What is Linkbaiting and Why do I Care?
Linkbait is the holy grail of content. The term is used to describe unique content that attracts links mostly organically. Obviously, a big part of any content marketing is the marketing side – but with good linkbait, the idea is to do some marketing upfront and hope that after the initial push, a piece of content wll start attracting links organically.
Linkbait can come in many shapes; evergreen articles, killer infographics, lists, video, etc… but regardless of the medium, what truly separates linkbait from the rest of the Internet clutter is its usefulness (in most cases). In rare cases, good linkbait can be created without the content being all that useful – the two main ways to achieve this are egobait and controversy-bait/troll-bait.
In a nutshell, linkbait is content created with a specific purpose in mind, to attract links and to interest the linkerati – people who prowl the web looking for useful content that they can link to while building lists, how to articles, or comprehensive resource pages.
When it comes to linkbait, people who throw you links are doing it for their own purposes, but that is something you shouldn’t concern yourself with. If the end result is that you’re getting high-quality links to your site then you have a sufficient enough reason to create exactly the type of content that will get those links.
Links are the fuel for your SEO efforts and will help you get the organic search results you want. Getting unsolicited links is the best way to go about it (although, they won’t really be unsolicited – just like any other content marketing technique, link baiting often requires a fair bit marketing to succeed.
How to Approach Linkbaiting
A lot of content creators think that creating linkbait boils down to a good idea. Try it. Take a really awesome idea, create excellent content around it and set it loose on the world. It will fall flat as soon as it gets out there.
Creating good link bait requires more than a sound idea. It requires a plan, an effective process that you can replicate time and again so your virality isn’t some sort of a fluke or a one-off thing.
- A great idea
This is a prerequisite of link bait content. When I say a great idea I don’t necessarily think anything revolutionary or new – just something done in a way that it wasn’t done before.
One of the building blocks on which this great idea stands on is keyword research. If you want people to share and link to your content, you have to make sure that there is demand for it. Using professional keyword tools such as LongTailPro will help you get an idea about what’s currently trending and what’s always popular.
Content that is constantly in demand is also called evergreen content and you should strive to make it a central part of your content strategy – people will consistently search for it once you create it all you need to do is regularly update it to stay relevant.
- Available resources
Setting out to create a piece of content about something you have no idea about is painful but also necessary at times. After all, you have to write and create stuff that people need, as opposed to doing content that you’re comfortable with.
However, if you cannot find the resources you need for this great piece it is most likely to end up as an exercise in futility. If there is nothing to be found on the internet then it might be a good idea to do some primary research. This will ensure that your content is completely unique and will establish you as a forerunner and a forward-thinker in your niche.
If you don’t have the time or the resources to do it properly, then abandon the idea. You will save yourself a lot of time, money, and effort and avoid creating sub-par content that doesn’t have any substance.
- Top notch design
Some of the most linkable pieces of content out there are visual. Do you think they’re popular because of their crappy design? Of course not! When you opt for creating an infographic or any other piece of visual content, make sure it’s exquisite.
What you say may even be sub-par, believe me, but if your data visualization is stellar people will link to it. This is because great visual content is much better at conveying information than walls of text are. Today, it’s all about making it easier for your audience.
- Effective outreach plan
Remember how I said that link bait grows feet and finds people who are going to link to it all by itself? Well, that was a bit of a lie. There is a fair bit of outreach efforts that go into getting those links, at least at the beginning. But you definitely have an advantage with linkbait content when compared to your run-of-mill stuff that you put out.
This type of content has to be of great quality. That way you won’t have to twist anyone’s arm to link to it and people will gladly do it because it is an awesome resource. Also, if you enlist everyone who’s contributed to it it’s going to be easy to start a social media wildfire that will give you the initial exposure you need.
If your content is truly, really excellent things will pick up from there and you will not have to lift a finger to get links. If it doesn’t –well, I’m sorry to break it to you but it was not really linkbait to begin with, though I’m sure it was a good try!
Types of Linkbait
Anything can be linkbait really – as long as the execution is perfect, it fulfills a need, and people find it useful then it has the potential of attracting a ton of links.
However, certain type of content really lends itself more to linkbaiting so let’s check out what you should be focusing your time and effort.
Lists get a lot of exposure because they are useful. People love neatly organized stuff that has a little bow on the top. But any old list won’t really do it. Whatever your niche, chances are that lists are done to death and that people are constantly creating them. To get on top you need to really put in some effort.
