The term “link bait” or “Digg bait” is sometimes used in a negative light, meant to indicate a type of post that is meant to pander to a lower element than most blog posts. But while this can be true and often times is, it is also not always the case.
What the term “link bait” actually means is that the post is the type of work others will want to link to. The types of content people want to link to is as varied as the types of content available on the Web, ranging from pure garbage to enlightened discussion.
However, creating a link bait post is not something that just happens by accident. It requires both a good idea, great writing and a structure that is easy to read. However, if you can master the art, you can literally grow your site overnight by generating countless Twitter mentions, inbound links and even social networking references.
In short, link bait posts may not be the reason regular readers hang around, but they are often how they find your site in the first place.
Step 1: Know Your Audience
Before you put the first word down on paper, you need a good idea and, to get that, you have to know what your audience wants to know more about.
Specifically, you need to know the topics and keywords they are interested in and you can glean that reasonably easily by looking at your site’s statistics and see what people are searching for when they find your site and then using a keyword research tool, such as the one available for Google Adwords, and see what comes up.
These are the terms you are going to want to include in the headline or headline of your post, ideally also mixing some in as subheads. You want this information to be front and center, both to make sure it ranks well in the search engines and that readers know instantly they have found what they were looking for.
Step 2: Craft a Catchy Headline
Though the debate about whether it is better to write the title before or after the body of the post will rage on, with link bait articles, you almost always want to start with the headline as it is the most important part of the work.
Your headline should use the keywords you gleaned from step one and should find a way to focus on conveying a message that the article both A) Has the information they desire and B) Doesn’t require too much effort to get it.
The easiest way to do that is to either phrase the headline, and thus the article, as either a list or as a comparison. A “Top X” list “X Steps” or “How X is Like Y” articles do very well as they are easily understood and viewed as being informative but easy to read.
Step 3: Include Visuals
Though including at least one image in your post is a good idea all of the time, it is especially crucial with posts you want to serve as link bait.
Images help posts stand out in RSS readers and also give social networking sites, like Digg and Reddit, something to use for thumbnails when displaying links to them. In short, a good visual helps a post get noticed almost everywhere it travels.
If you can include more images, it is usually better, but don’t throw in needless images that distract from the content. It is important to remember that the goal is to get the reader into the article, give them the information they want and get them out quickly so they can link to it.
Step 4: Break the Post Apart
Carving the post up into bite-sized chunks not only makes the article easier to read and more skimmable, but also more visually appealing. As I discussed in my previous article, writing for the eye is crucial for getting content read as few will sit down and parse through a mass of gray text.
Use large amounts of subheads, short paragraphs and a clear structure when writing your post. If you chose to go with a list format, this is likely done for you but you can follow it with almost any post type.
Failure to do this risks turning readers away and certainly discouraging them from sharing your link with others.
Step 5: Write Good Content
If you’ve done everything else, you have a good headline, a visual and a solid structure to your post. All you need to do now is fill in the blanks with good, useful information.
Though it is useful to be a talented writer, it is more important to be succinct and knowledgeable. If you stick to topics you know well or have researched heavily, you can add what the reader needs/wants to know and do so with a minimal number of words.
Though heavily-linked posts come in all lengths, most fall in the middle range, neither too short nor too long, but packed with enough information that they feel “dense” and useful.
If you do these things will you be guaranteed a link bait post? Absolutely not. If you don’t do these things will a post never get linked? Of course not.
Simply put, there is no way to be completely sure that a post will attract the wanted level of attention when you hit publish. Sometimes, despite all of your best efforts, it just doesn’t work out and other times, when you aren’t trying, it does.
Instead, the goal of these steps is to give your post the best chance possible for success.
However, you probably will not want to use this formula for every post on your site (unless you are Cracked.com) as you need to cater to your regular readers and try to attract new ones at the same time.
But, if you do link bait very well, you can actually create articles that both generate a lot of links and are still useful to your regular readers. Those posts, as rare as they are, are truly the pinnacle of blog writing.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Your Very First Blog Post
Your very first blog post is a very big deal.
For businesses, it’s their way of attracting more clients by creating content that resonates with your target audience.
For hobbyists, it’s their chance to of sharing to the world your thoughts and ideas about their topics of choice.
Either way, nothing validates your online identity more than a well-written blog post.
Therefore, you need to make the most of this opportunity by writing the best possible blog post. Assuming that you don’t have much experience in writing, you can always keep things simple by following the basic do’s and don’ts of writing a blog post for the very first time.
