Backlinks and Brainteasers: a marriage made in SEO

Cedarwood’s resident Digital PR expert Alex Fisher talks to Emma Stretton about the power of puzzles in earning links.

Most people know that SEO often means keywords. Backlinks, on the other hand, are a slightly lesser-known buzzword and, yet, they’re an incredibly important way to increase your website’s search engine rankings. Backlinks are when another website, preferably a tried and trusted one links back to your website. They essentially tell search engines your website is one worth going to.


Building genuine links into a website is a great way to improve the overall authority of the site. Having websites with a high domain rating direct users to your site indicates to search engines that your website is also trustworthy and will increase the authority of your website. In turn, this will improve your website’s rankings. A website’s authority is one of the key factors that Google considers when ranking websites, so the more authority your website has the better chance it has to climb up the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages).

Let’s look at how we’ve used this recently for one of our clients: Rimmers Music. When Christmas kicked in we thought it would be a great time to grab some extra coverage and use the opportunity to build links into the Rimmers Music site. Backlinks aren’t always game, set and match and we knew we needed some attention-seeking content that would definitely get Rimmers Music noticed.


After an unusual year, the run up to Christmas 2020 needed some festive cheer and light heartedness. With that in mind, we decided to create a Brainteaser based on Christmas carolling (because it was for a music shop – see what we did there)?! Journalists and publications benefit from brainteasers because they’re shareable, they keep people on the page and they bring light to balance the shade.


The Rimmers Music brainteaser was a big picture full of people singing Christmas carols. The idea was that you had to spot the one little boy with his hands over his ears refusing to take part. We tied the concept in with data found by Rimmers Music the previous year, which uncovered that a quarter of Brits won’t open the door to a Christmas caroller. This gave the press release more weight and more for publications to work with. The end result was for websites to include an article about the brainteaser with a link to Rimmers Music. Whilst we do want to secure those all-important backlinks, we are also aiming to get as much coverage as we can. Getting your client seen on major websites with hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of readers is a result in itself.

The Results

  • 86 pieces of coverage
  • 39 backlinks
  • Average Domain Rating – 63

We don’t like to brag (well maybe a little) but it did the trick. The Rimmers Music brainteaser resulted in 86 pieces of coverage and 39 backlinks. Incredibly, one article alone led to 1000 new users clicking on the link and heading to the Rimmers Music website. Most sites ran the story early on in December but some picked it up later, providing additional coverage. It was the Christmas gift that kept on giving.

Backlinks signal to search engines that a website can be trusted. They’re a bit like a good friend recommending a restaurant; you’re more likely to go there if you were sent by someone you trust. Not to mention, the more people shouting about your service, the more likely this is to convert into sales. Getting into a search engine’s good books might not sound that exciting but finding new ways to get noticed and creating content that lands is what SEO experts (like us) thrive on.

If you want to get a bit more into the nitty gritty of backlinks you can read more in our blog ‘Why Are Links Important for SEO?’ or find out more about linkbuiling on our Digital PR services page.


iphone mail notification

Improve Email Response Rate: Small Changes That Make A Big Difference

Many PRs spend hours, weeks and even months putting their heart and soul into their latest content. However, great content can sometimes be let down by a poor pitch. 

Pitching to a journalist shouldn’t be where your content strategy fails!

We have compiled a list of our top tried and tested tips that will increase both open and response rate and ultimately land coverage in your desired publications. 

How To Improve Email Open Rate

  • A clear subject line
  • A summarised introduction
  • Personalisation
  • Reduce attachment size

How To Improve Email Response Rate

  • Be direct with your request
  • Conduct research before sending your email
  • Ensure that you follow up
  • Be clear
  • Keep it short and sweet!

How To Improve Open Rate

Ensure your subject line is clear

Subject lines are CRUCIAL! 

It’s really important to show a journalist that your email is relevant to them and their audience. Make this clear within your subject line by summarising your key points in one snappy sentence. It is also useful to state what kind of story you are pitching, whether it’s a case study or some new, juicy data.

Be sure to write your subject line in the style of the desired publication. Some publications, such as The Sun, like sensationalised headlines, whereas business publications for example, prefer the more professional angles. 

Here are a few examples:

NEW DATA: 1 in 3 Brits won’t invite vegans to Christmas dinner, survey finds

RE: Garden furniture review – holiday at home this summer

See the Dog-tor: could prescription pups end lockdown loneliness?

It is nice to have punny and punchy subject lines, however, this is not always necessary. Sometimes being clear and straight to the point will do the trick. 

