The ROI on Link Bait

Sep 20th

A month ago, Aaron and I published 101 Ways to Build Link Popularity in 2006. Partly we wrote it for fun (“going meta” – link baiting a link building piece!), but partly we wrote it for business reasons: to gain new customers, links, and branding. In light of that, I thought I’d write a quick follow-up as to the value and ROI on that piece. I believe it’s a pretty typical example of what well-executed (and well-packaged) link bait can do for a site, in terms of marketing and SEO.

What was the link bait? How much did it cost?

The link bait was a very long list of link building tips – a typical (somewhat cheesy) 101’er. (Hey, 101’ers work, sometimes cheesy is good!)

The cost in this case wasn’t money – it was time. It took Aaron and I about 10-15 hours total to research, write, edit and promote the piece. Of course, as any SEO professional knows, time is money. Assuming our time is valued at $500 USD/hour (what Aaron charges for consulting), we can estimate the cost of the link bait at $5,000 USD.

What value did the link bait deliver?

1. Backlinks to the article

Technorati shows: 262 links

MSN shows: 3,458 links

Yahoo! shows: 4,309 links

Of course, SEOBook is extremely well-linked already, but link building (and authority-building, and trust-building) is a continuous process. And if SEOBook.com had been a new site, that amount of natural links would have certainly been enough to break it out of the sandbox.

But what is the exact value of these links? If you’re a numbers cruncher: what does a link from Yahoo! Directory or Business.com cost (for a year)? How about a quality rented link? Then what do you value several hundred permanent, relevant in-contents link at?

2. Rankings

The article is now ranking in the top ten for “build link popularity”, and in the top 50 on searches for “link popularity” and “link building”. Obviously these rankings are not going to drive a huge amount of traffic, but what they do drive will be targeted; and of course, the trust and authority that these links confer on the SEOBook.com domain will help all pages on the domain rank more highly.

3. Branding

There’s a greater chance now that when people think “link building”, they are going to think “Aaron Wall and Andy Hagans”. We also managed to reach #1 on Delicious/Popular, which exposed our names and sites to a different audience outside of the narrower SEO niche.

4. Direct traffic

Being #1 on Delicious sends a lot of traffic. So does being linked by several hundred blogs. That means eBook sales for Aaron, and new client leads for my link building firm.

What is my point here?

My point is that 15 hours of work (even split with a well-connected partner), yielded a downright silly amount of return.

Results may vary

I am not sure we can consider this particular link bait piece as typical, as SEOBook went into it with a ton of mindshare and following, which made earning the links and bookmarks a lot easier. If the piece had been written by lesser-known SEOs on a lesser-known blog, it would have probably received far fewer references. However, I think had anyone written the article and put a bit of effort into promoting it, they would have gotten a good ROI out of it. (In fact, a lesser-known SEO probably would have stood more to gain.)

Now what?

Now is as good of a time as any to announce that I am now offering a link bait service on a limited basis. At several thousand dollars a pop, it won’t be the answer for most, but I think it’s going to be fun to take the most effective current SEO tactic to clients.

Published: September 20, 2006

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Comments

Javier
September 20, 2006 - 11:06pm

Question: Why the article was posted at SeoBook and not in LinkBuildingBlog, how did you decided that?

AndyHagans
September 20, 2006 - 11:38pm

No reason. Guess we just wanted the widest audience possible, and SEOBook is among the (or the?) highest read SEO blogs.

September 21, 2006 - 1:02am

Question: Can you share the actual return on investment on your link bait? If you "spent" $5,000 making it and said that you had a "downright silly" return, did you sell $15,000 in SEOBooks or did Andy get 5 new link baiting customers?

September 21, 2006 - 2:30am

Well, if we assume $5,000 in cost in time and money that would be $2,500 each.

I can't speak for Andy, but...as far as payout we can look at

  • direct tangible earn out
  • increased mindshare
  • increased link equity

Between extra consulting sales (a couple at $500 / hr) and ebook sales (probably sold about 30 or 40 more than I would have due to the post) I am fairly certain I reached my $2,500 in the first week after we published the post.

With over a thousand ORGANIC editorial links, I think that added over $2,500 worth of link equity to my site, and Andy probably got a couple dozen links out of the deal.

The mindshare is somewhat hard to measure, but given so much of the other two (and seeing new links pointing at that post rolling in almost daily) it suggests that the increased mindshare (which will lead to more of both of the other) will also have a direct tangible value of over $2,500.

Three other things worth noting:

  • Rather than doing potentially tedious client work (as some of it is, and must be) we got to do work we knew we would enjoy doing.
  • Rather than dong client work that only pays once this will provide guaranteed income over time.
  • We got to help a bunch of people.
September 21, 2006 - 5:28am

But what happens when someone who has done no link baiting or building mysteriously appears above you for these same phrases in the SERPS? ;)

September 21, 2006 - 7:39am

Rankings come and go. But the more authority you build up the more often they come and the less often they go.

And that brings up another good point, if 1,000 pages link to my site and mention my site or brand in a positive light that gives me 1,000 more entries in the search lottery. At least that's the way I view it. :)

September 21, 2006 - 9:20am

Congratulations on your link bait success! It seems to be a real good deal!

Guess we just wanted the widest audience possible, and SEOBook is among the (or the?) highest read SEO blogs.

This statement points out that only a few people (if at all) could have achieved these results.

This is again a fruit of earlier “investments”. Every other blog wouldn’t get the attention you have attracted with your 101. Your results show that link bait works - if you have already an appropriate audience, otherwise you have to invest efforts into the fundamentals.