Do: Come up with a topic that your audience would like
The success of bloggers stems from the ability to determine what their audience wants to read. To reach their primary goals, bloggers must appeal to the need of their target readers for useful and relevant information. Doing so allows them to attract lots of visitors with the content they publish, resulting in increased conversion rates.
Therefore, you need to approach blogging deliberately. You can’t just pull a topic out of thin air and expect your audience to come in droves. You must find out what makes your readers ticks and what their wants and needs are.
That means research, research, and more research!
First, you need to come up with a reader persona that you will target for your post and the succeeding ones. The persona you will develop will embody your demographic such as age, gender, hobbies, and others. Researching these factors will help you refine how you will write your post and what you will write about. From here, unearthing blog post ideas to write about will become much more convenient for you.
Don’t: Veer away from your branding and persona
Your brand is what defines you online. Your audience will associate all your online activity with the brand you’ve developed. Part of your brand is the persona you project from the blog posts you will write.
The best blogs exhibit unique voices that set them apart from the rest. The Onion is popular for its tongue-in-cheek humor veiled in satire. Lifehacker is famous for producing informative blog content geared towards readers who want to find ways to simplify their lives.
The brand and persona these sites exude help bloggers develop consistency in their writing. By observing their persona on all the posts they write at all times, they allow readers to create a level of expectation every time you publish a post. By meeting their expectations with every post you write, you can develop a sustainable stream of blog traffic over a period.
Therefore, it is crucial that you develop a writing voice that resonates with your readers and then sticking with it. You need to play your brand and persona across all your blog posts, starting with the very first post you’ll be writing.
Do: Edit before publishing
Before hitting the “Publish” button, you need to make sure that there are no grammar mistakes and errors in your writing. Your command of the language is crucial if you want to send the right message to your readers.
A post that’s filled with errors will cause readers to leave your blog and possibly not read another post from you. If you can’t write correctly, then why should your audience read your posts?
Double-checking your post and reading it again can do wonders for your edits. It’s best to take time between finishing the post and reading it for review. The time allows you to get your mind off from writing so you will have a fresh perspective on the post, which lets you spot errors easier.
If you’re not comfortable with your editing skills, then you could use tools like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor. Both will make recommendations on how to tighten your sentences and improve your blog post. Keep in mind, however, that these tools are meant to complement your editing process and not replace it entirely.
Don’t: Worry about word count
If you’re counting words when writing your post, then you’re blogging for the wrong reasons.
When writing, your focus should be communicating ideas as clearly as possible.
For SEO reasons, you want your post to be as long as possible. According to the latest studies, your post should be at least 1,890 words if you want to rank on top of Google Search.
However, if you can’t reach that many numbers of words, you don’t have to beat yourself up about it. Having lots of words doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a great post.
What’s more important is that you can share everything that your readers need to know about the topic. By focusing on the quality of the post and not the number of words, you can engage your audience and keep them longing for more.
Do: Promote your post
Promoting your post is not part of the writing process. However, part of your job as a full-fledged blogger is to be a marketer as well.
Sharing your first blog post is your step towards reaching out to your online audience. After all, your post won’t promote itself. You need to proactive share your blog post to the right channels, so you show it to as many people interested in your topic as possible.
One of the best ways to promote your post online is to hop on Facebook and Twitter.
“If you have created high-quality content on your blog then social media is a great way to your blog to go viral.” said Scott Chow of The Blog Starter.
You can also submit your post on platforms that allow you to reach out to your audience more effectively. I have detailed the best sites where you can send your post for promotion in this article.
Don’t: Set unrealistic goals
Starting at the bottom and working your way up to where thousands of blogs are also vying for the attention of your readers will be a tumultuous journey. Therefore, you have to curb your expectations as a blogger. It is ideal to set the bar with attainable goals in mind instead of aiming for the moon.
Don’t get me wrong – reaching thousands of visitors for your blog post in a day is not impossible. However, like catching lightning in a jar, it’s more improbable than anything else. In fact, this problem is what plagues most bloggers. They set high goals that are difficult to achieve. As a result, they get discouraged once they realize that they can’t fulfill them and stop blogging altogether.
Therefore, it’s always better to follow a tried-and-true template that you can sustain for a long period. You don’t want to be one of those flash-in-the-pan bloggers who fizzle out as fast as they started.
Did I miss any other tips for first-time bloggers in preparation for their very first post? Chime in with your advice by commenting below!