Summarise! Summarise! Summarise!

Summarise your pitch within the first sentence of your email – and keep it short. Journalists are often strapped for time and can get hundreds of emails a day, so make their job a little easier for them.

Condensing a whole press release or email into one line can sometimes be tricky, so try to imagine that you are speaking to a friend and summarising a project that you are working on at work – this should help. 

Personalise your emails

An oldie but goldie! Make each email personal to the recipient. It’s so easy to spot a mass-churned out email that doesn’t have any personalisation. Ensure your email has the target journalist’s name on it and potentially reference their publication or recent work that they have done which is relevant to your pitch.

For example

Reduce attachment size

Be careful with attachments, as big documents within an email can get your message stuck in spam filters. If you need to send over additional content such as images, include a Dropbox link where the journalists can download these items themselves. You can also include a link to your website that has all the info the journalist needs, as this also gives them an incentive to link to your site.

How To Improve Response Rate

Being direct with your request

Be direct! Make sure that you ask direct questions.

Here are some examples of classic lines that can easily be converted to more direct questions:

“Let me know if you’re interested” and “Let me know what you think” can be easily converted to “What do you think?”

“Let me know as soon as possible” can be converted to “Please let me know by Friday at 4 pm”

As recommended in Martin, Goldstein and Cialdini in “The small BIG: small changes that spark big influence”, people are more encouraged to fulfil a request when they have engaged in some sort of commitment to it. This can be achieved by asking journalists a few extra specific questions about how they plan on fulfilling your request…something that requires more than a “yes” answer. 

For example, try asking the journalist to let you know ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘when’ they will publish the content from your press release.

Research is essential

PRs can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking the more contacts they send their pitch to, the better – but this simply isn’t the case. Do your research for your mailing list; the number one complaint that journalists have about PRs is that they send them irrelevant pitches.

A well thought out, targeted email will have a much better open and engagement rate than a blanket email that is spammed to the masses. If you want to improve your open rate and get journalists to engage with your content, then do your research. 

We would recommend picking 10 publications you want to target and find the best contact at those publications.

Consider a few things:

  • Who has recently written about the topic that your story relates to? This is key – if a journalist wrote an article about your topic a year ago and haven’t done a piece since then, find a better contact. 
  • The tone of voice. If your topic is broad, then there may be a few different journos that cover it, so pick a journalist whose tone of voice and style matches the content you’re sending out. For example, if your story teases about an error on a TV show, you may need a journalist that has a more satirical approach, or if your piece is about the latest must-have fashion item, then you’ll want to target a journo with more serious sartorial credentials.

Here are two examples that show how ample research before a release can really benefit the pitch.

Example one:

We recently sent out a brainteaser to just two journalists. This may seem like too small of a media list however, we had done our research and these contacts were extremely targeted. In the end, we got great coverage in 14 publications off the back of these targeted choices.

Example two:

The above press release worked well for us because the journalist we pitched to mainly writes about Coronation Street, so having ‘Corrie’ in the subject line was key here. 

The timing of this pitch was also great: there was a big debate on social media and in the press about an incident that had happened on Coronation Street. We acted fast to get this release out, focusing on the fact that people were in fact concentrating on the wrong mishap and explaining the real issue from a legal standpoint.

This was great for our client as they could also show off their expertise in the field. A win-win. 

Overall the piece gained 42 pieces of coverage including Express, Star, MSN and many regional publications. 

Send a follow up email

If you’re not already sending follow-up emails then you are missing a trick! This is a simple way to gain a response. When you do follow up, try to put a twist on your initial email. Adding in a little extra info, or tying the story in with a topical event, gives you more of a reason to chase the journalist.

A general rule is to follow up the next week and then again if there are any updates in the story, so keep an eye on the news and recent trends for any reasons to follow up. 

  • Do you have a graphic that can be reformatted in other ways?
  • Do you have hi-res images that you can send over?
  • Do you have samples to offer? Use samples/gifts to your advantage here to reiterate that they are available, this will always catch the journalist’s eye.

Be clear

Make your intentions clear. If your number one target of your content campaign is to get links, then let the journalist know this in the pitch so they know what you’re expecting.

A simple “If you’d like to use this story, please credit this story with a link to [client website]” is enough to make your goals transparent.

This saves both you and the journalist time, as they know what you want before they take the story and prevents you from having to chase for links that the journo wasn’t aware they needed to include.

