Leaving Work Behind

Link Bait – What Works, and Why

Written by Tom Ewer on February 29, 2012. 19 Comments

Link BaitIf you are a regular Leaving Work Behind reader, you will know all about the LWB 100. For those of you who are brand new to the blog, the LWB 100 is a list of blogs that I published two weeks ago today. It features the 100 best blogs for “leaving work behind” – with topics ranging from internet marketing, to social media, to freelancing.

Producing the list was no small undertaking – it took me countless hours to collate the sites, rank them, and put them together in a presentable fashion. And once I had published the post, it took me another few hours to individually contact each and every person on the list, informing them of their ranking and asking them to share.

But it was time well invested. The day I published the post, I had a record high number of visits (782). The day after was a new record – 1,372 visits.

In the seven days leading up to the LWB 100 being published, the blog was averaging 210 visits per day. In the seven days after the post was published, the blog averaged 632 visits – a threefold increase.

Link Bait

If you think that the above screenshot looks like a healthy spike, check it out in the context of the period since the blog’s launch in June 2011:

Link Bait

But a higher than normal level of traffic wasn’t the only benefit. My number of Facebook followers has gone from 95 to 155 in two weeks (it took me 4 months to get to 95). I have seen comparable levels of growth in Twitter followers, RSS subscribers, and newsletter subscribers. These effects are far more beneficial in the long run than a brief spike in traffic.

And then there were (and are) the indirect benefits – I have gotten to know some new bloggers in my niche, and would like to think that there is a fair amount of goodwill flowing around the blogosphere due to me taking the time and effort to curate such a list.

Cutting To The Chase

I will be totally honest with you (as I always am) – there were two reasons I wanted to publish a list like the LWB 100:

  1. I thought it would be a great resource for my readers
  2. I thought it could be an effective post for boosting traffic

I didn’t expect it to have the impact that it did. I thought that it would give me another small nudge in the right direction, but not the hefty push that I got.

At this stage, you probably want to know how any of this benefits you. Please let me make something clear – none of this is intended to be a boast. After all, my traffic levels are minuscule. But if this list had been published on a bigger blog, the impact would have been proportionally larger. The relative impact of the LWB 100 was huge, and the lessons learnt from the process can be applied to a blog of any size.

With that in mind, let’s take a detailed look at what makes good link bait, how the LWB 100 came together, and how I promoted it.

What Makes Good Link Bait?

A link bait post can be any number of things. Typically, it has to be exceptional in some way – it has to stand out from the crowd. It could be an expose, something controversial, or you could be the first to reveal some exciting news in your niche.

Another form of link bait is a valuable resource. This could manifest itself in a number of ways, such as a study that produces surprising results, or a list of top resources in your niche. Does that last one sound familiar? Of course – that is what I did with the LWB 100.

How do you know whether what you are doing is link bait material or not? One good rule of thumb is as follows – the longer it takes you, the more likely it is to be link bait. This is a broad rule, and doesn’t apply in all cases, but is something to take into consideration. If you are expending a great deal of time and effort to produce something that is not readily available elsewhere on the internet, people are likely to respond by sharing it.

A Link Bait Case Study – The Process Revealed

So you know what kind of effect the LWB 100 had on my blog’s traffic, and you have an idea of what link bait is. Now I want to show you what I did, and how I did it. I am hoping that you can take something away from this post that you can use on your own blog, to similar (or greater) effect.

1. Producing The Post

As I have already mentioned, putting the list together was no small task. What you might not appreciate is that finding an absolute minimum of 100 quality blogs is a considerable undertaking. Whilst you may think that you know 100 blogs in your niche, you might surprise yourself if you actually tried to list them.

The challenge was not just in finding 100 blogs (although I eventually found around 150), but in ensuring that they were all of a certain quality. I needed regularly updated blogs that were full of useful content, which meant that I needed to manually review each and every blog that I wasn’t already familiar with. This took a while!

There are some really time-consuming tasks in such an undertaking that you really do not appreciate until they are on top of you. For instance, just creating the links for the list itself (with the correct anchor texts and alt tags) took 20 minutes! Categorizing the blogs was another time-consuming task. And that is not even to mention the data points I had to collect, collate, and use to rank the sites.

Here’s the thing – there will be posts that you spend a lot of time on that don’t get the attention they deserve. I say that from experience. But what you need to focus on is the average return on your time investment. If in the future I put a whole load of effort into say 3 link bait posts, and one of them blows up like the LWB 100 did, I will be happy.

