How To Write Linkbait

Over the years I’ve produced countless pieces of ‘linkbait’ for an array of different clients, and as a result have gradually developed a successful and trusty routine by which to work. Below are what I believe to be the most important steps to follow in order to supply your client with a piece of work which is effective enough to signify that your services are invaluable.

Know your client

To most people this would be filed under ‘Common Sense’ but believe me, there are some who wouldn’t even consider such a step. How do you expect to produce a unique and link-worthy article related to your client’s business if you don’t understand what they do? Even when working with existing clients – for whom I’ve written previously – the very first thing I do before starting work is become acquainted/re-acquainted with the client’s product and/or industry. Start by exploring the client’s own website. Do they have a News section related to the industry? If so, read it. Do they have an existing blog containing previous linkbait? Read that too. In fact, read the whole website and you’ll be surprised at how worthwhile such an elementary task can be.

Research, research, research

Although Wikipedia can’t always be trusted, it happens to be a great starting point when researching a topic. For example, if your client operates in the travel industry one of your first stops should be the Tourism page at Wikipedia where you’ll find a wealth of knowledge related to your client’s work that could prove invaluable when writing content. To illustrate my point: a quick glance at that very page will provide you with information about the history of tourism, niche forms of tourism, recent developments in the world of tourism…all subjects on which – with some tweaking and further investigation – a piece of linkbait could be written. Speaking of recent developments, another fantastic place to frequent is Google News. A quick search for “insurance industry” results in a goldmine of extremely recent information related to your new insurance client from which you can pull a trending topic to write about. While you’re at it, use those same search terms at websites like Digg, Reddit, Metafilter, Delicious and even Flickr, and sort the results according to popularity. This will all serve as inspiration whilst also making you aware of articles and photos that have already set the online world alight.

Tread on fresh ground

Following on nicely from the last point: once you’ve discovered those stories which have already gone viral, make it a priority to avoid re-hashing the same material. It’s wholly unlikely that a re-jigged version of a popular article will go viral for a second time so, unless you really have something new and of additional value to bring to the table, avoid touching it like the plague otherwise it will look lazy, you’ll have wasted valuable time and could even attract negative feedback from the very online community you’re hoping to engage with. Instead, use these stories to discover the type of article people have been drawn to and use that as inspiration.

Stop obsessing about lists

Although it’s true that list-based articles are easy to digest, don’t interpret that as a reason to arrange everything you write into bullet-points at the expense of a simpler but just as interesting piece. The old adage ‘Quality not Quantity’ still applies when writing linkbait and a short, traditional article about a bizarre hotel that’s rarely been seen before can result in just as much traffic and links – if not more – than an enormous list of less interesting hotels which have already done the rounds. Your client is hopefully paying you to bring in links and exposure, not to regularly fill the company blog with Top 10 lists that rarely perform. Another question worth asking yourself is this: if each stretch of sand on that ‘Top 10 Unique Beaches’ list is fascinating in its own right, why not buck the trend and instead post one beach each week as part of a series? Readers returning each week to see the latest addition to a fascinating series is an extremely valuable occurrence and will do your client’s website no harm at all.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Humans are suckers for visual stimulation, and for that reason a photograph of the world’s most expensive office chair will, without doubt, attract more attention and links than a thousand word description of the same seat. My point is this: don’t be afraid to use photographs when writing linkbait. In fact, make it your mission to include at least one picture. Also, don’t be afraid to use large, high quality ones as there’s nothing worse than reading an article online which relies on a photograph, only to find yourself squinting to appreciate it due to its size and/or quality. If you’re worried about bandwidth, host your pictures at Flickr. It’s free.

Keep it simple

Remember that the objective of writing linkbait is to attract as wide a readership as possible. Using the word ‘pusillanimous’ when you could have used ‘courageous’ is a surefire way to alienate a large percentage of your potential audience, so speak in a voice that the majority of people will understand without needing to check a dictionary, or else risk losing readers unnecessarily.

Cite your sources

As well as being good practice, citing sources for both the information within the linkbait and any photographs used will build trust amongst your readership, which will in turn make them more likely to link to your article. I can’t think of any website owner who would happily send their readers to an article that suspiciously lacks any source links. Further, sending readers to external websites by way of source links is a great way to make others aware of your work when they check their traffic logs.

Keep the title snappy

We’re all told not to judge a book by its cover but, in all honesty, it’s something the majority of us will continue to do throughout life. First impressions do matter and it’s the same with linkbait titles, so to spend two days writing an article for a client only to fall at the last hurdle by naming it ’10 very awesome beds that I would love to lie on’ is inexcusably bad form. Keep the title short, punchy, even intriguing. Ask a question that begs to be answered. Even include a carefully chosen pun if you have to, but most of all, before you hand it over to the client, imagine yourself coming face-to-face with that very title for the first time. Would you carry on reading? If not, try again.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 9th, 2010 at 3:25 pm and is filed under Content, Links, SEO. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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