My new favourite tool that can help with link building

Build links easily in communities related to your niche with the help of this browser extension.

Now that I’ve finished my MA, I’ve started to take on more freelancing projects and have found myself conducting lots of link building of late.  In doing so, I’ve found this good browser extension that I thought I’d share.

A while back I wrote about building links organically by participating in communities that fit around your niche.  I gave several examples on how you can find these niche sites easily.  One of those examples was a website called “Sites Like“!  If you’ve not heard of it yet, allow me to explain.  You simply input a URL and it outputs a list of sites it believes are closely related.  You can see why that’s a handy tool for link builders?

Sites like tool for finding niche websites

Making it even easier:

Although visiting the website and inputting your desired URL is already pretty easy, have got a browser extension too so you can find related communities right from your browser window.  I don’t know whether it’s new, or whether I’ve only just noticed it?  Either way it’s very handy.

How to use it for link building:

So, let’s imagine I’m building links for a website that sells interior design services.  In a backlink profile for a competitor, I find an interior design social network site giving out several links.  I visit it and then click the ‘Sites Like’ button in my browser.  It provides me with 15 examples of similar websites and the opportunity to click the link to visit more in a new tab.

I won’t lie and tell you with every single click I find millions of sites that are utopias for link builders: perfect community-driven social networks where you can easily build a number of links, no.  But I HAVE found one or two gems that have made it worthwhile.

And what about the other non-community sites?  They’re still useful too and they be able to give you plenty of link building fuel.  They must be related to your niche in some way, since this site relies on tagging by topic. Is the recommended site selling the same sorts of products?  Why not run them through a backlink tool? Or are they a resource on your topic?  Maybe contact them and ask to exchange links, or better still, request they link to your content.

I’ve used this method to build links on several different projects recently with reasonable success.  It’s very quick and I have found it to be very useful.  I hope it will be for you too, good luck!

sites like tool

How to write a ‘lead’ for your blog
(like newspapers do)

Get skim-readers to pay attention to your blog posts.  How?  Start using a ‘lead’, like newspapers do.  This post will tell you why & show you how.

What is a ‘lead’?

A lead is the one-paragraph explanation at the top of an article.  I’ve crafted one at the top of this blog post, in italics, as an example.  (Though it’s not perfect – I’m still learning too!)

The term ‘lead’ comes from the newspaper industry, where a lead is used as a micro-story under the headline to emphasise what made the story ‘newsworthy’ in the first place.  In your blog post, you should use a lead to emphasise what made your story bloggable. Aim to write a short, focused summary that highlights the point of your blog post AND encourages people to read on.

Why you should use a lead:

Newspaper leadYou’ve probably heard time and time again that Internet users have a short attention span, right? Oh, and don’t forget nobody reads anything  anymore – it’s all about skim reading.

So, use a lead to capture attention, to hook users in.

Using a lead will draw in passive skim-readers.  It will encourage people to give your article their full attention.   It will tell people WHY it’s worth reading (i.e. why it was bloggable, or newsworthy in the first place) and why it’s worth their time and effort.

Examples of leads:

Here are some examples of leads from today’s news:

Newspaper lead example Newspaper lead example 2 Newspaper lead example 3

(Click to view the news item on its original site – in a new window)

As you’ll notice, under each headline is a small summary of the story.  The Guardian uses bullet points on its website, which I think is a fantastic idea!

What to put in your lead:

Here are a few basic tips to get you started:

  • Talk about the actor and the action:
    • Who did what?
  • Make sure you include the main event:
    • Hook people in by explaining specifically what is going on where…
  • Tell people what made this worth blogging:
    • Was there unexpected conflict?
    • Were the ‘elite’ involved?  (For example, Google, a footballer or just somebody well known in your niche).
    • What’s the value, is there something in it for people? (E.g. a freebie or a new tip to help make people more money)

EXAMPLE:  Joe Bloggs explains his suprising reasons for cancelling 2011 SEO conference talk in London, just hours before taking to the stage.

We can pretend that, in this example,  Joe Bloggs is an elite character in the industry.  The fact that his reasons are ‘suprising’ and he let people down just ‘hours before taking to the stage’ makes this story newsworthy.  We’re setting the context by including “who, what, where”.

TIP: Pay attention to the leads used in newspapers (or on news websites) to get a sense for what draws you in.  Try and replicate these in your own blog post leads.

TIP: Writing a really lead will come with experience and tweaking.  If you have the time and resources, try running an A/B split test to see if particular leads result in a lower bounce/exit rate and a higher average time on page value.  Then, note which are more successful and work out why.

How to write a good lead for your blog:

  • Make sure it’s packed with information
  • But keep it short – aim for one short paragraph
  • Ensure it’s clear, concise, focused and to the point
  • Emphasise what made the story worth blogging in the first place

QUESTION:  How long should my lead be?

