Linkbait Formulas: X Things You Can Learn About Y from Z

August 17, 2016

Following in the footsteps of Ken's very popular post on title tag formulas, I've noticed that search marketing and social media marketing gurus (AKA bloggers) love to write linkbait in the form of "X Things You Can Learn About Y from Z." You can do it too—plug some numbers and concepts into the formula and the post practically writes itself! For best results, follow this handy guide:

  • X should be an integer, preferably between 5 and 10. Save lists longer than 10 items for your Facebook meme.
  • Y should be a broad, Web 2.0-ish concept like "SEO," "PPC" or "social media." Don't veer too far off course from your job description; that's what Z is for.
  • Z should be a pop culture reference, the geekier the better. Old standbys include Star Wars, The Matrix, The Princess Bride, Monty Python, Trekkies, etc. Remember, 7 out of 10 people in the search marketing industry are geeks; pretty sure that was a question on yesterday's survey.

For example, your linkbait could be titled "9 Things You Can Learn About Twitter from True Blood" or "5 Things You Can Learn About Conversion Rate Optimization from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." The title is the most important thing; you can figure out the "things" later. 

Which brings me to my point: I like that in her linkbaiterrific 10e20 blog post "What You Can Learn About Social Media from MC Hammer," Rebecca Kelley deviates from the geek formula to reference a '90s hip-hop artist instead of a sci-fi/fantasy movie/series. I also like her choice of MC Hammer, whom we too find inspiring—believe it or not, Larry's recent MarketingProfs article ("Your Keywords: The PPC and SEO Gold Mine in Your Own Backyard") was partially inspired by this wildly effective ad:

Gold. Keywords. See the connection? So do we.

Anyway, takeaways from Rebecca (and MC) include:

  • Success comes from authenticity
  • It requires dedication
  • Messaging is permanent

Search Without Keywords? That's Like Hip-Hop Without Bling

Speaking of keywords (weren't we?) I was intrigued by a post on Search Engine Land suggesting that "soon" we'll have paid search without keywords. This is according to Nick Fox, Google AdWords' business product management director, who claims keywords for paid search may be going the way of the dodo.

Why no more keywords? Because, Fox says, search queries are getting longer, up to 25% of queries are totally new, never-been-seen-before queries, searchers are getting more sophisticated, etc. And all this makes it difficult for advertisers to predict what keywords their customers will be using.

Before you throw your keyword research out the door, note that Fox says this keyword-free lifestyle is still 5 to 10 years away. In search marketing time, that doesn't really sound very "soon" to me. In a few years we might all be using Bing! (Yowza!) In the meantime, it looks like keywords are still our bread and butter for PPC.

The way to get around these longer, more sophisticated queries, of course, is to do long-tail keyword research. Patrick Altoft at BlogStorm posted a tip this week for finding long-tail opportunities in the new AdWords interface. We also advocate looking at your referring search queries to uncover long-tail keywords for both SEO and PPC.

In other non-news...

Google increased the size of its search box and corresponding font this week. It kind of reminds me of the large-print Reader's Digests in the waiting room at the ophthamologist after you get your eyes dilated. I kind of hate it. Does anyone think this makes search "easier" or "more fun"? I don't really buy that it "symbolizes" their "focus on search" either ... it was always pretty much the only thing on the page.

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is WordStream's Director of Content and SEO. Likes include wine, karaoke, poker, ping-pong, perfume, and poetry.

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