Introducing, ladies, gentlemen and digg-citizens our next interview with Lyndon Antcliff. I’m sure Lyndon (aka Lyndoman on most social media sites) needs very little introduction but here’s the background anyway. I first stumbled upon (hahaha ha.. ha... ahem) Lyndon’s blog about a year ago when I was looking for some advice on how to excel at writing and submitting linkbait. Since then, I would say his blog is the only one in my Google Reader which has a CTR of 100%. Why? Because he writes killer headlines which you can’t help but click on. Originally I’d put a few examples here but they’re so appealing that I thought they were too distracting so I’ve put them further down the page!
As well as writing killer headlines though, I’ve learned a LOT from reading his blog and also watching how he uses the social media sites (yes Lyndon, I stalk you. Might as well get that out in the open!).
I found the interview very insightful and there’s some great responses in there so hope you enjoy it and if you’re in the market to hire a master linkbaiter then give Lyndon a call.
##On to the questions!
Firstly, can you introduce yourself both professionally and personally to our readers.
> [Lyndon]: Certainly, my name is Lyndon Antcliff and I am a professional linkbaiter. Sounds odd when written out doesn’t it, like professional Monopoly player. Probably because there are so many amateur linkbaiters around these days who produce excellent stuff- but I am getting ahead of myself. By professional I mean I earn my crust by writing compelling content for the World Wide Web which is then disseminated through social media.
> I am someone who accidentally tripped up the kerb, whilst crossing Oxford St and ended up in the strange world of getting-people-to-go-to-a-website-and-making-money-from-them, over ten years ago. It wasn’t the call of the geek or anything, more a need to cease the bohemian life I had created for myself and make some serious money. I’ve now carved out a snug little niche for myself as a social media consultant and linkbaiter.
Talk us through your entry into the world of search marketing. From what I’ve gathered you’ve worked in many different fields before settling on SEO/Social media - is that right? Name a few of the most interesting!
> [Lyndon]:Well, started out setting up and running a fantasy, celebrity, stock market game. It was fun, a wild ride and I learned a lot about communities and how users of a system can take advantages of its weaknesses. I had a couple of niche content sites associated with our stock market game site and they took off like a mad man in an avalance. Before I even knew what seo was I was getting 30k a day in uniques, mainly by taking advantage of the long tail and predictive seo.
> It was fun whilst it lasted, then over a year ago Google decided I had way too much fun and I now had to work for a living. The plug was pulled on my site and it was sent into the outer darkness. It wasn’t blackhat, but I was certainly pushing the envelope.
> I’m actually quite interested in black hat techniques, but I’m no programmer and do not have the frame of mind to make it really work.
> Whilst we are here, a word on seo ethics. I don’t apply ethics to seo, for me, if it works it works and I’m not going to let a search engine decide how I view actions morally. Too many seo’s allow themselves to be locked into an agenda set by multi-million pound corporations, but back to the interview.
And you’re a one man band at the moment is that right? Do you plan on keeping it that way or do you plan on expanding into a social media consulting firm and hiring staff?
> [Lyndon]: You know, I ask myself that question a lot. I like the idea of an office, with minions running around churning out linkbait on an industrial scale, but it’s really not who I am or where I want to go. I’m basically a writer, with a writers mentality. I love working on my own and crafting linkbait in a very up close and personal way, sure it’s not like writing a novel or winning the Booker prize, but it’s a lot better paid.
> Although I do outsource some aspects of the business I don’t think I am going to be interviewing staff anytime soon.
Within the SEO community you’re known and respected as a social media geek (in the nicest possible way ;-) ) how did you get that reputation and what does it involve?
> [Lyndon]: Am I? I’ve never heard that before, “social media geek”. I like it. Well, the first thing it involves is a lot of time, time spent reading everything there is on the subject. Which when I started was possible. I don’t think you can do it now as there are so many “social media” blogs out there you can physically never get through them all. And of course they all seem to be on the same level, maybe we can talk about this later.
> Reputation is an interesting thing. Because I do not what happens in other peoples heads, I can only hypothesise on the process which leads a person to respect another. I say this because although I am a confident and somewhat brash individual, yet I am surprised at the level of positive comments about my work. At first I thought people were talking about someone else or that they wanted to borrow money.
> I mean, I know I’m brilliant, but for other people to think that too, they’re crazy. lol
> To be honest I did set out to build a rep within the space. It involves looking at what people want and then giving it to them. It’s relatively easy when you have been in the trenches for many years to simply pop your head up and make a bit of a name for yourself. I definitely think you have to put in the hours though, there are no overnight successes in this business.
You’ve mentioned before how important you think the avatar is in social media and how it brands you online. If you were forced to change avatars, how much of a blow do you think that would be to your social media profiles?
> [Lyndon]: A change in anything like an avatar can be leveraged into links. In fact I have just had a thought, I’ve wanted to get rid of the red skinhead avatar for a while. As I am not a skinhead or red. It wouldn’t be a blow at all as I would make it into an event and make sure people knew who I morphed into. Actually on digg I am represented by Iggle Piggle.