4 Tips for Effectively Training New Hires and Freelance Writers
You’ve been interviewing prospective job candidates for weeks. Whether this has been for adding talent to your existing company, or if you’ve been looking for some qualified blog writers, the process is quite overwhelming, yet one that needs to take place. You’ve narrowed down the field, compared resumes and extended an offer. Soon, you’ll have a bright-eyed new employee walking through your door, eager to get started. Are you prepared for the onboarding process?
Handing each new employee, a packet to read at their desk doesn’t cut it these days. In order to help new hires hit the ground running with their duties and acclimate to your work environment, you’ll need to utilize more dynamic methods for effectively training new hires. Here are four tips to help you get started.
Prioritize Need-to-Know Material
Training includes a veritable avalanche of information—like a general company overview, employer-specific policies, human resources information and specific job duties. It’s your job to equip your team members with everything they need to thrive. So, where do you start? This is also usually simple enough when looking to hire freelance writers or new blog team members, as there are many online job boards that allow you to fill in the needs and requirements you are looking for, while also having the ability to weed out any leads that don’t fit.
Create an outline that breaks down different training sessions into manageable chunks. This way, you’ll provide some foresight to the new hires and keep them from getting overwhelmed. For example, on their first day, you could start with job-specific information: frequently used programs and files, chain of command within their team and department and the location of hotspots like bathrooms, break rooms, conference rooms, HR, etc. The next day, the new hire can easily see that they’ll be learning about a broad company and departmental overview, project management and communication best practices within the office. After that, they’ll tackle short- and long-term goals and KPIs that show they’re doing well in their new job.
Take it one day at a time, based on order of importance.
Make It Interactive and Engaging
Passive presentations make it all too easy for new hires to forget material almost as soon as they learn it. Remember, they’re encountering new information left and right. To make it stick, you’ll have to make it extra engaging. Delivering an interactive presentation with crowdsourcing tools like Poll Everywhere will wake them up, collect their honest thoughts and make them feel like part of the team right off the bat. Instead of listening to a one-way stream of information, new hires can grab their mobile devices and get involved.
Create a Longer-Term Plan
Whew, you survived the first day of training. Your newest batch of hires are basically onboard, right? Not so fast. You need a long-term plan to ensure a smooth process over time. One HR manager uses an onboarding checklist complete with agendas for the first week and first month—including future training sessions, group lunches and manager check-ins. This way, the employee knows that they’re not suddenly on their own after the first round of introductions; they have resources, a plan and scheduled times to ask questions and provide feedback.
Assign a Concrete Task
Training often feels theoretical for new hires; they’re left wondering “but how does this connect to my job?” One way to drive the points made in training home is to assign a relevant task after a learning session. It should relate to their daily duties and allow them to learn (and make mistakes) as they go. They will be able to put the principles they learned in general training into actual use on an actual assignment! At the end, a manager can go over the results with them in a helpful way, pointing out things they did well and how they can improve in the future.
These four tips for effectively training new hires should help you with the onboarding process, but be sure to experiment and come up with a system that works for your company. After all, onboarding is the first impression new employees get and it factors heavily into company culture. If you want to build a success blog, brand or business on the internet today, you need to make sure you are building a quality and talented team around you.
How to Give Personality and Life to Your Blog
In the sea of content, competing for the attention of your audience, your blog needs to sizzle with personality in order to stand out and make a lasting impression.
Remember even if you offer the best suggestions and advice when delivered badly, is not going to make the slightest of an impression.
When a reader first visits your blog, they evaluate your content to see if you are worth their time. If you lack a blog theme, you will not be able to build a strong personality that can pass through reader’s screening tests resulting in your content being ignored and eventually forgotten.
So how do you add personality to your blog and how do you give it a voice? Here are some tips:
1. Don’t be Switzerland – take a stand
Well, the hate comments and reviews you receive when you take a stand can be demoralizing and so, often, it’s easy to take a neutral position and write content that is devoid of opinions. But what you are really doing is diluting your content’s potential and by extension, your blog’s personality.
In fact, strong and powerful influencers or brands always have negative judgments following them around. Taking neutral positions just to dodge them isn’t going to help you build a blog with a personality.
Your experiences, your perspective, and your learnings are your own. Present them to your crowd unadulterated and undiluted.
Additionally, the way you express your opinion matters too. When saying something that goes against the popular belief, instead of throwing a rude short statement at your readers, explain why you think the way you do.
