescription – that snippet Google shows); the content should be informative and entertaining and take the reader on a journey (like Shrek does to rescue the Princess) and the finale should return to the start.

It’s called in media circles: Freytag’s Triangle but in copywriting it’s called structure I guess?

So there you have it: some pearls of wisdom from someone who graduated in 1986 with an English degree, taught the subject from 1987 to 2014 from ages 8 to 18 and is now sitting in his Norfolk swamp, wondering when Donkey clients will pay up and when his partner, Fiona, will knock out a fresh stovetop coffee.

 

 

“Lorem Ipsum” be gone – use a proper copywriter

%name Lorem Ipsum

Ah Lorem Ipsum, or Lorem Ipsum Dolor (I think) if I’m feeling expansive – the beige text place filler that says put text here and a sight that many web designers and clients sigh over when they see it.

Lorem Ipsum needs replacing you see. And that causes navel gazing and head scratching, because trust me, as a seasoned writer (no salt though as it induces strokes) that is the biggest part of any web project. Well that and the bloody images.

You can find copyright-free images on Pexel, Pixabay and Unsplash and download to your heart’s content, but you can’t find the equivalent for words – because the equal of VAR (topical World Cup reference – tick), Google, will penalise you.

So if you’re faced with this as a web designer or client, how do you react?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

To my mind, you’ve several options when you’re faced with Lorem Ipsum:

  1. Die slowly inside.
  2. Play client-designer ping pong. Designer asks client for content, client bats it back to designer, ad infinitum.
  3. Outsource it.

3 is where I come in.

I’m a Lorem Ipsum warrior, a word hero without the cape, and increasingly, designers and clients are dropping table tennis rackets, looking at me, esconsed in my foxy office and asking “Stuart, fancy being our Lorem Ipsum surrogate?”

The answer is invariably yes – particularly if you can provide me with a staging or development site or an outline of what’s needed where.

My words

I do it quickly, efficiently and creatively too, a man on a mission if you like to write copy that answers web visitors questions, speaks to them like a human and gets a fist bump from Google.

As a client wanting a website, you could try doing it yourself with inferior results – that’s not me being cocky, but I’ve had years of destroying Lorem Ipsum – or ask the web designer to pay me or head directly to me and say “Stuart, don’t launch into a WordPress sales pitch, we’ve already got someone doing that, but the copy is beige, vanilla and Latin and needs some pizazz.”

I’ll do it.

I quickly assess the word count and quote you a fixed price for optimised, human copy that will have Lorem Ipsum disappearing, embarrassed.

There’s conditions of course – I don’t have scope stretch – by that I mean I quote for 2000 words and you ask me to add a blog or improve 3 you’ve drafted. No way, Jose. You pay upfront too as I hate spending days working and waiting for a month to dine out on it.

Web Designers have it easy

But I’ll tell you this now as someone who has learned a little bit about WordPress web design (I’m on page 14 of Google you know), I could train a 4 year old to ADD NEW – PAGE / POST – CUSTOMISE – APPEARANCE – MENUS – ADD PAGE TO MENU (I hope it goes like that) but said 4 year old, 40 year old client, 50 year old web designer couldn’t craft content as well as a skilled website copywriter, like moi or t’others.

Enough.

I’ve Lorem Ipsum to banish on three websites alone this week – you want me to banish yours?

Drop me a line (no, not that type of line) to [email protected] or connect with me on LinkedIn (don’t worry, I don’t bore on there) and watch Lorem Ipsum disappear, whilst website traffic and sales increase.  

Will Alexa replace humans in the property industry?

%name Alexa

I’ve switched gas and electricity suppliers in the past month in our new build from British Gas to EDF, mainly, sadly, to witness a Smart Home meter from Netatmo (supplied and fitted free) along with a free Amazon Echo.

They’re both impressive pieces of kit, and I think if I’d forked out £250 for them, they would still please.

“Alexa, what’s the weather like today?”

“Alexa, turn the heating up to 23.”

