#Long Read

Black and white photograph of a pair of glasses left on a concrete block

Tuesday Dispatch #2: lucky dip flying, retro-fitting cars and the colour blue

October 19, 2021

We're gearing up for a general election at the end of the month. Political choices aside, it's certain by November Japan will have a new economic direction. Abenomics has had its day.

What this new economics will look like is anyone's guess. The incumbent LDP hasn't been entirely forthcoming on details, while opposition parties are throwing around promises like an opposition hoping it will lose.

Photograph of a river plain with tall green grassed in the foreground, a ridge with houses in the midground and mountains looming in the background

A walk along the river plain

September 22, 2021

This is where I live. If you squint hard, you can see my house.

I’ve been looking out across the valley every morning for the past 9 months. My ambition has been to walk around along the river that winds its way from a lake up in the mountains to meet the Myohoji river. I tried it once, only to find my way blocked by Japan’s obsession with turning every riverbank into concrete.

Viet Nam’s lockdown is a global shipping problem

August 4, 2021

Viet Nam is having a tough time. Early success in containing Covid-19 has been undone by a surge of cases. Ho Chi Minh City is under lockdown and numerous production lines are suspended or scaled back significantly.

If you think this means you'll see fewer Nike trainers or Samsung phones in the shops you're half-right. In recent years, Hanoi has worked hard to turn the country away from being a sweatshop for fast fashion. Increasingly it's seen as a destination of choice for high-tech manufacturing and R&D.

Illustration of a laptop placed on an engineering size reduction symbol with lines showing data deflected away from a red circle

WordPress: how to remove unwanted code from your site’s header

July 15, 2021

When WordPress generates a webpage, it adds a lot of information unseen by the user. Much of this appears between the <head> tags in the code, and asks the browser to interpret information in a certain way, or load additional files and resources. While some of these are useful (such as style.css, which turns raw words into a stylish website), others are not. Some could compromise the security of your site.

Each resource that's requested slows your website a little. It makes sense to remove anything your theme or site doesn't use, even if all it does is shave a third of a second off the loading time.

An illustration of a spinning wheel with words being used as thread in the spindle

How to use article spinning to reach your target audience

May 17, 2021

Your latest content is out and results are mixed. Trying to appeal to different audiences in one article has made your copy messy and confused. It's difficult to read, too long and the keywords used by one audience confuse another.

Article spinning creates different versions of a single article for individual audiences. Originally a technique in SEO, it aims to give people a version of your content that's specific to their needs. By matching the structure, emphasis and language a particular audience uses, you can increase both the usefulness of your content, and lift your search engine performance.

Quote: It takes time for a newly minted web page to gain traction

Off-page SEO: an essential guide for small business marketing

May 10, 2021

When you're working with content professionals, the chances are you'll hear about on-page and off-page SEO. We can get excited about these terms and start talking about outreach and backlinks and a bunch of other things that may not make sense.

This article explains what off-page SEO is, what it means in business terms and offers an outline of how to start your own efforts. 

Illustration of a Japanese flag overlaid on a fading Union Jack

2020: a bad year for Japan / UK trade

May 5, 2021

2020 was the year of the pandemic, and every economy suffered. My interest is Japan and the UK, and while many of my peers look at it from a UK perspective, I prefer the Japanese. I keep my findings on a page on LinkedIn, which I update from time to time.

Using data from Japan's official statistics authority, I've looked at how imports and exports with major markets have unfolded over the past 6 years. Then I've dug into the UK. Some highlights:

Constructionist image of a skyscraper reaching up towards a red circle

Skyscraper articles: an essential tool for small business marketing

May 3, 2021

Scoring a high rank on a search engine can have a profound effect on your site's traffic. Highly placed content attracts more visitors, expands the sales funnel and drives sales. As you talk to SEO experts you'll hear them talk about keyword density and on and off page Search Engine Optimisation. At some point you'll hear about a content marketing technique called "The Skyscraper" that promises to leapfrog your competitors by building on their success.

In this post I'm going to take a tour of the Skyscraper Technique. I'll outline what it is, how to build your own skyscraper content and ways to promote it. By the end you'll have a better understanding of what it is, how to use it and what results you can expect.

