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How To Create Link Bait Content

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?

Brandon Connell is a full time blogger, and internet marketing expert. He can be found on his blog teaching you how to make money blogging, and you can follow him on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Viral content is what I built my traffic on, but with the link baiting method I think that could cement my website a bit more!…

    Great tips!,

    David Edwards

    “A Sitting Duck Productions”

  2. Another good way, that should be used wisely, is Starting a Fight. Not a real personal fight but a fight on ideas with someone else in a similar niche that is established.

    Make a post about how they are wrong, or why there idea isn’t right and make your case. You are sure to get a reaction from them either on your site on hopefully on theirs.

    Just remember don’t make it personal.

  3. Link baiting works a great deal. Imagine gettinglots of trackbacks to your website. These may be somewhat easy for celebrity blogs but for making money online blogs, you need to report what people have not heard before which also works legitimately.

    Well said Brandon. Will follow your blog from henceforth

  4. Chris Monty says:

    I love breaking news. It’s a great way to get some targeted traffic BEFORE there’s a lot of competition for the term or news item people are searching for.

  5. When writing something that will stand alone in a crowd, people will usually flock to it like you know what. Don’t stress on coming up with content that will guarantee you to gain lots of backlinks, just concentrate on getting your point out there and if its an big hit..then get ready for floods of traffic…Good Stuff Brandon

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  6. Carolyn Shearlock says:

    If your blog is small and you post something that you think is highly valuable and could go “viral,” think about seeding the links yourself. Now, the big bloggers out there are going to laugh at my numbers, but for a new blog, a five-fold increase in daily readers is nothing to sneeze at.

    A month ago, my blog had 20 to 30 visitors a day. I created a downloadable spreadsheet template that I knew would have a lot of value for my readers — and my hoped-for readers. My first intention was to sell it for $2 or $3. I decided instead to give it away, and posted links on several relevant forums.

    In the post with the download, I asked readers to spread the word about it with Facebook, Twitter and other ways. I also welcomed them to the site, pointed out some things I offered and suggested other articles they might find interesting. In other words, tried to get them to look at other things on the site, not just the one post.

    Two online publications in my industry did minor stories on the download, as well as other people spreading the word in various ways. For 10 days, I had 300+ visitors a day. It slowed down over Christmas, but I’m averaging over 100 a day now, and building subscribers, now with 63 versus 5 before.

    And while I put maybe 10 links to this out there myself, there are over 100 now and I’m getting more and more traffic from Google each day. That one post is still number one on my blog.

    My feeling is that if you already have a number of readers, they may spread the word about your link-bait post on their own. But if your readership is small, you have to be proactive.

    • Nic Oliver says:

      Carolyn

      Thanks for sharing your story – the needs small blogs are often forgotten by writers and your figuers must be an inspiration to many.

      Peace, Light and Love,

      Nic

    • Keri says:

      Carolyn,

      I just re-branded and am spreading the word of my new blog and website. Thanks for your words of insight…and a bit of a reminder.

      Glad you are seeing such success!! :)

      ~Keri

    • paul wolfe says:

      Carolyn

      I’d just like to add thanks to Nic’s – that was an excellent and inspiring comment. And an awesome increase in subscribers.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Paul

  7. Elizebeth says:

    Thanks for sharing these great tips. We’re looking into contests and longer articles to give something more to our readers.

    • halfmarathonrunning says:

      Contests are really great – they have a viral power and also work in motivating
      the readers! Thinking of good ideas to hold some great contests for our readers.

  8. No matter how well presented this post is, I won’t be writing for the purposes of linkbait. My goal is to create useful content for my readers. If it happens to become linkbait, then so much the better. I will be following your advice for creating good content, however.

  9. Great tips! Having links is huge in getting your traffic up. I am still a newer blogger, but have been linked a couple of times to some “bigger” bloggers. Is great!
    Bernice
    http://livingthebalancedlife.com/2010/the-year-2010-what-didnt-work/

  10. I’ve been seeing a lot of success over at creativeblogger and FUEL by simply giving away free feedback. Anyone can do it, too, because I’m not approaching it as an expert, but rather a first time visitor.

    Increases comments. Increases links. Increases your profile in the community.

    Offer something so valuable, it simply cant be passed up.

  11. David Perdew says:

    The most important parts of this article for me was the reference to relevance and not being afraid to write longer articles. First, I think it’s important that your content not only be relevant to your niche, but to the readers who visit your site most often. You can poll them or start up a forum to find out what they really want to hear about, what’s on their mind. Then, feature that type of content most often on your blog.

    The other thing is too many people think longer articles get overlooked, because people online supposedly have short attention spans. I’m like you, Brandon. I skim longer articles for links and eye-catching headings that interest me. If something catches on, I can save that article for a full read later on, even on the busiest days. Most of the time, that re-read is enlightening or valuable to my markets in some way.

    • BarnabyA says:

      Hi Gents

      Brandon – firstly a big thankyou for posting this article, an insightful post to say the least!

