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:

    1. 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.


    2. 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.
    3. 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:

      1. Select someone interesting, and (as mentioned above) do some digging in order to write a personalized email pitch for the interview.
      2. Let the person know where the interview will be published.
      3. Give a deadline for when you’d like to get the questions completed. Make sure it’s very reasonable.
      4. 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.
      5. 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:

      1. Prepare some initial questions based on your research of that person’s history.
      2. 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.
      3. 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.
      4. Include something funny if it fits. Think about why people watch late-night talk shows: they’re funny.


      5. 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:

      1. 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.


      2. 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
      3. 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?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | How To | How To: Links | Link Building | Link Building: General | Link Building: Linkbait | Link Week Column


About The Author: owns the link development firm Link Fish Media and is one of the founding members of the SEO Chicks blog.

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  • Veer Ayyar

    If you can’t get an interview, write about them anyway:

    But do your RESEARCH.

  • Alan Grainger

    While I agree that interviewing influencers in your industry has many benefits for marketing, I’m not sure that the question examples shown here translate across all industries.

    I’ve read many interviews with SEO influencers that go down the “what’s your favourite drink?” and popular culture route and I have to say that it annoys more than entertains as a reader.

    I would say to keep your target audience in mind at all times and be their representative as an interviewer. If they were in your place, what would they want to know? What information can you get that covers all bases of being entertaining yet insightful?

    Weak questions that go straight for the whimsical approach will be the death of any interview. Put on a journalist’s hat and think what questions will add value, don’t just go for flluff for the sake of it.

  • JulieJoyce

    I definitely don’t think those questions translate across all industries, and I don’t think you should go straight for the whimsical approach with weak questions either of course. I just think you need to find a way to stand out, in a way that makes sense for your audience and won’t annoy or bore everyone.

  • Clare Evans

    Coming from a journalistic background, interviewing authorities in your industry is a great example of ‘link bait’ and way to generate backlinks – but it needs to be done in the right way.

    After all, the interviewee will have something they want to promote so you should give them full rein to do so. Be sure to ask insightful and interesting questions; like you say – do your prior research so you’re not asking the same questions as everyone else.

    I think anyone you interview has to be relevant to your blog, and you to them. That way, you’re much more likely to generate a great response.

  • Tyronne Ratcliff

    Great post Julie, the best way to snag an interview with someone is to let them know what’s in it for them,a lot of bloggers will ask for favors in a self serving way,not a great way to get someone to do something for you.

  • Mousumi Saha Kumar

    Wonderful post Julie :-)
    Well, my blog niche allows me to feature entrepreneurs and personalities from various fields and walks of life. Quite often, they mention my blog on their news and press section and Twitter. I feel this is the best way of getting back link :-)

  • Pavel Israelsky

    In theory sounds like a great tactic, have you tried it? Can you share some case studies?
    Great writing Julie, thanks!

  • JulieJoyce

    Hi Pavel!! Here’s one of my favorite examples: has 188 referring domains linking to it according to Majestic. It currently has close to 800 tweets. He did a very recent followup which already has links from 28 referring domains. He asked people to contribute to something and they linked and socialized it.

  • Hannah Ingham

    I wish I had read this a few weeks ago. I have just inadvertently just done this, I had been reading about company culture and I tweeted for recommendations of companies with a strong cultures. I was put in touch with Mackenzie
    Fogelson who gave me a great quote, and I then ended up reaching out to other businesses that I had noticed or heard along the internet grapevine worked hard on their company culture and created a blog. I have had some really interesting quotes, learnt a lot, and its been amazing to see how much work people will put into their employees and how important it is for a team to be valued by their employer.

  • Louisa YS Chan

    I like the bit about including tools and services used. Great idea to try out and thanks for sharing.

    Another point to note is to choose people who are interesting and relevant to your list to interview. This will ensure that the post or podcast be consumed and shared for more coverate.

  • Neil Pursey

    We’ve seen it work well within the retail fashion industry. A few of our clients interview celebrities. These celebrities then will retweet/like the post as well as mention it in their own blog (providing the link back).

    The great concept behind celebrities is that generally a lot of people search for their name so it drives a lot of organic traffic back to our client’s website.

