Is vegan cheese good? Comparing 3 top brands

A few weeks ago, I announced I was fed up of the awful menstrual cramps that affect me every month and dived into some research to find out whether I could tackle them by making changes to my diet.

I found out that some foods can raise our levels of prostaglandins; natural chemicals in our bodies that play a role in our menstrual cycles. When our levels of PGE2 prostaglandins are too high, it can cause inflammation, leading to period pains.

And one of the food groups that can cause high levels of prostaglandins is dairy.

Although I don’t drink milk anyway (I’m a black coffee fan), I do eat plenty of cheese and yoghurt. So, this month I’ve been trying to avoid dairy to see if that has an effect on my cramps.

For the most part, I’ve been trying to cook meals that contain more of the foods that help to fight menstrual cramps, such as walnuts, legumes, vegetables, dark chocolate, and oily fish. But every now and then I do get a craving for the comfort of melted cheese.

The solution? Vegan cheese.

Now, if you are a diehard cheese lover (like my husband), the idea of vegan cheese might be a bit upsetting. After all, it can’t even be marketed as cheese, but only as a ‘cheese alternative’.

But if, like me, you are open to new foods if they are better for our health (and for the planet), you might be wondering if vegan cheese is worth trying.

To help answer this question, I’m doing a highly scientific analysis* of three of the leading UK brands. I chose these three because:

a) they were available in my local supermarket

b) they are all cheddar-style substitutes, so it felt like I was comparing like with like

*Potentially not all that scientific at all

The contenders, in no particular order, are Applewood Vegan, Violife Epic Mature, and Vitalite Dairy Free Block. Let’s see how they compare…

Photo by Luna Lovegood on Pexels.com

Is vegan cheese healthy?

Let’s face it, cheese is not generally the first thing you reach for when you are trying to eat healthily. It is more of a delicious indulgence than a health food. Vegan cheese is the same – if your primary reason for going vegan is your health, then cheese alternatives may not be your go-to food.

To create a cheese-like food from non-dairy ingredients, manufacturers have to combine some slightly unusual ingredients. All three of the brands I tried are made with coconut oil, starch (from potato and maize), and various colourings and flavourings. So, if you are avoiding processed foods, vegan cheese is not for you.

Photo by Dana Tentis on Pexels.com

Of the three I tried, the Vitalite Block had the shortest ingredient list, but honestly there isn’t a lot to choose between these three. The ingredients are pretty similar in all of them.

In terms of nutrients, I compared them with Cathedral City Mature Cheddar, which is a dairy-based brand I buy now and then. The table below shows the nutrient break down per 100g.

Cathedral CityApplewoodViolifeVitalite
Calories (kcal)416305303285
Fats (g)34.9 (21.7 saturated)24.6 (20.9 saturated)24 (22 saturated)20.2 (17.3 saturated)
Carbs (g)0.119.42025.2
Protein (g)25.41.51.30.1
Salt (g)1.81.82.22
Calcium (µg)739282Not listed281
B12 (µg)Not listed2.72.52.1

I was disappointed to find that the Violife one didn’t list its calcium content. Especially with the recent EPIC-Oxford study into vegans being more at risk of bone fractures, many people who don’t eat dairy are interested in upping their calcium intake. It is encouraging though that all three are supplemented with vitamin B12, which is the one nutrient a vegan diet doesn’t contain naturally.

If you are concerned with calories and saturated fat, the vegan cheeses beat the dairy cheddar hands-down. But when we look at protein and calcium levels, the dairy cheddar is the better choice.

So whether vegan cheese is healthier or not depends on the rest of your diet – if you tend to have too much saturated fat in your diet, choosing a vegan cheese to replace your usual dairy cheddar might help to bring that down. But if you are looking to increase your protein or calcium levels, this isn’t the best switch.

Photo by Francesco Paggiaro on Pexels.com

Of course, you might be choosing dairy-free alternatives for animal welfare, environmental friendliness, or because you have a health condition that means dairy isn’t a good choice for you – in that case you already know that vegan cheese is the right option.

On that basis, I’d be inclined to choose the Applewood – it has slightly higher levels of protein, B12, and calcium, and slightly lower levels of salt and saturated fat. It has higher calories, but I’m not personally interested in weight-loss and it is only marginally more than the Violife one.

Does vegan cheese melt well?

Back when most vegan cheese was made from nuts, finding one that melted nicely was a mission. The good news nowadays is that the clever vegan food scientists have come up with solutions to give us dairy-free alternatives that still melt well.

Since I generally eat cheese melted on a wrap, pizza, or on top of pasta, I was especially interested to see how each of these three vegan cheese options would melt. To test this, I melted each of them in the oven on top of potato wedges, in the microwave on top of a wrap, and sprinkled a grated handful over hot pasta. Not all on the same day, I should add.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Disappointingly, none of them melted over the pasta – apparently it takes longer for vegan cheese to melt so you’d need to do this in the oven as a pasta bake to get it to work. All three melted brilliantly in the oven and in the microwave. I can’t choose a winner here because they performed pretty much the same.

Compared with dairy cheese, the melted vegan cheese has a different texture. Less – chewy? It is hard to describe. All three released some oil when melted but didn’t tase greasy.

So the answer? Yes, vegan cheese melts well, as long as you give it enough heat.

Does vegan cheese taste good?

Ultimately, this is the real test for me. I don’t care how good for me something is, if it tastes nasty, I’m not going to eat it. Especially when it comes to something like cheese (or cheese substitutes) that are all about comfort and flavour.

Obviously, this is completely subjective – what I think of these vegan cheeses might differ from what you think of them. But as a cheese-lover, you can trust that I’m coming at it with a healthy degree of scepticism.

So. Is vegan cheese tasty? The answer is a qualified yes. All three of these brands have a nice flavour, although they are fairly different. The Applewood is the winner for me – it has a smoky, paprika-enhanced flavour that I enjoyed. But I’d happily eat the Violife too, which tastes like a very, very mild cheddar (although with a slightly different aftertaste). The Vitalite is a bit bland, but perfectly acceptable.

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

All three tasted better melted than cold to me, but then I think the same of most dairy cheeses too.

Do they taste as good as real cheese? Well… no. They don’t. It is partly down to the texture. The vegan cheeses are smooth and slightly soft in texture. They can’t replicate the crumbliness of real cheddar. They also just didn’t have that same sharpness or depth of flavour.

Having said that, if you are avoiding dairy and eating vegan cheese helps to fill a gap, it is a perfectly tasty food. I think it might help to think of vegan cheese as a different food group entirely to dairy cheese, rather than a straight up alternative.

I have definitely found that having some dairy-free cheese alternatives in my fridge has been helpful in keeping me away from dairy. Although it is early days yet, I am seeing an improvement in my menstrual cramps, which was my whole aim in staying away from cheese in the first place. If eating vegan cheese occasionally makes that more sustainable, I’m all for it.

Is vegan cheese good for the environment?

I’ve not gone into the ethics of eating dairy in this post, since it is a whole discussion of its own. But I am trying to reduce my reliance on animal products for the sake of the planet as well as for my own health.

When it comes to food choices, I doubt that the coconut oil and processed ingredients in vegan cheese are as good for the environment as eating locally grown, organic vegetables and fruits.

However, it does avoid the issues with animal welfare, high water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the dairy industry.

Photo by Vinicius Pontes on Pexels.com

Conclusion

I started this post with the aim of answering the question of whether or not vegan cheese is good.

Although the answer is quite subjective, I’d say yes, just not quite as tasty as dairy cheese. Definitely it will remain a feature in my diet for the foreseeable future.

Of the three brands I set out to test, the winner for me is the Applewood Vegan. It has the most flavour and looks to be the best on nutrients too. The Violife Epic Mature comes second and I will definitely buy this again. Honestly, I probably won’t bother with the Vitalite in the future. It just wasn’t as tasty as the other two.

References

Tong, T.Y.N., Appleby, P.N., Armstrong, M.E.G. et al. Vegetarian and vegan diets and risks of total and site-specific fractures: results from the prospective EPIC-Oxford study. BMC Med 18, 353 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-020-01815-3

Nutritional information taken from the packets of Applewood Vegan, Violife Extra Mature, Vitalite Dairy Free Block, and Cathedral City Mature Cheddar

How to write fantastic copy for your coaching website

There’s something scarily official about pressing the publish button on your new website. You know that you need one to market your coaching services and find new clients, but when it comes to putting the content together and releasing it into the world, it suddenly becomes a hugely daunting task.

