Linkbaiting or Link Baiting Strategies?

Rand mentioned that there are multiple types of linkbait, those that are known as controversial and those which are informational or comprehensive. I view them both as being in the same category though...evoking emotions and thus links. :)

I just updated my ebook again. I added quite a bit of information about designing / creating / formatting / packaging / launching / and marketing link bait. While it will surely change in future versions, here is some tips from the current version, similar to my recent WMW Pubcon talk on viral marketing.

Link Baiting
The idea of link baiting is to create a piece of content which is centered on a set demand from a specific audience. Who do you want to relate to? Why would they care? What would make them likely to spread your idea?

For example, sponsored research stating that work at home moms did $134,121 worth of work each year. Because it was packaged as research and a story people would want to spread it spread far and wide.

Some common link baiting techniques

  • Talk about a specific community.
  • Give people a way to feel important about themselves, someone they care about, or something they feel should be important.
  • Take recent events and scale them out to others in your community.
  • Be provocative or controversial.
  • Be a contrarian.
  • Be thorough.

Controlling Your Message

  • Launch your story on a main channel such that you can change your messaging or update your offering based on feedback. If they wrong group runs with your story you may not want to stop them. ï
  • If you do not have a main channel which you can launch your idea on try to launch your idea by giving a popular channel such as TechCrunch the exclusive on your story.
  • If possible, build trust and attention in the marketplace well ahead of when you need to leverage it.
  • Consider potential blowback ahead of time. Depending on the importance of your message and brand strategy you may want to make your message easy to misinterpret OR you may want to make your message clear.
  • Create common link points. Do not throw away your link equity. For example, here are a couple ways people throw away link equity they earned:
    • Some book authors do not create an official page about their book on their site, and thus just give away the link equity and top ranking to an online bookstore.
    • Many people use Surveymonkey or some other 3rd party voting service when they create contests and polls. If you can include the voting script on your site you keep that link authority associated with your site even after the poll closes and people no longer talk about it.

Magnetic Headlines

  • Be specific with your headlines. stating that work at home moms are worth $134,121 a year is probably going to spread further than if they said $200,000.
  • Write your headlines with the intent of spreading them. Focus more on writing something that evokes emotional responses and spread rather than writing for keywords and SEO.
  • Given that many social news sites have a voting mechanism that does not even require people to read the article to vote, the title may be far more important than the actual content of your link bait.
  • Copy Blogger offers great free headline writing tips.

Me Me Me: the Selfish Web

  • People like to view themselves as being important.
    • Many bloggers search for links to their blogs on Technorati or Google Blog Search multiple times each day (I typically do).
    • Calling out specific people, especially with humor, is an easy way to build linkage data.
    • Digg frequently has homepage stories about Digg or Digg users.
    • People are more likely to believe and spread messages which reinforce their world view.
  • Community involvement is important to help others identify with and feel ownership in your link bait.
  • When Rand Fishken launched his Search Engine Ranking Factors he collected feedback from about a dozen prominent members in the SEO community. Many of those people are active community members who helped spread the news at launch time.
    • Asking people for feedback can help others feel ownership in your idea, and is a way to pitch them on your idea without looking sleazy pitching it.

Seeding Your Idea

  • Ask for feedback from people who may be interested in helping you improve your idea or helping you market it.
  • Leverage friends and contacts via instant message and email.
  • Pitch relevant bloggers and media sources. It is preferable to build rapport prior to pitching.
  • Build accounts on social news sites.
  • Some social news sites allow you to place voting buttons on your site. Do so on your most important ideas.
  • Consider the best times and locations to launch your idea.
  • Have a friend or yourself submit your best ideas to the most authoritative and relevant social news sites.
    • Ensures your story has a title that is easy to vote for.
    • Ensures your story is submitted at an appropriate time.
    • If you do not do it soon after mentioning a story on your own site someone else may submit for you, using a dumb title or dumb post content.

Launching a Static Site
Even if your site is fairly static in nature you can still create a buzz when you launch it.