      David – thanks for sharing that you do actually read longer articles. Advice that I have been given (and have given myself) is that long articles do not get read. What I am reading here would contradict that statement and also give credence to the fact that it is worth taking the time out to write some lengthy posts – if the topic deserves it.

      I’m going to give it a go anyway and see what happens!

      Cheers for sharing gents.
      Regards
      Barney

  12. As someone who is very new to the world of blogging, this is one of the most informative posts I have read. I appreciate your insight and the ability to be able to learn from those who are out doing what I strive to doing in building my online presence. I clicked over to http://bloggersmarket.com and see a ton of useful information for someone like myself.

    Thanks and I look forward to following!

    Brian

  13. Kiesha says:

    Hi Brandon,
    I agree that if your focus is on producing valuable content, the links will come. Honestly, it seems like the more you try to create link bait, the less effective that becomes. Instead of worrying about that, if all the energy is put into creating something that people can use and learn from, the links will happen naturally.

    • Rick says:

      Kiesha, I totally agree with you. Valuable content that produces organic links is the best way to go.

  14. Mathew Day says:

    Link baiting seems to be a little harder these days than it use to be. It’s still a really strong technique. But more people either use the nofollow attribute, or copy some of your work and create their own similar article without properly giving credit to the source.

  15. Great post, thanks for the information. We have still yet to release our complete list of 100 places to visit before you die but once we do we hope to attract a lot of links.

  16. Brandon,
    Sometimes I wonder if the term “link bait” is over-used, at the expense of focusing on service to readers. I’m glad your article talked at length about ways to provide useful content that readers will want to share, and sometimes the outcome is links to your blog. Do you think “share-worthy” might be a better description for good online content than “link bait”?

    Jay B. (Intuit)

    • Hello Jay! I used the term link bait as it is widely known and used often. If you can popularize the term share-worthy then I am sure to use it in my next article on this subject. I promise. Link bait is a very to-the-point and descriptive term though that fits with what it is.

      • Kathy says:

        I like Jay’s suggestion we call it share-worthy. “Link bait” has a somewhat icky connotation, suggesting someone only writes something to get links. Like many others here have said, if you have good content, the links (or “shares”) will come organically.

  17. Ferodynamics says:

    If something “breaks” for real, that can help too.

    I got a ton of traffic when British Telecom blocked Myspace. Half of Europe was on my blog posting the latest info from BT. Afterwards, if Myspace was broken for other reasons, I got some of those searches. And if Facebook is broken, etc.

    Big companies take forever to respond to problems. Whereas we press F8 to open ScribeFire and we’re on it already. Less bureaucracy, less overhead. We’re quick and nimble.

    Another idea, focus on one particular feature of a particular product. I wrote several posts about Last.fm’s “Paste Your Taste” and years later I’m still ranked #1 for “Paste Your Taste”.

    • Excellent point. I have a web design company blog and I opened unofficial support for various scripts, as well as errors that come up on Windows. Those posts get traffic from Google to this day.

  18. Thanks for this article. I’m working on building my blog in order to achieve some other goals and the information I found in this article is invaluable to that process. I can think of so many ways to “link bait” my blog by reading your examples so I’m excited to get started. Thanks again!

  19. Very in depth and informative article Brandon. I’ve never read anything written by you, but I look forward to the next time we meet again. Keep up the great work.

  20. chris says:

    very good write up – i am actually in the process of creating a contest page on my site and i think it can do only good things – I agree – writing about breaking news and things that come out before the publis knows about it is golden!
    the only hard part is actually finding out what that material is

    • I am sure that your contest will be a hit. Make sure you have it appear on many CommentLuv blogs for additional traffic to that post. I had some contests that went completely bust before.

  21. Thanks for the tips. It’s very difficult to create viral content when you write for a relative niche market (i.e., Chicago Cubs news and rumors), so yours are some helpful thoughts to consider.

  22. Adam Kamerer says:

    I think the thing I took from this is that I really need to stop second-guessing myself and post more original, noteworthy content. Great article.

  23. The Padrino says:

    Get on the front page of reddit and see how much traffic from other sites you receive it can range in the tens of thousands from just other sites linking to you.

  24. Brent McCoy says:

    Of the two distinct categories of linkbait – the in-depth resource and the controversial, “attract-as-many-hits-quickly” type – my observation usually suggests the in-depth resource has the potential to become much more valuable, and be linked to continuously over a period of several years. The other type tends to cause a lot of hype, but can easily be forgotten quite quickly – it also has its places, I’m sure, but that depends on what you are trying to achieve by posting it. Does your strategy call for a quickfire burst, or a slow and steady stream over time?

  25. Wow, what a timing. Just the other day I was asked to write a link baiting article and now I have your post to help me make crucial decisions on how to structure that article. Thanks a lot! I’m definitely bookmarking this post for future reference.

  26. Shaun says:

    Wonderful article. Hey Guys, I Have Posted ‘A Fight Against E-Mail Spam’ article on my blog today. come to see. please.
    Live Long.