Some people take months to put their website copy together, endlessly tweaking and refining. But I don’t want you to have to wait that long to put your site out there. I want you to be ready to hit that publish button so that your website can get to work attracting new clients for your coaching business.

That’s why I’m putting all of my top tips in this one blog post – so that you can feel confident in pulling your content together and launching your website, knowing your copy is the best it can be.

Let’s get started…

1. Website design and content should work hand in hand

Whether you are working with a website designer or going it alone, you want to make sure that your coaching website’s content works with its design and vice versa.

I’ve worked with clients before who had the website design finished and agreed before they ever got started thinking about the content. The result? Restrictive designs that dictate the length of the copy that can fit in each section. This disrupts the flow and means you have to be extremely creative to write copy that converts visitors as it should.

As a content writer, I’m tempted to claim that the copy is more important than the design. I’m sure website designers would say the opposite!

Really, they are both essential. Your design needs to be clean and visually appealing to capture the attention of visitors to your coaching website and make it easy for them to navigate their way around. But then it is the job of your website copy to keep people there and convert them to clients (or email subscribers, or Instagram followers, or whatever the main goal of your site is).

Ideally, I’d say that the copy, or at least an outline of the copy, should come before the design. At the very least, they need to be created at the same time. If you are working with professional designers and content writers, make sure they are talking to each other. If you are doing it all yourself, sketch out your ideas and draft pages on paper before you start building your site.

2. Good grammar and spelling are essential

It probably shouldn’t matter as much as it does. After all, you are selling your ability to transform people’s lives or businesses with your coaching, not your services as a proof-reader. But the truth is that spelling mistakes and missed punctuation make your site look amateurish – and that destroys the sense of trust you need to build in your abilities as a coach.

Even if you are a confident writer, it is a good idea to get someone else to read over your copy to catch any mistakes before you make your site live. You can also use tools like Grammarly to help you identify issues and make sure your content is error-free.

Depending on your budget, you might decide to outsource your copy to a professional. Some website design companies offer copywriting services too, or you can find a freelance writer to help you out. There’s also the midway option of writing the copy yourself and then getting a professional to edit it for you afterwards, which will usually be cheaper than having someone else write it from scratch.

3. Write like a human being

The degree of formality you write with will depend on your target audience. But even if you are marketing your coaching services to businesses, your website copy will still be read by a human.

Way too many websites make the mistake of being overly formal. Especially when you have a coaching business, you want to establish a strong relationship between you and your clients so that they will take your guidance on board. This relationship starts right from the point they land on your website.

So, how exactly do you write like a human being? This doesn’t mean that you should write copy that sounds the same as speaking out loud, but it should carry some elements of that. It is called writing in a conversational style. Here are some tips for how to achieve it:

  • Use the first person (I or we) and second person (you)
  • Ask questions
  • Avoid jargon and technical language
  • Use contractions where appropriate (won’t instead of will not, it’s instead of it is)
  • Be prepared to break grammar rules occasionally to protect the flow of your copy
  • Reference your personal experiences where relevant
  • Make appropriate use of slang, cultural references, and colloquialisms

In addition, help readers out by;

  • Using headings and subtitles to give your content structure
  • Using bullet points and quotes to make copy more engaging
  • Breaking up text into paragraphs and using images too so that is not overwhelming to read

4. Write for your target audience

Strongly linked with point #3, writing for your target audience is key to make sure your coaching website is doing its job to turn site visitors into clients. You need to know who your services are aimed at, what issues they are dealing with, and how they are feeling when they arrive on your site. Then you can write copy that meets them where they are and demonstrates how your services can help them solve the problems they are experiencing.

Your target audience will also determine the language and level of formality you use. If you are a health coach who mainly works with individuals, then you will want to sound more informal than a coach who is targeting businesses. Similarly, if you mainly work with older people, you may need to sound more formal than someone who coaches young adults.

Before you start writing, take some time to understand who your services are targeted at and how they speak and write themselves. Mirror this in your own copy.

5. It isn’t about you

A lot of coaches fall into the trap of thinking their website should tell their story. And it should… but only as far as that relates to your clients and the services you offer to them. There is nothing wrong with adding a personal touch or two – it helps your prospective clients relate to you. But you should make sure that you are always keeping your reader in mind when you write your website copy.

This is especially true on your About Page. Despite the name, this page is not about you at all. It is about how you can help your clients.

Equally, remember that your website visitors don’t know what you do. It might be clear to you what NLP* is or what SMART** stands for, but it won’t necessarily be for them. Your services pages should clearly explain what you offer, how it works, and what results people can expect to achieve.

Don’t make false or grand claims that will make people lose trust in you but do be clear about what you do and how it will help them.

*Neuro linguistic programming

**Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound

6. Never leave people hanging

When someone arrives on your site, you are their host in just the same way you would be if they visited your home. You’d never abandon someone on the doorstep without showing them the way to the living room, so don’t do it on your website either.

Every page of your coaching site should have a call to action that directs visitors to what to do next. Although your ultimate aim might be for them to book an appointment, this won’t necessarily be your call to action on every page. You need to consider how visitors are journeying around your site and how much convincing they will need before they take that step.

Generally, you want just one call to action per page, so that visitors don’t get distracted. The exception is your homepage, which acts like the main corridor in your home – leading to the other rooms. Your homepage should link to the other main sections of your site so that people can easily navigate to where they want to go.

As well as well-considered calls to action, structure your site menu logically so that it is easy for people to navigate. This is more website design than website copy, but you do need to name each page something recognisable. Don’t be tempted to get cute or clever with page names – it will just mean your visitors don’t know where to find the information they need.

7. Provide social proof

You are trying to convince visitors to your website that you are the coach for them. Which means you need to back up your claims somehow. The best way to do this is to feature testimonials from your past clients. These provide what is known as ‘social proof’ – confirmation that you can do what you say you can. It is part of the reason Amazon is so popular. From the start, they understood the importance of showing reviews in getting people to buy.

Your site could have a testimonials or case study page that gives an in depth look at how you have helped people in the past (ideally in their words, not yours). If you are new to coaching, this might be trickier – consider offering a friend some free sessions in exchange for a glowing testimonial.

As well as using testimonials on a dedicated page, scatter short quotes around the other pages of your site to help convince potential clients to take the plunge and book a call.

8. Read everything out loud

Before you click publish, read every single word on your website out loud. Doing this is a great way to spot mistakes that you might miss if you are just reading in your head.

It also helps you check the flow of your writing – does it sound natural? Are there any sentences that were difficult to read or too long? Any words you stumbled over? These are all things that you can then adjust to make your content more readable.

Get someone else to do the same. Ideally a client. Ask them to point out any copy that they found unclear, confusing, or boring. Refine those parts or get rid of them altogether.


Hopefully this has given you some insight into how to write engaging copy for your coaching website that will market your services, attract new clients, and help you grow your business.

Let me know if you have any questions or if there are other content writing tips you would like me to cover in the future.

How to use these 6 FREE tools to create an epic lifestyle blog

Especially when you are a small business, a sole trader, or a start-up, you don’t have an endless budget to work with to help you develop your lifestyle blog. If your main reason for having a blog is to boost the profile of your lifestyle brand, then you are probably a bit reluctant to spend too much on it at first too – you need to see that it is delivering a solid return on investment (ROI) before you put loads of money behind it.

Fortunately, there are plenty of free tools out there you can use to take your posts to the next level – good news for anyone wanting to use a blog to market their small lifestyle business.

I’ve put together a list of the 6 tools that I use most often when I’m writing blog posts, whether for myself or for clients. They are all totally free, although most have a premium version with more features. I use most of these on a daily basis.

Just to reassure you, none of these are affiliate links. I’m not being paid to promote these platforms in anyway. They are tools I genuinely use and want to recommend.

1. Co Schedule Headline Analyzer

Do you struggle to write a good headline? I swear, it is the hardest part of putting a blog post together. Headlines are vital to how well a post will perform – they are the first thing people see and determine how likely it is they’ll click through to read.

Headlines also occupy that important H1 tag on your page, which helps search engines to determine what your post is about.

