[Update: it appears a friend wrote a spot on article using the same title about 6 months ago. Here is some link love for him.]
I have been a big fan of linkbait, but for all its upsides it does have many potential risks that are rarely discussed by most marketers. Outside of those risks, most people coming to your site from linkbait have a fly-like memory. One visit, one pageview, and they are gone forever. If you are selling branded CPM ads good news for you, but otherwise there is no value.
The potential upside of a linkbait driven marketing campaign is growing smaller by the day. In the third video here, DaveN hinted that he believed that Google is looking at how natural a site's link growth profile looks like, and discounting many of the rapid growth spikes if they are not followed up by an increased baseline link growth rate. Which ultimately means linkbait only creates significant value if you can keep launching one right after another.
Given that Google hand edits some hyper-successful linkbaits, is it any surprise that they aim to minimize the upside potential of random one off linkbaits? A couple of my better friends who are a bit cynical went so far as stating that linkbait is only promoted by search engineers because it is so easy to detect and devalue. Linkbait is the new reciprocal links page.
Compare linkbait to developing a real brand. Developing a real brand is slower and more expensive, but search is intrinsically tied to branding. If your brand is the keyword, it is hard for search engineers to take it away from you. They are irrelevant if they do not show you at the top of the results. They can show at most a few ads before they list your site, or they degrade their user experience. And, as you build brand awareness, it causes a smooth natural link growth profile, which helps you rank better for the generic phrases. Brand building is nothing they could ever really penalize, as they have no reason to want to penalize companies for creating real brands.
You don't have to be a brand guru to learn how to build a brand. Simply discover a couple legitimate channels, track why people talk about them with Google alerts, and replicate the best ideas while ditching the bad ones.
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