Image made of 4 different portrait photographs from this web page

Photography revisited

April 27, 2021

Photography has been a passion of mine for more than thirty years. It started with a simple "point and click" and film that had to be sent away to be processed. In late 1999 I got my first digital camera that took stunning 640 x 480 pixel images. More cameras followed and I started working with models, bands and designers.

Then came the decision to immigrate to Japan and everything went on hold for a while. Cancer and coronavirus delayed plans by more than two years until, finally, my wife and I arrived in Osaka in late 2020.

Quote: SEM has a more immediate effect that makes it appealing for product sales and timely content

Search engine marketing: a guide for small business

April 26, 2021

In December 2019, I published a report on how retailers design their mobile product pages. Within two weeks, over 300 people had viewed it, and several of these visitors had become leads. Search Engine Marketing drove this traffic, a set of techniques that short-cut the long-term organic growth of SEO for something more immediate.

This article summarizes Search Engine Marketing (SEM). It compares it with SEO, sets out four elements needed for success and how it can form part of a content marketing campaign.

Graphic of an editorial calendar with all entries completed

The Editorial Calendar: a focus for consistent, high quality content

April 22, 2021

Modern marketing demands a steady stream of content for blogs, social media and newsletters. Eager to deliver, marketers charge into the fray, determined to write 1,000 words of high-quality content each day. Overwhelmed by the task, most will fall by the wayside until their efforts dwindle to nothing, and content marketing is declared a failure.

Yet there are real benefits to content that many are exploiting. They produce regular features and articles readers enjoy, which generates new leads and customers. Far from the chaos of blogging, these successes often come with disciplined management and an approach closer to traditional publishing.

A camera on a table next to a macbook with photos on the screen

A guide to using Stock Photography in your content marketing

April 15, 2021

Images are an integral part of content marketing. They appear at the top of blog posts, teasing the visitor to read on. Sometimes they're found further down the page, adding context or breaking up longer copy. Social media is awash with photographs of smiling people, panoramic vistas and carefully crafted graphics. These photographs and illustrations demand our attention, and sometimes we're willing to oblige.

Creating a unique photo for each blog post would be a full-time job. Fortunately, there are ways you can short-cut this process and use work that's already created. This is the "stock photograph", an image that's ready for you to use. All you need do is agree to a few terms, possibly pay a fee, and you can use it in your next piece of content marketing. At least, that's the theory.

A simple colour wheel on a rainbow background

Colour: how to choose the right colours with your designer

April 8, 2021

Recommendations about the colour to use in your brand can seem a little arbitrary. Sometimes the mix "just works" and you don't know why. Or the designer suggests using a slightly different variation on your brand for this specific design. Maybe the mix of colours doesn't "feel" quite right.

You can easily dismiss these ideas as "designer's ego".

Two portraits of the same woman side by side, one in a professional dress, the other in a casual sweater

How to prepare for your corporate profile photo

April 7, 2021

Even a camera-shy photographer like me needs a headshot. They're an essential part of the modern business landscape and appear everywhere. From the security pass around your neck to a LinkedIn profile or a profile aimed at attracting clients, your photograph is ubiquitous. While you might get away with a selfie on social media, a professionally taken headshot is usually a minimum to achieve any kind of PR coverage.

Many of us don’t enjoy having our photograph taken. We find it uncomfortable and awkward. We worry about looking foolish and the images never look right. Much of that is to do with our own self-image and we’re used to seeing ourselves reversed in a mirror.

Detail of The Great Wave by Hokusai from a printed book

Hokusai: a lesson in reinvention

April 4, 2021

The Great Wave is one of the most iconic images to emerge from Japan. Produced in the early 19th Century, Hokusai's block print of a wave crashing over fishing boats with Mount Fuji looking on, has been endlessly reproduced and adapted. It has appeared in arenas as diverse as serene gallery exhibitions, explosive TV adverts and the ubiquitous mobile phone cover. Nor have reproductions been faithful, as it is often twisted and turned to suit whatever political, social or commercial need is required.

This was the work of an artist at his height of his powers. Born in Edo in 1760, Hokusai carved a long career from his art. His is a diverse portfolio, embracing delicate studies of nature and amusing illustrations in popular novels.

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