2. Promoting The Post

Good link bait doesn’t necessarily self-propagate, and the LWB was no exception to that rule. I spent a great deal of time personally reaching out to every blogger on the list and politely asking them to share it if they saw fit. I doubt the post would have been nearly as successful without me putting a lot of time into this vital stage.

The response was far more positive than I expected – around 50% of people in the list responded and told me that they had shared. What really surprised me is that quite a few of the heavyweight bloggers were gracious enough to take the time out to respond to my email and share the post. The likes of Brian Gardner of Copyblogger, Sean Hodge of Freelance Switch, and Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income are a credit to the “A List”.

As for the people who didn’t respond – there is little point in speculating why they didn’t get back to me. Some people just won’t – it’s a numbers game. The absolute key for me is in being genuine and thoughtful when you reach out to people. I abhor spamming in any form, and was determined to not be seen in such a light by the people I was contacting.

Should You Produce Your Own List?

I don’t want you to come away from this post thinking that you should do your own version of the LWB 100. Such an idea may work in your niche, but I don’t want you to limit yourself. There are a huge variety of ways in which you can produce link bait, so don’t restrict your thinking. Just bear the following in mind:

To produce wildly successful posts, add value where it is (a) in demand, and (b) not readily available (tweet this).

Sometimes, people may not even know that they want what you have to offer. For instance, you could publish a post demonstrating why a popular service isn’t actually all it’s cracked up to be. People wouldn’t know that they wanted this information until it was in front of them. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.

What Has Worked For You?

I am sure many of you have had posts that have been far more successful than the LWB 100. So please, share with us here – what has been your most successful form of link bait, what kind of effect did it have, and how did you do it? Let us know in the comments section!

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Blyzz

3 Reasons Your Niche Site Keyword Research Strategy Is Ineffective

Written by Tom Ewer on February 27, 2012. 14 Comments

3 Reasons Your Niche Site Keyword Research Strategy Is IneffectiveI have been practicing keyword research across multiple sites for the past eight months. I have done it for niche sites, for this blog, and for my clients. Most recently, I have been doing a lot of keyword research on niche sites for my mass niche site project.

If there is one thing I have learnt in the last eight months, it is that most people who are trying to build profitable niche sites are going about keyword research in entirely the wrong fashion. As soon as you start overcomplicating the process, your effectiveness in choosing profitable keywords disintegrates.

Here’s a simple fact – finding low competition keywords, when systematized properly, is in fact a relatively straightforward process. If you want proof of that, look no further than the likes of Spencer Haws or Justin and Joe – guys who are producing niche sites on a grand scale. If keyword research is that difficult, how are they able to keep rolling out tens (or even hundreds) of sites every single month?

Picking profitable keywords is a process that I want to cover in great detail in the future. However, I am only going to do that when I have ample evidence to back up my own methods. In the meantime, I want to draw your attention to three reasons why your niche site keyword research strategy if ineffective. If you take the below points on board, your likelihood of picking profitable keywords will be greatly improved.

1. You Are Trying to Rank 1st

There are ten available spots on the first page of Google, and each spot will attract a certain percentage of clicks, depending upon numerous variables. I wrote an in-depth post on this topic over at Think Traffic, which I recommend you check out.

Let’s assume for a moment that 40% of searchers click on the 1st result, and 20% click on the 5th. You’re looking to find a keyword that will send you 1,000 exact match visitors per month. So a keyword with 2,500 exact match results for which you can rank 1st in Google will do the trick. But a keyword with 5,000 exact match results for which you can rank 5th in Google will also work.

In fact, you could argue that the second keyword is a better one to target. With the first, there is a definite theoretical ceiling of 1,000 visitors. But with the second, if you exceeded your expectations and ranked higher, you could attract up to 2,000 visitors.

Stop focusing on the 1st spot of Google – there are 10 up for grabs on the 1st page, and they can all send your website traffic.

Whilst I used to use Market Samurai for keyword research (old reliable), I now use SECockpit (hugely powerful, but buggy – I will be reviewing this tool soon). I actually use SECockpit’s method of dividing the first page of Google up onto three “sections”:

1. 1st-3rd spots
2. 4th-6th spots
3. 8th-10th spots

SECockpit calculates that each section will attract a fixed percentage of traffic. It isn’t perfect, but it is impossible to calculate the precise level of traffic you will receive from any given keyword. For my purposes, SECockpit’s estimates are good enough.

Once you have split the 1st page of Google into three parts (and taken the differences in traffic into account), you can analyze the competition in each section independently of the rest of the page. This allows you to consider keywords for which you do not expect to rank 1st in Google.