So, we know that headlines are important. But how to write a good one?

I really struggled with this, until I found out about Co Schedule’s Headline Analyzer tool.

It is free to use. You just type in your headline and it is automatically analysed. Your score is displayed at the top and, as you scroll down, you’ll see some further analysis on your word usage, headline length, and the type of headline.

This shows some of the options I tried for this post. For my own blog, I’m happy with over 70. For clients, I try to push it up past 75. The highest score I’ve managed so far was 83 (I’m not sharing what that one was, sorry – it was for a client!)

If you have sharp eyes, you might notice I’ve not actually used the highest scoring option for this post. That’s because the content still has to match the promise in the headline or readers will be disappointed. I’m writing about the tools, not blogging itself, so this option was a better fit for my content.

I also use the headline analyzer when I am pitching to prospective clients – a good headline matters there too!

So, if you want to get a better click-through rate on your lifestyle blog posts, definitely run your headlines through Co Schedule.

2. Unsplash / Pexels / Pixabay

If you are a fantastic photographer, or already have lots of in-house images you can use, feel free to skip ahead to #3.

Personally, I’m not a great photographer. Also, it has been difficult this year to get out and take pictures of anything that isn’t within about a 2-mile radius of my flat.

If you are like me, you might be wonder how to get free images for your lifestyle blog. When I first started freelance writing, clients would occasionally ask me about providing images along with the posts I wrote for them and I’d be at a complete loss.

I only knew about paid for options like Shutterstock. And there was no way I had the budget for that. Since I mainly work with small businesses and start-ups, my clients didn’t either.

Fortunately, it didn’t take me too long to discover that there are actually a whole bunch of sites that offer royalty-free stock images you can use for your blog posts.

My favourite is Unsplash – it feels like it has the biggest library and I can almost always find something I like. But Pixabay and Pexels are both great options too. Just be aware that both of those will also show you Shutterstock images as part of your search. If you use WordPress, you’ll already have access to the free images from Pexels via your WordPress console.

The only issue with free stock images is that there are only a limited number to go around the vast number of people wanting to use them, so you do tend to find lots of other lifestyle businesses using the same pictures.

That’s why your copy needs to be on point to help you stand out. Which brings me to…

3. Grammarly

You’ve probably heard of Grammarly – they’ve got a fairly aggressive marketing team so for a while it felt like every YouTube video I watched had a Grammarly advert (or Monday.com).

I haven’t used their premium version, because I just don’t feel like it is necessary. But I do like their free grammar and spelling checker as an addition to the built-in grammar check in Microsoft Office. Especially because you can set different goals depending on your intended audience and tone of voice, and Grammarly will help you see if you’ve achieved them.

For me, Grammarly is useful when I am writing for American or Australian clients – it is an additional check that I am using the correct spellings.

But it is good for checking over writing in your native dialect too, particularly if you aren’t a very confident writer. Nothing brings down the quality of a blog post faster than bad grammar and misspelt words.

As well as Grammarly, I’ve used ProWritingAid and Hemingway to check my writing in the past. In both cases, there are free versions that, in my opinion, do everything you need. Each has slightly different features.

Ultimately, I still think it is important to cast a human eye over everything you write – AI technology can help, but doesn’t have the nuance that a person does. But if you need a quick way to check your spelling, tone, and grammar, Grammarly is a good option.

4. Canva

As I think we might have established by now, I am all about the words… and way less good when it comes to visuals like photography (and gift wrapping). That’s why Canva is one of my favourite things on the internet – it makes creating visually appealing content easy even for the design-challenged (like me).

Like many of these tools, Canva has a premium version that gets you access to more images and features, but I find the free version does pretty much everything I need.

I use Canva mainly for Pinterest and for infographics (like the one at the bottom of this post here). If I ever get time to go back onto social media, I’d also use it for branded social media posts and stories.

5. Moz Toolbar and Google Keyword Planner

So far, I’ve been focusing on tools to use for blog posts themselves. But, if you read my post on SEO, you might also be considering how to boost the search engine ranking of your lifestyle business, including your blog posts.

I’m not an SEO expert. However, when I write for clients, they are often looking to up their search rankings. Usually in those cases they’ll have come to me with their keyword research already done, but when I’m writing regular blogs for them, as I do for many clients, I also want to do some research myself before pitching ideas for posts.

For my purposes, the monthly price tag that comes with proper SEO tools are overkill. So I make use of these two free tools instead.

I know, technically this is two tools, not one. But I use them together, so I feel like they only get to count as one entry on the list.

 As you might remember from the SEO blog post, when you are choosing your keywords you want ones that fall at the sweet spot of relatively high search volume and relatively low competition.

Google Keyword Planner helps with the volume part. It’s actually designed for paid-for advertising. But lots of people use it for this too.

You create a campaign with all your potential keywords, and it will tell you which ones have the best search volume.

(This isn’t a real search, I just wanted to give a quick example)

Ignore the competition column here – this means the competition for paid ads, not for organic searches. What you are interested in is the volume part.

Once you have ID’d some medium and high-volume keywords, you can use the Moz toolbar to check the competition. You just install it in Chrome.

Clear your cache first, so that your previous search history doesn’t affect your findings. Then do a Google search on each of your potential keywords.

Moz will show you a rating for the PA (page authority) and DA (domain authority) for the sites that appear for your keywords. It won’t show this for the paid ads that appear at the top, just for the organic results.

Just to be clear, these metrics aren’t used by Google. But they are a good indicator of the authority given to those pages. The higher the authority of the sites on page one, the harder it will be to shake them from that position.

Hard, not impossible. You should also have a quick look down the pages that appear to check relevance. If you can write a post for your lifestyle brand that is more relevant to the search query, you might still push them off top spot.

So, Keyword Planner gives you an idea of search volume, Moz toolbar tells you the likely competitiveness of your keyword.

6. Trello

Last one – and again this is more about what happens offsite to make your lifestyle brand’s blog a success.

Particularly when you have more than one person contributing content to your blog, keeping everything organised is essential. It saves you time by giving you one central place to link all your topic ideas, upcoming posts, keywords etc.

There are plenty of different options out there. I like Trello because it is free and easy to use.

I use Trello to keep track of my different writing assignments, including this blog and the work I have on for clients. Some of my clients also use it and invite me to their boards as an easy way to share ideas and know what I am working on for them (and when it is due).

I keep my own board pretty simple. I have five lists: pending, to-do, in progress, done (awaiting payment/publishing), done (archived). I use the colour tagging option to show me the urgency of items on the to-do and in progress lists.

Things move from list to list as they go from initial pitch to published post. It also helps me to track which invoices are still outstanding on finished articles.

The payment issue might be less important to you if you only write for your own company or blog. But if you commission freelancers (like me 😊), Trello can help you keep track of what isn’t yet paid for too.


And that’s it! My 6 favourite free tools for lifestyle companies (or anyone else) who want to make writing a regular blog less of a chore.

If you have some favourite tools that I’ve not included here, drop me a note in the comments. I can always do round two at a later date.

How to have a greener Christmas: Eco-friendly gift wrapping

Thank you to everyone who joined me for last week’s series on digital marketing for health and wellness brands – I hoped you picked up some useful tips!

I’ll be doing more posts on writing great content to boost your brand’s online presence before too long, but for now I’d like to look at something that is close to my heart: sustainable living. Specifically, how I’m aiming for a more eco-friendly Christmas this year.

The UK government has announced that up to three households can meet to celebrate Christmas, despite the high levels of coronavirus that are still affecting many parts of the British Isles. I’d like to tell you I have mixed feelings about this news but, selfishly, I’m over the moon.

My sister, who returned to England from the UAE this year after 3 years abroad, welcomed her first baby in October and I was devastated by the thought that we might not be able to go to see them.

But it has meant that a dilemma I have year after year has resurfaced; what to do about present wrapping?

Traditional wrapping paper is an eco-nightmare. Lots of it can’t be recycled – it is either too thin to yield good fibres to make new paper, or is covered in plastic, glitter, dye etc which can’t be recycled. Even if you choose a good quality wrapping paper that is free from gold and glitter, sticky tape can’t be recycled either, so you need to get all of that off before it can go in the paper-waste bin.