Try and stick to about 30 words.  You have very limited time to capture potential readers’ attention, so help them grasp the meaning very quickly, pulling them in to read the rest of your blog post.

A few weeks ago I was in my news-making class learning about newspaper leads and why they’re important . I thought “we should really apply this to blogging too” so I wrote this post to share with you all.  The ideas come from a chapter in this book: “The Language of News Media (Language in Society)” by Allan Bell, which we read in preparation for the class.

Copywriting S.O.S – does your copy need rescuing?

Use these tips to rescue your web copy once it’s all gone wrong… This article will teach you a couple of methods to fix up what you’ve written:

It’s getting late: you’re on your ninth cup of tea, you’ve read your entire Facebook wall AND you’ve already paced the room three times in the last half hour.

You should have written a good piece of copy by now, but you haven’t.

Copywriting SOSDo you know what you need? You need rescuing.

Or rather, your copy does.

So, here four simple tips that will help you; they’ve helped me out loads over the last couple of years. They’re quick to master and simple to implement, so it wont be long before your copywriting nightmare turns into a copywriting dream!

Most importantly, these tips will help you write better, engage your readers and meet your deadlines.

Tip: I use these four different tips to help me write articles for SEO, copy for websites and press releases. I hope they’ll help you too, whatever copy you’re writing!

So, let’s get started:

1. Make a quick plan:

You’ll be surprised how much a plan will help you retrieve your focus. After all, how can you write if you don’t know WHAT to write about?

Scribble down several headings and decide what you need to talk about in each paragraph. You don’t need to write more than a couple of words for each point, just write out a very general outline.

Next, reorder your copy to fit with your plan. If appropriate, chop and change around different paragraphs, but most importantly, MAKE SURE IT ALL FLOWS!

Struggling to get finished? Your new plan will help you write the rest of your copy too.

2. Have you made your point yet?

What’s your point? The copy you’re writing must have a point. To inform? To teach? To sell?

Sometimes you can carry on writing blindly because you think the article isn’t finished yet, but all that’s really missing is your main point.

So, what is your point and have you made it yet?

If you haven’t made it yet, now’s the time to figure out what it is and state it. State it early on in your copy and reiterate it near the end to reinforce the point to your readers.

3. Simplify complicated paragraphs:

If you’re reading a paragraph and it just *doesn’t* sound right, it’s probably full of long winded sentences and poor grammar. So, strip it back and start again. Readers will easily digest concise writing, so by keeping your writing simple you’ll keep your reader’s attention for longer.  (Which means they’re more likely to do what you need them to do: buy, click or share!)

Copywriting plan

Follow these quick tips to keep your copy concise:

  • Only make one point per sentence
  • Use short, to-the-point sentences
  • Don’t over-complicate sentences with long-winded jargon and technical words
  • Avoid writing in the ‘passive voice.’
  • Take out extra words where possible

I can’t claim credit for these points, any good copy writing book will tell you to follow these basic rules.

But how often do we apply them?

Rarely, right? But they do make all the difference to your writing! After spending ten minutes rewriting a sentence to no avail, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can correct the troublesome wording by applying these rules.

Bonus: Soon, you’ll find yourself applying these tips automatically!

4. Think you’ve finished writing?

Nearly finished, but not sure if it’s good enough yet? Unsure why it’s ‘not quite there‘?

Go and put the kettle on, make your tenth cup of tea and take a breather. Use your ‘fresh eyes’ and give your copy a final read through.

Finished copywriting?

Edit anything that doesn’t sound right and then stop again.  Then read through your work one final time (after your 11th cup of tea!)

It’s really important to check your copy through all in one go after spending all day stopping and starting writing.

And that’s it!

Regularly, stop, breathe and apply these four tips to your writing when you’re struggling to get finished.

I hope they help you like they help me, and feel free to include more tips in the comments section if you have any to share!

Img credits: [SOS] – [Laptop] – [Done]

[eShop Series] Five questions to ask yourself – Pt.4 Uniqueness

Hello and welcome the penultimate article from my eShop series.   You can view all the previous posts by clicking here.  Do subscribe to ensure you’re able to read the final article as soon as I hit publish.

So, let’s begin.

Day 4 – ask yourself  ‘Why should they choose my eShop?’

I’ve seen a million e-commerce sites like yours, selling a similar product line to you.

Have you ever thought about what it is that makes your shop different?  What makes you the best choice?

Why should I choose to buy from you?  All valid questions that other visitors will be asking too.

You might know why, but do your website visitors?

Think about the above questions and start S.P.E.L.L.I.N.G it out to your visitors: You need to make sure you’re telling them why your shop is the best.

