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A Quick and Dirty Guide to Modern-Day Link Baiting

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Modern-Day Link Baiting

In the last five years, link bait has grown up. It’s gone from a guerilla tactic to a full-blown sophisticated SEO science.

That means a list of “must-have” resources or the “best of” just won’t cut it anymore…you need long posts, stellar design and a high-quality network.

Here are the 8 great ways to create link bait content that will break through the clutter in today’s world and help you get the links you want.


Perhaps one of the most popular forms of link bait is infographics. While infographics had been around for a while, it was GOOD magazine who made an art out of them, some of their best pieces being Drugged Culture and The Almighty Dollar.

The best infographics are the ones that you can scan and get the relevant information quickly. LinkedIn’s 100 Million professionals  is a good example.

Oatmeal’s 15ish Things Worth Knowing About Coffee, on the other hand, is really just an abbreviated summary of the history of coffee. Regardless, it went viral and did its job.


Next in line when it comes to cranking out link bait is the egobait. The concept behind this is simple…appeal to someone’s ego.

Advertising Age’s Power 150 List is a great example of egobait. I haven’t verified it, but I guarantee every single person on that list is linking back to Ad Age. That’s some pretty important links streaming into Ad Age’s website.

By the way, an egobait gimmick doesn’t have to be limited to a single post. On a more global scale, Klout appeals to our ego by showing us how influential we are in social media.


If you can land an interview with an influential thought leader, you’re going to get links, traffic and a growing audience. Just ask Andrew Warner of Mixergy. He’s made a fortune interviewing top business leaders.

Gabby Dunn took a different approach with her 100 interviews. Instead of focusing on high-profile people, she decided to interview average people, like a bus driver, cryptozoologist and someone who’s been left at the altar.


Sometimes creating a micro site around a tight idea will go viral. The University of Victoria created The Anything Project, a micro site challenging people to answer the question “If you could do anything, what would you do?”

There are several things that make this micro site popular:

  • The idea – “If you could do anything, what would you do?” is such a basic question that touches the heart of everyone. It makes us think.
  • The responses – People love to give their opinions…and then share those opinions with other people. And UV made it easy to do via webcam.
  • The people – From the large screen, in-your-face profiles of people standing awkwardly looking into the camera to the Hallmark like music, this is a feel-good campaign about people.

Building a micro site is hard work. Building one that goes viral…even harder. Make sure you spend a lot of time planning with your team before you actually begin investing major dollars.


Kittens are the most loved thing on the Internet. Kittens with a cute caption are absolutely irresistible. But these days a good drawing can go viral, too.

Just take Organizational Chart of Major Corporations at Bonker’s World or FAKE GRIMLOCK’s Minimum Viable Personality  drawing…two great examples of distilling an idea down to its essence.

However, this long vertical cartoon by Jelly Vampire called Like an Artist takes the cake.


You don’t have to put a lot of production into a video to make it go viral. Like Mah Status is a rant to end all rants on the topic of begging for Facebook “likes.” It’s done in an apartment, spliced together and then published.

However, when you put some effort behind a video, it will have longer shelf life. Jib Jab’s Elf Yourself or Rhett and Link’s FAIL Caption videos, on the other hand, will likely be around for years because they are very clever.   


Another gimmick you can tap into to help you go viral is by creating a quiz. But you can’t just create any quiz…you have to create a clever quiz.

Two of my favorite quizzes are oldies but goodies…Mingle2’s The Blog Verbosity Test and The Moon Survival Challenge.

The first one compares your blog posts against other bloggers, telling you average word count and how that stacks against other bloggers. The Moon Survival Challenge asks you to prioritize a list of items from important to least important.


Of course, if all else fails during your brainstorming sessions to come up with a great link bait idea, then you can simply fall back on an old-time favorite…the story.

One of the best stories I think ever told online was James Chartrand’s Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants. This story is great on so many levels:

  • The headline – Immediately you are intrigued to know why a man would be coming out to confess he’s a cross dresser.
  • The medium – James had been posting on Copyblogger for quite some time, so readers knew about him…making his confession all the more shocking. You care more about a story when you know the person personally.
  • The confession – James came out of the closet…but never how you’d expect! That special twist hooked you immediately.
  • The story – That confession would’ve been nothing, however, if not for how the story unfolds. If you haven’t read it, it’s a must read.

Copyblogger ended up shutting down comments at 741. For some strange reason it only got 169 tweets, but it does have over 2,221 Facebook likes.


Building great link bait content takes time. You need to do a ton of research before you even start developing. And keep this in mind, too…you will probably fail more times than not with your link bait content. But that doesn’t mean you should quit. Keep trying!

Can you share any tips for creating great link bait?


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Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics, an analytics provider that helps companies make better business decisions. Neil also blogs ... [Read full bio]

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