It is a very good lesson of what is possible if you have a good reputation.

September 21, 2006 - 1:59pm

Nicely done guys-Well written and great info. Hope it brings you in a ton of $$$'s
Thanks for the great effort!

September 21, 2006 - 2:58pm

$500 an hour??? Can one really get that reliably for SEO, or that just a rare best-case deal?

If that's a going rate, I'm definitely in the wrong business ...

By the way, isn't there a survivor bias in your calculations? If the ROI from a particular post was miserable, you wouldn't be using it as a case study.

September 21, 2006 - 4:14pm

Great point Seth. On the other hand, most of these posts (it seems to me) are not written from the lets-build-link-bait mindset, but rather to simply communicate an idea. Looking back at this blog's most recent dozen or so posts, I see no other posts that seem to qualify as link bait. Just because a post has a lot of trackbacks or links doesn't make it link bait.

September 21, 2006 - 4:25pm

Great point Seth. On the other hand, most of these posts (it seems to me) are not written from the lets-build-link-bait mindset, but rather to simply communicate an idea. Looking back at this blog's most recent dozen or so posts, I see no other posts that seem to qualify as link bait. Just because a post has a lot of trackbacks or links doesn't make it link bait.

September 21, 2006 - 4:26pm

"And if SEOBook.com had been a new site, that amount of natural links would have certainly been enough to break it out of the sandbox."

Are you talking that big number of natural links can get new site out of sandbox ??

September 21, 2006 - 4:45pm

I think this is a very good comment:

Every other blog wouldn’t get the attention you have attracted with your 101. Your results show that link bait works - if you have already an appropriate audience, otherwise you have to invest efforts into the fundamentals.

My question is (perhaps this is a tieback to some of Andy's recent posts on LinkBuildingBlog.com): what would you recommend as surefire ways to publicize a piece of potentially link worthy content given a readership / viewer-ship of considerably fewer than XX,000 readers?

Perhaps a little comment spam :)?

Or better still, a slimmed down version of Andy's new link-baiting service: for 1/5th the cost of full link-baiting service offer the link baiting kick-start package consisting of citation in 3 high-traffic blogs.

September 21, 2006 - 5:23pm

A biot off topic but who designed your site, I really love the look and feel it has.

Thanks in advance

September 21, 2006 - 5:30pm

Ive been putting aside a few hours every week to do link building and its really paying off

Great article...

Sam
September 21, 2006 - 8:04pm

What you guys did was provide a valuable reference document.

The term "link bait" kinda makes me laugh. It should be great content.

I understand we all dig the "algos" and the numbers.
I use your keyword tool and Linkharvester darn near daily

Here is a question what came first content or the link?

It is interesting people scurry around for links now instead of writing valuable content that will get them links now and for the lifetime of the website.

Excellent work

September 21, 2006 - 10:15pm

Hi Sam
The issue with getting the links is that formatting / packaging / angle matter as much (maybe more) than the content quality.

Hi Gavin
Chris Pearson designed this blog (other than the logo, which was designed years ago by another designer).

Hi Will
I wouldn't recommend comment spam as that might have a negative effect on your brand, and so many people have done it to death that some of the better search engines probably have ways to discount it.

Your other idea of being featured in a couple popular blogs is great though.

Hi Zoran
Yes. Many editorial natural citations can lift a site out of what some people call the Google Sandbox.

Hi Greg
While most of my posts are not drafted from the linkbait mindset the 101 links post was.

Hi SethF
I have sites that I put 5 hours and $2,000 into at start up which make over $1,000 a month recurring for no work at all on my part. So the $500 an hour is just somewhere in the middle as far as pay.

Hi M. Weiss
I have had other sites do well with link baiting stuff in spite of limited reach. This site did better than most would, but if you know what you are doing you can get just about any site to work.

sam
September 21, 2006 - 10:53pm

"The issue with getting the links is that formatting / packaging / angle matter as much (maybe more) than the content quality."

If that is the case could you please give an example?

How about Alternative energy?
or Organic gardening
or even SEO

If it has come to the point title tags mean more then the content on the page then the major search engines need to change. Or better search engines need to be developed.

Its wacky before I knew anything about seo I wrote an article that has over 1000 backlinks. Dang it I should have kept that site.

Write a document you are proud of and can teach the layperson and you got all the linkbait you need.

September 21, 2006 - 10:58pm

I see examples of linkbair on SEO and tech sights often. But rarely do I see something that qualifies as link bait in other sectors (other then funny movie clips). Can you point to some good examples of non tech sector link bait?

September 21, 2006 - 10:59pm

I see examples of linkbair on SEO and tech sights often. But rarely do I see something that qualifies as link bait in other sectors (other then funny movie clips). Can you point to some good examples of non tech sector link bait?

September 22, 2006 - 6:00am

The next post has examples of linkbait. I am closing comments on this one.

Rascta
September 22, 2006 - 6:07am

I'd say that linkbait can work for any industry (although perhaps not to the same degree). I think of free tutorials, special-purpose calculator tools, free html e-books, etc. as 'slow' linkbait.

My take: what makes linkbait different from normal content is that it's intended to be not just something that people will read and enjoy, but something that they will want to come back to repeatedly and/or share and discuss -- thus something they'll link to. Things that have repeat value will generate more loyalty (and bookmarks), long-term linkbait. Things to share and discuss will generate more 'buzz' (and links), short-term linkbait. If it does both (like this 101 list), it gets both benefits.

What I would like to know is, how much promotion did it take to get the number of backlinks listed above that quickly? How much would it take for a non-established site?

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