Keep it short and sweet

Journalists are short on time, remember. So giving your story a concise, succinct pitch demonstrates to the journalist that it has a clear angle and they can decide straight away whether they want it or not. If you can’t sum up your story in a short email pitch (less than 300 words) then it’s not ready to go out. Try sticking to 3-4 lines, or even better, bullet points to summarise the most important topics. 

If you found this blog useful for improving your email response rate then head to our blog to check out more.

5 simple lead generation ideas

5 simple lead generation ideas

At Cedarwood Digital, we tend to generate most leads for our clients through Google Ads and custom lead capture landing pages. However, there are many other simple ways that we have utilised to successfully generate leads: here are our top 5 recommendations.

Create engaging content

Relevant and engaging content in this digital age remains the best way to get someone’s attention and bring them to your website. What makes content engaging, you may ask? Check out tools like or which show the most shared pieces of content in your field that have gone viral, and get some inspiration from there.  The golden rule for any piece of content, according to entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, is to give value to the reader. Forget about trying to sell your stuff. Put out great content and expect nothing in return. By providing valuable content you establish readers trust in your expertise. This lays a foundation that can lead to a conversation about your product or services. Don’t hesitate to give a lot of value: research shows that posts with 2,400 words get shared the most.

Create “how to” videos

Youtube is the fastest growing online platform by engagement rate, and online video viewership surpassed TV viewership in 2017. More and more people are looking for the right videos to solve their problems. Search queries containing “how to” are growing 33% annually. This creates an ample opportunity to create video content, ranging from how to create pivot tables in Excel, to how to paint your ceiling. You should really think about what expertise you have that could solve a problem for your customers. Again, this is giving unconditional value to build your credibility. As a result of watching your video, a prospect could visit your site and get in touch with you.

Use customer reviews

If you are providing an online platform, no matter how big or small, make sure that you sign up to online review platforms like or These reviews will massively boost the visibility and authority of your products and services. Review sites such as these usually have a high rank for many software comparison searches. Backlinks from these sites are also very valuable in terms of SEO. References and referrals are one of the key aspects that influence buying decisions between two similar products. If you ask your happiest clients to contribute to these platforms it will go a long way in terms of building credibility, and prominence of reviews on these platforms has the potential to bring you inbound leads.

Add a quiz or estimate calculator to your website

If you get users to your website, it would then be of value to have an interactive tool available. There you could ask them a few questions and dependent on the subject area, provide them with an answer which will be of interest or value to them. This is a great way to capture prospect emails and generate engagement, literally. Another example is the lead capture form on Airsorted, a service for Airbnb hosts. On their website, users need to enter their postcode and number of bedrooms to get an estimate of much money their property could earn on Airbnb, whilst providing useful information for the business.   

Host a webinar

Finally, online webinars are a quick and easy way to communicate with prospects, customers and employees Pick a topic that is relevant to your industry and find the best expert within your company or among your clients. Set a specific date and time, and create an event landing page with a simple lead capture form. Promote the webinar everywhere you can – Linkedin Ads are great for this because you can place them in front of the most relevant audiences. As you get signups, remember to send reminders both before and after the event. Furthermore, it gives your sales team a reason to get in touch with those prospects and engage in conversation. Find more lead generation advice over on our blog.

How to Balance Business with Fatherhood

To mark Father’s Day, our Digital PR Executive Alex recently worked with our clients and selection of small business to shed light on how entrepreneurs balance their careers and family life. Six leading businessmen from across the UK shared their advice with us on maintaining a healthy work-life balance, as well as the things they wished they’d known when they launched their careers.

The interview was featured on Fleximize’s small business blog – you can read the original here.

From making more family time in lockdown to switching off and separating business life from home life, the six businessmen shed light on the best ways to balance home and work life.

Maintaining a pressurized job whilst spending enough time with the kids can be difficult at the best of times – and it’s something that dads simply don’t get enough credit for. With Father’s Day on the horizon and many working dads juggling their career and kids in lockdown, five British entrepreneurial fathers have shared their experiences of trying to find the perfect work-life balance.  

The working fathers have shared their triumphs and mistakes, along with advice they’d tell their younger selves. The relatable pearls of wisdom are a must-read for working parents or first-time dads. 

Danny Toffel

Founder & CEO of Watches2U International | Father to two daughters (14 & 16) | Surrey-based

What’s the biggest challenge of juggling your job with fatherhood? 

I’ve always struggled to switch off from work. At my worst, I didn’t take a day off for seven years straight, including Christmas Day, meaning that my relationship with my kids suffered. Even when I’m out of the office, it’s all too easy to log on and do a little extra work at home or quickly check emails during family time.