Find something unique about your company (that your audience will appreciate) and shout it from the rooftops.  Make sure that competing eShops aren’t saying the same thing.  One trustworthy and established jewellery shop is better than six shops exclaiming to be the cheapest online.

What’s your best feature?

So, what does your company do better than all the rest?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Are you more secure/safer than your competitors?
  • Are you open longer than your competitors?
  • Can your buyers reach you by phone, but not your competitors?
  • Do your competitors charge, and do you deliver for free?
  • Do you have multilingual staff on hand to help, unlike your competitors?

What sets you apart from the other eShops?  Write a list and prepare to tell your potential buyers!

Just remember: keep it truthful.  If you think your hand-knitted dog jumpers are the cheapest, do your research and check your facts.  Perhaps you think your shop is the most safe and secure in your niche?  Where’s your proof?

How to prove you’re the best:

Once you’ve come up with a unique selling point for your company, work into your ‘about us’ page or tagline.

Post evidence:  Look for press clippings, testimonials and reviews to help you back up any claims you make.  If your claim is about security, write down the measures your company takes to ensure visitors are safe.

When comparing your shop to competing businesses, your visitors should be able to see why yours is better straight away – it’ll  clench the sale!


  • Think about what makes your company different,
  • Find evidence that backs up your claim,
  • Work this into your about us page/tagline/sales copy.

Update:  I found this article for eShop owners:  tips for opening a successful eShop.  Enjoy!

7 things I learnt from reading Twitter co-founder @dom’s book ‘140 Characters’.

Title: 140 Characters – a style guide for the short form

Author:  Dom Sagolla (@dom on Twitter)

Twitter Dom Sagolla Book 140 CharactersI purchased this book after seeing it recommended on a Squidoo lens.  I enjoyed parts of the book, but found others a little too abstract to apply to everyday Twitter use.  The author clearly has a love of language, but the idea of using Twitter to write poetry in 140 characters or less seems a little outlandish to me.

However, I did fall in love with the idea that ‘everybody is a writer.’  The book was trying to reinforce that the platform has the scope to be used for any creative output you desire; it is not just a tool for trivial and senseless updates about ‘what you’re having for dinner.’

Below are seven tips I’ve extracted from the book that should help you add value to your tweets, gain more followers and generally improve your updates.

1) Lead the conversation

When writing tweets, always lead people to reply to you. Don’t just assume they will.

Take this tweet for example:

In my CNN column this week, I ask if there’s a formula for viral YouTube videos -what do you think?

Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore has asked specifically for the reader’s opinion, instead of simply plugging his CNN column to loyal Mashable subscribers.  He’s leading a conversation, which is far more likely to obtain a response.

2) One thought per tweet

If you write web copy you’ll know that it’s best to stick to one point per paragraph. It’s the same with tweets too.

140 characters isn’t much – so don’t overcomplicate your tweets by trying to describe more than one idea at a time.

3) Would you write your tweet down and pass it to a friend?

With mobile phones hooked up to the Internet it’s pretty easy to tweet every inane thought.  So before tweeting, stop and think.  Is this worth writing down on a piece of paper and passing to a friend?

If you would write it down and tell a friend you can probably bet it is of value to your readers and worth tweeting.  If you only tweet valuable content, it’s going to earn you more followers!

4) Never demand attention, just politely request it

Follow Pete Cashmore’s example in the tweet I quoted above and only ever request attention politely.  Never demand your reader clicks the link you’re pushing into their feed.

Cashmore was plugging an article he wrote on a CNN to his Mashable readers.  He didn’t say ‘Go and read the article I wrote at CNN,’ he simply asked for the readers’ advice and slipped it into the conversation politely.

5) Stop counting your followers!

Stop worrying about your follower count and start thinking ‘how can I better serve my audience?’

Who is your audience?  What interests them?  What content are they retweeting the most?

Never automatically follow hundreds of people and hope they’ll follow you back.  It’s not about numbers; it’s about tweeting messages that your audience will value.  Your count will automatically grow from there.

6) Happy, fun tweets will get you more followers

People are naturally lured towards fun people, so boring and depressing tweets will lose you followers.

If you’ve got something negative to talk about, follow Hemmingway’s rule and try to turn it into a positive.  Estate agents do this all the time: a small house in the middle of the nowhere magically turns into a cosy rural dwelling.

7) Study your Twitter heroes

Is there somebody you’re following that you really admire?  Ask yourself what it is that draws you (and hundreds of others) to them.  Is it their style, or the content of their tweets?  Perhaps it is both?  Study the people you respect and emulate their good points.  You’ll soon have your own army of followers!

Final word:

If you’re a twitter user I really do recommend the book.  These are just seven tips out of hundreds more ready for extracting!