> So I don’t think it would be a blow at all, it’s not what happens that’s important, it’s the perception of others that is the focus. In other words, it’s not what you say, but what people think you say. So any change in avatar would be inconsequential, it will be what people think about the change which is important and of course that can be influenced.
How much time do you spend on digg/SU/reddit each day? Are there any other social media sites you spend a lot of time on?
> [Lyndon]: Pretty much most of my waking hours, other than those hours where I am pinned down by my kids and forced to play “lets squash daddy”. It would be fine except they are both in their 20’s.
> Actually that’s not true they are 2 and 3 years old.
> But, I am constantly checking social media sites, even when writing linkbait, as it helps to keep me anchored. It’s important to remind myself of the audience I am writing for.
> I remember when I started down the social media route and I would spend so much time on them I would have dreams about digg, now that’s sad. But I spend more time writing now.
Do you use any tools to help you find and submit stories? (social media for FireFox for example)
> [Lyndon]: Yes I use that and a right click to digg the page I’m on, can’t remember what it’s called. My FireFox browser is jam packed with extensions, I use SEO for Firefox a lot too. I’m also in the process of putting together a bunch of tools for my clients to use.
How do you see the face of social media changing over the next 6 - 12 months? Everyone (myself included!) seems to be raving about SU these days, do you see them gaining more of a market share? Do you see the social media market diversifying or do you see only a few big players being left standing?
> [Lyndon]: It’s interesting, SU came up on my radar by sending traffic to one of my sites in 2005. SU is great because it’s hard to game and is a great community, unlike at digg which seems to be packed full of people too insane to be prescribed Prozac. But, the problem is at SU is a lot of short term marketers who care little for branding and the long term are throwing as much crap at it as possible and of course this creates a backlash and non spammy seo’s can get caught up in and at times it can be nasty.
> My advice when trying to utilise a social media site for financial reasons is stay under the radar and blend with the natives.
> It’s impossible for anyone to predict what the social media scene will be like in a years time, that’s what makes this sector interesting. It also means you have to keep on your toes to keep up with developments, I mean if you’re not plugged into what is happening at digg right now it could be very confusing.
> But back to SU, yes they are definitely doing things right over there and are growing. I don’t see fewer players, I see a continuing flux of players. Like Mixx is the new kid on the block, problem is, he’s the new kid and has no friends. Thing I hate about Mixx is you have to do stuff to make it work, at digg, they do all the work for you, now this may appeal to the tinkerers out there, but I don’t have time to tinker with organising my feeds or whatever they call it, I think they may take the Propeller spot, which is spamola city right now. Plus the fact that Propeller banned my site because....actually I don’t know why they have banned my site, digg has too.
> Amazing, banning a site that sells services to help people pay their way to the front page, who would have thought ;) Actually what makes me laugh are the sites that offer to get people to the front page of digg and then complain that they get buried. Well duh!
Being a high profile social media consultant you must get approached by many SEO firms and SEO bloggers wanting to book you for some linkbait. Do you accept these requests? Does that cause you any difficulties with conflicts of interest? Are there any markets you won’t work in?
> [Lyndon]: About 50% of my clients are seo’s and seo firms, it makes sense to outsource, I have seen some of the efforts by big shot seo companies and they are pathetic. An seo is naturally a linkbaiter like a tabby cat is a Tiger. They are extremely different mind sets, especially blackhat seo, which is why you get a lot of big time seo’s slagging off digg whilst those who know how to carefully milk the beast have our buckets overflowing with milk.
> I have had a few clients who are in the same sector, however, my work tends to be individually suited to the client. Each linkbait is a new creation, I do not use the same techniques over and over, rather I develop new ones, the format may be similar with some but the ideas they represent are unique.
> I wouldn’t work in porn or anything illegal or something like booze and tobacco. There are certain publishers I would not work for and...... actually, thinking about it there are quite a few clients I would not work for, but I am trying to keep this as short as possible,
Do you find some industries to be much tougher than others? Do you enjoy linkbaiting some sites more than others?
> [Lyndon]: Oh yes, it’s not that the subject is hard, it’s that the hard subjects tend to be boring and run by people who don’t understand that including “sex” for example, in the title will mean it will get noticed more. Not that any of my linkbait has ever had sex in the title come to think of it. But, there is a sensational nature which lends itself to linkbait which can scare off some of my more sedate clients.
> I relish linkbaiting the hard ones, it makes me think more, and I find that it’s the thinking of the idea which takes the most work. To be honest, it’s not really the industry as you can tickle any sector into a juicy idea.
One thing you’ve taught me is that headline writing is extremely important. Your posts always have incredible headlines I can’t help but click through on. Where did you learn to write headlines so well? And how would you recommend people learn to write headlines in today’s environment?
> [Lyndon]: Read.
> That’s the short answer, the long answer - First ask the question, “Am I really the person to write the headline”, I say this because not everyone has a natural talent for this and it’s much more efficient to outsource. There are plenty of books and websites that offer a good grounding in copy writing.
> I don’t really know where I learned, sure I read a bunch of copy writing book, but they can only teach you technique. I think it’s been drip fed me over the years. Actually, thinking about it now, I will tell you who taught me headline writing, Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Slaine, all characters from a comic called 2000AD. You look at a comic and you consider the amount of space each speech bubble has, each utterance is a headline. It has to convey the most meaning in the shortest possible time.
