This guest post is by Brandon Connell of BrandonConnell.com.
Throughout my blogging career, I’ve worked hard on my writing style. I’ve improved over time, and I’m at a point now where I believe I have perfected my ability to write link bait articles. A link bait article is an article that makes many readers want to reference it within their articles, or link to it as a general resource.
The thing I love about link baiting is that it allows your blog to build some quality backlinks and increase search rank over time. It also means additional targeted traffic is attracted to your blog, which can mean more subscribers. Let’s see how you can start writing such articles, and increasing your presence on the web.
Why do articles go viral?
The main reason why articles go viral is because they offer something that of value to a large portion of the population. This is usually something that people feel that they cannot be without, and with the way that social media works, everyone automatically shares links to that content which spreads it like a virus; hence the name “viral”.
Think about viral content as being like the latest craze during a holiday sale (e.g. Tickle Me Elmo).
Two common link bait post types
Some articles are just so good that they grab the attention of the reader immediately.
One example of such an article is a list post. These are posts that are easy to read, and usually provide solutions to problems or reasons why things are needed. Examples of list post titles are “Top 10 Must-Have WordPress Plugins”, or “5 Methods To Increase RSS Subscribers”. The titles of those articles are meant to get the attention of the person who has a need for those things. When they access the article, it is broken down into a list for easy consumption.
A controversial post is another example. Consider the blogger who refused the screening process by the TSA. He recorded the entire confrontation, and posted it on his blog. The next thing you know, not only was he on the news, but everyone was linking to his blog when they talked about negative reactions to the TSA backscatter xray machine and the aggressive pat-downs.
Making your article stand out
When I first guest posted on ProBlogger, I intended to write an article that I knew would be referenced in the future. I wrote about blogging styles, and I made sure to create an in-depth article. So link bait posts don’t have to be list items or controversial articles. They can simply be articles that cover a topic in depth, and which another blogger can reference within his or her own posts into the future. You see this all the time among bloggers and site owners who link to wikipedia articles.
In order to make your article stand out, it’s wise to write a detailed post and cover the key bases of the topic. Break your article into sub-sections and lists, and reference other materials where you need to. The most important part of standing out is to be original. If you write a me-too post, then you aren’t likely to get comments, let alone inbound links.
Using leverage while remaining original
Let me stress this. Go out of your way to be original. Once, I created free banner ads for some of my regular readers in order to show my appreciation for their loyalty. It only took five hours of my time to design those ads, but I knew that they would appreciate the effort for a long time. I had no intention for getting inbound links from the exercise—they were an unexpected bonus.
I love when I come across a massive article with links to a lot of useful tools. Once, I came across an article on traffic sources. That article listed hundreds of websites that we can leverage to get traffic to our blogs. I bookmarked that bad boy and referenced it in my own article.
Those kinds of articles really get my attention, and easily turn me into a regular reader. The person who compiled the article wasn’t lazy, and took their time to make a valuable resource for someone else. They didn’t do a quick article just to get some link bait. And if their intent was to get link bait, they did it the right way by taking their time to make a valuable resource.
Make an effort for style
When I talk about style, I’m not telling you to go out and make sure your socks match. When I speak of style, I’m talking about how you present your articles.
- Do you break them up with pictures related to what you are writing about?
- Do you use H1, H2, and H3 tags?
- Do you change the color of your header tags to look different than the article text?
- Do you throw a video or some audio in there to appear to be keeping up with the Jetsons?
- Do you style your social media accounts to look like your blog?
- Do you use an occasional list like this one to make your point?
There are many ways to go about creating style for your brand. The lesson here is: don’t be lazy. If you take your blog seriously, present it in a unique way, while at the same time completing the maintenance your readers expect.
Size does matter
You may have heard that phrase from an ex-girlfriend, but I am talking about the length of posts here. There’s a big debate that will remain a debate for years to come: whether or not to write long posts.
I wrote both long and short posts. Some of my articles are as small as 200 words and some of those are just personal update; others can get up to 5,000 words. The fact is that search engines love longer articles with original content. So do readers. They may not read the entire thing, but they will skim that article like tomorrow wasn’t coming. If you pack a longer article with many eye-catching subtitles, you can easily attract links to those articles.
Longer articles are more likely to attract backlinks. Let’s take, for example, a post titled “7 Ways to Come Up With Blog Post Ideas”. What if we were to take the same concept, but create a piece titled “100 Ways to Come Up With Blog Post Ideas”? Guess which one will attract more attention. 100 ways is better than 7 ways; that article is a sure-fire bookmark post.
I’m not saying that you can’t have a successful blog with 500-word articles. Many great blogs that I visit every day post short articles, and short articles are easy to read. What I am saying is that you are less likely to create link bait articles with shorter posts. It’s not impossible—I’ve done it myself. But if you want a consistent solution, then longer articles that are 1,000-5,000 words are best.
Contests aren’t just for traffic
Have you ever held a contest on your blog? They’re usually used to attract traffic, because everyone taking part in the contest will promote it. But contests also generate a lot of inbound links through that promotion. Take, for example, a guest post contest. You’re likely to get many links to various articles in this contest, rather than just one to the contest itself. Each guest poster will actively promote their article on as many social media sites as possible, as well as the sites and blogs they own or partner with.
You can really utilize contest by soliciting sponsors. To do so, post an article on your site that invites sponsorships for an upcoming contest. In addition, contact companies directly and let them know you have a contest coming up. Offer them major exposure if they contribute cash, tangible items, or software licenses, for example, as prizes. This is a great way to build up a link-baiting plan around your contest.
Is it broke? Report it!
I recently broke a story on my blog. At first I wasn’t going to, then I realized what I’d be passing up. The story announced a new web platform that was coming out for bloggers and readers alike, called Newsgrape. I gained some quick traffic by breaking this story before the mainstream media got hold of it.
More recently, I started getting some extra links to my story, because I was the first blogger to write about Newsgrape. An added bonus was that I gained a link to my article from the Newsgrape page. Aside from the backlink on a PR6 site, I started receiving traffic from that site, which keeps coming to this day!
If you can manage to get your hands on a big story before anyone else does, you can create some serious link bait. Some blogs actually focus on breaking news stories, and other bloggers only hope to come across a story occasionally. But the great thing is that you don’t have to be the very first in order to benefit. If you can manage to be just one of the first bloggers to write about it, then you’ll get in before the audience is saturated with the story. Your article is also likely to gain favor with Google for being one of the first t report that topic.
How can you can find breaking stories to report as “one of the originals”? Look at news sites and stories, like the Yahoo! homepage. Don’t hesitate: write about it, then publish it quickly. That would be one of the only times I actually advise writers not to take their time on a story. Make sure you are original when you write it, though: don’t be in such a hurry that you only report an article that’s already been written by another or news site. You can reference a sentence or two, but provide your own opinion and ensure that your thoughts are mentioned by others in the near future.
The art of link baiting
Writing link bait content is easy. It’s an artform, but any blogger can do it if they just apply the science and avoid laziness.
Make sure that you’re not being selfish by only seeking links. Rather, work hard to create a valuable resource that others can’t resist.
What tips can you share from your experience writing successful link bait content?