Everyone knows that backlinks are an essential aspect of any solid SEO strategy. Catching those backlinks, however, is another kettle of fish entirely.
Enter link bait articles: content that is designed to draw as many backlinks and social shares as possible.
A huge reason why The Content Factory's content has been so successful (over 5 million people have read our blog posts!) is because we've been highly successful at getting people to link to it. Those links drive referral traffic, but they also push our blog posts up the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Given the right search terms and content, anyone can go viral via organic traffic.
Is link bait about catching links or people?
The short answer is, in order to catch the links you first have to catch the people. Once you have them, you've got to either entertain, surprise, educate or otherwise provide value in order to get them to share the content – or better yet, link to it.
Whether you write it, film it or record it, your primary goal is to create a piece of online content that's so compelling that others simply must link to it. Essentially, you need to create content that people cite as THE resource – in whatever industry or category you're producing content for.
Whether that's a resource of information, entertainment, or an amazing new product that solves actual problems is up to you – and the site you're creating link bait for. But the point is, it's gotta be excellent content in order to be effective link bait.
If you can get this down, you can win the internet. When you factor in the work we've done for clients, TCF's content has been read by over 100 million people – this is why industry experts refer to me as the "J.K. Rowling of SEO."
There's no Harry Potter wizardry going on here. Just a formula and a process, which you can totally replicate. In this post, I'm going to show you how.
How do you write link bait articles?
Let's assume you're creating written content, with the goal of SEO (at The Content Factory, this is what we specialize in so we'll stay in our lane and leave the video link bait to another company to explain). The first step is to stop for a moment and think about your area(s) of expertise, and what you would want to read.
If you wouldn't want to read the content, your target audience probably won't either. And they certainly won't want to link to it.
First and foremost, link bait is great content. You also get valuable backlinks when you write link bait effectively – which will not just help you top the SERPs and drive traffic via SEO, but also send targeted referral traffic over time.
There are a few ways that you can go about creating your own link bait – and we've got some examples to point to, to help crystallize the concepts.
Three Different Examples of Effective Link Bait – That You Can Replicate!
This blog post features 37 of the best Chrome extensions for digital marketers. What makes it link bait-ey? The fact that we name checked a ton of complementary, non-competing brands – and call them out as the "best."
Everyone wants to be the "best" – and an objective third party saying so is the ultimate in social proof. Several of these companies have linked back to the post since we published it.
Whenever we share it across our social media channels, we tag as many of the companies as the character limit will allow – and get a TON of retweets and engagement, as they all clamor to amplify the message of being the "best" Chrome extension.
Our ULTIMATE Guide to Content Marketing is another example of effective link bait, primarily because it consolidates every resource you could possibly need to become an expert in content marketing, all in one place.
This is irresistable link bait for a few reasons:
1.) Like the "best of" post, we cheerlead the people and websites we mention in the post. This is always a solid strategy, as I explain in this LinkedIn post (give it a read, the case studies are insane).
As a result, the people mentioned in the post are much more likely to share it across their social networks, as well as link to it from their own sites. Neil Patel kicked us a super solid backlink to this blog post, just because we mentioned one of his posts as a resource.
2.) As the post climbs the SERPs, it generates organic backlinks. This is HUGE, and important to understand. The more people you can get to read your link bait, the more likely it is that they'll link back to it.
It's a simple numbers game, and if you can leverage the power of SEO to make sure hundreds of people read your post every day, you're likely to organically get a lot of backlinks to it.
3.) The post actually provides unparalleled value. This is what separates link bait from link trash. If you're not providing a lot of value to your target audience – ideally more value in one place than they can find anywhere else – nobody will want to link to you as the ultimate resource in the subject matter you're writing about.
Our ULTIMATE Guide to Content Marketing is just that, and provides every resource you need in one handy place. We actually get fan mail about this post, because content marketing is a very complicated subject.
There's a lot of detail and nuance, and about a thousand different directions you can go. This post provides all the options and gives you a road map that's easy to follow, so you can get where you want to go with your content marketing game.
These three points can make or break the shareability (and linkability) of your content. If you can get these principles down, you can consistently create content that your target audience, industry influencers, and search crawlers can't get enough of.
