Getting E-Commerce Sites Ready for Christmas

We're officially into autumn now, and it's the time of year when people begin to seriously think about Christmas.

That means it's also time to get e-commerce sites ready for the Christmas rush - change your colour scheme if it's seasonal (even if you just switch to a snow-capped logo on your festive pages), think about special offers and discounts, and keyword your product descriptions for Christmas.

It's not just because I'm a copywriter that I think that last point is rather important - in the run-up to Christmas, there are unique SEO opportunities that you just don't get at other times of year, and you're gonna need the right keywords on your e-commerce site if you're going to capitalise on those.

Consider the below graph of Google Trends data for 2010:

You may recognise me from...

...the notice board at The Sanctuary.

My first foray into print advertising (well, for myself rather than for a client) is a simple flyer tacked up by the door to the toilets. You've got to start somewhere.

On a serious note, Twitter has been a great way to reach people so far, but there's nothing wrong with exploiting all the available routes to market, as any 'expert' will tell you.

Fragment Core - the Phronesis typeface

The logo you see at the top of the Phronesis blog is rendered in Fragment Core, a wonderful font from sugargliderz.

It's free, which is always a good start, and fits the Phronesis concept perfectly.

NB You may want to read this post with one eye on the 'anatomy of a character' glossary.

Content for 1&1 MyWebsites

It's great to see TV commercials for simple web hosting that's suitable for small businesses - such as 1&1 MyWebsite.

I'm not affiliated with them, and can't vouch for their service, but the ad seems straightforward enough - template-based sites, separated into different industry areas, that you can fill with your own logo and text.

But hang on - any decent blogging platform will offer you templates to choose from. Aside from a few technical points, how your site looks has little bearing on its ranking in search results.

Happy Adferversary!

Five years ago today, on September 18th 2006, I started my first graduate position as a DirectNews correspondent at Adfero.

For those of you who don't know, Adfero is an online news agency. It has offices in London, Manchester and Leeds, but Manchester is its largest editorial department.

As with any job, I encountered colleagues I'd like to know for the rest of my life, and some managers I'd rather forget. There were good days and bad days.

This post is really for those of you trying to decide whether you should work for Adfero - I know there are a few of you, as I see you in my search traffic.

Add meta tags to WordPress with custom fields

Ready for a bit of WordPress wizardry? OK, here goes...

There are plenty of SEO plugins out there to add meta tags to individual posts and pages on WordPress. But you don't really need them - you can add custom meta keywords and description tags to a WordPress template using custom fields, instead.

NB This method requires you to have access to edit your template code - ie, it will work on websites that use WordPress as their CMS, but not on free WordPress-hosted blogs at

Why should I outsource my blogging?

Whether you're a web designer who wants to offer blogging as a service to your clients, or a webmaster looking for a low-maintenance way to improve your site's search visibility and ranking, outsourcing your blogging to a freelancer (like me!) is a compelling proposition.

Let's take a look at the arguments for webmasters first, followed by the benefits of outsourced blogging for web designers...

The SEO Forecast

A large part of my income at the moment is derived from month-in, month-out blogging for online and real-world companies all over the UK.

Most of them want a hands-off service - and in some cases I resell my content through web design, marketing and SEO companies, so the site owner might not even know it's me writing their blog posts.

When I'm choosing what to write for these clients - a mixture of original content and editorial-style news posts, depending on their needs - I like to occasionally throw in a weather report.

To find out why, read on...


It's September 11th, 2011, and I don't want to cash in on the date, but I would like to share some thoughts.

In particular, I hadn't realised how many of my journalistic colleagues were inspired to join the profession by the events of that day.

Adfero's head of news feeds Nat Bertram raised the question on Twitter, noting both Kaitlyn Critchley and Jamie Smith cited 9/11 among their career influences.

Kaitlyn was at Adfero's Manchester office during the time I worked there, and was among the more talented individuals I met in my five years as an agency-based online journalist.

She summed up her thoughts today in a series of tweets:

"Coverage of the 9/11 anniversary is everywhere - was certainly a day that changed my life. I remember getting ready for school and was brushing my teeth when the news of the 1st tower came on the radio. Was late for school watching the coverage and was terrified. Also the first time I remember having a hunger for immediate knowledge. So I decided to study journalism."

Queen Fer a Day

Caroline Feraday is no stranger to the concept of online interaction - when I first saw her in late 1999, she was presenting Sky One's viewer-participation Saturday-night line-up, Skyrocket.

I remember thinking she was particularly good as an on-screen anchor with little to no back-up, but I didn't realise that she was still only 22 and much of her competence was raw talent (plus, even at that age, I'd guess she'd spent a good few years learning her trade).

Fast-forward to 2011 and Caroline's a familiar face to many and a familiar voice to even more, including her contributions to the BBC London 94.9 schedule.

Early on Wednesday morning (September 7th), she flew back from her holiday and into an unexpected emergency that proved not only Caroline's own professionalism, but also the inextricable nature of social media in the modern world...

Taking Care of the Pennies

When I started freelancing, I gave some thought to how much I should charge - what would be fair, and how much I'm worth.

I decided to offer a flat rate, whatever the project, because it infuriates me when I visit a freelancer or agency website and there's no indication of how much they're gonna quote you.

I'm not saying the rate will never change, but I've pretty much decided to keep it as simple as possible and make sure it's always visible in one place.

But what does this have to do with those of you who hire me to write copy for your e-commerce sites...?

The Countdown to Christmas

It's school-run Monday, which means kids across the country are heading back to school for the new academic year.

That means we're getting well and truly into the run-up to Christmas - and this is the crossover time when, if you're a supplier rather than a retailer, those last big festive orders are likely to start coming in.

Meanwhile, if you're a direct retailer, you should see a steady stream of buyer interest between now and December as more people get their gift shopping out of the way.