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Linkbait – What Makes Content Link Worthy?

What makes someone link to you?

This is one of the key things that you need to understand when it comes to crafting linkbait.  One of the common reasons that linkbait can fail is that it gets lot of people look at it, but hardly anyone feels compelled enough to link to it.  When you’re crafting your content, you need to always be thinking to yourself “will someone link to this?”.  If the answer is no, then you’re not crafting linkbait, you’re creating a piece of normal content.

To make someone link to you, ultimately you need to make them care.  You can make them care by playing on emotional responses from them and creating a “hook” that catches their attention. Here are a few that you should be aware of:

  • News
  • Informational
  • Funny
  • Controversial
  • Resource
  • Ego-driven
  • Competition

If your content can have at least one of these hooks and make someone care enough to share it with others, you have a much greater chance of succeeding.  This is because your content provokes an emotional response and the reader can feel compelled to share with others.

We see this all the time in our own social networks.  Go and take a look at your Twitter or Facebook feeds and see what links people are sharing.  Chances are that many of these links are to stories that could be classified using the hooks above.  In particular on a platform such as Facebook, because many use it for personal reasons, you will see people sharing content that is funny, controversial or hot news.  You are less likely to see deep, resourceful content shared on Facebook unless it appeals to a wide range of people.

Let’s contrast this with another, often overlooked social network – LinkedIn.  Many people use LinkedIn for professional reasons and whilst you may see people sharing hot news or controversial items, you’re far less likely to see the latest funny cat meme shared on there. The platform where your target audience hang out online is very important to consider when choosing your hook.

There is something else you need to consider here which is that aomeone needs to have the ability to link to you or share your content.  This is important because you need to make sure when crafting your hook that it appeals to people who can link.  There is little point in doing linkbait that appeals to people who do not have Twitter accounts or do not own blogs.  You may do a good job of attracting traffic, but you may not get the links that you want.

Why data alone isn’t enough?

Great, interesting data can be very useful when crafting linkbait.  It is one of the best ways to come up with a great piece of content.  With so many great data sources out there too, it is definitely an area you should be considering for your own linkbait.  The advantage with data is that it is possible to slice it many different ways so that even older data or data that has already been released can be repurposed and re-released to provide something new and interesting.

We’re all lazy, we’re all busy, we all get distracted very easily online.  The majority of us don’t have the time or the interest to dig through masses of data to find out what it means to us or what the story is.  This is your job when you use data in your content.  You need to tell your audience what story the data tells and why they should care about it.  Alternatively you need to make the data so easy to consume quickly, that users start to interact with it quickly to find the story for themselves.


Let’s dive straight in and look at some examples of successful linkbait.

Death by caffiene by EnergyFiend.com

This was an interactive piece that will tell you how many cups of your favourite caffeinated drink you would need to consume for it to kill you:

Death by Caffeine Linkbait

Here are a few stats showing how successful this was:

  • 648 Linking root domains
  • 6545 Tweets
  • 89,000 Facebook Likes

Let’s take a look at some of the key elements that made this happen:

  • It’s easy to use – you only need to enter two details to make it work
  • The headline is catchy – “Death by Caffeine” will make any coffee or Red Bull drinker sit up and take notice
  • It appeals to a lot of people – there are a LOT of tea and coffee drinkers in the world and if you don’t drink tea or coffee, you probably drink Red Bull.  If you don’t drink tea, coffee or Red Bull, you probably know someone who does who you would send the link to
  • It provides you with social share buttons to share your result – a perfect call to action
  • It provokes an emotion before you enter your details – intrigue at how the results may look for you
  • It provokes an emotion afterwards either “wow that is a lot higher than I expected” or “wow I’m pretty close to drinking that amount daily!”

How Music Travels by Thomson.co.uk

This was an interactive piece of data visualisation that showed the spread of Western dance music across the world over the last 200 years:

How Music Travels Linkbait

Here are a few stats showing how successful this was:

  • 311 Linking root domains
  • 6308 Tweets
  • 33,000 Facebook Likes

Let’s take a look at some of the key elements that made this happen:

  • It requires no effort from the user to consume, it automatically starts as soon as the page loads
  • It is beautifully designed and tells the story visually, it visualizes the data and makes it clear to the user what is going on
  • The interactive element is key here, a static image of the final piece would not have worked as well.  This is an example of the format lending itself perfectly to the content and adding to that content
  • Going back to our reasons for people to care – it is informational and makes people sit up and watch what is happening
  • It appealed to a wide audience, lots of people love music and hadn’t seen a visualisation like this before.  Therefore they felt compelled to share it with people, because of the wide interest in music, it was easy for people to share with others because they were also likely to be interested
  • There are other reasons but these are the ones which I feel made this content successful.


What are some successful linkbait strategies you’ve used? Let us know your thoughts …

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