One of the best exercises to get an understanding of the kinds of opinions your blog might generate – start from your own team.
Share your blog content with your team, collect and interpret the different shades of opinions that your team members might form after reading your blog. It helps to prepare arguments in advance to tackle potential criticisms. This gives a distinct personality to your blog of not only giving hard hitting opinions but also proudly standing beside them.
In the end, users might not agree with you but they will respect you and your opinions – that’s just damn good PR.
2. Build a niche audience
Many bloggers want to cater to a large ‘general audience’, instead of figuring what is it that they can best offer and what type of audience would resonate with their messages.
So the first thing to do is to understand what type of people you can and want to cater to. Figuring that out will help you discover your niche.
Instead of supplying vague generic content for everyone’s appeasement, provide super high-quality content that might interest relatively fewer people. This is your target audience and they are worth your time. Because these audiences are the ones that will get you real results be it through shares or profits.
To find your niche audience, carry out regular customer feedback surveys. They help you understand your target audience’ tastes and preferences better. Using the insights, you can come up with blog topics which are relevant to their taste.
Creating a blog personality or brand that resonates with both you and your audience is important; it allows genuine engagement among a niche audience, providing quality over quantity.
3. Write in the first person and offer narratives and anecdotes
Sentences like ‘One must never eat after 6 PM’, ‘One must sleep for 8 hours’ etc. sound very distant and preachy. Using objective language like that can put a barrier between you and the reader.
Alternatively, using ‘I’ and ‘You’ completely changes the tone of the content and is so much more engaging.
Also, writing in a narrative, conversational style is much lighter than a bookish style of writing. If your audience wanted to read white papers and newspaper pieces, they wouldn’t have come to a blog, would they?
Anecdotes are another powerful way to offer advice and connect with your audience. It can help you communicate who you are as a person and what your blog stands for. Plus, a good anecdote gives validity to whatever advice/tips/suggestions you are giving on the blog.
The only way to have a lasting impression is to get creative with your content and stories/anecdotes are the best way to do that.
4. Be shockingly authentic
If you take facts into your hands and add a pinch of your imagination to over-inflate them so that they will make for a good read, then not only will your blog have no personality but it will be considered a fake and will be filtered out as nonsense.
Spicing up your content so that the readers find it enjoyable is fine, but if you are blending facts and fiction to give advice and opinions, then your blog will become an inauthentic source of information or judgments.
Also, in another sense of authenticity, staying true to your original voice can help a lot too.
If being sarcastic and sassy is your thing, go for it, if you like writing formally then that is okay too. Just staying true to your style of articulation will most certainly lend your blog personality.
5. Incorporate emotions to give your content character
Exposing your vulnerabilities through your writing always lends character to your content.
For example, say you want to talk about a social cause that you deeply care about on your blog, telling your story and adding emotion to your writing will inspire your readers and motivate them to action, as opposed to bland articles with facts and figures.
When you can use your writing to trigger emotions in your readers, that’s when you are truly doing a great job at building your blog’s brand perception.
Instead of being wishy-washy, express emotions and opinions on a given topic. Clearly, demonstrate your attitude and complement them with personal stories if possible.
6. Practice writing hygiene
Amateur writing never gives a good impression. I don’t mean for you to use the most impressive sophisticated vocabulary when writing, but practicing well-learned writing is a good start.
Reckless writing implies you are not as invested as you should be in your blog. Without practicing a hygienic writing etiquette, neither will you be considered a professional blogger nor a trustworthy source.
Often times bloggers get blinded by emotions and cannot access the tidiness of their writing. One of the ways bloggers can solve this problem is through getting a fresh point of view.
More fresh eyes, more new perspectives. But, make sure the number of people is ‘Just enough’ to give a great feedback and not ‘more’ which might change the entire essence of the blog because, in the end, it is still ‘your’ blog.
Once you have drafted your blog(s) share it with your entire team using collaborative tools – encourage other team members to fine tune the writing so it looks crisp and clean.
This helps give you new perspectives every time you write a blog which in turn reflects on your blogs as well, giving your blog a dynamic and engaging personality.
Your blog’s personality cannot be built in a day; it is a slow brick-by-brick process and to succeed at it, you must incorporate your efforts to establish a personality in your daily blogging routine. for example, every time you write a piece, check to see if it resonates with your blog’s voice and if you stay consistent at it then before you know it your blog will become a brand of its own.
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