According to this article in the Independent, the UK throws away the equivalent of 108 million rolls of wrapping paper at Christmas time, most of which will go straight to landfill.

And then we need to consider the sheer number of trees that need to be cut down to make all of this paper. The Treehugger reckons it takes 15 trees to make one tonne of wrapping paper.

I think we can agree that traditional wrapping paper is not the way to go.

I’d love to be brave enough to just do away with wrapping altogether but even I have to admit there is a childlike joy to be had from being handed a mysterious wrapped present on Christmas day. Somehow just being passed a new pair of socks doesn’t have quite the same feeling.

And I think the kids would probably stage some kind of mutiny.

But what to do instead? Fortunately, there’s a growing number of eco-friendly wrapping alternatives for anyone looking to avoid traditional Christmas wrapping paper.

1. Brown paper and festive foliage

Mel Poole | Unsplash

Apparently, the rule of thumb for whether wrapping paper can be recycled is the scrunch test – if you scrunch it into a ball and it stays that way, it can be recycled. If it falls back out of shape, it can’t.

Or you could avoid the uncertainty and go for traditional brown paper instead.

This can look beautifully nostalgic, especially paired with some festive ribbon and Christmas foliage. Be as minimal as possible with the sticky tape (or leave it off altogether if you are a whizz at tying string).

Depending on your level of wrapping ability, you could even swap the brown paper for newspaper – save money by grabbing a free copy of your local advertiser (or the Metro, if you are London-based like me).

This does still create paper waste and you’ll need to be careful to remove any sticky tape before you put it in the recycling, but it is better than sending things to landfill.

If you are on a budget, this is the option I’d go for. It isn’t ideal, but it is cheaper than the other options on this list by an order of magnitude.

There are two reasons I’m not going for this – 1) it still creates waste and 2) I’m pants at wrapping, so I really struggle to get brown paper to look beautiful and not like I passed wrapping duties over to my three-year-old. Plus, while we are a long way from wealthy, my freelance writing has brought in quite a bit this year, so I have some money available to invest in eco-friendly wrapping.

So, on to option two.

2. Cloth wrapping

David Oliver | Unsplash

You might have heard of the Japanese furoshiki tradition, which involves wrapping presents in a simple piece of cloth but making it beautiful through decorative tying. Children in Japan use this to carry their bento boxes to school for lunch, but it has also caught on as an eco-friendly way of wrapping presents.

You can use any piece of cloth, although it will be easiest with something that is floppy enough to manipulate and tie well. A square shape is also the simplest for ease of wrapping. There are loads of YouTube videos available to help you master the tying.

Cloth uses more resources to make than paper but has the benefit of being reusable. Just make sure it doesn’t end up being scooped into the bin with the rest of the rubbish at the end of the day. Bonus eco-points if you either reuse a piece of fabric that would otherwise go to waste or opt for a more sustainable material like Tencel.

I love this idea and think it can look beautiful. But see above for my complete inability to wrap things beautifully…

3. Gift bags

Monicore | Pixaby

Gift bags seem like a no-brainer, especially for someone like me who is all thumbs when it comes to wrapping presents. Just stick the gift in and off you go. They can be reused, come in a range of colours, and you can get all sorts of sizes too.

Gift bags can be a great option, as long as you pay attention to the material they are made from. Cheaper versions are often made from organza, which is usually not an eco-friendly wrapping option. Plus, they tend to be see-through, which ruins some of the surprise.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options out there now which are made from more sustainable fabrics like hessian. Or if you are good at sewing, you could knock up your own.

I was all set to invest in a bunch of gift bags for this year’s Christmas gifts. But then…

4. Recycled cloth wraps

WragWrap

For me, it is as important to buy products made from recycled materials as it is to recycle my waste. If we don’t close the loop, then all our efforts to keep our waste out of landfill will come to nothing. So I was completely thrilled to find that someone much smarter than me has been at work on the whole Christmas wrapping paper dilemma.

The result, WragWrap – a range of cloth wrapping options made from recycled plastic bottles.

Even better, for the wrapping-challenged (like me), they offer stretchy wraps which are secured with a drawstring. They are as easy to use as a gift bag but give a more satisfyingly present-like shape (sometimes larger gift bags end up looking a bit like Father Christmas just forgot his present sack before exiting up the chimney).

I’ve invested in a whole load, which I plan to shamelessly reclaim from my relatives so I can use them year on year.

Not only are they good for the planet, they will save me an estimated 3,981 hours* struggling to make my wrapping look halfway decent.

*This may be an exaggeration…

To be clear, although I’d love to work with WragWrap if they are ever in need of a freelance content writer, I’m not being paid to write this post. They don’t even know that I am writing it. There are no affiliate links here. Just genuine pleasure at finding an easy solution to a problem that has been plaguing me for a few years now.

Plus, I was blown away by their customer service. They have a two for one promotion on at the moment, but it wasn’t applied properly when I checked out. I hadn’t realised. In fact, I hadn’t clocked the promotion at all. Entirely unprompted, they got in touch and refunded me the money to my PayPal without me asking.

That seems like a company worth supporting to me.


Hopefully, this has given you some ideas of how to make your gift wrapping a little greener this year too.

I’m a bit short on time at the moment, due to picking up a few more regular clients in the last couple of weeks, but I will try to continue to post on the blog at least once a week.

If you would like more eco-friendly Christmas tips in the run up to the 25th, please let me know in the comments. Or if you’d prefer to see more digital marketing tips, or posts on nutrition and health, let me know that too. It’s an eclectic place this blog, but I want it to serve you as well as me 😊.

How to make your health and wellness brand stand out online: Social media marketing

Digital marketing tips to boost the profile of your health & wellness business: part three

You’ve built a brilliant website and populated it with great content that is optimised for search engines. The core of your health and wellness business’ online presence is all set up. Which means it is time to start telling people about it.

Marketing your business on social media might seem daunting if it isn’t something you’ve tried before. Even if you are used to social media platforms from personal use, boosting your wellbeing brand’s presence is a whole different board game.

The great news for small wellness businesses is that people are keen to consume health and wellbeing advice on social media. That gives you a ready-made audience, and the potential to grow without too much effort. If you are providing genuinely helpful, quality content, you should see a good return from social media marketing. Let’s have a look at how to get started.

1. Know your audience

Again, before you start creating any content, go back to your original audience research. This should have given you a good idea of which social media platforms your potential customers use and the type of content they engage with online. With luck, you’ve also gathered some ideas from how bigger health and wellness businesses interact with their audiences that will help you get started.

There are a lot of different social media platforms that you could promote your health and wellness brand on. Doing all of them well is possible, but probably not if you are doing everything on your own. If you have a team behind you, then you will be able to do more than if you are a sole practitioner.

If you are limited in your time and resources, it is better to do one or two platforms really well than to spread yourself too thin and not be able to post consistently or engage with your audience. Choose where to concentrate your efforts based on where your target audience hangs out.

According to stats published by Sprout Social, this is where you can expect to find people based on their demographics (in 2020):

FacebookInstagramTwitterLinkedInPinterestSnapChat
18-24767544173873
25-29845731442847
30-49794726373525
50-6468231724279
65+468711153
The table shows the percentage of each age group using the platform.

You’ll notice TikTok is missing from the list – as the fastest growing platform in 2020, there’s not as much data available for TikTok yet, but its users are tending towards being younger – according to Omnicore, 50% of TikTok’s users are under 34.

Facebook remains the best all round channel and should definitely be your focus if you are targeting an older audience. But younger generations tend to be early adopters of new channels, as TikTok’s figures show. So if your target audience is the under 25’s, being a savvy user of new social media platforms will put you ahead of the competition.

You also need to consider the type of person your wellness services or health products target. If you are mainly offering business to business (B2B) services such as employee wellbeing sessions, or need to find stockists for your products instead of selling directly to the public, LinkedIn will likely do your business more good than Instagram. If you are targeting individuals, Facebook or Instagram might be a better bet.

Note that it is harder to drive traffic to your website from Instagram at first – you can only put one link in your bio and have to have 10,000 followers before you can get the ‘swipe up’ feature to link your stories to your website. Alternatively, you can put some money behind Instagram advertising to get the same feature.