> I would like to give the intellectual answer and say Poetry taught me, but it’s probably comics. I’m a big fan of the screenplay writer William Goldman, huge fan. For years I toyed with the idea of getting into the movie buisness as a writer but it’s a shockingly bad industry for the artist and I ended up writing scripts which I only showed to friends. But, writing those screenplays taught me to compress meaning into a sentence using the fewest amount of words and to make it feel like honey.
> So I guess the answer to your question is spend your childhood reading comics, your teens writing poety (great for picking up girls) and your 20’s writing screenplays, then spent ten years in online marketing and after that should be easy.
> Either that or just pinch what works on digg ;)
Do you have any experience of writing headlines for offline media (or offline advertising). Can you share any tips about the differences between online and offline headline writing
> [Lyndon]: Nope, absolutely none. I did think about becoming a copywriter but the linkbait took off before I had chance to give it a shot. I would love to write one of those long, psychologically crafted sales letters you see around. Dying to write, “But wait, there’s more.”
With your headline writing skills, have you ever thought about branching out into PPC advert writing?
> [Lyndon]: Yes and no. I think PPC gives such quick feedback you don’t have to have great headline writing skills, you can pretty much follow a formula and test test test.
If you could have the chance to submit an event from the last century (like the moon landings) to digg, which would you choose and what would your headline be?
> [Lyndon]: This is a tricky question as we could discuss this all day. I think I would go for “Hitler Dead”, but there are so many. It also raises the question about what digg is, is it a place to get breaking news? How would it have handled 9/11 and so on.
You mentioned a little while ago you were writing an ebook on linkbaiting and social media. How is that coming along? When do you see that being released?
> [Lyndon]: The ebook idea is dead, I actually don’t like the ebook format as a way of teaching people social media marketing, the space moves so fast and people want such different things that an ebook would be of little use except as a primer and as there are so many blogs out there it’s not hard to get up to speed.
> Although, I’m glad you asked. I do feel a need to help people with their linkbait and social media marketing campaigns, so I am putting together a little something for my clients and a few other people. It’s more of a social media marketing mastermind group. which I will personally coach and provide advice, ideas and consult in a closed forum.
> In fact, I am pretty much going to give up offering to linkbait to clients and instead devoting most of my time to the mastermind group. It makes much more sense to do it this way than an ebook. You get to talk to the expert and ask questions.
> At present it’s invite only, and I will announce developments through my blog and email newsletter.
You also mentioned that it would be marketed in a truly innovative way which I am very much looking forward to! Can you tell us any more about this?
> [Lyndon]: See above
Aside from the blog, your ebook and client work - are there any other projects you’re working on? Do you have any personal sites you linkbait for (aside from your blog)?
> [Lyndon]: See above
Something we’ve been discussing in the office recently - when you launch a piece of linkbait how do you define a success and how do you report on that to clients? Do you simply report on number of links or do you factor in visits as well?
> [Lyndon]: Well a lot of people seem to think that success is only getting a front page digg, but that is only a part of the whole process. Ultimately you want to acquire those natural high pr links within the clients niche, social media sites like digg represent an efficient way to deliver potential linkerati to the clients site. I would like to see each of my clients get at least 40 natural, dofollow links from sites within their niche. But some clients simply want the traffic or the branding or even to attract new rss subscribers.
> At the end of the day the client is really the only one who can judge the success.
What’s been your greatest linkbaiting success story? Not necessarily in terms of results, but in terms of the piece you were most proud of?
> [Lyndon]: It’s an interesting, because I have sweated every linkbaiting job I have had. I’m notorious for late delivery as I like to get very into the job and end up throwing away a lot of ideas, even after working on them for a day or two. So I look at all of them with a sense of pride, but I did like the Google Maps Mash up I did of the most isolated popular islands, that was fun to research and was pleased with the results. Funny thing was, that was in the early days when I was selling at £250, now it’s £1,000 a pop.
Aside from social media and seo, what do you enjoy getting up to, what are your hobbies? You’ve mentioned in the past script writing, poetry and all manner of creative ideas (which you can only expect from a master linkbaiter!) - do you have any of these on the go at the moment?
> [Lyndon]: Between family time and the linkbaiting there is little fun time. My non linkbait related book on the go at the moment is Barbarians, by Terry Jones, very much interested in history. Although saying that, did you know that Archimedes invented the ray gun? Something I intend to use as linkbait someday, or if your readers want to use it go for it.
> Mostly these days it’s watching DVD’s with my significant other. West Wing, 24, Heroes, but my fav DVD at the moment is the complete Larry David collection, I love Curb Your Enthusiasm.
> Thanks for the interview, hopefully it entertained your readers and gave them something to think about. I know it took a while to secure the interview Tom, but I got there in the end. bye.
Thanks for doing the interview Lyndon - some great responses in there!
As promised at the start of the post, in case you need any more eivdence of the genius of this man here’s a few examples of his headlines which just FORCE you to click them. Go on, I DARE you not to click on them...