Ultimate lists work great, especially if you took the time to curate whatever pops up in the organic search and add to it. One of the best ways to do it is to look through several lists, compile a list of your own, and then check comments to see what can be added to it that wasn’t previously mentioned.
Check out this list of ultimate marketing tools from QuickSprout. It’s over 500 links strong and people refer to it constantly because it’s regularly updated and relevant. Also, there are some tools here that you won’t find anywhere else.
There is some content that will always be popular, that will always be searched for, and that will always attract an audience and, consequentially, links. We call this type of content evergreen content.
For example, here is a piece of content that was created by SEOMoz on the subject of search ranking factors. It was built in collaboration with other contributors and it’s constantly updated and refreshed. So far it has managed to get linked to more than 17,000 times!
And here’s why it’s successful – it harnesses the power of collaboration! In addition to being a good, always-relevant article, it also has a lot of contributors. All of these contributors will make it their business to make sure that this piece of content gets the exposure it deserves. They will share it, they will link to it, and they will recommend it. You name it and they will do it – because they’re invested in it!
Which brings us nicely to egobait. People who collaborate on a piece of content together will band together to promote it. But what happens when you reference a lot of people in content you create?
You’re niche, just like any other, has a lot of influencers floating about – and those influencers always have something to say. Most of them have huge social media following to boot! If you’re savvy enough you can tastefully turn linkbait into egobait with no one being any wiser for it.
For example, you can create an ‘Expert Round Up’ type of post where you take bits and pieces of what other people have to say about your industry and collect all of it under the same URL.
Influencers are vain creatures, same as everyone else and they also need social proof so most of them will jump at the opportunity to link to an article that mentions their name. Of course, the article has to be good and you have to notify them about it instead of just waiting for them to pick it up themselves.
A better approach to this would be to contact them in advance of creating content. Asking them for their expert opinion on one thing or another will ensure you’re creating a unique piece of content instead of just rehashing what they previously said. Also, you’re subtly letting them know that you value their opinion and when you send them the final copy of the article you actually ask for them to consider linking to it without it appearing as if you’re asking for a favor!
How to and Tutorial Posts
Guides have always been popular linkbait material. If you can create something that will help someone master a new skill reasonably fast or if you have the know-how that no one else does then you can be confident in it attracting some link love.
Even this unimaginative guide was able to attract more than 1000 links! As you can see, the content is nothing spectacular, the design leaves a lot to be desired too but what this guide has going for it is its simplicity and the fact that it’s written around a constantly hot topic.
Offering a Dissenting Voice (Controversy Bait)
Opinion posts don’t really attract all that much attention unless you’re already established in your niche. In that case, sounding out on a regular basis might attract some link love – especially if you’re discussing a trending topic.
However, you do not have to be a megastar to get people to link to your opinion post – you just have to play the devil’s advocate. Grab a really hot topic in your niche, see in which direction the popular vote swings, and write up something that’s the complete opposite.
Make sure you’re using arguments and facts and actually have a leg to stand on, though. Dissenting for the sake of dissent will get you nowhere but if you can demonstrate that your positions have merit then you can spark a lively discussion and get people to link to you.
This method will usually be even more effective if you pick an influencer in your niche and call them out directly. Don’t be mean about it, or you’ll probably be ignored – but if you provide strong arguments and constructive criticism and target someone who’s well known in the niche, it’s not uncommon to get a direct response (and a link).
Giving away free stuff always worked. It’s true for content and resources and it’s true for attracting links. Of course, all of this can be done over social media but if you can find a way to naturally link the whole thing back to a page you want to rank, you can get a ton of natural links.
Better yet, if that page happens to be your landing page you can rank it rather fast and then later on simply remove all the references to the contest and still have a ton of links pointing in your direction!
Last, but not the least, are infographics. Now, infographics rule the social media space and those who are superbly executed generate a ton of shares over Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and everywhere else.
A clear visual representation of data is preferable to text because of the fact that most people are visual learners, meaning that they retain stuff that they can see. There is a little caveat here: a bad infographic will sooner hurt you than help you so make sure that the topic lends itself to visual representation and that your designer knows what they’re doing.
Take a look at this infographic from Copyblogger – simple, clean, and with an inane topic but it generated over 200,000 social shares and was linked to fair number of times too.
If you want to create link bait that has the potential of going viral then focus on the types of content that do well doing just that. Above all else, make sure that your content is high-quality and that you keep it up to date and relevant; build upon what you can find on the web and always strive to make it a best possible resource out there. Happy linkbaiting and drop down by the comments section to let me know how it goes!