Everything you need to know about SEO, delivered every Thursday.
How To Get Links By Writing About Other People
People usually love talking about themselves, and most people are naturally interested in the intricacies of others, whether it’s business or personal. When you do an interview or put together a crowdsourced piece (and yes, I know many of you hate that term!) you’re linking to the people involved.
At first, this may seem counter-intuitive to earning links for yourself — however, linking out to influential people while pumping out great content can be one of the best link building tactics out there, and here’s why:
- Some people find it easier to promote themselves indirectly. By promoting what you write about them, they’re able to avoid feeling embarrassed or conceited about being in the spotlight. They’re essentially promoting you, the writer, which is much easier. (I know that many of you have no problems with direct self-promotion, and for that I sincerely am in awe.) Social pushes equal increased visibility, which always ups the chances for links as long as the content is good.
- Unique content gets noticed in a sea of similar articles. Depending upon your industry, the existing content may already be little more than repeated and spun ideas. I’m not going to read one more post about how to tell if your website was hit by Panda or Penguin last year, but I will read almost every single interview post that crosses my social stream. I’m fascinated by the people in my industry, and I love reading what they have to say when it’s not necessarily written for a specific audience or to sell their services. Again: unique and interesting content equals increased visibility, which increases your chances of garnering links.
- Interviewing someone forges a relationship that can help you down the road. Whether it’s through a link, a business referral, help on something you are struggling with, an invitation to speak at a conference, the opportunity for a guest post, etc., you’ll be building a valuable connection with someone within your industry when you create content around them based on an interview. Remember all the talk about how the links you really have to work for are the best links? Links that happen well after an interaction can also be great links.
How To Pitch An Interview
Pitch an interview just like you’d pitch guest blogging, broken link building, or anything else that isn’t going to happen without some work and a personal touch. If you’re going to ask to interview someone, make sure you have done enough digging to know specific details about the person.
You should obtain enough information to be able to say something like, “I’d love to ask you some questions about how you started a tech company after graduating with a degree in Comparative Religion! I think there are many people out there struggling with the question of whether they should keep forging ahead with what they went to college for or just chuck it and do something completely unexpected.”
That’s a heck of a lot better than saying, “I think my readers would like to know more about you.” Some people get interviewed constantly as they are big influencers in their field, so if you want to land the interview, you’re going to have to have a unique perspective that interests your subject. Otherwise, expect to be turned down or ignored.
In general, I’d say you should follow these steps when pursuing an interview candidate:
- Select someone interesting, and (as mentioned above) do some digging in order to write a personalized email pitch for the interview.
- Let the person know where the interview will be published.
- Give a deadline for when you’d like to get the questions completed. Make sure it’s very reasonable.
- Make it clear that you respect how busy your interviewee is. You can let the person know that it’s fine if he doesn’t have time right now, but that you’d be happy to hear from if him ever has time in the future and would like to talk again.
- Don’t be a pest about it. If the person says she’s too busy, respect that and thank her for her time.
How To Make Your Interviews Stand Out
The key here is to formulate good questions that haven’t been asked a billion times before. A friend of mine recently said that he loved a specific interview someone did with me because it had more to do with me as a person than with what I do for a living. Most people get tired of talking solely about work. If you can figure out a good angle, your content will be more interesting and thus more shareable. Here are my tips:
- Prepare some initial questions based on your research of that person’s history.
- Search for “interview [person’s name]” and see what’s already been covered — that way, you can avoid asking the same thing the last 10 interviewers have asked.
- Ask a question or two about popular culture. In all the interviews I’ve conducted, I’ve only had one person say she didn’t listen to music.
- Include something funny if it fits. Think about why people watch late-night talk shows: they’re funny.
- Include photos of the subject.
How To Pitch A Crowdsourced Piece
Pitching a group project — as opposed to a one-on-one interview — is sometimes easier, as it requires less of a time commitment from each of your respondents. The basic guidelines are the same as those for pitching an individual interview, with one added tip: make sure each person you’re planning to contact is an appropriate fit for the piece.
For example, I was once asked to participate in a group piece about Google Adwords — and, while I do run some campaigns, it’s really only about 5% of what I do. The questions, however, were geared towards people who live and breathe paid ads, which was not me.
To help get the right people on board, consider including a list of the people who’ve agreed to participate in the piece so far — that can be a big selling point if the person you’re contacting is unfamiliar with you.
How To Make Your Crowdsourced Pieces Stand Out
Again, be original! If there are already 10 pieces out there in which a group of industry leaders have commented on a particular news story, don’t make it your mission to write the 11th.
If I’ve just answered questions about the latest Google update and someone contacts me asking to contribute to a piece about the same topic, I’ll probably opt out because I won’t have anything new to say. However, if someone asks for my opinion on what new functionality we’ll start seeing in the major link tools, I’ll gladly participate.
Last, But Not Least — Promotion
You’ll want to consider ways to promote your interview, both before and after you conduct it. Here are just a few of my recommendations for increasing your piece’s overall visibility:
- Where appropriate, ask the interviewee questions about tools and services they like, and include that information in the interview. Those companies will generally promote what promotes them. If you have the time once the piece is published, send them a quick email or social shout-out to point them to it.
- Once your piece is published and you’ve shared it across your social networks, be sure to contact the person/people you interviewed to let them know. Send them a link to the piece, and thank them for their time! With any luck, they’ll link to the interview in their own social channels
- Ask for opinions and feedback on social media. If you target someone and ask if they have anything add to your post, it’s possible they’ll respond thus expose their followers to your work. If you just openly ask for advice, you may not get it — but many people will respond when they’re addressed personally.
What are your tips for using interviews as linkbait?
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.