I’ve not included YouTube in this, just because of the amount of time it takes to create good content and promote it. Plus, I’m a content writer, rather than a videographer, so if you are interested in getting started with YouTube, I’d suggest getting advice from someone who specialises in video content. Words, I can help you with. Video… not so much. That said, YouTube can be a great platform, especially for fitness or healthy eating brands, so don’t discount it from your marketing plan.

2. Create content that fits your brand

The key to standing out on social media is to have a consistent voice and to pay attention to your branding. As you develop your channels, your audience should know instantly that they are looking at content from your business.

This doesn’t necessarily mean slapping your logo on everything you use, although that can help. But it does mean using a consistent tone, sourcing images that fit together well, and thinking about how you’ll use hashtags and links in your content. Create some brand guidelines and use them to inform your content.

If you are using more than one social media platform, it can be tempting to use the same content on each one. If you can find the time, adapting each post to suit the channel you are posting on will help your content gain traction. Use a scheduling tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to help you manage your different platforms all in one place.

You also want to build trust, so that your social media audience will genuinely benefit from interacting with your health & wellness business. Post content that is helpful and offers insight that they can’t get from others. The more you can establish yourself as a trustworthy authority in your wellness niche, the more likely it is that your followers will become customers or clients.

3. Use visuals for impact

Instagram is well known for its image-focused content, but pictures work well on other platforms too. You’ll likely see better engagement on posts that include images than those that are text alone. Even better, use video to up your engagement levels on your most important posts. In a test of some social media messages I did recently with colleagues, the post with a video had 3 times as many shares as the one with a static image alone.

If you don’t have a good bank of images to use for your business, consider other ways of creating eye-catching graphics. Even the free version of Canva has some great tools for making infographics, or combine stock images with text and colourful blocks to make them your own.

4. Remember it is a conversation

Social media is a two-way street, even for businesses. To grow your audience and retain followers, it isn’t enough to just post great content. You also need to make time to respond to comments and messages and, ideally, comment on other people’s posts too. Social media is all about relationships. Growing a strong community takes both time and commitment.

5. Post consistently

We touched on this briefly earlier, but it is worth saying again. It is better to post consistently on one platform than sporadically on all of them. You are more likely to build an engaged audience (and show up in their feed) if you post regularly.

Use tools to help you – both scheduling tools like Hootsuite and a content calendar that will help you plan your activities across your website and social media channels.

If you have taken my advice and are publishing regular blog posts, you can build your social media activities around each new post. This helps with coming up with content ideas and makes sure you stay consistent.

6. Use calls to action

Just like on your website, you should have an idea of what you want people to do as a result of reading your social media post, and incorporate a call to action. It won’t always be to buy your product or book a consultation – sometimes you might just want to ask them to share, or comment. Or perhaps take a small action to improve their own health.

Where appropriate, include links back to your site. Choose which page you link to wisely – if you are encouraging them to click to get more information, you want to follow up on that promise with a link to a blog post or your services page, not a contact form. But if the call to action is to buy now, don’t just dump people on your homepage. Link them to the specific product so they can buy easily.

Go the other way too and make sure you promote your social media channels on your website. It becomes a circular arrangement – your social media usage drives visitors to your website and your website grows your social media following. This way all your audiences grow and your health and wellness brand’s online presence becomes stronger all round.

7. Paid for social media marketing

So far in this post I’ve concentrated on how to grow your social media presence organically, which also means for free. If you have the budget though, putting some money behind your social media posts can help to raise your profile, drive sales, and grow your audience.

There are two main types of paid-for social media content. Ads and influencer-led content. Ads are simpler in many ways – you simply create an ad campaign on the relevant social media platform, set your targets in terms of budget and audience, and away it goes. It is a good idea to test your messages on your existing audience before putting money behind them to make sure you get the most impact. Pay attention to how your ad campaign performs too so that you know whether it is worth repeating in the future.

Working with influencers is more involved, but also has great potential for boosting the reach of your health & wellness brand. Be realistic about what you can achieve – many influencers are professionals, and they charge fees to work with them. It is rare now for people with big audiences to work in exchange for just free products or services. You may still be able to find smaller influencers who will though – don’t discount them, as even someone with a more limited audience can help you build your brand.

Choose the influencers you work with carefully – you want someone whose ethos and audience fits well with your own. Especially if you are a small, local business, you can gain more traction from working with someone whose audience is smaller but has a big overlap with your own than you can from paying a lot of money to a big influencer whose followers aren’t interested in your brand.

When approaching influencers to work together, be clear about what you are looking for and what you are willing to pay in exchange. Ideally pay in money rather than freebies. Treat it as a professional relationship (because it is) and put in writing exactly what the deliverables are – a story, a post on their feed, a blog post etc.

Don’t send generic messages to lots of different influencers either. You are more likely to have a positive response if you address them personally and show some familiarity with their work.


This, in a nutshell, is how to use social media to market your health and wellness brand. Like any new activity, it takes a little time to grow your audience and start to see a return on your time and effort, but I promise it will be worth it in the long run.

Tomorrow is the final post in this series – we’ll be looking at email marketing and how to use email newsletters as a powerful marketing tool for your wellness business. I’ll see you back here tomorrow.

In the meantime, you can catch up with the rest of this series on digital marketing for health and wellness brands here:

  1. Understanding the target audience for your health and wellness brand
  2. Building a fantastic website to boost the online profile of your health and wellness services
  3. Understanding the basics of SEO to get your health and wellness business found by search engines

How to make your health & wellness brand stand out online: Search engine optimisation

Digital marketing tips to boost the profile of your health & wellness businesspart two

Yesterday we looked at setting up your website and making it work hard for you in attracting new clients. But once you have your site, you need people to find it.

Social media and email marketing will bring you some visitors, but the most efficient way of driving traffic to your site is still via organic searches, which means you are going to need to consider search engine optimisation (SEO) if you are at all serious about marketing your wellness brand online.

What is SEO? Basically, it is about getting your website further up the search results pages (SERPs) so that clients actually find you. When searching, people rarely go past the first two pages of results so if you want your health business to do well online, you need to make sure your website appears when potential clients type a relevant search term.

I’m going to talk about Google mainly here – obviously there are other search engines and those matter too. But we all know Google is king, so I won’t try to pretend otherwise. Fortunately, these tips should get your site ranking on other search engines too.

To get your site showing up on Google, you need to think about optimising your site and content to boost your ranking.

SEO is another big topic, so I’m just going to begin with an outline of the basics in this post to get you started. I’m planning a second digital marketing series in the future that will look at some of these tactics in more detail.

1. Keywords

Remember that work you did back at the beginning on understanding your audience? That is going to come in handy here. Because ultimately search engines exist to get people the answers they want.

So what are your clients going to be searching for online that might bring them to your health and wellness site? If you can answer that question, you’ve started to define the keywords that your site needs to rank for to drive traffic.

What is a keyword? Basically, a search phrase. There are short-tail and long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are longer (no way!), more specific and get fewer searches, but are easier to rank well for.

When you put together your site’s content, you want to think about the search phrases your clients will be using and then integrate them into the copy in a natural way. Don’t pack your copy so full of keywords that it becomes unreadable though – keyword stuffing hasn’t been a viable SEO tactic since about 2012. Google’s algorithm got wise to that trick long ago.

One factor that determines whether your site will rank for a particular keyword is the competition. If you are trying to rank for yoga, then I am very sorry, but you are wasting your time. Way too many well-established sites with a much bigger digital marketing budget have got that keyword well-sewn up.

But if you are trying to rank for “vinyasa pregnancy yoga classes in East Ham” then you might well be in with a shot (this is just an example by the way, I haven’t researched it specifically).

The danger is though that if you get too specific, you might find no one is searching for your particular keywords.

The sweet spot with keywords is to find something that gets a good level of searches every month (volume) but isn’t already occupied with well-established sites (competition). That takes a bit of research.

There are tools available to help with keyword research, but they do come with a hefty price tag – market leaders SEMrush, Ahref, and Moz are all $99 a month at time of writing. Out of reach for most small wellness brands, although most offer a free trial to get you started.

Your alternative options are to hire a professional to take care of keyword research for you or use free tools like Google Keyword Planner and Moz’s Google Toolbar.

It’s a lot more manual, but you can get an idea of which keywords you might have a chance of ranking for. Again, keyword research is a whole topic of its own, so I’ll go into this – including using free tools – in greater detail in a later post.

