I’ve noticed something interesting on Twitter: the #followfriday craze has spawned loads of users saying “that’s great, but tell me WHY I should follow this person.” In the interest of cramming in those precious 140 characters, many people choose to just fill the space with people to follow, rather than explaining the reasoning behind saying that this person is just the bee’s knees.
As usual, social media is teaching us a valuable lesson: as we become more ingrained with time-consuming activities, we want more efficiency. We want a rationale. We want someone to tell us, without us having to ask, why we should participate in absolutely everything. Otherwise, we might simply be too busy to take notice.
Click and link relevance
Let’s face it. Many times, inbound links are pursued almost 100% for ranking increases, especially in very competitive niches. If that works, things are peachy keen I suppose, but what happens when it stops? You’re going to need to start viewing links as traffic builders, as brand builders, as something more than simply a few spots higher up in the SERPs, and to do this in such a chaotic age, you’re going to need to be able to tell people why they should click on those links.
If you’re depending upon great content in order to get people to link to you, you need to be able to phrase your message in a way that will ensure that those who do link to you will do so in a manner that gets someone’s attention. How do you do this?
Offer people something they want
I like iTunes downloads, and if I see anything offering some for free – I’m clicking, and I’m sending the link to everyone else I know. Nylon Magazine had 22 free indie downloads recently, and not only did I send the link to everyone, I also subscribed to the magazine. My fellow columnist Debra Mastaler had a great article about current topics that are on the minds of the American people. All it takes is a bit of research into what people want to see (and share) via links.
So how do you do that? Google Trends, Google Insights, Twitter trending topics, as well as news headlines and pop culture topics, to name a few.
This is a great tool that immediately shows you what today’s hot trends are and lets you get a snapshot of what’s going on in different regions, cities, and languages. You can narrow down the data to specific regions and timeframes if you like.
This is a fantastic tool to use for what’s hot in your niche, your area of the world, etc. You can select the region where you want to search, enter your keywords, select a time period, and get the information. You can also choose to search images, news, or products in addition to the web. You can see top searches and rising searches that are related to your keywords as well.
The Trending Topics are a good way to tell you what’s hot on Twitter but, unfortunately, it’s an easily manipulated bit of information so it may continue to lose its appeal for finding out what people are actually interested in currently.
This is pretty obvious, of course, but it bears repeating that you should view anything in any form of media as news. If you look at everything from magazine covers to commercials with an open mind, you can probably figure out what people are talking about.
If you can’t offer something someone wants, then by all means, be meaningful, clever, funny, and/or intriguing. Be the copywriting equivalent of Dan Rather. Interesting content will garner interesting anchor text for your inbound links, hopefully. If not, well, remember that a natural link profile does contain those rather boring “click here” and bland keyword anchors too.
Keep in mind that this mindset is really no different than anything related to web usability in general. Give people what they want and do it in a form that makes sense and remember that people do get to your site through channels other than the SERPs.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.