  27. Nic Oliver says:

    A link bait article on link bait. I love the irony of it!

    Nevertheless, some very useful tips in an extremely detailed piece; thank you!

    Light, Love and Peace,

    Nic

  28. LatestGirls says:

    Nice tips.

    I would certainly write some 4 or 5 articles like this which might work well.

    Just have to pick some right topics and do some good research now.

  29. This is great advice! I very much agree with the idea of making the article accessible to the reader. My most popular article so far has been a simple comparison of Vanguard and Fidelity to determine which offers the best service and lowest fees.

  30. Marc Black says:

    Writing a compelling headline will do wonders for going “viral”. Very nice tips you gave here BC, thanks.

    - Marc

  31. Emily says:

    I am a blogging baby — more accurately, a blogging pupae — and I can not tell you how much I appreciate the tips problogger, you as a writer and all these commenters provide at no cost. I’ve been so pleased to discover bloggers (most) are a really helpful, friendly bunch of people. I feel like my niche is pretty specific (green/mommy) and that will help me become successful, but my technical knowledge is minimal to none. Being able to discover resources and help like this out in the blogosphere is great!

  32. Being original is a definite must to go viral; but I don’t think you can ever really predict virality.

  33. Great list and ideas. Sometimes I think the “negativity” of standing up for good things is the best course of action — even if it doesn’t make you popular.

  34. I found this article http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2010/12/24/blogging-without-resorting-to-yet-another-10-best-list/ about how creating 10 best list is kind of annoying. I kind of agree. Though I think that a list from time to time isn’t necessarily a bad thing (even I do it sometimes) a blog that is only lists isn’t pretty, and will have a significantly higher bounce rate, than that of a site that draws readers into actual content.

    Having Viral articles is only one step of the process. You must then seek to keep the reader entertained, and clicking throughout your site, which means creating more content than just the list.

    • Cuong Nguyen says:

      Yea if a blog is full article that is 10 things this and top 3 that than that would be annoying. I guess anything that is over use is annoying.

  35. Dean Saliba says:

    Very good article. My personal blogs gets a lot of traffic because I am very controversial with my comments and statements. :)

  36. Writing longer articles i some thing which made me afraid some times but my mind has been changing by the time and i feel it correct.

  37. Vivek Parmar says:

    great and unique content but not should be too lenghty. if its too lenghty then break that article into points so that readers can easily get what they love to see on your blog.

  38. Reef Light says:

    Great tips! Creating compelling and “viral” content is always on the wish list – it’s tough to do this consistently. Can’t wait to use some of these tactics on the next article!

  39. Cuong Nguyen says:

    Before I start, under “Is it broke? Report it!” I think you have a mistake on the sentence, “Your article is also likely to gain favor with Google for being one of the first t report that topic.”

    I just want to say thank you for this great article. As a starter this blog is a great source for me to improve my writing style and content. It’s really funny that I started blogging because I suck at writing but I enjoy making a website and giving people tips and tricks. So this is like a challenge for me and a good way to improve my weakness.

  40. That was a very good written article. I never wrote any content trying to make it a link bait. But after reading this article I can see how it can pay of. You can spend one month reading other people’s articles and posting comments. It will get you a few dozen or may be a hundred back links. Or you can write something very original and get thousands of back links in a week.

  41. Marcie says:

    I never thought about contests being link bait but it makes so much sense. And you totally have to add value. Someone linked to one of my articles on my business blog and was ecstatic! That motivated me to do continue to do them. This was very timely.

  42. I enjoyed the article on Link Baiting, but I would tend to agree with some of your readers that the content is just as important as the Bait. I feel that establishing long term relationships with your readers, friends, and colleagues is especially important to create longevity in relation to the world of Blogging as we know it has evolved today.

  43. Byron Davis says:

    I really like the “contest” concept. My wife has recently started doing contest and I see how they can be very good link bait. I have become a believer.

  44. Great tips. The main problem I always find with link baiting though is actually promoting the content itself, needless to say you need to have the necessary traffic levels behind you before being able to send something viral. Building a working Digg account aint’ an easy task ;)

    You can have the greatest page of content to ever grace the web, but if no-one reads it then no-one shares it, if no-one shares it stays stale. Great link bait, IMO, needs traffic to make it into great link bait.

  45. Geek Face says:

    Interesting post here thanks. Blogging lists though for me are all to common now so when I see one I’m not that fussed by it.

  46. x-tra says:

    Another great post. Thanks for sharing.

  47. Betty says:

    Yes it is amazing how some articles can go viral. I have observed some of my articles that I did not think was as great as others would get more views ad comments than others.

  48. Well done, and thanks for the simple-to-follow guidelines, Brandon. Copywriting improvement is my focus for 2011, and this post will help me advertise my content better through effective headlines and subjects, not to mention improving the quality of the content itself. Much appreciated …

    Best,
    Scott