This is the first guest post ever on my site, and it couldn’t come from a better blogger. Ahmed Bilal is a prolific writer, who is found frequently on Performancing, with such posts as 21 Ways to Build a Better Blogger, and What Makes a WordPress Theme Great. Many thanks to Ahmed for starting guest posting off here with a bang. Are you interested in guest posting here? Feel free to pitch me an idea via my contact form. On to the post…

Linkbaiting is usually defined as some form of content on your website / blog that attracts links, but in reality it can be any action or news story (as will as different forms of content – images, videos, podcasts, etc) that attracts the attention of the linkerati.

Understanding linkbaiting is one thing, learning to recognise linkbait opportunities for your niche market is quite another. In this article, I’ll discuss specific strategies that you can use to discover linkbait topics for your own niche.

1. Identify Your Audience

Let’s get one thing clear from the start – the linkerati are not your actual blog / site audience – they are just the people who are most likely to link to interesting, quality content, thus making your content popular so that it gets noticed by your end audience, the people using industry-leading blogs and search engines to find information in your niche.

  • Bloggers in your niche
  • Bloggers in related niches
  • Active community members in your niche (forum users, blog commenters / readers, etc)
  • Social media networks’ users

Different styles of presenting content attract different types of audiences – you may write an article that attracts a lot of links from forums and encourages debate but gets little love from bloggers. On the other hand, you could put up some news that puts you on the front page for many bloggers just because you wrote something funny, but it could escape the attention of forum goers completely.

Forum links may not provide great search engine value but you can be pretty sure they bring in regular readers, and that in itself is as valuable (if not more) than links.

You want to be able to target all sections of your audience, even if it takes you several baits to attract one section at a time. Links from these sources are important in their own way and in terms of bring readers and search engine rankings, these are a must.

2. Research and Observe Successes and Failures

Find out what works in your niche on social media networks. You can do this quite easily by searching through a particular network based on your niche keywords (or any specific topic that you want to cover).

Observer what the top blogs / sites in your niche talk about and link to.

Track trends – what’s hot right now, what’s not.

Track the timeless stuff – discussions and topics that never get old.

All this time, keep making notes of what you can write about using the information you are accumulating from all this research.

Build a profile of what topics are successful and what type of writing is most linked to. You’ll realise that most of the time, people will link to friends, although sometimes they will link to stuff that they’ve come across out of coincidence. More on the promotional angle later – for now observe what sells (and what doesn’t).

3. Write Your Resource Bait

Find a good ‘resource’ topic to write on in your niche – something basic and foundational. If it fits the profile of flagship content, even better. In fact, I would suggest that it would greatly help you if, before this step, you read the two articles I’ve linked to here on linkbaiting and flagship content. The ideas you will get just from reading these two articles will be enough to keep you busy writing linkbait for several weeks.

Do not limit yourself by excluding topics that have already been covered online. If there is a gap which you think can be improved, go forth and fill that gap. Provide your unique analysis, freshen things up by making them simpler and clearer (if the material is dense and detailed) and / or flesh topics out (if the material is sketchy on details).

If you’re stuck on how to structure your content (and structure is a key part of good linkbait), here’s how to do it.

4. Copy Successful Linkbait Formats

You’ve been researching articles that get links in your niche, right? By now you’ll see familiar patterns in how the content is structured. I’d urge you to go ahead and copy a popular format (whether you go with a list or a mini-report) and add your own variations if you feel it necessary (images are a must, by the way).

For resource-oriented linkbait, lists, reports, series of articles (mini-linkbaits) – all of these work really well.

And when you are copying success, remember that it all starts with a) the right topic and b) a killer headline.

5. Promote Through The Right Channels

Unless you have 50 friends who are going to digg all your articles (well, until the repeated patterns gets your site banned on suspicion of trying to game Digg), you need to work on the smaller social networks where you have a better chance of success. Propeller, Delicious and StumbleUpon are my bets to start with, plus you should look towards social networks and aggregators in your niche.

Leverage your existing social networks – encourage your friends to vote for you / link to you; if you have strong profiles on Orkut, Facebook or MySpace then leverage them to the hilt.

Are you a new blogger just starting out? In that case you won’t attract the attention of the big fish. Instead, the trick is to attract the attention of those second-tier bloggers who are read and linked to by the top bloggers in your niche (research!) and then pitch them your top posts.

And always – always – learn from linkbait promotion success stories.

More Niche Linkbaiting

This is just the tip of the iceberg – there’s a lot more that you can do in the sphere of linkbaiting, such as:

  • Use advanced topics to create linkbait
  • Target ‘tougher’ social media networks like Reddit, Fark and Digg
  • Linkbait the press (A link from the Fox News website is worth more in terms of traffic and link-building than a front-page story on Digg)
  • Experiment with different formats and types of content

But all of that comes later, after you have the knowledge, experience and confidence of creating successful niche linkbait.

Ahmed Bilal writes on Soccerlens and Performancing.