2. You Research Only One Keyword

I was guilty of this until only recently, and it is a really crazy thing to be doing. In looking to build a niche site, I would go out in search of a keyword. Once I found a keyword that I thought would do the trick, I would go about building the site.

This is wrong, wrong, wrong! No two keywords are created equal, and you want to have a considerable backlog of researched and ready keywords before you decide to build a site.

Justin and Joe of AdSense Flippers say that for every one keyword you build a site for, you should have researched 50 other potentially viable keywords. This may sound over the top to you, but the fact is, the more keywords you research, the better chance you will have of finding more profitable ones. If you only research one keyword and then build a site, you are reducing your chances of it being a success.

There is always strength in numbers, and keyword research is not an exception to that rule.

3. You Don’t Score Your Keywords

This follows directly on from my previous point. You must have a way of scoring your keywords. If you are going to research 50 keywords for every one that you decide to base a site upon, you need to know which of those 50 is the best one to target.

By no means is this an absolute science, and your scoring system is bound to evolve as you gain experience, but something is better than nothing. I personally score my sites based upon a number of variables, focusing on offsite and onsite SEO. I will probably reveal my scoring system at some point in the future, when it has been adequately proven to be effective.

In the meantime, you need something. I wouldn’t worry about getting too anal with your system to start with – just find a way of ordering your keywords, see how well your system reflects the performance of those keywords, and adjust accordingly.

Do YOU Have Any Suggestions?

I have covered above what I consider to be three vital areas of keyword research that are neglected by many niche site builders.

But there is certainly more to be said. For instance, there are various common keyword research mistakes that you must avoid.

So if you build niche sites, please feel free to reveal your tips in the comments section below! And if you think this article would be of help to your followers, please share it using the buttons below.

Creative Commons image courtesy of Brooks Elliott

Entry Level Writing Jobs – 6 Top Resources

Written by Tom Ewer on February 24, 2012. 46 Comments

Entry Level Writing Jobs

A reasonable proportion of the people who contact me are interested in freelance writing. And by far the most common question I get asked by those people is, “How do I find work?”

More specifically, people are often looking for entry level writing jobs. I always get excited by the prospect of showing someone how they can find clients and start earning money, as I firmly believe freelance writing to be a wonderful way of making a living online. As friends of mine such as Amy Harrison and Ali Luke have demonstrated, freelance writing can become a lucrative and successful career path.

Psychologically speaking, the first step is the hardest. Getting your foot on the ladder and securing your first client can seem like a hefty challenge. But it really isn’t. The barriers of entry to freelance writing are practically non-existent — finding entry level writing jobs is not that hard. It is an industry with great scale — from the guys and girls who are writing $8 articles for Text Broker to the copywriting experts who charge thousands of dollars for a single landing page. The real challenge is in positioning yourself according to your current skill level and experience.

So this list is a start point for anyone who feels that they are a capable writer. Once you start to take on clients and get a feel for your abilities you can scale your business by increasing your rates and hours worked. But before all that, you must make the first step.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at six top resources for entry level writing jobs.

1. Freelance Brokers

By freelance brokers, I mean sites such as Upwork and iFreelance — companies that act as a middle man between a client and vendor. I have personally not used these sites to source freelance work, but I have hired content writers from Upwork and it does seem to be a relatively smooth process.

The upside to using these services is that there usually tends to be some sort of protection against non-payment and breach of contract. The downside is that these sites have a reputation amongst some for attracting bargain searchers. You of course do not want to be that bargain.

2. Craigslist

A lot of people will moan and groan at the mention of Craigslist. I should make something very clear up front — you will have to trawl through a lot of crap to find decent listings. When it comes to entry level writing jobs it is probably the place I would last advise you look. But based upon what people have told me, persistence can lead to finding some decent jobs. And best of all, it is free!

3. ProBlogger Job Board

I have a soft spot for the ProBlogger Job Board as it is where I found both of my current clients. It was in fact the first place I turned to when I started considering freelance writing as a money-making opportunity. It took me just a few days and 10–15 applications to land my first client.

Whilst it is free for you to trawl the boards, those who list job advertisements have to pay a $70 fee for the privilege. This filters out the vast majority of low-end or scammy offers that you will come across on Craigslist.

4. Freelance Switch Job Board

I recently featured Freelance Switch in my top 10 pick of the LWB 100 so you already know that I love their site. Theirs is another job board in the same vein as ProBlogger’s, and although I have not sourced work from it myself, it appears that there are some pretty good offers available. You will need to become a paid subscriber (starting at $7 per month) in order to apply for jobs.

5. Freelance Writer’s Den

I include this as the fifth and final option for two reasons:

  1. It has a “Junk Free Job Board”, featuring well-paid, genuine job offers only.
  2. It is a fantastic resource for anyone who is serious about developing a full-time freelance income.