“Alexa play The Lumineers from Spotify.”

have become daily utterances, along with its question of the day and bad jokes.

I can see though a use for Alexa or Google Home or Siri in the wider property industry.

A house for sale by an estate agent could have its accompanied viewings replaced by a smart speaker, answering questions like “Alexa how long has this house been on the market? Alexa what is the likely rental yield of this home? Alexa why do estate agents drive Minis?”

Obviously there’d be the risk of theft of said devices and perhaps Alexa would need some software tweaks to allow them to use estate agent speak (similar to politicians) with some selling spin, but it could work?

Voice control has already impacted on our family of four at home so the next steps surely will impact further on the wider industry of home selling and home building?

Alexa could replace the high street estate agencies too? Passers by could ask to be emailed properties that are listed in a locale by voice command? The industry behemoths of Rightmove and Zoopla who are charging a king’s ransom monthly to estate and letting agents or access to monopolised portals could be killed by Alexa?

Those branded BMW Minis could become electric, driverless and voice-activated?

Access to properties for sale and let could become smart controlled like some hotels and many smartphones now have.

Fantastical thinking on my part?

Maybe.

But I reckon this week, with the closures of Maplins and Toys R Us (two companies, along with BHS, Blockbuster, et al) that sadly failed to move with the times, property developers and estate agents need to futureproof their businesses.

Alexa may not be ready any day soon to replace the human service but it will happen, I believe, in some form, and in the not too distant future.

I’ve just asked: “Alexa how much are Countrywide shares worth?” and that should be a warning to all.

Goodbye 2017, you were a fine and dandy year

%name new year

2017 – the year of the Phoenix for me – the year I stopped looking back and started looking forward, and built on successful businesses, as well as developing new ones.

Get Pro Copy became a Ltd Company with my wife asking for (and being refused) a shareholder role. That business has served me well for over two years now and deserved a Nick Clegg type honour – I think?

Read moreGoodbye 2017, you were a fine and dandy year

How to change from teaching to selling easily

%name street selling

When I first went into estate agency, I thought I had no eye for sales, as it wasn’t something I’d done all my career.

After estate agency, setting up Get Pro Copy, I still had the same doubts.

How could I convince people to pay for my services with writing or social media, when I’d been a public servant for 27 years?

Ergo: 321 Websites, then Man Stress.

But I’ve realised that I’ve been selling stuff since 1986 and have not been aware of it.

What stuff?

A love of English.

Read moreHow to change from teaching to selling easily

Website copywriting services – without the delays

%name website copywriting services

Website copywriting services – increasingly I find I’m asked if I offer this and the answer is an emphatic yes.

You see a website without compelling words and fresh content just hangs in limbo so to speak.

To make your online presence standout and get hits, you need copy.

Copy for your landing pages, about, services and news.

I’ve got another admission to make about why it matters too.

Read more:

Read moreWebsite copywriting services – without the delays

Illy coffee is my new wine, and chain coffee is arse gravy

%name Illy

Illy coffee is my new wine, and chain coffee is arse gravy.

Let’s just look at my daily caffeine intake: 6.45 I rise to shine to knock out a feeble boost of Earl Grey, and I ruin it by adding both sugar and milk – not to builder proportions but enough to drown the delicate Bergamot. Shocking I know.

Mid morning, after I’m employed as an unpaid Uber driver by son and daughter, I plunge head first into caffeine after my breakfast toe-dip with the Earl.

Read moreIlly coffee is my new wine, and chain coffee is arse gravy

Norfolk copywriter misses home and search volumes.

%name Norfolk copywriter

You’d think  after 16 months of deliberately ignoring Google searches for Norfolk copywriter, I’d be nowhere on that search engine.

But despite my best efforts to ignore the search, I’m blithely sat today on the middle of page 2.

I’ve blogged before about search volumes for London copywriter and Manchester copywriter, but never Norfolk copywriter.

Why?

Read moreNorfolk copywriter misses home and search volumes.

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