How did you handle or overcome this? 

Once I realized how much I’d missed of my kids growing up, I actively invested in improving my work/life balance. I’ve found that it’s crucial to mentally clock out of work where possible so that I can be fully present with my family. I try to leave my job at the office. 

What advice would you give to someone who has recently become a father and also has a high profile job to maintain? 

Start as you mean to go on in terms of the time you spend with your family versus work. It’s easy to slip into bad habits but extremely difficult to get out of them. As cliche as it sounds, you will never get the children’s younger years back. 

Christian Beadell

Head of Medical Negligence at Patient Claim Line | Father to four sons (11, 13, 15, 18) & one daughter (7) | Manchester-based 

What’s the biggest challenge of juggling your job with fatherhood? 

After our second child was born, we took the decision to minimize the amount of time they would spend with childminders or in afterschool clubs – despite the fact that my wife also has a busy, pressured job which involves a long commute. For me, it was really important to be there for them at the school gate or sports field and not for them to miss out in any way.

How did you handle or overcome this?

I have made some calculated career decisions to work flexible hours where needed or pursue roles that restrict the demands on my time. I have worked at smaller law firms with a family feel and this has stood me in good stead, enabling me to have a challenging and rewarding career but also to be there for my children.

What advice would you give to someone who has recently become a father and also has a high profile job to maintain?

Decide what is important to you. You will not get the time back with your children and whilst some employers may say they are family friendly, not all are. When you have a partner that works also, get used to compromising early on! 

Frederic de Ryckman de Betz

CEO of Attic Self Storage Company | Father to two sons (8) | London-based 

What’s the biggest challenge of juggling your job with fatherhood? 

At first, it was a constant sense of guilt. When I was at home, I felt guilty for not being at work. When I was at work, I felt guilty for not being at home. More recently, it’s trying to find time for myself in and amongst all the madness.

How did you handle or overcome this? 

I sacrificed my own time, and learned to live with the guilt. Over time, I realized that many in my team faced similar challenges, and that by sharing our experiences and encouraging each other to make time for our families, it got easier. 

What advice would you give to someone who has recently become a father and also has a high profile job to maintain? 

Be open about your challenges, and ask your team for their help, support and advice. You’re not alone, and being a father is something to be proud of. You can’t wind the clock back so ask yourself: how do you want to be remembered as a father? 

Lee Simpson

PR Consultant at Fourth Day | Father to one daughter (2) & one son (5) | Manchester-based 

What’s the biggest challenge of juggling your job with fatherhood? 

Trying to do everything to the best of your ability is constantly challenging. As any parent will tell you, often you have to accept that you just can’t. 

What advice would you give to someone who has recently become a father and also has a high profile job to maintain? 

During lockdown when we, as families, are all spending so much time together, try to remember to dedicate some time every day to your kids away from homeschool. It could be doing a jigsaw together, fighting with lightsabers or building a den in the woods.

Whatever it is, I think it’s important children know you have time for them no matter what, and not time spent telling them to get on with work or screaming at them to eat vegetables. It sounds so simple but I hope I will remember this after the lockdown and always make sure I make time for them. 

What do you think has been the best part of working from home during lockdown?

Despite all its hardships and the obvious nightmares relating to Covid-19, I hope we will look back on this period fondly and remember trying to laugh our way through it. I complain relentlessly about it but I’m sure part of me will miss having children jumping on the bed next to where I’m working every day. 

Peter Rigby

Legal Department Head at Fletchers Serious Injury | Father of two daughters (2, 12) & three sons (5, 8, 9) | Southport-based 

What are some challenges you have faced whilst working from home around the family?

One challenge has been finding a way to change my mindset from work to home as there is no natural break at the end of each day. That is why it has become so important to put technology to one side for family time.

What do you think has been the best part of working from home during lockdown?

It has given me more time with the children and I feel I have gotten to know their personalities and needs better. I certainly feel closer to them as a parent.

Have you learnt anything from self-isolation/working from home in the past few months?

I have learned how important it is to have time away from screens. My children would comfortably sit in front of a screen for hours on end. Some screen time is ok, but they also need to use their imagination and make their own fun in the garden, with toys or with arts and crafts.

Manav Thapar

Managing Director at Loveraw | Father to one daughter (4) & one son (1) | Altrincham-based 

What have you found to be the biggest challenge about juggling your job with fatherhood?

Feeling guilty when I’m working instead of spending time with the kids. Owning a business is like having another child that needs just as much attention and care, and no matter which one you spend time with, you feel like you’re neglecting the others. Managing that balance is something I’ve always tried to work on.