  • Call in favors from people you helped in the past.
  • ncorporate community ideas into your idea.
  • Spread out your ideas. For example, if you are forming a new partnership you can triple dip on publicity:
    • Interview partners on another channel.
    • Announce the launch.
    • Add linkbait to the site at a later point in time.

Formatting Link Bait

  • Make it easy to identify and connect with. Think about human emotions and tap the sense of empathy.
  • You may want to make your idea look polarized such that it especially appeals to one group and/or especially offends another. If other people are fighting over guessing your intentions you will get quality links.
  • Make your link bait look comprehensive.
    • Perception is more important than reality.
    • Most writing is quite wasteful in nature, because you have to trim off much of what you create.
    • By creating ordered lists of factoids an incomplete story can look well researched, even if it is not. For example, if you make a list of 101 ways to do x people may give a few ideas and some feedback, but nobody is going to sit and list 383 ways to do x.
  • Cite research, further reading, and link out to related resources from within your content. It makes your story look well researched and associates your work with other trusted names or brands in your field. You may even want to cite a few people that you want links from.
  • Dress up your link bait using quality design and / or relevant images from sites like Istockphoto.

Monetizing Link Bait

  • Make your link bait EASY to link at.
  • Don't over-monetize it right out of the gate. Make it look like research which is easy to cite rather than a piece of commercial information.
  • In Fame vs Fortune: Micropayments and Free Content Clay Shirky stressed the importance of gaining authority to gain scale and distribution if you want to make money online.
  • Link bait rarely makes much money or directly pays for itself from the direct traffic. However, it has amazing indirect value.
    • People who pay attention to the active portions of the web are far more likely to be web publishers than those who do not.
    • Even if people do not link to your link bait idea right away you still gain mindshare and brand recognition amongst a group of people who have significant authority.
    • Many search engines, such as Google, use authority centric relevancy algorithms. Editorial links are seen as votes or signs of trust.
    • In Google, getting a link to any part of your site will help make all pages on your site more authoritative.
  • Two weeks after launching a linkbait my Google traffic and site earnings more than doubled on a site that was getting thousands of visitors and making over $100 a day from AdSense before the viral marketing campaign.

Bubbling Up

  • Social news sites and social bookmarking sites have recently popular lists that many people read.
  • Meme trackers track what stories are quickly spreading through the blogosphere.
  • Exposure on either of these can cause additional exposure and more linkage data. Many bloggers and some mainstream media outlets (like the MSNBC Clicked Blog) use these social news sites to find stories or sources.

Don't Compete With Yourself
Be careful what you name your link bait ideas. If your link bait is well executed and targets keywords important to other pages on your site the link bait will likely outrank your other pages in the search results.

Our SEO for Firefox page nearly outranks our homepage in Google for SEO.

Published: December 1, 2006 by Aaron Wall in marketing seo tips


December 8, 2006 - 11:33am

You make it sound so easy! I took over an online publication a year ago and have been trying to think up viral & link baiting ideas on & off. I am not the author or expert on the articles (child care is the topic) and the authors are not experts in SEO. So trying to bridge that gap and come up with ideas that will bring in links on a topic I know little about is proving so much more difficult than I could imagine.

Perhaps, the polls/voting/survey ideas could work. The comment on Survey Monkey is a good point too.

Thanks for the info

December 29, 2006 - 1:22pm

Nice post.

Having not tried link baiting before, am now going to give it a go.

Very much appreciated.

December 1, 2006 - 11:23am

Great post - worthy bait ;-)

December 1, 2006 - 11:50am

Man, really good job on the whole concept.

December 1, 2006 - 1:30pm

Hi Aaron,

As you keep updating your ebook (which I haven't read yet, but my colleague did), isn't it possible to get a lifetime subscription to download it as it progresses? We can't keep on paying you for every small update.

December 1, 2006 - 3:17pm

Great post Aaron. No one can ask for more comments on
linkbaiting or link Baiting after reading this article.