Finally, when choosing keywords, consider the intent behind them. Will the person searching with these keywords be looking for information or to buy something? Match your content to the intent of the searcher to increase your chances of ranking, as well as your chances of converting a website visitor to a client.

For example, if I search for ‘herbal supplements’, my search intention is unclear. I could be looking to buy supplements, or I could be wanting to find out information about them.

But if I search ‘do herbal supplements work for depression?’ then you know I’m after information. That doesn’t mean I can’t be persuaded to buy, but I clearly want to do some reading first. So you would want to use this as a keyword on a blog post on using herbal supplements to treat depression, rather than taking me straight to a product page.

On the other hand, if I search ‘buy herbal supplements for depression online’, I clearly want to buy something. So you’d want to use this as a keyword on your product pages rather than risking losing me by distracting me with a blog post.

Does this sound way too technical? If the whole idea of SEO puts you off doing any digital marketing at all, take it one step at a time. Build a great site and it is likely the keywords you need will be appearing in your copy naturally.

As time goes on and you learn more, you can start to be more intentional with your keywords – a blog can be a really good way to increase your site’s SEO without too much headache. Search engines like sites that consistently provide good quality new content.

2. Backlinks

Along with quality content that incorporates your chosen keywords in a natural way, Google uses backlinks to determine your site’s relevance and authority, affecting how your health and wellness business will rank in searches.

What is a backlink? It’s when another site links to yours.

Say for example that you have a blog post about the benefits of yoga for treating backpain, or the importance of sleep for mental wellbeing. Another company or blogger is researching the same issue, and links to your post as part of their own post on the topic. Your site now has a backlink from their site.

Google sees another website linking to yours as a vote of confidence for the quality of your site, so backlinks are an integral part of SEO. But before you get tempted to sign up for one of these services that allow you to buy backlinks, beware – the authority of the site that links to yours matters here.

Trusted sites will boost your ranking, while Google treats a sudden influx of backlinks from low quality sites with suspicion.

The best way to get backlinks is organically – provide consistent, high-quality content that is relevant to your health and wellness brand and people will naturally begin to find and link to your content. Again, a regularly updated blog is a great way to build content that other sites will link to.

If you are impatient, there are a few options you could try. One is to call in some favours – if you know of other wellbeing businesses working in a similar niche, you could agree to link to their site in exchange for a link back to yours. Again, be a bit wary as the links that go out from your site also affect how Google views the quality of your website. Make sure they are from reputable sites that are genuinely relevant to your services.

You can use this same tactic with people you don’t know too.

Do some research to find sites relevant to your health and wellness brand, write great content (or do great things) and then ping them an email asking if they would mention you on their site. Make sure your emails are personalised and expect a lot of rejections before you get successful.

Another option is to consider guest posting on other people’s blogs. Most blog owners will then let you include a link to your own site in the bio.

This is good publicity, but it takes time to find, pitch, and then write good blog posts, which may distract you from your core wellbeing services. It depends how comfortable you are in writing content and how much time you can spare to create content for other sites, as well as your own.

Finally, you could indulge in a little broken link building. This is when you find links on other people’s sites that are no longer working and then ask them to link to your content instead. There are a variety of tools available that can help by scanning a site to uncover broken links, so you don’t need to go through clicking on each one yourself.

The key to link building is great content. No one will want to link to your site if your content is poorly written, dull, or lacks research. But as a health and wellness professional, you have a lot of expertise you can leverage to create this content.

Don’t be shy about sharing your knowledge – it’s the best way to bring in new clients.

3. Optimise your site

Google’s aim is to help people find what they are looking for quickly. So relevance is a big factor, which is where keywords and backlinks come in. You can also help Google determine the relevance of your site by:

  • Writing short meta descriptions for each page – this is that short description that shows when you look at search results. Google won’t always show exactly what you set, but using your keywords in your meta description helps it to judge relevance, as well as getting people to click through
  • Use headers and sub-headings wisely to help search engines tell what each page is about. They also make content more engaging for human readers
  • Adding alt text to your images to help search engines determine what is in the picture. These also help people with visual impairments access your site since they can be understood by screen-readers

Relevance is important to search engines. But speed is a factor too. People are impatient online, especially when searching. Your site needs to load quickly, or they’ll be hitting the back button and going onto the next search result.

Google knows this, so sites that load quickly get ranked higher. With the increase in people accessing the web via their mobile, Google also likes sites that are optimised for mobile – check that yours works well on different size screens.

4. Boost your local profile

So this one will only be relevant if you have a physical presence in some way. But a lot of small health and wellness businesses do – even if it is just your own house and you see clients in your living room, or pack orders in a shed in your garden.

Google prioritises local services – it’s why you’ll often see a map appear at the top of your search results showing where to find relevant businesses in the area you are interested in.

To make sure your business shows up when someone Googles ‘personal trainer in York’ or ‘zero-waste shop in Leighton Buzzard’, make sure you are listed in directories. First and foremost, in Google’s own business listings, but also on sites like Thomson Local and Yell.


I know that all of this information can sound daunting, especially when you are first getting started with digital marketing. But once you get used to the jargon, SEO is a lot more straightforward than it seems.

As I said earlier, begin by concentrating on great content and the rest will follow. Get in touch if you would like some help getting started.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at something that may be slightly more in your comfort zone – using social media to promote your health and wellness business.

Don’t forget to catch up with the previous two posts in this series on digital marketing tips for wellbeing brands if you haven’t already:

Understanding the target audience for your health and wellness brand

Building a fantastic website to boost the online profile of your health and wellness services

How to make your health & wellness brand stand out online: Your website

Digital marketing tips to boost the profile of your health & wellness business: part one

Yesterday, I explained the importance of digital marketing to building your health & wellness brand, and got you started with looking at your target audience and how they behave online. If you missed it, make sure you catch up with that post first.

Today, we are looking at the first (and most important) of the four core areas that you need in place to boost your wellbeing business’ online presence: your website.

Why do you need a website?

I don’t care how good you are at social media, if you don’t have a great website, your brand is going to struggle to gain traction online. It is the centre of your digital marketing, your online store front. Even if you are a one-person band running a therapy or coaching business from the shed in your garden, a well-designed website gives your brand authority and drives new clients to you, rather than you having to go to find them.

In fact, if you don’t have a website at all yet I want you to make getting started on one the very next thing you do after reading this post.

Designing your site

If you can afford to hire a professional designer, do. Like most things in life, someone who specialises in this area will be able to do a far better job than you on your own.

You don’t have to go fully bespoke, unless you need complicated customisations. There are website design companies that have pre-built themes you can customise with your brand identity, which saves money. HealthHosts is one that specialises in WordPress sites for complementary therapy and coaching businesses, Well + Fresh are another who focus particularly on wellness brands.

But if you don’t have the budget for professional help, don’t despair. Especially for therapists, coaches, yoga teachers, personal trainers, counsellors etc your website needs are likely not to be too complicated, and you may well be able to build your own without too much issue. Sites like Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress offer easy to use templates and customisable themes, as well as hosting services.

I personally went for WordPress for my website – it is one of the most popular website platforms in the world, which means it has a huge community ready with advice, tips, and tricks (and it is easy to find a designer who specialises in it if you decide to go professional later).

WordPress sites come with a built-in blog as standard (more on this later) and some basic tools to get started with SEO and analytics. If you opt for the business plan, there are endless plugins you can use to grow your site’s functionality, but even the cheaper freelance option will be enough to meet the basic needs of most service-based wellness businesses. For those who are selling products, professional WordPress sites are compatible with the vast majority of eCommerce platforms.

Having said that, I’m obviously biased because I chose WordPress myself, so do some research before you choose a platform and compare prices to make sure what you choose is within budget. You’ll need to factor in hosting costs as well as domain registration, any design work you need, plugins, and site security.

Building a great website is worth several posts in its own right, so I’m just going to run through the basics here. Even if you have a site already, skim through to make sure you are doing these, or it might be time for a refresh:

1. Build with user experience in mind

Your site needs to be laid out logically so that clients can easily find what they need. As much as possible, plan their journey around the site for them. Keep the navigation simple and logical – try not to drive people more than two levels deep to find what they are looking for. Keep everything as readable as possible and check that your site works for mobile and tablet users too.

