What Makes Great Link Bait? The Psychology of Sharing
Link baiting is one of the most powerful SEO techniques of all. Its power lies not only in the fact that it takes such a smart advantage of the communal nature of the web, but also in that it’s actually passive for the site owners. In other words, once you’ve got the ball rolling, it will continue with no further input from you and will exponentially increase returns. You can sleep while your site grows in prominence… Furthermore, the very nature of link baiting means that it will result in a highly natural-looking link profile that would be hard to create on your own.
In case you aren’t familiar with the concept, link bait is essentially content of any kind that is designed to be highly sharable. The idea then is that rather than going around posting your link on social networks and forums, or fighting to get your link on big blogs, you instead write content that is so eye catching and so interesting that your visitors start doing that for you.
So the question of course is, what makes good link bait? Is there a magic formula that will make your content more sharable? And can employing an understanding of human psychology help you to encourage more sharing? Read on to see what you can do.
Ego-centrism essentially means being self-centred, and although you might not consider yourself particularly self-involved compared to your peers, the reality is that we all display ego-centrism to a degree. We are fascinated with ourselves and the way we tick, and so we naturally believe everyone else is to.
That’s why questionnaires are so effective when it comes to going viral. We read a description of our own personality based on the answers we gave to a number of questions and then we feel like we understand ourselves better. Naturally we of course want to share that with others to communicate more about who we are, and to show just how fascinating we are…
We also often share the links we do in order to boost our status – in other words we love links that make us look good. Questionnaires can do that, because they allow us to show everyone how we’re ‘free spirited like Captain Jack Sparrow’ or ‘sensitive like the colour blue’.
Another way to ‘show off’ with a link is to post something that makes us look clever, or that agrees with a point we’ve made. People often share news stories because they want people to know they read the paper (like a smart person). Likewise we’ll share articles on subjects we’re passionate about because shows people that we’re ‘right’ while hopefully convincing them of our opinions.
Having a title for your page that is somehow provocative or controversial is a great strategy if you want your content to share well. The first reason for this is that it will make people much more likely to read the text in the first place. Our emotions evolved in order to direct our attention to important matters and affect what has the biggest impact on us, so a title that makes us curious, angry or upset will have more of an impact than one that’s just bland and descriptive. Of course if you want people to share your links, you need them to first read them.
Next, an emotional hook will give people more reason to discuss what you’re writing about. If you write that people are ‘overweight because they’re lazy’ then you’re creating controversy and inviting debate. Of course you can use that title without necessarily backing the statement in your text, but as long as the issue is raised people are going to want to discuss the topic somewhere social.
While there are a lot of benefits to having long content, memes are generally described as ‘small packets’ of information, and shorter content is more likely to be read when people are in a hurry. It’s difficult for a long treatise on politics to go viral, whereas a funny political cartoon with the same message is much more likely to spread because it can be enjoyed in minutes or even seconds.
The other benefit of making your content shorter is that it means people will be more moved to share immediately after they’ve enjoyed the ‘punchline’. Sharing a link should be an immediate emotional impulse, and if your article takes ten minutes to read then you’ll have lost the momentum. Get your message across quickly so that your readers, read, enjoy then share.
William Branson has vast knowledge of web designing, mobile website desgining being his forte. He also acts as a consultant to www.webfirm.com.