Sunday, July 6, 2008

10 Tips for Writing Bookmarkable Content

There is a certain level of mystery to why one blog post is heavily bookmarked and another isn’t, but there are also some variables we can control. You can shape your content in such a way that it is more likely to get bookmarked, and in this post, I want to show you how.

Why should we write bookmarkable content?

There are several benefits to writing bookmarkable content. It has the potential to become popular on social bookmarking services like, and it brings in repeat traffic from readers who’ve bookmarked it for future use. Bookmarkable content is also a form of vital content: content readers can’t do without. This kind of content has been the foundation of some of the world’s best blogs.

Elements of bookmarkable content

It’s not necessary that you try to include all these elements at once, but each on their own (or in a sensible combination) will increase the likeliness of your content being bookmarked.

  1. Length. One common reason why readers bookmark is that they want to read the content from start to finish but don’t have the time at the moment. Writing a good quality article which is longer than your average blog post is a good way to get bookmarked.

  2. Introduce a new idea. Seth Godin’s blog posts seem almost contradictory to the above point, in that they are frequently bookmarked but tend to be quite short. What makes them bookmarkable is that they contain thought-provoking ideas readers don’t want to risk forgetting. You can encourage bookmarks by innovating.

  3. Write a useful tutorial, how to, or guide. Tutorials tend to contain too many steps to memorize in one sitting. If a reader thinks what you are teaching is worthwhile, they’ll bookmark it. The most successful tutorials and guides are written about something a lot of readers want to do but haven’t been shown how elsewhere. Uniqueness and demand are the key factors in deciding whether a tutorial is bookmarkable.

  4. Create a one-stop reference. This requires more hard-work than creativity, and as such anyone can do it. Pick a topic and assemble all the useful information and resources you can find on that topic in one place. Readers are likely to bookmark this because you’ve done all the hard-work for them.

  5. Create a recommended list. If you’ve developed a sense of trust with your readers then they’re likely to respect your opinion. Create a list of your favorite blogs, or favorite websites, or favorite posts, or favorite albums, etc. Readers will appreciate the recommendation from someone they trust. The longer the list, the more likely it is to be bookmarked and returned to later.

  6. Create a cheat sheet for your topic. A cheat sheet is any single-page reference guide for a topic. A web-designer’s cheat sheet might contain definitions of every CSS term, a beginner chess player’s cheat sheet might outline how the pieces are set-up on the board, and how they move, a traveler going to Japan might create a cheat sheet with key Japanese phrases, tourist attractions, notes on local customs, and so on.

    Cheat sheets encourage bookmarking because they’re a quick reference for information that can’t easily be remembered. I’ve written in detail on creating cheat sheets here.

  7. Make a convincing argument on a controversial topic. Readers who share your opinion will often bookmark the post if they feel you’ve stated their case more eloquently than they themselves could. When the argument comes up elsewhere, that reader is likely to point others to your article as a means of stating their case. There is even a chance that your post could go viral — though you have to be prepared for a little controversy in the comments section!

  8. Compile great videos on a topic. Search for the best ten (or whatever number) videos on your topic and compile them in a post. If each video is 5 minutes long then it might take half-an-hour to watch them all. Readers will be more likely to bookmark the post and watch a new video when they have the time.

  9. Remedy a problem. If the remedy is not a simple process readers are likely to bookmark it so they can implement the points over time. Even readers who are not yet suffering the problem might bookmark the post just in case they suffer it in future. I myself have bookmarked a post which lists dozens of content ideas — even though I’m nowhere near running out of ideas yet.

  10. Compile a directory of links. These links are usually grouped under one broad topic and divided into sub-headings. There might be a sentence or two of evaluative or descriptive text next to the link. The more links, the more bookmarkable the content.
Over to you

  • Do you have any other ideas for bookmarkable content?
  • Have you written any content that has been frequently bookmarked? Why do you think it was bookmarkable?
  • What kind of content do you yourself tend to bookmark?
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