- Evergreen content with inventive and amusing headlines.
- Skyscraper or Pillar content.
- Thought-provoking, original, highly discoverable content.
All of these descriptions sound better than link bait. Yet when web content writers and digital marketers meet at coffee shops, coworking offices, and glassed-in corporate meeting rooms, we (affectionately) discuss link bait. When we need to increase traffic to a landing page, improve conversion rates on a campaign, or build a more robust following on social media, link bait is often thrown into the mix. Google favors sites with quality backlinks, and to generate them, strategic content production is key.
You're probably thinking, "Bait is such a nasty four-letter word though. Should I be creating linkbait content? What if visitors to my website figure it out, and discredit my content?"
First, take a deep breath.
Now, think of content assets as link magnets. Magnets are good, right? They attract things. That's the goal of link bait after all, isn't it? To attract an influential audience that will link to your website, so you can build authority, and improve search engine rank? But if you want to attract these things, you have to offer valuable insights and unique perspective.
Here are five ways to generate quality link bait, throw it in the digital ocean we call the internet, and reel in fresh, quality backlinks.
1. Check out your competition
Whatever industry you are in, and no matter how big your organization is, you have competitors that are as eager to connect with your target market as you are. Research what they're writing about, who is linking to them, and who is talking about them on social media. You don't want to try and out-content your competitors in terms of quantity; you'll generate better results by producing quality content, which clearly differentiates your business from these competitors.
If your competitors are building their audience by tying their content to current events or top of mind stories, (AKA Newsjacking) you should do the same. Proactively (and tactfully) reach out to the people and companies that follow, comment and write about your competitors. If you aren't on their radar as an alternate authority in your space, make sure you rectify that ASAP. If a competitor's followers are complaining about poor customer service or product quality, feature those topics in your next blog post.
2. Showcase your industry expertise
Has your business conducted a market research study to prepare to launch a new product or service offering? Do your consultants gather statistics about return on investment or benchmark the performance data of your products in customer settings? Do you interview your existing customers about why they chose your business as their product supplier or service provider? A roundup article with quotes from subject matter experts in your field (including from your own company, or your client's firm) can position your organization as thought leaders in your industry and as a trusted place for customers and potential customers to seek out answers to their questions.
Find ways to gather statistics which demonstrate the value you bring to the table, and the insights you have about your unique selling proposition. Evergreen content assets like infographics, ebooks, and whitepapers are some of the best link bait out there. The most share-worthy content is content that makes your business look good, and it boosts the reputation of the website linking to it, too. Attribute the sources of your research, whether it is a 3rd party industry analyst, your own customer surveys, or a subject matter expert in your company.
Consider offering self-service tools like opportunity assessments or calculators on your website. Examples include energy consumption, Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) or Return on Investment (ROI) calculators or configurators. Move your company from the supplier/service provider column to trusted advisor status.
3. Write for your audience and your audience's audience
Let's say you are a car manufacturer, and you are publishing an ebook about your latest advances in electric vehicle manufacturing. Ideally, you want automotive journalists to link to your content, and for customers who are in the market for an electric vehicle to click through to your content and read it. Publishing a bunch of industry acronyms and lingo might work for journalists who are "in the know", but it may read like a foreign language to a layperson.
Link bait content is important to increase the authority of your web presence. It's a home run if you can build enough "backlink juice" out of your content that web browsers bypass third-party websites and land directly on your website.
4. Length is strength for SEO and backlinks
A Backlinko research study found that long-form content tends to perform better on Google search engine results pages than short-form. It found that first-page results average around 1,890 words. A SearchEngineLand.com article says that long-form content generates more backlinks. Invest more time and effort in creating longer articles, but ensure they are optimized for web browser viewing, with keyword-optimized headlines, sub-headings, and short paragraphs.
As other content writers are working to substantiate their own content with authoritative sources, they tend to look for deep-dive articles which helps their readers drill further into a topic. Enrich longer articles with visuals, video clips and links to gated content like ebooks on related topics.
5. Solve real problems, discuss real issues
Spend time talking to your existing customers about the problems they were looking to solve when they approached your company. You can come up with some great link bait content, as the needs and challenges of your customers are likely common with many of their industry peers.
Getting customers to accept reference calls from prospects is getting more challenging all the time. If your content demonstrates you understand the needs of your audience, and you have solutions to their pain, your content quality and authority will benefit, resulting in more backlinks. Video or written testimonials are great link bait content. Those consuming your content may accelerate their evaluation process and get them to engage with your sales team faster.
Marketing managers and content publishers shouldn't be afraid to weave some link bait into their content calendar. Not only will it improve the discoverability of your website, it should build trust, credibility and convince your target audience that you understand their needs.
Link bait can be fun, insightful, inspiring or all of the above. Done right, it will be a great foundation to increase the readership of your entire library of content.