Remember that your website visitors don’t already know the ins and outs of your wellness brand or coaching services. What might seem obvious to you won’t be to them, so put yourself in your customer’s shoes or, better yet, get one or more of your actual customers involved in the design process.

Especially if you are a health business that aims to meet the needs of people with particular disabilities, designing with accessibility in mind is key. Make sure text is large enough to read, include alt. descriptions for any images so that they can be picked up by screen readers, and make sure you use a high level of contrast between text and background so it is easy to scan the copy.

Where you have links, make sure they are easy for someone to click if they are on a mobile or have difficulty coordinating small movements. Put them behind a button or a phrase rather than a single word.

2. Your homepage is vital

Most of the time, your homepage is where visitors land when they first reach your site, so it needs to grab their attention, hold it, and then direct them to the area of your site where they can find what they need.

If you sell multiple products, your homepage should showcase your product categories and your bestsellers, with easy links to your full shop. Your products are usually more important than your brand’s story in this case, so keep the main menu at the top for your shop pages and use the menu in the site’s footer for things like your delivery policies and your about page.

If you sell services, your homepage will be more of a top hits of the rest of the site – start with a hero piece that summarises your brand, follow on with blocks that link to your service page, your about page, your blog, and your contact page (I’m a freelance writer so the vibe is slightly different, but my homepage might give you some ideas for the basic layout).

If you sell just one product or type of product, you may want to take the second approach – you have a bit more space then to build the confidence of site visitors in your product.

3. Include calls to action

Every page should let your website visitor know what to do next. Do you want them to book a consultation, register for an event, buy a product, find out more? Never leave them hanging.

Use the design of your website to highlight your call to action and concentrate on one per page (except for on your homepage). Map out your client’s likely journey around your site and build your call to actions accordingly.

4. Keep the design clean

Multiple colours, different fonts, too many calls to action – all of these distract your reader from what you want them to do. Keep your site clean and simple. Use two, or at the very most three, main colours throughout. No more than two fonts. Use images for impact, but keep things uncluttered. Avoid whizzy effects.

You aren’t trying to impress your clients with your graphic design skills (unless you are a graphic designer, in which case I need to check how I’m marketing my services…). What you are trying to do is move them from initial contact to convinced new customer. Eliminate anything that distracts them from the goal, which is to learn more about your products or services, and then purchase them.

5. Content

Your design catches your reader’s attention, but it is your content that keeps it. To turn your website visitors into clients you need engaging, readable copy that speaks to their needs. This is particularly true of health and wellness brands – the level of trust needed to get clients to take the next step is often high, so they need to have a good sense of who you are and what you do.

To write copy that speaks to your clients, go back again to that research I told you to do in the introduction, into your target audience. Who are they? Keep a picture of them in your mind and write your copy to them.

It needs to sound human, so keep the tone conversational. People interact with people, not brands, and that is becoming increasingly clear in marketing trends. As a wellness brand, you especially need to build a strong relationship with your customers. You also need to build their belief in your skills, so a certain level of authority is appropriate too.

Identify potential pain points and address them. Are your services a bit unusual? Use scientific studies and client testimonials to provide social proof. Are your products more expensive than your competitors? Explain what your products do better, or differently, or how they are fairer for people or the planet.

6. Testimonials, reviews, and feedback

Again, this comes back to the trust issue – people want to know that you, or your products, can do what you say they can. Sprinkle testimonials liberally throughout your site, don’t keep them all on one page (although a testimonials page is often a good idea too).

Using my own site as an example again – I have a testimonial on all the main pages except my contact page (and blog posts, where the post itself should be demonstrating my expertise). That means wherever you are on my main site, you are seeing confirmation from past clients that I am good at what I do. The reason there isn’t one on my contact page is I want no distractions on that page – I just want people to get in touch.

7. A blog

Why have a blog? Well, it does two main things: first, done right, a blog improves your site’s SEO by providing regularly updated, specific content to help your site show up in search results. To do this you need to write with SEO tactics in mind (more on this tomorrow).

Second, your blog builds your relationship with your client, showcases your expertise, and provides genuinely helpful information and advice. It gives a space for your website visitors to comment, making it a two-way conversation. And it lures people into joining your mailing list (more of that on Friday.)

Every health and wellbeing brand should have a blog (did you know that I can help with that? Just saying…)

8. Test, test, test

Before you take your website live, test everything. Then get your friends, family, neighbours, and trusted clients to test too. Test it on mobile and tablet too.

Make sure everything is working before you launch. There is nothing worse than having a potential customer arrive on your site and then abandon it because they can’t get where they want to go.


This has been a whistle-stop tour into the basics of creating a great website for your health & wellness brand. I’m going to dive more into what makes a good site for a wellbeing-focused business in the future, but for now I’ll leave you a reminder to pop back here tomorrow, because part two of this four-part series will be looking at the mysterious world of SEO and how you can use it to boost the online profile of your wellbeing business.

In the meantime, if this post has gotten you inspired to work on your website copy, or get serious about starting a blog for your wellness copy, check out my service page to find out how I can help.

(This is an example of using a blog post as a call to action by the way. Hope you noticed 😊. But seriously, go check out my service page – I’d love to work with you)

How to make your health and wellness brand stand out online

Digital marketing tips to boost the profile of your health & wellness business

If you weren’t already sold on the importance of digital marketing for your health & wellness brand, 2020 should be the year that cinches the deal for you. Businesses with a strong online profile have seen engagement rocket this year, while those without a digital marketing strategy have been left struggling to keep up.

The good news is that it is not too late to take advantage of digital to market your wellbeing business – the trend for online spending only looks set to continue. And this is great if you are new business or a sole trader – digital marketing is a cost-effective way to boost your business’ profile.

So whether you are just getting started with digital marketing or are looking to take your online activities to the next level, this blog series will have you welcoming new clients in no time.

Tomorrow’s post will look at the first of four core areas that you need in place to take your health brand’s online presence to the next level. But there is some important work you need to do before you get started…

Understand your target audience

With so many different online marketing channels available, it is hard to know where best to concentrate your efforts to make your wellness business or coaching services stand out. Before you start, you need to have a good understanding of your target audience so that you get the most from your digital marketing.

If you have already been in operation for a while, you hopefully have some idea of who your usual clients are. If you are brand new, you might need to do some thinking to decide who your health & wellness brand is aimed at. Either way, you need to put your digital marketing strategy together with that target audience in mind.

Research, research, research

Research is key here. If you have the budget to commission market research, that will be invaluable for helping you build your brand. But most small health & wellness brands don’t have that kind of cash to spare – fortunately, there’s a lot you can do your own.

What you are trying to understand is how your target audience acts online. Are they on social media? If so, which platforms do they use? Do they prefer video content or static posts? What times of day are they most likely to be online? What tone of voice do they respond best to? Do they want you to be the calm, clinical voice of authority or a warm, nurturing, and empathetic ear?

Survey existing customers

If you have existing customers or clients, ask them to complete a short survey to help you identify what content they are most likely to respond to – but bear in mind that people don’t always act as they say they will. You can also use any of your existing channels to see who they attract and what activities drive the most engagement.

Steal from larger brands (not literally)

If there are successful wellbeing businesses operating in a similar niche, you can learn a lot from how they manage their online channels. Shamelessly take advantage of their expertise by stalking them online and notice what they are doing to drive engagement. You won’t have the budget and reach of a larger brand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get inspiration from health & wellness companies who are making digital marketing work hard for them.

Take your time

When you want to make a start building your brand’s digital presence, taking the time to research your target market can feel agonising – you just want to leap in there and find new clients. But I promise you, this approach will save you time in the long run. If you know your audience well, you don’t have to spend hours wrestling with what tone of voice to use or what content to offer. You already know what your clients respond well to because you have taken the time to understand their needs.

It’s just like when you developed your services or products for your health and wellness brand – you did it (hopefully) with the needs of your clients in mind. Do the same with your digital marketing. Empathy is the bedrock of any wellbeing business, so make sure it underlies your online marketing too.

With a good understanding of your target audience, you are ready to get stuck into making the four core areas of your online presence shine.

Meet me back here tomorrow for part one of this four-part series – your website.

