How to Link Bait Me

So, I got a head’s up from the proprietor of SEO Black Hat today, letting me know about a “story post” that had been written in accordance with my advice. Of course I dutifully headed on over.

The story is about Breana, an enterprising blogger on her way up. She seemed to be heading for web success, but she made one crucial mistake that proved fatal to her dreams.

You see, Breana used the most popular blogging software, WordPress. Since she had passed SEO 101, she had enabled the “Search Engine Friendly URLs” feature that rewrites the URLs to include the title of the post. Every week she did a roundup of posts she liked and titled it:

“This Week’s Best Posts.”

She linked to all the top posts and WordPress pinged the other posts for a trackback.

Unfortunately for her, WordPress rewrote her URLs as:

http://breanacatblog.com/this-week%e2%80%99s-top-posts/

You see, %e2%80%99 is how wordpress encodes the apostrophe. The bigger problem than that being an ugly URL is that other WordPress blogs strip out some special characters (like %) on trackback.

The other very powerful and influential bloggers who received that trackback saw the link as:

http://breanacatblog.com/thie-weeke28099s-best-links/

When they clicked the link to see who was linking to them, all they got was a 404 Error Page.

Man! Were these bloggers pissed …

To make a long story short, Breana crashes and burns as a blogger, and ends up a homeless crackhead hooker. It’s all very sad.

Of course, “Breana” is a very thinly disguised reference to me.

Check out the URL of my last post. Doh!

I’ve had bloggers try to link bait me in the past by being contentious or even rude.

That’s simply not going to work with me.

But if you make me laugh…

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What’s Your Story?

image of woman checking her watch

In my last post, I used a story to illustrate that storytelling (which is the most powerful copywriting technique) is also perfectly suited for highly effective blogging.

The story wasn’t straightforward. It instead provided clues to the answer in the links, the ending, and by using the technique itself to provide the clues.

Some people loved it.

Some people didn’t get it.

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The Most Powerful Blogging Technique There Is

Want to become a more effective, engaging blogger?

Of course.

But we also want to come across in an authentic, conversational way, and many may be scratching their heads wondering how a copywriting skill can possibly have anything to do with that. Is copywriting really applicable to blogging at all?

We’ve seen that copywriting skills are essential to creating compelling headlines, so there’s certainly an application when it comes to post titles.

And we know that good copywriting is crucial when we take people “off-blog” to a report, whitepaper, email mini-course, or other tutorial that sells through educational persuasion rather than hype.

But what about just day-to-day blogging?

Let me tell you a quick story that just might demonstrate that the most powerful copywriting technique is also the most engaging blogging technique.

How Shane Discovered the Truth About Great Marketing

Shane is like a lot of people these days — sick of the corporate world, and looking to start up a micro-business that is not only financially rewarding, but also allows him to actually watch his kids grow up. He’s got a great idea for a software service, and is trying to figure out a smart online marketing plan to reach his target audience.

He’s been paying a lot of attention to the latest trends, and he definitely knows he needs to start blogging. Shane has also been hearing a lot about a new strategy that people like Seth Godin are trying to teach to big companies, many of which are floundering in a new environment where traditional mass media is being turned upside down.

Shane is intrigued. While he’s no big-time company, this particular method seems like something he could use as well. But he wants to be sure, so he digs a bit deeper.

Surprisingly, Shane discovers that this marketing method may not be so new after all. By reading up a bit on copywriting, he learns that guys like David Garfinkel, Joe Vitale, John Carlton, and Gary Halbert have used this technique successfully for years. They even credit an earlier copywriter named Eugene Schwartz with teaching them the strategy at a deep level.

Going even further back, Shane discovers John Caples, a copywriter who used the technique to write one of the most famous advertisements in history back in the 1920s. Shane figures that Caples likely inspired Martin Conroy to make billions for the Wall Street Journal using the very same technique.

Picking up on clues left by the copywriters, Shane then ventures into the world of Joseph Campbell, explores the writings of psychoanalyst Carl Jung, and finally ends up waist deep in the complete works of Aristotle. Who knew these people had anything to do with marketing?

Shane now definitely knows that there is nothing new about the latest marketing craze, but it does seem to be the most compelling way to get a message across to the people who want and need to hear it. Could he really have found the answer he so desperately needs to bring success to his new business?

That evening, Shane walks into his young daughter’s room to tuck her in. He notices that she’s pouting a bit, and she finally shares that she is upset because Daddy has been reading so much lately and hasn’t spent enough time with her.

