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Creating link bait: 7 tips for social media

Brent Csutoras
Creating link bait: 7 tips for social media Brent Csutoras

For years now, people have been buzzing about social media and the opportunity it provides to marketers to drive tons of traffic, brand awareness, conversions, and -- most importantly -- links. Even Matt Cutts, Google's head of Webspam, has gone on record numerous times praising social media as a great opportunity to get links in a pure and natural way.

It's no secret that so-called "link bait" gets a lot of natural quality inbound links, and that social media has the ability to garner massive visibility for your brand and its content. But just knowing that doesn't mean it is easy to succeed with any link bait you create.

Creating a piece of link bait that will succeed in social media and score lots of links from authoritative sites takes a lot of work and experience. Following these seven tips will help you get started. Before you know it, you'll be creating kick-ass pieces of link bait that will improve your chances at succeeding in social media, while garnering tons of high-quality, natural links.

Make sure your site is worthy of being linked to.

Believe it or not, people do care about how your site looks. The way it is designed, the effort you put into the layout, and whether it looks current -- all these things say a lot about your company. No one wants to link to a site they think lacks quality. After all, linking is a sort of recommendation for that site.

So, if you want people to link to your brand's site, make sure your site is:

  • Up to date: Use coding and design elements that make you look current and contemporary.

  • Focused: Don't have a bunch of ads in the content area or distracting banners.

  • Polite: Don't have pop-up ads, pop-under ads, audio ads, or offers that interrupt or distract people from viewing your content.

Of course, many business models won't allow you to strip away all attempts to convert a user, so you may need to implement these changes for only the individual pieces of link bait you create.

When I first launched one of my side project sites, it had a basic default WordPress theme. I frequently noticed that when I would break a news story that would go viral, high-level authority sites would omit the proper credit link identifying my site as the source for the article.

It wasn't until I re-evaluated the site and decided to invest in a custom, quality design that the good links really started rolling in. Now I get links from Wired, CNET, The Guardian, and many other highly authoritative sites.

Bottom line: How can you expect someone to take your website seriously if you don't?

Make your link bait worthy of a link.

This seems like a no brainer, but you would be amazed at how many companies create and push mediocre pieces of link bait that really don't deserve any links or success at all.

Just because you write a list explaining "10 ways to save on your taxes" doesn't mean your content is any different or better than the 200 other tax articles people write (or repurpose) at the beginning of each tax season.

You need to make sure your content is:

  • Current: Think about any current events or news stories when writing your link bait. See if there is anything you can reference or apply your concept to that might help it relate to current discussions.

  • Unique: Try to find at least a few angles to your link bait that is unique. This ensures it is different from all the other articles on the same general topic.

  • Comprehensive: This is one of the biggest mistakes people make when writing link bait. You need to make sure your content is comprehensive and doesn't leave people with unanswered questions or feeling like they took nothing away from the experience.

Be visual and easy to read.

Of course you want people to read your content, but have you ever thought about making your content easy to read and digest?

  • Break up your content: When readers see a big block of content, they are often intimidated. They feel they must read an entire paragraph within one breath. Break up your content and make it easy to digest, even when it is not strictly required.

  • Choose the right font type and size: This starts to delve into personal opinion, but many times I come across articles where the font type and size has left me not wanting to read the content. Make sure your font is easy to read and inviting.

  • Be visual: Add images to your content to help drive your message. Everyone likes pictures, and they can make your content seem more inviting and exciting. Video can also be a great addition to an article.

Always go one step further.

Whenever you think your link bait is good, take it one step further. These days "good content" is really not good enough. To distinguish yourself from the thousands of good articles pushed in social media every day, you need really great content.

Once you feel your link bait is finished, review it one last time and consider whether there is any other aspect you can add to it. Look for a few more references, a related story or aspect, or any associated images and/or videos to add that would improve your existing content.

If you challenge yourself, you can always find at least one way to make your link bait a little better. In the end, that final touch can be the difference between a popular piece of content and a largely ignored piece of content. The former will be the one that scores all those quality links you want.

Be viral -- really viral.

A lot of people get so caught up in their product that they forget what it means to go viral. Going viral with a piece of link bait is when you have everyone interested -- even when they typically would not be interested in the topic you are pushing.

For example, interest in urinals is not widespread. However, if you were to write an article about the craziest urinals around the world, then almost anyone would be interested in taking a look.

So when you're thinking about your link bait, try to think about how you can appeal to the broadest audience of people on the web and not just your particular niche.

Plan your campaign.

Each social community is a little different than the next, so make sure you do some research and consider the trends of the users in the social communities in which you want to succeed. You don't really want to put Apple down on a site like Digg, where users tend to be Apple fans. So when considering your link bait topic, ask yourself these questions about the social community you want to succeed in:

  • What position do the users take on your specific topic? Are they typically for or against it? This will help you pick the right tone for your writing.

  • Is there a category that is lacking quality submissions? This might present an opportunity to write content around that category to increase your chance of success.

  • Has anyone done a similar article recently? If so, you might want to consider a different topic, since most users do not like to see the same general content again and again. There are only so many articles on how Windows 7 is better than Vista that someone is willing to read and support.

Make your link bait easy to spread and link to.

People love to share and tell others about great content. However, most people's time is becoming more and more limited. Between sites like Facebook and Twitter, reading emails, and checking their favorite sites, online time is precious -- don't make it hard for someone to share your content.

Make sure you have:

  • A good title: Many times people have only enough space to share your link and the article title. So make the title descriptive and as short as possible. Don't leave people trying to figure out the best way to describe the link they are sharing, as they will often give up. 

  • A good description: Having a good, yet short, paragraph near the beginning of your content will help people who want to submit your article or share it in other social communities. It can also help when it comes time for someone to link to your content through a quote on their own article or site.

  • A share button: It is a good idea to provide your visitors with the option to share your content on their favorite social community. I would avoid having too many buttons on your site and just include the ones that your visitors are most likely to use. 

Successful social media link bait is not always easy to create, but these seven tips should get you on the right track to churning out high-quality, link-worthy content. Just remember: The results of even one successful campaign can make it all worthwhile.

Brent Csutoras is a seasoned internet marketing consultant who primarily specializes in social media, viral link bait, and search engine marketing strategies.

On Twitter? Follow Csutoras at @BrentCsutoras. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


to leave comments.

Commenter: Liz Zedo

2010, March 10

Very helpful tips Brent!
Liz Kulin
Marketing Manager

Commenter: Jean-Paul Andrivet

2009, November 25

Excellent article. I have just shared it using the 'share' button ;-)



Commenter: Troy Skeen

2009, November 25

Great abbreviated notes - ty!

Commenter: jeffrey dobkin

2009, November 25

Very clever article, Brent. Thanks. One of the areas that you mentioned in passing is so correct: computer time is now shorter and more valuable than ever. I simply don't have time to sit through an hour audio in real time, or listen to any of the thousands of webinars now offered, well, everywhere - to find out if it's great—or not. Reading articles and websites gives me the opportunity to bail out any time the going gets out of focus or boring. Please note: I made it to the end of your article. Thanks for the insights. Jeff Dobkin. DanielleAdams.com