Effective online content is written for both people and search engines. Search engines need to appreciate your content, and when they do they introduce people to it through search results. Online content must be written with both people and search engines in mind.
When someone sees a search result page they look at the
(1) Title of the page, and then the...
(2) Snippet (the search engines description) and decide whether or not they want to click on the result. In order for them to click, the Title and Snippet must be compelling. If they...
(3) click, they want to be rewarded by finding what they are looking for. If the visitor reads what you have written and thinks “I have found what I was looking for!” they will stay around for a while - that's how you know you have done a good job creating search engine relevance.
“I have found what I was looking for!”
For this to happen, the planets must align between Article Title, Article Description, and the all important first paragraph (which must include the key phrase).
As you can see above, its a 1, 2, 3 approach to getting someone to click. But a good article isn’t just relevant, it must also make people want to link to it. This type of article is called ‘Link Bait’. You might say that creating a hyperlink or a social media mention is step 4. Getting someone to step four means you did a stellar job creating your web content.
Everything you write should be relevant to the users search, and compelling to read. But sometimes when writing for online reputation the project the subject just isn’t that compelling. When that happens it's time to get creative. In this case, co-brand. Find a key phrase people are searching for, or that is far more popular than the one you are writing about, and use it in your writing - especially in the headline of the article.
The key phrase
Every article includes at least one key phrase. In addition to the main key phrase, another should be chosen. The ‘other’ key phrase is bait. To find a trending key phrase that is relevant to whatever you are writing about you can go to Google Trends to see what people are searching for. The key phrase you choose depends to a large extent on what type of Link Bait you are writing.
Types of link bait
Here are a few of our favorite types of Link Bait. At the end is an excellent article from Distilled in the Further Reading section.
The Link Bait ideas below should help get your juices flowing. Our objective is to create articles that are ‘Link Bait’. Link Bait is an article that makes people want to link to it. Here is a list of ideas to consider when creating content that is intended to be link bait. These are articles with a purpose, they are ‘designed’.
Writing a how-to article
Writing a how-to article that is helpful in an industry is a good way to get link bait. People always want to learn how to-do something. If they to-do article you write is better than all the others, especially if it has an extra element (see the rest of the list below) you could do quite well.
People tend to follow the leader. Leaders have followers. Write something flattering about someone with a lot of followers (the leader) and they may post a link to your article. If they post the link, their followers may too. Instant-links. In reputation management, it’s important to have some logical tie in between your key phrase and the person or entity you are baiting. This can go horribly wrong if the article is written badly, or the tie in between the keyword and the entity being written about is tenuous at best.
The ever popular top lists
Compiling lists is a great way to get links. You need to find a way to artfully and naturally insert the key phrase into the body of the lists. For example, lets say you are performing online reputation management for an attorney. Here are some ideas for top ten lists:
1. Top Ten Lawyer Jokes
2. Top Ten Las Vegas Lawyers
3. Top Ten Reasons Not to Become a Lawyer
4. Top Ten Movies About Lawyers
5. Top Ten Dogs Owned by Attorneys
If the reputation management project is for an attorney, the attorney's name can be used as the author, or just as someone interviewed to create the list.
Factual writing about an industry can be great link bait. The facts must be ‘true facts’, in that they must be verifiable. You don’t want to write an article that is untrue for reasons you can surely imagine.
Guest link bait
If you write a wonderful article for someone else to place on their site, you can give them the gift of link bait. Ideally, the article you write has a link embedded somewhere in the first paragraph back to your own site that you want to promote.
Interview link bait
If you interview someone with pull, it can garner a lot of links. But if you don’t have access to anyone famous, you may be able to pull off a ‘fake interview’ of someone. For example, find a famous person whose name is trending upward in search. Make it clear from the outset of your ‘interview’ you didn’t actually interview this person, that it's a ‘fantasy’ interview. Then, go wild. Ridiculing a famous person may not be a good idea, but whatever you write for the interview should be highly readable and possibly even funny. If the famous person you write about thinks it's funny, thats best. The more readable, the more linkable it is. The tricky part with ‘interview link bait’ is artfully integrating the key phrase you want to come up in search for into the interview - this is where craft comes in.
Z-axis link bait
The “Z-Axis” pertains to depth. We use the term Z-Axis Link Bait to pertain to articles or other content that contain multiple types of bait in them. For example, an article about Lindsay Lohan that is:
B) An Interview (probably a fantasy interview)
C) Contains Research (how many shades of orange has she worn)
D) The Top Ten Things to Do With Used Orange Jumpsuits
… would be an example of link bait with multiple angles. That is, depth.
The carefully crafted headline
The headline should make people stop and read it. Imagine if you tweeted just the headline, would people click on it? Is it compelling? In short, a good headline is compelling. Using the lawyer example with the top ten lists above, notice that each headline draws you in. Wouldn’t you click on ‘Top Ten Lawyer Jokes?’.
Other headlines that are compelling (imagine John Smith is the key phrase):
7 Things You Can Do to Prevent Cancer
Cooking With Brown Poo
(Cooking With Brown Poodles - oops ran out of room)
Study: How Many Lawyers It Takes to Fill Ocean
Similarities Between Lindsay Lohan and John Smith
Huge Baby Rescues Puppy
Confirmed: John Boehner is an Oompa Loompa
(written by an author named John Smith)
John Smith Finds the Fountain of Youth
John Smith’s Top Ten Lawyer Jokes
Put the search phrase in the headline
Ideally, your key phrase should be in the headline. If it just looks weird, or doesn’t work, then don’t put the key phrase in the headline. You can see in the examples above that not all of them have the key phrase in the headline. Of course, you need to put the key phrase in the body of the article one or two extra times if you can’t put it in the headline. Using the key phrase as the Author can also help.
How long should the headline be?
The headline of the article should be no more than 70 characters. If possible and natural looking it should include the key phrase. The most a search result in Google shows is 70 characters, more than that tends to ‘wrap’ and look bad on the web page.
The meta description should be 150 characters max.
The meta description should optimally be between 150-160 characters and should contain the key phrase in the first sentence. It should also accurately and relevantly summarize the content of the article in a way that makes people want to click on the search result.
The page title should contain the phrase
The Page Title should, if possible, include the key phrase in it. Page titles should not always start with the key phrase as it is un-natural. Often, the Page Title and the Headline are the same.
The first paragraph should contain the phrase
The first paragraph of the article should include the key phrase in the first sentence one time, two if it makes sense.
Here is a wonderful article on Link Bait and writing for SEO.