Six steps to getting Web site visitors to take your link bait and how to hold on to them.
In my last column, I shared with you my efforts on how I set out to reclaim my personal brand and start ranking on Google for my name, with my new Web site, "bryaneisenberg.com." One strategy was to plan a "link bait" post, 69 Free (or Low cost) Tools to Improve Your Website, to create a blip on Google's link graph of my Web site. Let me explain.
Planning Your Link Bait Strategy
Unfortunately, the term linkbaiting has some negative connotations. Its best use can be anything worthy enough of grabbing people's limited attention and causing them to link to, share, or otherwise promote the content you generate. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen people get overly excited about something they produced and how "viral" it is, only to be forgotten before it's even shared. Here's how to avoid that problem.
Six Steps to Linkbaiting Nirvana
Define your goal.
Is the goal of this piece of content to persuade or sell people to take an immediate and measurable action or is it more long term, to develop links to improve your search engine rankings or brand awareness? You shouldn't only think of link bait as a short-term fix to a long-term problem; it doesn't usually work.
How will you measure success?
Once you have your goals in place, you now need plans to make sure you're tracking your outcomes effectively. Start by defining the key performance indicators (KPIs) you want to monitor. Here's a list of 35 social media KPIs to get your thinking started. You should also consider sentiment analysis, such as that offered by Radian6 or Scout Labs. Remember, it's still quality that matters more than quantity, not only in what people say, but also in who links to you.
Knowing what you will measure should define how you measure. Will you be tracking the number and quality of links, comments, tweet or retweets, social bookmarks, positive or negative votes, etc? What tools will you use to measure your outcomes? Will it require specialized tagging? Will you make it easy for your content marketing team to tag your content properly, to make sure you're tracking as effectively as possible? For example, if your content is on YouTube, are you optimizing and measuring it properly?
It used to be much simpler when all you were measuring was links, but now that everyone can share content with social media and bookmarking sites, measuring effectively is more of a challenge.
Develop your personas.
Know your audience. There are two parts to your audience you must define: your connectors and your final audience. Your connectors are individuals you hope will share your content with their network and thus, lead to greater reach than you have on your own. Hopefully, you have a prior existing relationship with some of them because it does make this process easier.
Please understand, no one will share anything with their network that they don't believe elevates their self-perception. They want to know that people in their network will think more of them for sharing this piece of content. Ask yourself: Will your content make them seem funnier, smarter, more generous, etc? What will motivate people to share your content? Do you know what social networking and bookmarking sites your content will appeal to most? For example, some content works better on Digg, over Reddit or Delicious.
My friend, Sverre SjØthun, shares how to be sure your campaign tactics match your audience, while he does a great job explaining how he implemented these audience strategies in a link bait campaign for Crestock.com.
Develop the content.
Two simple rules your content must follow:
Depending on your audience, you must also decide which form your content will take; should it be a post, an e-book (white paper), a video, a contest, etc.
Your headline must be incredibly remarkable. It's worth spending extra time to make sure you have it right or to test it out with your connectors or original linkers list (much like the Huffington Post does).
If you're stuck coming up with ideas for content, Darren Rowse from ProBlogger shares 20 linkbaiting techniques to use when planning your content.
Without a doubt, a content strategy that matches your objectives and meets your audience's needs is essential.
Make it easy to share.
Plan to add elements to make it easy to pass your content along. Use ShareThis or AddThis tools to your posts or pages, add a retweet button to a PDF, etc. For example, YouTube offers 13 ways to share content. How many ways are you offering? Double check to make sure they're tagged properly for your analytics.
Share and refine.
Send out your content to a few of your connectors and see how they respond. What feedback do they give you? Do they share it with their network? If not, what can you do to refine it before you send it out to other people? Remember, you can change content after you launch it, if it will help your success.
One example of someone who has been publishing great content for the past 15 years is Ralph Wilson of Web Marketing Today (celebrating its anniversary this week). He emails his 101,000+ newsletter subscribers about a new article, product, or service, then specifically asks them to bookmark his content using AddThis.com, a gadget that makes it easy for people to bookmark using their favorite social bookmarking service. Subscribe to his newsletter and check it out.
Best of luck scoring more links!
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Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.
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