SEO

The Necessary Evolution of Linkbait

For the past couple of years Linkbait has been all the rage in search marketing. The process of creating linkbait is quite simple: Create content that others will voluntarily link to, and sit back to reap the rewards. In the ultra-competitive world of search marketing, linkbait is becoming more obvious while we as readers become more tired.

Let’s not assume that linkbait is exclusive to search optimization, either. While we all love to score quality inbounds to boost rankings, it has been the social acceptance of Digg, Delicious and similar bookmarking services that has made us greedy. Suddenly, all site owners lust for the spikes in traffic they can gain from being seen on the front page of Digg.

Why It’s Getting Old Quickly

As Internet users, we all become immune to thinks once they fail to deliver. From banner ads to sponsored search results, our minds tell us to ignore these things because they’re distractions to our minds.

Similarly, the more linkbait is tried, the more tiring unoriginal ideas become.

Whether you see top ten lists, quizzes, contests or fake awards being handed out — the Internet (and more specificly, the blogosphere) has become a dumpster of tired linkbait techniques that never quite produce.

If you don’t think this is true, log into your RSS reader and just do a quick search for “top 10″, “contest” or “list”. Even with a small set of subscriptions you’ll be inundated with results. That’s no fluke.

True Linkbait is Natural

Jim Boykin brought up a great point about linkbait in a January 2006 post he appropriately called “Linkbait, Linkbait, Linkbait“:

“I had a client who created a National Holiday for his product…he had people dancing in the streets of New York City with his product, and he got on the homepage of AOL, MSNBC, and got mentioned in 1000’s of newspapers….now that was linkbait, before linkbait was coined, and it might not have even been done with the idea of getting links…but it sure did bring in links.”

That’s a great example of successful linkbait beacuse it caught the masses by surprise. It wasn’t expected and it certainly hadn’t been done. the best part is, Jim is right — it probably wasn’t done for links — but it did produce. It is that thought process, or the willingness to try something different, that will continue to produce for those able to launch innovative linkbait.

Linkbait is Critical to Search Marketing

Joe Whyte conducted an interview for Search Marketing Standard with Matt Inman of SEOmoz and Mingle2 while attending SES San Jose. The full interview is a great read as Matt discusses some of the ways he has rocketed Mingle2 to the top of the SERPs for very competitive phrases.

I’d like to highlight one of Matt’s responses here though, to help illustrate a point:

“It’s cool to show people too, because I see so many SEOs complaining about “oh, my domain is not holding up” or “I’m in the sandbox” or whatever you want to call it. And I go, I have a domain that I registered six months ago that’s ranking for very, very competitive terms.

It just goes to show that Google has all these signals it uses to rank pages – age is one of them, relevance – but of all those signals there is one you can control and one you can overpower every other signal with, and that’s links – the sheer volume of links. And so after accruing 80,000 links to the site, that’s how I was able to make that.”

First of all, you need to be both innovative and clever to build up 80,000 inbounds in 90 days time. The larger point made here though is that linkbait is a critical ranking component — and it is an element that you can control if you are willing to do so. Too often, folks in SEO dismiss linkbaiting ideas because they don’t deal with on page elements. Don’t be naive! You’ll need links to rank, and linkbait is a great way to break up the monotonous link building methods.

Spread Success By Enabling Your Audience

Linkbait can be successful even when focused on a small audience. The trick is making your content easy for your readers to distribute for you, as Darren Rowse of ProBlogger explains. Once your content has been launched, make it easy (point and clink) to add it into Digg, Reddit, Delicious and other popular services.

Now is not the time to be shy! Include some “link to this…” information with clean hyperlinks and anchor text. Allow readers to blog about it too, or perhaps email it to friends. All of these methods help spread that bait out for you, reaping more visitors and readers on a regular basis.

Final Thoughts on LinkBait

We need to realize that linkbait is not the only tool we have to grab quick backlinks.

Earlier this year there was a panel assembled at SES San Jose covering linkbait and viral search success. Tamar Weinberg’s notes posted on Search Engine Roundtable highlight Rebecca Kelley’s things to remember:

    Keep in mind:
  • - Linkbait is not a sure thing. Don’t get discouraged.
  • Linkbait doesn’t necessarily target your typical audience. You have to keep this other mentality – “I’m targeting the people who will link to me” rather than your typical users.
  • Linkbait isn’t a quick fix. It’s a fun and clever wait to get links but it’s not an easy solution.

In other words, linkbait is not going to cure your search optimization woes. It will also fail for you if you are unable to develop the creativity or clever approach that attracts readers in the first place.

So — the next time you launch a new linkbait campaign, make sure you have done your research. Look for what’s working in the industry by researching popular threads that are already successful on the social bookmarking services. Check in with forums and message boards to see what’s hot, and make sure you are giving something to you readers in exchange for the link.

Above all, remember that linkbait is supposed to stand out… So don’t fall into the trap of doing what’s already been done — Get out there and get creative!

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7 thoughts on “The Necessary Evolution of Linkbait

  1. Nice to hear a fresh look at “linkbait” and how it’s rapidly becoming mainstream. You’ve exactly nailed it, too — creativity and cleverness will win out long term, even though most of the landscape will be made of tired rip offs (think: the state of Hollywood movies). I hope that by becoming increasingly challenging, yet no less rewarding, linkbait becomes a vital tool that drives innovation and creativity in web copywriting…. not the reverse!

  2. Great post Eric. I remember reading that post by Joe on Matt and it was amazing. Even more amazing is that he created that site in 66 hours. That’s impressive.

  3. What you’re emphasizing is value, and contemplating routinely how much goes for who; linkbait will self destruct if it continues on this ‘who-cares-what-it-is-let’s-get-it-out-there’ highway.

  4. The really “great linkbait” seems to just appear, as opposed to being created, although without a doubt you need to be creative to recognize and exploit the linkbait opportunity when arises.