How did you handle or overcome this obstacle?

We try to involve the kids as much as possible by bringing them to the office and making sure they know how the business affects them and us as a family. When I plan my week, I start with family time and schedule around that. If you focus on what’s most important to you first, you can always build around it.

What advice would you give to someone who has recently become a father and also has a high-profile job to maintain?

Take advantage of every second your baby sleeps by trying to get as much work done as possible. If you’re lucky enough to have a team, aim to delegate as much as you can, and plan your days well. I know exactly where all my time is being spent – right down to the minute.


Is Digital PR Valuable? And How Is It Measured?

When it comes to planning and budgeting for a new campaign, analysing the success of previous campaigns is paramount. Therefore, knowing the monetary value of coverage is hugely beneficial, providing teams with the ability to make informed decisions and allocate spend accordingly.

We have put together a small guide featuring one simple tool that can be utilised to extract the monetary value of your PR.

Why Are Links Important For SEO

Why are links important for SEO, and how can I get them?

If you’re in the digital marketing world, you’ve undoubtedly heard that getting backlinks from other websites is crucial for SEO. It’s important to utilise anything that can help to boost your website’s search ranking, so we’ll shed some light on why links are so important and teach you how to build them yourself.

Why are links important for SEO?

Building backlinks to your website (getting other websites to link back to yours) sends out a trust signal to Google that your website has good authority, and therefore should be ranked higher. However, this depends on the type and quality of the website that posts the link. Essentially, if a quality website which Google trusts links back to your site, Google determines that you too are a quality website, so should be ranked higher. You can work out the quality of a website by checking its domain rating on websites such as Ahrefs or Moz: the higher score the better.

However, Google can also penalise for backlinks which it sees as unnatural. For example, spamming forums, creating tonnes of directory listings, paying bloggers on fiver to link to your website are unnatural ways to build links, which in turn will lower your position on Google. It is far better for SEO to secure a few strong links a month than to build hundreds of low-quality backlinks in a short space of time.

Hence, you should always ensure that links have a natural connection to your business, which you can achieve with the following techniques.

Brand reclamation


It’s always great exposure when a publisher features your brand in their article, though sometimes they will mention a brand without linking back to the brand’s website. Whilst this can be frustrating, it’s easy to maximise this opportunity and secure a link from a high-quality website. Most of the hard work has already been done because a journalist has already noticed and written about your brand. Simply drop them an email thanking them for featuring your business and request a link to your website be added to the page in case their readers want to find out more.

Tracking brand mentions online is very easy to set up so that you don’t miss these opportunities. There are several web-monitoring tools that help you do this, such as Google Alerts (free), Ahrefs alerts and Gorkana. Some publications may have editorial policies not to include external links, but it’s always best to email and check.

Media tools


Now that GDPR is in place, media databases with opted-in contact details of journalists are more important than ever for sourcing good quality PR opportunities and contacts. There are a variety of tools you can pay for, as well as free databases that scrape public email addresses from across the web.

One relatively cost-effective way to find feature opportunities is through journalist alerts. These are email alerts that journalists send out to source contacts or information for the features that they are writing. You can then respond to queries that are relevant to your brand, offering information, images, product reviews or quotes. Not only do these tools allow you to effectively build links in a natural way, but they also allow you to develop relationships with key journalists in your market without the need of a pricey media database. Building your own database of journalists that you have successfully worked with makes it easier to work with them again in the future, as you can either contact them with valuable content or they may contact you with relevant upcoming features to you.

Local links


Big-budget content campaigns can bring in a lot of high quality links, but exploring your local link opportunities can also be a good cost-effective way to build links on a smaller scale. Investigate whether you have any current connections that you could source a link from. Is your Managing Director an alumni of a prestigious university? If so, perhaps they could make a donation or share their business expertise on their website. Is there a local charity you could work with? Or a local group linked to your industry? Explore current connections that your staff and management have to see if there are any natural links that could be secured by sending an email.

Competitor analysis


If a key competitor outranks you for several of your keywords, performing an analysis of where their links are coming from is a great way to see what kind of outreach work they are undertaking. Tools such as Ahrefs enable you to identify which publications your competitors are receiving links from, as well as spark ideas for potential outreach content.

Are there any high quality review websites that your competitor has a link on? If they do and your brand doesn’t, then this can be an area to explore. Do they have any links from high quality bloggers? Again, if they do then you can contact the blogger who wrote the article to introduce your brand and highlight what you can offer them, should they be planning any articles which you could contribute to.