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Interview with Linkbait Insider, Danny Ashton

As this is a search business column, I thought I would move this month’s post to the furthest end of the search spectrum with a post on linkbait.  It’s one of the areas of SEO where there’s sometimes a reluctance to fully commit by clients, primarily due to it being a speculative activity. In my experience, clients are appreciative of transparent SEO delivery, and increasingly see it as a strategic and established marketing discipline.  That said, linkbait is still clearly an area that, considering the results it can deliver for the investment, is under-utilised by digital marketing strategies, and I know there is eagerness by many for this to change.

MEC Interaction recently had a full-time, freelance linkbaiter, Danny Ashton, come in to our offices to provide our link-builders and SEO account managers with some inspiration and understanding around linkbait campaigns for big and small brands.  I thought it might be helpful to share a little insight on what got Danny into this creative game and tips he can share with SEJ readers.  So here goes…

What first got you into linkbait?

It was at my first proper SEO conference that met a character called Lyndon Antcliff who I knew already from his blog CornwallSEO. Prior to this conference I had been reading a lot about linkbait but didn’t quite know how to learn the skills to become a master. After a number of beers and mediocre tapas, Lyndon suggested I joined his linkbait training course that was starting the following week.

After a chat with my boss, I started the course and literally spend hours a day trying new linkbait and chatting regularly with Lyndon. I had quite a few successes with some of my “test” linkbait and it was like a light bulb went off in my head, plus I had never had so much fun doing “SEO.”

Who has been your biggest influence in linkbait and why do you love him so?

The now infamous “13 Year Old Steal Dad’s Credit Card to buy Hookers” really caught my attention to the sheer power of linkbait. This article also led me to become aware of Lyndon who later became my mentor and helped me immensely. Learning from a master provided me with the confidence to try out ideas that I would never dare on my own.

Intrinsic to successful linkbait is a great deal of creativity; what is your process to spur this on?

Getting away from the computer is the only way to get great ideas. Being plugged in and reading other stuff always creates incentive to just rehash old ideas. My most successful baits have always been completely unique and could only have been thought of once disconnected from the grid.

I also like to travel and being out of your comfort zone allows you to think of ideas you would never think of in rainy Manchester! I could also say meditation but I don’t want to get all new age but it really does help to get the creative juices flowing.

What are typical metrics to measure the success of linkbait, beyond the obvious?

Links are the usual metric but I also like to include the interaction and social signals that a bait has led to. I have had baits create 100’s of highly thought out intelligent comments and it can improve the breadth and quality of the article. Yet, links are still number one but high level of comments and social signals also has some great SEO benefits but they are not my number one goal.

What were the results of your most effective linkbait campaign?  What was key to this success?

Sadly I can’t talk about linkbaits from clients but I do sometimes test my linkbait skills on some of my own sites and one I am particularly pleased one I did for an air purifier review site!

I had literally tried everything idea to try and bait this niche but nothing was really taking hold and it didn’t help that the domain had two dashes!

The idea came to me whilst I was playing basketball outside whilst looking at my garden plants. After thinking of the idea of air purifier plants I then searched JSTOR (as my housemate was still a student) to find if there had been any scientific studies. Luckily for me there had been quite a few studies and I then spent the next few hours collating the research and putting the idea together.

After pushing this article to a few key sites, it got picked up by some major authority sites such as Gizmodo and Unplggd and I cracked open the champagne. The article also got picked up by Stumbleupon and the links just started pouring in from all parts of the web. To date the linkbait has received over 55,000 visitors and still gets links every few days and it ranks highly for my target keywords.

What is the process for how you go about selling linkbait to clients?

I’ll be honest I rarely sell linkbait to people as most of my clients are word of mouth and already know what I am capable of. Although I think having a good collection of successful examples and providing good ideas really helps to put the client at ease.

What 3 top tools do you use every day that people interested in linkbait should use?

My number one productivity tool which most of you will be aware of is Microsoft live writer. Prior to finding live writer we used to load up images using the WordPress admin which is a total pain when publishing baits on a regular basis.

I am not sure if you would define these as tools but try and read as many offline books as possible. Spending time only reading online restricts your vision as to what is capable.

I also think you should invest in small notepad and pen as many of your best ideas will come to you when you away from your computer.

Another tip would be to look at the major blogs in your niche and use open site explorer and look at the top pages tab to see the type of content that attracts links. Regularly check out the type of content that attracts links and try to understand why this content works.

If you find creativity a chore, then look for good ideas that have been executed badly. Turn a top 3 tip list into a 15 Must Know Tips Before You Die list…

[Editors comment: I know from the consulting session that there are many more tools he could have shared here, but I guess he’s keeping a few key tools under his belt for now…]

What one final BIG tip can you share with SEJ readers to spur them onto linkbait greatness?

When you have completed your linkbait article leave it alone for a day and then try to spend another few hours trying to make it awesome. Getting an article to an exceptional level can skyrocket the amount of links that it will gain. There are plenty of good articles published daily so you need your article to stand out from the crowd by being exceptional.

Category SEO
Ben McKay SEO Jobs

Ben writes about managing SEO and the ever growing joys of consulting on SEJ and his blog, Just Me and ...

Interview with Linkbait Insider, Danny Ashton

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