And if you want to succeed in a highly competitive internet marketplace like the one we have right now, you need every advantage you can muster.
We talk a lot about different strategies and techniques on this blog, but it’s impossible to be successful at building links if you don’t have the fundamentals in place.
At the foundation of every successful strategy is a focus on content.
More specifically, there’s an emphasis on link bait that attracts inbound links and leads to a surge in search rankings, traffic, and credibility.
What the Heck is Link Bait?
You’ve probably heard the term before, but do you know what link bait is?
As you can infer from the name, it’s content that’s designed to attract links.
Think of yourself like a deep-sea fisherman tossing out big hooks affixed with chunks of bloody meat. These meat-laced barbs attract sharks and other big fish so that you can reel them in.
The more hooks – and the better the bait – the more fish you can bring on board.
In the world of SEO and marketing, content is your bait.
The more high-quality content you have – also known as link bait – the more authoritative backlinks you’ll attract.
Here are three of the most common types of successful link bait:
We’re all familiar with listicles. (You’re reading one right now!) They’re commonly used by marketers in all industries and niches – and they work! The number in a listicle headline is comforting, reassuring, and direct. It sets a clear expectation and promises an easily digestible piece of content that will deliver tangible value.
People love visual content and they love data. Infographics fuse the two together for a compelling piece of content that’s highly informative and shareworthy. They’re also a natural fit for social media, which makes them even more versatile.
Over the past decade, there’s been a swift and significant shift towards video as a digital content medium. Fewer people are taking the time to read long-form content, while millions are flocking to snackable video content.
Other examples of link bait include guides, ebooks, interactive content (like calculators), quizzes, and roundup posts.
Depending on your industry and/or desired outcomes, certain types of link bait may work better for your link building efforts than others.
But regardless of whether it’s a listicle or an interactive calculator, successful link bait starts with strategic content creation.
8 Powerful Secrets to Effective Link Bait Creation
A lot of online brands try to produce link bait, but few excel at it.
Being the exception to this rule requires a willingness to try new techniques, study the data, and optimize accordingly.
Here are some powerful secrets we recommend starting with:
1. Understand Your Audience
You have to know who your audience is.
While it’s likely that your content will get shared with people outside of your target audience, you need to focus your energy and effort on the people who are most likely to convert.
Hopefully you already have a good idea of who your target customer is. But think of link bait through the lens of who your ideal “sharer” is.
In other words, who is most likely to see your article and plug it into a blog post, share it on Facebook, or send it to friends in an email?
The easiest way to discover this information is to look at other viral posts in your niche and look at where the backlinks are coming from. If you have previous posts that have done well, study analytics on these as well.
2. Clarify Your Voice and Style
Consistency is one of the key ingredients to any type of content – link bait included.
Now’s the ideal time to clarify your voice and style so that you can ensure the content you create is highly reflective of your brand’s personality and the value you provide.
While there’s nothing wrong with trying new things, there’s something to be said for studying what’s already working and rolling with it.
As you do your research, you’ll find that people tend to share content that:
Supports the beliefs they already hold
Makes them feel a powerful emotion, like anger, happiness, awe, etc.
Is relevant to what’s currently happening in their lives.
Offers practical value they can apply immediately.
Has already been shared by a ton of other people.
There are plenty of ways to study digital content as a whole, but try drilling down to what’s working in your specific niche.
If you’re a personal injury lawyer specializing in car accidents, find out what other car accident lawyers are already posting.
Which articles get shared the most?
Which types of content populate the top Google search results?
Which ones have the most backlinks?
All you have to do is find what’s working and create content that’s better.
If someone has a blog post titled 8 Ways Auto Insurance Companies Try to Rip You Off, write a post titled 44 Ways Car Insurance Companies Rip Off Drivers and include a sleek infographic in the post.
Find what’s working and make a better version.
That’s the quickest way to develop link bait content that generates a high ROI.
4. Use Ogilvy’s Headline Writing Rule
Headlines are critically important.
It doesn’t matter if it’s print or digital – they play a key role in attracting readers.
Advertising legend David Ogilvy once said, “On average, five-times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
This is precisely why he believed in dedicating a massive portion of the content creation process to crafting headlines.