How to Use Link Bait to Create Your Own Virus
When you're creating link bait, what you're actually trying to do is get people to pay attention – and then get them to act. Part of creating great content is having a good idea, an idea that's likely to spread. Then, you build that idea into content that's strategically planned so that it'll be shared and go viral.
In order to create effective link bait you need to engineer it for sharing from the ground, up.
Most people who are just thinking about linking opportunities are the ones who are the most likely to cut corners, to go with the first thing that comes to mind, to do a simple list of some kind and stock it with filler.
Why bother? Cliches don't go viral. Uninteresting material will not. Clumsy writing seldom does.
Instead, you have to snatch the interest of the reader, and maybe even change their perspective on the subject. Which brings us to...
Creating Link Bait By Being a Contrarian
This blog post has generated almost $1 million in sales for The Content Factory. Why? Because it tells the reader something they don't know – and saves them money in the process.
It all starts with the title: Why You (Probably Don't) Need Press Release Distribution Services.
This jumps out from the SERPs and gets a lot of clicks. In fact, at the time of this writing, it currently ranks #1 for the search terms "press release distribution" and "press release distribution services."
It even outranks the actual press release distribution services themselves for these search terms.
A big part of this is because it's been linked to from many, many other websites. This is as a result of the fact that most people – even experienced marketing managers – are under the impression that in order to get media coverage for a press release, you have to spend $300+ on a service like PRNewswire or PRWeb to get it "out there."
This is 100% not the case. In fact, if you're relying on one of these expensive services to get reporters to notice and write about your story...well, you're going to be waiting a long time.
You can read the article to find out why – it's a lot to go into here and a bit off topic – but the gist of it is that it's not 1987 anymore. These services had value back when the fax machine was the fastest way to contact reporters en masse, but when's the last time you used a fax machine?
Reporters aren't going through these newswire services each morning, scrolling through the hundreds (if not thousands) of press releases that get distributed each day on the hunt for their next scoop.
I know this from experience. I've been in the PR game for over a decade, and my team and I have used the power of press releases to get clients featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to the Today show.
Of course, I can show all the receipts from all of the earned media coverage that we've been able to generate for clients via the press releases that we've written and distributed. But this is my blog, and The Content Factory is my company.
I'm hardly an unbiased third party. So why do so many readers trust what I say in that post, despite the fact that I'm telling them the exact opposite of what they think to be true?
Because I don't ask them to take my word for it.
In the post, I interview top-level journalists in both the lifestyle and tech space. I let them tell the reader how laughably stupid it is to expect journalists to source their stories from press release distribution services.
The Importance of Quoting (Other) Experts
Are you an expert in your industry? Great!
But you need to understand that's not enough to get people to believe what you tell them.
The internet is full of bad information. "Fake news" is everywhere and has made everyone a skeptic, which is why it's critically important to the success of your link bait that you bring in objective third parties and get them to help prove to your readers that you actually know what you're talking about.
In the case of Why You (Probably Don't) Need Press Release Distribution Services, I brought in Dan Tynan and Aly Walansky. My team and I have worked with these journalists for almost 1o years – Dan first quoted me in an article in 2011, and Aly's been covering TCF's clients since we scored our first PR contract.
These two are some of the most experienced, prolific writers in the tech and lifestyle space. Aly writes for the Today show website, Forbes, AskMen...you name it, she has a byline there.
And Dan? He's an award-winning journalist, and was the Editor in Chief at Yahoo! Tech. He regularly writes for the Guardian, AdWeek...you get the idea – both of these writers are very big deals.
When you bring in heavy hitters and quote them as experts in your content, your audience trusts you more – not because they trust you, per se, but because they trust the third-party experts.
As a result, they trust you by association – and are significantly more likely to link to your post as a trusted, authoritative resource.
This is a pretty small and easy step to take, but it makes a massive difference in your perceived credibility. All you need to do is reach out to other experts, ask them their opinion on whatever it is that you're writing about, and then quote them along with a note explaining why their words can be trusted.
Just like when you quote complementary, non-competing brands or executives in your content, these objective third parties are likely to share your content across their social channels. Both Aly and Dan did this – Dan even commented on the post itself.
