Link baiting is the creation and promotion of content with the objective of encouraging other webmasters to link back to a specific webpage. This is an umbrella term that’s used to describe a variety of content and promotion scheme combinations with the common goal of attracting natural, editorially granted links.
Link baiting a prominent tactic In search engine optimization (SEO), as backlinks positively influence a website’s performance in search results pages (SERPs). Similar to other link building strategies, link baiting can influence the attraction of backlinks but does not directly control it.
Link Baiting’s Importance to SEO
Link baiting is considered by many seasoned SEO specialists as the purest among all link acquisition techniques. That’s because it plays right into Google’s vision of rewarding pages from websites that naturally attract backlinks due to their popularity and authority. With link baiting, links are acquired not because linking webmasters were asked to do it. They link because they had natural reasons to do so.
In that regard, link baiting has several advantages over other popular link building processes such as guest posting, broken link building or resource page link building. These include:
- Completely ethical. That means your site will be safe from possible penalties associated with black hat link building
- Highest Efficiency. Good link bait doesn’t need the support of heavy outreach and promotion for it to drive links in big numbers. If the link bait resonates with its intended audience, it will literally sell itself to possible linkers, saving you the time, effort and money involved in convincing webmasters to link to your pages when you use other techniques.
- Multiple Links Over Time. Unlike link outreach where backlink opportunities are secured one at a time, successful link baiting generates links continuously long after you’ve moved on to other tasks. Evergreen content will continue to get noticed en route to attracting editorial links from other webmasters.
- Contextual Links – Because the links are natural and given by webmasters editorially, you can be sure that the links are coming from websites that carry content themes relevant to yours. As you may know, topical relevance is an essential element of what makes a good backlink.
- Natural Link Stats Distribution – Another good thing about receiving natural links from link bait is the fact that you don’t have to worry about things like Domain Authority, anchor text concentration, nofollow attributes and other elements that are tracked during link prospecting. You won’t have to worry about making your link campaign look natural because link baiting attracts exactly the natural variety of links.
- High Linking Domain Yield – Aside from contextual relevance and the raw transfer of authority, backlinks boost a website’s search visibility when they come from a wider array of domains. Link baiting is also great in this aspect due to the fact that it generates links from a diverse array of sources. This helps you up your unique linking domain count, giving you a greater ranking boost in the process.
Every successful piece of link bait possesses a combination of several key elements that encourage other online authors to link to it. These elements include:
One of the first things content creators have to ask themselves when conceptualizing content is the question of “who is this for?” This is a crucial question whether you’re writing news, features, guides, press releases, etc. However, it’s even more important in the art of link baiting since your main motivation is to encourage people to link to your bait’s page.
The common mistake that content creators make when identifying the target audience is the confusion between target customers and target links. Oftentimes, these are two related yet very distinct people.
If you’re trying to link bait for an ecommerce site that sells gadgets, for instance, your bait’s target shouldn’t be end users that you’re trying to sell consumer electronics to. Most of these people don’t have their own websites and therefore will not be able to link to you even if they wanted to. The right target for your link bait should then be tech bloggers, tech news sites and reviewers. These are the people who publish content and are in charge of whom their respective websites link to.
After zeroing in on an intended audience, the next step is to devise an approach that will capture the attention of that audience and keep them engaged en route to linking back to the bait. In the world of content, this approach is called a “hook” because it’s what helps your content stand out and reels in the kind of people that you want consuming it.
There are countless ways to hook your target audience in with link bait, but content creators classify hooks into the several subtypes. More on that in the next section.
In some cases, potential linkers may not be exposed directly to your content because they’ve never heard of you, your website and its content. A lot of times, bloggers, journalists and other online authors link to content after they see it being passed around their social media circles where it captures their attention and leads to them referencing it.
To increase the reach of your link bait and boost its chances of being found and linked to by influencers, make it more shareable. Make sure your content pages have appropriate share buttons and that you’re promoting the content on your own social channels. You can also get more mileage out of social networks by using their paid platforms. Facebook’s “Boost Post” feature, for instance, can help you reach thousands of people who are interested in your link bait for less than a hundred dollars.
Time is an important element of effective link bait. The content’s relevance to current times is a crucial factor on whether or not people will link to it. This is true in fast-evolving content fields such as current events, technology, sports or celebrity news. You may have really good content but if it’s a day late, nobody will link to it.
On the other hand, some link bait are linkable precisely because they’re not time sensitive. How-to types of content are prime examples. An article with the title “How to Make an Origami Frog” will always be linkable because the art of origami never changes. Overall, timeliness is an element of effective link bait but it depends on the hook whether time will work for or against a piece of content.
Link Bait Hooks
As mentioned previously, hooks are simply the creative approaches that guide the creation of link bait. While every hook is distinct in its own way, there are several general types that can be tailor-fitted according to the nature of your niche. These include:
The News Hook
The news hook is one of the simplest ways to bait links. As the name suggests, this hook relies on the fast and accurate delivery of news to the proper target audience. If the news is particularly significant, news aggregators, bloggers and other news agencies will run the story. Once it’s part of journalistic ethics and copyright laws to source news to the original source, you’ll be able to get dozens of links if you break the story first.
The Contrary Hook
There’s no better way to stand out other than by loudly begging to differ. Going against conventional wisdom and popular opinion can catch the attention of many readers just because you’re the only one with the cojones to argue with ideas that most people have already accepted. This is the foundation of what marketers call the “contrary hook.” It’s a tactic that seeks to generate cache through justified irreverence towards what many thought are foregone conclusions.
Writing a piece about why Gal Gadot was a bad choice for the lead role in the new Wonder Woman movie would be an example. Writing a piece on why link buying is a practical SEO strategy would also work. Both go against the opinions of many and both will likely garner a ton of feedback that attack you, but if you argue well enough in both pieces, people will inevitably see your points and link back to your content because of its unique perspective.
The Attack Hook
As the name suggests, this hook catches attention and encourages linking behavior by creating conflict. As humans, we are naturally drawn to clashes even if it’s just the intellectual variety. It’s the reason why influential pundits, political bloggers and reviewers generate so much attention (and backlinks) when they come out with scathing remarks about an equally influential entity. This blog post from Bill Slawski comes to mind when he gave Forbes SEO blogger Jayson DeMers the business regarding the supposed influence of mentions on Google’s SERPs.
Sometimes, attacks don’t have to be mere opinions. Results of studies that challenge ideas that we’ve accepted as fact are attack link baits in their own way. If someone comes out tomorrow with a blog post that argues that .edu backlinks are no more powerful than their .com counterparts, it would surely generate a lot of links because most SEOs have come to accept that .edu links are among the most powerful backlinks a website can earn.
The Resource Hook
This is one of the most commonly used hooks in all of marketing. In the physical world, being a standup guy who goes out of his way t9o help other people will earn you a lot of respect and good will from the people around you. The same is true in the digital world. Creating useful stuff for your target audience will earn you mentions and links from websites that discuss topics related to yours.
Creating guides, blog posts, Infographics, templates and tools are all prime examples of good resource hooks. The only drawback of this hook is the fact that it’s so widely used that it’s become hard to stand out by creating resources — especially ones that use mere text and images. If you want to gain links with resources, you have to generate material that not just anyone can produce. You can achieve this by making your content the most comprehensive, the easiest to understand or the most visually appealing.
Personally, I think tools are the best resource hooks today. They can’t be created just by anyone and they generate links for you for years on end. If you have web and mobile application developers in your team, they can be leveraged to produce this type of hook.
Some content creators can produce content about the most mundane things and make it come across as funny. If you have a writer or a video personality like that on your team, encourage them to get creative and inject a little humor into the content they produce. As long as the humor doesn’t come off as offensive to anyone or demeaning to your brand, it can be used to bait people into linking to your page.
People have compiled lists of SEO jokes which have generated some backlinks for them. Similarly, people like Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw have used humor to become one of the most popular video game reviewers on the planet. That’s not an easy feat considering you’re always up against the likes of IGN, GameSpot and other publications backed by massive media companies.
The Ego Hook
This is another popular form of link bait. It also happens to be my least favorite. The ego hook is used primarily to appeal to a linker’s ego and encourage him to link back to the page that makes him or her look good. The content isn’t so much for readers as it is for the influencers that the link baiter wants to curry the favor of. Expert roundups, interviews and features are prime examples of the ego hook. It can be quite effective, though I’m of the opinion that there are better ways to attract links.
Examples of Link Bait
Here’s a list of popular link bait that can be used and scaled to power link building campaigns in competitive niches:
Events, organizations and sexier brands can benefit from awarding websites with badges that can be added to sidebars and footers which will then link to a specific landing page. An example would be what Marketing Land does with its SMX conferences. This is a prestigious gathering of search marketers and speakers are often more than happy to put a badge on their blogs which links back to SMX, driving valuable link equity as well as visual mileage.
Lists are some of the most popular article types on the Internet. They’re easy to skim, they’re good for generating discussions and in some cases, they stroke the ego. Articles like “The Top 10 Desserts You Shouldn’t Miss Before You Die,” or “10 Signs Your Mom is Having an Affair” will generate lots of clicks, shares and links whether people agree with you or not.
I recently did a list on The Best SEO Specialists in the Philippines and it got me a nice traffic spike and a few unsolicited links. Not bad for something that barely took an hour to put together.
There’s merit in being the website with the most complete information on any given topic. It’s the reason why Wikipedia gets so many links and is so dominant for just about any keyword. Studies have consistently shown that content with more breadth and more consistent updates are favored by search engines more often than not.
A prime example would be Wikia’s fan wikis such as Memory Alpha, which is devoted to Star Trek. It has a page for virtually every character, ship, planet, race and ship in the series and discusses everything there is to know about each of those in their respective entries.
Getting influential authors to write for your blog can also attract a good amount of natural links. Kaiserthesage author Jason Acidre, for instance, was able to get pre-eminent SEO expert Neil Patel to write for him once.
Needless to say, Neil’s folllowers ate the content up and readily linked to it just because it was written by a recognized authority in the field.
Life isn’t about absolutes, black and whites, facts and falsehoods. There’s plenty of room for subjectivism and gray areas. That’s why people seek each other’s advice all the time. As a specie, we derive inspiration, entertainment and insight from what others would say they’d do if they were in uncertain situations.
People who have unique opinions, entertaining personalities or professional perspectives are usually the ones who can successfully bait links with advice content. The more provocative the topics, the better the returns that the author can get in terms of traffic and engagement.
A good example would be Dr. Margarita Holmes’ column in Rappler. The renowned Filipina sex therapist answers letters from anonymous persons. The more bizarre the situation the person is in, the more the audience seems to eat the material up.
Infographics are basically very creative charts that display data and convey their meanings. They make very popular link bait because of their visual appeal and the value of information they display. This one that’s about the conservation of water, for instance, is one of the greatest examples of link bait I’ve ever seen:
Even when an infographic doesn’t succeed as link bait, it can be used as an outreach asset to gain good links from high-authority sites.
This is probably my favorite type of link bait. If you’re into SEO, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Free tools like Pingdom’s Speed Test, Screaming Frog and Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin haul natural links day in and day out thanks to the awesome functionality that they provide at no charge.
Ultimately, link baiting boils downb to the fundamentalks of content creation. Produce something that people will find useful or entertaining and backlinks will surely follow.