As a general rule of thumb, Ogilvy’s rule says that you should spend half of the time it takes you to develop a piece of content on the headline.
Thus, if it takes you three hours to write a blog post, you should spend 90 minutes coming up with a headline.
It’s that important.
Compelling headlines generally consist of a few common traits.
They need to communicate something shocking, unbelievable, or amazing.
They should be specific and relevant.
They should contain your target keyword.
Numbers, questions, and controversial claims all work well.
However – and this is what differentiates white hat link bat from black hat clickbait – it needs to be genuine and true. Spammy headlines might earn you clicks, but they’ll rarely generate backlinks or brand trust.
The brain processes visual content 60,000-times faster than text.
Posts with images produce roughly 180 percent more engagement.
Approximately 65 percent of readers are visual learners and colored visuals increase people’s desire to read content by as much as 80 percent.
In other words, visuals aren’t just helpful – they’re required.
There’s almost no scenario in which you can create a valuable piece of link bait in today’s market without having multiple high quality images.
Thankfully, creating visual content is easier than ever.
Tools like Canva make it easy for anyone to design graphics without having much experience.
Or you can hire a freelancer on a site like Fiverr or Upwork to do it for you.
Pictures of babies, dogs, and kittens are psychologically proven to stimulate the brain.
The same goes for graphs, charts, and tables with concrete data.
6. Keep the Eyes Moving
Anyone can get clicks on a piece of content. But a click doesn’t automatically produce a share.
It takes a lot to convince someone to link back to your blog post.
You have to make them fall in love with the content. You have to give them a reason to share.
And you can’t give them a reason to share if they only read the first couple of sentences and then hit the back button on their browser.
The key is to keep your readers’ eyes moving down the page so that they consume more of the content and have a greater chance of being influenced.
One way to do this is by breaking up chunky paragraphs into single sentences.
This sort of writing style is much easier to absorb.
It’s less intimidating.
It visually encourages people to continue scrolling.
You should give it a try and study the data.
You’ll almost certainly discover that these types of posts receive better metrics.
This includes a higher average time on page, lower bounce rates, and more conversions.
7. Push it Out
You have a limited audience. A constrained sphere of influence.
It doesn’t matter if you have a reach of 100 or 1 million – there’s a cap on the people you’re able to reach through your own channels.
This is why it’s important that you develop a sharing strategy that enables you to push link bait content out to others who can earn you additional exposure.
Social media influencers are one great option.
By partnering with influencers who are relevant to your audience, you can gain exposure beyond your own direct reach. This increases the likelihood that additional people will see your post and share it.
8. Constantly Update Your Posts
It’s not enough to hit the publish button on a post and call it a day.
Good link bait requires regular maintenance and care.
Think of it like a home’s landscaping.
The hard part is making a plan, designing beds, planting grass, spacing trees, etc.
But once you’re done, you still have to give regular attention to the landscaping.
If you don’t, the grass will grow to your knees, weeds will overtake mulch beds, flowers will die, and tree limbs will grow into the house.
Once you publish a blog post, you have to maintain it to ensure that it continues delivering value over time.
A post titled The 14 Best TV Shows of 2020 might be a huge link asset today, but it’ll cease to generate any more links once the calendar turns. At some point, you’ll need to change the year to 2021, 2022, etc.
If a certain post touches on current events, occasionally updating the content to reflect new developments will help the URL stay relevant.
Little things like this make a huge difference.
You’ve already done the grunt work – now don’t forget to water, weed, and prune!
It’s Time to Reshape Your Content Strategy
The game has changed.
SEO is no longer an inwardly facing strategy of technical onsite optimization. In order to thrive in today’s social world, you have to look beyond.
One of the best ways to do this is by creating linkable assets in the form of magnetic content that attracts clicks, shares, and mentions.
There’s nothing wrong with creating blog content for your website visitors and audience members, but you have to keep the broader scope in mind, too.
What’s going to convince other bloggers, social media users, journalists, and digital publications to share your content and link to your URLs?
If you can crack this code, you’ve given yourself a fighting chance to succeed – no matter how experienced the competition or how crowded the niche.
In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International.
He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building. Connect with Sam on Linkedin.
In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International. He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building. Connect with Sam on Linkedin.