Since linkbait is recommended by search engineers as a good strategy to market a site, it is probably pretty safe, right? Not always true.
The link bait advice is a bit disingenuous. Not only is linkbait expensive and unpredictable, and sometimes undermines the brand value of the site publishing it, but there are also times when sites get penalized for being too successful with it. Brian Turner mentioned that viral links could kill your Google presence, and I though it makes sense to share a couple specific examples of how linkbait can leave you looking (or at least feeling) like a sucker who took the bait. ;)
Successful Link Bait Marketing, But Too Successful
Months ago one of my friends created and marketed a piece of content that got thousands of mentions. It made the Digg homepage, was referenced on a site as big as Wired, and made Life Hacker. This sounds like a linkbait gone perfect, right? Nope.
It got too much exposure relative to the link growth rate and link profile of the 5 year old site. The blog portion of the site associated with said article is no longer indexed in Google. For a while Google allowed that one linkbait page to get indexed and show PageRank, but it never ranked for its own title and it doesn't pass PageRank through to the rest of the site.
Before launching said linkbait, this blog section of the site actually ranked for a few keywords that it no longer ranks for. Now in Google it is as though the blog does not exist. Virtually the equivalent of when Google accidentally nuked their own AdSense blog.
It doesn't matter if this was done algorithmically or by hand. What matters is that if your viral link marketing is too good you are going to get screwed unless you have a way to keep attention and have enough leverage to make Google decide it would be best to relist your site.
Successful Link Bait Marketing, But Now You Are a Reciprocal Link Spammer
Many months ago another friend created and marketed a piece of linkbait. It was successful beyond her wildest dreams. Because of how it was structured, that linkbait linked at many of the sites linking back and the idea did not spread beyond the sites linked to on the page. Thousands of inbound links, but to a search relevancy algorithm it probably looks like a spammy reciprocal link farm. That linkbait was even offset by getting mainstream media exposure by targeting the media with AdWords ads, but it was not enough, as the site does not rank anywhere near as well as it should.
Successful Link Bait Marketing, But We Don't Like Seeing YOUR Site Ranking That Well
Another friend spend ~ $100,000 on linkbait creation and marketing. His site got exceptionally successful, aggressively grew for about a year, he hired a bunch of employees, then a leading Google engineer hand edited the site out of the search results.
Linkbait can do a great job of helping you build high authority citations, but it still needs to be offset with directory links, community links, media links, and any other type of quality link you can get.
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