December 1, 2006 - 4:20pm

Either linkbaiting or link Baiting, it seems both is very important to me

December 1, 2006 - 4:35pm

hi peter,

aaron does provide you with the updated book after just the first purchase, no need to buy again. i received my email of the update yesterday. the book is jam packed with significant info. i'm looking forward to reading my updated copy.

thanks aaron!

December 1, 2006 - 5:23pm

I think you just about covered everything. Really good description of how to create the best content. Content is king.

December 1, 2006 - 5:29pm

Hey Aaron, great post -- as usual. Evoking emotion has been something I'm trying to take my blog in a direction of -- I think that's a valuable lesson.

December 1, 2006 - 5:50pm

I have found that the topics that create arguments have always worked the best. When you can get people emotional there is great link baiting opportunities. (even if someone crys $pam) I really want to start exploring more of these other avenues you pointed out. Great Info as usual Aaron

December 1, 2006 - 6:04pm

Certainly Arron your articles shit the focus completely from everything on to yourself. Sometimes it does happen that while following various techniques for the optimization of the site you never know when you started competing with yourself.

December 1, 2006 - 6:35pm

Hi Aaron,

I have been a 'secret' reader of you blog for some time and thought I it was about time to post a comment.

You really are producing some great linkbaiting stuff and I must also say, you truly are a fountain of knowledge. I finally got round to buying your book a couple of weeks ago and it definitely gets the double 'thumbs up' from me!

Cheers for the great posts,


December 1, 2006 - 7:56pm

Aaron - kudos for this fantastic and enlightening post about link-baiting/linkbaiting. I hope you don't mind if I point folks to it next week at SES Chicago.



December 1, 2006 - 8:41pm

Great post! I like the requirement of "Being a contrarian" - too many people tend to rehash the same old stuff now.

The thing is, you don't even need to go too far out of the mainstream to get something worthwhile - as long as it pushes the envelope even a little bit, it's good for you and good for the community.

December 1, 2006 - 9:49pm

I really like the concept behind LinkBaiting; it helps bring not just a traffic but convert a visitors into a regular visitor.

Arnie SEO Company
December 2, 2006 - 2:21am

Great article... but is it 1 word or 2? Maybe I should set up a linkbait er uh I mean link bait page and get some voting action!

Unique Marketin...
December 2, 2006 - 9:27am

I really like what you said about Seeding Your Idea and the Me, Me, Me...the Selfish Web. I've tested doing interviews with well-known people in the industries in which I market and, when they see themselves and their quotes on my sites, they are guaranteed to show friends, family, and whoever else. I really like the idea about "leveraging friends via chat and email." Thanks for the great info.

December 3, 2006 - 10:34pm

Great post Aaron. You continue to raise the bar. Look forward to downloading the SEObook update. Thanks again!

December 4, 2006 - 2:54am

Great article,

Like the play off that you mention between being specific ie community or segment focused and yet still being interesting and well marketed.

December 4, 2006 - 11:48pm

I have to say, link baiting is not as easy as it looks. You keep coming up with new angles. Good Job

March 23, 2007 - 7:14pm

Aaron - your work is fantastic. We use your book for reference for client projects each and every day. One of the things we have been using for a client is having celebrity parties (not a cheap undertaking by any means - $400k last year alone - but the PR gets syndicated like crazy). Syndication is our #1 method of building links - albeit expensive for new bloggers.

December 22, 2006 - 1:21am

Mr Wall does it again

Great post, very informative, added your feed to my reader ;)

Dennis Pease
September 15, 2007 - 9:07pm

I have been reading your articles for some time and decided to comment on this. This is a very thought provoking and interesting read. I have found the best articles create a lot of emotion and cause people to add their input because of their strong opinions about the subject.

November 4, 2007 - 11:52pm

I especially loved that sentence: "My SEO for Firefox page nearly outranks my homepage in Google for SEO" / you gotta be careful with SEO, it can turn against you ;-)
cu, Léonie.

Business Directory
January 1, 2008 - 1:51pm

Excellent article! Will buy the e-book very soon... cheers.

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