A few weeks back we were promoting a link bait article on digg. Before long, the submission hit the front page but in a matter of minutes was then buried. In the meantime, however, it was quickly picking up steam on Twitter. Within a few hours, the article got picked up by a major online news source, retweeted, and it exploded from there. (and is still going 3 weeks later)
As of today, the link bait article that went viral on twitter has 32K backlinks (according to Aaron Wall’s SEO toolbar) many from highly trusted websites and news sources. While I don’t usually give much credence to pagerank, after the recent PR update, the article’s page has a PR 6 while the site’s homepage remains a PR 4. This simply speaks to the quality of the links to the article.
Because it’s a client, I can’t link to the site or link bait piece (trust me, I REALLY want to). Instead, what I’ll do is give you some insight as to why if part of your social media content strategy is to obtain links, Twitter is king.
The goal of link bait
First, some background…If you’re well versed in the art & science of link bait, you can skip this section. The goal of any link bait campaign is to (you guessed it) attract links. The idea is to create content that evokes an emotion in webmasters that causes them to want to either spread or perhaps talk about your content from their own site (ideally) with a link back. There’s a variety of emotions that can accomplish this, and if you want to learn more about the subject, I highly suggest reading Todd Malicoat’s article on link bait hooks.
The trick to link bait, however, (beyond having FANTASTIC content) is making sure that content gets in front of the right webmasters. This is where social media promotion comes into play. Now, you don’t need to go “viral” in order to attract links; sometimes a link bait piece simply targets a small group or niche of webmasters. Still, in order to attract links, you need to have a promotion strategy that successfully places your content piece in front of the right people.
Social Bookmarking & News Sites
Sites like Digg, Reddit, and Stumble Upon are great for promoting link bait. If you’re successful in hitting the front page or becoming popular on one of these services, the potential for a high volume of traffic in a short period of time is difficult to match. This type of success, too, nearly guarantees you’ll see links from it. Bloggers and webmasters are generally active in these communities, and tend to use them for inspiration and ideas for their next post or article.
While these communities are great, the larger ones reach such a broad audience, that niche content can sometimes go un-noticed or get buried. There are a variety of niche social bookmarking communities, however, that may be a much better use of your time. For example, Tipd.com is a fantastic (albeit small) community for financial news and resources. Networking in these niche communities, too, can form more fruitful relationships, particularly if your content is similar to your new contacts’. You won’t see a tremendous amount of links here, but a few good and relevant ones could be worth the effort.
Why Twitter is King
Social bookmarking sites (like Digg) are great for promoting link bait, and usually shouldn’t be overlooked when promoting your content. However, Twitter has some distinct advantages over these services, particularly for attracting links. Here are a few:
- Twitter is where the webmasters are – If you’re a blogger or own a website that adds content on a regular basis, chances are, you have a twitter profile. Probably more than one… If links are your goal, you can’t afford to overlook twitter. Even Facebook can’t claim this.
- Tweets are a more active (and personal) method of sharing content – If someone tweets or retweets your content, it shows up directly in their followers’ feeds while social bookmarking content usually needs to be found.
- Twitter is much easier to target a niche, group, or even an individual – This takes the proper networking strategy, but it’s something Digg, Reddit, and SU can’t quite claim and is an important aspect of many link bait tactics.
- RT: > Dugg – When someone Diggs your article, you’re simply one step closer to the front page. When twitter users retweet your article, it’s literally spreading your content exponentially.
- Twitter has no down vote (bury) button – Whether your link bait is controversial and evokes a “negative” emotion, or whether it appeals to only a smaller group of individuals, twitter will never “bury” your content. If people wish to express their opinion about your article on twitter, they’ll need to do so in a retweet, which only spreads it further. Social bookmarking sites make down voting content too easy.
- Twitter power users > Digg Power users – More than sheer numbers, twitter power users have more influence over their followers than Digg power users. On twitter, users are more likely to click, read, and engage in the content, while on Digg, many times users will digg an article without even clicking through (let alone reading it).
- Sheer size – One advantage of Digg is that hitting the front page puts you in front of nearly the entire community all at once. The problem is: the community is barely a fraction of the size of twitter’s. The sheer size of twitter gives your content an advantage in terms of the scope and speed that it spreads.
- Time Line – A disadvantage of Digg is that your content has limited time in front of the community. Once it’s off the front page, it’s all but gone. Articles can pick up tweets and retweets weeks (even months) after your initial push, giving you further opportunities to be noticed by webmasters.
- Social Media Monitoring– Twitter is integrated into all social media monitoring tools. Track your brand quickly and efficiently.
The success of link bait relies more on the quality of your content rather than the strength of your network. It’s no coincidence, that the same applies to the success of spreading your content (and having it go viral) on Twitter. Think of tweets as the micro-blogging version of back links. You do still need a strong following to get content going, but once it starts to spread, there’s no telling how far it will reach. And as a result, the potential for links is un-matched.