Shane feels terrible.

“What if Daddy tells you the best bedtime story ever to make up for it,” Shane offers, and holds his breath hoping she’ll give him a shot.

Seeing the way her eyes light up, he knows he has his answer — in more ways than one.

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Why “Content” Has Become a Dirty Word

The longer I publish online, the more I dislike the word “content.”

While marginal material has always been published, the web has really worked to change the definition of “content” from the subject matter of a written work (or the meaning or significance of that work) into something that simply fills empty space in a receptacle.

You know, like that empty space between ads on a web page.

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Link Karma 2: Link Harder

Time for more quality links in the name of achieving good Link Karma, and a fun new game you can play from the comfort of your own home (details at the end of the post).

Here we go:

AwesomeMillion.com
Jim Kukral and Dave Potokar have launched the newest “million” viral project, this one selling certificates claiming one of only a million Internet opportunities to be “really awesome” for a buck. It’s all done in a very fun, tongue and cheek manner that might just help it catch on, and the smart kids know to grab an upgraded page that allows for an outgoing link of your choice. Expect Andy Hagans to corner this market by next week.

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Still Not Convinced that Headlines Make All the Difference?

You’ve got to see this then — wisdom from the mouths of geeks about the power of writing great headlines.

Apparently some Digger submitted a story about the all too important topic of hot billionaire heiresses (you know, like that Paris Hilton scamp you may have heard of). His submission was essentially ignored, while another Digger submitted the exact same story, wrote a better headline, and scored over 300 1072 Diggs as of the time of this posting.

The original submitter was not pleased, and yet he received zero sympathy.

From the comments:

When will people learn to stop whining about the fact that THEIR submission didn’t get dugg to the front page, but the one with the snappier, more descriptive, more appealing, and more funny headline and description DID.

Life’s not fair. Deal with it.

I rest my case.

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Does the SEO Industry
Have a Branding Problem?

It seems that just when search engine optimization (SEO) is finally gaining mainstream mindshare, the game has changed in such a way that might make the industry designation a misnomer.

There’s no doubt that optimization for better search engine rankings will always be a huge part of the online marketing equation. However, it may be that the top SEO players are finding that pigeonholing themselves with that narrow acronym is not in their best interest.

I started thinking about this earlier today after reading a post over at Lee Odden’s excellent Online Marketing Blog. Here’s the money quote:

I’m banking on the notion that the future of successful optimization is focused on the creative, not the technical aspects [of] search marketing. SEO in the early days had more to do with code manipulation than content. Today we have offline to online integration, social search, viral search marketing (link baiting), tagging, new media public relations and so forth.

While that’s worth reading twice in itself, what really caught my eye was Lee’s attempt to re-brand “link baiting” as “viral search marketing.” Let’s face it — I’m sure he’d rather use his term in a professional setting.

Readers of my free report on viral marketing techniques for bloggers know that I find the term “linkbaiting” a bit inelegant. What’s worse, many long-term bloggers equate it with controversial and aggressive tactics, rather than simply a sobriquet for content that tends to attract links.

The thing about the term “viral search marketing” is that it also is way too limited in scope to actually replace the true value of link bait, a/k/a extremely compelling content. Why? Because extremely compelling content scores non-search traffic well before it (or the main domain) ranks high in the search engines due to the resulting links.

So isn’t “linkbaiting” really just viral marketing — period? The links, Diggs and social bookmarks that result from carefully-crafted, compelling content (which in turn lead to even more links, Diggs and bookmarks) can drive huge traffic, only to later result in longer-term traffic from high placement in the search engine results. After all, your rank in those results is yet again just another highly relevant link, right?

As Lee and the rest of the best and brightest in search engine marketing add an adapted form of traditional copywriting to their formidable skill set, they find themselves ultimately in the general business of traffic. The main skill set necessary to achieve high search engine rankings (attracting high-quality links) is the skill set that also results in valuable referral traffic from a multitude of other sources.

And why stop with traffic?

If you’re going to take the time as an SEO to learn copywriting (or incur the expense of hiring staff copywriters), why not also help clients convert that traffic, whether that be for direct sales, lead generation, or advertising-supported subscriptions? That’s what direct-response copywriting has traditionally been all about, and there seems to be a unique opportunity to create a one-stop-shop solution delivering work product that not only drives traffic, but also translates that traffic directly into revenue.

Compare that with your typical old school advertising agency that still hangs its hat on the 30-second television commercial and pricey print ads. I know which model I’d bet on.