I was a member of the Freelance Writer’s Den until only recently — I am currently not a subscriber as I am not actively seeking any additional freelance work. I got a great amount of value out of the material available on there and also a lot of great advice on rates negotiation on the forum.

If you are an entry level freelance writer but aspire to be more, I would recommend the Freelance Writer’s Den as a great option.

6. Paid to Blog Jobs

It would be remiss of me not to mention my very own solution for finding all of the best freelance blogging jobs available today.

Paid to Blog Jobs is a service I created after having wasted too many hours trawling through numerous jobs boards to find the best gigs on offer. In a nutshell, we trawl all of those boards ourselves, filter out the junk jobs, and present the remaining cream of the crop to you (updated every single day). That saves you time, and almost certainly will lead you to discover jobs you wouldn’t have otherwise found.

If you’re actively in search of freelance blogging jobs, I would of course highly recommend that you check Paid to Blog Jobs out.

Where Have You Found Entry Level Writing Jobs?

So there you have it folks — six places where you can find entry level writing jobs. But for those of you who have already got their foot on the ladder, where have you found work? Let us know in the comments section!

One last thing — if you’re interested in reading more about freelance writing, click here for all of the freelancing posts I have written on LWB.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of JoelMontes

The Leaving Work Behind 100 – My Top 10

Written by Tom Ewer on February 22, 2012. 39 Comments

The Leaving Work Behind 100 - My Top 10I launched the Leaving Work Behind 100 this time last week, and it has proven to be a great success. I am really excited to say that a lot of people seem to have taken a lot of value out of it.

However, quite a few people have commented on the sheer number of blogs listed. And I get that – few of us have the time to go through 100 blogs. That is why I broke the blogs up into categories, so that you can pick from the topics that interest you the most.

But today I’d like to take that a step further by recommending my pick of the LWB 100. The original list was based upon a ranking algorithm and didn’t reflect my personal opinion of where blogs should be ranked, so I figured it would be remiss of me not to let you know which blogs are my favorites.

If you don’t have the time to trawl through the full list, the following 10 blogs (in no particular order) are the ones that I couldn’t be without.

Smart Passive Income (Internet Marketing)

Pat FlynnWithout wanting to come over sounding too dramatic, discovering Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income was a pivotal moment for me. That was the point at which I realized that it was actually possible to make money online in a legitimate manner. That you didn’t need to be an expert or a “guru” – you just needed to work hard, work smart, and persist.

Although there is no doubting the quality of Pat’s content, I think the biggest draw is his story. He wraps his personality around the blog in such a way that not only has us rooting for him, but also makes us realize that success is possible.

Three of the Best

Social Triggers (Marketing)

Derek HalpernI have got a lot of time for Derek Halpern’s blog. Unlike many bloggers out there, when an argument is put forward by Derek, you know that a great deal of thought has gone into it. Every argument he makes is backed up meticulously by studies and research.

Moreover, he provides you with direct and actionable advice that you can put in place with immediate effect. I know that, because I have taken many of Derek’s suggestions on board with this blog. The feature box on the home page? The uncluttered sidebar? The “Resources” links? All ideas inspired by Social Triggers.

Three of the Best

Think Traffic (Marketing)

Corbett BarrI would happily include Corbett Barr’s blog in this list on the back of one blog post alone: Write Epic Shit. Out of the hundreds of articles I have read over the past several months, that is one of the few that has stuck in my mind.

But Think Traffic has so much more to offer, not least the Million Dollar Blog Project, a fascinating real-time case study of how to build a successful blog. It is no great surprise that Corbett’s own site for that project, Expert Enough, is doing fantastically well.

Steve Scott Site (Affiliate Marketing)

Steve ScottSteve happens to be one of the nicest guys in the internet marketing niche, but that is not why his site is on this list. The reason it is on this list is simply because of the number of strategies I have learnt from his blog that I have successfully applied to my own.

All too often blogs are full of hot air, with no real actionable advice. That is not the case with Steve Scott Site. Not only does he provide you with actionable advice, he gives you full disclosure on his own progress – which in itself often reveals valuable lessons.

Three of the Best

The Sales Lion (Marketing)

Marcus SheridanMarcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion is an absolute legend. There, I said it. But it’s the truth people. He covers the topics of content marketing and social media with unparalleled enthusiasm – you can’t help but get involved. I have commented on more blog posts of his than I have any other blog.

As is the case with many of the bloggers on this list, it is his story that makes his blog as special as it is. He used the power of content marketing to turn a failing business into one of the biggest in its region.