Reclaim your cycle: natural ways to relieve menstrual pain

I’ve been researching period pains lately, mainly because mine seem to have ramped up again. I don’t get them as badly as some people do – its not generally enough to put me out of action entirely. But they are bad enough. The most irritating part for me is that they tend to radiate into my arse, which makes standing still absolute hell for a couple of days. Walking is fine, lying down is fine, sitting is not great but manageable, standing… standing is achy, crampy horror.

Which would be fine, except I have kids.

And wow, do my kids like to take their time when we are walking anywhere. We seem to stop every ten steps so they can investigate a leaf, or examine an interesting wall, or throw a tantrum. All of which equals a lot of standing still.

I also find it hard to concentrate on work during the first couple of days of my period. It’s difficult to come up with brilliant writing ideas and pull together engaging copy when I’m distracted by cramps and trying to type with one hand clutching a hot water bottle to my abdomen.

Painkillers help a bit, but I don’t love having to take them regularly. And I’m resolute about not going back on the pill. It makes me angry and I don’t want to mess about with my hormones if I don’t have to.

So, diet and nutrition it is. Which, let’s face it, was always going to be my go-to.

Here’s what I’ve learnt so far…

Causes of period pains

There are conditions that cause bad menstrual pains, including endometriosis, uterine fibroids, adenomyosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and structural abnormalities of the uterus itself. Having an IUD inserted for birth control can also cause painful cramps.

None of these apply for me, so I’m just dealing with regular primary dysmenorrhea (period pains, to the rest of us), like about half of all people who menstruate.

This means the most likely cause of my monthly cramps is a high-level of prostaglandins. These are natural chemicals found in our bodies, which act like hormones and play a role in reproduction, as well as our bodies’ natural healing process.

During our periods, prostaglandins cause our uterus to contract to expel the lining, ready for a new cycle to begin. An imbalance in prostaglandins causes inflammation and painful menstrual cramps.

Combatting period pains with diet and nutrition

If you are experiencing period pains that are caused by an underlying condition, definitely seek medical advice on addressing the condition itself, as well as looking at dietary solutions. For those of us who are just battling higher prostaglandin levels, looking at our diet might be helpful in managing the symptoms.

Since cramps are caused by inflammation, Better Nutrition suggests eliminating foods that raise our levels of prostaglandins. These include:

  • Processed vegetable oils – I cook a lot with sunflower oil, so need to address this one asap
  • Fried foods – this one isn’t a major one for me, but I’ll keep it in mind
  • Partially hydrogenated oils – apparently these are present in margarine, as well as many baked goods, so I suspect I’ve been eating quite a lot of them lately… colder weather always has me reaching for sweet, carby things
  • Processed meats – I don’t eat much meat but will keep an eye on this
  • Dairy products – huh. I don’t drink milk, but might need to look at my cheese intake…
  • High-glycaemic foods – yep, doing terribly here. This includes things like white rice, white pasta, potatoes, couscous etc. See Harvard Health for a helpful list. Lately I’ve been eating a lot of these on a daily basis which I suspect is why my cramps have been worse than they were in the summer when I wasn’t eating as much
  • Sugar – yep. See above re baked goods. Could do better here too
  • Alcohol – ah. I’m generally pretty good about not drinking regularly these days (there’s a family history of alcoholism that I’m very conscious of). But my husband is currently on furlough and we’ve been sharing a bottle of wine several nights a week. Time to limit alcohol to Friday and Saturday night again

This list doesn’t surprise me in the least, because it seems anytime I start researching which foods to avoid for a given issue, most of these key culprits are on the list.

But if these are the foods we shouldn’t eat if we want to reduce menstrual cramps, what are the ones that we should be eating instead?

Here’s what I’ve discovered about the nutrients we should be looking out for to avoid painful cramps…

1. Zinc

Dr Lara Briden, author of the Period Repair Manual, says that her favourite supplement for managing period pains is zinc. This is because studies have demonstrated that its anti-inflammatory properties are effective in reducing menstrual cramps. You can take zinc as a supplement and find it in foods such as pumpkin seeds, oats, red meat, oysters, almonds, and legumes.

2. Fibre

I wrote a piece for a client not that long ago about the magic of fibre for our health, so I’m not at all surprised to find from this study that not getting enough fibre is associated with increased menstrual pain. Foods that are rich in fibre include legumes, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and collard greens, fruit, and whole-grains.

3. Omega-3

According to Nicole Jardim, author of Fix your Period, not having enough Omega-3 in your diet can make your period pains worse. This is because there are two main types of prostaglandins. One type, PGE2, causes inflammation, leading to pain. The other, PGE1, actually reduces inflammation instead. And PGE1 is derived from Omega-3.

So to get the benefits, we need more Omega-3 in our diets. Good sources include oily fish, flax and chia seeds, walnuts, avocados and, annoyingly, Brussel sprouts, which I hate. Fortunately, I love the rest of this list and am more than happy to eat more of them, especially since walnuts are also on my list of foods that boost brainpower.

4. Beta-Carotene

Research has found that adolescents with higher levels of beta-carotene (and zinc and vitamin E) were less likely to experience painful periods. Beta-carotene is a red-orange pigment found in vegetables such as carrots, squashes, and sweet potatoes.

5. Vitamin E

As explained above, vitamin E is one of the nutrients that has been found to reduce the likelihood of having menstrual cramps. Find it in almonds, sunflower seeds, avocados, spinach, broccoli, and olive oil.

6. Ginger

Ginger tea is often suggested as a home-cure for menstrual cramps and with very good reason. Studies have found that ginger is as effective as painkillers like ibuprofen and mefenamic acid for controlling period pains. I’m not a fan of it in drinks, but love to use ginger in cooking. I’ve also found adding a few drops of ginger essential oil to a hot bath is good for relieving cramps.

7. Magnesium

It seems that magnesium is good for pain management generally, according to researchers who looked at the evidence for its effect on a range of different symptoms. The reason for this needs more research but one of the conditions that magnesium is thought to be helpful for is period pains.

You can find magnesium in foods such as dark chocolate (hurray!), legumes, avocados, almonds and cashews, and pumpkin seeds. I also have a magnesium supplement that is a gel you rub on your skin to relieve muscle cramps. I haven’t tried it yet for menstrual cramps but I’m going to the moment I finish typing this up!

Some of my favourite foods are on this list, so I’m excited to do an overhaul of my diet this month to see if it helps with my cramps. I’ll let you know how it goes!

References

Nagata C., K. Hirokawa, N. Shimizu, H. Shimizu (2005) Associations of menstrual pain with intakes of soy, fat and dietary fiber in Japanese women, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 59(1), pages 88-92, https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602042

Ozgoli, G., M. Goli, and F. Moattar (2009), Comparison of Effects of Ginger, Mefenamic Acid, and Ibuprofen on Pain in Women with Primary Dysmenorrhea, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 15 (2), pages 129-132, http://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2008.0311

Pramanik, P., S. Banerjee, and P. Saha, (2016), Primary dysmenorrhea in school-going adolescent girls – is it related to deficiency of antioxidant in diet? International Journal of Life Science and Pharma Research 5 (2), pages 54-63, http://www.ijlpr.com/admin/php/uploads/233_pdf.pdf

Shin, H.J., H.S. Na, and S.H. Do (2020) Magnesium and Pain, Nutrients 12(8), page 2184, https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12082184

Teimoori, B., M. Ghasemi, Z. S. A. Hoseini, M. Razavi (2016) The Efficacy of Zinc Administration in the Treatment of Primary Dysmenorrhea, Oman Medical Journal 31 (2), pages 107-111, https://doi.org/10.5001/omj.2016.21

Prostaglandins, the Society for Endocrinology, https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/prostaglandins.aspx, consulted 07/11/2020

Dietary solutions for menstrual cramps, Better Nutrition, https://www.betternutrition.com/conditions-and-wellness/menstrual-cramps-diet/, consulted 07/11/2020

Glycemic index for 60+ foods, Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods, consulted 07/11/2020

Why Zinc Is My Favorite Supplement for Period Health, Lara Briden, https://www.larabriden.com/7-ways-zinc-rescues-hormones/, consulted 07/11/2020

The top foods high in zinc, Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325916, consulted 07/11/220

Why Omega-3 oils can help relieve period pain, Nicole Jardim, https://nicolejardim.com/cause-of-painful-periods-1/, consulted 07/11/2020