  • JulieJoyce

    thanks for that Neil…always good to get an example outside the SEO industry.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    I do expert interviews on my blog and it’s a great addition to my content marketing efforts. Readers still love long form content when it provides real value and expert advice and insights is definitely valuable. It’s always nice to get another voice and point of view to share.

  • sharithurow

    Hi Julie-

    Great article! I like Veer’s tip on writing about someone anyway (if what you wrote is good, factual, and reasonable, you might get links and/or social mentions out of it).

    And I LOVE James’ “ego bait” terminology. I am SO going to borrow that phrase, with proper attribution (of course) in future articles, lectures, presentations, and the like. Thanks James.

    I can tell you something about being interviewed. I don’t link or “social” every interview. Some reasons?

    (1) Interviewer didn’t do a good job editing. That happens a lot when someone records an interview. Reading and listening? Two different activities, most of the time.

    (2) Editing problem #2: If I get interview questions via some form of text document, you can bet that I have optimized my own writing. Granted, not everyone is an SEO, but I am. So when an interviewer removes optimized statements and kills findability and usability? Well, that makes it less likely for me to link to it.

    (3) Taking statements out of context. I can’t emphasize this one enough times, because I’ve lost count at how much my own statements are taken out of context, on purpose, for link bait.

    Instead of linking to the link-bait article, I’ll write my own POV (point of view) in the proper context and promote it elsewhere.

    I think interviewing influencers, overall, is a great link-building strategy as well as a genuinely user-friendly one. I would rather see interviewers, journalists, and reporters use common courtesy more and link-bait tactics less. Personally, I found my POV and corresponding actions work just fine.

    And my haters? Link away. They end up making themselves look like a**es, not me.

    My 2 cents (I really, really like that “ego bait” phrase…still have a grin on my face).


  • JulieJoyce

    This is the best part of your comment to me Shari…” use common courtesy more and link-bait tactics less.” That’s a fantastic way to work. Thank you!

  • JulieJoyce

    thank you sir!

  • Brittany Berger

    I like interviews that are a mix of question types. I see a lot of interviews that start off with questions in keeping with blog/industry topics, and then end with one questions out of left field. I think that’s a great way to end an interview.

  • JulieJoyce

    interesting is the key in many ways…I’ve loved almost everyone that I’ve ever interviewed but I’ve read some interviews where the person asked great questions and got nothing other than basic replies.

  • Brittany Berger

    I think interviews can be great link bait. I’ve found that a lot of companies and individuals have “press” or “in the news” pages where they will link to the interview from our company’s blog.

  • JulieJoyce

    Thanks James! Glad you liked it.

  • JulieJoyce

    Mackenzie writes some good stuff. I like your point about learning from what others say, too, so thanks for that comment. That’s another really good benefit to doing these types of articles.

  • JulieJoyce

    Excellent point.

  • Alessia

    If your sleep gets interrupted by a sudden thought about something you want to add to this post I’ll be glad to interview you or use it in a crowdsourced piece (so you won’t repeat yourself) haha

    No, actually we can do it as a serious project, I’m just laughing at how it sounds as a reply to one of your points. I was really considering interviews instead of guest posts for my company’s blog and it’s great to see someone I can look up to actually promote something I thought of too, it validates my intuition :)

  • Market With Mario

    This is simple and genius at the same time. People LOVE to share articles that are about them and you look like the hero for writing it. Great piece!

  • MOOC News & Reviews

    I’m going to use the crowdsourced piece idea.

    Interviewing I’m more experienced at already. Here’s an additional tip for the work process. A simple digital recorder and microphone gets you a decent recording of a phone interview. Then $20 on elance gets you a decent transcript of that audio. (Which would take me about 6 hours of work for every 1 hour of tape.) A couple of editing a 1/2 hour interview transcript yields about 3-4,000 words, which I usually break into two posts, teased out over social media as a two-parter. (If I was smart I would probably break it into even smaller chunks, which gives you more cracks at H1 and URL SEO.)

    Then, you’re getting the backlinks like you say, and the big quantity of material helps with long-tail search.


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