Think about that for a minute: by quoting top-level journalists in my blog post, I got top-level journalists sharing my content. Between the two of them, they have over 35,000 Twitter followers alone.
You can do this too – all it takes is you reaching out to experts and asking them for quotes. Don't have their email addresses? Try LinkedIn, or even Twitter.
3 Things to Consider Before Writing Link Bait That Goes Viral
To start writing link bait you just need a decent idea, the confidence to ask other experts for their opinions, and a few awesome tips for how to write content.
1.) Take some risks. You have an employer, and you want to please them. Or maybe you're self-employed and you're trying to figure out where the line exactly is. Too often, this leads to a conservative approach.
If you want to get people talking, you yourself are going to have to speak. What do you want to say?
If your content is boring and doesn't have a voice, nobody will want to amplify it.In the press release blog post example above, I went hard at the press release distribution services. In fact, I called them trash (they are, by the way – save your money).
Could I have been nicer? Yes. Would that have resulted in fewer shares and backlinks? Yes. Pick your battles – I knew I could win this one, but just to be sure I brought in some experts to help throw some punches.
2.) Make your tips great ones – and hold nothing back. When you're writing a tip-based article, include all the good tips. Does the #1 post on Google for the topic have 10 tips? Hit 'em with 15, and go deep with what you suggest. Pull no punches and leave no stone unturned.
In our blog post about why private blog networks (PBNs) are dangerous and should be avoided, we don't just outline the potential ramifications of the search engines catching you and blacklisting you from the SERPs. We also included information on legit backlinking strategies – including HARO, which basically nobody ever talks about.
It's not that marketing experts don't use HARO to get backlinks and major media coverage – they do. It's just that they want to keep it a secret, so there's less competition.
But it's a competitive world out there, and if you're holding back your "secret sauce" you're leaving yourself open to a smaller, more aggressive player coming in and sharing the recipe (it's just ketchup and some mayo, with a little bit of relish). When this happens, they steal your thunder and become the hero...because you let them.
For example, in this post, we don't just talk about what HARO can do for your brand. It's good information, but it's also not enough. That's why we also include the exact pitch template that we used to generate $1.2 million worth of earned media coverage in the last year alone.
3.) Re-edit your edits and flow of info. If your link bait has a lot of errors in it or the ideas are hard to follow, it won't be link bait because nobody will want to share it. Take the time to make sure the spelling and sentence structure are right, but also step back and consider if maybe the middle section is best moved to the top.
If your ideas are properly organized, your readers will naturally flow from one section to the next. Suddenly, they've been reading your post for the last 10 minutes, taking notes and increasing your time on site (search engines know this, and reward you for it). If you skip around a lot, so will your target audience – and they may just skip back to the SERPs to find an article they can understand faster.
Simply put: you MUST write well, and with a purpose in mind that the reader can follow.
If this sounds like a lot, it's because it is. You're not trying out for JV soccer and there aren't any participation trophies (if there are, it looks like a lot of wasted effort for 10 clicks per month).
If you're trying to get a viral amount of traffic to your link bait articles, you have to be a gold-medal champion with your content. You have to surprise, delight, inform and kiss a weird amount of ass in a way that doesn't seem kiss assey (it's an often-overlooked aspect of creating content that ranks, and entices people to share it).
This is why major brands, ranging from Astroglide to enterprise-level software as a service (SaaS) companies, trust my team to write their link bait and SEO articles. It's not easy to go viral – you have to earn each and every one of those shares.
It can be taught – this is a great guide for that – but if you want to tap out and leave the complicated stuff to the experts you can always contact us to take over for you. We've got a killer track record of success (again, over 100 million people have read TCF's content over the years, ranging from taglines to SERP-topping SEO content).
Want more in-depth training? We've got you covered there, too.
The Content Factory's Rise & Convert SEO training course will walk you through the exact process we use to create content that ranks – and converts – for ourselves and our clients.
Did you get good info from this article? Awesome – but there's more. We have moves you've never seen before, and we'll show you them all in detail in Rise & Convert.
You can see our full list of trainings and guides here. To get even more, join our Facebook group and join over 1,000 other marketers and business owners taking their game to the next level.