Three of the Best

Niche Pursuits (Niche Sites)

Spencer HawsIf you are interested in building niche sites, you will find Niche Pursuits to be a seriously valuable resource. Spencer Haws cuts through the fluff and gets right down to the nitty gritty of what is required to build successful niche sites. And most remarkably, he does it all without charging you a penny.

Forget the multitude of paid courses and eBooks that there are out there – I firmly believe that Niche Pursuits offers you all of the help you need in order to set up a profitable portfolio of websites.

Three of the Best

AdSense Flippers (Niche Sites)

AdSense FlippersThis is another must-read site for niche site builders. Justin and Joe offer a different perspective on the niche site business model, as their primary aim is capital gains from the sale of niche sites (as opposed to ongoing income).

Although they produce quality articles on a regular basis, the jewel in the AdSense Flippers crown is the podcast. Subscribe, listen, and learn.

Three of the Best

Sparring Mind (Marketing)

Greg CiottiWhen it comes to crafting blog posts of real quality and substance, Greg Ciotti of Sparring Mind can teach us all a lesson or two. His site is quickly becoming one of the best current resources for blogging strategy.

I can’t remember the last time he produced a post which I didn’t get some sort of value out of – although most bloggers are guilty of producing “duds” every now and then, Greg works hard to deliver the goods every time.

Three of the Best

Freelance Switch (Freelancing)

Freelance SwitchThis list certainly wouldn’t be complete without a freelancing blog, and Freelance Switch really is the best of the best. Far too many people feel that self-employment is out of their grasp, but this site shows you how it is possible for you to quit your job and work for yourself.

Three of the Best

Copyblogger (Marketing)

CopybloggerWhen it comes to crafting engaging content and marketing it in an effective manner, there are few better resources than Copyblogger. I have learn more from this one blog than most others combined (present company excepted) – especially when it comes to the art of crafting engaging content.

Three of the Best

What Are Your Picks?

So there you have it folks – my favorite 10 blogs out of the Leaving Work Behind 100. I can’t say that it was easy picking just 10 out, as there are so many fantastic resources to choose from. I am sure that many of you would have picked a different top 10 – what blogs do you not see above that you think are worth of inclusion? Let us know in the comments section!

Creative Commons image courtesy of yoppy

17 Posts To Help You Build A Better Blog

Written by Tom Ewer on February 20, 2012. 2 Comments

17 Posts To Help You Build A Better BlogFor those of you who don’t know, I have been a staff writer at WPMU for quite a few months. In that time, I have written rather a lot of posts (nearly as many as I have here in fact).

One of the great things about writing for WPMU is that the subject matter is often directly related to what I am trying to achieve with my business. I write about all things WordPress related, and often my posts cover topics such as blogging, SEO, social media, and more. So although I write for the readers of WPMU, I think that I have written plenty of posts that would be interesting to you too.

With that in mind, I have trawled through my archives at WPMU and present to you a selection of posts that can help you build a better blog. Enjoy!

The List

  1. Read Your Visitors’ Minds & Increase Engagement on Your Blog
  2. Why Your Blog Frustrates Your Visitors, and What You Can Do About It
  3. 1 Simple Step To Keeping Visitors On Your Blog
  4. 50 Tips To Increase Traffic To Your Blog
  5. 4 Free Photo & Image Resources You Need For Your Blog
  6. 3 Types Of Awesome Newsletters For Your WordPress Blog
  7. WordPress Bloggers: Are You Ignoring Your Visitors?
  8. Tips For Dirty Bloggers Pt 1: Clean Up Your Design
  9. Tips For Dirty Bloggers Pt 2: Is Clean Code That Important?
  10. Tips For Dirty Bloggers Pt 3: Typography – Your Blog’s Cutting Edge
  11. Tips For Dirty Bloggers Pt 4: Grammar, Spelling & Punctuation
  12. Are You Losing Visitors By Omitting This Key Page On Your Blog?
  13. WordPress Bloggers: Why You Should Be On All 3 Major Social Networks
  14. Are You Neglecting The Most Important Page On Your Blog?
  15. The WPMU 100 – The Top WordPress Related Blogs On The Internet
  16. How To Use Trackbacks In WordPress To Boost Your Blog’s Traffic
  17. One Vital Ingredient That Your Blog May Be Missing

Do You Want More Of This?

That should keep you going for a while! What do you think about the above posts – do they cover topics that you are interested in? I am always sharing new content across my social network profiles – should I be sharing WPMU posts with my Twitter and Facebook followers? Let me know in the comments section!

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk