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Linkbaiting or Link Baiting?

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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, Salary.com 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.
  • 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. Salary.com 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 Methe 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.
  • Incorporate 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.
    My SEO for Firefox page nearly outranks my homepage in Google for SEO.

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    Aaron Wall is the author of SEO Book, an ebook offering the latest
    search engine optimization tips and strategies. From SEOBook.com Aaron
    gives away free advice and search engine optimization tools. He is a
    regular conference speaker, partner in Clientside SEM, and runs the
    Threadwatch community.

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