The SEO industry may have a temporary branding problem. But the solution to that problem may well result in the powerhouse advertising agencies of the future.

The really good news is, smart small business bloggers can learn to do it all for themselves.

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The True Power of the Blog

If you’ve been reading Copyblogger for awhile, you know that I’m truly amazed at the power of blogs to gain exposure for a small business. While I’ve been producing this type of content online for over 8 years, the ability of something cool or important to spread via the interlinked conversation that social media allows for is quite a remarkable twist on Internet publishing and marketing.

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For Whom the Blog Tips (It Tips For Thee)

Well, it’s the first of the month, and I promised Easton Ellsworth that I would do some blog tipping, and I’ve gotta stick to my word. And since we’re only 11 days late for Papa’s birthday anniversary (and plus the fact that I’ve written so many link baiting headlines in the last two weeks I feel in need of a shower), I’ve dedicated this headline and blog tipping post to literary giant Ernest Hemingway (in case you didn’t notice).

Let’s get started, shall we?

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10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work

Magnetic Headline Formulas

So, you’re seeing too many of those “how to” and list headlines, and want to try a few different angles?

Let’s move beyond those common headline formulas you see over and over, and add some new blood to your attention-grabbing arsenal.

1. Who Else Wants [blank]?

Starting a headline with “Who Else Wants…” is a classic social proof strategy that implies an already existing consensus desire. While overused in the Internet marketing arena, it still works like gangbusters for other subject matter.

  • Who Else Wants a Great WordPress Theme?
  • Who Else Wants a Higher Paying Job?
  • Who Else Wants More Fun and Less Stress When on Vacation?

2. The Secret of [blank]

This one is used quite a bit, but that’s because it works. Share insider knowledge and translate it into a benefit for the reader.

  • The Secret of Successful Podcasting
  • The Secret of Protecting Your Assets in Litigation
  • The Secret of Getting Your Home Loan Approved

3. Here is a Method That is Helping [blank] to [blank]

Simply identify your target audience and the benefit you can provide them, and fill in the blanks.

  • Here is a Method That is Helping Homeowners Save Hundreds on Insurance
  • Here is a Method That is Helping Children Learn to Read Sooner
  • Here is a Method That is Helping Bloggers Write Better Post Titles

4. Little Known Ways to [blank]

A more intriguing (and less common) way of accomplishing the same thing as “The Secret of…” headline.

  • Little Known Ways to Save on Your Heating Bill
  • Little Known Ways to Hack Google’s Gmail
  • Little Known Ways to Lose Weight Quickly and Safely

5. Get Rid of [problem] Once and For All

A classic formula that identifies either a painful problem or an unfulfilled desire that the reader wants to remedy.

  • Get Rid of Your Unproductive Work Habits Once and For All
  • Get Rid of That Carpet Stain Once and For All
  • Get Rid of That Lame Mullet Hairdo Once and For All

6. Here’s a Quick Way to [solve a problem]

People love quick and easy when it comes to solving a nagging problem.

  • Here’s a Quick Way to Get Over a Cold
  • Here’s a Quick Way to Potty Train Junior
  • Here’s a Quick Way to Backup Your Hard Drive

7. Now You Can Have [something desirable] [great circumstance]

The is the classic “have your cake and eat it too” headline — and who doesn’t like that?

  • Now You Can Quit Your Job and Make Even More Money
  • Now You Can Meet Sexy Singles Online Without Spending a Dime
  • Now You Can Own a Cool Mac and Still Run Windows

8. [Do something] like [world-class example]

Gatorade milked this one fully with the “Be Like Mike” campaign featuring Michael Jordan in the early 1990s.

  • Speak Spanish Like a Diplomat
  • Party Like Paris Hilton
  • Blog Like an A-Lister

9. Have a [or] Build a [blank] You Can Be Proud Of

Appeal to vanity, dissatisfaction, or shame. Enough said.

  • Build a Body You Can Be Proud Of
  • Have a Smile You Can Be Proud Of
  • Build a Blog Network You Can Be Proud Of

10. What Everybody Ought to Know About [blank]

Big curiosity draw with this type of headline, and it acts almost as a challenge to the reader to go ahead and see if they are missing something.

  • What Everybody Ought to Know About ASP
  • What Everybody Ought to Know About Adjustable Rate Mortgages
  • What Everybody Ought to Know About Writing Great Headlines

Find these headline templates useful? Pick up our comprehensive ebook on Magnetic Headlines as well as a full content marketing library … for free. You can click here to learn how.

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on Twitter.